Gaits in Animation for Dressage:
Computer Models for Comparison of Limb Positions

Back to Biomechanics Home Page | Table of Contents | to Gaits in General |to Dingo's Breakfast Home Page

Patterns are repeated motifs, designs, cycles (gaits are cycles of limb motions) or templates. It is this pattern match between the theoretical universe of mathematics and the actual physical world of gaits that allows us to have insights into their structure and function. Computer animation frames of an accurate model are helpful tools for visualizing the issues faced in developing gait management skills.

To see the limb phase relationships that distinguish each dressage gait, find the intial stride at left hind toe-down (*). Use the movie controller to stop each animation at its first frame. Internet Explorer may read QuickTime movies in such a way as to move them down the page as you scroll. Talk to Bill Gates about this...
Symmetric Gait: Walk
4 phases, 4 hoof beats audible
Symmetric Gait: Trot
4 phases, 2 hoof beats audible, 2 silent phases (suspension)
Asymmetric Gait: Right Canter
4 phases, 3 hoof beats audible, 1 silent phase (suspension)

To understand one of the problems faced by horses in making transitions between gaits, use the controller to stop walk and trot animations at the first frame (red star) and the canter animation at the second frame. Note that the limb spacings for the diagonal pair are different for each gait.

A dressage transition can be performed smoothly and fluently in level balance if the gait tempo is relatively slow so that the swing phase legs have time to reposition for the next gait. The distance between diagonal grounded pairs of limbs may be adjusted by repositioning the hindquarters (riding the horse from back to front) so there is some degree of collection (gathering, rebalancing). Shortening the horse from front to back produces contracted gaits. A final adjustment (not shown in the animations) is that there are velocity differences between walk, trot and canter. These adjustments can be reduced by paying close attention to tempo, especially in the walk. A deliberate, marching forward walk brings impulsion and balance to the trot transition, with important consequences for the whole gymnastic curriculum.

Factors of contact time, phase adjustment and velocity changes makes dressage a specialized discipline requiring substantial muscular effort and coordination.