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Glossary of Terms
ABOVE THE BIT
A head position in which the horse avoids acceptance of the contact by putting the muzzle forward and upwards, by using the underside neck muscles and then disengaging the back (dropping the back, skeleton unsupported by muscle)
ACCEPTANCE
A lack of evasion, resistance, or protest; acquiescence, used in reference to the horse’s willingness to allow the maintenance of a steady contact, (with the side reins and with the lunge line), the application of the aids, and/or the placement of the vaulter’s weight.
ACTIVITY
Active, Energetic motion movement that refers especially to that of the hind legs. Where the hind legs show good joint flexion especially in the hocks and with energy the hind legs step underneath the center of the horse’s balance.
AGAINST THE BIT
The horse presses and/or braces against the bit with rigid or unyielding neck/poll/jaw.
ALIGNMENT
The lining up of the horse’s body parts from tail to poll.
BALANCE
Relative distribution of the weight of horse and vaulter- upon the fore and hind legs and the left and right legs. The horse is in good balance when the base of support is both narrowed laterally and shortened longitudinally thus making it mobile and susceptible to small external influences (of the lunger). Loss of balance means sudden increase of weight onto the forehand and/or to one side (lengthening or widening the base of support).
BASICS
The basics form the correct foundation of the progressive training of the horse. The basics include: pure rhythm with suitable tempo; relaxation/ suppleness/ elasticity/looseness; correct contact/connection; impulsion, straightness/collection–in other words, all criteria of the Pyramid of Training/Training Scale. Correctness of the basics is indicated by the preservation and/or improvement in; Purity and quality of the gaits and paces Gymnastic ability and physique of the horse, and Horse’s attitude and vault ability. Correct biomechanics, with the horse in a positive mental/emotional state, constitutes correct basics.
BEAT
A footfall within a gait: a hoof, or pair of hooves virtually simultaneously, striking the ground. By this definition, the walk has four beats, the trot two, and the canter three. The underlying pulse of the music: expressed musically, the walk has two beats per stride, the trot has two beats per stride, and the canter has one beat per stride (as one canter stride coincides with one beat of the music).
BEHIND THE VERTICAL
The head position in which the horse’s nostril falls behind the imaginary vertical line dropped from the horse’s eye.
BEND
Bend is the laterally arced position in which the horse’s body appears to form a uniform curve from poll to tail. Attributes of bending include lateral flexion at the poll, stretching of the outer side of the body, lowering of the inner hip, and adduction of the inner hind and outer forelegs.
BLOCKED
Impaired in the connection due to sustained muscular contraction, creating rigidity.
BPM
Beats per minute, as may be measured by a metronome.
BROKEN NECKLINE
The position of the neck in which there is excessive longitudinal flexion approximately one third of the way down the neck, so that the poll is no longer the highest point of the skeleton, and the topline of the neck no longer forms an even, smooth arc.
CADENCE
The marked accentuation of the rhythm and (musical) beat that is a result of a steady and suitable tempo harmonizing with a springy impulsion.
CARRIAGE
The posture of the horse, most easily evaluated when viewing the horse’s profile or outline.
CENTER OF MASS (CENTER OF GRAVITY)
The point at which the mass of the body can be considered to be concentrated, and around which its weight is evenly distributed or balanced. The horse’s center of mass is located at the 13th or 14th rib and just below the line from the point of the shoulder to the point of the hip. This puts it below the seat of the saddle when riding.
CHEWING THE BIT
The movements of the horse’s mouth—gently and softly mouthing the bit—showing mobility and relaxation of the jaw and causing secretion of saliva for a “wet mouth.” Not to be confused with snapping or grinding of the teeth.
CLARITY/CLEAR
The correct rhythm: sequence and timing of the footfalls and phases of a gait. When used in reference to transitions between gaits, applies to either or both gaits.
CONFIDENCE
The boldness and self-assurance with which the horse performs, and the trust in his partnership with the lunger and vaulter.
CONNECTION/CONNECTED
State in which there is no blockage, break, or slack in the circuit that joins horse and lunger into a single, harmonious, elastic unit.
CONSTRICTED
Limited by constraint, restraint, or sustained muscular contraction. Held together, forcefully shortened, or physically tight side reins.
CONTACT
The lunge line is stretched so that it forms a straight line, not a loop. “Correct contact” or “acceptance of contact” is determined by the elasticity of the connection between horse and lunger.
CROOKEDNESS
Lack of parallelism to line of travel, (e.g. Haunches left or right of circle line). Misalignment of the horse’s body parts from tail to poll, (e.g. Popped shoulder or twisted neck).
CROSS-CANTER
The horse canters on one lead in front and the other lead behind. Same as Disunited.
DISOBEDIENCE
Willful determination to avoid doing what is asked, or determination to do what is not asked.
DISUNITED (CANTER)
The horse canters on one lead in front and the other lead behind: same as Cross-Canter.
DOWNHILL
Longitudinally poorly balanced – the forehand is not lifted (not pushed up by the forelegs), and the hindquarters are not well engaged, (the hind legs push too much relative to how much they carry): same as On the Forehand.
DRAGGING
Refers to dragging of the hind feet or inactivity of the hind legs.
ELASTICITY
The ability or tendency to stretch and contract the musculature smoothly, giving the impression of stretchiness or springiness.
ENGAGEMENT
Increased flexion of the joints of the hind leg during the weight-bearing phase of the movement: thus lowering the croup relative to the forehand “lightening the forehand”. Engagement is “carrying power,” rather than “pushing power.” A prerequisite for upward thrust/impulsion.
FALLING IN, FALLING ON INSIDE SHOULDER, FALLING OUT, FALLING OVER OUTSIDE SHOULDER, POPPED SHOULDER
Lateral deviation of the forehand/foreleg(s) caused by, or causing, loss of balance.
FLEXIBILITY
Range of motion of joints: the ability to move the joints freely. Suppleness, pliability.
FLEXION
“At” the poll, there are three directions of movement, the first two of which are described as flexions: Direct flexion (or “longitudinal flexion”)--brings the chin toward the underside of the neck Lateral flexion—closes the angle between the cheek and the side of the neck. Rotation—causes tilting of the head.
FOOTFALL
A hoof, or pair of hooves virtually simultaneously, striking the ground.
FORWARD
Energy toward the direction that is ahead or in front of the horse, or moving or tending toward that direction. Forward indicates the direction in which the horse goes (in contrast to sideways, backward, or standing still); it does not indicate how he gets there. References to specifics such as impulsion, energy, reach, length of stride, and tempo more accurately express how the horse should proceed in a forward direction.
FRAME
The longer or shorter outline of the horse dictated by the relative degree of extension or collection.
FREEDOM
Amplitude and lack of constriction in the horse’s movement.
GAIT
Any of the various patterns of foot movements (or rhythms) of a horse, such as walk, trot, pace, canter, or gallop. Walk, trot, and canter are gaits used in vaulting.
HALF-HALT
A momentary effect of the aids that increases the attention and improves the balance of the horse.
HASTY
Refers to the tempo.
HURRIED
Refers to the tempo.
IMPULSION
Thrust, releasing of the energy stored by engagement of the horse. The energy is transmitted through a back that is free from negative tension and is manifested in the horse’s elastic, whole-body movement. (Note 1: Impulsion is associated with a phase of suspension such as exists in trot and canter, but which does not exist in walk. Therefore, impulsion is not applicable to the walk even though it has energy.
INSIDE, INNER, INWARDS
The direction toward which the horse should be positioned (laterally) or bent. The side of the horse that is toward the center of the ring.
IRREGULAR
Impure, unlevel, or uneven: can be momentary or pervasive, and may or may not be due to unsoundness. Should not be used to mean unsteadiness of tempo.
LATERAL
To the side: as in flexion, bend, suppleness, or direction of movement. Impurity in walk (pacing) or canter; rarely in trot.
LEANING IN
Not vertical over the legs.
LIGHTNESS
Refers to either: The horse’s lightness on its feet or the lightness in the reins.
LONGITUDINAL
In the lengthwise dimension: as opposed to lateral, from front-to-back or back-to-front.
LOOSENESS
Freedom from, or release from, negative physical and mental tension: relaxation. Note: “Looseness” is another translation of MOBILITY /Easy maneuverability/Nimbleness of the shoulders/ Forehand/Forelegs: made possible by a narrowing and shortening of the horse’s base of support.
NODDING/BOBBING
A rhythmic up-and-down or backward and forward action of the horse’s head and neck which is not part of the normal mechanic of the gait. It may be caused by the past use of gadgets, by constraint, or by lameness.
OBEDIENCE
Willingness to perform the circle asked by the lunger. May demonstrate resistance or evasion, yet still be “obedient” (e.g., the horse may perform but be behind the vertical, tilted in the head with mouth open and tail swishing, etc.; thus he obediently performs the circle, but not necessarily submissively, supplely, etc.).
ON THE AIDS
The horse reacts to lunger’s aids willingly, confidently, immediately, and correctly.
ON THE BIT
Acceptance of contact, (without resistance or evasion), with a stretched topline and with lateral and longitudinal flexion as required. The horse’s face line is, as a rule, slightly in front of the vertical.
ON THE FOREHAND
Longitudinally, and poorly balanced: with too much weight carried by the forelimbs. Caused by an imbalance between the pushing forces from the hind limbs and the elevating forces from the forelimbs, a result of insufficient engagement of the hindquarters, (such that the back muscles do not assist in elevating the forehand) and/or failure to lift the forehand using the muscles of the thoracic sling.
OUT BEHIND
Hind legs operating too far behind the horse: pushing backwards more than carrying.
OUTLINE
The profile or silhouette of the horse: showing the horse’s carriage or posture.
OUTSIDE, OUTER, OUTWARDS
The direction away from which the horse should be positioned or bent: the side that is away from the center of the circle.
OVERBENT/OVERBENDING
Excessive lateral displacement of the neck relative to the horse’s body: occurring in the neck itself or at the base of the neck, causing lack of apparent uniformity of the lateral curve of the “bent” horse.
OVERFLEXED
Behind the vertical: due to excessive longitudinal flexion in the poll and/or upper joints of the neck.
OVERSTEP, OVERSTRIDE, OVERTRACK
The placement of the hind foot in front of the print of the forefoot.
OVER THE BACK
Stretched back/topline.
OVER THE TOPLINE
Stretched topline.
POLL
The top or highest point of the horse’s skull.
POSITION
The lateral flexion behind the poll so that the horse “looks” to the side, e.g., “position right” or “position left.”
PURITY
The correct rhythm: sequence and timing of the footfalls and phases of a gait.
PYRAMID OF TRAINING
A visualization of the general progression of training. Same as Training in the sense of ascending staircase or steps [not in the sense of weight measurement]). See Pyramid of Training section.
QUALITY (OF GAIT)
The quality of a gait refers to its amplitude, elasticity, and fluency. Not the same as Purity or Correctness.
REACH
Refers to the forward extension of the fore limbs, hind limbs, and neck of the horse (or may be used to refer to any one of these individually).
REGULARITY
Regularity is used to address purity and soundness. It does not address the tempo of the horse.
RELAX/RELAXATION
Referring to the horse’s mental/emotional state: calmness, a horse without anxiety or nervousness. Referring to the horse’s physical state; commonly used to indicate the absence of muscular tension (contraction) other than that needed for optimal carriage, strength, and range and fluency of movement. Often the physical and mental/emotional states go hand in hand.
RESISTANCE
Active, rigid opposition to the connection or to the aids of the lunger, (e.g. against or above the bit). Not the same as Disobedience or Evasion. The horse can be resistant, yet still obedient, (perform the exercise). This can be momentary or pervasive, willful or unintentional.
RHYTHM
The recurring characteristic sequence and timing of footfalls and phases of a given gait: for purposes of vaulting, the only correct rhythms are those of the pure walk, trot, and canter.
ROUNDNESS
The convexity of the profile of the horse’s topline, and con-cavity of the underline of the neck. The circular: as opposed to linear or flat quality characterizing the movements, action, or trajectory of the horse’s limbs.
RUNNING
Increased BPM caused by quickening of tempo rather than by stride lengthening with appropriate periods of suspension. Usually used in reference to lengthened, medium or extended trot or canter, or into canter departs.
SLACK
Used in reference to the lunge line: lacking contact.
STEP
Referring to either the front or hind pair of legs: the movement that involves transfer from one limb to the other. Steps are measured (in time or distance) between the footfall of one hoof and the footfall of the other hoof of the pair. For counting purposes, the steps of only the front OR rear pair of limbs are counted.
STIFF/STIFFNESS
Inability (as opposed to unwillingness) to flex the joints or stretch the musculature to the degree and in the way required to perform the task at hand. The opposite of Suppleness. Not to be confused with Tension or Resistance.
STRAIGHTNESS
Parallelism to required line of travel, (e.g. haunches neither left nor right of centerline or circle line) or to line of reference). Proper alignment of the horse’s body parts from poll to tail, (e.g. not a popped shoulder or twisted neck, or haunches swinging out).
STRIDE
The cycle of movements that is completed when the horse’s legs regain their initial positions. Length of stride refers to the amount of ground covered by the entire cycle.
STRUNG OUT
Too elongated: lacking good carriage, longitudinal balance, and connection.
SUBMISSION
Compliance and thoroughness: the yielding of the horse’s will to that of the lunger, as revealed by a constant attention and confidence in the attitude of the horse, as well as by the harmony with the lunger and willingness to:
1. Perform the required exercise, and
2. Operate with correct basics (see Glossary definition of Basics, and Pyramid of Training/Training Scale section).
SUPPLENESS
Range of motion of joints: Pliability, and flexibility. The opposite of stiffness. A horse’s suppleness is largely determined by genetics but over time can be improved or negatively impacted through training.
SUSPENSION
The moment or phase of the trot or canter in which the horse has no feet on the ground.
TEMPO
Rate of repetition of emphasized musical beats—beats per minute, as may be measured by a metronome, (in walk and trot, the footfalls of both forelegs are typically counted [two beats per stride], and in canter the footfall of the leading foreleg is typically counted [one beat per stride).
TENSE/TENSION
Referring to the horse’s mental/emotional state: anxious, nervous. Referring to the horse’s physical state; commonly used to indicate undesired muscular contraction. Often the physical and mental/emotional states go hand in hand.
TILTING
Tipping or cocking the head (lowering one ear)—an evasion.
TOPLINE
Profile: from the poll to the tail along the top of the crest of the neck and along the spine of the horse. The horse lengthens or stretches its topline by stretching and arching the neck and rounding the back. The horse can stretch its topline independently of the height of the neck.
TRACK/TRACKS
Verb: Referring to a hoof or hooves to travel in a line or path, (e.g. the horse tracks straight with his left hind leg). Noun: The lines of travel of feet viewed and counted by the observer as the horse approaches him, (e.g two tracks on a circle). Direction of travel, as in “track right” (when all corners are right turns, and right hand is toward the center of the arena). Used to refer to lateral movements—movements on “two tracks.” Also refers to the path next to the rail in an arena.
TRACKING UP
The hind feet step into the prints of the forefeet.
TRAINING SCALE
Same as the Pyramid of Training. See Pyramid of Training section.
UNEVEN
An irregularity in walk or trot in which the front or hind pair of legs does not move symmetrically, the right leg making a different length of step than the left leg.
UNLEVEL
An irregularity in walk or trot in which the front or hind pair of legs does not move symmetrically, the right leg making a different height of step than the left leg.
UPHILL
Longitudinally well balanced as a consequence of engagement of the hindquarters, (which allows the back muscles to assist in elevating the forehand) and engagement of the thoracic sling muscles to lift the forehand. The pushing forces from the hind limbs are balanced with the elevating forces from the forelimbs.
WORKING (TROT OR CANTER)
A pace in which the horse goes forward energetically but calmly; with a length of stride between that of the collected and medium paces. The degree of uphill balance required is less than in the collected pace.