Collection When Horse Riding

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

101 Longeing and
Long Lining Exercises
Longeing and Long Lining
the English and Western Horse
Becoming An Effective Rider
From the Center
of the Ring
101 Longeing and Long Lining Exeercises
Longeing and Long Lining the Western Horse
Your Horse Barn DVD
Your Horse Barn DVD

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    2006 Cherry Hill

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 neck, 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, the horse should still be allowed to carry his nose at about 10 to 15 degrees in front of the vertical. The horse should show self carriage a great deal of the time by the time he has been ridden regularly for a year or so.

In more advanced stages of collection, the horse has an extremely shortened underline and a rounded, stretched topline with an overall shortened frame from nose to tail. The poll should still be the highest point of the neck and the nose would be carried somewhere near the vertical or about five degrees in front of the vertical. The horse should be able to demonstrate self carriage at almost any time when the inside rein or perhaps even both reins are released.

This type of frame is appropriate for upper level dressage horses and can be a goal for a reining or western equitation horse. Unfortunately, some horses have the collected configuration forced upon them in front via the bridle but have not had the essential collection developed behind, therefore do not exhibit true, overall collection.

In order to maintain equilibrium, a collected horse assumes a posture or framework in accordance with the horizontal and vertical components of a maneuver, the speed of a maneuver, and the placement and movement of the rider. Extended maneuvers are characteristically more horizontal while collected maneuvers are more vertical in nature. In spite of what it may seem, the horse's top line is actually the longest when it is in a collected frame due to the stretching of the back muscles. The gathered and compacted frame of a collected horse gives the illusion of a shortened top line.

During collection, the hindquarters are converted from a driving force to more of a supporting force depending on the rider's regulatory aids. If a 1275 pound horse carries 175 pounds of rider and tack, he distributes the 1450 pound total weight differently for various maneuvers. Such a horse with a level top line and average balance and with virtually no influence exerted from the rider would, while standing, bear at least 405 pounds on each foreleg and 320 or less with each hind leg.

As the horse performs in a more collected frame, the hindquarters are required to bear an increasingly greater proportion of the load until, in the levade (a very balanced, controlled low rear) and during moments in the piaffe, where forward movement is minimal, each hind leg may bear 725 pounds. The horse collects by raising the head and neck above the body's mass, contracting the abdominals and associated muscles, and flexing both hocks with the hind feet placed well under the belly.

When lengthening of a movement is desired, the goal is a greater distance covered per stride, not an increase in rate or tempo. Actually, in the transition to a lengthening, the tempo must be initially slowed to allow for the increased engagement of the hind limbs in order to result in a true increase in the length of stride.

A collected horse moves in balance and is smooth and easy to ride. All riding horses should be introduced to a degree of collection.

  2004 Cherry Hill



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