Glossary of dressage terms
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Below you will find some definitions you might find useful.

(This is not an exhaustive list, and we will be adding to it as time goes on)
Airs/Airs above the ground
Classical high school dressage. Includes pasade/levade and school jumps, courbette and capriole, which are only performed with specially suitable and trained horses.

The horse is carrying the riders and its own weight in the most efficient way. The weight is on the hind legs (the quarters) not on the front legs (the forehand).

Bend of neck - Neck bend
The horse's neck is bent but the body is straight. A common fault when first attempting to shoulder-in.

Board / Boarding


The canter consists of a series of bounds. In the correct canter three hoof beats should be heard. It is known as the right or left canter according to which foreleg is leading.

In the right canter the left hind leg is placed on the ground (first hoof beat), then the right hind leg and left foreleg together at the same time (second hoof beat), followed by the right foreleg (third hoof beat).

The left hind leg should leave the ground before the right foreleg is put down, then comes the left diagonal; finally the right foreleg, followed by its suspension.

Sequence of steps at canter.

In correct canter the entire weight is carried in the following sequence: one hind leg, two hind legs and one foreleg, one hind leg and the diagonal foreleg, one hind leg and two forelegs, one foreleg, all four legs in the air (the moment of suspension).

This sequence of steps must be maintained at all tempos. The canter is incorrect if four hoof beats can be heard, which happens when the hind leg is put down before the corresponding diagonal foreleg.

There is no short definition of collection. It is however the goal that all dressage riders are aiming for. We will be covering this in the lesson on collection.

Dressage Rider
Somebody who likes to dress-up, be the center of attention and ride his/her horse in front of a posh country house, preferably owned by royalty.

Flying change
Changing the lead leg in canter in the air (during an unbroken canter stride) at the rider's instructions.

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

Half halt/half parade
A method of bringing the horse to a higher degree of balance and mental attention. Aids too numerous for short definition. See monthly lessons.

The horse is proceeding equally forwards and sideways. The horse length bent in the direction of movement. Can be ridden in walk, trot or canter.

Lateral movements
The horse is going to some degree sideways at the instructions of the rider.

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.

Board / Boarding.

An area for training horses. A dressage arena. Normally a rectangle or oblong area usually measuring either twenty metres by forty metres

40m x 20m areana.

or twenty metres by sixty metres.

60m x 20m areana.

On the bit
When the horse has rounded his back, has accepted your weight, has engaged his hindquarters, has accepted the contact in the mouth and has arched his neck. He has given himself up to the riders aids. A nearly vertical line can be drawn down the front of the horses face.

On the forehand
The horse is carrying itself and the rider with its balance and weight over the two front legs.

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

A movement in trot (alternate diagonals). A proud and rhythmic movement performed nearly on the spot.

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

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

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

Rein - Soft rein
To take a contact that is soft and with feel.

Rein - Take the rein
To momentarily close the figures on the rein to 'block' or to 'not give' or 'not to be light'.

Rein - To Ask with the rein
Give and take the rein to create bend or flexion. Never a pull, always an invitation. If you horse is being disobedient or hard in the mouth, a persistent invitation.

Rein back
The horse moving backwards on the riders command.

Relative Straightness
In dressage terms this means a horse is going straight when the inside hind leg follows the track of the inside foreleg.

Work on three tracks. The horse's quarters are to the track with the forehand away from the track. The outside hind leg creates one track. The outside foreleg and inside hind leg (diagonal pair) create the second track and the inside foreleg creates the third track. The horse must have length bend in the direction of movement.

School movements
A series of known and predefined exercises in the mÈnage.

Self carriage
When the horse is able to carry itself in balance through the various school movements without any support from the rein.

Work on three tracks. The horse's forehand is brought in off the track so that the outside hind leg creates one track, the outside foreleg and inside hind leg (diagonal pair) create the second track and the inside foreleg creates the third track.


This is when the spine is parallel to the straight line or long side of the mÈnage.

Tempi changes
More than one flying change put together to form a movement (e.g. four time tempi changes is a change of leg every fourth canter stride).

Work on three tracks. The horse's quarters are brought into the school so that the outside foreleg creates one track. The inside foreleg and the outside hind leg create the second track (a diagonal pair) and the inside hind leg creates the third track.

Sequence of steps at trot.
In the trot the diagonal legs must be raised from the ground simultaneously and be replaced on the ground together, making two hoof beats. A jump from one diagonal pair of legs to the other. A two beat tempo.

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.

A small circle - six metres in diameter.

Sequence of steps at 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.

Two or three feet are always on the ground at the same time; the horse steps from one leg to the other and there is no moment of suspension.

Work in hand
The horse is trained or exercised from the ground. The rider is not in the saddle. The trainer is normally close enough to reach with ease any part of the horse with the long/dressage whip.

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