Dressage: "Ordinary" Walk & Collected Walk
(and School Walk)

Click on the images to view at full size. The image text is duplicated and amplified below the images.

Here you will find comparisons of two of the dressage walks. There has been some argument in the literature concerning whether or not the walk can be collected in a technical sense.

Collection has the same biomechanics in each gait: it involves a shortening of the horse's posture (axial skeleton) by BOTH changing the shape of the neck and lowering the pelvis. The diagonal pairs are strongly influenced by torque applied by the cervical and thoracic serratus (as well as other muscles), during forward pull over the grounded diagonal pair as in the other dressage gaits. By those criteria, there is a collected walk, although I suspect it is a trained rather than "natural" walk.

However, the walk has no moment when all four feet are off the ground, so its moving aspect is different from the suspension in most trots and canter (medium, extended). Marked elasticity is the signature of an elegant collected walk.

In the diagram BELOW LEFT, the gray boxes are identical for the figures so you may see the different postures characteristic of each walk. Dotted lines are used to compare the spacing of the grounded diagonal pairs (shown as black circles).

Spacing of the diagonal pairs is crucial for DRESSAGE transitions. The transition from collected walk to trot may yield collected trot or passage (with sufficient impulsion and cadence) because of the wider spacing of the diagonal stance pair. The collected walk spacing may lead to piaffe if the pairs are timed nearly simultaneously to reach mid stance (the aids for this may vary, but a rider can lighten the seat and give an elastic half halt by stretching the whole body upward and downward to balance delicately in the stirrups).

A collected walk Quicktime movie shows the critical timing of the diagonal pair. Related to the collected walk is the classical school walk with diagonal pairs: This Quicktime movie shows the transition from collected walk to two strides of school walk and back to collected walk. There is a spectrum of gaits that blend the collected walk with the school walk and with piaffe and passage in the classical school.

The power to make the horse more athletic by performing transitions from walk to other gaits starts to become apparent from examining these diagrams. Precise, tactful use of aids first to prepare the horse's posture and then to change the sequence of muscle activity in the back (lats and gluts) is the secret to perfect transitions.

Rib cage is readjusted at front by the neck, behind by the pelvis and sacrum and in the middle by the rider's relaxed seat permitting the longissimus dorsi (not shown) along the spine to stabilize the new position. Pelvis is readjusted by the action of the abdominal group and the iliopsoas group of muscles. Horses with sagging bellies are either pregnant or do not use their "abs" very effectively. Axial skeleton: red regions are especially strongly affected by the neck and pelvis. Lower neck adjusts tension on the rib cage: horse feels "up at the withers" from the first thoracic vertebra. Pelvis and the attached lumbar spine are lowered at the S-L joint. The whole topline is repositioned slightly upward.

The nuchal, supraspinous and suprasacral ligament sustem stabilizes the muscular effort required to reframe or reposition the spine. The serratus segments at the neck are shortened, the shoulder follows a slightly different trajectory than in the ordinary walk, giving the collected walk a marching quality. The scalene muscle counterbalances the efforts of the serratus and complexus muscles.

Back to Biomechanics Home PageBack to Spiral Seat for the WalkDingo's Breakfast Home Page