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  • Writer's pictureFran Cleland

Equitation - a hot new discipline testing riders with age-old skills

Updated: Sep 1, 2022

ABOVE: Mandy Edwards and Tye Dye competing in an equitation event for Yarra Glen. Picture: KELLIE TROY

IT’S called by several names – working equitation, xtreme equitation, three-phase equitation – but they are all variations of a fast-growing sport that’ so popular that when Portugese champion Eduardo Almieda was listed as giving clinics in Australia in spring they were booked out in minutes.

Mr Almeida is one of the best known and admired working equitation riders in Europe, with international wins on his resume.

One of the effects of Covid was that international equestrian trainers were prevented from coming to Australia but with the recent opening up of the borders, the chance to train with a working equitation champion like Almeida has attracted riders of all standards.

The sport’s attraction is that anyone can do it.

It’s suited to ponies, big horses, old and young riders and classes are provided at all levels. Lyndie Panitz, who will be attending one of the Queensland clinics, said this would be her first time training under this instructor but had only heard good reports.

“I kept hearing he's great at enhancing the bond and partnership between horse and rider,” she said.

“Having not come from a horsey family I expect he would have had to ride whatever was on offer and that sort of skill to get a 'tune' out of every horse often makes a great coach.

“I’m impressed that Eduardo has had to make his own way to achieve what he has and his stated focus on patience to build trust and unity between horse and rider sits very comfortably with me.”

ABOVE: Eduardo Almieda in action.

To watch champions like Almieda racing through a course at full speed on Youtube is exciting, but it’s only part of the skills required at the highest level.

Working equitation has three compulsory phases for individual riders: dressage, manageability and a speed phase. The optional fourth phase is team cattle, which combines with team riders’ individual scores for an overall team result.

The obstacles in manageability and speed are to represent the sort of obstacles a horse and rider would navigate in the field like a bridge, gate, small jumps or stock pens.

As it’s fairly new to Australia, working equitation has relied heavily on overseas trainers coming to the country to help riders toward international standard.

Apart from local clubs, the working equitation groups have state titles and the Australian National titles are listed for Tamworth from October 18 to 20 with US judge, Nicola Danner.

The world championships for the sport will be held in Les Herbiers, France, from July 20 to 23 with 15 nations taking part.

The Horse Riding Clubs Association of Victoria (HRCAV) has also formed a committee for three-phase equitation and clubs are running competitions, and local pony clubs are seeing the value of an event that includes all types of riders.

ABOVE: Eduardo Almeida and Santo show how it's done in this speed trial.

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