Training Tip Of The Week- Proper Collection

Western Dressage Rider Nance McNanus

An Example Of Correct Collection

Today there seems to be some confusion about what collection is exactly. There seems to be some confusion these days about how to achieve collection , as well.

There are a number of people giving clinics out there today who give people the impression that collection is just the horse putting his nose down and that it’s achieved by asking the horse to back up, tying his head down or reaching around and pulling the horses head around to the stirrup. This isn’t collection or achieving collection.

Okay, for those who are about to stop reading and move on, because “I don’t need to know this I just trail ride” or who are saying “that’s for Dressage riding not Western”, not true. Every horse should be able to collect his/her gaits whether ridden at Prix St. George level dressage, reining or just going up the trail. So just keep reading.

Collection is basically the bringing together of both the front and rear of the horse for the purpose of lifting and lightening the forehand. Collection is when a horse carries more weight on his hind legs than his front legs - which is what is meant by lightening the forehand. The horse has engagement from his hindquarters which means the energy to move the horse forward is coming from his hindquarters rather than just from his front legs or shoulders.

When the horse has his hindquarter engaged he will have a slight bend at the poll, you will see that the high point of his hindquarters is slightly lower than the withers and you feel like you are riding “uphill”, so to speak, rather than “ downhill”.

How do you achieve collection? Well, you want to start out asking for a collection at the walk.That’s the easiest for both you and the horse. Once the horse understands what you are asking you can move on to the trot and even the canter/lope if you like, but lets just talk about the walk and trot for now.

Ask your horse to walk and as he does take a slight contact with the bit , not enough to bring him to stop, but just a very light contact. At the same time apply slight pressure with your legs. When you do this your horse should bend slightly at the poll and you should be able to feel the impulsion coming from his hindquarters. It should feel as if he is driving himself “ uphill” with his hindquarters. You should feel the horse literally lighten up in your hands even though you have more contact with the bit.

I always say I don’t care if you’re riding down the trail or in an arena, showing or just pleasure riding your horse should learn to collect his/her gaits because it makes for a more pleasurable ride for you and the horse. Collection should be part of any horse’s training, for your sake as well as the horse’s.