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What combines the beauty of dressage, the thrill of speed events, the precision of a trail class, and the skill set of a working ranch horse?
That would be working equitation (WE), a discipline popular in Europe and rapidly gaining adherents in the U.S. Founded in the mid-1990s in Portugal, Spain, France, and Italy, this international sport showcases the equitation techniques developed in countries that use horses to do ranch work.
And, within the last four years, the WE craze has taken off in earnest in the U.S.
“We’ve been seeing an increase of about 20 percent per year in the number of licensed competitions offered,” says Julie Alonzo, past-president of WE United, one of the organizations promoting the discipline here in the States. “Western riders with a solid foundation in ranch riding and those who follow the vaquero traditions have been making an impact in the sport.”
Working equitation involves four phases—working dressage; ease of handling with obstacles; speed with obstacles; and, in the highest-level events, cattle handling.