Willingness to perform the movement, transition, or figure asked by the rider. May demonstrate resistance or evasion, yet still be 'obedient' (e.g., the horse may perform a series of flying changes without mistakes and in the right place but is behind the bit, tilted in the head, with mouth open and tail swishing, reluctant to cover enough ground, etc.; thus he obediently performs the task, but not necessarily submissively, supplely, etc.).

On the Aids

Well-connected, on the bit, and calmly and immediately responsive and obedient.

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 at or slightly in front of the vertical.

On the Forehand

Poor longitudinal balance, in which the forelegs push the horse forward rather than pushing the forehand upward and the body weight backward. Not necessarily an issue of neck carriage/ height.

Out Behind

The hind legs are placed, or act, behind the horse's body.


The profile or silhouette of the horse, showing the horse's carriage or posture.

Outside, Outer, Outwards

  1. The direction away from which the horse should be positioned or bent.
  2. The side that is away from the center of the arena.

The former takes precedence if the two are not the same (as in counter-canter or renvers).

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.


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 fore foot.


Turned more than 180 degrees in a half-pirouette or more than 360 degrees in a full pirouette.


  1. a. Named variation(s) within a gait (at walk: collected, medium, extended, and free; at trot and canter: collected, working, medium, and extended) characterized by a given length of stride, as well as by other attributes listed under the individual definitions of the various paces.
    b. MPM within a gait as determined by stride length while maintaining essentially the same tempo.
  2. A gait in which the lateral pairs of legs move in unison (not a dressage gait).

[NOTE: The FEI uses the term 'Pace' synonymously with 'Gait,' and it uses 'Variation' to refer to the concept of Pace (definition 1a.) as defined by the USDF.]

Passage-like or Passagey Trot

A trot in which the phase of support of one diagonal pair of legs is prolonged, while there is a hesitation in the forward travel of the other diagonal pair of legs, giving a floating, hovering impression. Also called 'hovering trot.'


Part of a stride.

  1. Stance phase – hoof is on the ground.
  2. Swing phase – hoof is swinging through the air.
  3. Aerial phase (suspension phase) – all hooves are in the swing phase; the horse has no contact with the ground.


Avoidance of picking up a foot in the proper rhythm, turning around a grounded (or 'stuck') foot. Used in reference to pirouettes or turns on the haunches or forehand.


The highest point of the horse's skull (the occipital crest). In common dressage usage, 'flexion °Æat' the poll' refers to the longitudinal flexion (the joint between the skull and the spine, the atlanto-occipital joint), or lateral flexion (the joints behind the skull). See 'Flexion.'


  1. The lateral flexion behind the poll so that the horse 'looks' to the side, e.g., 'position right' or 'position left.'
  2. The posture of the rider.


The correct order and timing of the footfalls and phases of a gait.

Pushing Out

Hind legs operating too far behind the horse, pushing backwards more than carrying.

Pyramid of Training

Same as Training Scale


See Quadrille


The quality of a gait refers to its freedom/ amplitude, elasticity, fluency, etc. Not the same as 'purity' or 'correctness.'


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


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


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).


Purity of the gait and (at walk and trot) evenness of the length of the steps and levelness of the height of the steps taken by the front or hind pairs of legs (i.e., the left and right legs of the pair are symmetrical in height and length of step).

[Note: In the first collective mark on a dressage test, 'Gaits ( Freedom and Regularity),' 'Regularity' is used to address purity and soundness. It does not address the tempo of the horse.]

Relative Elevation

The raising of the forehand coupled with the lowering of the hindquarters, involving shifting of the horse's balance to the rear.

Relax/ Relaxation

  1. Referring to the horse's mental/ emotional state: calmness, without anxiety or nervousness.
  2. 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.

[Note: For purposes of the Training Pyramid, the German term 'Losgelassenheit' is translated as 'Relaxation' by the USDF and as 'Suppleness' by the FEI (see Foreign Terms and Pyramid of Training, in Appendix).]


As used in the tests, the brief release of the contact, wherein the rider in one clear motion extends the hand(s) forward along the crest of the horse's neck, then rides for several strides without contact. Its purpose is to demonstrate that, even with loose rein(s), the horse maintains its carriage, balance, pace, and tempo. This corresponds to the German expression 'Uberstreichen.'


Active, rigid opposition to the connection or to the aids of the rider (e.g., against or above the bit). Not the same as Disobedience or Evasion. The horse can be resistant, yet still obedient (perform the required task). Can be momentary or pervasive, willful or unintentional.


The recurring characteristic sequence and timing of footfalls and phases of a given gait. For purposes of dressage, the only correct rhythms are those of the pure walk, trot, and canter, and reinback and piaffe (not those of amble, pace, rack, etc.).

[Note 1: 'Rhythm' is sometimes used mistakenly to mean 'tempo' (rate of repetition of the rhythm). This usage is not consistent with the correct English definition of 'rhythm' (per Webster), nor with its normal usage in music.

Note 2: In English, there is no one term that covers both the rhythm (as defined above) and the tempo, as does the term 'Takt' in German. This has caused confusion because 'Takt' has commonly been translated as Rhythm. For purposes of the Training Pyramid, the German term 'Takt' is translated as 'Rhythm' and is used as shorthand for both the rhythm itself (as defined above) and the suitable rate of repetition of the rhythm (tempo). See Foreign Terms and Pyramid of Training, in Appendix.]

Rocking/ Rocking Horse Canter

A canter in which the neck/ forehand goes too much up and down as a result of lack of sufficient ground coverage, lack of sufficient engagement, or interference by the rider.


  1. The convexity of the profile of the horse's topline, and concavity of the underline of the neck.
  2. The circular, as opposed to linear or flat, quality characterizing the movements or action of the horse's limbs.


Excess MPM and/or quickness of tempo relative to the engagement and balance expected of the pace or movement.

Usually used in reference to lengthened, medium or extended trot or canter, or canter departs.


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


Amplitude (reach and roundness) of movement.


State in which the horse carries itself in balance without taking support or balancing on the rider's hand.


  1. Used in reference to the reins: lacking contact.
  2. Used in reference to the condition of the musculature (e.g., 'slack loin').


  1. Attempting to jerk the reins through the rider's hands.
  2. Used in reference to one or both hind legs: picking up the leg(s) jerkily and sometimes excessively high.


Meters per minute, i.e., how much ground is covered per unit of time. The horse's speed can be changed by adjusting the length of stride, adjusting the tempo, or both. Increased tempo does not necessarily mean increased speed. Not to be confused with impulsion. The term 'Speed' applies to the tempo only if explicitly so stated.


Referring to either the front or hind pair of legs, the movement that involves transfer from one limb to the other. Steps are measured 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 'tense' or 'resistant.'


  1. Parallelism to required line of travel (e.g., haunches neither left nor right of centerline or circle line), or to line of reference (e.g., in leg yielding –haunches neither leading nor trailing).
  2. Proper alignment of the horse's body parts from poll to tail (e.g., not a popped shoulder or twisted neck).
  3. Directness of line of travel (e.g., not weaving).


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.


A foot remains too long grounded, thus breaking the rhythm of the gait. Usually applied to pirouette and turn on haunches.


Compliance and throughness. The yielding of the horse's will to that of the rider, as revealed by a constant attention and confidence in the attitude of the horse, as well as harmony with the rider and willingness to:

  1. Perform the required task
  2. Operate with correct basics (see Glossary definition of Basics, and Pyramid of Training, in Appendix).


Range of motion of joints. Pliability, flexibility. The opposite of Stiffness. A horse's suppleness is largely determined by genetics but may over time be improved through training.


The moment or phase of the trot or canter in which the horse has no feet on the ground.


In series of flying changes, piaffe, or passage, the alternating left and right lateral displacement of the shoulders and/or haunches.

Swinging Back

The springy motion that occurs when the thrust off the hind legs is transmitted through a stretched topline by trunk muscles that contract and 'decontract' rhythmically rather than remaining either rigid or slack.

Swinging Head

The horse's muzzle moves left-and-right (in trot and canter) or in circles (usually in canter), indicating constraint or incorrect acceptance of contact/ connection.


Rate of repetition of the rhythm, the strides, or of the emphasized beats – beats per minute, as may be measured by a metronome (for walk and trot, one or both footfalls of the front pair of legs are typically counted; for canter, the inside front footfall is typically counted).

[Note: historically often used in Europe to denote what the USDF defines as Pace. Therefore, the FEI does not currently use the word Tempo in its Rule Book, but uses the terms Rhythm and Cadence instead.]


  1. Referring to the horse's mental/ emotional state: anxious, nervous.
  2. 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.

Throughness/ Through

State in which the rider's aids/ influences go freely through to all parts of the horse, from back to front and front to back (e.g., the rein aids go through and reach and influence the hind legs). Prerequisites for this state are good connection and positive mental/ emotional state.
[Note: 'Throughness' is a shortening of 'throughlettingness,' the literal translation of the German term 'Durchlassigkeit.' See Pyramid of Training in the Appendix for further explanation.]


Tipping or cocking the head (lowering one ear) – an evasion.

Toe Flicking

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


Profile from the poll to the tail along the top of the crest of the neck and along the spine. 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.


  1. (verb) Referring to a foot or feet, to travel in a line or path (e.g., the horse tracks straight with his left hind). (noun) The lines of travel of feet, viewed and counted by the observer as the horse approaches him (e.g., number of tracks for shoulder-in).
  2. Direction of travel, as in 'track right' (when all corners are right turns, and right hand is toward the center of the arena).
  3. Used to refer to lateral movements – movements on 'two tracks.'
  4. The path next to the rail in an arena.

Tracking up

The hind feet step into the prints of the forefeet.


  1. Usually applied in half-pass and leg-yielding to describe the lack of parallelism to the long axis of the arena ('trailing haunches').
  2. Sometimes used to refer to the operation of the hind legs too far behind the horse (as in 'trailing hind legs').

Training Scale

Same as Pyramid of Training


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.


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.


A longitudinal balance and carriage with well-engaged hindquarters and lifted withers.

Wide Behind

The horse travels with the hind feet further apart than the fore feet (an evasion of engagement which occurs most commonly in piaffe, lengthening of stride in trot, and hind legs spread in halt).

Working (trot or canter)

A pace in which the horse goes in an energetic but calm way, with a length of stride between that of the collected and medium paces.