Working Equitation Obstacles Overview

 Negotiating the Working Equitation obstacles during the Ease of Handling phase is all about fun and finesse!

Leslie Martien photo
Leslie Martien photos

If you are new to Working Equitation this is an excellent first stop.  The obstacles, or Ease of Handling (EOH) phase is what draw many riders to the sport.  EOH is where your horsemanship and hard work really shine.  Each rider will train with a fairly specific set of goals to achieve .  We have listed those goals next to each obstacle you can expect to encounter.  As the training of the horse and rider progresses, the precision of the execution is expected to increase as well.  In the Ease of Handling Trial the following are considered.

  • Did the horse travel to, through or between the obstacle challenges at the gait prescribed for the competition level?
    • These are the specific gait requirements after leaving an obstacle and before reaching the next obstacle:  Children are permitted to Walk OR Trot, Level 1 riders MUST Trot (canter not permitted), Level 2 through 7 must canter.
    • If a rider does not maintain the prescribed gait, the judge will note “break of gait” and lower the score.
    • When the rider is within the obstacles there is a second prescribed gait.  These will be detailed for each obstacle below.
  • Did the rider have appropriate control of the horse while performing the challenge?
    • Smooth down transition for the Class Level
    • Correct gait within the obstacle.
    • Correct lead change for the Class
    • Straightness when required
    • Clear halt and steady at the correct location when required
  • Several obstacles require the rider to pick up and carry an object, which offers an unfortunate opportunity to also drop the object!  Here is how to handle a dropped object.  Children and Level 1 riders may have the dropped object retrieved and handed to them.  All other riders must dismount and re-mount with the object in hand. This includes the pole.


Leslie Martien photo, Harras Cup 2014

Cross Bridge

  • At the Walk, all Levels.

Figure 8 

  • Children at Walk or Trot
  • Level 1 at Walk or Trot
  • Level 2 at Trot
  • Level 3 at Canter with the change through the Trot
  • Level 4 at Canter with the change through the Walk
  • Level 5, 6, 7  at Canter with Flying Changes

Livestock Pen

  • Children and Level 1 at the Walk
  • Level 2 & L3 at Walk or Trot
  • Level 4 & L5 at Walk or Canter
  • Level 6 & 7 at Canter

1901718_839554576065620_159592504636747855_nPick up a Jug

  • All Levels,  this obstacle is performed while standing.
  • Must be approached from the number side.
  • Must be performed with a down transition within the markers
  • Must be departed in the same gait as approached.

Bell at End of Corridor

  • The Corridor is entered at the prescribed gait for the Level,
    • Children and Level 1 is at Walk, Level 2&3 is Walk OR Trot, Level 4-6 is Walk OR Canter, Level 7 is at Canter.
  • The Rider halts even with the bell (a close reach with the pole even with the hip).
  • After ringing the bell rein back and exit until clear of the corridor or any markers.
  • Clean down transition, steady square halt and lifting feet during rein back will be rewarded with a good score.
  • Failing to ring the bell or ringing with the wrong hand will result in disqualification.

thCMNZP9VLRemove a Pole

For this obstacle the riders at Level 3 and up ride at the canter through the entire process of Removing the Pole, Skewering the Ring (if it is a part of the class) and Returning the Pole.    The prescribed gaits  for other levels are: Children at Walk, Level 1 at Walk OR Trot, Level 2 at Trot during the entire process.

The Execution and Assessment for this is: remaining steady  in the prescribed gait on a horse that is  confident with movements of the pole during the process.  Circling the drum scores lower than not. The rider should appear relaxed in handling the pole.  Avoid bumping the horse with the pole, doing so will result in a lowered score.

Replace a Pole

The Gait, Assessment and Execution criteria are the same as Remove a Pole.  The pole must be returned butt end down in the drum.     Should the drum tip over, and the pole remain in the drum a negative score will be applied but the rider is not required to return the drum to the upright position.  Should the pole bounce completely out of the drum the rider must dismount and follow the guidance for a dropped object. (above)  NOTE: The pole must be in the drum, even if the drum is lying down,  if not, and the rider starts the next obstacle, the rider will be disqualified for failing to complete this obstacle.

Skewer Ring with a Pole

The Gait, Assessment and Execution criteria are the same as Remove a Pole.    Style during execution is the primary criteria, but  striking any part of the obstacle will result in a lower score, as will failing to skewer the ring or dropping the ring from the pole.

Switch a Glass  from one Pole to Another

This obstacle is about approaching and halting between the poles, switching the glass and then departing.  A steady unmoving horse with a straight square halt will score well.  The departure  into the travel gait should be smooth and uphill without a jump.  Children execute at a Walk, Level 1 at a Walk or Trot, Level 2 at a Trot and all others Canter in and Out.

Rounding  several Posts or Obstacles   (the following obstacles have not been updated to the WE-US rules)

  • Intro Level- this challenge may be present as the Switch A Cup but a rein back (backing) of the horse is not required.
  • Novice and Intermediate will rein back and place a cup on the last pole of the same side they picked up the cup.  Slalom while baking may be required from Intermediate and up under some rules.

Single Pole Slalom

  • Intro Level at the Trot
  • Novice Level at Trot or  Canter,  simple change is acceptable
  • Intermediate Level at canter with simple or flying changes
  • Upper Levels at Canter with flying changes

Double Pole Slalom

  • Intro Level at the Trot
  • Novice Level at Trot or  Canter with simple change.
  • Intermediate Level at Canter with simple or flying change
  • Upper Levels at Canter with flying change.


  • The gate is a required obstacle at all levels.
  • There will be a transition area where the rider will transition from the trot or canter to the walk.
  • The gate may be required in both directions.


  • Intro Level the jump is not required.
  • Novice Level at the Trot or Canter
  • All others at the Canter.

Side Step over a Log or Pole

  • Intro Level not a required obstacle but one you should be practicing.
  • Novice Level up it is required and may become more complex at upper levels.

Water Ditch

  • Intro Level not a required obstacle
  • All other Levels at the Walk or Canter

Bank Jump

  • Intro Level not a required obstacle
  • Novice at the Walk, Trot or Canter (organization dependent)
  • All others at the Walk or Canter
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Cloverleaf around Drums

  • Intro levels at walk or trot
  • Novice level trot or canter with simple changes permitted.
  • Intermediate Levels canter with simple or flying changes.
  • Upper Levels at  canter with flying changes

Cattle Herding (not to be confused with the Cattle Handling Phase)

  • Intro Level – not a challenge
  • All others at a walk or appropriate gait for control.

Optional Challenges under the USFWEO 

Move a Sack

  • Level 1 – At the Walk
  • Level 2 & 3 at the Walk or Canter
  • Level 4 up at the Canter.

Varied Footing

  • All Levels at the walk.

Drag item

  • Level 1 – not a required obstacle
  • Level 2 & 3 at the Walk or Canter
  • Level 4 up at the Canter.

Throw a Rope

  • Level 1 not a requirement
  • Level 2 and up  while stationary.

Ground Tie

  • Level 1 & 2 – not a requirement
  • Level 3 up.  The horse should remain in place.

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