7 Steps to a Better Ride
STEP 7 – COLLECTION – THE SWEET REWARD
By Deborah Hopkins
In the pyramidal hierarchy of Classical riding, it may take months of training to get to the final stage of collection, but once you get there you will know it when the horse starts to sit down on the hind quarters. According to German equestrian and coach Peter Hick, the forehand will rise up higher, and you will feel the horse getting bigger in front. Suddenly the beautiful image of harmonious rider and horse moving as one becomes reality! This is the sweet reward of collection.
Of course, not every ride will be culminated by the final stage of collection. If you are at the beginning of your partnership with your horse, you may spend several months simply working on rhythm and relaxation. Should your horse become tense physically or begin to shut down mentally as you progress up the pyramid, go back to the previous step, and finish the ride at a point when the horse is feeling relaxed and moving well.
Hick suggests that the time spent before and after the ride is also an important component of a successful partnership. Grooming is a good way to connect with the horse, and assess his general well being. Resistance can be caused by physical problems, as well as ill fitting tack.
Once you have established that your horse is physically prepared for learning, you can incorporate the principles of classical riding to school a green horse, overcome training obstacles or simply improve the horse/rider partnership. From the preliminary stages of rhythm, relaxation, contact and “schwung”, to the more advanced principles of straightness, suppleness and collection, the seven steps of Classical riding represent a systematic game plan that will bring a new focus to your riding.
As Hick wryly comments, “Every horse is a big box with tricks and stuff. We have tricks too!”