from International Lusitano Horse Festival in Cascais, Portugal
Portugal's National Treasures on show
at the International Lusitano Horse Festival
June 16, 2006
As the name implies, the recent addition of this fascinating discipline to the international stage pays tribute to those horses employed to perform a working role in everyday agricultural life.
Obedience (dressage), versatility (obstacle course) and speed (another, different obstacle course) are the three mandatory tests demonstrated in competition, although a fourth category, working cows, is included as an option where location and facilities allow.
The discipline is a conceptual masterpiece, and a wonderful marriage between English and Western riding which encourages the perpetuation of national and cultural identities of the participants. It is practiced equally by boys and girls, men and women of all ages and at all levels, and the tack worn by the horse must compliment and be consistent with the style of dress adopted by each rider.
Honoring the discipline's roots and the fact that, so far, the majority of competing horses in Working Discipline are from Iberian origins (Lusitano and Andalusian), a great many riders choose to wear the costume of bullfighting picadors, with tight pants and bolero jackets for the men, and full-length riding culottes for girls and women, topped with black sombreros.
The first obedience/dressage phase - from elementary to the highest level which requires flying changes and pirouettes is followed by "versatility" when riders navigate an obstacle course, for the most part, in working canter.
In Cascais, each rider followed a set course of 12 obstacles, chosen from 25 designated possibilities in the Working Equitation rulebook. Completed, for the most part, in working canter, several obstacles are mandatorily negotiated in walk: a wooden footbridge, for safety reasons, the lateral walk - either on a straight line or turning a corner around 'L' shaped rails - and passage through a gate that requires opening and reclosing.
Speed is unimportant in this second phase, as long as the course is completed within a reasonable time limit.
Marks are awarded for successfully negotiating each obstacle as well as the horse and rider's style and finesse,
and one-handed completion of the course,
typically practiced by the more advanced level riders,
naturally attracts higher marks.
The 12 obstacles in Cascais, in order were:
#1 A figure eight around two plant pots, including appropriate lead changes;
#2 Clockwise and anti-clockwise around the inside of a round-pen;
#3 Serpentine around slalom poles with six lead changes;
#4 Enter an 'L'-shaped corral in canter, ring a bell, and rein back to exit;
#5 Straight-line slalom with appropriate lead changes;
#6 Capture two hanging rings with a lance;
#7 Unlatch, pass through, and close a gate (in this case a chain);
#8 Lateral walk over 'L'-shaped rails;
#9 Circle the points of a three-point triangle, in both directions, including lead changes;
#10 Jump a mini-oxer;
#11 Cross a wooden footbridge;
#12 Halt at a table from which the rider lifts and replaces a jug of water.