An upcoming event in Cochrane will showcase working equitation – an equestrian sport that's new to Canada. The sport, according to Working Equitation Canada, combines techniques employed in various countries that use the horse to work in the field.
“When I saw it for the first time, I liked the idea of it,” said local rider Kerry Marit – the highest-level rider in the country and seventh-highest in North America. “I was really good at it right off the bat, because of all the other work that I've done in other sports.”
Marit lives outside of Cochrane, where she said she has had a stable for more than 45 years. Her extensive background in horse riding includes experience both as a competitor and as an instructor. While she has long participated in equestrian sports like dressage, she said discovering working equitation has allowed her to combine all of her riding skills.
Working equitation competitors must complete several tasks in various trials – dressage, ease of handling, speed and cattle.These tasks include opening gates while atop a horse, crossing bridges, maneuvering through barrels and more. A course is designed for each competition, with a variety of tasks chosen for each event.
When Marit discovered the sport, she said, she was competing in high-end dressage and had recently acquired a horse that she thought would be great for the sport.
“I won in Las Vegas on him, which is a high-end dressage thing. [Then,] we were starting our working equitation and now we've decided to just do working equitation because he's so suitable for it,” she said.
Since that time, Marit has almost reached the master’s level in working equitation, which involves completing tasks with one hand and being held to higher standards when competing. She has competed throughout North America and is currently training another horse for competition.
She is also teaming up with WE Cochrane, a group specializing in working equitation events, to promote the sport with two shows – July 12 to 14, and Aug. 2 to 4 at the Cochrane Agricultural Society Grounds – and will compete in both events.
The first show, Ride in the West, features different trials each day for the 30 registered riders. As a Working Equitation Canada sanctioned show, the event will be used to determine eligibility for national championship competitions.
Other community activities will run along with the July 13 event, according to WE Cochrane Show Secretary Janelle Allan, including an Equine Health Expo, dog agility performances, silent auction and a beef on a bun supper.
The second event, Fiesta in the West, will focus solely on working equitation trials.
For many, Allan said, the event will act as an introduction to working equitation. Not yet a common sport in Canada, she added, there fewer than 300 riders across the country, with nearly half located in Alberta.“We started off as a very community-oriented, positive event [allowing] people who wanted to give it a try the opportunity to in their own backyard,” she said. “It's been getting bigger and bigger.”