Category Archives: Training for Obstacles

Working Equitation Riding Groups on Facebook


If you don’t find your local group please contact us or comment on the bottom of this page.  Many of the listings are for “affiliates” of organizations, but individuals with a website that features a Working Equitation Page or similar verification are welcome to make a submission.   Several states have riding groups that keep a regular update of activities using Facebook.  Click on the state name near you to see what is happing.  Arizona   In California, in Central California, Wine Country Working Equitation and near Napa, and Southern California ,  also in California, ColoradoHigh Country Continue reading Working Equitation Riding Groups on Facebook

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

Side Step the Pole II

In our second installment on Side Step the Pole, Working Equitation Competitor, Trainer and Clinician Amy Star offers additional insight into how to train your horse to side pass cleanly.

Coaches Corner

By Amy Star

This seemingly simple obstacle has quite a bit of depth and challenge to it in the working equitation. There can be several variations from easiest to most challenging: single pole, two poles laid out separately, two poles to form an “L” or three poles connected to create a “Z” or “step shape”.Log layout 2

The judge will be looking for a good walking rhythm being maintained during the obstacle, with adequate crossing of both the front and hind legs. The body of the horse does not have to be perpendicular to the ground pole and in fact allowing the horse’s forehand to be a bit advanced from the hind will help the horse in crossing over and maintaining a good rhythm. Continue reading Side Step the Pole II

Rider Levels – Ease of Handling

These are generalized skill expectations  for riders in Ease of Handling per WEIAUSA and USFWE.   Effective January 2015.

  Don’t be too concerned about which organization lets you do what at any particular level.  This is for guidance purposes until you are actually entered in an accredited show.  What is really important is getting both legs over your horse and riding!  You will soon have a really good idea of your strengths and those areas that need work.

  • USFWE Level 1 = Introductory Level in WEIAUSA
  • USFWE Level  2 = Novice in WEIAUSA
  • USFWE Level 3 = about Intermediate in WEIAUSA
  • USFWE Level 4 &5 = appx.  Advanced in WEIAUS
  • USFWE Level  6 =  Masters in WEIAUSA

The following list is a generalization as well.  Again, don’t be too concerned about when you can trot and when you have to canter.   Every rider is welcome to ride in clinics and fun shows to the best of their ability!  Without any arduous requirements.  When you reach Level 5 (Advanced) and plan to take a shot at a national championship you can start taking all this a little more seriously.

  • Level 1 riders will travel between obstacles at the trot
  • Level 2  will travel between obstacles at the trot or canter.
  • Level 3 up will travel between obstacles at the canter.
  • Levels 6 and Masters do all work one handed at the canter.

This is a list of the obstacles  and rider expectations as generally accepted by all groups.    As the training of the horse progresses, the obstacle expectations may change as well.  The following is for Ease of Handling only.  Green text indicates we have an article about the obstacle.

Cross Bridge

  • All levels.
  • Performed at a Walk

Figure 8 

  • Level 1 at  Walk or Trot.
  • Level 2 and 3 at Trot or Canter with simple change.
  • Level 4 up at Canter with flying change.
  • Level 1 – 4, circles can be any size but must be uniform .
  • Level 5 & 6 circles are 10 feet.

Continue reading Rider Levels – Ease of Handling

Side Step the Pole

 Feature Photo by Tammy Sparks Williams

Side Step the Pole is performed in Level 2 and up. 

Xino & TJ ground pole 8894 al sh50
Kris Garrett photo

It is frequently fascinating to see the reaction of a horse when asked to  side pass over a pole for the first time.  Even very seasoned horses  can take on the attitude of “why would you want me to walk sideways with that thing under me!” But rest assured every horse will accept the pole under them shortly.

During Ease of Handling phase Side Step the Pole is always performed at a walk.   It is not a Level 1 requirement. Continue reading Side Step the Pole

Master the Rope Gate First

Feature photo by Ginny Furness

Opening a gate on a horse is not the same as training your horse to open a gate!  Gates are a fun,  interesting and useful challenge to learn.  All horses, regardless of size, temperament or breed are able to master gates  if the rider understands the maneuver.

Horses hurried into performing the entire process are not as fluid, confident and harmonious as those given time to understand each step individually.  Continue reading Master the Rope Gate First

Opening Gates Horseback

In Working Equitation Opening the Gate from horseback is performed in Level 2 and up.

Opening gates from horseback is a challenge that all  seasoned ranch horses  and many  trail horses already understand,  but the Dressage mount may need to learn.   Fear not, it is easy!  And when done well the gate will be performed with very little evidence of the aids given to the horse.

As with many of the obstacles in Working Equitation,  the gate can be a challenge for the horse who gets “high” with the canter; as the gate needs to be performed calmly and with  finesse.  If you possess a horse of this type it is important that they are comfortable and behave well during the execution of this obstacle.  See “Master the Rope Gate” for training ideas.

Gates may be solid such as wood or pipe or be simulated using a rope.  Temporary rope  gates are often used in clinics and at competitions and are frequently made using jump standards to hold the rope.

Construction Details and Dimensions

  • The top of the gate is at least 4 ft high
  • The opening is at least 6 ft 6 inches between the posts.
  • If a rope is used it should have minimal sag.
Leslie Martien photos, Haras Cup 2014



The Working Equitation Gate

 The Working Equitation Gate.

During Ease of Handling the Working Equitation Gate is approached at a canter (or trot at earlier levels) until in close proximity to the gate.  Transition down to a walk and approach the gate directly facing the gate.   The horse is positioned step by step to the side of the gate (to the left or right, depending on the direction in which it opens.)  The rider may use either hand to lift the latch, open the gate, and go through the entrance without letting go of the gate (or losing control if the gate is made with wood uprights) .  When the horse has exited the other side of the gate, the rider may back up one or two steps to close the gate.  The rider will then put the latch in place to complete the obstacle.  The obstacle may be required in both directions in levels 4 through 6.

Judging Assessment criteria for Ease of Handling.

The judge will evaluate the horse’s action which should be fluid and without any hesitation.  The horse should pay attention to and participate in the opening an closing movements without showing and signs of insecurity or disobedience.  The riders action should be easy, precise, and free from hesitation.  A negative score will be given if the rider lets go of the gate (or loses control in the event of a solid gate where the hand cannot slide across the top of the gate during the maneuver) or if there is any sign of insecurity by the horse or rider or lack of continuity (fluidity) of the action.

NOTE! During the EOH obstacle called Herding Cattle from Gate to Gate, the same assessment criteria apply as in this article.