01-19-2009, 05:29 PM
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Yeah riding your horse around on a loose rein generally accomplishes nothing. When a horse is "using his bum" it means he is collected. To get a horse collected takes a lot of time, knowledge and "feel". I like to use the training scale as my base for achieving collection.
Rhythm This is the "clock" of the horse. There are 4 beats in walk, 2 in trot and 3 in canter. These beats need to fall in the same rhythm every stride, always. In order to achieve this a horse needs to balance correctly by himself, meaning he doesn't use the rider as a "fifth wheel". We must send the horse forward from our legs and never pull (aka move the reins with our arms, the arms always stay stationary with respect to the forward movement of the horse) and give balancing half halts to teach the horse to respond positively to leg, balance and move evenly.
Relaxation Generally, if you are teaching in a systematic way, this should be a really easy step. Whenever your horse gets tense and loses the relaxation go back to rhythm! Do something easy that he understands until his mind is calm and he is ready to work again.
Contact This comes hand in hand with the first two steps. If you are riding the horse correctly from leg to hand and never pulling while giving correct balancing half halts the horse should give you contact. If not, then develop it in transitions using only your leg and seat until they start searching for the contact. To reward them we can do stretchy circles, this does not mean throw the contact away! Instead we reach our hands forward and rest them on the withers to let the horse come long and low and really reach for the contact which remains steady throughout the stretch. Contact must always be steady and stable and dependable, but without the horse leaning on it.
Schwung Again this is another logically following step. This is basically where the horse loosens through his back and begins to carry the rider and give her a place to sit. It can be referred to as "over the back" "through the body" and many other terms, but basically this is where the horse really starts accepting all the rider's aids and we can really get to work!
Straightness This does not refer to a horse being poker straight on a centerline, although that is something that happens when you get a horse straight. By nature all horses are crooked, and so we must muscle up their weak side and loosen up their tight side. In order to do this we ride the shoulders straight in front of our legs, and the haunches directly behind them. The neck always (even in bending or flexing) comes straight out of the shoulders. The only difference between a horse bent left and right is the position of the ribcage and the poll flexion. Otherwise the horse's spine is always straight from poll to dock. In straightening the horse and introducing strengthening exercises the horse starts offering collection.
Collection The final logical step it follows basically through exercises and continuing to develop all of the other 5 steps. It involves lightening of the forehand and weighting of the hidquarters. It is only in this final step, "Collection" that the horse is truly "working from his haunches".
Hope I cleared that up for you :) I really recommend that you get into lessons with a good dressage horse to really understand fully and get your horse working! Getting a horse from green broke to a semi-solidly collected can take as little as 3 years and up to a lifetime, so don't get discouraged if things aren't coming quickly. Good luck :)