What is Working Equitation?
Working Equitation was created with the objective of enhancing the equestrian techniques developed in countries whose riders use horses in different aspects of fieldwork. Working Equitation therefore provides an occasion for the simultaneous comparison of sporting and cultural considerations.
The Working Equitation discipline aims at promoting competition between different ways of riding used in fieldwork in various horse disciplines and various countries. It was developed out of the traditions of classical horsemanship and traditional ranch work which combines the formality, detail and rigor of gymnastic arena work, with the practical and utility work of negotiating obstacles inspired by what would be found around a working ranch/farm. Riders are outfitted according to the tradition in which they train the riders attire and tack must be match the discipline in which they normally compete:
Dressage, Western, Showing, native Spanish, Portuguese attire, or in SA case, Boer /Traditional farmer etc.For Children and Juniors hard hats are compulsory. A riding boot with a heel is required by all riders.
This is one of its special features and constitutes a prime example of an ethnographic and cultural showcase, maintaining the traditional costumes and saddlery of each country.
Working Equitation broadens a horses scope and teaches your horse to be a good partner in any equine sport you care to pursue. The obstacle course is not only fun, but it hones your aids. For instance, you learn the basics of bending, leg yields, transitions, side passing and in higher levels doing flying changes around the poles and giving your horse a visual reference for timing and purpose of change. The rider must enjoy a challenge and be open to trying different things, the horse is trained to have a good mind and a willing attitude and become balanced. At higher levels, riders need the ability to lighten the forehand and achieve true collection. The speed phase requires impulsion, straightness and accuracy.
A competent WE rider is always in balance with his horse, giving the impression of a harmonious cooperation, by maintaining a correct position, with a commanding but relaxed presence, the rider appears able to direct the horse with nearly invisible aids. In WE you don’t have to abandon everything you know and start at the bottom, you bring your horse (No specific breed required) and tack and training you already have and simply add another layer of your expertise.
The sport tests the horse and riders partnership and ability to manoeuvre obstacles. There are currently eight different levels :Level 1 lead rein, Level 2 Introductory, Level 3 Preliminary, Level 4 Debutante W, Level 5 Debutante F, Level 6 Consagrados 2, Level 7 Consagrados 1, Level 8 Masters.
Lead rein and Introductory levels are not recognised as full Competition levels, rather training levels and the speed phase is usually replaced with a second Maneability test allowing the rider to reinforce their skills.
Consagrados 1 and Masters tests are ridden with only one hand on the reins. Usually the left hand leaving the right hand free to handle the Garoccha (lance) and cup, jug, bell and other items that may be encountered in the maneability phase. Course designers should however design the obstacles to be ridden by both left and right handed riders.
Competition events may be individual or for teams and are in three or four parts. In SA there will probably only be three, as the fourth is cattle handling.
Dressage: Encourages harmony between horse and rider through their understanding of the language of the aids. Humane and correct training of the horse is encouraged and promoted.
Dressage promotes physical soundness and mental well-being through relaxation, lateral suppleness (bending), longitudinal suppleness (roundness) and progressive conditioning.
All levels are ridden in a 40m x20m Arena. The lettering of the arena is the dressage standard lettering. (The judge/s are referred to by the letter from which they judge the dressage in all phases of the competition). Consagrados 2, 1 and Masters have NO letters on the arena and tests are ridden as a Freestyle to music provided by the rider.
All the movements in each gait are ridden in a group and the movements required by the test will reflect what is expected of the rider in the Maneability phase. (eg: a test requiring a 20m circle will ask for a 20m figure of 8 between the barrels, an 8m circle at Masters level will ask for an 8m figure of 8.)
Maneability, A showing working riding/ Western trail type event in which the horse and rider must overcome obstacles that may be encountered during Field work. In this phase the judges are looking for a horse that shows rhythm, relaxation, regularity, obedience and confidence, Acceptance of and response to the aids, suppleness of the bend and roundness, impulsion, straightness, collection and balance. In the rider the judges are seeking balance and relaxation, flexibility, core strength, coordination and feel.
The standard WAWE tests are Bridge, Figure 8 (2-Barrels), Cloverleaf (3-Barrels), Stock pen, Water jug, Corridor bell, Collect Garrocha, Skewer ring (Bull), Knock ball, Replace Garoccha, Switch cup, Single pole Slalom, Double Pole Slalom, Gate, Jump (Max 80cm at Masters level), Side pass pole.
Optional exercises include Water ditch, Bank jump, Move sack, Varied footing. Regional “obstacles” may be added.
Maneability Speed Phase: A timed event, in which errors are penalized by time added. It tests the rider’s balance and anticipation and horses qualities of submission, balance, speed, attention and fitness.
The discipline supports the science of correct riding (4* Dressage judge Tiina Karkkolienen from Sweden looks for a rider who rides 80% through the core,16% legs and 4% hands). In order to promote this and the welfare of the horse any tugging on the horse’s mouth is an immediate elimination from the competition as a whole. Lesser eliminations do allow the riders to go on and compete in the other phases
For more about Working Equitation, click HERE
ZAWE – WORKING EQUITATION ASSOCIATION OF SA
President: Jonathan Harrison