The Grace of Movement

  • I have spet half of my life training the magnificent Lucitano horse in the art of dressage. Dressage and collection lie in the natural ability of the horse and its movements in the wild. In fact, most modern definitions of dressage state that the goal is to have the horse perform under saddle with the degree of athleticism and grace that it naturally shows when free. What has this got to do with dogs, you may be asking. My keen eye for the freedom of movement in horses, has allowed me to observe this in other animals too, including dogs.

    The conformation of dog, just like a horse, is crucial to the type of movements they will naturally perform. A sight hound built for speed will have a very different body type to a scent hound, who's legs are often short and body close to the ground. An Old English Sheep dog will amble, a greyhound has whats called a 'double suspension gallop', which is a series of gigantic leaps during which the dog becomes totally air borne.

    The Minature Pincher, close in relation to the Prague Ratter, has that wonderful Hackney Gait. At a trot, its movement is an exaggerated high knee and hock action due to very good flexion of the joints. There is a distinct moment of suspension at the top of each stride and the front legs reach up high with sharply bent knees that are stretched well forward with a ground covering stride.

    Its the Hackney Gait I find most interesting as this is very similar to dressage movements we aspire to achieve with our horses. In the horse world, the moment of suspension is called 'Passage' and the ground covering movement 'extention'.

    Some of the Prague Ratters I have seen, clearly have the hackney gait when excited. To achieve this, this little dog must have strong hind quarters which he sits back on, lightening the front load to perform this exquisite movement. This little dog is no one trick pony though. If he were a horse he would be an eventer because his body is built for jumping/leaping and sprinting too. Its not surprising he was picked for ratting. His agile frame and keen nose has the ability to perform perfectly when chasing down a speedy rat or mouse. His graceful exaggerated movement when confronted with what he percieves as possible danger or even a bitch on heat is a show of strenght and bravery.

    I haven't found mention of the exagerated gait in the Prague Ratter. Perhaps thats because we don't want too close association with the minature pincher! The dog world clearly states that only the mini pin can have this gait and it would be frowned upon to witness other dogs using these actions. I call fowl on that this. Its like saying, only dressage horses can perform dressage movements, that an Arabian horse is too long in the hock to ever prance around in passage, which is clearly untrue when it comes to naturally showing off in the field.  Whilst many breeds of horses are not expected to have the elequent movement of a Lusitano, many of them still do.

    Whilste elegant movements may be unique to certain types of dogs, I don't think we should frown if our little dog can prance like a dressage horse. We should just enjoy and celebrate such natural showmanship.