Updated: May 25, 2021
Most riders that are students of dressage know the definition of rhythm as the recurring sequence and timing of the footfalls and phases within each gait. 4 beats in the walk, 2 beats in the trot, and 3 beats in the canter.
With rhythm at the essence of proper training, it is imperative the rider is capable of managing and maintaining their own sense of rhythm, first independently of the horse, and then while on the horse. Without a core that is capable of a supportive balance, the rider will struggle to ride a clear and steady rhythm in the figures and movements of each exercise.
Rhythm is also a word used to describe a coordinated effort producing a seamless performance. I was listening to a football commentator who described the previous game “The offense never got into a rhythm”. As a dressage judge, I can relate to that basic observation. I see many riders struggle throughout their test and even though they may have followed the correct pattern, the flow of the ride clearly was lacking.
In order to develop your ability to ride rhythmically, you must work hard on becoming sensitive through your aids so you can feel the rhythm with your horse. The lightness of your hands, the suppleness of your seat, and the soft embrace of your legs allow your partner to move in a natural rhythm… Unrestricted.
“Two hearts beating as one” is the definition of a rhythmic performance to me.
USEF “S” Dressage Judge