Working Equitation Triples Prize Money at 2014 Pin Oak Charity Horse Show

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The Haras Dos Cavaleiros Working Equitation Championships offer $15,000 in cash prizes at  the Pin Oak Charity Horse Show, in two days of competition March 20 and 21.  

Working Equitation, the newest international craze in equine sports, is coming into its own this spring at the Pin Oak Charity Horse Show. Event sponsors Carmina Zamorano and Rafael Chavez of the Lusitano breeding farm Haras Dos Cavaleiros in Magnolia, Texas have more than tripled the prize money awarded in 2013, part of their expanded commitment as title sponsors for Week One of the Pin Oak show. This year, each level offered will divide $5,000 among the top five finishers, including a $500 bonus prize to the top-scoring amateur rider in the Novice, Intermediate and Advanced levels. First place in each level takes home $2,500, second place $1,000, third $500, fourth $300 and fifth $200. The amateur bonus is paid in addition to these amounts. The show is also offering a 13-and-Under competition with non-cash prizes. 

So why the big jump in prize money? According to Carmina Zamorano, it is to attract high-level competitors from all breeds and disciplines to this fast-growing sport, which many say is the most likely to become the next FEI Olympic equine discipline. Along with the umbrella organization Working Equitation International Association of the USA (WEIAUSA) which provides the rules for major United States competitions closely aligned with those used at the World Association of Working Equitation (WAWE), Zamorano and Chavez are also sponsoring The Haras Cup, the second major Working Equitation competition held in Texas in 2014. The Haras Cup will be held at Haras Dos Cavaleiros’ Magnolia TX facility in late October with major corporate backing.  

So exactly what is this new sport that is creating all the buzz?   

Working Equitation is a discipline based upon the tradition of fieldwork on ranches, highlighting the clear partnership between horse and rider, with an emphasis on athleticism, collection and versatility. It has existed as a competitive sport in Europe since the early 1990’s. Members of WAWE, the world governing body that organizes international competitions, currently include Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Mexico, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. The United States is on a short list for membership in the near future.  In addition to their breeding and training facility in Magnolia, TX, Pin Oak’s Title and International Hospitality Sponsor Haras Dos Cavaleiros operates a boutique hotel on premises for international visitors interested in learning this new sport. They will also be sponsoring playdays at their facility in February and March to help exhibitors train for the Pin Oak competition, with details available on Haras Dos Cavaleiros Facebook page. 

Working Equitation consists of three phases, Dressage, Ease of Handling, an event in which horses must calmly navigate obstacles similar to those likely to appear in the field, such as bridges and gates, and Speed, where similar obstacles must be overcome working against the clock.  A fourth phase featuring cattle is normally held only in Team competitions, mainly in Europe.  A judge scores Working Equitation, and the outcome is determined by totaling the scores from each phase.  

“Working Equitation is the most fun you can have competing with your horse while learning skills that you can use every day,” says Carmina Zamorano.  “We especially like to see the rivalry between the English riders and the Western riders, who both excel in this sport. Each rider has a cheering section, which makes competition a lot of fun for spectators as well.”  

Tack and Attire for Working Equitation is intended to showcase for the equestrian traditions of the country in which it is held, or can reflect the country of origin for horses and riders. Each international team has its own attire. In the United States, which is not yet a member of WAWE, any type of tack and attire is acceptable, as long as it is consistent throughout. This can range from Western tack and attire, to Hunt Seat attire from foxhunting traditions, or Dressage attire. For riders of Lusitano or Andalusian horses, Portuguese or Spanish tack is often seen. At last year’s Pin Oak competition, a pair of Australian stock horses competed in Aussie saddles and tack. For those new to the sport, a polo shirt, breeches and boots are acceptable.   

“Working Equitation is a discipline that appeals to riders of all levels and cultures,” says Linda Graham, chairperson for Working Equitation at Pin Oak.  “Here in the United States where Working Equitation is just getting started, riders whose passion is Dressage, Reining, Pleasure classes, Western Dressage or hunter/jumper events can bring the horse and the tack that they already have, and add a second layer of capability to compete in Working Equitation. This is a discipline that shines a bright light on quality training as well as quality horses of all breeds. Perennial World Champions from Portugal Pedro Torres and his Lusitano Oxidado are probably the best-known example.  Search for them on YouTube and you’ll see what Working Equitation is all about!”  

Haras Dos Cavaleiros is sponsoring All-Breed Working Equitation at Pin Oak with three levels of competition:  Novice, Intermediate and Advanced. A 13 and Under division without cash prizes is run at the Introductory level with no speed test. The Working Equitation International Association of the United States of America (WEIAUSA) rules for the competition are posted on the Pin Oak website under Exhibitor Information  > Working Equitation at www.pinoak.org.  In addition to $5,000 in prize money at each level, there will be ribbons for each phase, and trophies. The show expects entries from many of the breeds exhibiting at Pin Oak during Week One, including American Saddlebreds, Andalusians, Lusitanos, Welsh Ponies, hunters, and jumpers.  In 2012, the Novice level Champion was the talented Hudson Bay ridden by Susan Pelletier, who went on to capture honors in Pin Oak’s International Hunter Derby the next day.   

The Dressage phase will be held on Thursday, March 20, and the Ease of Handling (obstacles for precision) and Speed (obstacles for speed) phases on Friday, March 21 in the outdoor Haras Dos Cavaleiros ring just outside the main arena. Competitors can enter any or all of the three phases, but in order to compete for Championship prizes must complete and be scored in all three. The Speed phase is a real crowd-pleaser with music and a party atmosphere. 

The Pin Oak Charity Horse Show in its 69th year is a fitting venue for this growing sport, combining decades of horse show tradition with what is cutting-edge in equine competition. The show has raised over $5.5 million for charity since its inception in 1945, donating $200,000 in 2013 to Texas Children’s Hospital, The Ronald McDonald Family Rooms, and Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Family Alliance.  

Pin Oak Charity Horse Show’s dates for 2012 are March 19 – 23 and March 25 – 30. For additional information, call 713-621-6290 or visit the website at www.pinoak.org.

PHOTO CAPTIONS:  Tiago Ernesto, trainer for Haras Dos Cavaleiros with Cossaco.  The pair were co-champions in the Working Equitation Advanced level at Pin Oak Charity Horse Show in 2013.  Linda Graham photo. 

Antonio Garcia and Adagio DC, co-champions at the Working Equitation Advanced level at Pin Oak Charity Horse Show in 2013.  Antonio Garcia, originally from Spain, now trains for Haras Dos Cavaleiros in Magnolia, Texas.  Linda Graham photo.