To move or pull a part of the body away from the median axis. The horse's limb(s) step laterally away from the midline.

Above the Bit

A head position in which the horse avoids acceptance of the contact by putting the muzzle forward and upward, also usually retracting the poll.

Absolute Elevation

The raising of the horse's neck (in isolation) without shifting the horse's balance to the rear.


Lack of evasion, resistance, or protest; acquiescence. Used in reference to the horse's willingness to allow the maintenance of a steady contact, the application of the aids, and/or the placement of the rider's weight.


Energy, vigor, liveliness – referring especially to that of the hind legs.


To move or pull a part of the body toward the median axis. The horse's limb(s) step laterally toward the midline.

Against the Bit

The horse presses against the bit with rigid or unyielding neck/ poll/ jaw.


The lining up of the horse's body parts from tail to poll. One of the three aspects of straightness. See Quadrille Judging Terms for special application to judging Quadrille.


An irregular walk rhythm in which the time intervals between the beats are not equal (the interval between the hind hoof and same-side fore hoof is shorter than the interval between the fore hoof and its diagonal hind hoof) .


Relative distribution of the weight of horse and rider upon the fore and hind legs (longitudinal balance) and the left and right legs (lateral balance). The horse is in good balance when the base of support is both narrowed laterally and shortened longitudinally ('unstable balance'), thus making it susceptible to small external influences (of the rider), and mobile (especially the forehand). Loss of balance means sudden increase of weight onto the forehand and/or to one side (lengthening or widening the base of support).


The basics form the correct foundation of the progressive training of the horse, independent of the execution of specific test movements. The basics include: pure rhythm with suitable tempo; relaxation/ suppleness/ elasticity/ looseness; correct contact/ connection; impulsion; straightness; and longitudinal balance suitable to the level and task at hand.

Correctness of the basics is indicated by the preservation and/or improvement in:

  1. the purity and quality of the gaits and paces
  2. the gymnastic ability and physique of the horse
  3. the horse's attitude and rideability. Correct biomechanics, with the horse in a positive mental/ emotional state, constitute correct Basics.


  1. 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.
  2. The emphasized beat (as in music). By this definition, the walk has two beats, the trot has two beats, and the canter has one beat. The emphasized beats are the ones the rider 'feels.'

Behind the Bit

An evasion in which the horse retracts or shrinks back from the bit/contact. The head may or may not be behind the vertical.

Behind the Leg

  1. Unwilling to move forward at the same time as accepting the contact/connection.
  2. Slow to react to the leg, or sluggish or unwilling to move energetically forward.

Behind the Vertical

The head position in which the horse's nostril falls behind the imaginary vertical line dropped from the horse's eye. The horse may or may not be 'behind the bit.'


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 fore legs (see Flexion for more in-depth discussion of the elements of bending). Examples of faulty bend are: bending only in the neck, only at the base of the neck, or bent toward the wrong direction.


The application of the principles and techniques of mechanics (the branch of physics that deals with the motion of material bodies and the phenomena of the action of forces on bodies) to the structure, function, and capabilities of living organisms. (Webster) Correct biomechanics, with the horse in a positive mental/ emotional state, constitute correct Basics.


Impaired in the connection due to sustained muscular contraction, creating rigidity.


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.


The marked accentuation of the rhythm and (musical) beat that is a result of a steady and suitable tempo harmonizing with a springy impulsion.


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.

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

  1. Used in reference to the rhythm, marked distinction between the footfalls and phases of a gait.
  2. Used in reference to transitions between paces (within a gait), well demarcated change in length of stride; used in reference to transitions from one gait to another, the maintenance of pure rhythm in both gaits.


Referring to a flying change, the change of lead is from a pure canter on one lead to a pure canter on the other lead (without trot steps or disunited strides).

Closed Halt

A posture at the halt in which the horse is secure in balance and attitude and has the hind legs sufficiently under the body.

Collection/ Collected (walk, trot, or canter)

Increased engagement and lifting of the forehand, with shorter steps relative to the other paces of the gaits, while maintaining energy and self-carriage. The horse's outline becomes shorter from bit to hip, with the neck and withers stretched and arched upward.

[Note: It is a common misperception that the hind legs step further forward under the body in collection. This is not consonant with the shorter strides required in collection. At trot and canter, the hind feet are picked up relatively sooner after passing under the hip, and spend relatively longer on the ground (support phase) than in the other paces of the gait.]


The boldness and self-assurance with which the horse performs, and the trust in his partnership with the rider.


State in which there is no blockage, break, or slack in the circuit that joins horse and rider into a single, harmonious, elastic unit. A prerequisite for Throughness. [Note: The third tier of the Training Pyramid is represented by the concept of 'Connection'in the US, and by the concept of 'Contact' (translation of 'Anlehnung') by the FEI (see Foreign Terms and Pyramid of Training, in Appendix).]


Forced or compelled against the will. Not necessarily the same as restrained. (The horse may be constrained to bend or flex, or to move forward at speed.)

Constricted Limited by constraint, restraint, or sustained muscular contraction. Held together, forcefully shortened, or physically tight.


The reins are stretched so that they form a straight line, not a loop. 'Correct contact' or 'acceptance of contact' is determined by the elasticity of the connection between horse and rider. Note: The third tier of the Training Pyramid is represented by the concept of 'Connection'in the US, and by the concept of 'Contact' (translation of'Anlehnung') by the FEI (see Foreign Terms and Pyramid of Training, in Appendix).]


The straightness of the action of the limbs (e.g., faults would be winging, paddling, twisting hocks). Not the same as Purity. Dressage judges deal with Correctness only indirectly, that is, to the degree that it affects the purity or quality of the gait. Breeding class judges address correctness directly.


  1. Lack of parallelism to line of travel (e.g., haunches left or right of centerline or circle line), or to line of reference (e.g., in leg yielding – haunches leading or trailing).
  2. Misalignment of the horse's body parts from tail to poll (e.g., popped shoulder or twisted neck).
  3. Lack of directness of line of travel (e.g., weaving).


The horse canters on one lead in front and the other lead behind. Same as Disunited. Definition/ Defined Used in reference to transitions between paces (within a gait), well demarcated change in length of stride; used in reference to transitions from one gait to another, the maintenance of pure rhythm in both gaits.


Willful determination to avoid doing what is asked, or determination to do what is not asked.

Dissociation, Diagonal Dissociation (also Diagonal Advanced Placement or DAP)

The hooves of a diagonal pair of limbs (in trot or canter) do not contact the ground at the same moment.

  1. Positive Dissociation: the hind hoof of the diagonal pair touches the ground first (as in canter pirouette and racing gallop – 4 beats.)
  2. Negative Dissociation: the front hoof of the diagonal pair touches the ground first (as in lazy, constrained, or disorganized canter – 4 beats).

Distinction / Distinct

Used in reference to transitions between paces (within a gait), well demarcated change in length of stride; used in reference to transitions from one gait to another, the maintenance of pure rhythm in both gaits.

Disunited (canter)

The horse canters on one lead in front and the other lead behind. Same as Cross-canter.

Dragging Refers to dragging of the hind feet or inactivity of the hind legs (rather than to lack of parallelism in leg-yield and half-pass) or to dragging of the feet in reinback.


The ability or tendency to stretch and contract the musculature smoothly, giving the impression of stretchiness or springiness.


  1. The raising of the forehand. See 'Absolute Elevation' and 'Relative Elevation.'
  2. Applied in piaffe and passage to address the height to which the legs are raised.


Increased flexion of the lumbosacral joint and the joints of the hind leg during the weight-bearing (support) phase of the stride, 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. [Note: Engagement is not flexion of the hocks or 'hock action' (as seen most clearly in gaited horses and hackneys), in which the joints of the hind legs are most markedly flexed while the leg is in the air. Nor is engagement the length of the step of the hind leg forward toward the horse's girth – that is 'reach' of the hind leg.]


Avoidance of the difficulty, correctness, or purpose of the movement, or of the influence of the rider, often without active resistance or disobedience (e.g., tilting the head, open mouth, broken neckline, etc.). Bit evasions are means of avoiding correct contact with the bit.


Increased impulsion, with harmony, balance, and cadence – imbuing the performance with 'feeling' and artistic quality.

Extension/Extended (walk, trot, or canter)

Stretching and lengthening of the outline and stride of the horse, and, in trot and canter, an increased phase of suspension. The horse covers as much ground as possible with each stride, maintaining nearly the same tempo and relatively uphill balance. In walk, a pace which shows the maximum length of the stride as well as stretch and oscillation of the neck. The hind feet touch the ground clearly in front of the prints of the forefeet.

Falling In, Falling On Inside Shoulder, Falling Out, Falling Over Outside Shoulder

Lateral deviation of the forehand/ foreleg(s) caused by, or causing, loss of balance.


Geometrical component of a dressage test, such as a circle, change of rein, figure of eight. Erroneously used interchangeably with 'movement.'


Range of motion of joints – the ability to move the joints freely. Suppleness, pliability.


  1. In the limbs - articulation of a joint(s) so that the angle between the bones becomes smaller.
  2. 'At' the poll, there are three directions of movement, the first two of which are described as flexions:
    a. Direct flexion (or 'longitudinal flexion') – brings the chin toward the underside of the neck.
    b. Lateral flexion – closes the angle between the cheek and the side of the neck. c. Rotation - causes tilting of the head. See 'Poll.'
  3. In the rest of the spine, movements occur in the same directions as at the poll but to a lesser degree. It is the combination of these movements that create carriage, bend, displacement of the ribcage, etc.


To or 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.


The longer or shorter outline of the horse dictated by the relative degree of extension or collection. Incorrectly used to address the horse's level of training, as in 'Second-Level frame' or 'Fourth-Level frame.'


The reach, scope, and lack of constriction in the movement of the fore and hind limbs.

Free Walk

A pace in which the horse is allowed freedom to lower and stretch out its head and neck. Both the horse's strides and the frame are lengthened. May be performed on a long rein (maintaining contact) or a loose rein (with a loop in the rein – no contact).


Any of the various patterns of foot movements (or rhythms) of a horse, such as walk, trot, pace, amble, canter, or gallop. Walk, trot, and canter are gaits used in dressage.


Refers to exaggerated or artificial action of the forelegs. Usually applied to the walk.


A momentary increase of collection, or an effect of the aids, which increases the attention and improves the balance of the horse. Hasty Usually refers to the tempo, though strictly speaking it could refer to MPM. Therefore, it is best to specify (as in 'hasty tempo').

Hollow Back

Sagging or depressed back caused by slackness of the back and belly muscles (passive) or by sustained contraction of the back muscles, impeding swing and elasticity (active).

Hovering Trot – See 'Passage-like Trot.'


Usually refers to the tempo, though strictly speaking it could refer to MPM. Therefore, it is best to specify (as in 'hurried tempo').


Thrust releasing the energy stored by engagement. 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 or piaffe. Therefore, impulsion is not applicable to the walk or the piaffe.

Note 2: Compare the original French with the later English translation of the FEI score sheets under 'Impulsion.' The English translation of the French reads 'the desire to move forward,' whereas what the French actually says is 'The desire to carry itself forward' ('Le desire de se porter en avant').] Note 3: For purposes of the Training Pyramid, the German term 'Schwung' is translated as 'Impulsion' (see Foreign Terms and Pyramid of Training, in Appendix).]

Inside, Inner, Inwards

  1. The direction toward which the horse should be positioned (laterally) or bent.
  2. The side of the horse that is toward the center of the ring. The former takes precedence if the two are not the same (as in counter-canter and renvers).


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.


Execution after the aids. Usually applied to flying changes and transitions. Late Behind In flying changes, the hind legs change after the forelegs.


  1. To the side, as in flexion, bend, suppleness, or direction of movement.
  2. Impurity in walk (ambling or pacing) or canter; rarely trot.

Lengthening of Stride

At trot and canter, a pace in which the stride and outline are elongated, maintaining the same balance and essentially the same tempo and as in the working pace.


Applied in piaffe and passage to address the height to which the legs are raised.


Refers to either:

  1. The horse's lightness on its feet.
  2. The lightness in the reins.

Long and Low

Carriage in which the horse lowers and stretches out its head and neck, reaching forward and downward into contact on a longer rein. This is the carriage to be achieved when 'letting the horse gradually take the reins out of the hands' is called for in the tests.


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 'Losgelassenheit,' the second tier of the Training Pyramid – see Foreign Terms, in Appendix.]


Purposefulness in the steps of the walk.

Medium (walk, trot, or canter)

At trot and canter, a pace with a length of stride between that of collected and extended, and a more uphill balance, more forward and upward thrust, and more reach than in the working pace. The movement produced is rounder than that of extension. At walk, a pace with a carriage and length of stride between that of the collected and extended walks (the toes of the hind feet touch the ground in front of the toes of the fore prints).


Easy maneuverability/ nimbleness of the shoulders/ forehand/ forelegs, made possible by a narrowing and shortening of the horse's base of support.


  1. The manner in which the horse moves over the ground.
  2. Test Movement: A section of a dressage test to be evaluated with one score on a score sheet.
  3. Dressage Movement: An exercise, as opposed to a figure, pattern, transition, or combination of those. Dressage movements are: leg-yielding, reinback, shoulder-in, travers, renvers, half-pass at trot and canter, flying changes, pirouettes, turn on the haunches, piaffe, and passage.


Meters per minute (universal equivalent of miles per hour).


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.