Answer by Jane Savoie: People often ask me to explain the difference between “running” and “lengthenings”. In fact, in this article I’m also going to describe the difference between running, lengthenings, medium gaits, and extended gaits.
1. Running– When you ask your horse to lengthen his strides and frame, and you hear his tempo (the rate of the repetition of the rhythm) get QUICKER, he’s not lengthening. He’s just running.
2. Lengthenings– In a good lengthening, your horse lengthens his stride and frame to the utmost he can at this relatively early stage of training (around 1st Level) WHILE staying in the same rhythm and tempo. He ends up covering more ground with each stride.
Lengthenings are developed from the working trot or canter. Since your horse is in what I call “horizontal balance” in a working gait, his balance will also be in horizontal balance in a lengthening. (i.e. His topline is basically parallel to the ground, and his center of gravity is toward his front legs.)
3. Medium gaits– In medium gaits, your horse lengthens his strides and frame WHILE staying in the same rhythm and tempo. In terms of length of strides and frame, medium gaits are between collected and extended gaits. This movement is “rounder” than that of an extended gait.
Because medium gaits are developed from collected gaits, your horse’s balance is different from his balance in lengthenings. His center of gravity is more toward his hind legs, and his topline looks more uphill than it did when he was in horizontal balance for a lengthening. He looks like a speedboat in the water or an airplane taking off.
4. Extended gaits– In extended gaits, your horse lengthens his strides and frame to his utmost WHILE staying in the same rhythm and tempo. Like medium gaits, extensions are developed from collected gaits. So your horse’s center of gravity is more toward his hind legs, and his balance is uphill.
That’s a description of running, lengthenings, mediums, and extensions in a nutshell.
But if you ask my friend and mentor Robert Dover how to show the difference between medium and extended gaits when you’re competing, he’ll say, “Do the maximum your horse can do for mediums. Then do the same thing for extensions, but make your eyes bigger!” (That was a joke!!)
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