Riding a collected horse is always a thrill. Instead of the lope feeling ﬂ at and strung out, it will become almost a circular rhythm as you feel the energy go from the hindquarters all the way through the horse’s soft ly rounded spine and then roll back to the haunches again. It is a stride that is ﬂ uid and powerful at the same time, no matt er what the speed is. Collection is also the physical state where your horse is most balanced and prepared to respond to whatever cue you give. This is because he is carrying most of his weight on his hindquarters, so that his front end is lighter and easier to maneuver.
There are two main components to developing collection. The first is creating power, but not necessarily speed, which is achieved by asking your horse to reach a little farther under himself with his hind legs, or as I like to say, “slowing the front motor down and speeding the back motor up.” The second part is developing a soft and round top line—and that starts with the development of a soft, responsive mouth and relaxation in the horse’s poll.
So how do I get that? I milk my reins, seesaw, move my hands with life—there are a lot of words for it—I move my bit back and forth in the horse’s mouth while I push him into the bit with my legs. Horses respond to movement. A dead pull on the reins is going to get you a dead pull back—and your horse will always win that one.
So what if he gets right off of the bit and hands some slack back to you? Will we keep our hands moving? No way. He did good and he needs to be rewarded. As he softens his poll, we will acknowledge him and slow our hands down. Maybe we won’t even have to move them after a bit. That is the goal. As a finished horse, he shouldn’t require you to use that action, but for now, anytime we are not happy with the feeling we get from his mouth, we need to work that bridle until it gets better.
Horses will flex to pressure from our legs. If you use one leg, it’s as if I’m poking you in the side with a pencil—you’ll move your ribs away which means you flex toward the pressure with your head and neck. And when you use both legs on a horse, he will have tendency to lift in the middle, which puts his head down and drives his back legs farther under his belly as he moves, and that is the form we are trying to create.
Watch How You’re Riding
When you’re riding, I want you to think of steering a motorboat— where the rudder and the power are in the back—and not like you’re riding a bicycle, where you’re crouched over the handlebars. In this session you’ll spend a lot of time focusing on the horse’s front end—as you work on vertical ﬂexion and maneuverability— but make sure that you concentrate on keeping yourself tall in the saddle and that your horse is driving from the back end, leaving his front end free to maneuver.
More with Les is a regular California Horsetrader column. Les Vogt has won more than 15 World Championships, including two wins at the NRCHA Snaﬄ e Bit Futurity. Although Les still rides and occasionally shows, his focus is giving clinics around the world and developing products for the performance horseman. To learn more about Les and to see his clinic schedule, visit the Web site: www.lesvogt.com. You can also read previous More with Les columns at: news.horsetrader.com.