The equestrian sport Working Equitation was developed in the 1990's in Europe. Working Equitation places an emphasis on a horses gaits, their agility, and function that is required for successful field work with cattle.
Working Equitation emphasizes harmony and partnership between horse and rider, with lightness, control, and precision in movements.
The four phases of Working Equitation include Dressage trial, Ease of Handling, Speed Trial, and Cattle Trial (the Cattle Trial is done only in team competitions):
Working Equitation Dressage differs from USDF dressage in its emphasis on gaits and movements needed to successfully work cattle from horseback. There are different levels, ranging from introductory, for horses and riders new to the sport, to the most advanced level, which is used for international competitions and championships. All levels are performed in a 20X40 meter arena.
The Ease of Handling Trial (work around obstacles), differs from the American trail courses it resembles on the surface with its emphasis on cantering between obstacles, flying lead changes, balance and symmetry around obstacles, and the transitions between gaits. Collection and impulsion, maintained even in tight circles are key. in addition, it includes some obstacles not normally found in a standard trail class, such as using a pole to skewer a ring.
The Speed Trial, without the other two trials, would be quite similar to Extreme Trail competitions and some gymkhana events. Competitors race against the clock as they navigate the obstacles. Understandably, it is generally the phase with the most audience appeal!
In Team Championship competitions, a Cattle Trial is included. This event has some similarities to cattle sorting and team penning; it also has key differences. In the Cattle phase, teams work together to move designated cattle, one at a time, from one end of the arena into a pen at the other end of the arena.
Reference: Alonzo, J. & Menke, B. "Working Equitation: an Introduction", 2013 (now out of print)
Below are a few pictures of Bruce and Pamela at shows, play days, or general schooling. Some pictures will follow shortly demonstrating the different phases of working equitation from show pictures.