Achieving Collection: Part 2
- April 14, 2015
- Jenn Zeller
Hopefully you read the first part of our series on collection. Today we’ll continue and get into the meat and potatoes of how you’d start to get a horse to properly collect.
To teach proper elevation and flexion Buck uses a very thorough drill: you standstill- and this drill should carry over to everything else we do on our horse- be it a short serpentine, a turn around, or a one-rein stop.
In this drill we want our horse’s head above his withers. And then you are to picture a string, with a rock tied to the end, attached to his foretop (or forelock). The goal is to have the string stay in the middle of his face, when he was asked to bring his head around to the side, and to have him straight up and down enough that the string would hang straight down from his nose. So you wanted him turned and on the vertical- something like this:
In the above photo, it’s clear, that his ears are fairly level- or they would be if they were both up, that his poll is elevated and that he’s on the vertical. Keep in mind that you may not get all the parts of this at once but you must release for each try your horse makes. I don’t sit and drill on my advanced horses with this daily, but I do check to make sure it’s still working for me, every time I get on them. With a baby that’s just learning, I will work on it throughout each ride, and sometimes, when they’re ready to be still, I make a point to sit on them and do it (correctly!).
Here’s an example of doing it incorrectly:
You can see that his face isn’t on the vertical, and if we were to have a string with a rock tied to the end of it, attached to his foretop, it’d be hanging down the right side of his face, instead of hanging down the middle of his face. I’m hoping that the incorrect picture will help you further understand my explanation.
One of the benefits to doing it at the standstill first is that it helps your horse to get balanced. When you begin this drill your horse may have trouble standing still at first but they’ll figure it out – just hold until their feet get still and then release. The balance of your horse starts with proper flexion so if you can get that working for you at the standstill, and you’re consistent, you’ll get more from your horse at other gaits than you would have had you not started here.
Once that is working for you, you will gather your horse at the standstill- not pulling up, but waiting for their poll to rise above their withers; then move your hand back, to gather them at the poll, and put them on the vertical (remember to release when they got soft). The goal is to have them eventually, where, instead of working our hands on a 90 degree angle- such as up and then back, making an “L”, we could work on a 45 degree angle, so we would be able to go up and back at once, and have the horse elevate his poll and gather up through his face. For those of you riding, that might want to try this, don’t forget to release when your horse gets the elevation. Once he gets that you want him elevated, you can then move your hands back and ask for them to roll in at the poll- and again release when he gives to you. Getting the elevation helps people get the release better when the horse starts to break at the poll.
And I think this is a good time for y’all to soak in what you’ve just read!
About Jenn Zeller
Jenn Zeller is the creative mind and boss lady behind The South Dakota Cowgirl. She is an aspiring horsewoman, photographer, brilliant social media strategist and lover of all things western. After a brief career in the investment world to support her horse habit (and satisfy her...