Monday, February 22, 2010

Gaits part 3: Gaits ain't all that

I look at videos like this and think "Gaits, schmaits, give me one that wants to do the work." Check out this video of a an Arabian working at Prix St.George (ridden by a 15 year old in some of the footage):

No, he doesn't have purest gaits -- you can see the pacy walk and canter. He isn't an uphill horse. But look at his work ethic and focus, the consistency, and how hard he tries in the trot extension. It's a beautifully rhythmical extension, IMHO. If he is as easygoing as he looks, this is the kind of schoolmaster I would want -- except maybe 2 hands taller for my 5' 10" frame. An awful lot of talented warmbloods never make it past second level. Gaits and conformation make the job easier in some ways, but this video shows that the desire to please is what really makes a dressage horse.

Of course, I may get a comment from the owner telling me that the horse is a total firecracker to ride :-).


  1. Unless you have aspirations to show on the "world stage" I am in complete agreement. The horse's attitude and work ethic are much more important. (Which is why I love how relaxed Ravel looks.)

    I also do not like the notion that an average mover cannot be trained to FEI, or even all the way to Grand Prix. A horse with a good mind can learn the movements. They may never earn 10's, but how many ever do? There are very few Totilases in the world.

    Dressage needs to come back to earth and realize it's all about training the horse...whatever horse it its maximum ability.

  2. VERY nice to see. I have a prejudice against arabs because I've seen too many arabs that are just halter class horses and not enough arabs that do real WORK. I know that's not fair of me because I've simply seen too much of one type. (However, I've also seen arab racing at Los Alamitos - that was nice. )
    This goes well with discussion on a couple previous posts that any horse can do dressage suitable to the breed conformation and the individual horse's talent.

  3. I look at this horse and the effort he's putting into his work, and then I think back to the post that you had a few weeks back with the crazy, rearing pony that obviously wasn't happy with his job...its nice to see a horse, regardless of breed, with a wonderful work ethic. Watching this video made me smile, and that's what its all about. Yes, jaw-dropping movement is a thing to behold, but how many have the money to buy it? These folks are lucky--to know they can go to the barn, tack up this nice horse and have rides like we've seen here. That's priceless.

  4. I would love to ride this horse! He is adorable and looks like a lot of fun! I have had the pleasure of riding some smaller horses and large ponies lately while my 16.2 hand TB is rehabbing from an injury, and I must say how nice it is to be closer to the ground. Small packages can be a lot of fun!

  5. I would say you don't really know what you are looking at.

    His walk is not pacey - I think you are being confused by two things - the resolution of the image and the view of a very short backed horse. I see a normal Arabian sport horse walk - with significant overstride. I see the four beats, so I am really quite confused at your criticism.

    His canter is rhythmic and has nice impulsion. Again, he has a very short back, which will mislead an eye used to viewing warmbloods and t-breds into thinking its choppy.

    The biggest issue I see with him is what you identfied - his problem is that he's built downhill, which makes it difficult for him to really lift the front end.

    He's scoring RELIABLY in the 60s at Fourth Level - Test 3 in Open dressage shows. Your criticisms of the purity of his gaits would not
    match those scores at that level.

    I would NOT say he's ready for PSG or I-1 because he's still hollowing a little in his back - I think there's more in this fellow for his lengthenings. He's game, but I think his rider is perhaps influencing his ability to lift his back.

    He's only 14.3, and the girl is a bit "tall" - I suspect her weight (not a criticism of weight - more height) is preventing the horse from realizing the ability to lift his back.

    He moves much like my boy, but has climbed further up the ladder than me. Of course, my boy is a full hand bigger...thank goodness.

    You need to spend more time watching Arabs in dressage - a shorter back really can be confusing if you're not used to it - many dressage judges I have spoken with have been surprised by the difference, but enthusiastic at the ability to be correct, despite the difference in structural build.

  6. Not my breed (i'm 5'10 also ;P). . but that is a lovely horse.

    I always appreciate any horse whom someone took the time and effort to train meticulously like that. It is doing a huge service to the horse to give him that training.

  7. Arabians are my absolute favorites (we have five), and they are an amazing breed; super smart. If they are treated properly, they are wonderfully cooperative and fiercely loyal. The place most folks run into trouble is not understanding that they work much better with an I ask, you answer approach with some percolating time in the beginning (as opposed to most people's training methods that follow the I say, you do right away route). You're right though, they do tend to come in much smaller sizes than other breeds (I'm right behind you at 5'8", mostly leg).
    I can also state that the floating trot inherent in the breed is gorgeous from the ground but not quite so much from the saddle. The canter, however, is a dream :o)

  8. Baxtersmum, I see you ride arabians but still don't agree with your comment. Minutes 3:55 to 4:04 the timing of the walk beats is irregular. For an example of a better walk in another gorgeous FEI Arabian, see
    minurwa starting at minute 3:05 - 4:00

    The stride is longer, more relaxed, and time intervals between the beats are more equal

  9. I must confess that I am glad to see a horse that does not move like Totilas. I have obviously reached the old curmudgeon life stage since I do not like his type of new fangled showy movement at all. To me Totilas's trot is not an example of a pure gait at all. It borders on circus like and reminds me of the exagerated knee action shown in the saddle seat and hackney pony worlds.

    But I digress (digression is what a good curmudgeon does, after all). I think this little Arab is lovely and his fifteen year old rider seems very poised.

    As for attitude, many years ago I used to ride an Arab for an occasional lesson. He was a cute little guy who had a marvelous work ethic and an attitude that could only be described as cheerful. He and his owner did very well together.

    (signed by perpetual_novice who can never get my password right for this site -- it's the curmudgeon thing again).

  10. Again, I think you hit the nail on the head! This horse is exactly the type of horse that an aspiring dressage rider should seek out, as opposed to a younger and "fancier" warmblood that has less training. I wish I had realized this earlier in my riding career...that you will learn more from a solid schoolmaster that is an average mover than a young well-bred warmblood early in its dressage career.

    A little over a year ago, I finally bought myself a 14 y/o 15'3 OTTB trained thru I-2, and I have progressed more in one year as a rider than I did in 10 years while "stuck" at 1st/2nd level with other "fancier" warmbloods. Because of his age/size/breed, he was more affordable than the younger warmbloods that I thought I wanted to buy. But the joy he has brought me over the past year has been priceless.....

  11. I'm just glad there's a place in the blog world for dressage non-snobs...thanks for championing the
    "little guy". :)

  12. Oh my gosh! I WANT that horse! So badly! That is exactly the horse I've been wishing for for several months now. I grew up with Arabs and love them, once upon a time I rode well (I am only "decent" now), and I've been craving a small schoolmaster who could help me get my form back. Wow. It's like heaven ordered up a horse just for me. A horse I am sure I totally couldn't afford.

  13. Well I have to agree with you. Though not an exceptional mover he is "getting it done". I'd be delighted to ride and show a horse like that.
    I wonder if he is as joyful to work with as he looks? I hope so. ;)

    My horse isn't an exceptional mover either, but is capable of upper level work. Sometimes I despair, we may never show at that level because of his challenging attitude. But I tell my self, "someone has to ride the poopers". I tell myself it is my duty to keep one less horse out of a can! (Don't let that scare you, my friends know I joke like this all the time!)

    By the way, what is the freeze-brand looking business on his neck for?

  14. I loved his tail during the lead changes. Left lead, tail left; right lead, tail right. Talk about bending all the way through the back!

  15. Hey-
    I think I see why you are calling it irregular, but I would say that its an unfortunate attempt at a collected walk. ***When you look at the walk at the beginning of the video, its lovely and rythmic.***

    So to me, its the rider's attempt to collect that is the problem, not the horse's gait. Alway go back to the free walk. Collecting the walk is very easy to complete eff up, regardless of breed, and often considered the HARDEST gait by most FEI riders because the regularity is so difficult to maintain.

    There's a big difference between the natural gait and the training, which might be the whole point of these series of posts you're doing, eh?

    The horse you link to in your comments is doing a free walk, a MUCH better gauge of a horse's quality of gait, which is why I refer you back to the beginning of the first video. Compare apples to apples. Very key.

    I think his walk is lovely, he's just been collected improperly - IF its improper (we'd have to know what the score was from the judge, who's closer to the movement, which is why its done in front of C) - the test movements she's doing indicate collection to the half pirouttes at the walk. Youtube is famous for messing with the tempo of video.

    Don't mean to be all "know it all" I just happen to disagree with you, and since there's so little walk work on this video, its hard to be fair, and we probably shouldn't criticize the quality of the walk gait.

  16. Hi Baxter, Walks vary so much according to rider, tenseness, type of walk attempted, etc. -- you're absolutely right.

    It probably would have been more correct had I said that he didn't show his best walk in this snippet -- there isn't much walk there to examine, and it's mid-test, in front of the judge, etc.

    The other example video I showed DOES have collected walk work toward the end, but then it's after a nice long walk (not sure if the chestnut horse had that advantage).

    Walks actually scare me, my TB has a lovely long, sweeping walk that I can never reproduce under saddle. They are very, very hard in my book.

    Thanks for following up!

  17. A quick note: I know very little about Arabs (I've ridden two many years ago, and I admit that tail carriage gets me), but I believe all purebred registered Arabs have that freeze-brand on their neck.

  18. This little horse is so much fun to watch! At 5'1", he would fit me just fine. ;)

    Relative to his size, his extended trot looks huge. I agree with some of the other comments that dressage success should be relative to the horse, although this also calls for an exceptionally gifted judge!


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