Thursday, June 18, 2015

Collection - What we do.

Excerpt from the FEI definition of collection:

The position of the head and neck of a Horse at the collected paces is naturally dependent on the stage of training and, to some degree, on its conformation. It is distinguished by the neck being raised without restraint, forming a harmonious curve from the withers to the poll, which is the highest point, with the nose slightly in front of the vertical. At the moment the Athlete applies his aids to obtain a momentary and passing collecting effect, the head may become more or less vertical. The arch of the neck is directly related to the degree of collection.

I pulled this from the FEI's definition of collection. I have absolutely no issue with it. None.

Let me start with conformation.

The little paint is a quality reining bred yearling. The chestnut (gray?) is a quality yearling Danish Warmblood. Look at the slope of the shoulder, the haunches and the tie-in point on each neck.

Look at the flat croup and the neck tie in and the shoulder on the gray. This build gives him the ability to provide the up and down movement desired in dressage. 
The lower head set in a quarter horse comes from his build. The heavily muscled, long, sloping croup allows him to step under himself and round his back, creating balance and lightness with his "long and low" way of going.

I am not going to get into a discussion about peanut rolling pleasure horses or the crazy low heads of reiners. Both were fads, both are slooooowwwwly leaving the show ring.

I do know that the lowered head on he reiners scored high for degree of difficulty, but I think it's no longer the ideal.

The pleasure horses? I don't know. It's just show crap.

This is a Ranch Pleasure competitor. It is not crap. It may be the salvation of the western pleasure horse.

I can only explain how I train my horses. It's how I was taught to create a round frame, which lengthened the horse's stride, lightened the front end and increased our ease of maneuvers. Lightness through the shoulders, drive and power from the hindquarters...that's our goal.

The low head set comes from drawing up the horse's barrel with pressure from our legs. Try sucking in your stomach and rounding your back, check out what your neck does.

Lightness comes from bending, transitions, half-passes, side-passes, turns on the forehand, serpentines, shoulders in, haunches in....

When each maneuver is correct (no matter what level), the steps deepen, the back rises, the shoulders lighten and the poll lowers...and we encourage it.
The legs go deep, the back curves, the head drops...legs are off...bit is not even there.

Can't spin on  heavy front end.

Excerpt from the FEI definition of collection:
The aim of the collection of the horse is:
i) To further develop and increase the balance and equilibrium of the horse, which has been more or less displaced by the additional weight of the rider.
ii) To develop and increase the horse’s ability to lower and engage his quarters for the benefit of the lightness and mobility of his forehand.
iii) To add to the "ease and carriage" of the horse and to make him more pleasurable to ride.

Some people want this

Some people want this

You want lift?

We get in the dirt

Collection is all about getting what we want while helping horses create a way of going that keeps them in balance. Both disciplines use the same techniques to develop our horses, with a few variations thrown in to compliment the conformation of our horse.

I am sick of talking about collection.
I could have done all kinds of charts and diagrams, but I didn't feel like it.
This is the simplest, clearest way I could address it.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Collection begins in the back and ends at the front. It's all in the feet.

The end.


  1. What a great explanation - thank you!

    I had never heard of Ranch Pleasure but that horse looks great.

    My final comment: it seems like some FEI show judges are unaware of the FEI collection description.

  2. Reading this makes me hear a little trill in my heart. This is what collection is.

    Why did it take me so gosh darn long to learn it? First I pulled back to my hips, then I spent forever tucking the horse's nose in. The we moved onto keeping a tight grip on the reins while I kicked the horse forward into the bit. I tied my horses head down to bend that neck, and used tougher bits so he couldn't lean. I lunged with side reins, cranked nosebands, and searched for collection in everything we did. In the end, I threw away everything in frustration, stopped riding, kept learning, and just stared at my horse until I got finally got it.

    Less is more.

  3. Really interesting article. And it's interesting to see collection in horses doing different activities, and what it boils down to.

  4. That ranch pleasure horse is beautiful.

    I used to have a very good friend who trained western horses, years ago she worked for a dressage trainer, then she did some cutting. I spent a lot of time with her, watching her ride. The way she rode was a mystery to me, but I knew better than to talk while she was riding. She did a lot of circles and serpentines, transitions and changes of direction. One day she was riding a young mare and said "watch this" she took the mare to the rail and asked her to jog. It was as beautiful as a passage. It was collected, not slowed down, she had impulsion and power. It gave me a chill up my spine. I never knew western pleasure could be so beautiful. She let me ride the mare and gave me instructions. It wasn't as easy as it looked, and I didn't know how to do anything without contact. I did get 5 or 6 steps, and it felt as awesome as it looked. I wish that was the direction western pleasure was going.

  5. Wow, I LOVE that Ranch Pleasure Horse!

  6. "Collection begins at the back and ends at the front. It's all in the feet"

    AMEN !!!

  7. Two excellent articles on collection and how they appear differently in different disciplines but they both "begin at the back and end at the front"

    Well done!

    Truly loved the Ranch Pleasure horse. Never heard of it but it does look promising.

  8. I have a lovely mare that comes from cutting lines- we barrel race. She has a nice handle with good collection, and really steps under herself well. What I was finding though, is that when we came into the turn, she tended to want to dump all her speed onto her front end and sort of churn around the barrel.She wan't strung out behind, she just naturally wanted to get low in front to make that turn. I had to help her learn to raise her head while remaining collected through the turn. That lightness in front helped her to engage her hindquarters to drive through the turn. So that all the impulsion was coming from behind. It was ugly while we were working on it- high head, concave back, strung out behind…… but when she got it, we shaved a full second off our time. Collection is an interesting topic for me, and looking at how it relates to barrel racing. We do want it, but in a different way than other disciplines. WyoFaith

  9. For those readers who enjoy a more technical approach I highly recommend reading the last few articles on the blog. They take Mugs' explanations to the nth degree.

    Thank you for bringing up collection in a "Western" style of riding. It's often overlooked and can be difficult to accomplish in the downhill built stock-type breeds.

  10. Another great post. I am primary a dressage rider and I would absolutely love to ride that ranch pleasure horse. You could easily plop a dressage saddle on him and he would look right at home.
    I honestly think that many people are scared of the feel of collection. When your horse pushes "through" and achieves balance and self carriage the power that is developed is amazing and can be a bit scary. When you just crank their heads in and the back end is in the next county people feel safe because the motor is shut off. I'm just bringing a dutch mare back into work after having a few foals and she is by far the nicest and most talented horse I have ever sat on. That being said, when she relaxes, softens, rounds and lifts up it is an amazing effortless feeling and at the same time the sheer power that kicks on is incredible but definitely demands respect.

  11. Nice even handed objective post. Thank you