Horse Training, Horse Care, and Riding Books and Videos from Cherry Hill at
from Cherry Hill


April 2002
    2006 Cherry Hill

How To Think
Like A Horse
Making, Not Breaking
101 Arena Exercises
101 Longeing and
Long Lining Exercises
Longeing and Long Lining
the English and Western Horse
How to Think Like A Horse by Cherry Hill
Making Not Breaking by Cherry Hill
101 Longeing and Long Lining Exeercises
101 Longeing and Long Lining Exeercises
Longeing and Long Lining the Western Horse

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"Ask-Cherry" - When do I start to collect my young horse?

Phases of Training



Happy Spring to you all.

If you are like me, grooming, conditioning and riding are your top priorities right now. You might be starting a new horse or bringing one of your riding horses back to work after a winter off. No matter what type of horse you have or what style of riding you enjoy, the concept of collection is something we all use - or should! That's why I've devoted this entire newsletter to that topic. Have a great ride!


When do I start collection?

Dear Cherry,

I have a 2 1/2 year old draft cross. When I bought him, he was very sluggish and not wanting to move forward. If you leaned forward at all, he came to a dead stop. Now that I have owned him for more than two months, I have been riding him for about 20 minutes, every other day, and doing ground work on the off days.

He is moving forward very nicely at the walk and trot (I do not canter him yet), and even gets energetic and bucky. He is hollow in the back about half the time.

I have just been focusing on getting him to move forward. When should I try to bring him together and collect him a bit?

Thanks very much, Marianne K

Dear Marianne,

I like that you say your horse is moving forward in your letter because it is so important to get a horse to move actively forward before you attempt collection. In fact there are many steps before you actually collect a horse.

  • Move Forward
  • Move in even Rhythm
  • Move with a suppleness, looseness, relaxation
  • Accept contact from all the rider's aids (this includes all bending, lateral work,
  • transitions, half-halts)
  • Show a strong, connected impulsion from the hindquarters through the back to the
  • forehand
  • Travel straight

Forward movement is really is the key to collection because you need to have that active forward movement before you can try to contain it into a lovely shape. The more you can get your horse to reach forward with his hind legs as he walks and trots and the more he reaches down and forward with his head and neck, the more his back will come up (be less hollow) and the rounder his elongated topline will become. The more energetically you can get your horse to strike off ( with a big push forward not a popping up of the hind legs) from a walk to a trot, for example, and the more energetically you can get him to trot, the better it will go when you finally do introduce collection, which is still a way down the road of his training program. If you try to collect prematurely, you could risk hollowing his back even more as he resists the pressure from your legs and seat into the increased pressure on the bit.

You don't say how much you have worked on bending such as circles, serpentines, corners, half turns, and change of rein. Bending is essential for longitudinal balance (which leads to collection). You can work on longitudinal balance now. It is the working relationship between the front portion of the horse and the rear portion. In other words, you want your horse to start thinking about carrying more weight on his hindquarters so he doesn't travel heavy on the forehand. Since I can't see your horse, I don't know if this is a specific problem with him but because he used to stop if you leaned forward in the saddle, I suspect he was (is) heavy on the forehand. Almost all horses travel with more weight on the forehand because it require less work UNTIL they are shown a different way to carry themselves and are conditioned to do so. Carrying more weight on the hindquarters is more work for your horse and requires that you strengthen your horse's hind legs and back. You can do this with long trotting (post, don't sit) and with circle work.

You need to master circles, corners, serpentines, and half turns with your horse. These exercises plus many "transition" exercises are clearly explained in 101 Arena Exercises. Transitions are the shifting of gears between gaits and will take you and your horse through that doorway into the very beginning stages of longitudinal balance and start you on your way to collection. So those are some of the things you can do when you ride.

When you are doing your in-hand work, include some backing which automatically rounds the horse's back and strengthens the hind legs, both necessary for collection. Backing up (rein back) in hand should be straight, steady, two beat in rhythm (not 4 beat) and with the horse's head low and his neck rounding. You don't want steps back in poor form. No stiff neck, locked shoulders, crookedness. That would not help you to your goal.

CAUTION: I'm not suggesting you start rein back work when you are riding as that is far too advanced a maneuver for your young horse and could teach him to back away from the bit. With an older, more experienced horse, the rein back is a valuable exercise for developing the muscles and overall body form for collection. But what I am suggesting here is backing in-hand.

There are so many longeing exercises that you can add to your horse's repertoire, that I will leave that discussion for another time and refer you to 101 Longeing and Long Lining Exercises and Longeing and Long Lining the English and Western Horse.

Another tip: be sure you are feeding your horse at ground level. The neck stretching associated with eating at a natural level brings the back up and elongates the neck, both of which you will need for collection.

So you see, you can work on developing the collection physique and mental attitude indirectly via circle work and transitions while riding and during in-hand work and by using good feeding practices.

I've also included two articles. One explains how collection fits into the phases of a horse's training and the other defines collection.

I hope you have a great time working with your young horse.

"A young horse is like a fresh piece of clay that you can mold and shape to become your fluid, light, and responsive partner. From the beginning, keep him relaxed, attentive, willing and respectful and you will enjoy many rides to come" from Making Not Breaking.

Making Not Breaking
101 Arena Exercises
101 Longeing and Long Lining Exercises
Longeing and Long Lining the English and Western Horse


Phases of Training

A training program is an individualized calendar of events that you have designed for your horse in order to accomplish various subjective and objective goals. It can span weeks, months, or years, depending on your goals.

Subjective goals in horse training are those qualities that cannot be "scientifically" measured and include such attributes as a willing attitude, cooperation, trust, and respect.

Objective goals usually involve performance of specific maneuvers such as cantering on the correct lead, clearing a 4 foot fence, or standing still when you mount. It is usually easy for you to see whether your horse has or has not met an objective goal. Eventually the matter of form or quality of performance of objective goals enters the picture and the quality of performance becomes your life-long goal as a horse trainer.

How you design a training program will depend on the horse's conformation, age, prior training and conditioning, and your (competition) goals and schedule. All training programs tend to go through three phases.............

To read the rest of the article, go here:



Collection is a state of balanced energy. A horse that is collected will have a dropped croup, engaged hindquarters, flexed abdominals, arched spine, and elevated head and heck, and a flexed poll. When a horse works in collected gaits, he is working at the same tempo as the working gait but he will have a shorter, more elevated stride and will cover less ground than a working gait.

After a year or more under saddle, signs that it is time to work on collection will begin appearing. There will be a marked differentiation of frame - just how marked will depend on the intended use of your horse. If destined for dressage, the horse should be encouraged to elevate the poll, drop the croup considerably and increase the flexion of the joints of the legs.

Because such a configuration is not the goal for many pleasure horses or hunters, their goal would be for a more level frame with moderate engagement. However, in any case, .................

To read the rest of the article, go here:


To submit an Ask Cherry for May, go here:


That's it for this month. Keep your mind in the middle and a leg on each side.


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  2002 Cherry Hill 

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