The trot is brilliant, elevated, suspended, hind end driven, and extended (all in equal portion). It is a two-beat gate, with diagonal pairs striking the ground at the same time (Left hind and front right, and right hind and left front). Like the walk, the hind end is the MOST important factor in the trot. Trots may be manufactured and trained. Here we will be discussing the natural trot, not one manufactured or augmented by training.
In todays competitive arenas there are many, many examples of unbalanced trots. To the untrained eye these leg flicking flashy movements are impressive, however when you break down the actual movement, the incorrect movement will make you cringe.
In this article we will address the natural correct and incorrect trot.
Please note below are examples of some extremes, and are used as generalities. These should not be used in shot for shot comparison but in generalizations when viewing the over all movement of the Spanish Horse.
Extension is the amount of forward reach in the trot. This is determined by the angles of the forelegs and aided by the amount of suspension, elevation, and impulsion of the hind. Extension should come from the shoulder of the horse. Horses that only extend from the knee down (due to lack of elevation) have a ‘fake trot’ which is not correct to the breed.
“Fake trot” is often seen when a horses humerus is too short, this will be further explained in the shoulder conformation section. Without a lift in the front shoulder there can be no true extension.
This, to the uneducated eye looks like impressive extension, look at that front end… however look at the hind end. With no power you have a ‘fake extension’ this is a horse that will flick from the knee in the trot. Without the hind end working correctly it is impossible for the horse to be balanced. This is movement that should not be bred, as this is false movement.
This is correct extension in the stride, the hind end is engaged, the horse is covering ground equally. There is no large difference in the lines between the diagonal pairs.
Elevation: The elevation ideally is equal in the hind end and the front end. Horses that only trot high in the front, do not have enough hind end engagement. Horses that have an elevated hind end and a flat front end, do not have enough elevation in the front end. This is seen when the angle of the shoulder and the angle of the hip (and or length) are not complimentary. Ideally horses should elevate at the level, so when the front leg lifts the distance from the knee to the chest is parallel to the line, horses that elevate above level are rare and considered to have a very good trot. Keep in mind the horses hind end much match the amount of lift that is seen in the front end. Making horses that trot above level seem to tap their bellies with their hind legs when trotting.
As always we look at the hind end first, this is the motor of the movement. Notice the length between the top of the croup to the bottom of the leg, then compare it to the distance between the top of the shoulder and the bottom of the leg. This horse is unbalanced in conformation, the front end does not elevate the same as the hind end. This is a trait that should NOT be bred.
This is correct elevation in the trot, notice that the elevation of the front end matches the elevation of the hind end. The higher the elevation the more extension, and suspension the horse can have.
Impulsion: this is the ‘sit’ of the hind end as it pushes off the ground and gives the trot its power. The amount of sit (difference between the top of the croup while trotting and the top of the wither) is a major factor in a good trot. Without Impulsion you cannot have lightness in the trot. Some horses do not push and trot very flat, but the Spanish horse should be able (due to the conformation of a low tail set, and proper hind end angle) to drive from the hind end. This movement elevates the front end of the horse allowing the shoulder, and foreleg to lift making elevation and extension possible.
Here we see a total lack of power coming from the hind end, there is no sit, and the shoulder is not lifting in the stride.
This is correct impulsion, notice the power of the movement starting in the hind end and lifting the front end, allowing the shoulder to move freely.
Suspension: This is the float, bounce, or air time you see when a horse trots. A horse with a good trot will seem to float on top of the movement, covering more ground with each stride than a more ‘ground bound’ horse will. A horse with good suspension will have very good extension as it gives the body time to balance in the air and more time to bring the forelimb forward in each stride.
Notice when all four legs are engaged there is a lack of ‘float’ or ‘bounce’. There is no air time in the trot. This is NOT something that should be bred.
Notice the distance between the ground and the horse, this is good suspension, it is the bounce when all four feet are seen to be off of the ground. This is an example of a trait that should be bred
Below are brief glimpses of movement, hover your curser over the clip to see how I would rate each aspect of movement.
By Jennifer Stewart
Royal Horse Farms