Reaching Collection

Posted in: Featured, Horse Training

Remember my superficial collection as a teen? My horse was soft and his head was tucked in. He looked fancy even! But it wasn’t what I was after, though I didn’t know the difference then. Creating full body collection takes some practice and development of your horse’s willingness and muscle-build.

Have you seen those horses with their head held high and really thick muscling on the underside of their necks? Those muscles are far more developed than those along the topline. Asking a horse like that to collect takes a far bit of time and patience on both the horse and the rider’s sides. Not all horses start there.

There are so many ways to achieve collection, but it’s helpful to be sure your horse is soft and willing, bending both to the left and right. If you find resistance there, you’ll most likely find it in collection. (Not always the case, but it’s good to be sure your horse can bend in any direction!) Once he can bend left and right with his feet still, try bending your horse while walking in a small 12 foot or so circle. It’s harder for horses to brace against their rider when they’re bent versus straight on. Use your legs as well! Use an inside leg to help him keep his shoulder up, but not so much that he moves off your leg, and use your outside rein for support to be sure he doesn’t turn in too tight of a circle.

Once your horse is soft in a small circle, ask for softness walking with a soft face and use your legs to softly encourage your horse to lift his ribs and reach under himself. You should feel like you’ve lifted an inch or two off his back while his hind end is engaged, but don’t let the head and shoulders fall. As the hind end gathers under, the front end should elevate and remain engaged.


True collection comes when you have all that, plus float in your reins. Your float may only be a quarter inch of slack, but you shouldn’t have to hold your horse in the collected position. Think of a horse within a pen; he stays within the parameter without actually leaning on the fence. Set a boundary with your reins, and your horse shouldn’t lean on them. Instead, whatever that rein length may be, he should come back to you.

He may search for some time (by bobbing his head or fighting you) to find the proper spot for collection. Be sure to give, even just a small 1/4″ softening of the reins, to let him know he’s in the right spot. Rewarding when it’s right will help him understand the goal: proper, soft, elevated collection.

Posted in: Featured, Horse Training

About Savanna Simmons

I'm Savanna Simmons and I live north of Lusk, Wyoming, on the Four Three Ranch with my husband Boe and our sons, Brindle and Roan. I grew up evolving my horsemanship with clinicians like Ray Hunt, Joe Wolter, and Jack Brainard, but not within a...

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