How long to achieve decent true collection? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 13 Old 03-21-2009, 10:32 PM Thread Starter
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How long to achieve decent true collection?

Quick background: I have only been riding for a year and a half. Lifelong dream that didn't happen until I was 31! I bought my own horse shortly after beginning lessons under the direction of my instructor. She highly recommended the horse for me (one she was very familiar with and fond of although he was a bit younger than I thought I should look for). It has been a wonderful learning experience! My lessons are in the dressage principles although I don't really intend to show. I just like learning and having goals to acieve as opposed to only pleasure riding.

ANYWAYS! Within the past two months my lessons have centered on achieving true collection on my gelding at the walk and trot. I am a perfectionist and am trying hard to get it right! I understand the basic concepts and am really working at getting all of my body parts to cooperate at the same is taking some practice! I asked my riding instructor how long the average person takes until all the pieces fall into place and of course she said a long time IF they ever do. My question is this: For those of you who feel you truly have the grasp of how to achieve and maintain collection, how long did it take for you to get it?
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post #2 of 13 Old 03-21-2009, 10:48 PM
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It's an ongoing process with horses and people. You "get it" in a ride, then you have to work on getting it every other ride after that. It takes a lot of muscle for the horse to go collected with a rider up there. It takes a lot of muscle for the rider to keep a horse truly collected.

It takes a LONG time for both rider AND horse to master collection. DO NOT nit-pick yourself to death; you will only frustrate yourself and your horse. Be sure to only focus on when you do get it, and really celebrate those moments as soon as they happen. Verbally praise yourself and your horse, and give your horse a scratch on the withers. You will come along a lot quicker if you focus on positive reinforcement.

Also, be sure to break up training rides with relaxed work, patterns, poles, maybe even jumping! Take trail rides between training rides, to allow your horse and you a mental break. ALWAYS end on a good note, even if you have to go back and work on something that's easy for both of you. Don't keep pushing something that he or you is not getting. Take a breather and come back to it later, or next ride. You do not have to "win" or "get it" every time you're up there.

Take your time with learning and be sure to not lose sight of the enjoyment riding brings both you and your horse. I have been overtaken by the desire to be "perfect" and have my horse "perfect," only to have it all come apart when we both cracked, lol.

Enjoy the journey and each new thing you learn, and each small step you take correctly. Celebrate each "victory," no matter how small. Be sure to really listen/feel for your horse's "try." A "try" can be very small, just a slight head tuck (more bend at the pole), or slight reach with the hind end, or even just more relaxed and deep breathing from your horse. Praise him for those tries, so he knows he's heading in the right direction. Young horses especially will quickly become frustrated if their tries are not acknowledged and rewarded. I learned this the hard way with my mare some. I wouldn't reward her until it was EXACTLY correct, and she soon became pissy and difficult. Once I started recognizing those small "baby steps" within our training, she became much more willing and tried even harder for me.
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post #3 of 13 Old 03-21-2009, 11:22 PM Thread Starter
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Wow Luvs2Ride...Great pep talk! My guy has been doing perfectly, trying his hardest and receiving his rewards (when he wants to accept them---whole 'nother thread!). I know it takes time for the two of us to comprehend mentally and build up the muscles physically. Interesting to hear the reality that it may happen here and there and it may not...I guess that relates to life in general!

My instructor told me if I get it in a year, she will pay me $5,000! I don't want the money, but I do want the title!
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post #4 of 13 Old 03-21-2009, 11:40 PM
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Sounds like you have a good trainer behind you, which will definitely help with your success.

My mare "got it" within about 3-4 months, but it took her another 6 months to be able to hold it more than a few strides at a time, and even longer for her to hold it for a whole ride (middle of the next year?). She's been a pasture pet and weekend trail horse for the last 2 years, so it will be interesting to see how long it takes to get her back in shape, lol.

ETA: I have ridden collection before that, so I wasn't learning along with my horse like you are. I showed up to 2nd level in High School and got to take some lessons on Grand Prix schoolmasters. It was a wonderful experience that I wish I could duplicate again :-D.

And she's not your typical Dressage horse. She's a 15.2h Appy/QH that is halter bred (Impressive grandaughter, HYPP N/N) and built slightly downhill. She does better when she's leaner, 4.5-5 on the henneke scale. She seems to more easily collect and hold collection when she's lighter on her feet, since she's having to fight her conformation to get there.

My daughter wants to show her barrels and WP, so I need to get her back in shape before she starts her training for those. I plan on bringing her along with Dressage fundamentals. All of the Barrel horses I have known that were started that way ended up doing a LOT better than expected . My mare was already trained for WP, before I decided all that glitz and $15,000 saddles just wasn't for me, lol. Plus she just hates loping... She'd much rather canter, or gallop, lol. Thankfully the youth WP classes my daughter wants to show in aren't very competitive that way. My girl has a GREAT slow, almost standing still jog (got even better once she learned Dressage!), but her lope is more like a slow or collected canter. .

And no, western "collection" is NOTHING like Dressage Collection (with a capital "C"). Western collection is just slow, with shorter strides. It's not "true" collection in how we think of it in Dressage, where the horse's strides are not much shorter, but "slower" and more elevated. A good Dressage horse should have those back legs reaching well under him, but the front legs will be reaching a bit less, and all legs will be going slower. A good WP horse will have legs reaching 1/2 the regular distance of the "working" gait AND going much slower, with less elevation. Dressage collection takes a lot of lower body movement to sit correctly, were WP collection takes almost no lower body movement to sit.

Anyway, I digress . I look forward to reading other people's responses as well.

Last edited by luvs2ride1979; 03-21-2009 at 11:44 PM.
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post #5 of 13 Old 03-22-2009, 12:11 AM
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To the OP ....we have a dressage forum now so that those that want a reply more related to this discipline will be able to get that sort of reply aimed at that discipline.

Western "collection" is different than "English" hunter/jumper collection" and dressage collection is even more different again.

While I believe you may have experienced your horse more "together" than you ever have, the real feeling of a collected horse is something that takes a while to achieve and NO trainer should ever put a timetabe on it.

I would like the OP to describe what she felt when this collection came about.
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post #6 of 13 Old 03-22-2009, 12:25 AM
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Yes, well, I should have qualified for my mare, "lower level collection" or "basic" collection . She's not built for upper level collection, nor is that something you can attain in mere months, even on a talented horse .
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post #7 of 13 Old 03-22-2009, 10:51 AM Thread Starter
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Luvs, I do have what I think is a great trainer! All the information I read on this forum about how trainers try to shortcut with students' learning having them learn improperly just reinstates that she is the best for me! She has not shortcutted me on anything! By the way, my gelding is also Appy/QH around 15 hh and slightly downhill which I did realize could make getting under himself a lot more difficult. He tries so hard though!

I would like to be able to ride a horse that isn't in the learning phase to see how I can put everything I have learned together (without the worry of what my horse is doing). Unfortunately, the only lesson horses she has right now are trained WP.

Spyder, I didn't even notice the new dressage forum until after I started this post, my apologies! This can be moved there! As far as my trainer putting a timetable on me, it was more of a joke! She doesn't have $5,000 to give away and I know it, so it was her way of saying, "don't expect miracles!"

What I felt? I felt his back lift up a LOT. I felt him float, his trot really smoothed out (not that it is rough to begin with but there was a definate difference). His shoulders were moving very freely. I can't "feel" when he is tracking up (can anybody?), but my trainer said every few strides he was really tracking up until he would lose it for a few more strides.

How long did it take for you to put everything together? And I like Luvs suggestion of how long it has taken your horse/s!
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post #8 of 13 Old 03-22-2009, 07:48 PM
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OK, just a clarification. When talking about true collection of the horse, there is ONE collection. That's all. There are a lot of ways to getting there and different methods in ever discipline. But one thing is the same and that is that a high level horse that is doing well is going to be collected.
Depending on the method, the horse, the rider, and the trainer or coach getting a horse to the point where he can be worked in collected gaits and be doing collected movements from the time he is first saddled at 3 can take anywhere from two years to never happening. The best case scenario is going to happen only with a world class horse, a world class rider and a world class trainer/coach with absolutely no hiccups in training.
My best advice would be to follow the training scale, and concentrate on yourself and your own riding before you expect anything from the horse. Unless we can ride well, how can we expect the horse to do anything?

For myself in my dressage journey, I started riding at 7 or 8, bought my first horse on my 10th birthday and started seriously competing dressage at 12. I bought a new young horse at 12, and at 13 started riding a schoolmaster at the FEI levels. I was riding 5-6 different horses every week and getting lessons twice or three times a week. But it was not until I was 14-16 that I really started to feel collection and was able to ride a horse through it. Even now I am still learning, as everyone in dressage will always be.
So, even with vigorous training and access to all kinds of horses, it took me 6-9 years before I was really riding. Don't expect quick results in dressage, take all the advice you get with a grain of salt and listen to EVERYONE you can. I always even ask for non - horsey people's opinions on my riding and they usually give the best and most honest critiques.
Good luck!

Also OP, that feeling is not collection. That feeling is balance and the horse becoming rhythmical. This is the first step on the training scale. Collection feels much different.

Last edited by ~*~anebel~*~; 03-22-2009 at 07:52 PM.
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post #9 of 13 Old 03-22-2009, 08:50 PM Thread Starter
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Anabel, interesting perspective!
Well, I certainly don't intend on showing therefore am not putting in that kind of time to my training or my horse's training. My one lesson a week and the 6 or so hours of practice time don't compare to the hours others put in. BUT, for the sake of becoming a better rider I shall continue to learn! I like having goals when I ride rather than just trail riding all the time...and becoming better for me and my horse is a great goal to have!

So...what would collection feel like then?
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post #10 of 13 Old 03-22-2009, 08:53 PM
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Wow, luvs2ride, that was really inspiring and encouraging to me as well. I've been doing the same thing lately -- trying hard to achieve true collection with my horse and sometimes its an exhausting effort.

And, I'd have to agree with Anebel. I think there is only "one collection" in every discipline... maybe the methods for achieving are different, but I think the goal is basically the same -- to get the horse moving from the back end, lifting his back and accepting contact lightly and easily. Western horses just hold their heads lower, but they are still flexing at the poll.

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord. 'Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future'" ~ Jeremiah 29:11

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