Collection and Your Horse
When you collect your horse, you want to:
- Shorten the entire frame of the horse. Not just the neck.
- Load the hind legs as you shift the center of gravity back so there is more weight on the hind legs than on the front ones.
- Lower the croup so your horses’ s silhouette looks like its headed uphill.
Collection is challenging because horses are built like a table with a head and neck stuck out on one end. That means, horses have naturally more weight on their front legs than the hind legs. Scale wise, they actually have 60% of the weight over the front legs and 40% on their hind legs.
Loading the hind legs, and lowering the croup (items number 2 and 3 in the description of “collection” above) are results of engagement.
What is Engagement
Engagement is the bending (think squatting down like your bum is lower to the ground – your hips knees and ankles bend more to squat) of the hind leg joints.
When a horse is collected, the center of gravity shifts back toward the hind legs.
Remember the formula for engagement.
Bend + Sideways = Engagement!
When you bend your horse and take any part of him sideways, you increase the bending of the joints of the hind legs, and therefore you are increasing the engagement!
Dressage Exercises for Engagement
So, for example, if your first level horse is just trotting straight down a long side and you are completely straight, and you’re not going sideways – you probably don’t have any engagement.
If you make a 10-meter circle, the nature of the circle makes him shorter from tail to poll, as well as stepping more under his body with the inside hind leg. Now you have some engagement!
When you follow that circle with a leg yield – you are now going sideways!
Now you have doubled your engagement!
If you do a transition while having bend AND sideways then you’ll get even more! Just think!
Combination exercises not only add fun and variety to your work, but they are an efficient use of your time.
Combination exercises not only add fun and variety to your work, but they are an efficient use of your time.Ruth Hogan-Poulsen
These ideas and exercises should be fun and inviting, and take caution not to do too much in one session.
Little bits more each day will quickly add up to a large amount. There is a fine line between strengthening your horse and making him sore – so go slowly!