(Scoutrider) - "The issue is that, no matter what sense we're talking about collection in, the goal is achieved the same way - engaging the hindquarters from the hind end forward and encouraging the horse to accept and carry the bit."
Hmmm...a goal, or a training means? I suspect it is easier to teach collection with a bit, but the bit isn't the end goal of the training, but a means of accomplishing it. It may well be that for the movements required by "DRESSAGE", a bit is almost always critical. For the degree of collection I need, it isn't. Mia CAN move in a collected manner to the degree needed for trail riding and general practice in the arena. She almost always moves that way on her own, so my challenge it to teach her to carry my weight using the same principles she uses when simply carrying her own.
I should clarify "carry the bit" better - the bit isn't the focus of what I was trying to convey, but the head carriage that the article seeks to emulate by pressure and release. The result of that exercise mimics self carriage, the "bit packing" or "halter packing" (ultimately, "self packing") posture of a correctly traveling horse. For the purposes of "D" Dressage, a bit is a crucial communication tool for the degree of collection sought. For lesser degrees, a bitless bridle or halter may be sufficient. Some horses can attain an upper level "D" Dressage level of collection and self carriage without a bit (Can't find a video example right now, but I'm sure they're out there).
That's the heart of the issue I have with the article - it will result in a posture that mimics self carriage, without the self carriage. No self carriage, no collection in any sense whatsoever, regardless of discipline or setting.
And when it is right, it is right. I couldn't describe it in engineering terms, but it is obvious when things start to click. For a brief moment, we move like one. I know it and she knows it, and our challenge is to teach each other how to make those moments come faster and stay longer. She's pushing 10, and I'm pushing 53, so it is an open question if we will achieve it before we both need to put the saddle away.
Ah, at pushing 10 and 53, you and your mare both have a lot of years of riding left in you! My first horse was going strong and happy well into his early 20's. From what you describe, you're both very much on the right track to getting her working off of her hindquarters and carrying herself in the sense of collection appropriate to what you want to do.