by Tommy Garland
When you get collection it will be your best friend. It is hard to achieve but well worth the time and work. A visual image to think about is a stretched out slinky; the coils are loose but if you push the ends together it is collected.
Common Beliefs about Collection
Many people thing that the tighter together their horse is, the better. This is not true because a horse may become collected and get behind the bridle and dump his nose. When he dumps his nose back he is sticking his nose down to his chest or between his front legs and he looses collection. When he is doing this he is just running through the bridle, but because his nose is down some people may believe that he is collected. While this horse is still soft, he is avoiding the bit by dumping his nose down.
The Basic Principle
The big idea is to take your horse’s hind end and bring up to his front end. You want to take it all the way from his tail all the way up through is nose. To do this you will apply your brake with your hands through his mouth, but also apply some gas with your legs to drive him up toward your hands.
Collection Must Have’s
To achieve collection there are several things you must be able to do with your horse. Your horse should be light on your hands and you should be able to feel his mouth. He should understand flexion, especially vertical so that he can set his head. He should also go to the bridle willingly and coil his body up while rounding his back to drive deeper with his hind legs.
When your horse achieves collection he will lift his front end up off the ground and will be very light on his shoulders. Head set is not all of collection, but he should bend at the poll and have vertical flexion. When he is collected he should move well with a three beat gait at the lope. If you think of a train wheel, it goes around and around and is smooth without a hitch. Once this is achieved, you should be to collect your horse at a trot by sitting deep in the saddle, adding pressure with your hands to slow him down and adding pressure with your legs to drive him forward.
You can practice and do additional exercises in a round pen or on a long-line. When you long-line a horse you have two long ropes that are hooked to a bit and then run through a circingle or stirrups on a saddle. You will drive your horse forward to the bit and make him give to the pressure. This is also a great way to teach a horse to back up. Backing is an unnatural gait for a horse and is a form of collection. Horses must be collected to back up because they are pushing themselves backwards with their hind legs and lifting up on the front end.
Oftentimes young horses don’t know what to do with all the energy when you teach them to become collected. This may cause them to kick up, but it is not malicious. It is usually just a way for them to get out all that pent up energy from them being collected. Once they learn how to use that energy they will push their hind end forward and put it to good use.
As always collection requires the use of CPR. It takes patience to work with your horse and acquire collection. Your horse needs to respect your hands and the instructions you give him. Lastly, you must have confidence. You must believe that you can teach him new skills and that he can learn what you are teaching.
Translating the experience of a 30 year training career into his universal CPR (Confidence, Patience, Respect) Horsemanship methods, Garland offers horse owners unique and innovative training techniques. For more information, visit tommygarland.com