As a founding member of the United States Federation of Working Equitation Organizations

the USAWEA follows the rule book as written for use in the USA which you can download from the links on the previous page. The information below is very general and not actual current rules.



1.1    Introduction

The discipline of Working Equitation (WE) was created to recognize and promote the equestrian techniques employed in countries that use the horse to work in the field.  The aim is to preserve and perpetuate not only the type of equitation in each country but also the various traditions, riding attire, and tack that constitute part of the intrinsic cultural tradition of each country. 

The sport is well established in Europe and is gaining popularity in many countries around the world.  Each country has its own rules for WE competitions; however, the countries have come together to establish a common set of rules for international competition through the World Association for Working Equitation (WAWE).


1.2    WE Phases

There are four phases or tests that make up a Working Equitation competition.  The first three (Working Dressage, Ease of Handling, and Speed) are the mandatory phases required for a complete Working Equitation competition.  The fourth phase, Cattle Handling, is included when location and facilities allow and is only mandatory at national championship competitions.

 a.    Working Dressage Phase.  Prescribed dressage tests are ridden at each level. Each movement is given a numerical score, and collective marks are given for impulsion, compliance, calmness, rider’s position, etc.  Movements in the dressage test coincide with the movements required in the Ease of Handling and Speed phases at each level. 

b.     Ease of Handling (Obstacle) Phase.  Obstacles are set up to simulate the difficulties encountered by a horse and rider in the field.  Obstacles are numbered and are ridden in order.  The goal of this phase is to negotiate the obstacles with accuracy, ease, and smoothness.  Requirements for the Ease of Handling phase are presented in Section .  The obstacles are described in Appendix B.

c.     Speed Phase.  Obstacles are ridden at speed.  Individual scores are based on elapsed time through the obstacles with time penalties added for missed or mishandled obstacles.   Requirements for the Speed phase are contained in Section .

d.    Cattle Handling Phase.  This phase tests the ability of a horse and rider to work with cattle individually and as a team.  The test is performed with a team of 3 or 4 riders.  The objective is for each rider to individually sort, cut, and herd a pre-selected cow from the herd and then as a team put it in a designated pen.  This is a timed event, with time penalties for course errors. Requirements for the Cattle Handling phase are presented in Section 6.


1.3    WE Levels

There are six competitive levels:

         L1:    Level 1 – Introductory

         L2:    Level 2 – Novice A

         L3:    Level 3 – Novice B

         L4:    Level 4 – Intermediate A

         L5:    Level 5 – Intermediate B

         L6:    Level 6 – Advance

         L7:    Level 7 - International

Each level is open to all horse-rider pairs who have not competed in WE at a higher level.  However, a higher-level rider can show a lower-level horse, and a lower-level rider can show a higher-level horse.  A horse-rider pair can only compete in one level per show.

Within each level there can be classes designated for junior, senior, and amateur or open riders.



2.1    Horses

a.      Any breed of horse, pony, or mule is eligible.

b.      All horses entered must be serviceably sound, show no signs of lameness, and be in good condition.

c.      Each horse must be at least 4 years old.

d.      A horse may be ridden by no more than two different riders in any competition.

e.      A rider may compete in the same class with more than one horse.


2.2    Tack and Attire

2.2.1    General

While the focus of Working Equitation is primarily on performance, not appearance, tack and attire are important to the overall impression of an entry. Tack and attire must be the same for each phase.

There is no penalty for the use of protective headgear or a protective safety vest for the rider in any class.  All competitors under the age of 18 must wear an ASTM/SEI-approved safety helmet.

2.2.2    Local or Regional Competitions

Competitors may perform in any tack and attire.

Braiding is optional.


2.3       Equipment Allowances


Use of a whip (crop) is allowed in all classes L1-L5.  A whip may be carried in L6-L7, but it must remain in an upright position and secured by the free hand.  Touching the horse with the whip at this level is considered outside assistance and will result in disqualification.

Bitted bridles, bitless bridles, and sidepulls are allowed.  Natural or authentic bosal hackamores are allowed.

Any cavesson/noseband must be adjusted to allow room for the width of two fingers placed sideways.

Hoof boots (i.e., boots used in lieu of shoes) are allowed.

Bell boots and protective boots are allowed for EOH, Speed, and Cattle Handling phases.

The following equipment is not allowed:

•·         Tie downs

•·         Tongue ties

•·         Martingales

•·         Mechanical hackamores

•·         Gag bits

•·         Twisted or wire bits

•·         Elevator bits

•·         Halter and lead rope

•·         Serretas

•·         Bearing, side, draw, or balancing reins

•·         Blinkers

•·         Ear plugs/muffs


2.4    General Rules

a.   Competitors may not receive any outside assistance during a class; they are allowed to receive clarifications or guidance while in the warm-up arena or after the test has been completed.  The exception is competitors in L1 thru L3 may have a person positioned outside the arena to read the dressage test aloud.  This is not allowed at L4 thru L6.

b.   Depending on bridle type or correct traditional tack requirements, horses may be ridden with one hand or two in levels L1 thru L5.  

c.   Competitors in L1 thru L5 may use either the right or left hand in negotiating obstacles in the Ease of Handling and Speed phases; however, the same hand must be used consistently throughout.  

d.   All tests in L6 are performed with the reins in one hand.  Competitors are free to use either hand to hold the reins, but may not, under penalty of disqualification, use their other hand on the reins during the test.  Competitors will be disqualified if their free hand brushes the rein in front of the other hand or provides any form of assistance.  An adjustment to the reins is permissible but must be a momentary action.


2.5    Scoring and Computing Individual Championship Points

Movements in the Working Dressage and Ease of Handling tests are scored on a scale of 10 (highest) to 0 to enable correct and logical placement of the competitors in each class.

When multiple judges are used, an average score will be calculated as the final score.

The Speed phase is scored by total elapsed time, with time adjusted for bonus time or penalties.


The winner of the Working Dressage phase is the competitor who receives the highest score in the dressage test performed.  The winner of the Ease of Handling phase is the competitor who receives the highest score from the obstacle course completed.  The winner of the Speed phase is the competitor who completes the course in the lowest adjusted time.  Points are awarded for each phase based on the placement and the number of competitors in each class:

         1st place   =    N + 1

         2nd place  =    N – 1

         3rd place  =    N – 2

         4th place   =    N – 3 etc.

         where  N    =  the number of competitors in the class.

The total number of points accrued by each competitor determines the WE Champion (highest) and Reserve Champion (second highest) for each level.  To be considered for a WE championship, competitors must compete in all three phases.

Competitors who have been disqualified in any of the phases are not awarded any points for that phase but may participate in the other phases and earn championship points.

Handling ties:

a.     In the Working Dressage phase, the collective marks are used to break the tie.  If these marks are equal, the entries remain tied and each will be awarded the points associated with the placing for which they are tied.

b.     In the Ease of Handling phase, the rider who incurred a 0 will be placed lower than the rider who did not.  If the tie remains, the mark for overall impression is used to break the tie.  If these marks are equal, the entries remain tied and each will be awarded the points associated with the placing for which they are tied.

c.     Speed phase ties are decided by the least number of time penalties.  If these marks are equal, the entries will remain tied and each entry will be awarded the points associated with the placing for which they are tied.

d.    In the event of a tie for champion at a given level, the collective marks in the Working Dressage phase will be used to break the tie.  If there is still a tie, the collective marks for the Ease of Handling phase will be used to break the tie.  If there is still a tie, the competitor with the fastest time on the Speed phase will be placed higher.


2.6    Computing Team Championship Points

The Cattle Handling phase is scored by total elapsed time of the team, with time added for penalties.

A team’s total point score is computed by adding up the number of individual points awarded to the three best riders in each team as well as the team score in the Cattle Handling phase.


2.7    General Grounds for Disqualification

The following are general grounds for disqualification:

a.     Taking more than 1 minute to appear at the start.

b.     Entering the riding arena before the judge has given consent or signal.

c.     Taking more than 60 seconds to go through the starting flag (line) after the signal was given to begin.

d.    Fall of horse or rider. The rider may ask to finish the course, which will be at the discretion of the judge.

e.     Use of illegal equipment.

f.     Evidence of lameness or wounds on the horse as determined by the judge.   There must be no sign of blood whatsoever.

g.     The use/application of any foreign or caustic substance to or into any horse, which would alter or influence a horse’s natural carriage, movement, or behavior. 

h.    Mistreatment or abuse of the horse.  Any action against a horse by an exhibitor that is deemed excessive by a judge, ring steward, or other show official in the competition arena or anywhere on the competition grounds may be punished by official warning, elimination, or other sanctions as deemed appropriate by the show committee.  Such actions could include, but are not limited to, excessive use of whip and spurs.

i.      A horse that shows aggression toward its handler, rider, or any person in the ring.

j.      Disrespect or misconduct by an exhibitor.

k.     Using two hands on the reins when one hand is required, except for momentary adjustment of the reins.


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