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What Is Working Equitation? A First Look



What Is Working Equitation?

Horses enjoy variety, and there are few sports like Working Equitation for that. This relatively new sport is becoming popular across the world, with more and more countries adopting it.

What Is Working Equitation?

Combine dressage in all its classical grace and a fun obstacle course, and you have Working Equitation. This budding sport has individual and team categories, and involve different challenges to the horses.

But there is more than meets the eye. It was cattle-handling and ranch work — and everything that it involves — that inspired this discipline.

About the sport

The individual games have three phases: working dressage, ease of handling, and speed. While the first phase is familiar to many, the fun is in the obstacle courses. Through it, horse and rider face different sort of obstacles such as bridges and fences, among others. These obstacles represent the challenges one might encounter in real-life ranch situations. The speed phase is a timed version of the ease of handling phase. The team competition also includes a cow trial, where the team works together to separate cattle. Each team has four riders.

Working Equitation

There are individual and team trials. In both, the rider must wear traditional attire. Image by WAWE Official (Facebook).

All trials must be performed with a single hand holding the reins. Much like dressage, working equitation has different levels of expertise. Horses must be at least six years old to compete. Any breed can do working equitation but breeds more familiar to cattle-work excel in it. As the discipline started in Europe, Lusitanos and Andalusians are more common.


But the appeal with working equitation isn’t just the events themselves. Part of it is the presence of traditional styles of riding. In Europe, it isn’t unusual to see people competing in traditional attire and tack. This is the main appeal of this discipline: a celebration of different styles and traditions, across different countries. More than just a sport, it also brings to fore the cultural aspects of riding traditions, both for comparison and preservation.

Working Equitation

Working Equitation preserves local culture and techniques as well. Image by WAWE Official (Facebook).

This discipline is quite new, too. Started in 1996, the first competitions happened in Europe, in special France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy. These countries each have a strong equitation tradition, but it soon spread to South American countries. It hit the United States in 2008 when the United States Working Equitation Association was founded. We’ve written before about the incredible blind horse that competes in it, in the U.S.

Because it’s a relatively new sport, the rules around Working Equitation are fairly new as well. As countries slowly adopt the discipline, the need for regulations appears. This led to the creation of the WAWE (World Association for Working Equitation). The WAWE updates the regulations for the discipline and accepts countries into the fold. Currently, to compete internationally a rider must get at least 58% in the “ease of handling” phase and more than 58% in dressage, as decided by an international judge.

Where from now?

As the sport of Working Equitation grows in popularity, we’ll see more news about it. The first international championship happened in 2002, with its fourth edition in 2014. As time passes, we can expect more horses to compete, more national organizations and more competitions, from more countries. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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