A fairly new sport making a name in the Sooner state
By Jennifer Cocoma Hustis
If you are looking for something fun and exciting to do with your horse, you might be drawn to the striking sport of working equitation (WE). WE combines the accuracy of dressage, the balance and timing of equitation over obstacles, speed, agility and herding cattle. In 2015, Working Equitation Oklahoma, LLC was founded by Alicia Little, introducing this exciting equine sport to Oklahoma. It is a unique competition as it is a platform for showing off international riding styles and a variety of breeds.
Caption: Tamera Mayo and her Friesian in the EOH Trial—bridge with garrocha obstacle
Working equitation began its popularity in Europe and South America, and its goal, much like rodeo, is to exhibit the best working horse and rider team through different competitions. In 1996, a group in Italy held the first working equitation championship, and the sport has since grown to other countries. Working equitation competitions combine four trials:
1. The Dressage Trial – Horse and rider are judged according to their level.
2. Ease of Handling (EOH) Trial – Horse and rider contestants maneuver through a variety of obstacles they may encounter in the field, including a gate, a jump, varied terrain, handling a garrocha pole and many other interesting challenges. EOH is judged on fluidity and correctness of horse and rider.
3. Speed Trial – Horse and rider conquer the ease of handling course without fault as fast as they can. The speed trial is exciting to watch as it is accompanied by music.
4. Cattle Trial – Horse and rider work cattle individually and as a team. The objective is to sort, cut and herd a preselected cow from the herd and drive it into a designated corral. (In the U.S., many WE shows do not offer the cattle trial.)
Caption: Kate Fowler and her Clydesdale Oldenburg cross in the EOH trial spear ring obstacle
Youth, amateur and open levels can enjoy WE. Introductory, novice, intermediate, advanced and the master’s level delight in this sport while growing in horsemanship.
Caption: Alicia Little and her Azteca horse working cattle in a WE clinic
In the following Q&A, Alicia Little shares more information on the exciting sport of working equitation and her love of horses.
How did you become interested in horses?
I was obsessed with horses as a kid! I wanted one, I begged for one, but my parents always told me no. I finally had an opportunity through Girl Scouts of the USA. During the Girl Scouts off-season, their program allowed the camp horses to be housed privately in exchange for care. This opportunity allowed me to learn how to ride from a saintly gelding. He was my gateway into the horse world.
What was your first introduction to Working Equitation?
I used to live in Magnolia, Texas, and I discovered the sport at an event hosted by Haras Dos Cavaleiros. Haras is a big advocate of the sport, and one weekend I attended a clinic they offered at their facilities. I was officially introduced to WE, and I fell in love with the sport and was immediately hooked by its charm!
Caption: Caroline Holloway and her Quarter Horse in the EOH trial—varied terrain with garrocha obstacle
What is the history of WE?
WE’s traditions are derived from working horse competitions much like rodeo. It was intended for ranch riders to showcase their skills at fun festivals.
Who is your favorite WE rider and why?
There are several riders that I look up to in WE! I learn so much from all of them. I enjoy going to the bigger competitions and watching and learning from them to inspire myself to continue improving my own skills.