Passage is a very slow, strongly diagonalized, elevated, attentive and majestic trot, with a very clear suspension in the air. The horse boldly jumps from one diagonal to the other in an upward and forward movement. 

Passage requires more energy than Piaffe.

Balance, regularity, deep flexion of the joints, relaxation of the horse and total discretion of the rider are the hallmarks of a good quality Passage.
When Passage is executed with absolute lightness, it is one of the most accomplished form of equestrian balance.
Some horses that are very well balanced, well diagonalized and have truly superior impulsion can do the Passage naturally, when mounted by an experienced and very tactful rider. 


Why teach Passage?

Some well-balanced and well-diagonalized horses who are endowed with truly superior impulsion might Passage naturally if ridden by an experienced and tactful rider.

But a well executed passage is the accomplishment of a long and systematic Dressage.

Like any high school air (air de Haute-Ecole), it requires a lot of impulsion… Passage is generated by this superior impulsion.
But if the Passage is, like the Piaffe, an accomplishment of good Dressage, it is also an extraordinary tool to obtain submission and roundness, and to collect the horse.
The horse is truly dominated when he accepts the Passage, when he gives into it with energy, flexibility and relaxation.

The impulsion, balance and lightness required in the Passage make the horse more beautiful and more majestic, but the Passage also gives a new shine to all the previously learned exercises. The Passage makes the horse more limber, develops and strengthens the hindquarters and betters all the other gaits. When asked right after Passage, the canter or the extended trot will have a very particular quality.

Certains chevaux très équilibrés, bien diagonalisés et dotés d'une impulsion véritablement supérieure peuvent  passager naturellement avec un cavalier d'expérience doté d'untact équestre développé.
Mais un bon passage est l'aboutissement d'un long dressage systématiquement conduit.

Comme tout air de Haute-Ecole, il réclame beaucoup d'impulsion…Il naît de cette impulsion réellement supérieure.
Si le passage, comme le piaffer, est un aboutissement, il reste également un moyen extraordinaire pour rassembler, arrondir et soumettre le cheval.
 Un cheval est véritablement dominé lorsque, acceptant le passage, il s'y livre avec énergie, souplesse et relaxation.

L'impulsion, l'équilibre et la légèreté réclamés par le passage rendront le cheval plus beau, plus majestueux, mais conféreront aussi plus d'éclat à tous les exercices appris jusque là. Le passage va assouplir, développer, fortifier l'arrière-main et faciliter toutes les autres allures: un galop, un trot allongé demandés après un bon passage auront une expression toute particulière.
The Ideal Passage

The front leg is lifted until the forearm is horizontal.
The diagonal hind leg clearly and vigorously lifts off the ground.
The diagonalization and the symmetry of the movement are perfect.
The diagonal on the ground must lift off with energy before the other diagonal starts to come down, thus an extended suspension.
The suspension time between the landing of each diagonal is as long as possible.
The posture is unchanging. It allows rigorous cadence, with regularity and energy.
The flexion of the joints is deep and the haunches are lowered clearly. The movement is high, slow and energetic, but stays smooth.
The forehand is taller.
The bent poll stays the highest point.
The horse's mouth is smooth and relaxed.
The jaw is yielding.
The horse stays relaxed and serene.
The rider is balanced, stretched up, relaxed and his aids are absolutely discreet. He smoothly accompanies the horse's movement with his back and lower back.

The horse must be able to instantly change direction or gait, or execute another figure at any time at the slightest touch.

The quality of the Passage is more determined by how slowly it is executed than by how high the legs lift off the ground.

The most important is still “roundness” of the movement.

Perfect Passage requires a well-balanced, generous, strong and flexible horse with a strong level of collection, deeply flexed joints and great strength to thrust himself forward and up.

But every horse has his own correct movement,
Perfect Passage is not one unique model.

The engagement of the hind end at the Passage depends on the natural movement of the horse’s trot.
Some horses lift their hocks by lifting their hind legs and strongly flexing their fetlocks. The lowering of the haunches is then pronounced.
Some other horses flex their joints less.

Movement of the forelegs can vary too.
When in the air, the horse’s leg below the knee may be slightly above or beyond vertical.

The most important is the roundness of the gesture and the smoothness of the gesture.


Frequently encountered problems

 Overload of the hindquarters.

My horse is in the learning phase of Passage, and he sits too deep on his hindquarters. Why and what can I do?

You probably ask for a too “seated”, too much collected posture, especially if you are just starting with Passage and asking for it through Piaffe.

Do not hesitate to slightly lean forward, with a lighter seat to allow your horse to give a better movement of the hind legs and to carry himself forward with more ease. At the same time, let him go forward more, but without letting him loose cadence or collection.
Then, depending on the horse’s progress, slowly straighten your chest.

The movement of the front legs is sometimes insufficient or sometimes too high.

 You have to act on the haunches’ activity and on the horse’s balance when Passaging.
 Modify your hand’s actions.
If the forehand is not active enough, slightly raise your hands (but without bothering the forward motion) buy stretching your chest toward the back. Obtain more vibration. Your horse will lower his haunches and liberate the movement in front.
If on the contrary your have too much activity in the front legs, lower your hands to rebalance the horse between front and hind end.
In both cases, you have to “play” with the balance of your horse.

Lack of impulsion at the Passage

I have been training a pure blooded Spanish horse for two years. At the Passage and at the beginning of the Piaffe, my horse lacks impulsion. The inside hind leg has a hard time pushing off under the horse’s weight, and therefore one diagonal (the left one) is less active than the other. Shoulder-in exercises have helped the engagement problem, but not propulsion.

Work a lot on variations in the trot. Collect, slow down while activating, extend a couple of strides without loosing collection and without loosing headset, start over… Before Passage, work on half-pass and counter half-pass (zigzag). Also work on trot/halt/trot transitions without loosing collection, obtaining very sharp trot departs, well engaged halts, trot departs from rein back, and then Passage.
 Obtain the School Trot. Alternate trot/Passage/trot on short distances.

When at the Passage, is a hand or leg action more efficient if used when the horse’s legs are on the ground or in the air?

This is a very complex question. Is the action of a rider’s leg acting on a hind leg, on both hind legs, on a front leg or on both front legs? And the action of both of the rider’s legs? Same problem for the rider’s hand actions.

 Action of the leg
 The two legs act well behind the girth.
The action of the rider’s right leg causes a flexion of the right hock, meaning that the right hind leg comes up higher and therefore also the right front (diagonal effect).
At the same time, the action of the rider’s right leg also helps the lowering of the opposite left haunch and fetlock (on the ground), and therefore influences the way they will lift off the ground.
At the moment the horse’s right hind leg then touches down, the left one leaves the ground, lifts off by flexing at the hocks… the rider’s left leg then touches the horse and amplifies the movement… and so on.

Action of the hand

The two hands should be a little raised, more or less, but always light.

The left hand supports the horse’s left front leg when it is suspended (in the air) by very slightly anticipating the leg’s lift off. In fact, the left hand shifts a bit of weight onto the horse’s right shoulder and frees up the left shoulder and leg (same as in Spanish walk).

When at Passage, the horse’s left foreleg is lightly stimulated and supported by the left hand during lift off of the left diagonal, and by a right leg aid. The right hand keeps a normal contact.

The effectiveness of a leg aid or hand action cannot be summarized as a simple mechanical way to obtain Passage. The major aids are still the seat, the lower back and the chest of the rider. They correctly and effectively spread out weight and they maintain balance. The hand and leg aids only confirm, clarify and refine.
The essentials lie in the tuning of the aids, their accuracy, their level of smoothness and above all, their timeliness.

   Posture-position / Walk / Trot / Canter / Shoulder-in / Half-pass /Flying change of lead/ Tempi changes / The canter Pirouette / Piaffe / Passage

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