First-Ezra...How're things going? Let me know when you're getting the softened round feel both ways OK? Let me know if you're stuck too.
Second- Collection. Yikes. Let's all chime in on our interpretations of collection. What we look for, where we are with it, our personal definitions. Wanna? I'm hoping everybody will have something to say. Ask questions, make comments, learn the differences in how we approach things.Everybody promise not to get intimidated or defensive......
Horse of Course started everything a few days ago. I've added a few comments here and there, in green. She said...
Laura, thanks for your kind reply. Nice to hear.I have been thinking about what you wrote about collection. Your definition of collection is not the same as mine (as a dressage rider).So what do I mean?(Again, just my personal thoughts here)In the dressage world collection equals ability to engage the hind legs over time.When you start to ride a young horse, it’s rather on the forehand. Same for me. So you work to get a good, balanced working trot with a nice rhythm and contact, and you work to keep the balance in transitions and in change of directions. When this is coming on, you begin to work with the straightness in the horse. All horses are crooked, as well as us riders unfortunately.This is where I begin my straight line exercises. An example: most horses, when they canter/lope along the rail place the hind legs slightly to the inside. (Do you correct this in a western horse?)
I have seen WP horses dramatically driven with their hindquarters to the inside? outside? but they are extremely crooked, someone explain this to me....
So in this example we have to work to get the horse straight by placing the front of the horse slightly inwards from the rail.Why?In my world we believe that the hind legs are the motor of the horse (same for you?) so we always correct the front end in line with the motor. And we need full throttle on both propellers. If not, we will get irregularities in the gaits and problems to execute the movements later on. So the horse is to use both hind legs straight under, with equal force.The same “straightness” also is used to describe how the horse has to work correctly in corners and circles.
It should be in balance, with an even bend in the body that equals the circle, not leaning in, not putting the hind legs to the outside/inside, and not jack-knifing (falling out through the outer shoulder)This is a never ending job. (I believe that a good dressage rider should act like a physiotherapist to the horse :-) Away with stiffness, crookedness and work that body!) This is what we're working on Ezra!
Then you start to play with the impulsion and collection of the horse. The horse’s hind legs can either carry or push.In a TB race horse as an example, you have long, low, ground covering strides with a great ability to push. Cowhorses are supposed to move long and low, with lots of push.
A well educated dressage horse has a great ability to carry. All horses are constructed differently, and have more or less natural talent for what we call collection – but really it’s a question about building strength, over years.I’ll try a simplified explanation: what you do in the start is to put energy into the horse (back to the leg-discussion :-)) but when your horse answers with increased speed (which they do in the beginning) you balance it up with a soft closing of seat and hand, a half-halt, and ask it to bring the legs under instead. When the horse then happily turns off the engine instead (which they are likely to do in the beginning) you again ask for more energy and concentrate to keep the same rhythm.What we aim for is for the horse to be able to lengthen and shorten(collect) the stride keeping the same rhythm, keeping balance, keeping the outline and with a soft contact in the hand. Increased collection is actually increased ability to carry. The more you train, the stronger the horse gets. And with correct work, the ability to collect increases.
We don't want the lift you guys work towards, the high knee and hock action would interfere with our work, part of why our horses look heavy in the front to you, trust me, the good ones are not!
But it’s a long, difficult road, both for the horse and the rider.When a horse collects you can see that the moment of suspension gets longer, more ”air under the stomach”, the hind legs bend more in the hocks to get the legs more under the body, and the front of the horse elevates.I believe it is easiest to illustrate increasing degrees of collection with the different dressage movements in trot:Working trot – collected trot – passage – piaffe.Passage is what the dressage horse in the you-tube video executes when they come into the arena.Piaffe is when the horse “trots on the same spot”.I believe you all have been sitting on a horse when it sees something spooky? And felt the horse grow under you? Suddenly it’s two sizes larger than it was just a second ago.This is in a way the feeling you get when you sit on an educated dressage horse.It kind of turns your average Ford into a Ferrari. I love it. it, how we've been taught.