Short Bytes – Dressage Terms
Impulsion – Implusion is push originating from the hindquarters. As defined in the FEI tests: Impulsion is the desire to move forward, elasticity of the steps, suppleness of the back and engagement of the hindquarters.
Engagement – Engagement is the hindquarter’s ability to lift or carry the shoulders. In the beginning we develop impulsion from the hindquarters and the horse goes forward. If the development of impulsion is accompanied by correct longitudinal stretching of the top line, the act of developing impulsion will produce the muscles for engagement. Photo 1 displays impulsion and engagement during lengthened trot. The hind hoof is on the ground pushing before the diagonal front hoof returns to the ground. The forehand is lightened. Engagement is the horse’s ability to lighten and propel the forehand. Engagement is a vital element of the collected gaits.
Now, look carefully at Photo 2. It’s the same horse and driver. The left front leg is still stuck to the ground while the right hind leg is completely off the ground. The left hind will set down in the footprint of the left front which is the requirement for working trot, but engagement, lift, is missing. Only impulsion is displayed.
Suspension – Suspension is the period of time during which the horse is not in contact with the ground. Suspension is most obvious in the canter but does exist in the trot (Photo 3). Suspension is dependent upon engagement. A working trot cannot exist without suspension and suspension cannot exist without impulsion.
In working trot the horse cannot put his hind foot into the print of the front foot if there is no period of suspension. The front foot leave the ground before the hind foot can set down in the front hoof’s print.
Rhythm – Rhythm is the regularity of the footfalls, four beat walk, two beat trot, three beat canter, two beat reinback.
Tempo – Tempo is the frequency of the footfalls. Ponies have a faster natural tempo than horses, horses faster than drafts. As the horse develops impulsion and engagement the tempo slows. More power equals less effort, more push and lift.
Collection – A shortening and elevation of the gait bringing the hocks more underneath the body of the horse. Collection cannot and will not happen without impulsion and engagement.