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Common terms used on your scoresheets.

Reproduced from the FEI Dressage Handbook Guidelines for Judges.
© 2010 Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI). Reproduced with the permission of FEI. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is prohibited by law. FEI is not responsible for any errors or omissions in the publication or for the use of its Copyrighted Materials in any unauthorized manner.

Above the Bit

A head position in which the horse avoids acceptance of the contact by putting the head forward and upward.


Willing acceptance of the rider’s seat and leg aids while working forward into a soft and elastic connection with the reins.


Energy, vigour, liveliness – referring especially to that of the hind legs.

Against the Bit

Horse pushes its mouth against the bit with rigid or unyielding neck/poll/jaw.


The lining up of the horse’s body parts from tail to poll.


Relative distribution of the weight of horse and rider upon the fore and hind legs (longitudinal balance) and the left and right legs (lateral balance). The horse is in good balance when the weight is distributed evenly left and right and sufficiently toward the hind legs so that it can work with light and mobile shoulders. Loss of balance means the sudden increase of weight onto the forehand and/or to one side.


The basics form the correct foundation of the progressive training of the horse, independent of the execution of specific test movements. The basics are: All the criteria of the training scale.


1. A footfall within a pace. A hoof, or pair of hooves virtually simultaneously, striking the ground. By this definition, the walk has four beats, the trot two, and the canter three. 2. The emphasised beat (as in music). The emphasised beats are the ones the rider ‘feels’.

Behind the Bit,
Behind the Aids,
Behind the Leg

An evasion in which the horse retracts or shrinks back from the bit/contact. Avoidance of working willingly forwards from behind into an accepting contact with the reins. Resisting or refusing to move willingly forwards from the seat and leg aids.

Behind the Vertical

The head position in which the noseline comes behind the vertical.


The laterally arched position in which the horse’s body appears to form a uniform curve from poll to tail. Examples of faulty bend are: bending only in the neck, only at the base of the neck, or bent toward the wrong direction.


The application of the principles and techniques of mechanics (the branch of physics that deals with the motion of material bodies and the phenomena of the action of forces on bodies) to the structure, function, and capabilities of living organisms. (Webster)


Resisting an elastic connection due to sustained muscular tension/resistance, thereby creating rigidity throughout the horse’s body.

Broken Neckline

The position of the neck in which there is excessive longitudinal flexion approximately one third of the way down the neck, so that the poll is no longer the highest point of the skeleton, and the top line of the neck no longer forms and even, smooth arc.


The marked accentuation of the rhythm and (musical) beat that is a result of a steady and suitable tempo harmonising with a springy impulsion.


The posture of the horse, most easily evaluated when viewing the horse’s profile or outline.

Centre of Gravity

The point at which the mass of the body can be considered to be concentrated, and around which its weight is evenly distributed or balanced.

Chewing the Bit

The movements of the horse’s mouth—gently and softly mouthing the bit—showing mobility and relaxation of the jaw and causing secretion of saliva for a “wet mouth”.


Marked distinction between the footfalls of a pace or the transition from one pace to another or within the paces.

Closed Halt

A posture at the halt in which the horse is secure in balance and attitude and has the hind legs sufficiently under the body so that the weight of horse and rider is distributed fairly evenly over all four legs.


Collection is the increased engagement and activity of the hind legs, with the joints bent and supple, stepping forward under the horse’s body.


The security and self-assurance with which the horse performs, thereby demonstrating the trust in its partnership with the rider.


State in which there is no blockage, break, or slack in the circuit that joins horse and rider into a single harmonious elastic unit. The unrestricted flow of energy and influence from and through the rider to and throughout the horse and back to the rider. See “Throughness.”


Forced or compelled against horse’s will.


Limited by constraint, restraint, or sustained muscular contraction. Held together, forcefully shortened, or physically tight.


The consistent and elastic connection from the rider’s hands to the horse’s mouth.


Forefeet are not aligned with the hind feet on straight or curved lines. Energy escaping through the shoulder. Bringing the hindquarters either in or out in order to avoid engagement.


The horse canters on one lead in front and the other lead behind. Same as disunited.


Distinction, clear demarcation. Usually used in reference to transitions within paces and between paces.


Willful determination to avoid doing what is asked, or determination to do what is not asked.


Same as “cross-canter” (for example – horse canters left in front and right behind).


Refers to dragging of the hind feet or inactivity of the hind legs (rather than to lack of parallelism in leg yield and half-pass) or to dragging of the feet in rein back.


The ability or tendency to stretch and contract the musculature smoothly, giving the impression of suppleness and spring.


1. The raising of the head and neck freely from lifted withers.
2. Heightening of the steps.


Hindlegs stepping well under the horse’s body. Increased flexion of the joints of the hind quarters during its weight-bearing phase. This causes a relative lowering of the hindquarters/raining of the forehand, thus shifting more of the task of load-bearing to the hindquarters. A prerequisite for upward thrust/impulsion.


Avoidance of the difficulty, correctness, or purpose of the movement, or the influence of the rider, often without active resistance or disobedience (e.g. tilting the head, open mouth, broken neckline, etc.). Bit evasions are means of avoiding correct contact with the bit.


Expressive movements or figures are the result of increased impulsion, without any loss of harmony, balance or lightness.

Extended (walk, trot, or canter)

At trot and canter, a pace in which the horse, maintaining an uphill balance, shows maximum length of stride through greatest forward thrust and utmost reach. At walk, a pace, that shows maximum length of stride and forward extension of the neck. The hind feet touch the ground clearly in front of the prints of the fore feet.

Falling In, Falling On Inside Shoulder, Falling Out, Falling Over Outside Shoulder

Lateral deviation of the shoulders caused by loss of balance or evasion.


Geometrical component of a dressage test, such as a circle, change of rein, figure of eight, etc.


The ability to move the joints freely. Suppleness, pliability.


Articulation of a joint so that the angle between the bones is decreased. Lateral and longitudinal flexion commonly refers to flexion “at the poll”.


To or toward the direction that is ahead or in front of the horse, or moving or tending toward that direction. Forward indicates the direction in which the horse goes (in contract to sideways, backward, or standing still); it does not indicate how he gets there. References to specifics such as impulsion, energy, reach, length of stride, and tempo more accurately express how the horse should proceed in a forward direction.


The longer or shorter the outline of the horse dictated by the relative degree of extension of collection.


The reach, scope, and lack of constriction in the movement of the fore and hind limbs.

Free Walk

A pace of relaxation in which the horse is allowed complete freedom to lower and stretch out its head and neck. Both the horse’s strides and its frame are lengthened. On a long rein: maintaining contact.


Any of the basic movements of a horse, such as a walk, trot, canter.


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

Half halt

A momentary increase of collection, or an effect of the aids, which increases the attention and improves the balance of the horse.

Hollow Back

Horse comes above the bit and drops the back away from the weight of the rider thereby creating the impression of a “hollow” outline.

Hurried, Hasty, Quick, Rushed, Rapid

All refer to quickness of tempo.


Thrust. Releasing of the energy stored by engagement. In dressage, impulsion is associated with a phase of suspension, such as exists in trot and canter, but which does not exist in walk. Therefore, impulsion is not applicable to walk.


1. The direction toward which the horse should be positioned (laterally) or bent.
2. The side of the horse that is toward the centre of the ring (often called “inwards”). The former takes precedence if the two are not the same (as in counter-canter).


Unlevel, or uneven. Can be momentary or pervasive and may or may not be due to unsoundness. Does not mean unsteady in tempo.


1. Inaccuracy, not at the required marker. 2. Execution after the aids.

Late Behind

In flying changes, the hind legs change after the forelegs.


1. To the side, as in flexion, bend, suppleness, or direction of movement.
2. Impurity in walk (ambling or pacing) or canter, rarely trot.


Elongation of the stride and the outline of the horse, yet maintaining the same tempo and balance as in the corresponding working pace.


Applied in piaffe and passage to address the height to which the legs are raised.


1. The horse’s lightness of the forehand. 2. The lightness of the contact.

Long and Low

Carriage in which the horse lowers and stretches out its head and neck, reaching forward and downward into a longer rein.


In the lengthwise dimension (as opposed to lateral), from front-to-back or back-to-front.


Purposefulness in the steps of the walk.

Medium (walk, trot, or canter)

See “Medium walk, Medium trot, and Medium canter” in the text.


1. The manner in which the horse moves over the ground. 2. Test Movement: A section of a dressage test to be evaluated with one score on a score sheet. 3. Dressage Movement: An exercise, as opposed to a figure, pattern, transition, or combination of those. Dressage movements are: leg-yielding, rein-back, shoulder-in, travers, renvers, half-pass at trot and canter, flying changes, pirouettes, turn-on-the haunches, piaffe, passage.


A rhythmic up-and-down or backward and forward action of the horse’s head and neck, which is not part of the normal mechanic of the pace.


Willingness to perform the required exercise.

On the Aids

Willing, confident and immediate reaction to the rider’s aids.

On the Bit

Supple and quiet acceptance of the contact with lateral and longitudinal flexion as required.

On the Forehand

Longitudinally poor balance; the horse places too much weight on the forelegs for the task at hand.

Out behind

The hind legs are not stepping sufficiently under the horse’s body weight.


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


The side of the horse that is away from the centre of the arena.


Behind the vertical, due to excessive longitudinal flexion in the poll and/or upper joints of the neck.

Overstep, Over-track

The placement of the hind foot in front of the print of the forefoot.


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


A gait in which the lateral pairs of legs move in unison.

Passage-line or Passagy-trot

Evasion within the trot where the tempo becomes too slow with hovering steps, and a lack of energy, suppleness and desire to go forwards.


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


The highest point of the horse’s skull (the occipital crest).


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


Correctness of the order and timing of the footfalls of the gaits.


The quality of a pace refers to its freedom/amplitude, elasticity, fluency, etc. Not the same as “Purity” or “Correctness”.


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).


The purity and correct sequence of the footfalls of the paces.


1. Referring to the horse’s mental 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 states go hand in hand.


Physical opposition by the horse against the rider. Not synonymous with disobedience nor with evasion. Can be momentary or pervasive.


The characteristic sequence of footfalls and phases of a given pace.

Rocking/Rocking Horse Canter

A canter in which the neck/forehand goes too much up and down, due to stiffness of the back and lack of sufficient engagement and ground coverage.


1. The convexity of the profile of the horse’s top line.
2. The circular, as opposed to linear or flat quality, characterising the movements or action of the horse’s limbs.

Schwung (borrowed from the German)

The condition in which the energy created by the hind legs is transmitted through a “swinging back” and manifested in the horse’s elastic, whole-body movement. See “Swinging Back”.


Amplitude (reach and roundness) of movement.


A state in which the horse carries itself in a balanced and unconstrained manner, without taking support or balancing on the rider’s hand.


Used in reference to the reins: lacking contact.


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.


Refers to meters per minute/miles per hour, i.e. how fast the ground is covered. The horse’s speed can be increased through increasing the length of stride or increasing the tempo, or both. Increased tempo does not necessarily mean increased speed. Not the be confused with impulsion.


Movement of a limb.


Reluctance to lift the feet off the ground. Earthbound.


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 (often confused with “Tense” or “Resistant”).


Forefeet are aligned with the hind feet on straight and curved lines.


Cycle of movements that is completed when the horse’s legs regain their initial positions.

Strung Out

Too elongated; lacking good carriage, longitudinal balance and connection.


Compliance. Throughness and obedience. The yielding of the horse’s will to that of the rider, as revealed by a constant attention, willingness, and confidence in the attitude of the horse, as well as by the harmony and ease displayed in the correct execution of the movements, including the correct bend, acceptance of and obedience to the rider’s aids, and a balance appropriate to the task at hand.


Pliability: ability to smoothly adjust the carriage (longitudinally) and the position of bend (laterally) without impairment of the flow of movement or balance.


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


In series of flying changes, piaffe, or passage, the active lateral displacement of the shoulders or haunches.

Swinging Back

The way in which the horse’s trunk muscles function—with springy tension rather than rigidity or slackness—which creates the impression that the horse’s back swings and allows the energy produced by the hind legs to be efficiently transmitted forward through the horse.


Beats per minute, as would be determined by a metronome. The rate of repetition of a given beat (speed of the rhythm).


1. Referring to the horse’s mental state: anxious, nervous.
2. Referring to the horse’s physical state: commonly used to indicate undesired muscular contraction.


The supple, elastic, unblocked, connected state of the horse’s musculature that permits and unrestricted flow of energy from back to front and front to back, which allows the aids/influences to freely go through to all parts of the horse (e.g. the rein aids go through and reach and influence the hind legs). Synonymous with the German term “Durchlässigkeit”, or “troughlettingness”. See Connection.


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.


The horse’s outline from the ears along the top of its neck and back to its tail.


1. (Verb) Referring to a foot or feet, to travel in a line or path (e.g. the horse tracks straight with its left hind). (Noun) The lines of travel of feet viewed and counted by the observer as the horse approaches it (e.g. three or four tracks for shoulder-in).
2. Direction of travel, as in “track right” (when all corners are right turns, right hand is toward the centre 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 tracks 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).


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, and 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.


Unequal in length of steps.


Unequal height of steps or bearing of weight on both sides.


Referring to the horse’s longitudinal balance: higher in the forehand, relative to the croup.

Wide Behind

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

Working (walk, trot, or canter)

See “Working Trot”, “working canter”.