Now just before all you “know all” dressage experts reply emotionally to this blog, Please engage your brain before your emotion. You won’t!
There is conjecture at the moment about some things that are currently occurring in high level dressage. The one I would specifically like to discuss is the newish phenomena of the exaggerated high front leg action of horses particularly in extended trot.
The FEI rules state 4.5. Extended trot. The Horse covers as much ground as possible. Without hurrying, the steps are lengthened to the utmost as a result of great impulsion from the hindquarters. The Athlete allows the Horse to lengthen the frame and to gain ground whilst controlling the poll. The fore feet should touch the ground on the spot towards which they are pointing. The movement of the fore and hind legs should reach equally forward in the moment of extension. The whole movement should be well-balanced and the transition to Collected trot should be smoothly executed by taking more weight on the hindquarters.
Now I have had some awesome classical instructors who have given me the classic descriptions of what is correct , theoretically the upper arm of the front leg above the knee should be parallel to the hind cannon bone when the extended trot is executed. As in seen in the bottom photo
Now I have been taught exactly this, but most importantly I have always been taught that the extension is initiated from the the hind quarter, the horse moves in front of the engine which is behind the rider, with ultimate enguagment of the hindquarters the front legs can lift off the ground they are not needed “levade”
It was always pushed to me by my wonderfull instructor,Tina womelsdorf, that the horse can only reach as far as his nose with his front legs. That is to say, he can reach further than his nose whilst the foot is in the air, but it will return to under the horses nose prior to reaching the ground.
I was always warned about being deceived by Flicky front legs as opposed to correctly engaged hind legs when looking at the extended trot. You often see Flicky front leg action in the hack ring which is often not supported by correct hind quarter engagement.
I suggest that anyone who is competing internationally at grand prix level has had at least as much classical education as me and much more than most of the readers of this blog.
I suggest that they have a fair idea of the concept of engagement of the hind quarter.
Let me raise this view for consideration.
If you look at the two photos attached and carefully study the enguagment of the hindquarters you will note that there is very little difference. The angles of the hocks of both horses, are almost identical. Don’t tell me the horse in the top photo is not engaging his hind quarters.
So the top horse has a crazy front leg action the leg is extending forward and out from the elbow. The bottom horse has correct parallel lines from front leg to back leg. Both have fantastic engagement of the hind quarter.
If the most important prerequisite of a properly developed trot is engagement of the hind quarter, why does it matter so much what the horse does with his front legs. There is no doubting that both horses have developed their extension based on the theory espoused by the classical school.
The high front leg action is shown in the Spanish trot which is excecuted at the Spanish riding school in Vienna a bastion of classical dressage. I was always taught this is not a dressage movement but more like circus, this is stated by Franz Maringar in his book “horses are made to be horses” . Is the parallel theory relevant only, in relation to the rules of competition dressage, as some comity has seen fit to declare?
I’m not sure. I’m just thinking. I think a lot. I never accept anything just because someone said it, that’s not what being a horseman is about. Horsemanship is about problem solving as much as anything else. It would be good if more horse owners engaged their brains and got a thorough education on a subject before they spruke some view that was spruked to them by some other horse owner who probably didn’t engage their brains.
As for my opinion, I don’t know, but I do think about it, I do question it, I need a practical mechanical explanation for all things riding, if you can’t explain the mechanics and the purpose don’t raise it with me.
As for the high leg action, it looks pretty flashy but doesn’t seem to promote the same flow and rhythm as the parallel lines. I have however seen horses perform the high knee action in the paddock. So it’s not un
natural. I THINK A LOT.
Now I have to put up with the opinions of all the arm chair experts