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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Further Confusion Of Cadence In Gaits

Good Cadence: Diagonal pair of legs moving in rhythm, at the same rate.  Mostly. 
The nature of cadence is applied to music, dance, marching, voice, poetry, and cranksets.  In almost all definitions there are common elements: flow, rhythm, sequence, beat, rate.  Synonyms of cadence are tempo and rhythm.  So, when I was asked to define what I was referring to as cadence in my last post, I decided more work on the subject was necessary.  Ergo, it is my solemn duty to further confuse the subject completely.

I spoke to a retired judge who directed me to the USDF Glossary of Judging Terms 2011.  She warned me that often a judge will incorrectly use the terms cadence, tempo and rhythm in evaluating a test.  So, here is the Law According to USDF:

The marked accentuation of the rhythm and (musical) beat that is a result of a steady and suitable tempo harmonizing with a springy impulsion.

The recurring characteristic sequence and timing of footfalls and phases of a given gait. For purposes of dressage, the only correct rhythms are those of the pure walk, trot, and canter, and rein back and piaffe (not those of amble, pace, rack, etc). In music, the repeated pattern or grouping of musical beats.
(Note 1: “Rhythm” is sometimes used mistakenly to mean “tempo” [rate of repetition of the rhythm]. This usage is not consistent with the correct English definition of “rhythm” [per Webster], nor with its normal usage in music.
Note 2: In English, there is no one term that covers both the rhythm [as defined above] and the tempo, as does the term “Takt” in German. This has caused
confusion because “Takt” has commonly been translated as Rhythm. For purposes of the Training Pyramid, the German term “Takt” is translated as “Rhythm” and is used as shorthand for both the rhythm itself [as defined above] and the suitable rate of repetition of the rhythm [tempo]. See Foreign Terms and Pyramid of Training sections.)

Rate of repetition of the rhythm, the strides, or of the emphasized musical beats—beats per minute, as may be measured by a metronome (in walk and trot, the
footfalls of both forelegs are typically counted [two beats per stride], and in canter the footfall of the leading foreleg is typically counted[one beat per stride]).
(Note: Often confused with Rhythm, Cadence, and MPM/stride length.)

PHEW!  I'm so glad we've got that cleared up! To break it down, I came up with the following definitions:

Cadence is the measure of movement.  Rhythm is the pattern of movement.  Tempo is the rate of movement.  Therefore, cadence = rhythm + tempo.  [I made math.  Someone please tell Ms. Beck, my old algebra teacher, she will be astonished.]  Now, I'll put that into a practical application [oops, someone call a medic, Ms. Beck has now fainted.]  At the trot, the horse moves the diagonal pair of legs in unison [rhythm].  Duh, everybody knows that, welllllllll...sometimes the horse is a little out of tune/step and picks up one of the diagonal pair of feet before the other and sets it down before the other [tempo]. This breaks the USDF Law of Sequence and Timing of Footfalls, producing a trot that is uneven or irregular, which the USDF defines for us:

An irregularity in walk or trot in which the front or hind pair of legs does not move symmetrically, the right leg making a different length of step than the left leg.

Uneven trot-hind legs taking a shorter stride than the front legs and in the cornfield where I live it also means that the horse is moving its front legs [above] slower than its hind legs as evidenced by the near hind striking the ground before the off fore which would be a tempo as well as a rhythm issue therefore the fault of incorrect cadence.  But I could be wrong...

Impure, unlevel, or uneven. Can be momentary or pervasive, and may or may not be due to unsoundness. Should not be used to mean unsteadiness of tempo.

Momentarily Irregular?  Off hind put up before near fore/ near hind put down before off fore.  This looks like a two beat gait, but the diagonal pair are not creating it.

So uneven is irregular and irregular is uneven, very clear.  If the diagonal pair is moving unevenly or irregularly, as the case may be, the trot ceases to be a two beat gait of 1,2,1,2 and becomes 1&2&1&2&, which leads us from algebra to music and beat vs tempo.  "BUT," I hear you say, "The beat is the tempo!"  Nope, sorry to say, not.  [Mr. Menning, my high school band teacher has also fainted at the thought of me trying to speak intelligently about music].  Back to the USDF:

A footfall within a gait. A hoof, or pair of hooves virtually simultaneously, striking the ground.

Virtually simultaneously?  Seriously?  Wellllll, let's put it this way.  A horse performing a correct two beat working trot can increase or decrease the rate at which it moves it's diagonal pair of legs without deviating from a correct two beat working trot.  The tempo [rate] has altered, but the rhythm [pattern] has not.  As to a horse that is trotting uneven or irregular in a working trot the tempo and rhythm are both altered.  I think.

Still confused?  OK, lets talk German. [I didn't study German in school, so I am uniquely unqualified to speak on this subject, too.]   Takt is defined as rhythm and tempo, although usually used in shorthand as simply rhythm.  ["Isn't that Cadence?" I hear you ask.  Maybe.  I think so.  But then again.  Maybe not.]  The horse picking up and/or setting down a foot of the diagonal pair virtually unsimultaneously is exhibiting irregular beat.  Or is that uneven tempo?  Oh, bloody helk, lets call it impure takt, that sounds much more interesting.

[Big, heavy sigh]  After all that, I still say, "That horse's cadence is off."  Guess that is why I'm a blogger and not a dressage judge.  That is accidental sagacity for today.  I know... You Are Most Welcome.

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Reinsmanship In Photos: Cadence and Extension

I've been spending a lot of time recently focused on cadence and reinsmanship.  Never did I expect it would be so hard to find a horse with superlative cadence.  This led me to many, many pictures of false extension as well.  I get really quite upset by these photos of top trainers in international competitions with world class horses exhibiting incorrect cadence and extension in the horses and poor posture and support in the whip.

"Isn't anyone else concerned with this?!?" I plead.  Maybe I'm wrong.  Or just nit picking.  Then along comes a barely 21 year old girl driving her lovely pony in the Welsh countryside.  And my hope is restored.

Meet Emily Ham and Jack [Crossfield Glory], a Section C Welsh stud. I know Ms. Ham and Jack only through the wonders of the internet, so it seems fair that I make full disclosure that I am operating on two possible theories of truth.  The first being that Ms. Ham has studied very astutely in her brief career on the box seat to be the best whip she can possibly be and that the Crossfield Stud has spent years developing a breeding program that has produced more than one superfly pony.  The other theory is that both Ms. Ham and Jack are freaks of nature, bestowed, by the Gods, with talent and ability found in less than 3% of the population, to thwart the rest of us.  Make your own assumptions...

Reinsmanship: Cadence And Extension by Emily Ham and Crossfield Glory
The only thing wrong with this photo is the lack of sunshine. [ Unless you live or have lived on the British Isles, and if so, you find nothing wrong because the more desirable 'not raining' is in effect.]  Pony: superlative frame, round, soft, cadence near enough perfect, hind end engagement beautiful.  Whip: posture impeccable, contact as soft as a breeze from heaven.  Ms. Ham is employing the altogether more effective style of one handed driving.  I'm old school and am glad this young woman is, too. One handed driving means more consistent contact for the horse, less over-steer and interference from the whip.
Ah...the sun!  Here Jack displays wonderful cadence in rhythm and length of stride, despite being a tad short of working trot.  I am going to guess that Ms. Ham is asking for a little less forward and a little more engagement.  But what is important to note is how she is doing that.  Her hands are not buried in her lap, her elbows aren't behind her tipped forward shoulder blades.  She is rocking back on her seat bones and lifting her hands.  The effect of this is to check the speed, lift the pony off the forehand and engage the hind quarters for more impulsion.  This is what I mean when I say the transition must be made from back to front.  If Ms. Ham lengthened the reins, Jack's forehand would extend and not his hind quarters.
Here is another remarkable example of back to front driving: Bend To The Left.  Jack is stepping into the bend with his near hind leg.  You can see his bend as his near hip has come closer to his near shoulder [also reflected in the wheels of the carriage: near wheels closer, off wheels farther apart.  Even the carriage is bending. So. Exciting.]  Wait, there's more!  He also has perfect support from his whip.  Ms. Ham's shoulders indicate the path of the bend: her left shoulder points to the center of the circle, her outside shoulder follows the circumference of the arc.  Sublime.  If I have ever told you to "use your shoulders", "bend the horse by turning the corner with him" This. Is. What. I. Mean.  Thank you, Ms. Ham.
This is extension.  Notice the symmetry of hind quarters: Jack's and Ms. Ham's- they are both rocked back on their bums.  This is a perfect photo to show how the horse's movement is mirrored in the whip. If Ms. Ham was tipped forward, off her seat bones, Jack's movement would be all front end and he would loose hind end engagement. [I know, I do it all the time with my horses, it is a battle I must fight to correct.]   Luckily for Jack, he has Ms. Ham and we have a standard of perfection: correct movement from behind creating breath taking movement on the front.  Balanced extension. [The red ribbons are first place in the UK.]

When I complimented Ms. Ham on her driving, she answered by saying she was lucky to have such an amazing pony.  Grace and humility.  Freak of Nature?  I think: Not. There is nothing not to love about this gifted young woman and her pony.  This is the standard we should all endeavor to achieve.

Lastly, thank you to Ann Ham for the photos, and for her continued belief and support of her daughter and Jack's career as an example to us all.

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.

Get Yer Back Up

Here is an excellent 2 minute video on developing roundness through the top line of the horse.  Succinct and easy to understand, this should be considered essential in the training curriculum of every horse- ridden or driven, regardless of the discipline.

Thanks to the Bay Area Equestrian Network and Will Faerber for this amuse bouche!

For more information on Will Faerber's training techniques: www.art2ride.com

Kind Regards,
Michelle Blackler
Serendipity is an Accidental Sagacity Corporation company.