Working Equitation Course Ideas


By Amy Star

These Working Equitation Course ideas can have a positive impact on your next competition.  Riding in competitions is so much fun that getting volunteers to help during a competition can be a challenge.  Show how much you appreciate your helpers by reducing the amount they need to walk while they are resetting obstacles. Here are few tips that can keep your helpers fresh and happy.

  • When possible place items that need to be reset in relative proximity to each other, not on opposite ends of the arena. This will reduce the personnel needed to reset multiple obstacles.
    • Obstacles that need attention with every rider are: returning the  Lance used to Pick up the Ring or to Knock a Ball. The Switch a Cup and Throw a Rope.
    • Other obstacles that frequently need attention are those that can accidentally get knocked over such as the Jump, any Backing Corridors and Side Step the Poles.  The Drag an Item (log or sack)  obstacle can also require attention as does the Move a Sack.
  • When practical, use one barrel to both pick up and to deposit the lance.  Make the ring stand target (the bull) relatively close to the lance barrel rather than the other end of the arena.   That doesn’t mean the rider only travels a short distance and replaces the lance. In fact the rider should travel a reasonable distance or may  carry the lance while performing other obstacles, then the rider will replace the lance to the original drum which isn’t too far from the ring stand. When set up in this way the helper doesn’t have to run all the way across the arena to retrieve the lance and then replace the ring on the target.
    • Consider having a few spare rings at the show, this could be helpful if a ring becomes damaged or  lost in the footing and saves the helper from barrel diving after each competitor.  If you have spent much time diving into the bottom of barrels retrieving rings you know how much fun that is!
  • Switch a Cup needs resetting with every competitor, so placing it near the ring stand also makes sense.
  • Set the barrel containing the lance in the half of the arena closest to the in gate and start line; this will reduce the amount of time for the competitor to enter and arrange the pole before being ready to ride.  While it seems minor, if it takes a rider two minutes to ride to the other end of the arena to check or set their lance and then ride back to the starting area, and you have twenty riders doing this you’ve added 40 minutes to the length of just the EOH phase!
  • When setting up the Drag an Item, return the log or sack to the starting location if possible.
  • Similarly Pick-up the Sack and Return the Sack to the same place makes that a self-setting obstacle, only needing attention if not properly completed.

Good course design can reduce the helpers needed to maintain the course during a show, speed up the competition and keep your volunteers coming back!


Scoring with a Rider Withdrawal


Nothing can taint the fun of a competition like an error in scoring!  And because Working Equitation has so many scores to tabulate there are simply more opportunities to make an error, so it is very important that your show tabulators have a good handle on this subject.

This is how to properly score when one or more contestants  withdraw from a competition.

As the photo shows, one rider decides he cannot continue after the Dressage Trial.  As the score tabulator what do you do?

Even though there are less riders in the remaining trials, continue to place riders with the same scoring values  as they received in the initial trials.

For Example: During the Dressage Trail there were originally four riders:  first place would receive five points, second place three points, third place two points and fourth place one point.

Now one rider withdraws after dressage.  Even though there are now three riders in the remaining trials the scoring continues with the original values from Dressage: first place would receive five points, second place three points, third place two points and there is no fourth place because the rider has withdrawn from the competition.

The reason is, if the original trial values are not maintained it may be impossible for a rider who finished second or third in the Dressage Trial to catch or surpass the leading rider if the remaining Trials are not accorded the original set of values. This occurs all the way down the placing with the point values. The easy way to remember this is to simplify the problem.  If riders drop from a competition, just mark them the same AS IF THEY HAD DISQUALIFIED during each succeeding events.  This will keep the placement values proper so all the  riders are awarded the proper overall points! And everybody is happy!

Thank you Bruce Menke for offering guidance on this subject and incorporating this  important rule clarification in the 2016 WEIAUSA rules.  WEIA

For more on scoring see WEIAUSA rules page 28, section 3.1.C.5.


Don’t DQ by Passing Through!


If you are getting your Working Equitation education through videos and reading the rules you might be really disappointed if a judge disqualifies your due to this seemingly insignificant rule!

When riding in EOH or the Speed test, you may not pass between any elements of another obstacle unless you have already completed that obstacle.

Here is an example that could catch you off guard and cause a DQ.

Arizona Course Map

You can click this art (any art on our site) to see a full size version.

In our example the course map calls for these  elements to be performed in the following order.

4. Garrocha Pick Up

5. Skewer the Ring

6. Return the Garrocha

7. Switch a Cup

During the course walk down you plan your path of travel for elements 4, 5 and 6  and you decide on your return trip to drop off the garrocha you will travel between the Single Slalom Poles, Continue reading Don’t DQ by Passing Through!


Red and White Flags


Clearly marking your Working Equitation course is essential.  A Best Flag (2)great source for Red is Right and White is Left flags is Store Supply Warehouse.   They offer Red and White Pennant Strings (24 of each color)  for only $10 plus shipping.  The individual pennants can be cut from the 105 foot string and  attached to slalom poles or other course markers  in a variety of ways.  Very convenient and made from a heavy  poly material.




How We Became Cowboys Part I


The introduction to all Working Equitation rules state the discipline has “the objective of enhancing the equestrian techniques developed in countries whose riders use horses in different aspects of work in the field ( ranching)”. The aim is not only to preserve and perpetuate each country’s type of equitation, but also their various traditions, the dress, and tack comprising each nation’s unique cultural equestrian heritage.  Very few North Americans actually know our own unique cultural equestrian heritage as it relates to ranching.  Until recently movies and television portrayed cowboys inaccurately, and those images are what most people carry with them today.   With all of this in mind we have assembled this informative series.

This article is meant to provide a brief overview about the very early history of those who became the great American icon, The Cowboy. As Working Equitation riders, we have a responsibility to perpetuate and honor our unique traditions, methods, and customs involving the tack and attire of our ranching forefathers. North America, from Mexico to Canada is unique in our way of ranching and livestock work. You may be surprised to learn of the long forgotten souls behind our most charismatic of American icon .

Spanish Conquistadors become Mexican Ranchers

1494 –  Isabella, Queen of Castile, Spain recognized the importance of quickly establishing a presence in the New World. Less than two years after Columbus first spied the Americas, Isabella funded his return to the new world. Columbus, along with 1200 Spanish settlers, 24 stallions (for riding and breeding), 10 mares for breeding, and an unknown number of cattle, landed just off the

austurias horse
The Austurias, a handsome, compact breed exist yet today.

Island known as Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic). King Ferdinand (husband of Isabella) decreed that the horses brought on this second voyage should be “the finest war horses available”.   Each soldier was provided a stipend for the purchase of their personal “war horse”, and it appears they did this, and rode those horses in the celebrations held prior to leaving for the “New World”.   But, those horses were probably sold and “lesser” horses purchased for the voyage.

The ships held a collection of common stock breeds, mainly Sorraia, Spanish Jennet, Asturian and Garrano, all important Spanish breeds, but surely not the majestic steeds in the decree. Continue reading How We Became Cowboys Part I


The 800 Pound Gorilla


The old quiz that asks, “What do you do when you are in a room with an 800 pound Gorilla?     Answer, “Whatever he wants!”

Let’s start with a little fiction and then move on to reality, and you will see the reason for this odd introduction.

Let’s pretend the year is 2020, the setting is the International Working Equitation Championships somewhere in Europe. For the first time the United States is represented in an international competition with a team of riders and their mounts, all flown from the US.  With a US team at the game the title  World Association of Working Equitation  has some meaning.

Day One: Dressage. While not typically attended with large crowds there is an increase in attendance during the trials. Every competitor not preparing their mount is viewing the Americans. The general response is, “yes they are ok, and trying, but they don’t really Look1have the horse”. The US team finishes the day with all their riders in about the middle of the standings. The team is in about the same place.  Surprisingly the tone and demeanor of the riders is very positive. A US rider comments, “Yes, we are very happy with our scores and our rides, this is exactly where we expected to be.”

Day Two: Precision. The American Team walks the course and develops a riding strategy for the day. The WAWE officials beam with excitement as they now have the beloved “Cowboy”, well actually Cowgirls, among the international competitors.   In the warm up arena the training and athletic ability of the US horses does not go unnoticed. The calm professional demeanor of the horses and their acceptance of the new environment has the admiration of most of the international 09WorldGate_smriders. “These horses have shown” is heard more than once.  The precision of the riders is impressive as well.  The Europeans love the American Team, they are charming, affable and proud to wear a cowboy hat.   Spectators came expecting to see Cowboys first hand, for the first time, but the ladies do not disappoint. In competition the horses are un-phased by every challenge and negotiate the course with minimal faults. The horses and riders are obviously very seasoned in the competition environment. The European riders expresses some level of respect, even disbelief that these riders, wholly unknown to them can command such an impressive performance. At the end of the day the US riders all place in the top 25% of the scores, moving the team into third or fourth place. Again, the riders comment, “Yes, this is going really well, we didn’t make any bonehead mistakes and the judges recognized we came well prepared. ”  The Team is placed right where they expected. Continue reading The 800 Pound Gorilla


Sierra Nevada Lusitanos Promo Video


Thank you Sierra Nevada Lusitanos for creating this excellent Working Equitation promotional video.

This video captures the essence of Working Equitation for those who are not yet uninitiated,  offering footage of horses from many breeds and riders in both traditional US Western and other international tack and attire.  A great share for your friends who may be interested in our sport.  To know more about Sierra Nevada Lusitanos visit their site at



Training for the Garrocha Pole Part 2


Part II

This is part two of a three part series on training and tips for the Garrocha pole as used in Work Equitation. This article will be focusing on desensitizing horses to the “targets” used in Working Equitation Ease of Handling and the Speed Test.

The Ring & The Bull

The most common target seen in Working Equtation competition is the ring. In competition the ring is often attached to the “bull’s” back. The ring may be balanced on a cone that is sitting on a barrel or suspended from a pole with Velcro magnents. Sometimes there will be a series of rings suspended at different heights.

Lisa Marie Photography

The silhouette of a bull is a very intimidating part of the obstacle for a lot of horses. Generally the bull is made out of wood and is quite flat sided.  Due to the horse’s poor depth perception and the fact that the obstacle is generally completed in a straight line, a lot of horses do not see the bull well until they are close to passing by it.   This causes a lot of horses to spook off the straight line the rider is trying to maintain.  Working Equitation bulls come in all different shapes, colors and sizes in the competition ring.  They are generally custom made, rarely do two bulls look alike. Even horses that are used to live cows are not sure about these two dimensional “bulls”. Therefore, desensitizing the horse to the bull must be accomplished before a rider can focus on the ring. Continue reading Training for the Garrocha Pole Part 2


Working Equitation Jump Training


Working Equitation offers a small jump obstacle.  In this article we will  reveal a proven method to safely introduce Jump Training to your horse.

By Jody Marken

Photos by Elaine Lozada

This article focuses on key ideas to create a solid foundation and offer a positive introduction to jumping with your horse.  We will not concentrate on the quality of the horse’s jumping style, but rather on the safety and presentation of starting your horse over low Working Equitation jumps and your ability to go with him. It is our responsibility to always practice good horsemanship and realize that each horse has an individual learning style.  Horses have a natural ability to jump – if something in their environment gets in their way and they need to get to the other side, they will jump it.

Introducing Jump Training

If you are going to effectively work with your horse and introduce him to jumps, the following exercises/principles need to make sense to you, so that you will present them to your horse in a way that he will understand.  You need to stay in your comfort zone, use good judgment and be patient and clear with your directions.  If you methodically teach this progression with kindness and if you do the best preparation work – you will end up with a confident, willing and happy horse who understands your direction.  You will also be able to have fun doing something different with your horse.  It is helpful to work with an instructor/helper/ground person when introducing jumps to your horse.

This article will focus on a few principles that form the basis of much of our riding:  rhythm, relaxation, impulsion and straightness combined with varying speed, direction and destination.

Ground Work Preparation

You can certainly teach your horse to jump without introducing it from the ground first, but groundwork offers a fun opportunity to build your relationship with your horse and recognize subtle changes in his expression.

Photo 1; Jody is introducing her OTTB to jumps by working him online through a progressive series of obstacles.
Photo 1  Jody is introducing her OTTB to jumps by working him online through a progressive series of obstacles.

If you do ground work with your horse online there are a few exercises that will help him learn how to think for himself and find his balance and timing when approaching and going over an obstacle.  Your horse should accept your leadership and guidance on a circle – to go forward, travel on a straight line, move his hindquarters/front quarters, yield etc.  It helps to prepare him so that you can send him over something (send over versus lead over). Continue reading Working Equitation Jump Training


Our Contributing Writers


It is our contributing writers who make Working Equitation Today possible.  Because WE is so new in North America there is not a large pool of writers with extensive experience in the sport, yet we are fortunate to have contributors with significant expertise in competition and training that are pertinent to Working Equitation.   Working Equitation Today® will continue to offer content from horse persons who are actively riding Working Equitation and who have  experience that applies to the sport. 

We are thrilled to introduce Jody Marken

Jody has been involved with horses since childhood, both as an amateur and a professional.  She has competed in Hunter/Jumper shows, Dressage and Eventing.  She also enjoys trail riding, riding over open country with the Arapahoe Hunt, horsemanship clinics and working a cowTwo Spruce Logo

Jody owns and operates Two Spruce Farm in Berthoud, Colorado.  She teaches lessons in horsemanship and basic jumping and has helped many people safely enter the world of horses.  She offers Trail Obstacle clinics that help establish better communication and trust between riders and their horses.  Jody and other expert clinicians also offer Cow-working clinics for a positive introduction and exposure to cattle for riders and their horses.

Jody founded the Colorado Therapeutic Riding Center 35 years ago and has worn many hats there – from Director to Instructor to supporter.  Jody believes in “giving back” and has volunteered for many horse events and organizations.

Jody is also a USEF “r” judge for Hunters and Hunt Seat Equitation, and loves to judge as she feels that to be a better rider/competitor, everyone should experience the show from the judge’s perspective.  Jody is also a student of the horse – always learning.

Jody has witnessed many people who have the desire to work positively with their horses – but their lack of confidence prevents a healthy, enjoyable relationship.  Drawing from her personal and professional experience with fear, Jody wants to help people reestablish the satisfaction of working with their horses and to help people “find your stride…”.

Tarrin Warren

Tarrin Warren 2 (2)

Tarrin Warren is the owner of TNT Quarter Horses, LLC. She lives in central Texas with her husband, two boys and collection of creatures. They breed, train and show their Quarter Horses. Tarrin also trains and competes on outside horses. For over twenty years Tarrin has enjoyed giving lessons and clinics to help others reach their goals with their horses. She has competed on and trained horses for multiple disciplines including Working Equitation, racing, barrels, halter, showmanship, jumping, dressage, polocrosse, team penning, sorting, trail, pleasure, huntseat, poles, campdrafting, and more.

For the last three years Tarrin’s focus has been on Working Equitation and has earned multiple championships, reserve championships, top five and ten finishes at the national, regional and local level all on horses she has raised and trained or trained and competed on for clients. Her students and horses she has trained have also earned championships and top five and ten finishes at national, regional and local levels.  In September 2014, Tarrin earned her judging certification with WEIAUSA. She had the privilege of shadow judging with WAWE president Joao Ralao Duarte in Las Vegas. Tarrin will be spending a week in intensive training with Nuno Matos in the beginning of March 2015. Tarrin is available for lessons, training and clinics. You can contact her at:  or visit her FaceBook page – TNT Quarter Horses, LLC and her website TNT Farms Quarter Horses

Amy Star

Amy Star Bio photoAmy Star grew up in Tucson Arizona, riding her horses through the beautiful sonoran desert.  Amy is a graduate of Colorado State University where she earned a B.S. in Equine Science and a M.S. in Agriculture.  She was an Extension Agent for Colorado State University in Adams County for 14 years and in New Mexico State University for 2 years, where her specialty was horse related educational programming.  Currently Amy is a licensed Realtor, and lives in Tucson, Arizona with her two children.

Amys’  horse farm is called “Coudelaria Estelar”, which is Portuguese for “Stellar Horse Stables”, and she has been breeding and training Andalusian and Lusitano horses since 1996.  Amy rides her horses in parades, exhibitions, shows, ranch work and Working Equitation clinics and competitions.  Amy’s horses have won numerous national championship titles in many disciplines.

Amy is a life-long student of horse, having ridden western most of her life and branching out to explore classical training, liberty work and Californio bridle horsemanship, she considers herself a fairly well rounded horseman.  Since 2008, Amy has been very focused on Working Equitation, winning several national events as well as offering clinics and being a founding member of the United States Federation of Working Equitation.  You can contact Amy at  for clinics and see her fine horses at

Keith Jacobson
Ginny Furness photo.
Ginny Furness photo.

Keith Jacobson has been actively involved with horses most of his life.  He is the editor and owner of Working Equitation Today®.   Keith has been involved in Ranch Horse Versatility, Team Sorting, Western Dressage and Working Equitation, and attended the WEIAUSA judges training seminar in 2015.  He has been offering cattle handling clinics  since 2003 and is frequently a guest clinician at cattle handling clinics in Colorado.


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