ENGAGEMENT – Increased flexion in joints of the hind legs during the weight-bearing (stance) phase of the stride, lowering the croup relative to the forehand, enabling the back to assist in elevating the forehand, and providing a springboard for upward thrust/impulsion. Engagement is carrying power, rather than pushing power. At canter and piaffe, there is additional flexion at the hip joints and also greater flexion at the lumbosacral joint, which contribute to the horse’s ability to lower the haunches. Note: Engagement is not flexion of the hocks or “hock action” when the leg is swinging forward (as seen most clearly in gaited horses and hackneys), nor does it describe the forward reach of the hind leg under the horse’s body.
FRAME – The outline of the horse, which should change according to the length of stride (shorter frame for collection, longer for extension) and which shows degree of uphill versus downhill carriage.
HARMONY – Used in reference to the relationship between the horse and rider, the partners’ positive physical as well as mental/emotional connection, showing rapport, trust, and confidence in one another and resulting in a sense of synchrony, contentment and unity.
LOOSENESS – Freedom from negative physical and mental/emotional tension; relaxation.
PURITY – Referring to the gait, the correctness of the rhythm as determined by the sequence and timing of the footfalls and phases of the gait.
Refer to the full USDF Glossary of Judging Terms