What Is Working Equitation?

A merging OF the traditions of Field work and Classical training with a dedication to developing the HORSE AND RIDER PARTNERSHIP.

Working Equitation originated in Southern Europe, with the first competition held in 1996. The sport has come a long way since this inaugural idea of testing the classical principles of horsemanship with a three phase competition. The original terms for this phases used the French word, Manège (arena work or Dressage), Versatility, and Combined Trial.

The first competition was held in Lisbon, Portugal invented by the French classical trainer Jean Philippe Giacomini as seen in this video clip.

The phases in Working Equitation are now known as Dressage, Ease of Handling, and Speed, with an optional team cattle penning (Cow Trial) phase.

Field and ranch work on horseback has a deep history in the majority of the world. The horse was the main instrument of farming throughout history and the traditions of these forms of work are honoured in the sport of Working Equitation. In Portugal, where the idea of this equestrian discipline originated, the Campinos still operate today using the traditions passed down through the generations to train their treasured equine companions for their daily work.

Competitor in Working Equitation

Competitors come from various backgrounds of training and all breeds of horse are welcomed. The riding tack may be of English, Western or the traditional type of the country represented.


The principles of Working Equitation follow classical training concepts, developing the horse with careful attention to rhythm, relaxation, connection, impulsion, straightness and collection. The Dressage phase provides a test of these principles within the scope of qualities that are needed in a working horse.

Obstacles are a key component of the training, representing those items encountered in field work. A progressive approach is encouraged to ensure that the horse is calm and responsive in their work. The levels of competition are designed to show off the horse and rider combination to the best of their ability for their level of training.

Ease of Handling

Obstacles are standardised to the WAWE (World Association of Working Equitaiton) guidelines, however within each country there is scope for a unique tradition to be honoured with a particular obstacle.

Using Dressage with Obstacles
Picking up a Jacket – a unique obstacle for New Zealand and Australia

For further reading on this exciting equestrian discipline with reference to the phases offered in competitions, this article titled ‘Working Equitation – A complete sport’ is a good read.