A glossary of terms and phrases for WEG-watchers

September 19, 2010 

Here are some terms fans will be hearing and reading about during the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games:

Action: Not gambling. That comes in the spring and fall at Keeneland. This refers to the way a horse moves, as in, "That horse has smooth action."

Airs/airs above the ground: To err is human, but to "airs" is divine. The term is associated with classical dressage and includes pesade/levade (see below) and school jumps, courbette and capriole (see below).

Artificial gaits: Equestrians teach these movements because they do not come naturally to horses. They include the running walk, slow gait, and rack and pace — all different forms of walking.

Balance: You must do this with your checkbook after visiting one of the Games' gift shops. But it also refers to a horse carrying a rider and its own weight most efficiently — the weight on the hind legs, not on the front legs.

Canter: A must-know term for equestrian watchers. It consists of a series of "bounds." The correct canter involves hearing three hoofbeats and carrying weight in a prescribed sequence. The horse must maintain the sequence at all tempos. Hearing four hoofbeats signals an incorrect canter. This happens when the hind leg lands before the corresponding diagonal foreleg.

Capriole: A vertical leap with a backward kick of the hind legs at the height of the leap.

Courbette: Also called courvet, a jump forward in the levade (see below) position.

Dressage: Exercise and training that develops the physique and ability of the horse with the goal of reaching equestrian Zen — horse, rider and universe become one. Dressage makes a horse supple, loose and flexible, confident and attentive, even though the riders look pretty stiff.

Equitation: The art of horseback riding.

Gait: A specific footfall pattern or beat, such as a walk, trot or canter.

Gallop: The gallop mirrors the canter at a faster pace, and the three-hoofbeat pattern changes to four. Like weekend runners, horses rarely gallop for more than a mile or two before they need to rest.

Gymkhana: Not a widely used term, but it sounds cool. It refers to a horse show or event with a program of competitive games on horseback.

Half-halt: A method of getting a horse to a greater degree of balance and mental awareness.

Half-pass: If mispronounced, embarrassing. It means a horse moves equally forward and sideways. The horse's length bends in the direction of movement — a walk, trot or canter.

Hand gallop: A three-hoofbeat gait similar to a lope or canter but with a longer stride.

Levade: The horse stands balanced on its hind legs with its forelegs drawn in.

Menage: A training or dressage arena, usually rectangular or oblong, measuring either 20 meters (about 65 feet) by 40 meters (about 131 feet) or 20 meters by 60 meters (about 197 feet).

Near side: The horse's left side. So, the right side is called the "far side?" It could be, but that might confuse cartoon readers, so call it the "off side."

Neck rein: Used by equestrians to give a signal by placing the weight of the rein against the neck.

On the bit: Basically, this means the horse surrenders to the whims of the rider. The horse rounds his back, accepts the rider's weight, engages its hindquarters, accepts bit contact in the mouth and arches its neck. If on the bit, a vertical line could be drawn down the front of the horse's face.

On the forehand: Where weak tennis players try to get, and a horse carrying itself and the rider with its balance and weight over the front legs.

Open class: A show class in which any horse of a specified breed may compete.

Passage: Pronounced like "dressage"; trotting with an extended moment of suspension caused by the horse's quarters carrying more weight and propelling it forward.

Pesade: The horse rears up at a higher angle than in a levade.

Piaffe: Trotting involving alternate diagonals.

Posting: A rider rises and lowers with the rhythm of the trot.

Reins: The equestrian steering wheel, they create direct contact between the rider's hands and the horse's mouth in order to slow, stop or back the horse. Riders also use them to change direction of travel or to turn.

Relative straightness: These definitions were written with it, but in dressage terms, it means a horse going straight with the inside, hind leg following the track of the inside foreleg.

Roached: Not what you might be thinking, it means a horse's mane is cut short.

Rosette: You can't tell your placing without your ribbons. In the United States: blue, first; red, second; yellow, third; white, fourth; pink, fifth; green, sixth; purple, seventh; and brown, eighth. Other countries use other color schemes.

Seat and hands: This refers to an equestrian's ability to ride with grace and control.

Self-carriage: Horse autopilot; the horse carries itself in balance through the movements without any help from the rein.

Travers: A big-time summer race for 3-year-olds at Saratoga in August, but in equestrian, the horse's quarters align so that the outside foreleg creates one track. The inside foreleg and the outside hind leg create a second track (a diagonal pair), and the inside hind leg creates a third track. Get out your high school geometry books.

Trot: The horse's diagonal legs rise and land simultaneously, creating a two-hoof beat step.

Walk: The horse moves its legs one after the other, creating a four-hoofbeat step.

Xenophon: A great trivia answer and the end of this glossary — he was the first author of a book on horsemanship. He wrote extensively during the fourth and third centuries B.C.

Herald-Leader Staff Report Source: The Equestrian Glossary

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