What is Working Equitation?

The discipline of Working Equitation (WE) was pioneered by four countries: Italy, Portugal, Spain, and France, with the first International competition being held in 1996. The discipline focuses on the partnership between horse and rider, through classical horsemanship and use of the horse for ranch work.

In the United States, there are five levels to accommodate horses and riders at various stages of training: Introductory, Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, and Masters. The Masters level is equivalent to the international standard of the sport.

Working Equitation is comprised of four phases (Trials), including Working Dressage, Ease of Handling with obstacles, Speed obstacles and Cattle handling. At the International level, the advanced riders must ride with the reins only in one hand but at the lower levels may ride with both hands. This discipline is based on horses working on the ranch, with cattle and in the fields–so the rider will need the other hand to manipulate equipment.


Each level has its own dressage test where each movement is given a numerical score, and collective marks are given for the horse’s impulsion, submission, and quality of gaits, as well as for the rider’s position and effective use of aids.

Ease of Handling

In this trial, horse and rider negotiate a series of obstacles, receiving a 0-10 score for the quality with which they perform each one. As with the Dressage trial, the judges also award collective marks for horse’s impulsion, submission, quality of the transitions, rider’s effectiveness, etc.


This trial uses many of the same obstacles as are used for Ease of Handling, but rather than being judged on the quality and smoothness of the performance, the event is timed, with the faster times placing higher. For any penalties incurred over the course, time is added to the competitor’s final time. Additionally, if the obstacle “Retrieve a Pole, Skewer a Ring” is included on the course, the competitor can earn a bonus of 10 seconds subtracted from their final time for successfully skewering the ring.