Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Working Equitation Practice 3/5/16

Well, I can say I'm officially hooked on working equitation. We had SO much fun this weekend at the practice!!

The North Texas Working Equitation Club, which is not actually an official club (more like a group of interested folks), put on a free practice day at a local trainer's facility for anyone who wanted to join in. There were a LOT of people that came - 48 riders in all!! There were tons and tons of western people, some h/j people, some endurance people, and some dressage people like me (but not many). Breeds of all kinds were there - Mustangs, Arabs, Andalusians, Gypsy horses, Paints, QHs, and more. The great thing about WE is that anyone can do it, wearing any tack - if you have endurance tack, you can show in that! The only rule about attire is that is has to be clean and safe, and also consistent the entire time (i.e. if you wear dressage tack in the dressage, you have to wear it the whole time. If you wear endurance or reining or trail tack, you have to wear it the whole time. Etc.) There seems to be a really large western contingent around here in particular - I suppose that is because of our Texas tradition of the American cowboy versus the Spanish or Portuguese cowboy. The system of working cattle is extremely different - WE is modeled off of the European way of working cattle, with the garrocha instead of the lariat. There seems to be some kind of drama with creating an overarching US organization because in order to compete internationally, we would need a team outfit and tack, and nobody seems to be able to agree what that should be. I suppose they'll figure it out eventually, it is a very new sport in the US after all!

Caveat: I have no pictures whatsoever. So, I will supplement with pictures of other riders doing WE obstacles instead!

Anyway. So there were nearly 50 horses there in all, which was great. We started off the practice by all meeting in the barn aisle to discuss what WE is and watch a few videos. I was a bit anxious to leave Dylan at the trailer while there were a dozen other stallions about all screaming and acting up, but the nice lady next to where we parked said she wasn't going up to the meeting and was staying down to watch the horses, so thankfully someone had eyes on him. Dylan's great with tying, the second he feels the pressure of the halter he immediately gives to it - so I don't have much fear of him breaking away and getting loose, but you never know. He was extremely upset by the stallions, as he usually is, and spent basically the entire time dancing instead of eating his hay. Thankfully I had the foresight to give him Ulcergard before we left, and dosed him with Pro CMC before we rode (and force fed him some hay too, although he was too wound to eat much).

We started off in the dressage arena and he was his usual super hot headed self. He appears to be this way the first time you take him somewhere new until he settles... he jigs, goes sideways, and dances around like a maniac. I put him together and we cantered around for awhile in the arena, did a bit of trotwork, and then tried to go back to the walk. He was not having it.... still jigging and prancing around like a goon. I decided to throw caution to the wind and take him over to the obstacle course to put his mind on something other than all the other horses galloping around the arena - I figured that was my best chance at quieting him down.

The obstacle course was somewhere between a modified WE course and an actual trail course. There were two different gates to open, a million bridges including narrow elevated ones that traversed muddy ditches, several banks, several log jumps, slalom cones, cloverleaf barrels, figure-8 tree stumps, an L shaped corridor to back through, several obstacles which were filled with logs and rocks that made the horse look down and watch where he was stepping, and a livestock pen. The livestock pen is comprised of a very small circular pen which you must enter and circle around. They are only about 6 meters wide with a 3 meter enclosed pen in the middle of them, so basically an extremely tight volte with a tiny entrance! There was not a garrocha to practice with, and a few other obstacles were missing too, but they are things I can make at home and practice here.

This one is way bigger than the one we used

I made Dylan go through several of the log-and-rock obstacles to get his mind back onto his own legs instead of everyone else's. He about fell down tripping over the logs and rocks the first few times, but then he started to pay attention and pick his way carefully through. This is also when he started to quiet down and mind himself a bit better. We tried a few of the bridges, and to my total surprise he just walked right up and over them. He wasn't keen on the bridges that traversed open air over the ditches (I wasn't either, really, so we didn't push that issue), but he hopped up and down all of the banks without any hesitation whatsoever. He jumped the little logs at a trot. He did magnificent little canter voltes around the cloverleaf and figure-9 barrels with perfect canter-walk-canter departures between each one. He did all of the slalom poles in the same manner, perfect canter-walk-canters. (You are also allowed to do these with flying changes but his changes are SO huge that you're twice the distance away that you expect you'll be after you execute them, so I'm not sure I'd want to do that at the moment between these things). He cantered through the livestock pen in both directions with no problem at all. He was even super well behaved about the gate - I am not very good at gates myself but he was quite good. I know he did WE once with K at Nationals, but I think that's literally the only time he ever did any of this stuff! It was completely fun and Dylan's really made to do this kind of thing.

I stopped and chatted with one of the judges who was there as well as a few of the trainers. They had watched us practicing and strongly recommended that we try going right into Intermediate instead of Novice. Apparently our local WE contingent at the lower levels is full of rodeo Barbies who can really haul ass in all of the speed stuff, and the thought of competing against like 30 of them at every show is not terribly appealing to me. The problem is, if we start out at Intermediate, we can't drop back down a level unless we REALLY suck. Intermediate level dressage is somewhat complicated, with half pass and flying changes, but that is all stuff he is capable of. (Whether or not I am is another question.... I can do it all but I'm not sure I look all that great doing it!) He is also capable of all the Ease of Handling stuff, especially if we practice it. I have the rest of this month to continue practicing and think about what I would like to do.

It took me really a year before I figured out what all of the local/natural driving organizations are and what they are about (and which I need to be a part of, and which I do not). I figure it will take that long to figure out which WE organizations I need to be a part of. There are several ones and they all operate under different rules. There is the WEIAUSA, which is the Working Equitation International Association of the USA.... there is the USAWEA, which is the USA Working Equitation Association... there is WE United, Working Equitation United.... then there is something called the USFWE, the United States Federation of Working Equitation, which may or may not actually be a real organization. And who knows, there could be even more. It's all very confusing. To make it all even more complicated, the folks at the North Texas club were talking about starting their own damn organization. It's a new and growing sport in the US, so naturally there are disagreements with rules and whatnot... I get it. But it is very complicated and the only thing I can really tell is that you just need to know which organization your show is operating under, so you know whose rules to follow. Some big shows like the Haras Cup are run under organizations like the WEIUSA, others like Pin Oak don't appear to be run under any sort of organization at all (although they did say something about the IALHA... who knows). My head is spinning a bit trying to figure it all out!

But I think I am hooked. It was SUPER fun!!


  1. This is a really interesting kind of competition!

  2. ooooh so fun!!! definitely wanna see pictures of Dylan getting his WE on!!

  3. You've gotta come down to Haras.... Dylan will fit right in!

  4. Awww I'm so sad there are no pictures lol. I'm so glad you had so much fun though! That's a LOT of horses! I'm glad Dylan finally calmed down and focused. I'm interested to see how he is at the next one. :)