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Posted June 28, 2007
Aug 30, 2012

Dressage Terms

"Learning dressage takes two lifetimes -- yours ... and your horse's."
Author Unknown

Aids With the use of legs, seat, reins, crop and spurs the rider communicates cues to the horse. No verbal communication is allowed.

Airs Above the Ground Change of Leg-Change of leading leg at canter.

Balance With the weight on the horse's hind quarters not his forehand, the horse carries the rider and himself in the most efficient way.

Bend of Neck Bending the neck in an arched manner. The horse's body must be going straight. This is difficult to achieve with a shoulder in.

Board or Boarding The stable where your horse is kept.

Canter The canter is a three beat gait. If the horse is leading with the right fore leg the canter is referred to as the right lead canter. If the horse is leading with his left foreleg the canter is called the left lead canter.

Capriole The horse leaps up, hangs motionless in the air, then kicks out with all legs at the top of the leap. The horse's body is in a lovely arch. (Illustration by Howard Adair)


Collected Remaining on the bit, the horse impels forward with his neck raised and arched. It is important to have the weight on the hind quarters not on the forehand. Strides are shorter, but not choppy.

Counter-Canter The opposite of the correct lead. For example, asking for a right lead on a circle to the left.

Cross Firing Cantering on opposing leads in the front and rear legs. This causes a loss of balance in the canter and is very dangerous.

Dressage French word for training.

Extended Gait Lengthening of horse's stride to cover as much ground as possible. It is, however, necessary to maintain a consistent rhythm.

Flying Change While the horse is in the air during an unbroken canter stride, changing the lead leg in canter. This change must occur only when asked for by the rider.

Flying Lead Change Without going through the trot, the rider asks for a change of canter lead. Change must occur in both front and rear or cross-firing will result. (Illustration by Howard Adair)

Free Walk A relaxed gait in which the horse is allowed complete freedom to stretch out and lower its head and neck. Sometimes you may hear the terminology "dog walk" which is often used in the Southern part of the country.

Full-Pass The horse, as in half-pass, is bent into the direction of movement but does not move forward at all. He moves sideways only.

Half Halt (Half Parade) A method of bringing the horse to a higher degree of balance and mental attention. You use a combination of your seat, leg and rein aids. Deepen your seat and relax your buttocks slightly. Take a deep breath, and as your chest lifts, let your pelvis tilt slightly, allowing your seat bones to "plug in" to the saddle. Using both your legs gently ask the horse to use his own hind legs with more energy. Your horse will get under himself with his hind legs and his back will round into your seat. Close your fingers more tightly for a moment then relax your hands again. The release is essential.

Half-Pass A variation of travers, executed on the diagonal instead of along the wall. The horse is slightly bent around the inside leg of the rider. The horse should be parallel to the long sides of the arena. The forehand should be slightly in advance of the hind quarters. The horse is proceeding equally forwards and sideways. The horse bends in the direction of movement. The half-pass can be ridden in walk, trot or canter. (Illustration by Howard Adair)

Impulsion Willing forward movement. The horse exhibits elasticity of steps and roundness.

Lateral Movement Work on two tracks, in which the horse is bent uniformly from poll to tail and moves with the forehand and quarters on two different tracks. Shoulder-In, haunches-in (travers), haunches-out (renvers), and half-passes are the lateral movements. The horse is going to some degree sideways at the instructions of the rider.

Lead (canter) The foot which strikes most forward in the canter stride.

Length Bend The horse is uniformly bent round your inside leg. The inside surface area of the horse is the same shape as the circumference of the corner or circle.

Levade All the weight on the hind legs and no forward movement at all. No impulsion. (Illustration by Howard Adair)

Medium Gait Between the collected and extended.

Menage Correct term for a schooling area for horses.

On the Bit The horse has a rounded back, accepts the rider's weight, engages his hindquarters, accepts the contact in his mouth, has an arched neck, and is listening to the rider's aids. A nearly vertical line can be drawn down the front of the horses face.

On the Forehand The horse is carrying himself and the rider with his balance and weight over the two front legs.

Passage A movement in trot with an extended moment of suspension. The horse's quarters carry more weight and propel him forward.

Piaffe A highly, collected, measured, elevated and cadenced trot on the spot. The movement in the trot is alternate diagonals.

Pirouette When the hindlegs stay in almost the same spot and the forehand move around them, either in a collected walk or a high degree of collection in canter. The pirouette can be performed in a quarter-turn, half-turn (demi-pirouette), or whole circle. (Illustration by Howard Adair)

Posting A way of riding the trot in which the rider sits and rises in rhythm to the horse's trot strides.

Rein Terminology

Rein Back Backward movement in which the hooves are raised and set down almost simultaneously by diagonal pairs.

Feel the Rein To take a contact that is soft and giving.

Giving the Rein Pushing your hand towards the horses mouth or the bit, to allow the rein to drop, dangle or loop.

Pull the Rein To take the rein backwards towards the rider's body. In classical dressage this must never be used.

Soft Rein A contact that is soft or light.

Take the Rein Close the fingers on the rein. Sometimes the word "block" or "not give" will be used. Not a light rein.

To Ask with Rein To ask with the rein is to ask the horse for a bend or a flexion.

Renvers (haunches-out) The inverse movement in relation to travers, with the tail instead of the head to the wall.

Roundness The way in which the horse travels with his back arched or rounded instead of hollow.

Serpentine A series of equal curves from one line of the center line to the other. Each time your horse passes over the center line there is a change in direction.

Shoulder In The horse is slightly bent around the inside leg of the rider. The horse's inside legs pass and cross the outside legs. The horse is looking away from the direction it is moving.

Self Carriage The horse is able to carry himself balanced without any support from the rein.

Straightness The spine is parallel to the straight line or long side of the menage.

Submission The horse's attention and confidence is in harmony with rider.

Tempi Changes More than one flying lead change put together to form a movement. For example, four time tempi changes is a change of leg every fourth canter strides.

Transition A change of gait or speed.

Travers (haunches-in) The horse is lightly bent around the inside leg of the rider. Its outside legs pass and cross in front of the inside legs. The horse is looking in the direction in which it is moving. This is performed along the wall or on the center line, at an angle of about 30 degrees, to the direction in which the horse is moving.

Trot In the trot the diagonal legs must be raised from the ground simultaneously and be replaced on the ground together. The trot is a two beat gait. (Count 1-2-1-2-1-2-) A jump from one diagonal pair of legs to the other.

Medium Trot The horse should stretch itself to cover more ground. The "schwung" is created by energetic bending and stretching of hips, knee joints and hocks. The action leads to the flow of movement "through" the horse's back to the front. (Illustration by Howard Adair)

For instance, after the left diagonal (right fore and left hind) leaves the ground, the right diagonal (right fore and left hind) is raised before the left diagonal has touched the ground again, so that the horse is suspended with all four legs in the air for a moment. This moment is called suspension.

Volte Circle of 6 meters diameter (20 ft).

Walk In the walk the horse moves his legs one after the other so that four hoof beats may be heard. For example: (1st) left forefoot, (2nd) right hind foot, (3rd) right forefoot and (4th) left hind foot.

Work in Hand The horse is trained or exercised from the ground. The rider is not in the saddle.

Working Gait Regular, forward moving, calm, gaits performed with energy.

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