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Working Equitation is a dressage based sport originating in Portugal, Spain, Italy and France. Skills required by the horse in the field working cattle is the basis of the Maneability phase (obstacles). There are four phases at Championship competitions. The first is Dressage where a dressage test is ridden and judged according to EA guidelines in a 20mx40m arena. The second phase is Maneability, a style class where the obstacles range from riding with a garrocha (a long pole) securing rings to riding over a bridge, jumping a small jump etc. In other words, obstacles the rider would find in the field while working cattle. This is judged by the manner of the horse and the technical execution of each obstacle. The third phase is the obstacles ridden again, with some modifications, at speed. This is purely a timed phase. The fourth phase is working cattle. A team of four riders each have a turn at cutting a beast from the herd and, with some blocking assistance from fellow team members, push the animal across a line. This is timed as well.

For me, having competed in Eventing and Showjumping, this sport gives me the adrenaline rush I miss with Dressage. I feel this is the consummate test of training of a horse. Dressage is training your horse to develop in to a sound of mind, strong and flexible partner. The proof is the fact that I could take my Grand Prix trained Piccolo and perform well. At the two highest levels Consagrados 1 and Masters level, all of the phases are to be performed with the reins in one hand. If two hands are used you are eliminated. The degree of difficulty to ride like this is one of the reasons I find this sport so exciting.

I am competing at Masters level with Bluefields Fiderglanz. Some of my students are involved in the sport and encouraged me to have a go. After seeing the high level of dressage required at the top of this exciting new sport I thought this would be a challenge. The horse needs sound, correct, dressage training. There is a steady progression through the levels from only walk and trot tests up to Masters. Being very inclusive, horses of all breeds and riders of all levels can achieve success and have much fun.

How to learn to ride working equitation

As Working Equitation is a relatively new sport in Australia there are not many coaches accredited as yet. If you want to learn more about WE (working equitation) the Australian National Working Equitation website is a good start. Each State has its own committee that reports to the National Board. To find a good coach approaching local clubs will help you as most run training days as well as competitions. I recommend the use of insured accredited Equestrian Australia coaches for peace of mind and to guarantee an educated coach is helping you. The Australian National Working Equitation Board is currently working on approving recognised Working Equitation Coaches.

Working Equitation: About


Working Equitation is a dynamic sport requiring a secure, supple and balanced seat. Correct training is shown by the horse being a willing and obedient partner. Horses of all breeds can participate in this sport making it accessible to all. One does not need the expensive warmblood with exuberant movement. If your training is correct, showing an established contact and engagement of the hindquarters commensurate with the level of training, you will be rewarded. Any horse ridden well will be successful.
“Working Equitation has developed rapidly over the last years. Due to that fact, within the four tests that constitute a class , more emphasis has been placed on the dressage component, the acceptance and recognition among an expert audience has increased significantly.” Page 9
“The Working Equitation horse does no need to move ‘for a score of Nine’ in the three basic gaits. What it does need is rideability, willingness to collect, a secure rhythm, manoeuverability, and last but not least, nerves of steel” page 44.
Dressur meets Working Euqitation, Nicola Danner. Birte Ostwald.

Working Equitation: Services


What is the hardest obstacle in the Ease of Handling Phase? Most people will tell you it’s the Side Pass Pole. The obedience to a sideways pushing leg is crucial to execute many of the Ease of Handling obstacles. The side pass pole is the extreme example of this. We need the horse to be obedient to the sideways pushing aid in a few obstacles e.g.  the gate.

 What does the horse have to be able to do to gain maximum points in the side pass pole?

The horse must calmly side step over a pole on the ground. His legs must cross, avoiding touching the pole. Depending upon the level the horse is either in leg yield or half pass. The horse must have contact with the bit and the exercise should be fluent without hesitation.

So how do we do this?

I have seen people train this the wrong way i.e.  by placing the horse head first to a solid wall and then applying strong and harsh leg aids to physically push the horse sideways. Teaching the horse with fear and force is ignorant and is not correct training.

So what is the correct way?

You don’t need a fancy dressage arena. We can train this anywhere you have a flat piece of ground. We use a dressage exercise, Turn About the Forehand.

Turn About the Forehand

One of the requirements of WE is that the horse is ready and willing to obey the rider’s aids in a calm but timely fashion. To ride the Dressage test and perform Ease of Handling well the horse must learn to obey a sideways pushing leg, not only the forward driving leg aid.

What is a Turn About the Forehand?

  • The horse is halted. He is flexed to the side of the sideways pushing rider’s leg. i.e. if the horse is flexed to the left that is the direction of the turn and so the left side of the horse is said to be the inside for that turn. The hindquarters will go to the right.

  • The inside hind foot steps in front of and across the outside hind foot

  • The front inside foot will make a small circle

  • The front outside foot will make a larger circle

  • The hindquarters of the horse will move away from the direction of flexion.

  • When learning this movement two steps are sufficient

  • The horse must not step backwards and the feeling should be always forward

What are the Aids?

  • To flex the horse the rider shortens the inside rein, only enough to see a little of the inside eye of the horse. Be careful to not bend the neck. Flexion is at the poll only.

  • The outside “guarding” rein prevents the horse from over bending the neck.

  • With the rider’s inside leg behind the girth, the rider pushes the hindquarters, step by step, forwards and sideways around the forehand. The rider uses the sideways pushing leg in time with the horse’s movement. The leg aid should be used in a tap rather than a squeeze.

  • The rider’s outside “guarding” leg prevents the horse from stepping too far sideways and prevents the movement from being hurried.

  • At the end of the movement the horse is halted.

What can go wrong?

Well actually lots! If the horse is going backwards then the flexing aids and/or guarding rein aids were too strong. If the horse just goes forwards and shuffles around then the flexing and turning aids may be too slight and the sideways pushing leg might be either in the wrong position or just squeezing on.

At the beginning we only ask for two steps. Later on when the horse and rider are understanding and performing two steps well we progress to doing a 180 and finally a 360 degree turn. This can then lead on to Turn on the Forehand where the inside front leg marches on the spot. The next progression is riding  Leg Yielding. Once the horse understands the aids for Turn About the forehand the teaching of Leg Yielding is simple.

Leg Yielding - Video 1
Leg Yielding - Video 2
Leg Yielding - Video 3
Leg Yielding - Video 4
Working Equitation: Videos
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