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Hi guys, I've been having a hell of a time trying to get this one pony to work off her bum and keep her nose in. She kind of does at a walk, but once we start jogging the nose comes out and she gets heavy on the forehand. We're tried sea-sawing with the reins and keeping leg on her, but she is just not getting it and it is so frustrating. She will lower her head to the ground to get away from the pressure and for a split second she will have her nose in properly, but by time my sister or coach yells "SHES DOING IT!" at me shes gone back to her bad ways and I couldn't even feel the difference. She stops really quickly at a walk and jog, not so much the lope because she is so heavy on the forehand. I was just wondering if there are any other excersizes that would help her learn to do this? My coach also suggested a german martingale so my sister and I have been looking into them a bit, but I'm not really a fan of using stuff like that.
 

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If you can'tr feel the difference then you should let someone who can train her. That may sound harsh but if you can't tell when to release the pressure she will never learn it.
 

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No no, I understand what you are saying. It's just so confusing to me because she first stretches her head out then puts it into proper position. I think I will let my sister have a go at it because she has some more experience with this stuff.
 

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Are there any hills around your area that you can ride in?
 

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There is a great article at this website. Just click on it and you will come straight to the story called Head vs. Body - Collection of the horse
blackhorseblog.com
It might really help for you to read this entire article, and I know if you ask her a question in the comments she will answer it.
 

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Thanks a lot, that looks really helpful. And I do have a few hills around but they really aren't that steep except for the ones in the forest, which I try to avoid with this mare because it is so buggy during the summer and she goes crazy trying to buck mosquitos off.
 

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I bring up the hills because it gives the rider the chance to just settle in and let the horse get under themselves as they walk down a hill.
A lot of folks will pull and force a horse into frame and if they were to use hills the horse will work the back end both going up the hill and coming down.
This is not the whole solution but is a good start for collection.

 

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That is great advice Marecare but I have a small problem with my horse on hills. By the way where I live I am surrounded by hills, there are some pretty good ones in my back doorstep. I haven't really worried too much about collection yet but it is definitely looming as something it is time to begin dealing with.

I have tried to collect Phoenix once, just as a feel out to see how receptive she will be. This is tough to explain, she bent at the shoulder and leaned over the bit and then walked straight through/over it, can you picture what happened? I am not sure I have a better way to describe. Being of the draft type I understand it is her natural inclination to push with the shoulders (walking through fences is a case in point!).

Anyway, talking about hill work helping a horse with collection. When going down hill my horse tries to go down side ways, sort of zigzags with her body. She flicks her bum and minces down she seems to be very definite about not getting under herself. She is great on any incline, powers up like a machine but crap on the descent. Does this tell you something about my horse? Maybe some flexibility issues, do you have any suggestions?

Sorry Dynamite, not trying to hijack your thread, just also interested about advice on collection as I'm fairly sure my horse is going to be a tiny bit differcult.
 

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The picture that I put up is a 3yo and we started by ground leading in the hills.
I had a person with another horse and we led both horses up into the hills and just sat there until they relaxed.
This was done over a couple of weeks.
Next we mounted up and followed the same route.

When I go down the hills I go straight down and the steeper the better.
You have to work up to this and the horse gets use to doing it.
The horse learns to slowly take one step at a time and REALLY get their rear end under themselves.
At first I don't ask for the head or nose to be low and over time they just start to lower it because it is more comfortable for them on the incline.
If the horse gets a little excited then dismount and walk down the hill.
If you leave them alone they lower their head to see the ground also.

The same benefit is there for the climb.
Keep the horse at the walk and they have to really push up the hill.
Keep them straight.

 

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Do you believe in monkey see, monkey do with horses? I never took Phoenix onto steep inclines when I first started riding her and only built up to them over time. There were two things that she was good at, going down hills nice and easy and walking through little muddy creeks and ditches. When I started riding with my friend her horse does the mincing and flouncing sideways down hills and jumps every little ditch and creek. After two rides Phoenix began dancing and prancing down hill and jumping every little ditch where she was just walking easily through them. Monkey see, Monkey do, do you think? I have got her walking through things rather than jumping but the flouncing and dancing I have not been able to get a handle on. Perhaps I am going to have to work on one hill making her walk down it again and again (even just leading)until she starts to walk nicely again. Going up is fine. Maybe there is no point working on collection until she is walking down a hill nicely again.
 

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First of all, I must say this...DO NOT SEE SAW THE REINS. :evil: Probably how you are riding your horse is contributing to the problem of no collection. See-sawing gives you a false headset & only forces the horse to react to the pressure.

Teach your horse to give to the bit when you apply steady pressure with both reins. You would look for your horse to bring his chin in towards his chest. I always start teach this at a stand still. When you add motion (no matter what gait your horse is at), you will want to apply leg pressure to maintain forward motion & encourage the horse to lift his back & engage the hind end at the same time you are holding steady pressure with the reins. You release with the reins & legs when you feel the expected results from the horse - even if you only get the results for a stride or two at first.
 

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In my mind the idea of collection starts with the BACK end and works forward.
The idea of getting the back end working and then working on the total frame.
By placing a block in front of the horse and then driving them into it without the foundation of the back end work is very confusing for many horses.
So I get the back end steady,stable and straight.
If you can't keep your horse straight ,then work on that first.
I work on even foot falls and the power of the stride and always pushing and reaching.
Any maneuver that will build that push.
As we are doing that there small signals or cues that I sneak in from time to time that do not interfere with the larger goal of power from behind.

As a wise horseman once said; "Conditioning is not something that you put in your hair after the shampoo".

It takes time.
 

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Bingo! The motor is the hind end. Getting it fit to do the work is first. Most of us can tell by the "cut" of the muscles if the horse is working right or not with just a look.

Collection is the result of the training program. Without a program you can't achieve it.

Hills allow the horse to learn by doing without dealing with pressure from the human. Impulsion--impulsion.

The headset is the last thing to work on for sure--again its the result.
 

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I'm with marecare on this one. Except for the fact that we don't have any hills around here. The first thing to establish is straightness. Its a natural reaction for the horse to release the tension in the topline and stretch when the body is actually straight. Then you add the leg to encourage the impulsion and lift the back, engaging the abdominals and lifting through c6 and c7 to allow the flexion of the pole without breaking at c3 to simply get away from pressure. It starts from the hind end forward. Getting even strides in the hind legs is a good way to measure your straightness, and necessary before you can get proper impulsion. Its not simply just getting the head down and asking the body forward, I personally call that the "crash test dummy" theory.
 

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Don't forget-this is all hard work for your horse! You have to have forward intent before you have "collection"... I personally would not advise doing anything with contact at the walk or halt until you feel confident that picking up the reins will NOT slow your horse down. When you do start on a new step, start on it slowly. It sounds like you both get tired and just hang on each other.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I have a question- in this photo, does the horse look like she is working off of her bum a little? To me her forehand looks a bit lighter. Try to excuse the fact that I look like crap up there- she was just getting back into work and I kinda needed a bit of a feel for her mouth, and this saddle was extremely uncomfortable. Unless of course, my position is interfearing.
 

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Cute pony! No, there is no collection there. Pony looks balanced, relaxed and like a decent mover, but there is no connection, no "on the aids" and definitely no collection.

It also looks like you have a very light, passive, following contact.

First of all, I think what your trainer is asking you to do is not true collection. (There's another good thread on the forum about the definition of collection in a dressage sense.) I think, based on your post, what your trainer is asking for is for you to put the pony "on the aids" - moving forward off your leg into an active, rather than a passive steady contact, with a relaxed, rounded back. Doing this correctly results in the horse moving in a frame, with their nose on the vertical or slightly ahead. Way, way too many people ride to get the frame, rather than laying the foundation that produces the frame as a by product.

I loved Marecare's suggestions, above, for using hills to introduce collection to horses and help you understand what it feels like.

And I liked everyone's response that emphasized you have to ride back to front; you can't just ride the front end.

I think a couple of other things will help as well - you need to ride a trained horse that know how to go on the aids so you know what it feels like, an experience trainer needs to ride your pony to help him understand what is being asked, and you need to watch a lot of horses, either of video or in person, moving on loose rein, move on passive contact and moving "on the aids."

Truly one of those situations where a picture is worth a thousand words.
 

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I have a question- in this photo, does the horse look like she is working off of her bum a little? To me her forehand looks a bit lighter. Try to excuse the fact that I look like crap up there- she was just getting back into work and I kinda needed a bit of a feel for her mouth, and this saddle was extremely uncomfortable. Unless of course, my position is interfearing.

The horse is showing thrust which is required to get impulsion but the tracking will be too wide to show real impulsion.

Without proper rider influence the horse cannot get real impulsion and from that, collection.
 

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In your picture, your mare is also showing a sign of tension that I'm surprised no one picked up. Her left hind and front right hoof should land at the same time--instead her front right foot is hitting the ground before the hind (and also, toe-first!!!).

The toe-first is what some people would call a 'grade one lameness'--horses need to land heel first. Post some pictures of her hooves, and some of her just standing tied and we'll see if we can find anything that might be causing this. Can't collect a horse if they're compensating for some pain!

First thing is first, collection comes from the horse lowering their hind end, and taking weight on their hocks. So the hocks will bend more, and the butt will actually look lower when they move then when they are standing. They will lift their back to carry you, and as they lift their back, they lift the base of their neck. This is VERY VERY important. You can have a horse with a high head and it on the vertical and have NO collection whatsoever if the BASE of the neck is not lifted, because if you pull the head up and the horse has no strength or training to be at that level, they'll simply drop the base of their neck. Then you have a horse that looks pretty to the uneducated, but is not truly collected in the least.

So collection starts in the hind end, yes? You can go up and down hills all you like, fact of the matter is people have been obtaining collection for years using exercises meant to do so, with OUT hills. Hills do not encourage a horse to use its back at all--actually, most drop and hollow their back.

But here is my biggest problem with hills--it doesn't TEACH your horse anything. When you start riding exercises like shoulders-in and haunches in, you begin to have the ability to control how much power your horse uses to push off with EACH INDIVIDUAL hind foot. Amazing! And horses learn no such thing with hill work. They do not learn how to be on the bit. It's just a good workout--not something to TEACH collection.

When your horse is collected, their head will fall on the vertical. Which means you will NOT try to put it there yourself! Look up how to work your horse in a 'long and low' frame (I also have a blog post on this, if you'd like me to post it, just ask.), and this will start to teach your horse how to be on the bit, and to have a solid connection. You don't take up the slack in the reins to create contact--the horse will do that for you when they are working correctly. When a horse is reaching forward and holding the bit with their mouth and they want to feel your hands, it's amazing.

And this is why we DO NOT teach a horse to 'flex his head' when you pull back. If the horse's response is to move his head AWAY from the pressure of the bit, how do you get him to be 'on the bit' and move INTO the contact?

Simple--you can't.

When you teach a horse to flex his head because you pull a rein back, all you are doing is holding his head in a pretty, but inefficient, frame.

Collection is very difficult--work on long and low, and once your horse is moving in a relaxed manner, will softly chew the bit and relax their head and neck when you softly squeeze a rein, you can start on the shoulders-in and haunches in, which will begin to teach your horse to take more weight with his back legs.
 
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