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What is Collection?
WRITTEN BY: Cheryl Sutor [October 28, 2000]
What is collection?
Collection is: the bringing together of both ends of the horse for the purpose of lifting and lightening the forehand.
In order to have collection, you must first have impulsion. What is impulsion? Impulsion is the energy that is created in the hindquarters to move the horse forward. If the horse his "pulling" himself along with his forehand, he does not have impulsion. When he is instead "pushing" with his hindquarters to get forward movement, he has impulsion.
The next thing you must have in order to collect your horse is engagement of the hindquarters. This is achieved naturally when you have a good level of impulsion. When the horse's hindquarters are "engaged", they are lowered to better allow him to bring his legs underneath his body to allow for easier forward movement. When the hindquarters are "engaged", you will most likely see that the high point of his hindquarters is slightly lower than his withers. You will feel like you are riding "up-hill" instead of "down-hill".
You must also be able to communicate with your horse using light leg contact. If you are riding with light leg contact on the horse's sides, and you apply slight pressure (less than 1/2 lb.) with each leg evenly, does the horse immediately give his "all" to move forward at a faster pace without breaking gait? If it takes more than 1 second for your horse to respond as desired, you'll need more work in this area before trying to collect your horse.
In order to achieve proper collection, you must be able to ride with light cues on the reins. When you are riding with light contact on the reins, and you "squeeze" your hands closed (the horse should be able to feel this!), does the horse immediately respond to the request by slowing his gait? If it takes more pressure than this to get your horse to respond, you will need more work in this area before trying to collect your horse.
If you cannot get each of the above desired responses from your horse individually, you will not be able to collect your horse. It is very important that the above requests and responses are trained to a high degree before attempting to collect your horse, otherwise, you and your horse will only become frustrated or confused.
When your horse fully understands your requests to perform the above movements, collection becomes extremely easy to do.
How do I collect my horse?
When first learning to collect your horse, always start at a walk. If you cannot achieve collection at the walk, you will not be able to achieve collection at the faster-paced trot. You and your horse will only become confused and discouraged if you start right out at the trot. Don't attempt to collect your horse at the trot until you have mastered it at the walk first!
1. Ask your horse to start walking on light contact. Now, ask him for more impulsion from the hindquarters. If, at any time, he loses this impulsion, you must ask for it back immediately.
2. Now, apply light contact with the horse's mouth to bring him "onto the bit", and to hold back his forehand. This will allow for the proper impulsion without creating a faster pace. This will "bring together" both ends of the horse.
Ta da! Your horse is now collected. Now, when you are beginning to collect your horse, it might not be as "pretty" as professional riders, but you're on your way!
The hardest thing about collection, is being able to keep the forehand and the hindquarters properly balanced together. When you ask for impulsion, the horse's hindquarters become engaged, which means they lower to allow freer movement under the horse's body. His hindquarters move underneath his body to allow easier forward movement. And, by holding back the front end of the horse with pressure on the reins, you are creating a lightness in the horse's forehand. You will feel that he is driving himself "up-hill" with his hindquarters.
You must now learn to keep a good balance between the forehand and hindquarters. You can have too little or not enough of either impulsion or rein contact. It is important to learn how much is perfect. Once you are able to properly balance the horse between his forehand and hindquarters, you'll have your horse beautifully collected!