Last month, I talked about transitions – going from one thing
to another by way of a change. Specifically, I wrote about going from a long
stride to a turning stride by way of collection.
There are some factors that we need to consider when talking about this
subject. One factor is conformation. Keep in mind that conformation
either aides in collection or makes it harder for the horse to shift his weight
to his rear end and collect. Another factor is desire. Some horses have a great
desire sit down and turn. But, even if a horse has a great desire to turn, his
conformation must allow him to do so.
Training is another factor. The horse that has conformation and desire to
collect is sure easier to train than one who has neither of these factors or
only one of them. Collection requires a muscle system that is built up to
support the shift of weight from the front end to the rear end. It is the
increasing of the bend of the hocks that lowers the rear end, so therefore to
achieve consistent collection, the muscles must be developed in the rear end
quarters. That takes time!
Real collection starts from the back to the front. Most people want to do the
opposite and pull on the front to achieve the collection they desire. If the
horse doesn’t collect, they put a more severe bit, tighter tie downs, etc. The
more you try to pull your horse into collection, the more he will learn to brace
You can start teaching your horse to collect in the very early stages of
training. One method that has really worked for me for many years is a
three part and very simple method.
1. Sit down
2. Say Whoah
3. THEN help him collect by lastly taking hold of your reins. Last –
If you repeat this maneuver each time you stop and each time you go down a gait,
you will soon find that when you sit down, your horse prepares to bring his hind
quarters up underneath himself, thus bringing them closer to
his center of gravity.
I repeat this many many times the first two years that they are in training.
When you start the horse around the barrel pattern, you then decide for each
horse where you want them to gather, and apply the method at that point.
You will sit down a lot later on a horse that craves to set and turn than you
will on a horse that is not as natural. The horse will learn to collect from the
back end as you move your body to a sitting position in preparation for the
turn. Collection will not only keep you from running by the barrel, but will
also give you faster turns and harder leaves to the next barrel or finish line.
A truly collected horse is a delight to watch as he leaves the barrel. When they
have collected and turned, they are like a coiled power of impulsion when they
leave the barrel with both hind feet pushing together to get gone.
One of the greatest horses to watch gather, turn and sprint away was Scamper.
You never saw his hocks way out behind him. It stands to reason that a horse who
is truly collected with his rear end under himself will stay sounder and run
longer than one who has his hocks out behind himself
trying to turn in a long stride.