Equestrian Term - Suspension

(Term Clarification)

    Today in the English speaking equine/equestrian industry the term suspension has two, in reality contradicting, definitions of the word suspension. Needless to say that this also contributes much to the confusions in the related equestrian industry. Let us first see and examine the dictionary, because both of the definitions are present there. I will present only those relevant to riding horses.

   Noun suspension
   1. Temporary cessation or suspension.
   This term is used in describing passage and the interruption of the motion of the legs during this exercise.
   2. The act of suspending something (hanging it from above so it moves freely)
   This definition is referring to the time that the horse is in the air, not in contact with the ground, in the trot and gallop gaits.

The definition 2 in reference to horses motion in the gallop, the "suspension" in the air during gallop can be clearly seen.

The definition 2, in reference to the horse's motion in the pace, the "suspension in the air during pace can be clearly seen. Unfortunate I cannot find any motion demonstration in trot, only a picture.

Please note that normally and freely moving horses will have sufficient "suspension" even in a fairly slow trot. Please note the suspension in the hind legs mainly, where most dressage horses have none. How ironic that they have hardly any in the below motion demonstration of "extended tort" and the "passage", especially in relevance to Wiki's definition of passage as "highly elevated and extremely powerful trot". I guess they don't get that the "highly elevated" is supposed to refer to the horse's body and not to how high the animal lifts its legs.

A common site in dressage, all about high stepping and no suspension in the rear, or hardly any as demonstrated in the bellow pics and the provided link.

     In summation, the first definition is referring to the momentary suspension of the leg motion, which in nature is present in the natural passage due to the fact that the horse is "suspended" in the air so high during trot that the legs are simply set for landing prematurely, hence the motion of the legs stops for a brief moment until the legs land/reach the ground. In short, the first (definition 1.) cannot happen without the second (definition 2.) in the natural movement of the horse. Or one could say that in the natural passage the first (definition 1.) is caused by the extremity of second (definition 2.).

    The contradiction, or better said a complete nonsense, is presented in the phony passage preformed by the so-called dressage riders, which has nothing to do with the natural passage and completely contradicts the natural movement of the horse. What the dressage riders are presenting, in the thingy they call passage, is a horse totally lacking in suspension (definition 2), while the cessation (definition 1) of the motion of the leg is caused by the rider restricting the fluid and continuous movement by the horse's legs. Needless to say, they need to change other equestrian terms, and so they refer to the two definitions often as impulsion, which of course only contributes more to the confusion that is now present in the equestrian industry, and of course the animals have to suffer and endure the abuse as a result.

     Here is the contradiction as presented by, who else, Wiki.

    "The passage is a movement seen in upper-level dressage, in which the horse performs a highly elevated (def. 2 - not present in dressage) and extremely powerful trot. The horse is very collected and moves with great impulsion.
    The passage differs from the working, medium, collected, and extended trot in that the horse raises a diagonal pair high off the ground and suspends the leg (1. definition) for a longer period than seen in the other trot types." (This is actually the so-called high stepping, which is action and has nothing to do with impulsion! )

     Needless to say that the dressage horses presenting this thingy, the silly folks call passage, have hardly any suspension in the air and in reality much less than in the extended trot, since there is no need for any impulsion for the horse to pic its legs up. There is a difference between pushing off the legs and picking them up. As it is, it is not so to the laics, greenhorns and the public. All you need to do is to see it and notice. Of course this completely nullifies the entire definition of passage, since the extended trot often presents more suspension of the horse in the air than the passage.

     Now the definition of gaits presented by Wiki is also full of nonsense, but to stay within the context I will extract only the relevant to present the contradictions.

     Wiki referring to canter/gallop: "The faster the horse is moving, the longer the suspension time between the three beats." Now suddenly the word "suspend" or "suspension" took on the 2. definition.

     In conclusion it would be fair to say that horse lacking in impulsion cannot achieve the "in the air suspension", and without that it simply cannot achieve the suspension/cessation in the motion of its legs in trot and passage only. However, the temporary suspension/cessation of the motion of the legs in the trot/passage can be achieved by asking the horse for more impulsion, why hindering the animal from exerting relevant energy into the motion forward. For this reason the dressage passage (Not only passage but most of the movement of the horse in today's dressage) looks constrained in the motion of the horse, or as I say constipated, and the horses presenting this thing these fools call passage look as if humping on a hot charcoal.
    The humping movement in today's dressage horses is caused by the rider restricting the horse from the motion forward, hence it completely contradicts the concept of free movement in riding horses. Because the forward motion of the horse is by force restricted the excessive energy of the hind legs pushes the horse's rear end up, out of harmony of natural motion, hence the term humping. Since this entire riding is constricted in this thingy they call dressage, the horses rather than moving freely they end up being literally cramped up throughout the entire ride. Needless to say many will get sore from this nonsense abuse of horses. To any horseman that has any sense at all this is a genuine horror, and it could not get any uglier if one would try.

    The solution to this confusion in terminology could be solved if we would use the word "suspension" (flight through the air) in relevance to the 2. definition, and then using the word "cessation" in relevance to 1. definition. Now, when referring to passage we could say things like, "the passage lacks in suspension (no time in the air) or the passage lacks in cessation (no stopping of the leg motion), in which case we have no passage, obviously. 

    I am including some links and pictures to present this confusion and contradictions present in the equestrian world today, specifically in dressage. You will clearly see here how the passage completely lacks in "suspension 2", and yet has the cessation (see links), but not as a result of suspension but as a result of restricting/stopping the motion by variety of training methods (whips, curb bits, spurs) and the restriction in the motion of the horse. When referring to the pictures I will be using the words cessation and suspension as described by my recommendation above. Unfortunately I have no moving demonstration f a decent extended trot or a natural passage, but I hope to get some soon, which will without a doubt show and support all of the above.

This horse is supposedly supposed to be in extended trot. Please note there is hardly any suspension in the air, even less than by the trot of the horse above in the black and white photo. The horse is obviously very much on the forehand, out of balance lacking in impulsion. Extended trot should have as much as suspension as the above pacer. This poor woman is a victim of lies and misinformation aimed to exploit people by the dressage association and related commercial enterprises. She simply does not know any better, hence "Forgive them, they do not know what they are doing".
The "supposed" passage in the pic on the right is supposed to have more suspension than the extended trot, but it has none at all, especially in the front legs.

There is hardly any suspension or cessation of any kind. Please note the horror of this riding, where it is clearly obvious that this rider spurs the horse forward at the same time restraining the animal via the curb bit from doing so. Now you may understand why these people need the curb bit. Please note the action of the horse's tail, which is a genuine display of annoyance by the horse to the spurring done by the "rider", which should support everything I say about today's dressage. Please note that there is no such tail movement in the extended trot, because the horse is permitted to move forward.
No suspension what so ever in the front legs, as the horse is laterally walking in the front.
This girl is simply clueless.
Click here for the "more advanced humping" by the greatest dressage rider in the world". Please note, no suspension in the hind legs but with the cessation, hence completely unnatural and very jerky. In short humping as if on a hot charcoal.

   The "dressage passage" is nothing more but simply suspended high-stepping in motion of the horse. This suspension is most commonly taught, as any high-stepping is like the literally absurd Spanish walk, by the use of a whip. I am present the "how-to" to the humiliation of all participants and admirers in another article. I will demonstrate to every assholes out there how it is done, so more horses can be tormented by this nonsense, until this crap will be outlawed, or until people will care enough to get a decent education in dealing with horses.

Related Articles: "The Cadence Swing".

Written by Ludvik K Stanek a.k.a Lee Stanek (2010)

All pictorial presentations are copyright free.