Working Equitation clinics and training in Maryland USA near Baltimore and DC


Next clinic and show dates

We are starting to put together our 2020 clinics and show schedule!

Fix-a-test at Keep Stables (Working Equitation Dressage phase): mid-January 2020

Will host several Obstacle Relay days, where we run through mini courses and obstacle relays

Introduction to cattle penning: January 4, 2020

Confederation for Working Equitation show: May 2020

For more information and to sign up, please email keepstables@yahoo.com


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Working Equitation Training

Topics include

  • Complete beginner – introduction to Working Equitation and practice sessions with obstacles
  • Intro, Novice, and Intermediate level instruction for Ease of Handling, Speed practice and troubleshooting specific obstacles
  • Dressage discussion and practice WE-specific dressage movements

If you would like to schedule a training session, contact Holly Linz at keepstables@yahoo.com. Holly offers lessons several days a week and can give you a great introduction to the sport!

We have a fun group of riders at the farm regularly practicing Intro, Novice, and Intermediate level Working Equitation.



Pictures from our Working Equitation training, clinics, and shows

Holly and Freja performing the “Drums” obstacle. In Working Equitation the judge may reverse it (performing a left hand circle first instead of a right-hand circle) at their discretion. At Intro, this can be done at walk or trot. At Novice level, this is performed at the trot. At Intermediate, it is performed at the canter.
One of the trickier parts of Working Equitation is down-transitioning your gaits before the obstacle. You don’t want to stop too far away – one full stride seems to be ideal. At Novice level and above, this means a canter-to-walk transition about 6-10 feet before the bridge.
Kimberly (our September clinician) explaining techniques for holding the lance.
Our August clinician, Allison, really emphasized the quality of gaits and communication between horse and rider. She gave us a tip that judges don’t want to see the horse move at all while the rider is opening the gate or closing the gate. So adjust as much as you need, then allow your horse to stand calmly before you reach out your hand.
The jug obstacle looks easy, but it is deceptively difficult. Often you can only reach the jug easily from one side of the table. Be proud and hoist that jug! Kimberly says that if you want to show off, you can pour the water out onto the ground, or even onto yourself and your horse!

Keep Stables provides a beautiful, custom built Ease of Handling obstacle course.

The bridge obstacle. The rails were built to break apart if needed. This obstacle tests your horse’s confidence going over a raised surface. For EoH, it is performed at the walk only, even at Master’s level. In the background you can also see the lance and the intro jump.
This is the Rounding Posts obstacle. At Novice and above, horses are expected to weave backwards between the posts. At Intro, you ride forward through the middle, stop, switch the cup, then continue forward.

A rider practicing the gate obstacle. This custom built gate with hinges and a latch is challenging compared to a rope gate. During the clinic, our judge pointed out that riders are expected to keep one hand on the gate at all times while performing the obstacle. No adjusting the reins!

Chickens!

For the July clinic, we brought chickens to liven up the round pen obstacle. On the first day, the horses had a chance to meet the chickens in the warm-up area (lots of space). On the second day, the chickens moved into the round pen.

WE horse looking at chickens inside the round pen during Ease of Handling course
Holly and Aero performing the round pen. Aero is checking out the chickens!
Working equitation obstacle at Keep Stables, the round pen. It has chickens in it.
Holly and Freja working on the round pen obstacle. Chickens!

All the horses did very well and learned to perform even with chickens nearby!

Tips for lance and ring in Working Equitation

Audrey successfully catching the ring from El Blanco Diablo. She has her thumb open to catch the ring when it slides down the lance.

The Working Equitation lance and ring should be introduced slowly to horses. For first timers, this means doing everything from the ground until your horse started to get used to the concept. In particular, rehearse all the scary conditions from the ground so that your horse learns it isn’t in danger.

  • Carrying the lance can be scary to a horse because it is moving near their head, following them as they move, and might touch or bonk the horse if the rider loses their balance.
  • Pulling the lance out of the barrel and returning it to the barrel makes noises the horse must get used to.
  • If you successfully lance the ring, it will make a rattling noise as it travels down the lance. Horses can be alarmed when the ring moves toward them (on the lance) and time must be taken to get the horse used to the ring traveling along the lance.
  • Riders must spend time learning to navigate their horse successfully with one hand while maneuvering the lance with the other hand in order to perform this obstacle smoothly.

When moving through other obstacles, Kimberly recommends balancing the lance on your shoulder so that it doesn’t get caught on anything.

Kimberly recommends holding the lance on your shoulder while going over other obstacles.

When you lance the ring, it is important to catch it with your thumb as it travels down the lance. If you don’t catch it, the ring can go around your hand and the lance and lock them together (this is bad).

When you place the lance back into the barrel, you should be ‘laying it down’ not just throwing it in. This improves your score.

Jumps in Working Equitation

The jump obstacle in Working Equitation is meant to be a ‘working horse’ test. The intent is that a horse can jump a small hay bale or log on the trail. No huge jumps!

The intro level jump is just a ground pole, and is done at the trot.
The Novice level jump is a cross-rail no more than 15″ high in the center, and 18″ high at the edges. It can be performed at the trot or canter.

Intermediate jumps are a maximum of 22″ high and Master’s level are 39″ or less.

Tips for EoH and Speed course design

We found it useful to design the obstacle course using scale models on the computer. This blog post talks about how we did it.

General information about Working Equitation and Keep Stables

Holly Linz and the stallion Zamingo review the outdoors Ease of Handling course at Keep Stables MD
Holly Linz and the stallion Zamingo review the outdoors Ease of Handling course at Keep Stables MD.  In the middle is the “pitcher” obstacle. Simply stop alongside, hoist the jug overhead, and set it back down.  If you drop the jug, you are expected to dismount, replace it, and remount during the test.

Keep Stables is an official group member of the Confederation for Working Equitation in the United States!

We have a group of active Working Equitation riders who are schooling Intro through intermediate level Ease of Handling and Speed Tests, and a variety of levels for the Dressage phase.

National Championship Speed Trial Video   (MUST WATCH!!)

This video is just fun to watch, and shows what Master’s level Working Equitation looks like. It is the “speed trial” phase, which is scored by how long it takes to complete, so the rider is moving fast!

Never tried Working Equitation before? 

We are amateur friendly and have riders of all skill levels to practice with.

Do you have a Baroque or Spanish horse such as Andalusian or Lusitano? 

These breeds are naturals at Dressage and Working Equitation due to their beautiful movement, collection ability, and temperament.  Holly Linz has trained several Andalusian horses up the levels. 

We are a sponsor of ERAHC (Eastern Region Andalusian Horse Club) and between our farm and First Choice Farm, we have a large group participate in the August breed shows each year.  As of 2018, ERAHC is now offering recognized Working Equitation shows each year, either standalone or as part of their breed shows.

What does Dressage have to do with WE?

Being educated in English / Western Dressage gives a major advantage to riders who want to do Working Equitation.

  1. Dressage teaches you and your horse the balance, collection, and coordination necessary to perform well on an Ease of Handling or Speed course. For example, an upper level WE horse performing the figure-eight would be doing a collected and upright canter with flying changes for each change in direction around the obstacle. These are dressage skills.
  2. Dressage by itself is an entire 1/3 of the score for most Working Equitation shows! No obstacles – just precision figures and movements in a small dressage arena.

Because Keep Stables riders already specialize in dressage with Holly Linz as our trainer, we find that Working Equitation is a natural next step to progress in our skills and have fun with our horses! It helps to keep the horse and riders mind fresh, and have new way to approach training goals and challenges.

working equitation maryland md DC stallion dressage
Holly Linz schooling dressage on the stallion Zamingo

Keep Stables is located in Woodbine, MD which is about 45 minutes north of DC, 30 minutes west of Baltimore MD, and 30 minutes east of Frederick Maryland.

Our farm has a full complement of Ease of Handling equipment.

  • “El Blanco Diablo”  the white bull figure for the precision lance obstacle
  • A full size solid gate with latch, and a rope gate
  • Round pen
  • Side pass poles
  • Garrocha poles
  • Bridge
  • Rein-back obstacles such as the cup, bell, and L-shape
  • Adjustable jump
  • Figure riding obstacles such as figure-8, drums, single and double slaloms.
  • Bank and water crossing
outdoor ring keep stables
Keep Stables outdoor arena

Working Equitation Clinics and Training

Please email us for the schedule of our clinics and small group practice sessions – we are accepting new students and horses for training, and offer regular clinic days for outside riders.

Our upcoming events calendar can be viewed at the bottom of this page (scroll all the way down).  This calendar generally has the big events for the farm.  Practices and schooling are scheduled less formally.

Our head trainer Holly Linz can assist you in learning the ease of handling obstacles and give dressage lessons to you and your horse.

We have access to a nearby farm with beef cattle and will have a few trips a year to practice cattle handling and get used to the ranch environment.

Keep Stables working equitation rider Audrey and her horse Apollo at a clinic in April 2019.
Keep Stables working equitation rider Audrey and her horse Apollo at a Virginia clinic in April 2019. Gate obstacles might be either fully built wooden gates or a simple rope between posts. Both types are challenging. Many horses are concerned about the ropes because they are similar to electric fencing. Wooden gates can snag riders and horses, and are less forgiving of sideways movement.

What is Working Equitation?

Working Equitation is a new, rapidly growing horse sport that is amateur friendly and lots of fun!   It has spread to several countries worldwide, and is strongly influenced by the Spaniard cattle handling traditions.

“El Blanco Diablo” at the Keep Stables outdoors Ease of Handling course.

Style is important in Working Equitation – riders are allowed to choose their own style of dress and tack, and are not required to wear helmets.  Examples include: Formal English, Portuguese, Western USA, and Spanish. 

A wide variety of tack and bits are allowed such as hackamores, snaffles, curb bits, and bitless bridles, which makes the sport welcoming to a wider range of riders.  Riders are expected to stay consistent with their style by using the same dress and tack for all phases of the Working Equitation show.

A Working Equitation show has four phases:

Working Dressage


Keep Stables amateur rider Amira and horse Sonnet performing WE Novice A Dressage Test, which is similar in difficulty to a USEF Training Level test

Very similar to the USEF / USDF Dressage Tests, the Working Equitation Dressage tests are performed in a 20×40 meter dressage arena and follow the same basic movements as English and Western dressage tests.   For example, Intro dressage has walk-trot figures such as 20 meter circles.  Novice dressage includes a short rein-back and turn on the haunches.  Intermediate and higher tests include collection, flying changes, and other precision movements.

From the Confederation website:

What is the Working Dressage phase? It is a test to show the rhythm and regularity of the natural gaits and the precision of the horse to prepare for the other 3 phases. These are achieved through systematic gymnastic movements which are judged individually on a scale of 0 -10. Working Dressage does seek to demonstrate a horse’s natural athletic ability, willingness to work and lightness as does traditional Dressage and Western Dressage.

It differs from Competitive Dressage as there is not an emphasis on extension work and the trot is only used as a training gait and appears in the tests less and less as the levels advance, focusing on the working gaits of the walk and canter.

Working Dressage creates an opportunity to chain together the movements usually practiced in a work situation with cattle. Working Dressage requires that a horse show regularity and purity of gaits performed in horizontal balance who is then able to continue on to perform obstacles, work cattle and remain obedient at fast speeds.

Ease of Handling

Bull obstacle – use the lance to spear the ring while walking, trotting, or cantering past (depending on level).  You only get one pass: if you miss, continue on and return your lance to the holder.  Bull silhouettes can be 3-dimensional, 2-dimensional (like the one above), or simply a ring holder that doesn’t look like a bull.
This is Whitney and Beau during a beginner lesson in August 2019. Well done!

This phase is most similar to a Trail Competition, but is less about surviving and more about showing that you and your horse are working together as a team.   The test replicates the tasks a cattle working horse would be expected to perform during a day on the ranch.   

During a test, you will be expected to move through about 10 obstacles such as a gate, an L-shape, a low bridge, and slalom poles.   You might stop by a barrel and hoist a jug of water overhead, then set it down.  In between obstacles, you would trot or canter.  Sometimes there are live animals in the round pen obstacle (such as chickens), which tests your horse’s experience and temperament.

You are judged by how efficiently you and your horse progress through the obstacles.  Does your horse wait calmly while you manipulate the gate?  Is your figure-8 around the barrels round and symmetrical?   Does your horse willingly walk over the bridge or do they try to race across?

Round pen obstacle (travel between the inner and outer pen).  In shows, there are often small animals (goats, chickens) or other decorations inside the inner pen, which test the temperament of your horse.

From the Confederation website:

What is the Ease of Handling phase?

This phase which in other countries is also called ‘Manability’, ‘EOH’ ‘Style phase’ ‘Obstacle test’ or ‘Handiness test’ is an obstacle type event in which horse and rider must overcome elements which symbolize the difficulties natural and not, relative to those likely to be encountered in the field (i.e. crossing bridges, passing through gateways, side passing, etc).

The manner in which the obstacle is executed – focusing on agility, submission, working attitude, as well as ease of movement and of handling – is scored by a judge the same way as the Working Dressage test on a scale of 0-10 for each element.

The Keep Stables working equitation group visited a clinic in Virginia to school ease of handling
The Keep Stables working equitation group visited a clinic in Virginia to school ease of handling in a new place!  In the foreground, the task is to stop between the yellow posts and move the cup from one side to the other without changing hands.  In the background, you see Holly Linz and Vadriero schooling the round pen obstacle, and to the right, there are three barrels which are trotted or cantered in a barrel racing pattern.

Speed Trial

Amira and Gideon the Clydesdale cantering to a finish! Going through the finish or start in the wrong direction will disqualify you immediately. Red on the right and white/gray on the left is a common way of indicating direction.

The speed phase goes through the same set of obstacles as the Ease of Handling test, but the score is based on completing the obstacles at speed.   For example, the rider who completes all obstacles in 2 minutes will beat the rider who completes the obstacles in 3 minutes.  If you cannot perform an obstacle, there is a set penalty assigned such as 10 or 30 seconds added to your time.   

This is an exciting competition to perform and observe!   Remember though – none of these phases are required; some riders will only perform the dressage phase and ease of handling while others will sign up for all four during a competition.

From the Confederation website:

What is the Speed phase?

This is the second test of handiness, the first “EOH’ (listed above) is a test of technical handiness; this is a test of time handiness.

It is a timed obstacle race, using the ‘Ease of Handling’ Obstacles. This is the same event as ‘EOH’ but measured in an objective way by the use of a stop watch -timer. The goal is to promote the horses which are most manageable. The individual scores are based on elapsed time through the obstacles and time penalties for course errors.

The routes and the penalties applied for the mistakes must be such as to prevent any attempt to promote just the top speed, and not the handiness which would be contrary to the spirit of the discipline.

It is the most exciting element  in the Working Equitation competition series.

Cattle Handling

cattle handling phase of working equitation
A team of riders separates one calf from the herd and pens it.

This phase is only included in some shows since it can be difficult to find appropriate livestock.   Riders are judged in their ability to separate a specific cow from a group and herd it into a holding pen.  This takes equitation skills similar to a Western Cutting Horse.

From the Confederation website:

What is the Cattle Handling phase? The Cattle handling phase is the essence of the sport of Working Equitation. It is performed by a ‘Team’ of three or four riders.

This is a timed test which is to prove the skills of the competitors with cattle.

The constraints of the test are to show: 1.) A calm approach to the cattle. 2.) The isolation and the sorting of the cattle in respect of the integrity of the herd. 3.) The conduct of the cattle sorted efficiently and accurately. 4.) Teamwork.

The event consists of team members individually separating a particular animal from the herd, and then as a team herding it into a separate pen. It is similar to the American sports of Team Penning or Ranch Sorting.

WE United or Confederation for Working Equitation???

In the United States, two major groups have formed to organize Working Equitation events and shows. These groups are the Confederation for Working Equitation and WE United.

The Confederation is active with ERAHC (Eastern Region Andalusian Horse Club) which puts on multiple Working Equitation shows each year on the east coast.

Link to Confederation event calendar

Link to ERAHC show calendar

WE United seems to have mostly west coast events. Link to WE United calendar

For most riders interested in WE, you don’t need to pick between the two. Just go to whichever events you are interested in.

Helpful links about Working Equitation

Contact Keep Stables keepstables@yahoo.com for information about Working Equitation Training, small group practice sessions, and clinic schedule.

About Page for Keep Stables and head trainer Holly Linz.


Confederation for Working Equitation USA Links

Official 2019 Rules Page

PDF:  Summary of time penalties, time bonuses, and disqualifications.  Obstacle requirements summary (gaits, appropriate levels).

Confederation Events Calendar  (Region 6 includes Maryland, DC, Virginia and most of New England.