Imagine if you were held back in the face every time you went to take a full step. Ooh no sorry! Can’t allow you to do that! Slow up! You’d be walking around a little odd, right? Short steps, maybe a little choppy, uneven, gimpy almost. You just don’t want your face to get jammed on again. That’s natural. Now you’re getting sick of this after a few minutes, just want to get up a go normally down the street. You’re muscles are sore from being held tight to keep a small little stride and you’re stressing. You go to take your regular full step again- Damn it! Ouch! You just got pulled back in the face again, slow it up!
Now imagine this is your little western pleasure prospect horse you’re riding. Time to start training! Every time you think he starts to go faster you think “Oh no, slow down there bud, that’s not right, we have to fix this,” and you pull him in the face because that’s how to get a horse to slow down. Your nice level headed horse seems to understand and you go about training. Down the road you may have a pretty nice western pleasure horse just like all the other people at your shows. A slow going, dull and pleasantly ‘pokey’ horse. Look! Its a horse in a box! Yay. NOT!
Okay everyone; COLLECTION. Learn it. Live it. Love it. Eat it. Remember it. Do it. “Collection is when a horse can carry more of its weight on its hindquarters than on the forelegs when ridden or driven. His back will be raised as he engages his stomach muscles. He will be flexing at the poll and will carry himself lightly. This makes the impulsion that comes from the hindquarters much greater while the horse is traveling and jumping. The horse can be more easily maneuvered and can carry a rider with greater ease. The horse will reach further underneath its body with its hind legs making stops and turns much more precise” (definition used from About.com/Horses).” Yes, this pertains to you lovely western pleasure riders. COLLECTION IS ACHIEVED THROUGH YOUR BODY (If you read and walk away with anything from this writing…). You want your horse to be collected in a class, bright eyed, alert, unflappable, composed, and tick-toking underneath you. A western horse should by no means ever go SLOW. Slow is a very bad word to have in your head when training and riding. Slow means, I’d like to go down a gait or even stop. It means stopping energy and throwing it out the window. It means shortened stride. It means stress. It means muscle damage. It means an unhappy animal. It means you’ve held your a horse back and tried to squish it into a box it can’t fit in. Slower… Slower… Slower… Almost fitting… Slower…. Tighter… Tighter… There perfect! Now the hind end is walking and the front is tripping! Brilliant jog! All the while you’re still jousting a horse in the mouth after months of training.
To use the jog as a reference, you’re horse should merely pick himself up more, keep a nice stride length and collect himself. Thus you still have the energy but you are controlling the rate at which it is released. Just try it one day with your own breathing. Simply holding your breath for a collection or letting out one for a transition. The horse will do what you’re body is doing, its a matter of learning how to use seat.
This all goes back to learning and teaching FEEL. Its an odd, ugly subject that I’m still learning about. This was just a little rant of mine to some how get my thoughts down into text. I hope someone understands this point of view and I could save a rider some hardship. A book I would refer everyone to is called “Centered Riding” by Sally Swift, she explains everything about how to work with your horse through what your body is doing and how to hone everything that may seem to be science down to the simplest things of holding a few baby birds. Thanks for reading!