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Information on how to teach a horse to collect

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  • Dressage frame
  • Western riding collecting the horse

 
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    01-21-2011, 10:54 AM
  #11
Trained
Quote:
Originally Posted by JustDressageIt    
I am speaking from a dressage/english perspective here. I see the article is western based, but there are certain training terms that transcend disciplines.
It seems to me that there is a disconnect between "slow with a headset" and "round and collected." They are not equal. A horse can go around slow with his head down or avoiding the bit, and evading by dropping behind the vertical as shown in most of those pictures throughout the article, and look "pretty" but be functionally strung out and not connected whatsoever tail to nose...You don't want to be supporting the horse's head, but you do want to have that connection, bit to hand. I know this is not possible in the western disciplines, but I get very disheartened when it's suggested to encourage your horse to drop behind the bit.
I disagree. There is only one picture in the article of a horse in motion:



That does not look to me like a horse that is "functionally strung out and not connected whatsoever tail to nose". It isn't a dressage frame, but most western riders don't use 'collection' to mean 'collected for dressage'.

The Random House Dictionary defines collection as "
something that is collected; a group of objects or an amount of material accumulated in one location, esp. For some purpose or as a result of some process". Applied to riding a horse, it would mean all the parts of the horse are acting together in support of the rider's purpose.

I may not know how 'strung out' looks, but I know how it feels from the back of a horse - my mare will cheerfully drag herself around with her front legs at the trot, and the only reason her hind legs aren't left behind in the dust is because they are physically attached to her. She doesn't move like that alone, only with a rider - so my goal has been to teach her to stop relying on her front legs to balance me, and engage her rear legs.

As an added challenge, I ride her without a bit, and I don't want to ride her bitless by substituting the halter for the bit. She will never be 'on the bit, and I don't want her 'on the bridle'. I want her moving in a coordinated, balanced manner because she WANTS to move like that. As the article says, "Horses seek comfort by nature. Since he does not know how long he will have to trot, eventually he will realize that it may be best to slow down and conserve his energy. This is where the lesson is: when he decides this on his own without any help from you."

So I'll ask her to trot, and either post or use a two point position - after all, I can't invite her to lift her back if I bounce down on top of it in my typical stiff as a board sitting bounce. She'll start off strung out and hollow backed, but that gets tiring...and THEN she'll slow down a little, lift her back, engage the rear and lower her head. I'm a pretty green rider myself, but I'm beginning to feel when her back lifts. We'll go a little bit like that, then I'll slow her and praise her - but her main reward comes from feeling more comfortable trotting with all her legs.

I'm not smart enough about riding to know if this is correct, but it seems to be working. She is shifting into a balanced position sooner and holding it longer, so I think she is getting the idea.

I think it was an error for the author to include this picture at the start:



The western riders I know have no interest in getting their horse into that position. We want our horses to be flexible and soft at the neck, and to turn with her entire body and not just the front 18 inches, but the goal is an agile horse, not a dressage frame.

My mare is very stiff laterally (even without me - she can't even lie down and roll without looking like a board), so we are working on circles. Mia doesn't like circles - she prefers squares, or maybe hexagons on a good day! A local trainer had told me some of the same exercises mentioned in the article as a way of loosening her up and teaching her how bend her body and support a turn with all her parts - a 'collection' of parts dedicated to turning, if you will.

When my mare (Arabian) lifts her back in a trot, or turns a real circle for however many degrees she can sustain it, her head is down. The neck is almost level with her back. I can't see her from the side, but based on her shadow, I'd guess she looks like the horse in the top photo.

Our gelding (1/4 Appy, 3/4 Arabian) is very agile, and always moves in a balanced and engaged manner. I wish I could claim it was me, but I obviously have nothing to do with it. His rear legs are supplying most of the power, and he'll turn on a dime. And his neck is below horizontal, with his head at about a 45 deg angle.

As long as he moves balanced and coordinated, I don't care what he does with his head. And while we ride him with a snaffle bit, we rarely have direct contact with the bit. He rides best with just a little slack.

The goal of dressage is dressage. Using my definition of collected, a dressage horse must be collected, but a collected horse doesn't have to be doing dressage. The word is used in dressage with a more restricted meaning than is meant by many western riders.
     
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    01-21-2011, 11:45 AM
  #12
Green Broke
Quote:
Originally Posted by bsms    
I disagree. There is only one picture in the article of a horse in motion:



That does not look to me like a horse that is "functionally strung out and not connected whatsoever tail to nose". It isn't a dressage frame, but most western riders don't use 'collection' to mean 'collected for dressage'.

I think it was an error for the author to include this picture at the start:



The western riders I know have no interest in getting their horse into that position. We want our horses to be flexible and soft at the neck, and to turn with her entire body and not just the front 18 inches, but the goal is an agile horse, not a dressage frame.
Sorry but the first horse is dragging itself round with its front end, back end is doing very little and the horse is very clearly not comfortable.

As for the second picture and the part in bold, The point we were trying to make is that that the head set is the last thing to come, only when everything else is correct can you get that headset.
Have you ever ridden a real dressage horse? I've ridden a Grand prix horse and let me tell you that they don't get to that level without being extremely flexible. Concidering that at walk, trot and canter one can push the hind end in or out, put the shoulders on a separate track to the hind end all with the mere whisper of a leg aid, Canter a 5m circle, or even a pirouette. YOu can manipulate the shoulders and hind end separately, or wrap them round your leg completely. Sitting on one of those horses is like sitting on an eel, they are so flexible through the body.

You seem to have the misconception that dressage horses are stiff.
     
    01-21-2011, 12:29 PM
  #13
Trained
Quote:
Originally Posted by faye    
Sorry but the first horse is dragging itself round with its front end, back end is doing very little and the horse is very clearly not comfortable.

As for the second picture and the part in bold, The point we were trying to make is that that the head set is the last thing to come, only when everything else is correct can you get that headset.
Have you ever ridden a real dressage horse?...You seem to have the misconception that dressage horses are stiff.
1 - What is it in the first picture that tells you the horse is not comfortable or dragging itself around with the front end? I'm not being argumentative, but I'm also not seeing the horse drag itself by the front end. Based on her shadow, that's what my mare starts to look like when she loosens up...and admittedly, she starts any trot stiff as can be. I'm not seeing agitation, discomfort, or lack of balance.

It also looks to me something like my gelding, who is loose, balanced and flexible - no thanks to me. He can turn up his own rear while looking a lot like that...

2 - Have I ridden a real dressage horse? Are you kidding? I've never SEEN a real dressage horse in person! They may have them somewhere in Arizona, but not where I live.

However, nothing I wrote would indicate I think a dressage horse is stiff. My point is that agile and a dressage frame are not interchangeable terms. To quote myself, "a dressage horse must be collected, but a collected horse doesn't have to be doing dressage" - same for agility. A dressage horse must be flexible and agile, but a horse can be flexible and agile without moving in a dressage frame.

A cutting horse must be agile, flexible and balanced, but he doesn't move in a dressage frame. The western riders I've talked to want to adopt some of the principles and training from dressage to help them meet their goals as western riders. That is what I think the article was trying to accomplish. What can someone see and learn about from dressage that will help them and their horses become better western riding teams?

I have no interest in dressage as a sport. I've watched videos of it, but I have no desire to own, train or ride a dressage horse. That is not an insult to dressage, just a statement about my interests. I want to work on my mare's lateral flexibility (she has none) and get her to engage her hind legs while I'm on her back (she does it without a rider just fine). If there is something dressage riders do that will help me attain that, fine. If not, then I'll ignore dressage entirely because I'm not interested in it for its own sake.
     
    01-21-2011, 08:25 PM
  #14
Showing
Quote:
Originally Posted by bsms    
I disagree. There is only one picture in the article of a horse in motion:



That does not look to me like a horse that is "functionally strung out and not connected whatsoever tail to nose". It isn't a dressage frame, but most western riders don't use 'collection' to mean 'collected for dressage'.

The Random House Dictionary defines collection as "
something that is collected; a group of objects or an amount of material accumulated in one location, esp. For some purpose or as a result of some process". Applied to riding a horse, it would mean all the parts of the horse are acting together in support of the rider's purpose.

I may not know how 'strung out' looks, but I know how it feels from the back of a horse - my mare will cheerfully drag herself around with her front legs at the trot, and the only reason her hind legs aren't left behind in the dust is because they are physically attached to her. She doesn't move like that alone, only with a rider - so my goal has been to teach her to stop relying on her front legs to balance me, and engage her rear legs.

As an added challenge, I ride her without a bit, and I don't want to ride her bitless by substituting the halter for the bit. She will never be 'on the bit, and I don't want her 'on the bridle'. I want her moving in a coordinated, balanced manner because she WANTS to move like that. As the article says, "Horses seek comfort by nature. Since he does not know how long he will have to trot, eventually he will realize that it may be best to slow down and conserve his energy. This is where the lesson is: when he decides this on his own without any help from you."

So I'll ask her to trot, and either post or use a two point position - after all, I can't invite her to lift her back if I bounce down on top of it in my typical stiff as a board sitting bounce. She'll start off strung out and hollow backed, but that gets tiring...and THEN she'll slow down a little, lift her back, engage the rear and lower her head. I'm a pretty green rider myself, but I'm beginning to feel when her back lifts. We'll go a little bit like that, then I'll slow her and praise her - but her main reward comes from feeling more comfortable trotting with all her legs.

I'm not smart enough about riding to know if this is correct, but it seems to be working. She is shifting into a balanced position sooner and holding it longer, so I think she is getting the idea.

I think it was an error for the author to include this picture at the start:



The western riders I know have no interest in getting their horse into that position. We want our horses to be flexible and soft at the neck, and to turn with her entire body and not just the front 18 inches, but the goal is an agile horse, not a dressage frame.

My mare is very stiff laterally (even without me - she can't even lie down and roll without looking like a board), so we are working on circles. Mia doesn't like circles - she prefers squares, or maybe hexagons on a good day! A local trainer had told me some of the same exercises mentioned in the article as a way of loosening her up and teaching her how bend her body and support a turn with all her parts - a 'collection' of parts dedicated to turning, if you will.

When my mare (Arabian) lifts her back in a trot, or turns a real circle for however many degrees she can sustain it, her head is down. The neck is almost level with her back. I can't see her from the side, but based on her shadow, I'd guess she looks like the horse in the top photo.

Our gelding (1/4 Appy, 3/4 Arabian) is very agile, and always moves in a balanced and engaged manner. I wish I could claim it was me, but I obviously have nothing to do with it. His rear legs are supplying most of the power, and he'll turn on a dime. And his neck is below horizontal, with his head at about a 45 deg angle.

As long as he moves balanced and coordinated, I don't care what he does with his head. And while we ride him with a snaffle bit, we rarely have direct contact with the bit. He rides best with just a little slack.

The goal of dressage is dressage. Using my definition of collected, a dressage horse must be collected, but a collected horse doesn't have to be doing dressage. The word is used in dressage with a more restricted meaning than is meant by many western riders.
Like I said, certain things transcend disciplines.
Collection does not mean slow; it means that the horse lightens up on the forehand, shifts its weight onto the hind end, and its stride shortens. The horse's tempo does not change, the horse does not slow down.

There are several photos on the site, including these:


These images both clearly show that the horse is not accepting the rein; they are being asked to evade the bit. This is counterproductive, the horse can't collect and balance. You want a horse to be able to carry themselves round, without your intervention, but you must first get them to accept the bit and seek contact with the bit. Without this critical step, your entire foundation has holes in it.
The horse in the photo that you quoted in your post shows a horse that is strung out, carrying themselves on the forehand.

You're correct, horses don't want to be uncomfortable, but they also (by nature) conserve energy, and won't "figure out for themselves" to carry themselves round.
1) being round takes muscle that horses don't have naturally.
2) being round takes a lot of muscle, and that muscle must be properly developed
3) it is MUCH easier to walk/trot/canter around being strung out. Working correctly is HARD until you develop muscle. Do you walk around in proper alignment? When you're sitting down, do you sit with your back straight and shoulders back? It's hard work. Humans have the capibility to KNOW that it's good for them to walk and sit with proper posture, but most people still don't, because it's hard work.

I bet that your horse lowers its head and slows down, but I would almost put money down that s/he isn't rounding his/her back. It takes a lot of muscle to do that, and a rider to know how to ask and how to develop that muscle. In order for the horse to start properly rounding, they must be working off the hind and start to lighten up on the front end. Things start falling together pretty quickly once you have the basics built up.
Your other horse may be agile, but a horse can be agile and completely on the forehand. It takes a trained eye to be able to tell if a horse is truly working fron behind, and round. A lot of horses can be delightfully deceiving.

Most importantly:
"The goal of dressage is dressage"
No. The goal of dressage is akin to the goal of a ballerina: to work in harmony and to work your body properly. To be engaged throughout the entire body. Dressage transcends disciplines. Dressage is a basis for almost everything you do with a horse, be it reining or jumping. Dressage can be done bareback, in a western saddle, or in a jumping saddle. It is the building blocks on which you can preform almost any discipline.
It is getting the horse supple and working properly through itself - isn't that the goal of almost any other discipline?
Training the horse to be supple, round, and responsive...
Dressage simply means "training."

There is a misconception that dressage means that you must ride in a black saddle with polo wraps - not true. Dressage means that you and your horse are training to become a team in unison, where you and the horse are connected and working together in harmony.
     
    01-21-2011, 09:25 PM
  #15
Trained
"Collection does not mean slow; it means that the horse lightens up on the forehand, shifts its weight onto the hind end, and its stride shortens."

Perhaps in dressage - but dressage riders haven't copyrighted the word 'collection'. We lesser beings also get to use english words, and to use them consistent with the language. A collection is a group of things with a unifying theme, so it is appropriate for a rider to talk of a collected horse as referring to a horse whose body parts are all working together in a unified manner.

"These images both clearly show that the horse is not accepting the rein; they are being asked to evade the bit. This is counterproductive, the horse can't collect and balance."

Horse pucky. By that standard, no western horse is balanced. Indeed, no bitless horse would be balanced. Yet these unbalanced horses don't fall down, and do their jobs far better than a horse would if in a collected & balanced dressage frame - because there is more to balance that looks. Ballerinas and fullbacks are both balanced, coordinated and in control, but their movements are nothing alike - because they are doing different activities, and move IAW the activity.

"
but I would almost put money down that s/he isn't rounding his/her back. It takes a lot of muscle to do that, and a rider to know how to ask and how to develop that muscle."

She lifts her back, and shifts some of her balance to her rear. I can feel that. I don't need to be a genius, just listen to her.

"
Your other horse may be agile, but a horse can be agile and completely on the forehand. It takes a trained eye to be able to tell if a horse is truly working fron behind, and round. A lot of horses can be delightfully deceiving."

The goal of most western riding is agility appropriate for the activity. At speed, no doubt he is on the forehand. No horse is fast if carrying its weight on the rear. Slower...he shifts weight to the rear when he prepares to spin his body around. My goal is like most western riders - not roundness for its own sake, which is worthless to us, but a lightness in the front at appropriate times.

Again, the riders I know are not using the definition of collected that dressage uses, but use it to refer to the body working in harmony for what is trying to be achieved. We are not TRYING to teach upper level dressage movements, because we don't want to compete in dressage.

"
No. The goal of dressage is akin to the goal of a ballerina: to work in harmony and to work your body properly."

No. The goal of dressage is dressage. The goal of a ballerina is ballet, and the goal of a fullback is moving the ball forward, and the goal of a cutting horse is...cutting cattle. The collection sought by dressage riders supports participating in advanced dressage, not horse racing, cutting cattle, steeplechase or even trail riding. Dressage is a sport. It is not the end all of riding.

"
Dressage transcends disciplines. Dressage is a basis for almost everything you do with a horse, be it reining or jumping."

No. You don't find cutting folks pretending their sport is the end all of riding, because a supple, engaged and cooperative horse is required for cutting cattle. You don't find jumpers claiming their style of riding is critical to all others, although they also need athletic, supple, cooperative horses. Dressage is AN equine sport, not THE equine sport.

"
Dressage means that you and your horse are training to become a team in unison, where you and the horse are connected and working together in harmony."

No. If it were, you could give dressage scores to cutting horses, barrel racing horses, polo horses, racehorse...dressage is just ONE of the sports used where teamwork between man and horse is desired.
     
    01-21-2011, 11:50 PM
  #16
Weanling
"Perhaps in dressage - but dressage riders haven't copyrighted the word 'collection'. We lesser beings also get to use english words, and to use them consistent with the language. A collection is a group of things with a unifying theme, so it is appropriate for a rider to talk of a collected horse as referring to a horse whose body parts are all working together in a unified manner."

Wow. I don't think I have come across someone so salty toward people who do dressage. Like justdressageit said, all it means is "training." Good training is good training no matter what your discipline is. I have a friend in my office who does reining and we exchange training tips all of the time. Doesn't matter that she rides in a western saddle. Did you have a bad experience or something?
     
    01-22-2011, 12:31 AM
  #17
Banned
I looked at this site last night and what I see is a sprinkle of dressage terms amid a setting of western based principles and while some dressage will help any discipline the basis for a lot of her comments show she does not really understand what dressage is.

She would have been better off naming her article as Basics for the training of the Western Horse and leaving out any of the half attempts in connecting the term dressage to what she is doing.

Some of the information she is giving out is way off in left field.
     
    01-22-2011, 12:52 AM
  #18
Yearling
Quote:
Originally Posted by bsms    
Perhaps in dressage - but dressage riders haven't copyrighted the word 'collection'. We lesser beings also get to use english words, and to use them consistent with the language. A collection is a group of things with a unifying theme, so it is appropriate for a rider to talk of a collected horse as referring to a horse whose body parts are all working together in a unified manner.

Collection is basically when the horse is using it's hind end to propel it forward. A horses body parts work together whether or not it's "collected". A horse can be completely on the forehand during a walk, trot or canter by having a four, two or three beat gait.

Horse pucky. By that standard, no western horse is balanced. Indeed, no bitless horse would be balanced. Yet these unbalanced horses don't fall down, and do their jobs far better than a horse would if in a collected & balanced dressage frame - because there is more to balance that looks. Ballerinas and fullbacks are both balanced, coordinated and in control, but their movements are nothing alike - because they are doing different activities, and move IAW the activity.

I think she's pointing out the fact that the horse is "behind the verticle" in other words, it has sucked itself back in order to avoid going "up into the bridle" which is still possible with a loose rein.

No. The goal of dressage is dressage. The goal of a ballerina is ballet, and the goal of a fullback is moving the ball forward, and the goal of a cutting horse is...cutting cattle. The collection sought by dressage riders supports participating in advanced dressage, not horse racing, cutting cattle, steeplechase or even trail riding. Dressage is a sport. It is not the end all of riding.

If you were to translate Dressage (a French word) it would basically mean "to train". If a horse knows the basic walk, trot and canter with a rider on it's back it knows some basic dressage (training).

No. You don't find cutting folks pretending their sport is the end all of riding, because a supple, engaged and cooperative horse is required for cutting cattle. You don't find jumpers claiming their style of riding is critical to all others, although they also need athletic, supple, cooperative horses. Dressage is AN equine sport, not THE equine sport.

Once again, Dressage = training. If a horse is trained, then in technical terms, they would know simple dressage.

No. If it were, you could give dressage scores to cutting horses, barrel racing horses, polo horses, racehorse...dressage is just ONE of the sports used where teamwork between man and horse is desired.

From Dictionary.com:
dres·sage

   /drəˈsɑʒ; Fr. drɛˈsaʒ/ Show Spelled[druh-sahzh; Fr. dre-sazh] Show IPA
–noun 1. haute école ( def. 1 ) .

2. the art or method of training a horse in obedience and in precision of movement.



My comments are in bold.
     
    01-22-2011, 04:10 AM
  #19
Green Broke
My two pennies worth - The horse in the first photo (the pally) is tense through its jaw, stiff through its neck and those are not comfy "i'm listening ears" those are "i'm back because I'm uncomfortable ears". Now I agree in western you don't want the serious collection needed for dressage but you do want a nice supple relaxed horse and that horse isnt!

Shasta - perhaps you need to go back to basics. All the top cutting horses I've ever watched (and as they are on H&C TV it is only the ones at major major championships) have been using thier hind end properly, not pulling themselves round on their front. It takes time for a horse to shift its weight back which is time cutting horses don't have, so they are already sitting on thier hind end and lifing thier shoulders by the time they get in the arena! It may only be a second but a second with cattle may as well be a lifetime.

The aim of dressage is not dressage - the aim of dressage is to have a well school, responsive horse who is using himself well and powering from behind (the vast majority of thier power is in the muscles of the hind end). Horses move faster when using thier back end to power them rather then thier front.

My ponies all do dressage as it lets me know where they are up to, but they also jump, XC, show, hack out (trail rides). They are obediant, they know what I want from them at all timess.

There have een a few instances where we have been riding on roads and I have used stans dressage training to save both his life and mine. One perticular one where I half passed him into a ditch (probably not a true half pass as we went sideways rather faster then a normal half pass) then asked him to turn on his quaters and jump up a bank, I did this in order to avoid being flattened by an idiot lorry driver, It took me all of 20seconds to get out of the way! If he hadn't been back on his hocks already he would have never have made the jump I asked from him and without his training he would not have reacted the way he did at the speed he did and both of us would have been smushed on the road.

Most TOP showjumpers can do a good level of dressage test. They need the training in order to lengthen or shorten strides, to have the horses back on thier hocks so they can jump the big jumps, To have the agility and obediance needed to change direction quickly in a jump off in a small arena.

Horses do not just figure things out for themselves, they have to be taught
     
    01-22-2011, 08:44 AM
  #20
Weanling
"Shasta - perhaps you need to go back to basics. All the top cutting horses I've ever watched (and as they are on H&C TV it is only the ones at major major championships) have been using thier hind end properly, not pulling themselves round on their front. It takes time for a horse to shift its weight back which is time cutting horses don't have, so they are already sitting on thier hind end and lifing thier shoulders by the time they get in the arena! It may only be a second but a second with cattle may as well be a lifetime."

When did I suggest that a horse pulling itself from the front was correct or appropriate? While I'm sure that my friend would LOVE to be a top reigning rider, she's not. She's aiming to get her horse soft, underneath himself and connect just like I do. Im not familiar with the upper-echelons of western riding but the same basic principals in dressage apply to western. I'm not sure where your negative comment came from. I'm a good rider. Certainly not perfect - I have things to learn and work on but I can hold my own pretty well.
     

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