Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Collection - Part 4 - What Does It Feel Like

It's All in the Feel
Have you ever tried to describe the feeling of 'ah' or wonderment you get when you see an amazing thing ... oh... let's say ... like one of Shawn Flarida's runs at the NRHA futurity and have no words to describe how it made you feel. A performance that completely leaves you speechless. It gives me goose bumps!
I cry every time the 'run for the roses' song is played at the NRHA futurity when the winner is able to circle around the arena to the exhilaration of the crowd. What a rush! How can anyone describe how they feel at that moment?

What I can tell you is that ... to me... when I have collection on my horse or when my horse is doing something correctly.... finally.... well.... it's just feels right. You get a very good feeling in the pit of your stomach that ... 'this is it'.... 'you got it'.
Feel and Timing Through ExperienceAs Clinton Anderson * would say: "It's feel, timing and experience. You gain feel and timing through experience." And that is so true with collection.

Clinton's definition of collection is: "True collection is where the horse gives you its entire body to do with whatever you want." The result of total body control.

Here are some of my thoughts on what collection feels like to me:

  • you feel in sync with your horse or part of the horse. The horse doesn't make a move that unsettles you or makes you feel unsure. A collected horse is very steady on their feet. The horse has taken your weight and incorporated it with theirs.
  • the collected horse feels smooth; almost like a rocking motion. A very nice, relaxed feeling. A 'strung out' horse (uncollected) is rough to ride. They may stumble or trip. A uncollected horse is 'clumsy' or uncoordinated.
  • the collected horse feels balanced and solid like a rock. The horse feels like they can very easily carry you in any athletic move.
  • the collected horse is quite able to respond to a request with ease. An uncollected horse lags or has difficulty responding to a request. (They have to readjust themselves or not comply).
  • A collected horse feels like you 'could really go places & do things' where as an uncollected horse feels like you are ok going on a simple ride but you wouldn't want to have to count on them for anything else.
You know you have collection when:
  • It feels like the horse has gathered themselves up. The horse feels like they have compressed themselves. Like a slinky all together rather then strung out.
  • The collected horse will feel like 'a hot knife through butter' in their face when you pick up on the reins. The horse gives with such ease. It feels so easy to do. Effortless.
  • The collected horse will break at the poll or put their head perpendicular to the ground; feeling like the horse's head has almost disappeared.
  • You can feel the hind legs further underneath the horse because you can feel the horse more powerfully pushing off or reaching with their hind legs. You feel the driving power coming from the engaged hindquarters.
  • You feel the rounded horse's back because the horse is actually lifting you up, out of the saddle slightly as the hind legs are reaching underneath themselves. 'The ring of muscles' are engaged. The croup has dropped. The horse's weight has shifted to the hind end. (see Dr. Deb Bennett's article "The Anatomy of Collection" in the September 2005 issue of EQUUS magazine. Dr Deb Bennet says "Collection starts with the tucking of the croup and is complete with the lifting of the base of the neck".
  • The horse's stride has slowed down slightly; like they've shifted to a lower, power driving gear.
  • You feel like your riding is light, fluid, airy almost magical. Doesn't reading this give you goose bumps!
The next article I will talk about how I'm doing with teaching collection to Trigger.

(photo of Jackie & I at the 2008 International Plowing Match demonstrating spins. Notice how Jackie has rocked back onto her hocks. She has collected herself to get ready to do a set of spins. Her head is too high in this photo.). Thanks to Bonnie Grein for taking this photo.

*Article from TodaysHorse.com
Questions and comments always welcome.
Putting my spin on Collection!
©Copyright KISS Reiners


  1. Just found your website through a search I was doing for techniques on hip control. Seems to be a tough spot for me with some horses and I'm looking for all the different techniques I can find.

    Look forward to reading your articles.

    Custer Park, Illinois

  2. Hello Al - Thanks for commenting. You're my 1st commentor.
    Yes hip control is very important. I would check into any articles that talk about SIDEPASSING & 2 TRACKING. Hip-in exercises are also good. I also have exercises called a 'donut' & a box exercise.
    Bob Avila refers to sidepassing as the biggest part of Body control on a horse. Here is a link to a YouTube video with Bob explaining sidepassing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJdWAVQjG3Q&feature=related
    I start a horse on sidepassing with what I call my 'presidepass' exercise or YIELD HINDQTRS WHILE WALKING. I will talk about that in a future article.
    Even before that though, I always start with groundwork. I will ask a horse whenever I am handling them to move their hindqtrs over a step or two with the pressure of my hand at their side. (Right where the spur will eventually go when I am mounted & wearing spurs). That way the horse will have some understanding of yielding to pressure on their sides when they are mounted.
    Thanks for visiting my site.