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Ready for anything: Collection

By LES VOGT - Horsetrader columnist - April 4th, 2013 - More with Les

40th in a series
After last issue’s look at alignment, Les begins detailed instruction on collection.

– To concentrate on driving your horse from the back with your legs, in order to create a soft, round frame.
– To continue to integrate the concept of 50 percent hands/50 percent legs into your riding.
– To learn how to handle a tough or belligerent horse.
– To learn about the elevator bit and how it can help you in your training program.

Things to Concentrate on
– Developing a conditioned response of using your hands and legs together to soften any resistance.
– Learning to feel when the horse actually starts reaching further underneath himself in response to your legs.
– Start to condition yourself to reinforce collection with your legs first, then your hands.
– Maintaining the correct vertical flexion in all your work and exercises.

How This Fits into the Program
A horse can’t give you really athletic maneuvers if he isn’t collected. First, collection’s emphasis on carrying the weight on the hindquarters puts the horse in a posture that allows him to maximize his power in all his maneuvers by loading the weight to the hindquarters, allowing him to move his front end more athletically and with less effort. Second, a collected frame is one that’s ready for anything. Think of a football player ready for a play to begin – poised, coiled and ready to go any direction. A collected horse is the same way – with his weight on his hindquarters, he is spring-loaded
and ready to unload into your next cue.

With reining and cow horses, our goal is to eventually teach the horse to maintain this collected frame on his own, without him depending on us to enforce it or remind him. So while we’ll spend a lot of time on it during the next few months, our goal is to encourage the horse more and more to take responsibility for keeping himself in this collected frame that stays pre-loaded behind. Then we can move more confidently into the next levels of difficulty in our maneuvers and starting to work on cattle.

Without a soft neck and poll, collection is impossible, so if you still have any resistance in the neck during any of the exercises that we’ve done so far, go back and work on them. Also, remember that 90 percent of the time, a problem that a horse is giving you is just a reflection of your own riding, so work 90 percent on yourself and 10 percent on your horse!

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