Glossary of Terms

Classical Dressage:

The taking of a horse, restoring what movement it naturally has but now with a rider on board and then using correct, gymnastic exercises to enhance that natural beauty to the best of the horses conformation.


This initially refers to how the rider sits on the horse, the correct riding position. In more detail it refers to the seat in the saddle, the alignment of pelvis and body.


These are the way in which the rider communicates to the horse. They are either natural i.e. hand, leg, seat, voice or artificial i.e. whip, spur or lunge whip.


There are two parts to this. Firstly the horse, for any correct training to take place, must have free forward movement. The leg therefore in the first instance invites the horse to move forwards. As the training progresses this will be refined. The leg will ask for more energy from the horse without this necessarily meaning more forward travel.

Inside / outside:

These are terms used to differentiate which side of the horse and rider we are talking about. The inside of the horse or the riders inside aids are those on the inside of the bend or curve, the outside aids being on the outside of the bend or curve, regardless of where in the school the rider is.


This is the regularity of the footfall.


This is the speed of the rhythm

Tracking up:

This refers to the feet of the horse touching the floor. The horse is said to be tracking up when the hind foot lands in the footprint that has just been made by the front foot. The horse is over tracking when the hind foot comes past the front footprint and is under tracking when it does not reach the front foot print.


This may also be used when talking about straightness – whether one hind leg is following the path of the front leg on the same side.


This is used to describe the shape that the topline of the horse makes. It needs to have a description with it as any horse is in an outline, it could be round, hollow, long, short etc.

On the bit:

This is much more in depth than simply saying that the horse is in a round outline. For the horse to be on the bit he should be supple, straight, on the rider’s aids, accepting the bridle and the contact, working through from behind in a calm soft manner.

Behind the bit:

This normally means that the horse has dropped the contact by bringing the nose behind the vertical.

Behind the contact:

This is when the horse has come away from the contact, i.e. he is not seeking through his body to find the rein. This may happen with horse in front of or behind the vertical.

In front, on, behind the vertical:

The vertical refers to a line that drops from the horse’s ears vertically down. The horse should ideally be in front of the vertical, which is shown by the nose being further forward than the ears in relation to the horse’s body. On the vertical means that the nose is directly under the ears and behind the vertical is when the nose is nearer the body than the ears.


Initially this refers to the quality of the connection felt between the horse and rider via the reins. However, as the training progresses the quality of the contact stems from the hindlegs, through the horses body, between the hands out through the neck, through the poll and into the jaw which is then felt via the bit along the reins through the hands and wrists through the arms and into the riders body.

On the forehand:

This means that the horse is using the front legs to pull itself along as opposed to pushing with the hindlegs. The weight of the horse is predominantly on the forehand.


This is an in depth issue with which there are varying levels. Straightness is a continuum of work progressing hand in hand with the whole aspect of the horses training. The young horse starts off crooked, then the tracking is corrected, then ordinary straightness and then relative straightness with the end result being that the horse is working equally through all three joints of the hindlegs and equally one hind leg to the other.

Stiff / hollow sides:

Every horse has a stiff side and a hollow side – in the same way that humans are not born ambidextrous. Each horse will have a slightly weaker hind leg, they will therefore lean over to the opposite shoulder with the neck curving back to the same side as the weaker leg. The hollow side is the same side as the weaker leg, the stiff side is on the same side as the shoulder that the horse is leaning on.

Lateral / longitudinal – flexion / bend:

  • Longitudinal - is concerned with details that affect the topline of the horse in the straight line.

  • Lateral - is through the left or right side of the horse.

  • Flexion - is just at the joint below the poll where the skull joins onto the first cervical vertebrae.

  • Bend - is through all of the horse from ears to tail.

Longitudinal flexion is therefore where the poll area softens such that the nose in a straight line comes closer to the vertical line. It is purely talking about the area of the head joining on the neck in the straight line.

Lateral flexion is where the horse looks slightly to the left or right in the poll area with the neck and the rest of the body straight.

Lateral bend is where the horse is bent through the whole body from ears to tail, as on a circle.

Longitudinal bend is where the horse is lowered through the hindquarters from the correct engaging of the hindquarters. The three joints of the hindlegs are bent equally with resultant higher, raised neck and poll flexion.

NB. - There can be flexion without bend but not bend without flexion.

Positioning: This is another term for lateral flexion

Riding in position:

This is where the horse is moved towards a shoulder-fore position where the rider brings the shoulders off the horse towards the inner track combined with a slight lateral flexion to the inside.


The correct positioning of the head and neck.


In my opinion there are various degrees of this with horses. There is the natural balance, with which horses have survived for millions of years. Then there are the training balance’s, carry to thrust, left to right and so forth.


This has no direct translation from the German. It means that the horse should be flowing freely forward without constraint, with a willing attitude, suppleness to all the joints and a degree of rhythmical activity.


I would use this word in conjunction with how the horse moves. The horse should flow across the floor with no jerky movements - it should appear fluent.


Is the transmission of the energetic impulse created by the hindlegs in to the forward movement of the whole horse. It can only be evident in the trot and canter, as the walk does not have a moment of suspension.

Half halt:

Is used to prepare the horse for a change or to re-balance the horse.


The suspension shown in the collected gaits of trot and canter in a well balanced, advanced horse. It gives the gait “expression”, as the steps become more elevated.


Is a term used to describe how the aids of the rider go through the horse. The better the level of durchlassigkeit the more instant the response of the horse to riders aids.