Working Equitation is an exciting new equestrian sport, and has finally arrived in Ontario. Working Equitation is a sport based on working cattle, Spanish/Portuguese style, from a horse’s back. Pedro Torres, a master horseman from Portugal has been the main spokesperson for the sport and several times the world champion. Pedro’s main ride, Oxedado, competed in major events past the age of 20. Working Equitation has nothing, directly, to do the traditions of the Vaquero, however, it is related through its links to the Spanish traditions of horsemanship.
As can be seen from the links above, there are basically three components to Working Equitation, the first is dressage, the second is the obstacle course and the third is working cattle from horseback – and the method employed has more to do with the American Vaquero than their Spanish counterparts. In the Spanish and Portuguese style of horsemanship the Vaquero’s reata is replaced with “la garrocha” a 12 foot long pole. The dressage seen in Working Equitation is, in Europe at least, unlike the competition dressage we are so familiar with, it is derived from the traditional Doma Vaquera of Spain. The traditional Doma Vaquera is associated with softer hand and leg cues, balance and feel, it does not rely on harsh techniques such as Rollkur, which is still widely practiced in dressage circles despite competition bans.
When one watches a finished Vaquero bridle horse working in the traditional two-rein, or straight up in the bridle, it is possible to notice a number of similarities with the Spanish riding style, mostly vis the softness of the cue, and the partnership with the horse. The sport of Working Equitation is not restricted to any one particular riding discipline, it open to anyone, whether riding English or Western, Dressage or Reining Cow Horse. Working Equitation has a little of something for most everyone’s tastes.
There are seven levels of expertise in competitions, with level seven being reserved for the most expert and seasoned competitors. Yet, anyone can compete at level one and enjoy the two most fundamental aspects of the sport, the dressage and obstacle courses. Apparently, it is not until more advanced levels that the competitors get to work cattle, and then it is 3-4 man team-penning, not using the traditional garrocha, the cattle work is well suited to the Vaqueros.
If you have had fun with similar events such as Reining Cow Horse, Mountain Trail or Xtreme Cowboy, you may find this sport to be right up your alley, bringing more finesse and equitation into play, there is an element of style to this sport. While the Spanish and Portuguese prefer their native horses, breed is not an impediment to this sport. A variety of breeds are well suited to the sport in part due to the diversification of the tests.
The Ontario chapter is currently under development and will start hosting shows later in the summer. In the meantime, you can reach out to Lise LeBlanc or Linda Plank for more information, or just cruise on over to the Ontario Society for Working Equitation website.