Collection is something we may hear a lot about, but what is it? What does it do and how do we get it?
There are two main parts in collection.
Most of us hear and think about physical collection of a horse (which is important to performance and in executing maneuvers, but we often overlook the other crucial part of collection, mental collection (which was pointed out to me be my good friend Craig Johnson.
First, we will discuss physical aspects of collection. Horses are unique vertebrates because they possess a thoracic lumbar vertebra that acts as a hinge allowing them to pivot the hind quarters up under them. Other large animals, such as cattle, do not possess this trait. This trait not only gives us the ability, but is also the basis of physical collection. The majority of a horse’s natural body weight is in his front 1/3 of his body (his head, neck and shoulders). With a horses natural movement this puts the majority of the weight on the front end of a horse. The objective of physical collection is to move the weight, or point of balance, from the front of the horse to towards the rear end of a horse. Thus, creating a more centered, balanced point.
Why do we want physical collection?
With physical collection we obtain more balance from the horse. Our horses are softer and their movements are freer, by shifting the weight off a horse’s front end and moving it to a more central point. With the horse’s rear end up underneath them and their weight shifted back to the center the horse can stop harder, they can start faster, turn quicker, and travel smoother.
If a horse is not collected or balanced their weight is carried on their front end and they are strung out with their rear end and legs out behind them.
Think of an uncollected horse moving. It is similar to a semi tractor without any trailer behind. If I take my trailer off my semi tractor and drive it around it’s like an uncollected horse. All the weight is on the front end and the rear wheels are way out behind it with no weight over them. It rides terrible rough, I can’t stop fast, and I have no acceleration; because there is no traction. When I put the trailer on, this changes the balance point and puts the weight over the rear wheels, which causes it to ride smoother, stop and accelerate quicker and handle much better.
How do we achieve physical collection?
Collection is basically, gained by gaining control of the horses body and being able to hold the front end through it’s face (pick up his back and drive his hind quarters under him; packaging or framing him up). By timing and repetition we can teach a horse to hold this frame longer and longer on his own.
It doesn’t matter what type of horse, whether it’s a pleasure, reining, gaming, English, or dressage horse; collection and balance is important to performance.
The next aspect to collection is mental.
We all know if we don’t have the horses mind we have nothing. We can have the most athletic horse but if we can’t gain control of his mind we can’t get control of his body.
As I have mentioned in previous articles, a large part of our training is to teach our horses to focus and to develop their attention span. By accomplishing this, it makes our training sessions much more productive and intense. There are simple exercises we can do to help teach this. For example, trotting circles and teaching our horses to hold the circle without any help from us, teaching them to stay hooked and focused.
Mental collection is a must in developing finished horses and showing/competing with our horses.
So as we are training our horses lets remember the two parts of collection we want to achieve, and remember the only way to get either one is Timing, Consistency, and Repetition.
Good luck and God bless,
Monty Bruce is a multi-time Reined Cow Horse and Reining Futurity and Derby champion. Monty, his assistants, and students have won numerous World and Reserve championships and are continuing to succeed in the show pen.
The Monty Bruce Training Center is a full-service equine facility that specializes in Reined Cow Horse, Reining, and the Performance Horse. The Center strives to provide superior care and training for all equine needs. Visit MontyBruce.com for more info.
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