* Training * Boarding * Lessons * Judge  

Kathleen Elliott 

 Equestrian Training  

Working Equitation

Ice 2022 Reserve National Championships 

& Region 2 Champion Working Equitation

While Working Equitation (WE) might be fairly new to the United States, the discipline has quickly become the country’s most rapidly growing equine sport. Riders across all riding disciplines have been drawn to WE, which combines the skill of negotiating obstacles with the technical precision and riding fundamentals of traditional dressage. This merging of disciplines fosters deep relationships between rider and horse while furnishing an  exciting and adventurous experience.

A few examples of obstacles that the horse and rider team must navigate in WE include backing a horse in an “I” pattern, jumping obstacles like bales of hay, traversing a figure-8 pattern between barrels, riding over a water-filled trench, and spearing a ring with a pole-like object. In WE events that include obstacles, the horse and rider must negotiate the obstacles while exhibiting smoothness, ease, and accuracy. The rider and horse also must navigate the obstacles in the prescribed order.

While the term “Equitation” denotes the art of riding a horse, this term as used in the show arena centers on the technique and skills of the rider rather than the skill-level of the horse. Equitation classes at show provide green riders an excellent opportunity to develop a mastery of riding skills before moving on to more advanced riding styles.

Green riders who wish to participate in the introductory level, referred to as L1, must have a horse that can walk, halt, back, and trot. The horse also must be calm, confident, and experienced enough to navigate the Ease of Handling (EOH) Trial obstacles.

The L1 Introductory Level requires the rider to perform manuevers, including a 20-Meter Circle, 10- and 5-Meter Half Circles, and a halt from the trot. The L1 Ease of Handling Course includes 14 (out of 19) international obstacles, such as multiple obstacles that force a rider to halt, walk, reinback, carry a garrocha pole, and transport a jug or cup. Riders also must negotiate a gate and bridge.


The equestrian discipline of Working Equitation involves four phases, referred to as “Trials”:

  • Cattle Work: The rider and mount work in the area with actual livestock

  • Dressage Trials: The rider-horse team perform different gaits, movements, and patterns as indicated by a prescribed test.

  • Speed: The rider navigates obstacles with an emphasis on speed while employing the fastest safe gaits given the rider and horse’s skill and experience levels.

  • Ease of Handling: Horse and rider traverse a course that necessitates a focus on precise riding to negotiate obstacles like passing over a bridge, the opening and closing of a gate, and backing through poles along with other types of obstacles a rider might need to conquer when riding through a field or on a ranch.

While the phases of Working Equitation require skills that draw from Traditional Dressage, Reigning, Working Cow Horse, Trail Riding, and Jumping along with other disciplines, the different phases are to promote the development of a broad spectrum of riding experience, skills, and techniques. Riders use the same type of attire and tack in all four phases of WE.

While the breed and size of the horse can limit the success of the rider-horse partnership during shows in many riding disciplines, horses of all sizes and across all breeds have excelled in WE. Many participants in this sport also appreciate that the discipline places no restrictions on a rider’s show attire or saddle type allowing a more creative and personalized experience. Riders also can use a broad range of bits, hackamores, and bitless bridles.

Cattle Trials

Either three or four riders participate in the Cattle Trials with each rider separating a cow from the herd and and moving it through the enclosure to a holding pen. This event constitutes one of the more popular events for both participants and spectators, but not all shows include Cattle Trials.

Dressage Trials

This phase of a Working Equitation show requires the rider to execute a series of movements as delineated by an official test for the rider’s level. The judge scores the rider’s movements on a scale from 0-10. The judge will give Collective Marks at the conclusion of the test based on the rider, impulsion, gaits, submission, and presentation.

Speed Trials

This phase of a Working Equitation Show tasks the rider and horse with accurately navigating obstacles with an emphasis on completing the course as rapidly as possible. Strategic course lines and preciseness determine the rider’s success in the show ring during speed trials.

Ease of Handling Trials

All WE performance levels (Introductory, Novice A/B, Intermediate A/B, Advanced, and Masters) require completion of Ease of Handling Trials. Much like during the dressage trials, the judge awards scores on a 0 to 10 scale, but unlike the Dressage Trials, the rider and mount navigate obstacles. The judge also gives Collective Marks based on the rider, transitions, submission, navigation, impulsion, and gaits.

 Kathleen & Ice Working Equitation Fun!