The state “rhythm” and “tempo” explain two entirely different things, yet they’re generally confused. In dressage, it’s really important to understand exactly how they differ, learn how to advice your very own horse’s rhythm and tempo and also correct them when necessary.

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Rhythm explains the footfalls, or beats, that a gait. The to walk is four beats, the trot is two, canter is three and also gallop is four. The rein ago is likewise a two-beat gait: It’s just trotting backward, but an ext slowly and without the minute of suspension between beats. At any time a horse’s gait go not clearly have the correct variety of beats, it’s thought about impure and also is greatly penalized. Rhythm is one of the primary determinants that judges take into consideration when scoring the regularity of the gaits in the cumulative marks.


Tempo is basically the speed of a gait’s beats—how progressively or quickly the hooves space striking the ground. Ideally, your steed should keep the same tempo throughout each activity of a test, without increasing or slowing down significantly. His tempo may readjust slightly from motion to movement. Because that example, an extensive trot usually has actually a quicker tempo than a accumulated trot. However, v really talented, trained horses, the tempo sports between accumulated trot, passage, piaffe and extended trot is minimal.


As your dressage education and learning progresses, you will certainly hear various other terms, such as cadence and also suspension, i beg your pardon further specify the top quality of the gaits. These will make much more sense come you when you’ve completely familiarized yourself with the basic concepts the rhythm and also tempo. I’ll assist you do that in this two-part series, focusing on rate in this article and also tempo in the Winter 2019 issue.

Rhythm: feel the Beat

Rhythm is largely figured out by a horse’s organic gaits. Some horses are born with an extremely clear rhythm, while others possess a tendency to shed that clarity from time come time. Riders can influence such tendencies significantly, for much better or worse.

To inspect that your horse’s rhythm is exactly in every gait, simply count the beats out loud. In ~ the walk, the count have to be “one-two-three-four, one-two-three-four.” The trot should be “one-two, one-two,” and also the canter need to be “one-two-three, one-two-three.”

If your steed doesn’t have actually a clear two-beat trot, he’s either lame or is a gaited horse falling right into a less typical gait, prefer a to run walk or rack, for which gaited steeds are specifically bred. For most horses, the two risk zones in i beg your pardon rhythm problems can arise are the walk and canter. The most typical walk rhythm difficulty is a “lateral walk,” or pace, in i beg your pardon the legs have tendency to relocate in lateral pairs, v the right fore and hind leg together and the left fore and also hind foot together. This produces an ext of a two-beat rhythm than the correct four beats.


The most common canter rhythm problem we check out in dressage steeds is a four-beat canter. This happens as soon as the time of the diagonal pair of legs that generally strike the ground simultaneously slightly separates, developing two beats instead of one. This can happen when you slow-moving the canter down too lot without developing adequate impulsion in the hind finish to sustain that slower canter.

Having a clear idea that the exactly beats for each gait will help you identify any type of rhythm problems your horse could have. I find the lateral walk and also four-beat canter incredibly uncomfortable. However, part pleasure riders have actually no problem with the four-beat canter, which they often produce by slowing the canter down dramatically. If you have any kind of doubts around the clarity of her horse’s rhythm, take a lesson v a trainer you trust and ask she to watch his gaits closely.

Another great tool is video. Questioning a girlfriend to video clip you while you ride, climate watch the video carefully. Exactly how your drive feels may not constantly correlate with exactly how it looks. Again, if girlfriend have any kind of questions, top a professional. Even we specialists go to other experts to store us in line and also to make certain what we’re emotion is looking right, too.

Some rhythm difficulties can actually be aggravated, rather than resolved, by dressage training—if it’s excellent wrong. As you walk up the levels, the movements come quicker and also have a harder degree of difficulty. To carry out the more advanced activities correctly, horses have actually to end up being much suppler and much more equally balanced on both sides. Otherwise, that tension and imbalance disrupt the rhythm. To speak you see a bit of a discrepancy in your horse’s leg-yield at very first Level—it’s much simpler for him to go sideways in one direction than the other way. If girlfriend don’t address the imbalance at the stage, it will become enhanced even much more when you acquire to 2nd Level and every one of a sudden need to do haunches-in and also shoulder-in, 8-meter trot circles and counter-canter serpentine loops.


To protect against rhythm issues, be mindful of what your steed is doing beneath you and know where his defaults are. His hind end should constantly be underneath him, delivering his body weight equally top top both hind legs. He must never “cheat” through stepping the exterior hind leg to the outside of the track he’s following around corners or throughout lateral work. You have to evaluate each horse individually and say, “OK, what is that doing and also how can I assist him through that?” for example, if your steed constantly pushes against your ideal leg, procedures to the outside with the best hind leg and fishtails around left turns, you must be vigilant around asking him to action over to the left instead.

Here are some details tools to help prevent and also correct rhythm problems:

Fix the walk Rhythm

The to walk rhythm is an especially vulnerable to gift unintentionally disrupted by not correct training, stress and anxiety or a poorly-fitted saddle. Repairing an rarely often, rarely walk deserve to require a good deal that feel and experience. Therefore don’t be afraid to questioning a expert for assist if you require it.

Although some horses have an ext of a natural tendency to to walk laterally than others, tension in the earlier and/or neck is frequently a large contributor. The first thing I check for is stress and anxiety in the rider’s hip and thigh, which can easily transfer to the horse and kill the gait immediately. To be certain that you’re not tipped forward onto her crotch with a locked hip and also tight thigh, practice this exercise:


Exercise 1: foot Loosener

Try this first at a standstill: maintaining just sufficient pressure ~ above your stirrup to avoid it from slipping off, lift one knee far from the saddle for this reason there are a few inches of room between your entire leg and also your horse’s side. Then allow your leg to tenderness drop back into location in such a means that girlfriend feel more weight top top the earlier of your thigh than on the front. Likewise check that your seat is positioned slightly behind her knee, not straight on peak of it. Your hip should be vertically aligned v your heel. Sit on your tailbone in a tranquil way, emotion contact between your inside thigh and the saddle, but never gripping. Repeat the very same exercise through the other leg.


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1. Usage this as a extending exercise come relieve any type of tension in her hips and legs: Lift her knees and thighs fully away indigenous the saddle, making sure to usage your main point to stabilize yourself.

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2. Then drop your legs back down roughly the horse and check that you’re sit slightly behind her knee, v the load on the ago of her thigh, and your i know good aligned through your heel. It’s better to execute many brief lifts than one large one that might make friend tighter in the long run.  

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When this feels comfortable, try lifting both legs off the saddle at the same time, momentarily balancing on just your chair bones. Relying on how good your balance is, you can also shot this exercise—either one leg at a time or both simultaneously—at the walk, trot and also canter. Simply be sure to never ever pull ago on the reins to keep your balance. You have the right to hook a finger roughly the pommel or a bucking strap to aid you balance.


Staying loose and tranquil in her seat v your hips following forward every step is critical for permitting your horse to feeling comfortable relocating through himself. Particularly at the walk, if you are remotely chop in her seat, you threat making the tighten his back—and ruining the gait. Never ever default to pushing or driving with your chair in the walk, also on a steed who’s not going forward. Constantly ask that to speed up from your leg instead.

Holding too lot rein call in a backwards connection—pulling towards your body instead of receiving a forward connection toward her horse’s mouth—is another method to harass the go rhythm. This can carry the horse’s neck and also head carriage too high, preventing him indigenous stretching into the bridle. It causes the neck come tighten and the earlier to drop, which deserve to also an outcome in a lateral walk.

Exercise 2: Shoulder-in or Shoulder-fore in ~ the Walk

Once you’ve ruled out any possible position or help sources the the walk–rhythm problem, try using the shoulder-in or shoulder-fore (a milder version of the shoulder-in) to attend to it. Making use of your within leg in ~ the girth to produce a great inside bend, revolve your upper body come the inside and take both hands towards the within to questioning your horse to bring his shoulders contempt in off the track. Meanwhile, store your exterior leg against his side behind the girth, regulating the outside hind leg from stepping come the outside. Every the while, be certain that you’re never creating tension in the neck by using too much rein contact. (To read more about shoulder-in, view “Where real Dressage Begins: Shoulder-In” with Lauren Sprieser in the Summer 2019 issue.)


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The boosted suppleness and also engagement Cherry has actually to produce to do a shoulder-in at the walk help to preserve his clean four-beat rhythm. (Note: We’re demonstrating a little too much angle here. Technically, he have to be traveling on 3 tracks—with his right hind straight behind his left front—rather 보다 four.)  

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Creating this included bend will certainly encourage your equine to continue to be supple through his body and also use his hind foot properly, thus avoiding him from falling into a two-beat gait. If you have actually a horse with a lateral-walk tendency, friend can also ride all the walk occupational in your tests in a slim shoulder-fore. The judge won’t have the ability to see it, but it’ll carry out just enough bend to keep the walk rhythm pure.

Fix the Canter Rhythm

To me, the four-beat canter constantly stems native a weakness in the external hind leg. That leg takes the first push-off step for every stride. Anytime it’s no underneath the horse’s body—for example, if his hind end swings come the exterior on a turn, forcing the within leg come carry an ext of his load while the exterior leg does less work—it’s really easy because that the gait to become four-beat and also disconnected. So I’m always asking, “Is the outside hind leg associated enough? Is the pushing off the ground quickly enough?” If the prize is no, right here are two beneficial exercises for fixing the problem:

Exercise 3: control the Hind Legs v The Corner

In dressage, we speak a lot about bending the horse to the inside through corners and other numbers by advertise him from your inside leg to your external rein. This deserve to backfire if your equine tends come swing his haunches to the exterior in one direction and you fail to regulate that v your external leg. To counteract this habit effectively, you need to evaluate his strengths and also weaknesses and be mindful of them with every turn and figure.


Incorrect: together I start the turn, I usage too lot inside leg and also rein and not sufficient outside leg.

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Incorrect: This permits Cherry come drift his external hind leg to the outside of the track, for this reason it’s not properly helping to bear his weight. I additionally have that overflexed in the neck and poll at this moment, i beg your pardon is incorrect, as well.

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