Working Equitation Championship

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23RD – 25TH  SEPTEMBER  2005   


 A Report by UK Chef d’Equipe Sherene Rahmatallah

The  2005  European  Working Equitation Championships  took  place  in  Almonte, Spain on 23rd–25th September. The Team Championship was won by the Spanish team, followed by the Portuguese team, then  the  Italian  team  and  finally  the French team.The Individual Championship was won by Ricardo Moura Tavares (with his Lusitano x Quarter Horse Osama BL); second  place  was  taken by  the  Spanish rider Jose Garcia Jarana (riding his Arabian Emirato Arabe),  and  in  third  place  was Portuguese  rider  David  Duarte  Oliveira (riding the purebred Lusitano Mulato). 


Working Equitation UK was represented by two riders in the Individual Championships: Alex Downing with Portuguese cruzado Mafioso, and Holly Barber riding the Portuguese cruzado Galan. Their individual performances were a credit to their trainer – Sue Barber, proprietor of Pine Lodge School of Classical Equitation, Norwich. Holly Barber was placed 15th in the Individual Championship, and Alex was placed 22nd.

 The Championships were held in the town of Almonte, near Seville. The showground conditions were basic, and lacked several items necessary to hold the Championships – for example there were no computer scoring system, no proper delineation of the competition arena and, as we were to find out on the first evening of competition, there was no bell to signal the start of the dressage tests!

 The dressage section is the UK’s strongest element – Alex Downing and Mafioso came 12th in this section, beating every member of the Italian and French teams. The dressage section was won by Portuguese rider Ricardo Moura Tavares and Osama BL. In the obstacles section, judged on style, once again Ricardo Tavares was the highest placed rider; Alex Downing was placed 11th and Holly Barber 16th. There was much confusion prior to the start of the this section as several of the obstacles were of incorrect construction; the gate had to be taken down and re-made as it was considered a serious hazard and dangerous for both horse and rider……The speed section was to see the fortune of several riders change, including that of Alex Downing who droppped the rope of the gate and was eliminated. The speed section was won by Italian rider R. Pettorali and Mosquito Bull. The Individual Championship was decided by the end of the Saturday evening; the Team Championship would be depend on the cattle penning test, to take place on the following day, Sunday 25th September.

 It was obvious that the Spanish organisers had billed this  as  the most  important day of the competition – there  were  more  spectators  and   a  real  feeling of expectation. The morning  started with a protest from the  Portuguese  as several of  the  cows  in  the arena had their calves – how could it be fair if a rider picked a number of a cow with a calf? It was decided  that  the calves would not be part of the competition, so the cattle trial could begin..the Spanish performed well, some of  the  Portuguese  riders  showed a  lack  of experience, and the French were disappointing. The undoubted  stars  of  the cattle test were the  Italians; their team work was brilliant, with several outstanding individual performances. The Italians won the cattle test, with Marco Trompettini (right) and his Italian-bred Lusitano mare Sanadi Ombre, achieving the fastest time.      

                 The British Riders & Support Team                       Individual Working Equitation Champion

                                      in Almonte                                             Ricardo Moura Tavares & Osama BL                         

Thanks must go to the support team of Working Equitation UK – ever present to assist the riders and to work their way through the hitches and complications that seem to rear their heads at European Championships……..huge thanks to UK judge Claire Lewis, assistant Paula Keeley, to Sue and Mick Barber, from Pine Lodge School of Equitation, who prepared the riders and their horses so well, and to Sean Topsom for his support. We now look forward to sending a team to the 2006 World Championships next autumn in Portugal.




UK Team at the European Working Equitation Championship


The 2004 European Working Equitation Championships, previously scheduled for November 2004, eventually took place in Bracciano, Italy on 21st - 23rd January. They were held at the private equestrian centre of Tenuta Santa Barbara, 30 kilometres north of Rome, and were organised by F.I.S.E. (the Italian Equestrian Federation). Senior teams from 4 countries - Spain, Portugal, Great Britain and Italy - took part, and, for the first time, junior riders from Portugal, Italy and Great Britain competed in their own U18 section. The British senior team comprised of Sean Topsom and Galan (17 year old Portuguese cruzado gelding), Alex Downing and Mafioso (11 year old cruzado stallion), Leila Rahmatallah and Morena (11 year old cruzado mare) and Holly Barber with Infinito (13 year old Lusitano stallion). Fourteen year old Holly also took part as the UK representative in the junior competition.

The Portuguese senior and junior teams, with their Lusitanos, dominated every section and returned home as European Team Champions. The individual championships were also won by Portuguese riders - in the senior section Pedro Torres (riding Oxidado) won the gold medal, followed by Ricardo Tavares and Bin Laden (silver medal) and Rodrigo Torres and Quo Vadis (bronze medal). In the junior section Portuguese rider David Gomes riding Ortega won the gold medal, Francisco Silva (Portugal) took the silver and Giovanno Mattu (Italy) took the bronze medal.

The dressage tests took place on Friday 21st January, the first day of the competition - this section was won by David Oliveira riding his father's purebred Lusitano, Mulato. The UK team would be at their best in this section - Alex Downing riding Mafioso achieved 10th position, Leila Rahmatallah came 12th, Holly Barber 13th and Sean Topson 15th . In short they stood well above the Italian team at the end of day one.

The second day of competition - Saturday 22nd January - would decide the individual competition, with the obstacles (style round) in the morning and the speed section in the afternoon. The obstacle course was uncomplicated consisting of just a few basic obstacles - the gate, barrels, jump, slalom poles, rein back and sideways poles on the ground. This course, especially against the clock - was to favour the masters of speed - the Italians - so the UK team knew they had little chance of retaining their 3rd position by the end of the day. The results of the style section mirrored those of the dressage tests the previous day - with David Oliveira (Mulato) first, Ricardo Tavares (Bin Laden) second and Pedro Torres (Oxidado) third. The best performance from the British team again came from Alex Downing and Mafioso - they achieved 8th position. Leila Rahmatallah and Morena came 13th in this section, Sean Topsom 17th and unfortunately Holly Barber and Infinito were eliminated for failing to go through the gate correctly. The third section of the competition - the speed round - was to cause several changes to the final placings. The fastest combination was Italian rider Alessandro Ceccherini on his bay Maremma mare - and did they go…….! If you have seen how the Italians drive their cars….well….there is the comparison ……Portuguese rider Pedro Torres and Oxidado tried their hardest to finish faster but fell short by just three-tenths of a second…and both riders had a five second penalty added on for knocking an obstacle. The third fastest time was from Rodrigo Torres - ten seconds slower than Ceccherini. David Oliveira riding Mulato, well in the lead before the speed test, fell victim to nerves - David dropped the cup that had to be taken from one slalom pole and placed on another, and lost precious seconds when he had to dismount to retrieve it. This combination finished overall 4th in the individual championship.

The team placings were secure by the end of Saturday - Portugal had won - but this took nothing away from the competitive aspect of the cattle penning - the fourth section of the team competition - that took place on the final day, Sunday 23rd January.

The British team awoke that morning with some trepidation - this was to be the first time that any UK team had attempted to take part in this section, Two years ago, at the Championships in Beja, the team did not participate in the last section. This time, ex whipper-in Sean Topsom - commander-in-charge - and his team of 3 female riders were ready to try anything…..well, suffice to say that they managed to draw out three out of four of their numbered cows and pen them at the far end of the arena within the time limit. The fastest time for a UK rider was that of Alex Downing and Mafioso - this brought back vivid memories of the one practice session the riders had with cows, back in the summer, in Norfolk….the afternoon ended abruptly when Alex's enthusiasm whilst chasing an errant cow back to the herd caused the animal to jump over the fence and take off across the horizon….we never did manage to arrange another cattle practice session…..! Portugal won the cattle test section too - crowning a weekend of gold medals for their riders.

The discipline of working equitation took an important step forwards at Bracciano - documents were signed by 5 counties (Portugal, Italy, Spain, Gt Britain, Brazil and Mexico) to inaugurate WAWE - The World Association of Working Equitation. It is expected France and Belgium will sign up in the near future.

The next European Championships will be held in Spain in September 2005. The Championships were a superb sporting and cultural event. The organisation and hospitality of the Italian hosts was outstanding and the friendship between the various teams - no matter what language was being used to communicate with - second to none.

The journey to Rome was a long one for many of the participants…and in the middle of a cold winter…..thanks must go first and foremost to the riders on the UK team whose dedication made it possible to field a British team for the second time at these Championships, to support crew Sue and Mick Barber from Pine Lodge School of Classical Equitation who generously sponsored the three riders from their yard - Sean Topsom, Alex Downing and Holly Barber, thanks also to helper Paula Keeley and to the UK judge Claire Lewis. ' Grazie mille' to the Italians and 'Parabems' to the Portuguese and their fabulous Lusitano horses!

Results: Senior Team: 1st Portugal 2nd Spain 3rd Italy 4th Great Britain Junior Team: 1st Portugal 2nd Italy 3rd Great Britain