Thursday, April 14, 2016

Our FIRST Clinic – An Introduction to Working Equitation

12799174_593737914115708_199299912647194149_n - Concentrating very hard on circling through the triple barrels -

This happened on the 28th of February, 2016… Wowee, that was too long ago! We had a fantastic time at the very first clinic either Copper or I have ever attended!

It was a one day clinic - Introduction to Working Equitation. We started out by learning the history of W.E. and how it came about, and then we moved into the practicalities of how W.E. competitions work – the levels (Introductory, Preliminary, Novice, Medium, Advanced, International: Debutante, ?, Masters), the structure of the trials (4 stages to the competition – Dressage, Ease of Handling*, Speed*, and Team Cattle Trial) etc.**

Next it was time to mount up for the “dressage-ing” portion. We started out as one big group, walking around the arena and halting, moving on, crossing over the diagonal to stretch and release the horses backs.

Then we moved into 5 meter circles on the outside track, and loosened the horses up even more. The whole group started to look really rhythmical and unified turning our circles in synchronization – it was actually really cool! Then we started trotting, and we did 20 meter circles at each end of the arena.

Copper started out super stiff over his back, so much so I was wondering if he was lame(!!) but by the end of this session he was so soft and light. It was so fantastic!! He felt great and I was really enjoying the workout. Then we stopped and did individual sessions for 10 minutes where we ran through an entry level W.E. dressage test.

Unfortunately, by the time Copper and I had our turn, Copper had cooled down and was definitely “done” for the day. One of the side effects of  always working in 20-45 minute sessions – he’s convinced his legs stop working after that length of time unless we are out on the trail!

The meant we spent the better part of our session just loosening up again – we didn’t really get a good run through. I was a bit concerned about how he’d go in the afternoon session because of this, but as it turned out, he was fine.

We broke for lunch, and ran out to pick up Subway, scarfing it down in the car as we rushed back to tack up….. Lol! I’m never prepared food-wise, but oh well.  We made it back in time, ready to get stuck into the fun stuff – the W.E. obstacles!

12801656_593738090782357_1710742294844914256_n- Not melting down juuussttt yet… Wait for it! -

Copper took it all in his stride and I was really proud of him! He did so well with everything – even the bull and the garrocha pole. The only one he had a bit of a melt down with was the gate. We’d get two thirds of the way through the obstacle, but after I had maneuvered him up, unlatched it, turned-on-the-forehand through the opening, he just didn’t want to back up the final three steps so that I could close it again. Gah.

Anyway, I ended up having to turn him in a circle up to, and away from the gate, come back along side it, pick up the rope (yeah, it was two jump standards with a rope – not an actual swinging gate) and back him up to latch it. You are not supposed to let go of the rope, so that’s the one obstacle we “failed” and couldn’t complete, but you know what? That’s really not bad at all!!

We did the bell, the side pass pole, the L corridor, the stock pen, the double and triple barrels, the slalom, and the bridge, as well as the gorracha and bull. 

After we had all had a chance to play with the different obstacles there, and have some instruction on how to do them, we then got to do little individual run throughs where we strung some of the obstacles together.

This time I learned my lesson though – I spent five minutes or so warming Copper up before we ran through it, and he did brilliantly! We did the bridge, the slalom, the bell, the L corridor, the triple barrels and finished with the bull. We got told we had a “score” of seven (out of ten – “reasonably good”) *fist pump* and this made me really grin…

It was smooth, easy, Copper was having fun, and we were concentrating and oh – it was brilliant! I reallllly enjoyed it, and I could tell Copper did too – even if he was pooped by then (hehe, I was too!).

12802939_593738037449029_2046125034342873650_n- Picking up the ring from the bull with the garrocha pole – it takes a lot of concentration! -

By end of it all, we were both utterly out of energy and all the moves, but it was. so. good.

Copper really calmed down with the work, I could feel his brain settle and really start to work. All of the horses were really listening at the end of the day, and I could feel that Copper could see the “point” to what we where doing. He really enjoyed the thinking aspect of tackling the obstacles – he loved the work I was giving him.

I loved it too – the fact that this combines the best of dressage training (lightness, harmony between horse and rider, feel and more!) plus, fun stuff in the sandbox?? I’m all for it!

I’ve toyed with the idea of eventing before, trying to combine dressage with other kinds of fun, but Copper can’t jump sticks tbh, and doesn’t really enjoy it either. He races because he’s uncertain and scared, and so I get uncertain and scared, and…. We’d never jump anything higher than beginner/Intro level.

But W.E.? I can see us doing a lot more with this. We might even learn how to chase cows!!  Haha!

Plus, I personally believe that W.E. marries the work and principles of dressage far more deeply into the fun side than eventing does.  You can’t do W.E. without the classical dressage training, it just wouldn’t work. The obstacles are specifically designed to test a horse’s balance, collection, lightness in hand, and ease of handling - which I’m not saying that eventing doesn’t do - just not in the same way, or to the same extent. :D

Basically, I’m a fan and I can’t wait to do more WE.

See ya,


? I missed that level’s name, but there is one. (-__-)’

*The obstacle course is run twice – once, you and your mount are judged on how precisely and easily you do the course (which can be any variation of any of the 19 WE obstacles, taken in a certain order), and the second time is the speed trial – where you want to get through the course as swiftly as possible.

** For more information please see

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