01 December 2012

The "Poodle Trot"

German riding master Waldemar Seunig (1887-1976) called a trot where a horse loses the parallelism of front and rear cannons "a poodle trot."  This short, clear video featuring German veterinarian and certified rider/trainer Gerd Heuschmann shows exactly what Seunig meant.

Anyone who's ever been to a Saddlebred show or maybe watched Arabian Park horse classes will recognize this flashy trot immediately. High, flailing front feet, dragging butts, and caved-in backs come from poor training and poorer understanding of conformation and biomechanics. Ever wonder why American Saddlebreds suffer from so much lordosis?  

On rare occasion, a horse with the build to lift the front and match that lift with drive from the rear finds a great trainer who can develop that talent and bring up the horse's back. For example, some Tom Bass-trained Saddlebreds showed stunning front flash with matching drive from the rear. Unfortunately, not many people have Tom Bass's ability. Most front flash means the hind end drags and the back sags, the antithesis of the engagement described in classical dressage texts.  

So I stopped watching upper level dressage rides when this trot started winning in competitive dressage classes. For example, watch Edward Gal and Moorlands Totilas setting a Kuer record at Hickstead.

Below are a couple of screen captures from this ride. The horse's front end flies high and mighty, the rear end lags behind. 

Several friends disappointed me by loving this ride. Bigtime judges horrified me with their scoring. Is Toltilas not closer to "a poodle trot" than an engaged trot? 

Happily, classical dressage may be on the way back. Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro, 2012 Olympic dressage winners, show no traces of rollkur or the "poodle trot." 

Compare Totilas and Valegro. Unlike Totilas's rear, Valegro's hind end is well under. The result is a beautifully matched pair of cannons--or cannon and shannon, if you're old school in nomenclature--and a hind foot well under his belly. Even this still gives an impression of flying forward. The stills of Totilas show a hind foot barely up under his sheath.

I hope Velegro's triumphs mark a trend back to classical dressage.