DRESSAGE TRIAL: UNDERSTANDING THE GAITS

Gaits from INTRO Pattern

  • Working Trot
  •  Working Trot allow the horse to lower and stretch the head and neck
  •  Working Canter

 

Gaits from NOVICE Pattern

  •  Medium Walk
  •  Free Walk
  •  Working Trot
  •  Working Trot allow the horse to lower and stretch the head and neck
  •  Working Canter

 

Definitions:

THE WALK

The walk is a marching pace in a regular and well-marked four beat with equal intervals between each beat. This regularity combined with full relaxation must be maintained throughout all walk movements.

Medium Walk

A clear, regular and unconstrained walk of moderate lengthening. The Horse, remaining “on the bit”, walks energetically but relaxed with even and determined steps, the hind feet touching the ground in front of the hoof prints of the fore feet. The Athlete maintains a light, soft and steady contact with the mouth, allowing the natural movement of the Horse’s head and neck.

Free Walk

The free walk is a pace of relaxation in which the Horse is allowed complete freedom to lower and stretch out his head and neck. The degree of ground cover and length of strides, with hind feet stepping clearly in front of the footprints of the front feet, are essential to the quality of the free walk.

Stretching on a long rein (In walk and trot)

This exercise gives a clear impression of the “throughness” of the Horse and proves its balance, suppleness, obedience and relaxation. In order to execute the exercise “stretching on a long rein” correctly, the Athlete must lengthen the reins as the Horse stretches gradually forward and downward. As the neck stretches forwards and downwards, the mouth should reach more or less to the horizontal line corresponding with the point of the shoulder. An elastic and consistent contact with the Athlete’s hands must be maintained. The pace must maintain its rhythm, and the Horse should remain light in the shoulders with the hind legs well engaged. During the retake of the reins the Horse must accept the contact without resistance in the mouth or poll.

 

THE TROT

The trot is a two (2)-beat pace of alternate diagonal legs (left fore and right hind leg and vice versa) separated by a moment of suspension. The trot should show free, active and regular steps.

The quality of the trot is judged by general impression, i.e. the regularity and elasticity of the steps, the cadence and impulsion in both collection and extension. This quality originates from a supple back and well-engaged hindquarters, and by the ability to maintain the same rhythm and natural balance with all variations of the trot.

Working trot

This is a pace between the Collected and the Medium trot, in which a Horse’s training is not yet developed enough and ready for collected movements. The Horse shows proper balance and, remaining “on the bit”, goes forward with even, elastic steps and good hock action. The expression “good hock action” underlines the importance of an impulsion originating from the activity of the hindquarters.

 

THE CANTER

The canter is a three (3)-beat pace where, in canter to the right, for example, the footfall is as follows: left hind, left diagonal (simultaneously left fore and right hind), right fore, followed by a moment of suspension with all four (4) feet in the air before the next stride begins.

The canter, always with light, cadenced and regular strides, should be moved into without hesitation. The quality of the canter is judged by the general impression, i.e. the regularity and lightness of the steps and the uphill tendency and cadence originating from the acceptance of the bridle with a supple poll and in the engagement of the hindquarters with an active hock action–and by the ability of maintaining the same rhythm and a natural balance, even after a transition from one (1) canter to another. The Horse should always remain straight on straight lines and correctly bent on curved lines.

Working Canter

This is a pace between the Collected and the Medium canter, in which a Horse’s training is not yet developed enough and ready for collected movements. The Horse shows natural balance while remaining “on the bit”, and goes forward with even, light and active strides and good hock action. The expression “good hock action” underlines the importance of an impulsion originating from the activity of the hindquarters.

 

 

TRAINING FOCUS

IMPULSION – Thrust; release of the energy from the “coiled springs” of the engaged hindquarters.

 

TRACKING UP – When a horse’s hind feet are stepping into the prints of his front feet.

When working on developing your gaits – rhythm, regularity, cadence and relaxation are of up most importance. They are the foundation of the dressage Training Scale. However, we will touch on these in the coming weeks.

We need impulsion to begin our work. “Driving from the Hind” is the beginning of impulsion. Our horses must drive from the hindquarters in order to achieve collection. The horse’s hindquarters is the engine.

This week’s focus is on getting your horse to move forward in a way that is energetic yet not rushed. Your horse should be going forward freely without nagging and without laziness from a light leg cue.

 

 

EXERCISES / Clinic with Kelli

Going Forward Freely

Allow your legs to hang relaxed around your horse with soft contact. I often call this “cuddling” your horse. Raise your energy, sit up, think walk and squeeze your legs. Your horse should move forward. If there is no response or a delayed response do more. Squeeze, pause (1 or 2 seconds), kick. Still no response? Squeeze, pause, kick, pause, use your mecate or a crop to influence a response.

Concept: For our horses to be light we sometimes have to do more. So, we ask politely, then tell them. When done properly, the horse prefers the please and will begin to respond to please. Do this also in your walk-trot and trot-canter transitions.

Once your horse goes forward easily, teach your horse to keep going without being lazy and without rushing. You will need to feel your horse. At anytime your horse is lazy or even thinking about slowing down ask him to increase his effort. Use the same sequence. Squeeze, kick, mecate/crop. Remember, do as little as possible to get the response you want – at the same time – make sure you get the response you want. Soon, your horse will carry himself forward freely at the walk, trot and lope.

If your horse is rushed in the gait – analyze the situation. Why are they rushed? Are they unconfident and awkward? Then do it more. Leave them alone as much as you can while keeping them moving forward in the same gate. You may need to do this in a large roundpen possibly without a rider, then with a rider.

Is it the rider? You may need to seek help with your seat and position.

Just wanting to go to fast? Do lots of transitions, serpentines and circles. Keep the horse wondering what you are doing next.

Remember: Horses seek peace.

 

Driving from the Hind

Entergetic and responsive transitions, up and down, encourage your horse to engage his hindquarters. Practice these transitions: canter to extended trot, trot to a brisk walk, walk to halt to back, halt to trot, walk to canter, etc. Use as small a cue as possible then increase as necessary until please works.

Make sure you allow your horse to move forward. We often shut our horses down by sending conflicting cues. By asking the horse to go but not letting them – sending mixed signals, the horse appears dull and lazy. When actually it’s the rider not being clear.

 

 

 

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