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.