This horse has been trained to canter on three legs! The jambette - a classical movement in which the horse holds one leg in the air for a few moments - is blended with the canter for a few strides. Surely an extremely challenging movement to teach and perform. It is done well here, appearing rhythmic and effortless.
YouTube user EmpressIllyria has a small collection of other video clips showing some rare and difficult movements from the old European riding schools. Check out the superb Spanish Walk shown here.
This print is from a set entitled "Sports and Pastimes of the People of England" (1876) and depicts two trick horses from the 1300s. The drawings are copies of old illustrations from that time.
The caption of the first image reads:
"Here the horse is
rearing up and attacking the joculator, who opposes him with a small
shield and cudgel. These mock combats, to which the animals were
properly trained, were constantly regulated by some kind of musical
The second image is captioned: "In this instance the horse
is standing upon his hinder feet, and beating with his fore feet upon a
kind of tabor or drum held by his master."
The print is part of the collections of the New York Public Library, and is available via their digital gallery.
Singing cowboys on dancing horses are popular at horse shows, rodeos (and here, a circus) in Mexico. The horse spins, trots or canters in place, moves sideways, or rears as the rider sings a favorite to the crowd. Depending on the rider's skill, the dancing can be rather clunky or quite precise.
One I saw in Texcoco several years ago sung part of his song while standing on the rump of his horse, and another stanza while sitting on the horse, which had been made to lie down. In between he trotted in place, cantered sideways, and occasionally emphasized a line by asking the horse for a sort of capriole, which was done a bit awkwardly, but to enthusiastic response from the crowd.
The performer in this video, Raul Gasca, is a famous Mexican circus performer (handles tigers, too!) and does a well-honed routine with this horse. There is an article about the Gasca family here (in Spanish).
Mexico has a fascination with dancing horses, and as in much of the world (browse the "Dance" category on this blog) "dancing" consists mostly in trotting in place - the movement in dressage known as "piaffe". Here are a bunch of horses at a competition. You can see the varied skill and finesse with which they perform, some better trained than others. Dancing horses appear at horse shows and in parades throughout Mexico.
This Brazilian mounted police unit is practicing riot control skills - the training of the horses is impressive. Notice a few horses in the stable just looking out of their stalls as the riders go by. I'd be wary of lighting fires so close to a stable, though this one appears to be made of stone or cement, and I'm sure there are people nearby holding fire extinguishers!
This is fascinating: a film shot by Thomas A. Edison in 1898, showing cavalry practicing laying down. I imagine this was an important skill to master in case of battle! There are more subtle ways to teach a horse to lay down, but one can't take one's time when being shot at.
It's an impressive sight to see a massive draft horse at a gallop. (It shakes the ground like an earthquake!). This unusual horse farm (site in French) in Normandy has an exhibition of trick trained draft horses. If you are a draft horse fan, don't miss this (somewhat oddball) video of Breton, Norman Cob and Percheron horses performing. The video quality is a little lacking, but it's worth it to see this performance. The Breton has always been one of my favorite breeds.