Press Release – New Equestrian Organization Formed in Northern Virginia

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New Equestrian Organization Formed to Develop Sport of Working Equitation in Northern Virginia Area

Northern Virginia supports many communities laden with horses and equine activities making the area perfect for the addition of the new Northern Virginia Working Equitation (NOVAWE) organization.  NOVAWE is a new non-profit member organization with a mission to promote growth of the exciting Working Equitation (WE) equestrian sport through education and mounted events. WE has origins in European and South American ranch work, and the sport welcomes all breeds and disciplines to participate in its dressage-based, approach to arena obstacle execution.

There aren’t yet many WE shows in the Northern Virginia area, but NOVAWE is working to change that.  NOVAWE President Elizabeth “Biddie” Lowry, Gainesville, VA, put on two Play Days, four Clinics and one Ease of Handling Schooling Show in Prince William and Loudoun Counties over the last year.  Her popular Facebook page, Northern Virginia Working Equitation, has over 250 members. There she posts all kinds of useful and instructive information to help those interested in WE, including information on how to join NOVAWE.  Also, the club is building a website to be open soon to provide members and all interested parties information.

The best part about learning WE is it’s fun for both horse and rider and therefore a favorite for cross training all horses, from trail horses to Grand Prix dressage horses and top jumpers, as well as Western style horses.  The mental challenge of obstacle work provides the horse a welcome change from his regular work – most horses embrace the obstacles happily.

Before attempting a WE show however, NOVAWE will provide opportunities to learn not only how to navigate the 22 different WE obstacles, but also to understand the ample rules of WE.  NOVAWE offers those just interested in improving their horsemanship and precision through WE practice opportunities through its introduction events and Play Days.

For those that develop ambitions for WE competition, NOVAWE will prepare members for the three phases of trials.  First is to ride a WE dressage test, followed by an area obstacle course where each of at least 10 obstacles, and the transitions between them, are scored with value between 0 -10, plus collective marks.  A third trial is the obstacle course ridden for speed, fastest time wins, penalties get converted to seconds.

The Children’s Level as well as the Intro Level (Level 1)  are Walk-Trot levels and do not participate in the Speed Trial, but Levels 2 through 7 do participate in the Speed Trial. A WE show can offer a fourth trial, the Cattle Trial. This is a team event working with cattle and can also be offered for individuals.

Dressage (which literally means training) work is important for any horse.  Couple that with obstacle execution and the results will be increased precision, useful in any discipline – from foxhunting to show hunters.  Transitions become crisper, and navigation improves. WE is great cross training for all horses, including those who ride in other obstacle and pattern competitions from Judged Pleasure Rides to Ranch Riding.

While WE is prevalent on the West Coast, its popularity is spreading East and NOVAWE organizers Lowry, Gainesville, VA, Diane Hutchinson, Leesburg, VA, and Laura Guillaudeu, Hillsboro, VA are teaming to help the sport’s growth along.

“My horse, who I compete in lower level United States Dressage Federation (USDF) dressage schooling shows, loves to walk into an arena and see the WE obstacles,” said Hutchinson. “Her ears go up, and I know she is thinking ‘Oh boy, obstacles, fun!’”  Hutchinson has competed in two rated WE shows, but both were over a three-hour distance away. She is anxious to help grow the sport right here in her Loudoun County and the surrounding areas. “With such a large and active sport horse community where we live, we can support and offer numerous WE events locally.”

Guillaudeu agrees.  She was introduced to WE through Tri-State Riding Club who offered some WE lessons last year.  “I’ve been hooked ever since, and I’ve ridden in every event NOVAWE has put on,” she said, adding that she is excited to help NOVAWE advance WE by volunteering to serve as its membership coordinator.  Many folks NOVAWE introduced to WE through Play Days and Clinics feel the same – they love WE and want to do more.

Truly WE has something for just about everyone.  “It is so fun, first of all. My mare Skye loves it!,” said Adair Soho, who rides a reining mare. “I never started with Working Equitation thinking it would become my thing, but I love it and my horse loves it,” she explained.  “And I love all the wonderful and supportive people I’ve met.” Soho’s Another Turn Tack Shop in Purcellville, has joined NOVAWE as a business member. Soho participates in mounted events and represented NOVAWE in July at the rated WE Eastern Region Andalusian Horse Club (ERAHC) show at Birchtown Stables in Forest City, PA where she won the Level 1 Intro Amateur Grand Championship.

All six of the NOVAWE riders that attended the July Pennsylvania WE show were successful.  Lowry, who won the Novice A Amateur Dressage and Ease of Handling trials on her registered Quarter Horse Oliver Red Tari accredits the NOVAWE team’s success to their thorough preparation and knowledge of WE, something NOVAWE stresses in its clinics. “ I can’t thank Allison Reed of Bella Vita Stables in Catharpin, VA enough for her instruction and training at all of the clinics. Reed is a regular NOVAWE clinician/trainer and has coached all the NOVAWE riders.  “I’m proud the NOVAWE riders were so well prepared and successful in Pennsylvania,” said Lowry, who is already busy coordinating more practice and clinics for NOVAWE riders to prepare for the next rated show at the Virginia Horse Center August 24-25th.

Simultaneously NOVAWE is kicking off a membership drive and also putting on demos for Pony Club camps and conducting Play Days for those who have not yet been introduced to WE.  If you’d like the NOVAWE team to show your barn or organization how to try WE, contact Biddie Lowry [email protected], visit NOVAWE’s Facebook page Northern Virginia Working Equitation, or go to the website (currently under construction).

Releasable Photos and more information available.

Diane Hutchinson on Splash of Glory

Biddie Lowry on Oliver’s Red Tari