| Back to Table of Contents | Biomechanics HOME Page | Back to Attention & Confidence |
| Definition | Tempo Dependency of Throughness (Trot to Canter) | Throughness: Trot to Canter and Canter to Trot |

Throughness, a prized quality in a dressage mount, is deeply connected to skill at transitions. Transitions involve both velocity adjustments between gaits as well as leg swaps (phase shifts) to adjust to the new pattern of steps.

Throughness emerges from practice of the efficient leg swaps of balanced transitions, set up by support from the riding aids. Balance and relaxation of a rider are keys to replacing unbalanced, resistant orientation in 3 dimensional space with a new sensory and physical skill.

Below is a small movie of me riding Raynyday Maximillian in a walk to trot dressage transition. The transition has its own pattern of limb positions as legs are swapped into the new gait. It is both through and a dressage transition because the tempo of the walk (about 53 strides per minute) is close to tempo for a cadenced trot.

The aid for trot is given with the outside leg (right leg) at the time of the right hind toe-down (begins stance phase for that leg). Hands have the function only to complete the connection through the horse so the aid can be answered in balance. I am riding bareback in order that a saddle and pad do not hide the horse's shoulder and back muscles.

LARGE Walk to Trot transition movie (6.7 MB) plus some more discussion and some still frames.

Working Definition of Throughness
Often described as "absence of resistance," submissiveness and immediate response to a rider's aids, throughness is a signature of attention and confidence. It is the substitution of poise, coordination and mastery of balance for the resistance that comes from asymmetric leaning on a section of the body. It is the quality of fluent motion that results from an unblocked spine and deliberate tempo. Progress toward throughness is advanced by correct dressage transitions between gaits: horses learn control of velocity and limb positions without hesitation or hurry.

The walk to trot transition above is a true dressage transition: it is fluent, prompt and in level balance. This is because it involves control of velocity between walk/trot because of deliberate tempo plus a small number of leg swaps between the different swing phases of walk and trot. In practicing transitions, Max has developed enough core muscle strength to retain his balance, control his velocity change and maintain a deliberate tempo between gaits. These small trot/canter (the LARGE trot to canter 3.5 MB) movies show the same sort of throughness as in the walk/trot transition. Canter to trot shows the down transition supported on the outside rein and leg (unilateral aids).

This trot/ right canter unmounted transition with trot too quick (BELOW, seen from the left). It is "on the forehand" with a leg swap partially accomplished on one front leg, followed by a canter stride where the first step out of suspension (LH or left hind) has not had time to fully swing under the body. The second canter stride after the transition shows the LH time one leg finally placed significantly farther under the body for a more effective propulsive step. This is not a "through" transition because the horse is not adjusting balance (orientation in 3 D space) to negotiate the change of gait patterns efficiently (it takes at least two strides to regain some balance). Comparison with the unridden balanced DRESSAGE transition on the hindquarters shows a more "scopey" or ground-covering gait (see angle between hind legs in both frames labeled 3), in part because the three legs in the air are the inverse of the unbalanced forehand transition.

The same horse (Rio Sereno, BELOW) can perform an unridden balanced DRESSAGE transition on the hindquarters with a prompt, efficient balanced entry into canter from the diagonal pair opposite the canter lead. this is because time one of the canter is established at the start of the transition in the transient diagonal (here RH-LF) opposite the canter diagonal. He is very forward in both trot and canter, matching the overlap in velocity between the gaits that enables prompt leg swapping. The first stride after the transiton has effective placement of the first hind leg, but next stride after that in the movie loses some balance in that the diagonal pair shows advance placement of the foreleg of the diagonal pair slightly before toe-down for the hind leg of the diagonal pair.

For those who need more details of the leg swap feature of transitions, the table below summarizes a few features of the trot to canter and canter to trot transitions. The distictive limb positions of the transitional stride are indicated by contrasting the diagonal pairings of true trot at the moment of simultaneous mid stance. Both swing limbs and stance limbs are in different functional positions in transitions and true gait.

The Complex Coordination of the Trot-Canter-Trot Transitions is illustrated in this table.
Transition coordination involves conversion of a symmetric gait (trot) into an asymmetric gait (canter).
In both transitions note that it is accomplished within a single stride (see fence line sections).
Trot to Canter 6 Trot to Canter 5 Trot to Canter 4 Trot to Canter 3 Trot to Canter 2 Trot to Canter 1
6A) ABOVE: RF & LH at end of transition into canter.
6B) BELOW: Compare with same moment from collected canter.
5A) ABOVE: Canter almost established.
5B) BELOW: Compare with same moment from collected canter.
4) Canter is established from hind legs to forehand, making it fluent and uphill.
3) Diagonal pair opposite the diagonal pair of canter supports phase shift into diagonal pair of canter (RF-LH). 2) Outside hind (RH) of canter time 1 established, outside fore (RF) begins phase shift. 1A) ABOVE: Swing legs begin phase shift into transition.
1B) BELOW: Compare with same moment from collected trot.
<< Position of RF and LH reflects canter limb phases rather than the transition timing, where the leg swap has shortened the reach of the inside hind.
Canter to Trot 6 Canter to Trot 5 Canter to Trot 4 Canter to Trot 3 Canter to Trot 2 Canter to Trot 1
6A) ABOVE: RF & LH at end of transition.
6B) BELOW: Compare with same moment from trot. Both swing and stance legs are positioned differently with reference to the body and to each other.
5) Swing legs RF & LH repositioning, continues into next frame. Repositioning WITHIN ONE STRIDE IS ENABLED BY DELIBERATE TEMPO. 4) Lateral instant, similar to walk (canter is walk plus jump). The lateral instant of walk is the limb swap into the other half of the gait. 3A) ABOVE: Modified time 3 of canter as transition proceeds.
3B) BELOW: Compare with same moment from collected canter.
2A) ABOVE: RF & LH at start of transition.
2B) BELOW: Compare with same moment from collected canter. Both swing and stance legs are positioned differently with reference to the body and to each other.
1) Time two of collected canter, with positive disassociation of LH and RF. Aid has been given with outside hip and outside rein to support limb swap into trot. Horse responds within one stride.
<< ------- In trot, RF & LH are more under the body and are simultaneously at mid-stance. Time 3 of collected canter ------->> <<------- Collected canter, balanced on diagonal pair (RF-LH).

As resistance is replaced with expertise at balance, a natural but negative way of orienting a body is superseded by the positive orientation of poise. Max's expert balance has replaced "leaning on his own body" that produces the feeling of resistance and the sensation of delay in responding to aids. In addition, unbalanced, hasty/delayed and resistant transitions show "lurching" or "diving" instead of level balance supported by specific tempo that allows time for leg swaps.

Sensation of throughness is supported by a perception of freedom of movement arising from concordant development of mental and physical skills. One of these physical skills is Max's ability to maintain himself "up through the withers" as a result of core muscle strength. This is actually a property of the whole spine posture and is accompanied by well developed neck complexus groups of muscles that control his forehand posture, plus his trim belly line. This shows that he has engaged shallow and deep muscles of the abdomen to keep his hind quarters well under him (flex at the sacro-lumbar joint). Some anatomy is HERE.

Balance for throughness and its manifestation of poise may be developed incrementally from practiced correct DRESSAGE transitions. During this process, riders develop insights about the feel of unity and harmony with their horses. Self-carriage is another quality associated with throughness.

This skill at balance stays with a horse, even when unmounted (small walk/trot/canter movie) (LARGE walk/trot/canter movie 14.1 MB) on free longe).

| Back to Table of Contents | Biomechanics HOME Page |