Beginning of 2008, Romanesque is able to do the start of levade. It took three short trainingsessions to teach him, using positive reinforcement. After these three days he understands the aids (question) and he is able to associate it with the reaction (response) that he is supposed to give.
In levade, the horse carries 100% of his weight on the hind quarters, and he bends both hindlegs at the same time. The back makes an angle of about 35 degrees, and the whithers stay at the same height as in standing, with a maximum of one hand higher or lower. The horses folds his front legs under his body, and stays in that position for 2 to 3 seconds. The hind legs are not supposed to stand wide, and most certainly not uneven.
The exercise to prepare for the levade, is the piaffe. In piaffe, you stay more and more on the place, sometimes you even take one step backwards. Then the horse is asked to take more weight on his hind legs, resulting in the lift of one frontleg, and, if he is secure and in balance, also the other frontleg. That is how the levade results from piaffe.
In the beginning, the horse only has to take the pose for a very short time. Practicing to take the pose will make the horse stronger, so in the end the horse is strong enough to stay in the levade longer. The stronger the horse gets through the years, the more his hind legs will bend, and the more his haunches will go down to the ground. He will also get lower in the pose as he gets stronger, and he will bend his front legs more and more.
In this picture, Romanesque is bending well in his hind legs, and they are standing even. He has got a bit too much underneck, and his frontlegs could be more foulded under his belly in time.
First of all, Romanesque needs to learn to stand in balance. How high the front should be, or how deep the curve of the frontlegs needs to be, depends on the skills of the horse. Only when the horse is able to rise from the ground with the frontlegs without hurry, and with a nice posture and self carriage, and lands softly, then the horse can be asked to stay in the levade for a longer time.
The stronger a horse gets, the more his haunches will come to the ground and the more his hind legs will bend, the lower he will stay.