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A bumpy road to collection

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  • A bumpy road to collection

    I'm at my wits end trying to figure out this thing called collection. So, I'm hoping someone here can give me some tips or advice or maybe perspective... or just roll their eyes while I vent, that's ok too. I have an older OTTB, who makes me work. And I like that, the challenge. By the end, I'll be a better, more effective, more sensitive rider. But right now I want to give up. The issue is collection. I can get him on the bit, and can manipulate shoulders in and back, hind end in and out. We need to begin to have a better collected gait. We start with a walk where I endeavor to get him to step under himself more and then transition to canter. (Sometimes, right after the canter transition, he's too up, but not bad yet, and I can feel that his stride is still not compressed... And yet I can't manipulate it at all?!) Sometimes the transition does not go well, because I don't use enough leg at the right time and he inverts his back. Sometimes I get it ok... my trainer would probably snipe that I still need more leg. Anyway, when in the canter I can feel his mouth sort of banging into my hands, his stride isn't compressed, it's the same stride we'd have if I were warming him up. But his mouth is coming full bore against my hand. So, his mouth gets hard and that moves in about a 1/2 a stride to him blowing through my hand. My trainer wants me to use more leg, but I know that if I have no half halt (which I don't because he's blowing through my hand) then using leg gets me a faster stride but that's about all. If I give with my hand, often times that moves him faster to the forehand and blowing through my hand. I need to move with his mouth so he's not banging against me while at the same time getting him to move more weight to the hind end. I know this, my trainer wants to whack me a good one... but I can't seem to accomplish it. Trainer says she can't help me, because I know what to do, but just am not doing it. Well... if I could make myself do it, I would!! Believe me, if knowing something intellectually translated seamlessly into my body performing to perfection... I would not be here. I'd be some big name awemsomeness impressed at my own self. Anyway, I thought that perhaps I could get at the issue another way. Adjusting the stride perhaps? Well, guess what? Yep, same issue doing that. I can not compress his stride to freakin' save my life. What I'm looking for here is (as stated above) some exercises/advice... maybe some encouragement, god forbid. My trainer has dispensed with the niceties. But I'm determined to figure this out. And, when all is said and done... Gan (at least) will still love me.
    the things that i had not ought to
    i do because i ve gotto
    wotthehell wotthehell

  • #2
    I'm sorry but...

    Get another trainer. More leg when the horse doesn't know what the leg means is about the most ignorant thing you can tell someone. I sincerely feel bad for you and your horse and hope you make a change. Not every trainer deals with OTTBs and this type of horse well.

    In the meantime... Ride him under tempo if he is rushing and focus on the lateral, not the longitudinal. Collection is a long way away. Make sure everything physical is ok. Correct longing and in hand work are your friends. TBs are usually eager overachievers and you will need to slow things way down to show him what you want.
    "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.


    • #3
      It sounds to me that you could take a step backwards for a bit to help get some perspective.

      I did this myself when I was struggling with collection, because in reality I wasnt doing any favors for my horse thinking I could ask for it, train it, and keep it consistant.

      It actually took a whole different trainers saying different words to help me see.

      In preperation for collection she would tell me to get more control on my pace/tempo. I had no idea what that meant in terms of what SHE was expecting and it took about 3 months of me learing that my outside rein wasnt controlling every little or big stride the way she wanted it to.

      After that collection was a cinch (even with my arabs ) as I simply took the pace control and pictured small stride in addition.

      My half halt before was a steady holding of the reins (ugh) and she retaught me that if the horse was on the aids right it should feel as simple as a thought (down the road for you).

      To me, you need to see if you have tempo/pace control, with very nice half halts and kept connection at all gaits first then re-approach the collection.
      ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~


      • #4
        You are going to have to soften first. He's not going to soften first.

        How is he doing at the trot with more collection? He's going to have to be more collected at the trot before he can be more collected at the canter.

        In cases of 'more leg', maybe thinking more seat, or more driving seat on that particular seat bone would help.

        Maybe some rides on a schoolmaster horse who can help your body to
        'remember', so you can duplicate the feeling on your own horse.

        Just some thoughts, hope it all works out ok for you.


        • #5
          Well i can say i haven't done collection and am worried myself since i too have an ottb that is just learning some of this at 17. but from what i have experienced, my first issue would be to see if your trainer could get on the horse and teach him first. its my experience through the years that a novice teaching a novice equals lots of ADVIL. if i'm struggling, my trainer gets on first, schools the horse then puts me back on to "feel" and i watch her ride whe explians to me what she is doing with her body and i watch her every muscle, because sometimes talented riders do things they don't realize or verbalize. so that's my first suggestion. if she won't or can't get on and teach horse first, i would consider what another poster stated and consider finding another trainier, or going to a clinic.

          second, suggestion is a question realy, is your horse strong enough to do what your asking? I would think collection takes a lot of strength. excersises i know my instructor has me do is trotting and walking up hills to strenthen his hind end and trotting poles that are raised slightly.

          i don't know if that helps much, best of luck.


          • #6
            If you knew what to do you would be doing it, you need someone who can show you and then tell you how to collect. But imho you are mixing up concepts.

            Collection is AMPLITUDE of stride/thrust. It is developed by the use of effective hh/folding the hindleg more/keeping the horse more up and open and getting greater thrust upward with greater articulation of the joints. Walk is the LAST gait to be collected (because of the lack of suspension in that gait). And it comes a little at a time.

            First comes the ability to sustain a steady tempo with pure gaits (rhythm). Then longitudinal flexion (bit acceptance) comes a little at a time, initially through lateral flexability on circles. This breeds greater engagement, progressive ability to take hh correctly (stay up/open/active).

            It has NOTHING to do with MORE LEG, but rather timing of the aids (sometimes less aid). THAT is something the teacher should be telling you. Hollowing the back is probably more a function of a poorly used hand (too low/too wide/too strong) and a mistimed seat/leg. Lifting the hand can actually help get the horse to seek fdo (in degrees) more effectually. IF the horse is banging into the hand why is the rein loosed? And if the horse is bearing onto the hand, where are the hh? Think PULSING the aids of slow/relax/down/relax without any steady pressure.

            For SURE you need to be able to ask for longer/shorter strides, to be able to adjust the stride, to be able to get the horse to chew fdo, before starting to do collectability. Only ask for a FEW strides (repeated) at a time, then longer/freer. Reaction to a few actions of the seat. Take a break, start over.

            Will the horse move EASILY off a PULSED leg in a tof? toH? Into the outside rein in a LY? If the outside rein is not filled out EASILY then (diagonal) hh from the outside rein will not result in easier collectabilty. IS the horse staying up/open/slightly ifv? Or is it too lowered/closed? (which means it cannot take a hh correctly).
            I.D.E.A. yoda


            • Original Poster

              Hmmm Yoda, I hadn't thought of it like that. Horse is BTV, because trainer wants me to feel like his nose is touching chest. I want to concentrate on adjusting his stride before I "collect" which I think we can all see I'm not doing correctly anyway. Horse is often leaning on my inside rein w/ hind too far to inside. I have to be able to push his hind end out w/o him sprawling forward, which means I need a more effective hh, ideas/exercises? Also, trainer is pretty fed up w/ lack of stride shortening. I know I can't shorten by pulling... but then how? Trainer says imagine back legs go faster but trot in place... this imagery isn't working for me, because I just pull... ideas for that?
              the things that i had not ought to
              i do because i ve gotto
              wotthehell wotthehell


              • #8
                EqTrainer and IdeaYoda I love you both.

                "More leg!" always seems like yelling at a failing student, "Study harder!"

                I couldn't amplify on what they said, but for relaxation while maintaining forward in the canter with a stiff older TB, I had good luck with a simple, repetitive transition exercise. Just trot the long sides. Ask for the canter just before the corner, canter the short side. Ask for downward just after the corner while still well bent and trot the next long side. Repeat trot long, canter short sides until the horse IS anticipating the transitions, because he will keep himself ready and your aids can.be as light as possible. It will help you sync your timing with him.

                Good luck, try smarter not harder!
                Ring the bells that still can ring
                Forget your perfect offering
                There is a crack in everything
                That's how the light gets in.


                • #9
                  First off, I would make sure Horsey is sound. Sore hocks or stifles make collection a goal that causes horsey pain. I spent far too much time questionning my riding when it turns out my horse has something wrong with him soundness wise.

                  Aside from that..."legs go faster but trot in place"? I don't get that one either.

                  In mind there are two angles to take when working on longitudinal suppleness; lengthenning the horse's spine without changing the rate of speed, and increasing and decreasing the pace without so much change in the length of the horse's spine.

                  I am wondering though, if the problem is not with the horse, if it is that perhaps you don't have an educated leg; timing of the leg aids is so very important. Perhaps ask your trainer for more information on the specifics of how you should be applying your legs (as in how, where and when you should use the leg).

                  It may also benefit you to watch your instructor ride your horse and see what results they get. It may give them an idea of what you are feeling.
                  Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


                  • Original Poster

                    CHT, horse is 21, so not the most supple, but he's not too bad yet. Could be leg issue, no doubt. I have no trouble w/ change of pace, but length of stride... another story. I could have trainer do it, but considering the directions, I'm not sure that watching her do it is going to result in an epiphany for me. Since we're missing each other in the directions for how to shorten the stride w/o pulling on the reins...

                    Mel... yeah, we've gone the "more leg" route before. Always ends up w/ me asking for advice from someone else... Not that I disagree w/ her that an active inside hind can't be fixed w/ more rein. I think I'm missing the timing... for trainer and horse.
                    the things that i had not ought to
                    i do because i ve gotto
                    wotthehell wotthehell


                    • #11
                      OMG! I just had flashbacks to the warm up from hell last September. I had to stop training with someone like this because more leg, more driving was creating nothing but an unbalanced horse and more tension...which is the bane of me and my horses existence.

                      I agree with what EQtrainer said, go back to working under tempo. Go back to finding your horses balance and the right rhythm. Go back to making sure that your horse is working off of your seat and weight aids, not your hand.

                      @ the canter, here's a few tips that have helped me:

                      At the canter, I have to be quicker in my seat- Riding a bit more up in front of my horse's tempo.

                      Using my stirrup bars as if it were a trampoline (like a bounce affect- I visually think I am bouncing up off of my stirrup bars( I find that by doing this, I can be Up front of the movement, and he is able to use his back more and then can be up in his shoulders...(Obviously with this, my shoulders are still back and my seatbones are still in the saddle but I hope you can catch my drift here)

                      I find that these two thinks combined have made my seat have more meaning to my horse...so that when I then make the movement of my seat canter bigger or smaller or bigger, you can actually have an effect, it means something. Or by just flattening my seatbones it means transition downward. A squeezing of my thigh means bigger strides, or applying one leg or the other says move it sideways.

                      (After a while, the drive, drive, drive with your seat and legs means nothing...the poor horse is like, "I am going as much as I can! and then when you ask me to come back, I slam into your hand").

                      Then f you need to ask for inside or ouside flexion to soften or to lower, apply on the upward movement.

                      Good luck to you and Gan. I understand your frustration.
                      "I'm holding out for the $100,000 Crossrail Classic in 2012." --mem
                      "With all due respect.. may I suggest you take up Croquet?" --belambi
                      Proud Member of the Opinionated Redhead Club!


                      • Original Poster

                        Yeah, usually I'm a pretty composed person. But I know when I don't get this right, my trainer is just going to be pissed and yell NO NO NO, then check her blackberry for 10 min, then tell me that there isn't a button for me to push to get the horse to collect, finally she'll tune out because I suck and tell me she can't do anything because it's my ride. So, the moment we even start this work, I'm tense. Which makes it hard for horse to be relaxed. I try to clear these issues up before my lessons, but this one seems beyond me. But I'll get it, I have a few more days to practice.
                        the things that i had not ought to
                        i do because i ve gotto
                        wotthehell wotthehell


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by GansMyMan View Post
                          CHT, horse is 21, so not the most supple, but he's not too bad yet. Could be leg issue, no doubt. I have no trouble w/ change of pace, but length of stride... another story. I could have trainer do it, but considering the directions, I'm not sure that watching her do it is going to result in an epiphany for me.
                          Given the instructions she's offering you, I'm not sure you'd want her to ride your horse.

                          Horse is BTV, because trainer wants me to feel like his nose is touching chest.

                          Someone early on suggested a new instructor. I vote yes on that. This one isn't giving you very good guidance (IMO) and even if she was, she can't seem to adjust her communication style to your learning style. And that's a recipe for frustration for both of you.

                          ETA -- just read your latest post. Find someone who knows how to teach, not just yell and blame you for your lack of skills. Even when you're working hard in a lesson, it should be fun, not stressful. Your horse can't learn when he's stressed out and you can't either.
                          "... if you think i'm MAD, today, of all days,
                          the best day in ten years,
                          you are SORELY MISTAKEN, MY LITTLE ANCHOVY."


                          • #14
                            I wonder if you jump your horse at all? I ask only because I am trying to learn to collect my horse - we do dressage to complement our jumping and are just getting strong enough to try to collect a bit.

                            I ask about the jumping because my trainer and I happened upon an exercise that really got my horse collected. We had a line of low jumps - two feet high - set slightly short. So, without a collected canter, we would not get the correct number of strides. Usually we end up leaving a stride out in this case, because my mare is naturally long strided. In lesson, we trotted in and trotted out of the line several times. I think, as someone else suggested, all the transitions really helped her collect, because when we went to canter out the line, she had the nicest collected canter that I don't think I am able to just ask her to do on our own right now. I can say for sure that as we went through the exercise, she really started using her back, and I think this really helped with the collection.

                            This probably isn't the technical response you are looking for, but it may be a fun exercise to try and help ease the frustration.
                            My blog: Journeys in Riding


                            • #15
                              Yup. Time to move on! In your area I would think there are good peeps... Anyone got any suggestions? You can PM the OP.
                              "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
                              The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.


                              • #16
                                hhmmm...collection is the pinnacle of the training scale....it isn't either you've got it or you don't. You don't just walk trot collect!

                                If you say his mouth is coming full bore through your hand, or he inverts his back or you can feel his mouth banging on your hand- you don't have acceptance of the aids, you have a lack of contact. You CAN'T collect him from here.

                                Each ride, you have to check to make sure that you have all of the other things that help build towards collection: rhythm, suppleness, contact, impulsion straightness and THEN collection.

                                She needs to give you the tools to help you ask whether you have each of these attributes- identify what is missing and how to help you get it.
                                "I'm holding out for the $100,000 Crossrail Classic in 2012." --mem
                                "With all due respect.. may I suggest you take up Croquet?" --belambi
                                Proud Member of the Opinionated Redhead Club!


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by GansMyMan View Post
                                  CHT, horse is 21, so not the most supple, but he's not too bad yet.
                                  When is the last time you've had him checked by a vet and had hock flexions done? Older horses already trained and capable of collection are enough of a challenge for a good, experienced rider. Trying to train an old horse ridden by a rider that doesn't clearly know how to build up to collection is not likely to produce positive results.


                                  • #18
                                    Man, is that trainer a waste. Of your time and money, and of your horse's potential to strengthen and get better.

                                    There are some fab trainers out there. Do yourself a favor and start taking a lesson with some of them - just one - give you an idea of what kind of style and responses from a trainer you would like to have.

                                    Just so you know, you're the one paying, you're the one gets to decide what you would like for you and your horse.

                                    Lots of good advice. My general thought is that lateral work prepares the horse for longitudinal work, and if you aren't fluid laterally, you're probably not able to work longitudinally. There are lateral skills which you and your horse don't have which you need in order to work on 'collection'. "collection' isn't just that, it is a component of changes in gait and of really responsive transitions up and down. He can't do any of that if he isn't soft, and if your hand isn't soft. You need to step back and get the basics for him back again - flexion at the poll, flexion at the jaw. He's falling into his circles, so he isn't rounding or basically bending correctly. Gotta have these basics before he can carry himself correctly to get strong enough for collection.

                                    And the overbent overflexed neck is just reinforcing his inability to come onto the bit. Its an evasion, and he can't work correctly like that, so your trainer has given you the one wrong piece of information guaranteed to prevent you and your horse from moving correctly.

                                    Good luck. Fire the bum.
                                    Airborne? Oh. Yes, he can take a joke. Once. After that, the joke's on you.


                                    • #19
                                      "Trainer says she can't help me, because I know what to do, but just am not doing it."

                                      "But I know when I don't get this right, my trainer is just going to be pissed and yell NO NO NO, then check her blackberry for 10 min, then tell me that there isn't a button for me to push to get the horse to collect, finally she'll tune out because I suck and tell me she can't do anything because it's my ride."

                                      Get a new trainer. This just makes me mad on your behalf. A trainer is there to help you to understand. It's clear by the questions that you are asking that you don't know what to do and there is the possibility that the horse can't do it yet either. She should be going back to square one, explaining things differently and making sure that what you're asking of your horse is 1. with in it's abilities and 2. within it's understanding. Same goes for you.

                                      It is a failing on her part if she's not providing you with clarity or is not assessing your abilities or your horse's abilities correctly. You are not paying for her to tune you our and you're certainly not paying her to check her blackberry on your time. You, ostensibly, are paying her to help you, support you and above all, make sure that you are continuing to learn and progress within you and your horse's ability and have fun doing it.


                                      • #20
                                        A couple thoughts: I have an OTTB, now 20, spent most of his life being a dressage horse, and darn good through 4th level. We had challenges with PSG level collection, in part because of his conformation; he is very long backed. He could do all the movements, piaffe and passage included, just not quite enough sitting. I opted not to push him more to get better scores, he's been too nice a horse to risk hurting.
                                        That said: While you're divorcing your the trainer , try a couple things. Similar to earlier post, pick up canter, within a few strides, ride a square corner. Let him go a few strides, next square corner. Think 20 mtrs on a side. Also do spirals in and out at the canter; these will both help adjust the stride and make him step under. Also, on the long side of your ring ride him in a shoulder in a bit, then straight again. OR add in circles periodically (10 meters or whatever he's comfortable with) maybe two on each long side. All of these will make him have to compress his stride in order to do what you want, and may help prevent the barreling thru your hands.

                                        My new mare has also been a little tough in the adjusting of her stride; we spent several months doing a crapload of lateral work and transition work and some of the above and its now paid off.

                                        p.s. I like the little jump suggestion; would even work w/ ground poles set properly.
                                        We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........