The training pyramid is the most important guideline for trainers, riders, lungers, and judges.
The pyramid is separated into three parts:
None of the six steps of the training pyramid can be taken in isolation. The overall aim of training is to develop a horse that is “through” (Durchlässigkeit) and willing to immediately obey the lunger’s aids without the slightest resistance.
Rhythm is the regularity of the beat in all gaits. The regularity is the correct sequence of the footfalls; the tempo is the beats per minute (BPM). Steps and strides should cover equal distances and also be of equal duration remaining in a consistent tempo. The rhythm should be maintained through the whole performance. In order to judge the correctness of the rhythm, the judge must refer to the correct biomechanics of the basic gaits.
Photo courtesy Jerry Wang
Relaxation is key to producing supple muscles that can be properly developed. Suppleness, together with a pure rhythm, is an essential aim of the preliminary training phase. Even if the rhythm is maintained, the movement cannot be considered correct unless the horse is working through its back, and the muscles are free from tension. Lack of suppleness can take many different forms, e.g. tightness in the back, severely agitated tail, rhythm faults, hind legs lacking activity, a tense and dry mouth, and crookedness.
Indicators of suppleness are:
Contact is the soft, steady connection between the lunger’s hand and the horse’s mouth. Correct, steady contact allows the horse to find its balance and find a rhythm in each of the gaits. The poll should be the highest point of the neck, except when the horse is worked (without side reins) forward and downward. Contact must result from the energy of the active hind legs being transferred over the swinging back to the bit.
Indicators of good contact are:
Photo courtesy Andrea Selch
A horse is said to have impulsion when the energy created by the hind legs is being transmitted into the gait and into every aspect of the forward movement. A horse can be said to be working with impulsion when it pushes off energetically from the ground and swings its feet well forward.
A horse is said to be straight when its forehand is in line with its hindquarters; its longitudinal axis is in line with the straight or curved track it is following. Straightness is necessary in order for the weight to be evenly distributed over the two halves of the body. If the horse is straight, the hind legs will push exactly in the direction of the center of gravity.
The aim of all gymnastic training is to create a horse that is ready and willing to perform. For the horse to meet these conditions, its weight, plus that of the vaulters, must be distributed as evenly as possible over all four legs. This entails reducing the amount of weight on the forelegs and increasing the same amount of weight on the hind legs, which were originally intended mainly to create the forward movement.
The increased flexion of the hind legs results in the neck being raised. The horse is then in a position, if the carrying capacity of the hindquarters is sufficiently developed, to move in balance and self-carriage in all three gaits.
The gaits are considered an important part of the horse’s score during a vaulting performance. Vaulters compete at the walk, trot and canter gaits.
In vaulting competitions, the horse should show a working canter, demonstrating a shortening of the frame on the way to collection.
Indicators of a quality working canter include:
At vaulting competitions, the horse should show a working trot. Indicators of a quality working trot include:
During vaulting competitions, the horse should show a working walk. Indicators of a quality working walk include:
Understanding the Horse Score was created to give judges, lungers, vaulters, and coaches an understanding of quality training and basics. It was created (with permission) from the FEI guidelines for vaulting.