Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: southern Arizona
FWIW: The most collected horse I've ridden is my mare...SOMETIMES when she canters. We don't have any good place to work on cantering - the arena is too small for her speed, and the trails mostly too rocky. When she canters, she sometimes becomes very extended, to the point of being dangerously on the front. She is getting much better about not doing THAT. I think she scares herself as much as she does me.
But sometimes, for a hundred yards or so, she'll shift her balance to the rear, reach under and give what is, for her, a slow canter that is very balanced and smooth. I can feel the change in her balance from front to the rear, and feel her driving but also using her hind legs for some of her support.
When she does this, her head comes UP, not down. I think that is part of how she shifts her weight off her front. In any case, it is probably as close as I'll ever come to riding a collected horse - and her neck is raised with her head about 45 degrees off of vertical.
Now, how would I train her to do that? I don't know. She seems to do it for the fun of it, and she only does it sometimes. It is one of those natural things a horse will do that dressage and some other disciplines build on, and I don't have the knowledge, skill or desire to do so. I normally think of cantering as a high speed gait, just short of galloping.
But I think collection has more to do with balance than with anything involving the head. I think that Mia & I move toward the collection side of the scale when I shift MY weight back but do so in a way that doesn't pound her loins. I think that is a biggie - when I can get my weight back but do so in a way that isn't like 175 lbs of rocks in a sack on her back. It is a rider skill issue from someone who has no natural ability as a rider. But when I do achieve it, she then feels comfortable with pushing under some with her hind end and supporting our weight more with her rear.
The folks that study dressage can probably offer you more.
... Energy is an admirable thing, but the energy of stupidity seldom avails much..." - On Seats and Saddles (1868), Francis Dwyer, Major of Hussars (light cavalry)