WORKING EQUITATION, EXPLAINED
WE presents classes at various levels, including children’s, introductory (walk/trot), novice, intermediate, advanced, and masters. As riders progress through the levels, they must demonstrate ever-increasing skill in riding from the legs and seat, transitioning smoothly between gaits, balancing while riding circles of various sizes, and performing lateral movements. Though flying lead changes aren’t required at the lowest levels, at the higher levels, “working equitation is all about cantering and turning and changing leads,” says Rob Zimmerman of South Ridge Farms in Ridgefield, Washington, host to clinics of the noted Pedro Torres Academy of Working Equitation. “You’ll see collected canters, with upright carriage. It’s not so different from what we think of as a finished bridle horse—one that you ride with light contact while using your seat and legs. Softness and lightness are key.” The four phases that comprise WE are: • Dressage Trial. As in traditional and Western dressage, entries execute a set pattern. Judging criteria include quality of movement (especially engagement of the hindquarters), the horse’s willingness, and the rider’s equitation. • Ease-of-Handling Trial. As in a traditional trail class, entries navigate from eight to 15 obstacles, depending on the level. Designed to simulate the tasks required on working ranches around the world, obstacles may include such familiar items as a gate, bridge, and L back-up, as well as more esoteric ones, such as placing a pole in a drum, skewering a ring with a pole, and moving an earthenware jug. • Speed Trial. Thrilling to watch, this timed phase requires entries to navigate a course of obstacles while demonstrating both speed and accuracy. It’s required at all levels except children’s and introductory. • Cow Trial. As in team penning, entries must work in combination to sort and pen a cow. To make WE competitions easier to present and available more widely, the cow trial is not yet widely offered at events in the U.S. (and it’s never required at the introductory level).
Competitors are encouraged to show in the traditional gear of the rider’s country and/or of the type of horse ridden.