Extension and Collection

Within the same walking techniques
The center of gravity
can be lowered to three levels.
‘San Pan’ in Chinese describes
Three different levels of
Bending the knees
To make three different height positions in walking.

The length of the steps in circle walking
can be long or short
depending on your physical condition
and training experience

It is important to remember
That speed
Is increased
By lowering the hips
And lengthening the steps,
Not by running.

Page 80, The Whirling Circles of Ba Gua Zhang
by Frank Allen and Tina Chunna Zhang

Extension and collection are terms fraught with misunderstanding and controversy in the horse world, mostly because they involve three distinct major elements:

  1. How quickly one step follows another
  2. How much ground each step covers
  3. How much bend is maintained in the joints at each step

According to the ba gua zhang instructors:

• Slower steps are useful for meditation, building accuracy, and body memory
• Moderate steps are useful for building stamina and energy
• Faster steps are useful for alerting the body and mind

The length of steps also affects the body differently:

• Shorter steps are useful to warm up, especially for beginners, elders, and those with injuries
• Medium steps cover ground while remaining rooted and stable
• Longer steps stretch physical and mental limits

Changing the degree of bend maintained in the joints affects the body’s center of gravity and energy

• Minimal bend is useful for warm ups, beginners, elders, and injuries
• Maintaining a moderate bend is the most useful most of the time as it drops the center of gravity and energy into the lower abdomen building balance and energy
• Maximum bend extends limits and strengthens (and stresses) the body and is usually reserved for advanced practitioners

Exploring the degree of bend possible in your knees, ankles and hips while in the Horse Stance (click here) will give you a sense of your strengths and your limits. It will also help prepare your body for these movements and improve your balance and flexibility. A balanced training regime emphasizes flexibility and variety so play with not just your circles’ size, but vary your steps as well.

• You can take long, medium and short steps,
• slowly, moderately, or quickly,
• With minimal, moderate, or maximum bend in your joints.

Competitive dressage currently defines these desired variations of the trot:

A Working trot is:
1. Moderate speed of steps
2. Minimum bend in joints
3. Medium length of steps

A Medium trot is:
1. Moderate speed of steps
2. Moderate bend in the joints
3. Medium length of steps

A Collected trot is:
4. Moderate speed of steps
5. Maximum bend in joints
6. Medium length of steps

An Extended trot is:
1. Moderate speed of steps
2. Maximum bend in the joints
3. Longest possible steps

A Passage is
1. Slow speed of steps
2. Maximum bend in joints
3. Maximum length of steps

A Piaffe is:
1. Slow speed of steps
2. Maximum bend in joints
3. Shortest possible steps

Think about the different possibilities of the trot for the horse and emulate them. If you practice with your horse loose in the schooling pen, you can also observe how the horse responds to the way you move. Keep in mind that a joyful temperament and an enthusiastic equine partner across country will explore any and all variations, and so should you.

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