When I was learning how to ride, my coach was a dressage expert. But for the longest time, she refused to teach me how to collect a horse.
I was always confused why she didn’t want to show me how and why it wasn’t more of a priority in our lessons.
Wasn’t collection super important?
The books and videos I watched all said that it was.
One day, we were working on flexion and she finally explained it.
She told me:
If you can’t properly flex your horse, then it’s almost impossible to maintain collection. It will invariably breakdown because it’s too difficult for the horse to maintain if they aren’t nicely flexing around corners and on circles.
So before we get started on collection, let’s make sure we’ve got flexion down:
Now let’s get to collection…
Being Gentle is Better than Trying to Muscle
Trying to collect a horse that is prancing, fighting at the bit or tossing his head can be a challenge.
The problem comes from trying to muscle a horse into collection using the reins so that they bend their necks.
Just because a horse’s neck is bent and they’re moving a bit slower doesn’t mean that they’re collected.
Collection means bigger movement of all four legs thus a feeling of going slower and more deliberately as well as having weight in the hindquarters thus a feeling of “going uphill”.
Circles Are Your Friend
If you read my post on flexion, you’ll know how much I stress this.
That’s because it’s so important.
Now that you’ve learned how to obtain proper flexion and how to stop your horse from falling into the circles that you ride, you’re going to use your perfectly circular circles to collect your horse.
You’re going to trot nested circles until you feel that slower, more deliberate, more balanced, more uphill feeling of collection.
The best part about constantly trotting in circles is that if your flexion is correct, your horse will almost automatically become collected.
Do Nested Circles Using Half the Arena
This is the pattern that I want you to trot:
Add this exercise to your daily routine, wait until your horse drops his head into it and maintain nice contact with the bit but don’t muscle it.
The better you do at flexing appropriately and keeping your horse on that perfect circle with his body flexed along the diameter, the easier it will be to achieve collection.
Let me know how it goes!