Apr 29, 2020

Flashy Versus Correct Movement with Susan Graham White

By Claire Kelley - USEA Staff
KTB Creative Photo.

“Correct movement is not the same as scopey or extravagant movement,” said Susan Graham White, who has years of experience judging international event horses as well as future event horses. White, a USEF ‘S’ Eventing Judge, a Level 3 FEI Eventing Judge, and the Co-Chair of the USEA Future Event Horse (FEH) Committee, explains correct and flashy movement in event horses. “Correct [movement] is the structural and inherent base that should be looked for in any event horse, if it is to be a successful triathlete. ‘Flashy’ should be a positive comment that implies good coordination of body and scopey movement.”

Correct Movement

A horse’s movement affects their soundness, longevity, and level of success as an event horse – and a horse with correct movement is key. “Correct movement usually refers to the flight of travel of the horse’s legs while it is moving. It also broadly means the correct sequence of footfalls in each gait, i.e. a four-beat walk, a three-beat canter, [and a] two-beat trot. It is desirable to have the horse travel in a way that it will not interfere with itself, or put undue strain on parts of the anatomy. So, if a horse wings, paddles (in front), or twists (behind) it will have some effect on long term soundness. How much effect depends on the degree of deviation and, of course, on training factors. A horse can be a correct mover and still have average gaits. [But] gaits can improve with good training!”

USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

Flashy Movement

Flashy movement can certainly attract attention, but is every flashy mover a correct mover? White explained, “the term ‘flashy’ mover has been used loosely in the equestrian world and can have different interpretations in various disciplines. Sometimes a sport horse is described with ‘flashy’ movement because it throws the front legs out in an extreme way in the trot. While it is a good thing for a horse to have a free shoulder and be able to reach with the front legs, for the movement to be correct it should be equally supported behind. Otherwise there can be the appearance of the horse ‘flicking’ its front feet. Some of this can be influenced by training techniques and some from a less than uphill conformation.”

“A horse can be both correct and flashy. In the modern sport horse this quality movement comes from solid conformation, correct gaits, and good training. A prime example [of both a correct mover and flashy mover] would be the Oldenburg mare, RF Scandalous.” RF Scandalous (Carry Gold x Richardia) is a 15-year-old Oldenburg mare ridden by Marilyn Little, owned by Raylyn Farms, and bred by Horst Buhrmann. The Oldenburg mare has earned top finishes in five-star events including a 4th place finish at Luhmuhlen CCI5*-L in 2017 and a 3rd place finish at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event in 2018. She also has over 18 wins to her USEA record which includes the individual gold medal at the 2015 Pan American Games.

RF Scandalous. Samantha Clark Photo.

Judging Movement

From proven five-star event horses to yearlings, movement is judged at every level of eventing. In a FEH competition, the yearlings, 2-year-olds, and 3-year-olds are judged in-hand at the walk and trot. The FEH 4-year-olds are judged under saddle at the walk, trot, and canter. So, how do FEH judges judge correct movement in young horses? “We want to see that the walk is a clear four-beat walk and that the horse naturally wants to use its topline, show freedom through the shoulder, and cover ground. We’re looking for a horse that wants to have a longer walk because we believe the walk translates biomechanically to the canter.”

In the trot, “we’re looking for a clear two-beat trot. We’re looking for the horse to show scope with a natural balance and uphill tendency. We don’t want a high knee action, and we would rather see horses that move out rather than upward in front. Although, we still want a good use of the hind end to lift them off the ground.”

Susan Graham White leading a discussion at the USEA Future Event Horse Symposium. USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

The overall type of horse that a FEH judge is looking for is a “tri-athletic type, which is a refined horse, with enough speed and endurance to do the upper levels and enough scope in its movement to show the extended and medium paces. If you were looking for a dressage type, you would look for a horse that is a lofty mover that would be able to piaffe and passage but, that’s not the kind of movement that lends itself to a big, ground-covering gallop. The tri-athletic type has to sit somewhere in between a sport horse type and dressage type of horse.”

For further details on horse movement and FEH judging, please watch this video.

About the USEA Future Event Horse Program

The USEA introduced the Future Event Horse Program in 2007 in response to the popularity of the already established USEA Young Event Horse Program. Where the YEH program assesses 4- and 5-year-old prospective event horses based on their performance, the FEH program evaluates yearlings, 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds, and 4-year-olds for their potential for the sport based on conformation and type. Yearlings, 2-year-olds, and 3-year-olds are presented in-hand while 4-year-olds are presented under saddle at the walk, trot, and canter before being stripped of their tack and evaluated on their conformation. Divisions are separated by year and gender. At the Championships, 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds are also required to demonstrate their potential over fences in an additional free-jump division. Click here to learn more about the Future Event Horse Program.

The USEA would like to thank Bates Saddles, Parker Equine Insurance, SmartPak, Standlee Hay Company, C4 Belts, Etalon Diagnostics, and Guardian Horse Bedding for sponsoring the Future Event Horse Program.

Oct 04, 2022 Education

Jim Wofford Delivers His Fun and Education Formula at Woodside Clinic

Specifics of the "Fun & Education Formula" were provided to all at the Jim Wofford Clinic held on August 20 & 21 at the Horse Park in Woodside, northern California. Eager riders, auditors, and volunteers gathered for a much anticipated two-day clinic with the master bright and early Saturday morning.

Oct 04, 2022 Hall of Fame

Connections of Great Event Horse Eagle Lion Offered Invitation to USEA Eventing Hall of Fame

This year a new class will be joining the 47 eventing legends currently in the United States Eventing Association (USEA) Eventing Hall of Fame. Induction into the Hall of Fame is the highest honor awarded within the sport of eventing in the United States. Those invited to join the USEA's Eventing Hall of Fame have truly made a difference in the sport of eventing. Hall of Fame members have included past Association presidents, volunteers, riders, founders, course designers, officials, organizers, horses, horse owners, and coaches.

Oct 03, 2022 Convention

Announcing the Keynote Speaker for the 2022 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention: Dr. Sue Dyson

Have you ever wondered why your horse isn’t performing at their best? Get ready to learn about the many facets that can contribute to lameness and poor performance in sport horses from equine orthopedics expert, Dr. Sue Dyson! The United States Eventing Association (USEA) is pleased to announce that Dr. Dyson will be the keynote speaker at the 2022 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention in Savannah, GA this December 7-11.

Oct 02, 2022 Profile

Change of Rein: Rosie Smith's Journey from Reining to the #2022AEC

Rosie Smith’s rose gold accented helmet matched her perfectly tidy bun of red hair as she took the third spot in the USEA Training Rider Championship at the 2022 USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nurena Feeds. Every little detail came together while aboard her trusted partner of nine years: the 20-year-old Connemara Irish Draught named Seamus (by Corrcullen, RID). But Smith’s first jump, back when she was only 15 years old, wasn’t with an English saddle.

Official Corporate Sponsors of the USEA

Official Joint Therapy Treatment of the USEA

Official Feed of the USEA

Official Saddle of the USEA

Official Real Estate Partner of the USEA

Official Equine Insurance of the USEA

Official Forage of the USEA

Official Supplement Feeding System of the USEA

Official Outerwear of the USEA

Official Competition & Training Apparel of the USEA