Researchers Go In Search of the Perfect Passage

Are top dressage horses routinely performing the “perfect passage” as defined by the FEI?
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Researchers Go In Search of the Perfect Passage
A horse performing a passage nears the pinnacle of collection perfection at the trot. | Photo: Dirk Caremans/FEI

A horse performing a passage nears the pinnacle of collection perfection at the trot. But is the “ideal” as described by the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) really attainable by living, breathing, moving horses? Or, at least, is the ideal what’s most frequently presented by horses and riders in Grand Prix dressage competition?

Recent research from Canada implies it’s not and indicates that, at a very high level of competition, even professional horse and rider athletes don’t consistently achieve the FEI’s definition of a perfect passage. The study’s results were presented as an abstract poster at the 9th Annual International Society for Equitation Science, held July 18-20 at the University of Delaware in Newark. The research team included students Jade Sheiner and Mia Tiidus of the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ontario, and their professor Katrina Merkies, PhD.

“This was an undergraduate research project designed to determine if standards of competitive dressage differ from what is actually seen in the show ring,” Merkies explained. “Flashy movements, such as seen in passage, tend to be crowd pleasers, but the limits of physical ability and effect on the horse have been questioned

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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