Renowned educator, clinician, and Western Dressage World Champion Lynn Palm says that one of the quickest ways to understand true collection is to try it yourself. Here’s an easy exercise from her book THE RIDER’S GUIDE TO REAL COLLECTION to help you feel what your horse feels when you ask him to collect.
1 First, get on your hands and knees, with your knees directly under your hips and your hands directly under your shoulders. In this position, you’re going to have your head above your back because it feels more comfortable. Because of the weight of your head and neck, you’re going to feel more weight on your hands than on your knees—the same as the horse in natural carriage.
2 Now, pretend you are doing a canter depart. You should find that you can bring your hands off the ground without difficulty, although perhaps not as gracefully as you would like.
3 When collection is achieved through training and developing the horse’s body, the hind legs engage and move forward deep underneath his body, the spine rounds, and the forehand elevates. To simulate this, bring your knees underneath yourself to round and elevate your back.
4 Try your canter depart again. You should be able to lift your hands easily: This position simulates a horse that is collected.
5 “Set” your head, like a horse in false collection. Put your head down so it is level with or below your topline. You should feel the added weight on your hands at this point. When this happens to the horse, he can’t bring his hind legs underneath his body to start collecting himself. Move your knees far behind your hips.
6 Now pick up your “canter.” It should be extremely hard to lift your hands off the ground. This is what your horse experiences, too!
THE RIDER’S GUIDE TO REAL COLLECTION is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.
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