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Working equitation

Patricia Robertson, demonstrating working equitation at Monte Cavalo’s open day last year

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]orking equitation, better known by its Spanish name Doma Vaquera, can literally be translated into ‘schooling of the stock horse’. This fast-growing international equestrian sport is also representative of one of the oldest riding disciplines in the world. Its origins lie in the need for European cowboys to practice the skills of their horses to enable them to work with the fighting bulls found in Spain, Portugal and the south of France.

Who can participate?

Although traditionally Lusitanos and Andalusians were the chosen horses for this sport, any rider, with any type of horse, at any level of riding can compete in working equitation. This makes it a sport that is very accessible to riders of varying backgrounds. Working equitation offers something for riders of every discipline. For dressage it adds obstacles into the mix, while for those who jump, do traditional equitation or Prix Caprilli, it requires perhaps a little more time spent on improving the suppleness and obedience of the horse.

How is it structured?

Obedience and reluctance to spook are tested time and time again

The competition itself consists of four different phases. The first phase is called ‘working dressage’ and is done in a 20x40m dressage arena. Depending on the level, different movements are required and scored, very similar to how a regular dressage test would be. This phase aims to prepare the horse-rider combination for the phases that follow through improving the correctness and regularity of the gaits.

The second phase is called ‘ease of handling’ and consists of a course of obstacles that you can expect to find when working out in the field. These include gates, slalom poles (bending poles) and handling of the garrocha (the long poles that are used to separate cattle) in various ways such as picking up a ring with a pole, and placing the pole back in a barrel. Other obstacles include the crossing of a bridge, entering a livestock pen, entering a corridor to ring a bell, a small bank jump as well as walking sideways over a pole. The obedience of the horse is tested throughout the test and another assessment of this is lifting a water jug – while on horseback – and pouring the water out next to the horse. The horse is expected to stand quietly and stay obedient to the rider without getting spooked by strange noises and tasks.

The third phase can be likened to the jump-off in the showjumping ring, where the order of the obstacles in phase two is altered and then completed against the clock, offering excitement and immense spectator value!

The fourth phase, ‘cattle handling’, is only performed at the highest level of competition. The objective of this phase is to test the ability of the horse and rider to work cattle both on their own and as part of a team.


Text: Marike Kotzé

The full article appears in the April edition of HQ (121) > Shop now