2024 Equinology Equine and Canine bodywork education events at KeepStables in Maryland!

KeepStables proudly offers itself as home base for Equinology Institute, hosting 5-6 events each year for Equine and Canine bodywork courses for owners and professional development!

If you are an owner, competitor, weekend equine or canine warrior, or simply a person who loves their animals and wants to do more for them, we have courses that will suit you too. If you are already working in the animal healthcare field and are looking for continuing education, be this one course of interest, or a new qualification, you have come to the right place! You do not need to be one of our program graduates to attend these continuing education courses!

Check out what they have to offer in the link below!

Lusitano Stallion Zamigo being a very appreciative demo horse for a class.

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

Upcoming Events in the area!

We are adding events to our 2024 calendar monthly, please keep checking that page as it updates!

Events being added to the calendar include :

  • Educational opportunities on the farm.
  • Local for Dressage and Working Equitation Schooling Shows.
  • Recognized Working Equitation Shows hosted by regional AO’s.
  • Fix-a-tests and Coached PlayDays on a full course of regulation obstacles hosted at beautiful Oak Spring Equestrian, including opportunities to explore a course and learn about each obstacle on foot without a horse. Just 5 minutes down the road from us!
  • Virtual WE and Trail Obstacle Series during the winter months to keep us inspired and engaged.
  • Introduction to the cattle phase of WE.
  • Group play days at the Double C Trail course.
  • Cross Country outings on local courses.
  • Group trail rides on farm and pathways around the region.

For more information and to sign up, please email

Follow Keep Stables on Facebook for the latest news, photos, and events!

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, and is an easement to the Patuxent State Park, offering endless cross training opportunities!

Keep Stables view from the outdoor arena!

Regional Working Equitation Clinics and Training

Interested in holding a Working Equitation or Dressage clinic, Fix A Test or schooling show in your area? Our head trainer Holly Linz travels the region for all of the above and is happy to assist you with putting together an event at your facility!

Please email us for information on hosting a Working Equitation clinic at your farm or ours! We welcome new students and horses for training, and regularly offer schooling days for outside riders.

Our upcoming events calendar can be found in the menu bar on the left side of our site.

Who can we assist with Working Equitation Training?

  • 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
  • Lessons on seasoned WE horses also available

If you would like to schedule a lesson, please contact Holly Linz at Holly offers lessons several days a week at KeepStables and travels locally to give you a great introduction to the sport! There is great benefit from cross training in WE for horse and rider, especially if your goal is building a better relationship with your equine partner.

We have a great group of riders at the farm regularly practicing Intro, Novice, and Intermediate level Working Equitation. Come have some fun with us!

Keep Stable works in partnership with local USAWE Affiliate Organizations to provide great Working Equation opportunities and events in the area!

We have a very active group of Working Equitation riders schooling Intro through intermediate levels who are very supportive and welcoming to those new to the sport. We partner with local farm Oak Spring Equestrian LLC to offer a wide variety of educational and competitive opportunities for those who are new to the sport and in search of some guidance, as well as the seasoned WE enthusiast. Check out Oak Spring comprehensive calendar of events HERE!

What is Working Equitation?

Working Equitation is a rapidly growing sport in the US that is amateur friendly and lots of fun! Its origins are in Portugal and Spain, and has spread worldwide over the past 30 years. The essence of Working Equitation carries over the working nature of centuries of life on working farms into modern horsemanship.

“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, Western USA, and Spanish or Portuguese tack. 

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.

Working Equitation 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 USAE / USDF Dressage Tests, 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 for lateral movements and flying changes.

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 Equitation Dressage aims to demonstrates a horse’s natural athletic ability, willingness to work in lightness with ultimate adjustability.

It differs from Competitive Dressage as there is not an emphasis on extension work and the trot is primarily a developing gait, as it appears less and less in test as the levels advance, focusing more on the walk and canter. Its all about developing maximum adjustability!

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

Whitney and Beau during catching the ring during an introductory lesson. Well done!

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. 

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 trial working horse would be expected to perform during a day on the ranch.   

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?

Livestock pen obstacle (circle between the inner and outer pen).  In shows, there are often decorations inside the inner pen, which test the temperament and focus of your horse.

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

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/ on the left is a common way of indicating direction as you navigate a course..

The Speed Trial is a timed event, which tests the horse riders ultimate manability and measured in an objective way by the use of a stop watch or 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 errors.

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 of Working Equitation competitions, bringing out the most joy in horses and riders!

Cattle Trial

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

What is the Cattle Handling phase? The Cattle handling phase is the essence of the sport of Working Equitation because it is the culmination of skills from the three other phases of WE. It is currently NOT a required trial, and only allowed for Levels 2 and above. Level 1 does NOT participate in the cattle trail due to the probability of canter being required.

This is a timed test aimed at proving the working relationship between a horse and rider pair.

The basic requirements are: 1.) A calm approach to the cattle. 2.) The isolation and the sorting of a single cow with respect to the integrity of the herd. 3.) The conduct of the cattle sorted efficiently and accurately. 4.) Teamwork.

The event typically consists of 4 rider teams in the arena together, each being called on individually to separate a particular cow from the herd. As a team they can assist the called rider to move the called cow into a separate pen at the opposite end of the arena, while at least one team member secures the rest of the herd at the starting/ holding end of the arena. It is similar to the American sports of Ranch Sorting.

Pictures from some of our past Working Equitation clinics!

Holly and Freja performing the Drums. 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!
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!

Keep Stables provides a beautiful, custom built Ease of Handling obstacle course that is always competition regulation and ready!

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 Intro, and Novice you ride forward through the poles and halt at the cup at the end and halt, then grab the cup and back straight back to the first poles and replace the cup on the post on the same side. At Intermediate and above, horses are expected to weave backwards between the middle posts in an arc.

A rider practicing the gate obstacle. The solid 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.

The Livestock Pen

WE horse looking at chickens inside the round pen during Ease of Handling course
Holly and Aero performing the livestock pen. Aero is checking out the live chickens!
Working equitation obstacle at Keep Stables, the round pen. It has chickens in it.
Holly and Freja working on the pen obstacle. The chickens in the middle really helped her maintain a nice bend around the pen!

Tips for the Bull line 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 Garrocha.

The elements of the bull line should be introduced slowly to horses. This means doing everything from the ground until the horse really understands and accepts the concept. In particular, rehearse all the scary conditions from the ground to gain your horses confidence before performing the obstacle mounted.

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

When moving through other obstacles, riders may balance the Garrocha on their shoulder so that it doesn’t get caught on anything while navigating other obstacles.

Kim safely carrying the Garrocha on her shoulder as she goes over the bridge.

When you spear the ring, it is important to catch it with your thumb as it travels down the Garrocha. If you don’t catch it with your thumb, the ring can go around your hand and the lance and lock them together, making it difficult to deposit the Garrocha back into the barrel.

When you place the Garrocha back into the barrel, you should be ‘laying it down’ not jamming it in. This improves your score and makes sure the Garrocha stays put. If it falls out you must get it and put it back in upright!

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!

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!

Do you have an Iberian horse, such as Andalusian or Lusitano? 

These breeds are naturals at Dressage and Working Equitation due to their workman like temperament, natural talent for collection, and compact physique.  Holly Linz has experience working with a wide variety of Iberian horses up the levels.  Do you have an Iberian you would love to do more with, or have you always wanted one of your own? Contact KeepStables for assistance making your dreams a reality!

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 adjustability 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 precise figures and movements in a small dressage arena in harmony with your horse.

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.

Azteca gelding Vadriero HVF at a Dressage show

More information on the USA Working Equitation in the link below!

Helpful links about Working Equitation

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

About Page for Keep Stables

Helpful USAWE Links:

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

Shut down horse?

Hi all, this is Amira, your friendly amateur horselady and webmaster.

I wanted to share some thoughts on the topic of “shut down”. When I first heard the words “shut down” regarding a horse, I thought it just meant they were depressed. Maybe sluggish. Like the opposite of forward.

Not quite…

Shutting down is when a horse can’t cope with something scary so it essentially closes its eyes, plugs its ears, and sings “lalalalala”.

OK, so now we can recognize it in humans, but what about horses?

When a horse “shuts down”, it freezes in place. The legs might feel like they lock up or stiffen up. The head and neck don’t move.

A shut down horse just looks like a calm horse that is bracing and not moving

The horse unexpectedly goes from zero (seeming perfectly calm) to 100 (bolting, rearing, lashing out).

Normal horses increase their reactions as the environment gets scarier. For example: looking around > snorting > balking > moving away >running away > panicking.
In a shut-down horse, if the environment is too scary to ignore, your horse goes from seemingly calm to panicking.

An example of this 0 to 100 behavior is riding your horse into a new and scary arena. The horse stops repeatedly, and you kick to make it move forward. After several stops, something moves in the periphery and your horse loses its mind, bolting away uncontrollably.

Shut down doesn’t fix itself. A big problem is the horse is not observing the environment while it is shut down. There is no learning. Desensitization isn’t happening. Something has to be done about the shut down before you can progress.

An example is spending five minutes sacking out a perfectly calm horse, then the horse seems to jolt awake (sometimes with a big spook or twitch) after you stop. The shut down horse was not home during that entire exercise. A clue is that the horse won’t show any signs of relaxation (licking, chewing, lowering the head, etc) throughout the five minutes. Afterward, the horse doesn’t show any benefits from sacking out.

Warwick Schiller videos on groundwork helped me understand what was going on. In a few of his videos he mentions the shut down phenomenon. He recommends doing extremely gentle desensitization while keeping the horse in motion (if they are moving, they can’t go into la-la-land).

Here are several Warwick Schiller videos that I found very helpful to understand the concept of shut down in horses.

This video gives principles for increasing mental resilience of horses
This video talks about detecting shutdown and working through it
Talking about managing anxiety in horses, recognizing shut down indicators

One warning: When a horse starts to come out of “shut down”, they begin reacting to things. So if you were counting on your horse stopping and standing when something happens, and now they are bolting instead, it can be pretty scary.

Remember that new reactions are a good sign. The horse is thinking now. They are able to start processing their environment and get braver.

Equestrian Movement – How to tell if your horse is shut down.

Rider position and upper level success

Everyone should read this article on The Horse Magazine.

Here are some really interesting quotes from the article:

“Where it tips over, that positive tension, is if you let the horse get strong in the bridle. Once you let the horse become heavy on the hand and strong in the bridle, it’s not positive any more, because then there is a block. If you can create what we try to create, without heavy hands, without hanging onto the rein, if you can do it with self-carriage, then it looks beautiful. ” – Carl Hester

“The best thing you can do for self-carriage is the give and re-take of the reins. It is amazing how you forget to do that when you ride on your own. That constant giving the hand, taking, giving, taking, making sure that the outline is stable, the mouth is soft. ” – Carl Hester

“I was told by ‘Rocky’* ‘when you go forward you bring your body forward and when you want to come back, you bring your body back’. And it is amazing how most of us do the opposite to that.” – Carl Hester, referencing Franz Rochowansky (1911 – 2001)

Keep Stables Logo Wear

Rolling out the Spring KeepStables wear!

We have several options now available for Spring wear items with The KeepStables Logos.Selecting items in a Triblend fabric for soft cotton feel, yet with stretch and keeps shape/size.

Items available include a loose fitting, light weight full zip hoodie, a V neck sweater with a very soft fabric for dressier occasions, a simple sweatshirt that sheds hair and hay well, V and scoop neck T shirts, and a nice basic Polo. We can get all of these items in Burgundy, Black, or cream. The barn colors! And drop the standard or Working Eq logo on them, whichever you like. If you would like an item shoot us an email with which item, color, size and Logo you would like and I can let you know prices.Can also provide saddle pads, if you would like. 

 Our new embroiderer will also put our logos on most anything we could want, so if you already have saddle pads or attire you would like the logo put on please email me for details on how! 

Mary Wanless – on dressage

Amira here, your friendly wanna-be dressage rider

I listened to an interview of Mary Wanless on the Dressage Radio Show (dated 7/5/2019) and it blew me away. She has written several books on the biomechanics of riding and is an acknowledged expert in the sport.

I’ve transcribed some of what she said:

“My sense is that we really want to get a hold of kids before they are twelve. I think that about the age of twelve the rot sets in when someone in pony club probably says ‘Right then, now let’s get the ponies on the bit.’ And that is the beginning of the end.

And I would really try and steer trainers and teachers and coaches away from really getting kids neurotic about where their horse’s head is, and really teaching them the baselines of how to organize their body. If we can teach a kid to sit well enough that the ponies natural response is to come up through its back and reach into the rein then the kid never gets paranoid about getting the horse’s head down, never starts fiddling and pulling, and never has to unlearn that later in life.

And I think unlearning that is the hardest thing for a mature rider.”

(In regard to riders being told to get their horse’s on the bit, and the effects)

“Well it gets riders thinking about their heads, thinking about their hands, the arm, the shoulder girdle, worried about the contact, and riding sometimes as though they barely existed from the shoulder girdle down. Whereas I really want to try and keep the rider’s attention on her pelvis, on her contact with the horse’s back, and what is happening in the horse’s back underneath her. How she stabilizes herself on the horse’s movement. And if we can teach a rider to be really thinking about how to shape a horse’s back, and get the back up under her, … to get the head down, we’ve changed everything for that rider.”

“And the shape of the horse’s back, and whether the back is hollow or whether the back is a firmer, higher, surface underneath you, really determines how the horse’s whole body works. … That push of the horse’s hind leg is translated in that chain of muscles over its croup, under the panels of the sidle, and up to each of its ears. So it is fine to show riders how to make that happen, how to feel if it is happening, how to know what to do if it isn’t happening, and how to change the horse’s body underneath them by how they use their own bodies. “

My own (Amira’s) thoughts:

Very very relevant to me.

Confessions of an amateur: I learned about the “jiggle” technique about a year and a half ago during a schooling show (not from my trainer), and while I’ve thoroughly explored it, it doesn’t seem to produce real roundness. At best, it reminds Sonnet (a well trained, athletic horse) that she is most comfortable with her head low. Most of the time, it is an artificial stimulus which reverts back to normal within a second. At worst, it focuses all of my attention on manipulating the reins, rather than riding in a balanced manner.

Listening to this interview makes me realize why Holly always discouraged me from obsessing about the horse’s head, and to keep the rein as stable as possible so that the bit is a safe place to go to.

Dressage through the levels from the Judge’s Perspective

Linked from the Horse Radio Network: Dressage Radio Show #507

This podcast goes into depth on what the judge’s are looking for in Introductory, Training, and First Level. There are lots of great insights here such as…

  • Stretchy Circle in Training 2 and 3: The judges want to see your horse demonstrate “seeking the rein” as you increase the length. Don’t throw the entire length of rein out at once, show a gradual seeking behavior. You should be doing half-halts and have light contact and communication during the stretch. The last quarter of the circle you should be returning to normal length (don’t do it after the circle).
  • Corners: Many riders forget that they should not do corners during a circle. Sometimes riders skip the corners before and after their circle too. If you are doing a circle at A, you will go into the corner before A, start your circle at A, continue circling, finish the circle at A, then go into the corner after A.
  • First Level: For leg yield in F1 and F2, the judges want to see a non-rushed, meandering leg yield. Use the full length available. The important aspects are to maintain the quality of your trot and to keep the horse straight (rather than the shoulder poking to the side). In F3 the leg yield is much more demanding.
  • Lengthenings: The judge wants to see your horse (slightly!) physically lengthen from nose to tail. This means let their head out a bit so that they can make a bigger stride. Change your diagonal either before or after the lengthening so that you don’t throw off your horse’s balance.

Lots more in the show, those were just teasers that stuck out to me.

Anyways, please enjoy this radio show (link below) -Amira

Common rider position fixes

This article by Practice Horseman Magazine is semi-relevant to dressage (it is oriented mostly toward jumpers).

It addresses ..

  • Gripping with your knees.
  • Hunching shoulders and collapsing your torso.
  • Too much hand in turns (causing loss of shoulder).
  • Bouncing during sitting trot.
  • Losing the stirrups.

Link to article:  10 Time-Tested Rider Position Fixes