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  1. #1
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    Arrow Define "good mover" for eventing

    Why not take a stab at defining what a "good mover" really is?

    Is it form to function -- pushing off and covering ground, fluid strides, elastic, rhythmical, capable of changing balance forward and back....

    I have been looking at too many videos and pictures, and listening to too many people, and I swear, some of the horses listed as "good movers" are not what I was taught, and what I thought I knew, as a "good mover".

    Am I looking for the hunter swing? The dressage knee popper? Or something in between? I want a horse that has some elasticity to the step, a horse that can cover ground effortlessly, a horse that does not struggle to reach and pull over the ground, but pushes himself forward with ease, bouncing at the canter, uphill in the wither....naturally.

    Is that too much to expect for a "good mover"? Am I expecting "fabulous" for "good" or is good a lower standard?
    "Passion, though a bad regulator, is a powerful spring." -- Emerson
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  2. #2
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    Good mover = the horse that moves me safely from one side of the jump to the other



  3. #3
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    Okay, so this is not going to be the exact response you are looking for, because I don't have any real answers, but here is my .02:

    When I bought my then 4yo OTTB (at a hunter barn), I was told (okay, I overheard people saying) he was a "crap mover", was a "4", and just didn't have nice gaits. Granted, he was also not in the shape he is in today but..

    We just had our first CT, ever, and he got a 7 overall for gaits on a test we had never ridden before and his first time off the property. After all I had been told about how ugly of a mover he was, I was astonished! I think what score you get for gaits on a dressage test depends on: the judge that is watching you and your horse go, and how much training and conditioning you have put on your horse to get them as supple and elastic as they can be.

    So, I think, to some extent, quality of movement is subjective, particularly in eventing, where there are so many different KINDS of movement seen (especially with all the different breeds with naturally different gaits/movement at the lower levels), and I think that a "good mover" is just as you described, which also seems to be what judges are scoring for on dressage tests. Freedom, suspension, rhythm, lightness on the forehand, etc etc etc.

    I also want to mention that I don't think it's always fair to give a horse a label as a good mover or bad, because proper care and training can improve a horse's ability to carry himself exponentially! Not saying you did that, or that you didn't already know that, but that's all I had to add.

    There will always be horses that naturally have more suspension and elasticity, but I think all horses have the ability to move well.

    Amy

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  4. #4
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    A good mover is subjective, no matter the discipline. Outside of hunters it is a bit more form to function rather than aesthetics though. Action rather than lack thereof is beneficial to a horse performing collection and extensions. Too much action can sometimes make for an inefficient gallop. Since event horses spend more time cantering/galloping than trotting, the importance of a good canter generally comes before a good trot, even if a flashy trot is generally what catches the eye.

    In eventing, some people prefer a hunter type, some prefer more action, but in the end there is no "one right type". As long as the horse moves in an athletic manner, meaning they push from behind and stretch over their backs and have enough bounce in their step to show a nice change within gaits.



  5. #5
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    I rode both my horses at a CT last weekend and after the show I thanked the judge for her comments and advice. During the conversation she said that she judges horses based on their own potential, not based on the potential of a imported high dollar dressage horse. So, I think the gaits mark is subjective, perhaps depending on the judge. Some may be scoring your horse compared to other horses. Some, like the judge I had, may be scoring your horse compared to what they think is the best that horse can do.

    But basically, yeah I think it's mostly form relating to function.
    www.hogbackhillfarm.com



  6. #6
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    i think there isn't really ONE definition of a "good mover" other than to say said horse can safely and efficiently get from point a to point b. i would say hunter and dressage people would have very different answers that eventers would.

    that said, there is def. a kind of movement i prefer to see and feel in an event horse. the biggest thing i look for is an adjustability/elasticity of gaits. you can see this often very clearly watching horses exercise at the track, or young horses at play etc. even if you can't ride them. its that ability for natural collection/extension even BEFORE the dressage training. i like them to be able to "ball up" and then "lay out" in a gait naturally. if you have that- you can take it and make a very decent and safe eventer usually, because the natural tendency to be able to adjust themselves and use their bodies translates to safety over fences and making the time!

    personally, i like to see some suspension as well, but it's just pretty to me. i HATE extraneous up/down knee action (even totilas bothers me sometimes!) so i think its pretty personal. i think you have to be careful with suspension too, because if you get too much, you end up with the prettiest slowest xc round ever. i have a dear friend with a lovely TB who has the most lovely canter ever, you can almost count a second between when his feet leave and hit the ground, he just boings around xc like a carousel horse but she cant get him to gallop- there's too much "air time" naturally in his gait! i love a good gallop where you can feel their backs drop and a switch of gears when you need it.
    Jazz- 4.9.01 OTTB, loved since 12.6.09
    Skip- 3.3.91 APHA, i miss you buddy



  7. #7
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    You wouldn't believe how many people claim their horse as a 'good mover,' when the horse is barely moving correctly, let alone well! I take ads that say such with a grain of salt. I define "good mover" differently than "correct mover." I find most seem to think correct=good. Depends what your standards are, I guess.



  8. #8
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    I suspect you are looking for fabulous. Good is good. They move straight and have movement that doesn't make you think of a washing machine. They can score in the 30s at HTs with decent riding and training. Fabulous....is with training and good riding will be competitive in any company and at dressage shows (for the lower levels) but may not be the mover of a GP dressage horse.
    Last edited by bornfreenowexpensive; Jun. 9, 2011 at 09:54 PM.
    ** The difference between genius and stupidity is genius has its limits. -- Albert Einstein **



  9. #9
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    We have quite a few "good movers" in our barn- from very flamboyant, springy WB types, to floating, pretty TB types (and one we refer to as "Spider Horse" because of his VERY flamboyant articulation of his very long legs), and a lot of stuff in between. They are all VERY different, but they all can do very well in the dressage and can all get very good marks in the collectives on gaits.

    I think the thing that ALL good movers have in common, though, is "suspension", "spring", or "lift." Whatever you want to call it. There is some amount of "air time" to their steps, and they are light on their feet (they don't sound like Mac trucks when they trot by). It doesn't really matter if they are flat kneed and have a "daisy cutter" type step like a hunter, or if they are big and flamboyant and active...if they've got that spring in their step, they are good.

    The only thing I REQUIRE for an event horse is a good (preferably great) canter. One that is powerful and balanced. Even when you are on a green horse or out shape horse you should feel like you've got about 6 more gears left. But that's a FEELING, more than aesthetics...but they usually look as good as they feel. (And bad canters look as bad as they feel!).



  10. #10
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    OK, thanks guys. Getting a better feel for it.
    Here's my problem: I am not sure about the "eye of the beholder" type of definition, because, if that were the case, breeders would have a tough time of it! Breeders have to be looking for something with a definition, I would think, rather than just settling for a personal preference. I think that is why they bring in the judges and have the inspections, so that if you breed a colt, your preference is judged against other breeders' preferences, and the judges decide who has the "best" preferences! (ne colts.)

    I think there is a definition for a good mover out there but I am not sure I've found it yet.

    In any case, Skip, you said something that resonated with me -- about watching horses and the way the canter smooths into the gallop -- yes! Cool description.

    But so many horses pull themselves over the ground. Pushing does not mean suspension -- but we are looking for some suspension, or otherwise we'd not have the power to extend, or get the coffin canter on collection, right?
    "Passion, though a bad regulator, is a powerful spring." -- Emerson
    www.eventhorse.wordpress.com



  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by yellowbritches View Post
    The only thing I REQUIRE for an event horse is a good (preferably great) canter. One that is powerful and balanced. Even when you are on a green horse or out shape horse you should feel like you've got about 6 more gears left. But that's a FEELING, more than aesthetics...but they usually look as good as they feel. (And bad canters look as bad as they feel!).
    Yep. And a good walk. The trot can always be improved on through training and conditioning to a certain extent, but it's always better to start with a horse that has a good walk and canter.



  12. #12
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    Default agreed

    retread-
    i totally agree about the pushing vs. pulling issue you mentioned. a lot of what i look for is the natural ability for the horse to be able to push itself off the ground. while i mostly really like to shop for horses just off the track, you can still differentiate this natural ability in a group of young horses that have only had race training. to tell you the truth, my own mare was very much a "pull" mover at first- especially in transitions and at the gallop. she would use her shoulders and pull and flatten herself into the next gait (i call it "grabby" transitions) until trained otherwise that transitions come from behind, with a lifting of back/wither, however, i could see easily when she was at liberty in the pasture, or on the lunge, that she had the natural ability to push herself and did so naturally when not undersaddle. i think a lot of times the OTTB's have been "trained" to pull rather than push in transitions- and i don't know why- maybe it's more efficient for high speeds? if you look at a group of say seven horses exercising at the track- its clear as day which ones have the NATURAL ability to collect/extend. i love to see them trot at the track too because you see which ones will hold themselves with their backs up "round" etc. and move correctly and which ones just curl their necks and play and the movement is shorter/choppier with little suspension. it's really hard to explain without seeing it! the way they move of course changes when they are trained off the track and improves with proper muscling, dressage, etc. but you need a foundation to stand on. i have seen quite a few TB's that move like western pleasure horses naturally- which is not something i am interested in.

    i think suspension is absolutely necessary- but i DEF believe their is such as thing as too much suspension creating inefficiency in ground covering- whether rider error or natural way of moving. you have to be able to get a horse to move in a forward manner- and a natural forward way of going is much easier than the "kick ride"!

    i also agree about the breeding- there sort of "should" be one clear definition, but there doesn't seem to be. breeders breed for very different things- including way of going. this is why some stallions are "hunter" sires, some "eventing", "dressage" sires etc. not to say there isn't any crossover, but it's not too often you would see a "cutting" sire breed for the same type of movement that eventers prefer, or even think that our horses are "good" movers so to speak. i really think it just depends on who you ask! finding one definition of "good mover" is like finding one definition of "good president".
    Last edited by skip916; Jun. 10, 2011 at 10:26 AM. Reason: spelling
    Jazz- 4.9.01 OTTB, loved since 12.6.09
    Skip- 3.3.91 APHA, i miss you buddy



  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by retreadeventer View Post
    OK, thanks guys. Getting a better feel for it.
    Here's my problem: I am not sure about the "eye of the beholder" type of definition, because, if that were the case, breeders would have a tough time of it! Breeders have to be looking for something with a definition, I would think, rather than just settling for a personal preference. I think that is why they bring in the judges and have the inspections, so that if you breed a colt, your preference is judged against other breeders' preferences, and the judges decide who has the "best" preferences! (ne colts.)

    I think there is a definition for a good mover out there but I am not sure I've found it yet.

    In any case, Skip, you said something that resonated with me -- about watching horses and the way the canter smooths into the gallop -- yes! Cool description.

    But so many horses pull themselves over the ground. Pushing does not mean suspension -- but we are looking for some suspension, or otherwise we'd not have the power to extend, or get the coffin canter on collection, right?
    I don't know about the inspections...it can still be very subjective. My Oldenburg is a good mover and your Oldenburg is a good mover, but they may move differently (one may be more flamboyant and "dressagey" while the other may be a little bit more "huntery"). And if they end up at different inspections with different judges, there is a good chance they will score similarly on movement. WBs, especially, can differ SO MUCH, even with in a registry or "breed" (I have a Belgian WB in my barn who is pretty light and sporty. A friend has one in her barn a few miles down the road, and he is a TANK of a horse), and all sorts of WBs walk around with various brands on their butts...and you can line up horses with the same brands and get a variety of types! So, I think inspections need to be taken with a grain of salt.

    The long and the short of it is that there are SO MANY components that go into making an event horse that you can't get hung up on ONE. It is nice to have good movement, but good movement gets you nowhere if the horse is a jerk on the flat. And you can have the best mover in the world, but if he's chicken on xc or doesn't have the heart and lungs to not be exhausted for show jumping on the third day, then what's the point? There are a lot of top event horses that are probably not the most awe inspiring movers, but they put their heads down, stay relaxed, and do what they are asked with the proverbial smile on their face while in the dressage ring...then run and jump the next two days with ease. Those horse still can and do beat the awesome movers (I site Inonothing as an example...pretty average TB type...and a Badminton winner).

    And if we're talking ammie or kid type horses...the last thing to be concerned with is a knock out mover. It needs to be fun and rideable and safe with a good mind and forgiving soul. And sometimes the GREAT movers are inappropriate for an amateur rider because they are HARD to ride (just ask the amateur owner in our barn who has the horse with Grand Prix kind of movement). But movement should be a few items down on the list when talking about event horses of ANY variety.



  14. #14
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    But Napoles, the problem is, most of the lower level dressage tests for eventing do have quite a bit of trot. And trot is the first and last thing most dressage judges see. And while I hate to emphasis dressage, the trot is very important in the scheme of how horses get scored in this sport. In addition, I _*personally*_ think a horse that is balanced at a diagonal gait stands a good chance of being balanced also at the lateral gaits; while the other way around, not so much.
    While at the upper levels I agree a canter and gallop become much more important, that's a rarified place most of us don't aspire to find a horse for....I'm looking more for a good mover for myself, my own sphere of riding, and for that, a trot is vitally important, because most of how these guys learn is at trot and most of what I will do will involve trot, I think. So I don't want to de-emphasize the trot as a part of the whole gaits picture. Just sayin'.
    "Passion, though a bad regulator, is a powerful spring." -- Emerson
    www.eventhorse.wordpress.com



  15. #15
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    Interesting discussion, since my guy always scores 7s on gaits, but gets 8s on his trot and canter circles, with the comments "uphill and balanced". I always wondered that if he was scoring 8s consistently on his trot and canter work, why not give him an 8 for gaits? VCT's discussion with the judge made me realize that his POTENTIAL for movement is greater, so that's probably why I've been scoring only 7s - the consistency, the push, isn't always there.

    And I agree - a good mover is one that gets you from the start to the finish line safely.
    "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." - Thomas Edison

    So, the Zen Buddhist says to the hotdog vendor, "Make me one with everything."



  16. #16
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    There's good movement and there's good movement. I can quote in detail what Chamberlin says when he is describing good movement for a XC horse. He goes into each gait and what to look for.

    That, however, is not at all the same as good movement for dressage. The very basic principles are different. Which is, in large part, why he and all the other experts on XC riding believed that "high school" work in dressage--collection mostly-- was bad for XC horses.

    It's too bad the FEI doesn't put more emphasis on XC and less on dressage.
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by retreadeventer View Post
    But Napoles, the problem is, most of the lower level dressage tests for eventing do have quite a bit of trot. And trot is the first and last thing most dressage judges see. And while I hate to emphasis dressage, the trot is very important in the scheme of how horses get scored in this sport. In addition, I _*personally*_ think a horse that is balanced at a diagonal gait stands a good chance of being balanced also at the lateral gaits; while the other way around, not so much.
    While at the upper levels I agree a canter and gallop become much more important, that's a rarified place most of us don't aspire to find a horse for....I'm looking more for a good mover for myself, my own sphere of riding, and for that, a trot is vitally important, because most of how these guys learn is at trot and most of what I will do will involve trot, I think. So I don't want to de-emphasize the trot as a part of the whole gaits picture. Just sayin'.
    I have to disagree with this completely. I have yet to ride a horse with a great trot and mediocre canter that I felt was balanced and strong in the canter and that could jump well out of that canter (and, considering that two of the three phases of eventing are still jumping, they've got to be able to jump out of a balanced canter). I have one right now that is lovely, correct, and balanced at the trot...she has NO canter to speak of, thus making her jumping less athletic and balanced. Even of my own horses from the past...Paco was ALL trot, but his canter, while pleasant, did not have the balance and strength in needed, thus he was prone to rushing or "climbing" if not allowed to rush.

    And, as we are talking more about amateur type horses, a balanced canter is easier for a less skilled rider to ride than one that is constantly needing be rebalanced or that needs to "carried" by the rider. If a horse is naturally more balanced, strong, and easy to maintain a rhythm on in the canter, then a rider will not only find the canter work and transitions in and out of the canter in the dressage easier, they will find getting to the fences correctly and safely easier.

    Speaking from experience- Vernon's trot is nothing to write home about. At its best, it is pleasant and "cute". When he is tense, he is a sewing machine. But he has ALWAYS had a fabulous canter (the first time I sat on him as a 3 year old I said that) and he is VERY easy for everyone in the barn to ride and jump and do it safely and (mostly) correctly.

    At the ULs, the canter is important because when you have a good canter, you have a good gallop. And when you have a good gallop, the horse covers ground efficiently without tiring themselves. And, again, a horse that is strong and balanced in the canter is going to be easier to ride to a fence.

    One last thought...a trot is a pretty balanced gait no matter how spectacular or unspectacular it is. Even the lowliest of trotters can usually trot pretty handily over trappy ground and over fences. But you can NOT say the same thing for a horse with a less quality canter.



  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by retreadeventer View Post
    But Napoles, the problem is, most of the lower level dressage tests for eventing do have quite a bit of trot. And trot is the first and last thing most dressage judges see. And while I hate to emphasis dressage, the trot is very important in the scheme of how horses get scored in this sport. In addition, I _*personally*_ think a horse that is balanced at a diagonal gait stands a good chance of being balanced also at the lateral gaits; while the other way around, not so much.
    While at the upper levels I agree a canter and gallop become much more important, that's a rarified place most of us don't aspire to find a horse for....I'm looking more for a good mover for myself, my own sphere of riding, and for that, a trot is vitally important, because most of how these guys learn is at trot and most of what I will do will involve trot, I think. So I don't want to de-emphasize the trot as a part of the whole gaits picture. Just sayin'.
    Yellowbritches has pretty much said it all in her response for me, (I agree with everything she has said) but I would also say that if we are looking at lower levels, then really accuracy is going to be the biggest scorer rather than a more flamboyant trot. Here in Ireland, medium trots don't even appear in eventing tests until Novice (Prelim) level.

    And then if you are looking towards the upper levels - Headly Brittania has a small choppy trot, yet through Lucinda's excellent, accurate riding, she still scores high in the dressage marks.

    For me looking for an eventer, I want a good walk and canter because these two gaits give me more of an indication of how athletic a horse will be in the two jumping phases.
    And I will say again - you can improve a horse's trot quite a bit through correct work, but they have to have a good walk and canter to start with.
    Last edited by Napoles; Jun. 10, 2011 at 11:22 AM.



  19. #19
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    Also agree with YB - my friend's daughter has a lovely Trakehner with a huntery-type of trot - nice suspension, good reach, and could win the hack at an A show, but his canter is lateral. Very, very lateral, and although she's been working at it for about 3-4 months now, I doubt it will get much better. So, just because they can trot doesn't mean they can canter.
    "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." - Thomas Edison

    So, the Zen Buddhist says to the hotdog vendor, "Make me one with everything."



  20. #20
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    Do y'all think that perhaps eventing dressage should have different scoring/judging than "pure" dressage? That judges should weigh accuracy more than gaits? That eventing dressage judges should be different folks than judges for "pure" dressage? That gaits should be evaluated more on how they affect XC than "pure" dressage?
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