In Renaissance and Baroque times, the exercise was used to make the horse more maneuverable.
In Terre á à Terre, the horse is free to move into any direction the rider wishes, to attack or avoid the opponent. The horse moves like a boxer or tennis player who is also in motion before he makes an attack or returns a ball.
The rider is so moveable in Terre á à Terre that it almost seems as if the rider is moving on his own feet.
This exercise is shown on many ancient paintings and many people believe that old painters did not know how a horse moved. But nothing is further from the truth. Nowadays, hardly anybody can ride this exercise, which makes the images in the pictures look strange to us.
Terre à Terre was once the ultimate goal of the academic art of riding, because the horse was then ready to be used in armed battle. With increased maneuverability, the rider had better chances of surviving the battle. This gait is still sometimes used in bull fighting to outmaneuver the bull. The exercise is also used as a preparation to the capriole.
2500 years ago: