Haflinger competing at Working Equitation dressage phase
Horse Shows

Pippin Wins at Working Equitation :)

If you’ve spent time watching horse videos on Youtube, then you’ve probably seen some of the awesome working equitation horses and riders like this one:

The sport of working equitation is relatively new here in the United States, and there’s a small but enthusiastic group of people trying to grow the sport in Washington and the Pacific Northwest. Nicole Grous of Olympia, WA introduced me to the Working Equitation International Association of the USA (WEIAUSA), spearheaded by Julie Alonzo. On July 11, Pip and I competed in our first working equitation competition at South Ridge Farm in Ridgefield, WA. Pip won all three phases and the overall title at Intermediate level (full results at the bottom of the post).

Haflinger horse walking over a bridgeSomewhat similar to three-day eventing, working equitation consists of three phases (at the international level it also includes a fourth phase; the cow trials):

  1. Dressage. Horses and riders perform a series of movements at the walk, trot, and canter and are given scores by the judge for each.
  2. Ease of Handling. Horses and riders navigate a course of obstacles (such as crossing a bridge, opening and closing a gate, and weaving between posts) and receive scores from the judge for their performance at each obstacle. They can be disqualified from the phase for failure to correctly complete the obstacle.
  3. Speed. For a second time horses and riders must navigate a series of obstacles, but this time instead of being scored for performance, the round is timed, with the fastest time receiving the most points.

To determine a winner, the scores from all phases are combined and the pair with the highest overall score wins. It’s an excellent test of the partnership, trust, and skills of both horse and rider. You have to have the basic training and harmony required for dressage, but also boldness, strategy, and speed–it’s a fun all-around challenge!

Here’s video from the show of our first attempt at the  “Ease of Handling” phase:

My favorite part of the show (besides riding Pip!) was seeing many different types of horses and riders compete. For example, in Pip’s class alone there were Lusitanos, Warmbloods, and Quarter Horses. Pairs can compete in any tack or attire as long as it represents a working discipline, is consistent, and is not harmful to the horse. Here are some pictures of just a handful of the different horses and riders who also competed at the show:

Lusitano competing in working equitation

Friesian horse competing in working equitation

Appaloosa competing in Working Equitation

Andalusian horse competing in working equitation

Draft horse competing in working equitation

As you can see, working equitation is a sport for everyone!

I hope to have the opportunity to compete in Working Equitation again. Thank you to Kelsy for driving, taking video, and helping tame the mane. Thank you Alyssa for taking pictures and also volunteering at the show!

Haflinger competing at Working Equitation

Haflinger horse profile

Pip gate

Pip ribbons


Show results from July 11 at South Ridge Farm

Photos above by Alyssa Gottschlich, Chesna Klimek, Julie Alonzo, and Karen McClymonds.

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