Art by Beth Preston from It’s Not Just About the Ribbons by Jane Savoie.
Collection—what it is and what it isn’t—is regularly debated in most horsey circles. While there is a tendency to segregate ourselves by discipline, the truth is, the base philosophy should really be the same, whatever saddle you ride in or sport you pursue.
In her bestselling reference DRESSAGE 101, renowned dressage coach and motivational speaker Jane Savoie provides down-to-earth discussion around the ever-hot topic of collection and self-carriage, as well as all the exercises anyone ever needs to achieve collection as an “ultimate goal.” She also shares many stories of different riding lives, including this one about Dennis Reis, who once upon a time earned his living on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association circuit:
Dennis Reis. Photo by John Carlson.
Dennis was a cowboy who trained horses for a living and discovered he had been doing dressage without knowing it. As his ability to communicate with his animals evolved and his talent was noticed by his neighbors, who were mostly dressage riders, he found himself in the unusual position of being asked to reschool upper-level dressage horses who were brought to him with specific problems. The dressage riders sought him out even though he had no classical training himself. When asked about collection, Dennis is quick to point out that it’s not just a “head-set.” “Collection isn’t conforming to a preconceived notion of a frame or a picture of what it should look like,” he says. “It’s not a reduction in speed or a shortening of frame. It’s a posture that generates deep inside the body. The horse is round, balanced, engaged, off the forehand, and his back and neck are ‘turned off’—not braced.”
In dressage terms, when the horse’s back and neck are “turned off,” the energy that originates in the hindquarters can flow to the forehand without meeting any stiffness or restriction caused by the sustained contraction of the back muscles. Dennis is enthusiastic about the joys of riding a horse that is in self-carriage. “The movements are fluid and elastic, transitions are flowing and soft, the horse is light and easy to guide and willingly yields his body to the rider.”
I think we can all get there, don’t you?
Jane Savoie’s DRESSAGE 101 is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.
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.
Photo by Cappy Jackson.
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.
Photo by Cappy Jackson.
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.
Photo by Cappy Jackson.
4 Try your canter depart again. You should be able to lift your hands easily: This position simulates a horse that is collected.
Photo by Cappy Jackson.
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.
Photo by Cappy Jackson.
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!
Sandy Collier has enjoyed great success in her career as an NRCHA, NRHA, and AQHA champion horse trainer. Named one of the “Top 50 Riders of All Time in All Disciplines” by Horse & Rider Magazine, she was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 2011, and the NRCHA’s Hall of Fame in 2012. Collier was the first and only female horse trainer to win the prestigious NRCHA (National Reined Cow Horse Association) World Champion Snaffle Bit Futurity. She also won an NRCHA World Champion Snaffle Bit Futurity Reserve Co-Championship in addition to being a regular Finalist there annually. She has been a NRCHA Stallion Stakes Champion, an NRHA Limited Open Champion, and an AQHA World Champion.
In champion trainer and popular clinician Lynn Palm’s book THE RIDER’S GUIDE TO REAL COLLECTION, Palm asked Sandy Collier to share how she works to achieve collection with her performance horses.
“I do a lot of work through speed and gait transitions,” was Collier’s reply, “which makes no sense at all to most reining or Western riders.”
Sandy Collier competing.
Collier says that even though reiners and Western riders will often get their horses really collected at the trot and lope, “as soon as you start putting a lot of speed to it, it’s like the wheels start falling off the car.” She uses an exercise called The Runaround to maintain collection, improve the quality of a horse’s rundown, and thus ultimately better his stop.
“I’ll build speed while maintaining collection for a long, straight run,” explains Collier. “As I approach the short end of the arena, I’ll take a deep breath, start to exhale, and make my horse follow my seat as I sit down in the saddle, making him come back to me on a straight line without falling out of lead. It’s like downshifting a real expensive car, where it has to come back down real smooth. I keep my horse slow and collected through the short end (don’t let him careen around the corner), and once I get around the corner, I ask him to build speed again and start over. My horses eventually get to where they can run really fast while staying collected, and then as I let my air out, they’ll come all the way back to a slowdown or a stop, depending how long I sit.”
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The goal is to capture the complete tail-to-nose package of supple muscle and hind-end-generated impulsion that becomes a “frame” where the horse is more athletic—that is, his forehand lightens, enabling him to maneuver his front end more quickly, and his steps become cadenced and his movement free-flowing. For more exercises that help achieve this real collection, check out THE RIDER’S GUIDE TO REAL COLLECTION by Lynn Palm, on sale now at the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.
Photo by Keron Psillas from The Alchemy of Dressage by Dominique Barbier and Dr. Maria Katsamanis
In almost every book we publish, we invite our authors to include a page of acknowledgments; this is their chance to thank those who may have had a hand in their careers or the making of their books. While it isn’t every day that we look back through to see who they’ve thanked over the years, it seems appropriate on this blustery, cold, Vermont afternoon, the day before Thanksgiving 2016. As might be imagined, there is one resounding theme that emerges…have a look at some of the words of gratitude TSB authors have put in print. If your book was about to be published, who would YOU thank?
“They say success has a thousand fathers—I thank from the bottom of my heart all those who have taken an extra minute out of their day to help me down my path.” Jonathan Field in THE ART OF LIBERTY TRAINING FOR HORSES
“Thanks go out to every horse I’ve ever had the pleasure and privilege of riding…they’ve taught me the importance of caring, patience, understanding, selflessness, and hard work.” Daniel Stewart in PRESSURE PROOF YOUR RIDING
TSB author Jonathan Field with his family and “Hal.”
“Most of all my greatest thanks go to Secret, the horse who has taught me so much—she is a horse in a million.” Vanessa Bee in 3-MINUTE HORSEMANSHIP
“Thank you to my partner and wife Conley, without whose moral support and inspiration I would be sitting on a tailgate by the side of the road holding a cardboard sign that reads, ‘Will work on horses for food.'” Jim Masterson in BEYOND HORSE MASSAGE
“I really need to honor the people who have invited me to work with them and the horses that have allowed me to be with, ride, and train them over the decades. I have learned some things from books, but most from the people and horses I train.” Heather Sansom in FIT TO RIDE IN 9 WEEKS!
“I am grateful for all my teachers, two-legged, four-legged, and winged, for all they have taught me through their own journeys.” Dr. Allen Schoen in THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN
“Thank you to every horse that came my way over the past 45 years. Each one had lessons to teach me.” Susan Gordon in THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN
“I want to thank my parents who finally gave in to the passionate desire of a small child who wanted a horse.” Heather Smith Thomas in GOOD HORSE, BAD HABITS
“Most of all, thank you to all the horses.” Sharon Wilsie in HORSE SPEAK
TSB author Dr. Allen Schoen.
“I am extremely thankful to all of the horses in my life. I would not have accomplished so much without them. The horses have been my greatest teachers!” Anne Kursinski in ANNE KURSINSKI’S RIDING & JUMPING CLINIC
“Thank you to students and riders who share my passion in looking deeper into the horse and into themselves.” Dominique Barbier in THE ALCHEMY OF LIGHTNESS
“Thanks go to the many horses that have come into my life. You give me great happiness, humility, and sometimes peace; you always challenge me to become more than I am, and you make my life whole.” Andrea Monsarrat Waldo in BRAIN TRAINING FOR RIDERS
And thank YOU, our readers and fellow horsemen, who are always striving to learn and grow in and out of the saddle, for the good of the horse.
Wishing a very happy and safe Thanksgiving to all!
The Trafalgar Square Books Staff
Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small company based on a farm in rural Vermont.
Ever wonder what it’s like to be a top rider, trainer, judge, or clinician? Trafalgar Square Books (www.horseandriderbooks.com) is tracking down its top authors and asking them to pull back the curtains and let us take a quick peek into their lives. In our fifth installment in TSB’s “Horseworld by the Hour” blog series, we caught up with “WonderHorseWoman” Lynn Palm.
Lynn is not only the author of THE RIDER’S GUIDE TO REAL COLLECTION and YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE TO WESTERN DRESSAGE, she’s won 34 World and Reserve World Championships; four Superhorse titles, AQHA Female Equestrian of the Year, and many more awards and accolades throughout her career in the spotlight, which has now spanned over 40 years. She and her husband Cyril Pittion-Rossillon conduct training courses and clinics across the country. Lynn is an Advisory Director of the Western Dressage Association of America, and makes regular appearances at expos and special events, such as her popular bridleless riding demonstrations at the World Equestrian Games.
Lynn has shown horses on the flat and over fences, in Western, hunt seat, and dressage saddles. And NOW we hear she’s taking up a whole new sport, to boot!
So just how does Lynn fit it all in? Check out her typical day:
Just a Regular Ol’ Spring/Summer/Fall Day with Lynn Palm
5:00 a.m. Still sleeping, I hope!
5:30 a.m. I wake up in the spring, summer, fall at 5:30, with all my dogs. In the winter I get up around 6:30 a.m.
6:00 a.m. My morning chores: making coffee, unloading the dishwasher, doing laundry, planning meals for the day. If I have clinics, I start preparing lunch and dinner for at least 20 people and often more!
6:30 a.m. I feed my wonderful dogs: 3 labs and 2 mini longhair dachshunds.
7:00 a.m. I check my gardens and greenhouse, and then get dressed for the day while drinking my coffee. I make a protein fruit smoothie and take my vitamins!
7:30 a.m. In the summer, by now I’m getting to the barn to ride my first horse before feeding. Spring and fall I start riding at 8:30 a.m., and in the winter I may ride in the afternoon, switching my day to ride with our warm afternoon sun!
8:00 a.m. I’m riding horses and following up with necessary calls for the day.
8:30 a.m. Still riding horses, and finding time to check in with Marie Frances (my office manager) and Cyril (my husband) about what’s up for their day. Cyril also works our horses, and we discuss our saddle business and what orders or leads he may have about our hunt seat and dressage saddles we have made in France.
Lynn Palm has written two important books for Western dressage riders: THE RIDER’S GUIDE TO REAL COLLECTION and YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE TO WESTERN DRESSAGE.
9:00 a.m. I’m in the barn, checking on all the horses for health or care, confirming supplies needed, and discussing with the farm manager what he is doing on the farm for the day.
9:30 a.m. On another horse, while my staff turn out some horses and plans for grooming and care of horses and the stable for the rest of the day.
10:00 a.m. I am training horses in our wonderful training field with the big Live Oak Trees.
10:30 a.m. Training horses in the Outdoor Jump Field.
11:00 a.m. Training horses on our 3-acre Natural Obstacle Training Arena.
11:30 a.m. Training horses with ground work in our training paddocks.
12:00 p.m. Training horses still—but now it’s driving to prepare for Combined Driving (a new sport for me this next year!)
12:30 p.m. Riding horses in the covered arena (if it is raining, as can be the case in the afternoons).
1:00 p.m. Lunch, swim in the pool, play with dogs!
1:30 p.m. Shower and clean up from the barn.
2:00 p.m. Office duties: email, Facebook, marketing plans, writing newsletter or editorial for magazines, following up on horse sales, planning shows and clinics, working on remodeling our property in Sarasota, Florida (Southern Reflections – An Equestrian Private Retreat).
3:00 p.m. More office duties: conference calls with sponsors, companies with product development, reviewing client requests with their horses, making contacts for clinics or expos engagements.
4:00 p.m. Office duties continue, or if we have a clinic going on, I prepare dinner for the students, guests, and staff.
4:30 p.m. Still in the office: preparing the daily horse training and lesson schedule for the next day.
5:00 p.m. Haven’t left the office but gotta feed my dogs!!
5:30 p.m. Close the office for the day.
Lynn with her Labs. Photo by Cappy Jackson from THE RIDER’S GUIDE TO REAL COLLECTION.
6:30 p.m. I’m watching Nightly News on NBC if I can!
7:00 p.m. Preparing dinner for Cyril and me, and friends if we have some over (which is often).
7:30 p.m. Cocktails at the Red Fox Inn or sitting on the front porch enjoying the sunset—talking about the day or what is happening in the horse world with Cyril, Marie Frances, and/or horsey friends. My dogs have cocktails, too: marrow bones, which they love so much!
8:00 p.m. Dinner in the main dining room, in front of the TV if it is just Cyril and me (of course with the dogs) or at poolside—we have a wonderful pool area with lots of beautiful landscape.
9:00 p.m. Cleaning up dinner or maybe sitting at the bonfire in a courtyard beside the pool.
9:30 p.m. In bed watching The Voice or America’s Got Talent or sports.
10:00 p.m. Up again! Time for Night Check on all the horses.
TSB author Lynn Palm in a collected jog with an uphill balance.
The Western Dressage Association® of America (WDAA) lists collection as the sixth step in its Guidelines for Training Progression: Readiness, Balance, Rhythm, Impulsion, Suppleness, Collection, and ultimately, Lightness. There are many different ideas of what “collection” in the horse is—and what it isn’t. The WDAA defines it as follows in its Western Dressage Glossary:
Collection is not to be confused with “headset,” nor with slower or shorter strides. Collected paces have relatively shorter steps and more uphill balance, while the frame is shorter and the neck is stretched and arched upward. The horse should reach calmly to contact with the bit with the nose nearly at, but never behind, the vertical. At collected trot and canter, the support phase of the hind legs is more pronounced than in the other paces of the gait. Collection is achieved by increased weight-bearing of the horse’s haunches, thereby lowering the croup and lightening the forehand to allow the shoulders more freedom. The horse’s stride becomes markedly shorter but gains animation and height.
“Transitions are the first steps taken to teach your horse how to transfer more weight to his hind legs, engage the joints in his hind end, and round his spine, which compacts his body in the way necessary for him to be collected,” writes TSB author Lynn Palm in her terrific Western Dressage primer THE RIDER’S GUIDE TO REAL COLLECTION. “The flexibility of his hind limb joints—hip, stifle, hock, and fetlock—is increased. Transitions also work on the suppleness of his longitudinal muscles; they stretch when the horse goes forward and compress when he slows down, which builds strength and enables him to go forward and slow down with more power.”
“Think of it this way,” Lynn says. “Your seat is the director. Your leg and rein aids are the supporting cast.”
In YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE TO WESTERN DRESSAGE Lynn Palm explains the difference between a “neutral” seat (A) and a seat asking for an upward transition (B).
When you are passively letting your hips follow the horse’s motion, your seat stays in “neutral,” but for an upward transition (walk to jog or jog to lope, for example), you move your seat and hips in a more exaggerated manner, “As though you’re trying to propel a swing higher and higher,” says Lynn, before adding a touch of the leg aid. For a downward transition (jog to walk or lope to jog, for example), you stop your seat and hip movement to restrict your horse’s motion, and then add a whisper of a rein aid.
Try this walk-jog-walk transition exercise from THE RIDER’S GUIDE TO REAL COLLECTION to improve your use of your seat while building your horse’s ability to collect, so you can ultimately turn in a better Western Dressage performance:
1 Ask your horse to move in an active, forward, four-beat walk for one full circle.
2 Use your seat to prepare and cue your horse for the upward transition to jog.
3 Jog one full circle. The jog should be an active, square jog, where the hind legs track in line with the front legs, and your horse maintains longitudinal bend on the curved line of travel.
4 Use your seat to prepare and cue your horse for the downward transition to walk.
5 Repeat the exercise in both directions.
During the exercise, Lynn says to think of the horse as a speedboat on the water: When the boat accelerates (the upward transition from walk to jog) the back of the boat goes down because the power is coming from the motor (the horse’s hindquarters) and the front of the boat lifts up (the horse’s forehand lightens). When the boat’s speed is reduced (the downward transition from jog to walk), the motor pushes the back of the boat down and elevates the front so it can slow smoothly and not in a jarring, rough manner. The horse should slow from jog to walk in the same way, with power from behind while elevating his front end.
Since the early 1990s, Lynn Palm has been a major proponent for showing the American Quarter Horse in the dressage discipline. After nearly 20 years, on January 1, 2010, the AQHA agreed to recognize dressage as a event in which points could be earned. That same year, nationally known trainers Eitan Beth-Halachmy and Jack Brainard spurred formation of the Western Dressage Association of America (WDAA), an organization that now has seven recognized state associations and is growing at astounding speed.
Dressage is simply the french word for “training.” By building a dressage foundation, a horse can gain suppleness, flexibility, and balance, all while strengthening the rider-and-horse partnership. Through the standardized progressive training methods of dressage, a horse’s natural athletic ability and willingness to perform is maximized. Horses trained correctly are able to perform various maneuvers while remaining relaxed and giving the illusion of effortlessness.
AnnMarie Brockhouse, who serves as WDAA executive assistant and is a co-founder of the Western Dressage Association of Minnesota, explains that the nonprofit WDAA developed from knowledge of the importance of dressage “regardless of the tack it was being utilized in.” And TSB author Lynn Palm, winner of four Superhorse titles, is one of the leading proponents for good training, regardless of your tack or your outfit. Her fun, easy-to-use book THE RIDER’S GUIDE TO REAL COLLECTION provides 26 dressage exercises, separated into basic, intermediate, and advanced sections. With terrific full-color photos and clear diagrams, its a terrific book for anyone looking to get a start in the new and exciting sport of Western dressage.
“Lynn understands that good training is just good training. She uses basic dressage principles as the foundation for all her work,” says US Olympic Dressage Team Alternate Jane Savoie. “Lynn’s book THE RIDER’S GUIDE TO REAL COLLECTION explains the what, why, and ‘how-to’ of teaching your horse to collect. It discusses a number of factors that affect a horse’s ability to shift his weight back and lighten the forehand. And probably most importantly, Lynn explains the ingredients that go into laying the correct foundation to achieve true collection so you don’t resort to shortcuts that only create an artificial headset.”
TSB author Arthur Kottas is a unique individual, equally well versed in both the classical and competitive sides of dressage. Kottas joined the Spanish Riding School at the age of 16 and achieved the top position of First Chief Rider in 1994, eventually retiring in 2003. He is also a recognized dressage judge and has trained and ridden competitively since childhood.
Kottas is known to be a fantastic teacher—knowledgeable, open, and accessible. His recent book KOTTAS ON DRESSAGE has received rave reviews—check them out!
“The best [book] to be written this century.” —British Horse
“Kottas-Heldenberg’s years of training experience shine through in his book. It’s organized extremely clearly, making it an excellent reference guide that you can refer back to without much page-flipping . . .Timeless dressage lessons for both horse and rider.” —Horsemen’s Yankee Pedlar
“There are various reasons why I loved this book, but a main one is its extraordinary clarity, in part a result of that organization. . . . If for some reason I was forced to abandon my considerable dog-eared dressage library and was allowed to take with me only a single book, this one would be it.” —Dressage Today
Click here to read Arthur Kottas’ thoughts on measuring degrees of collection on Equisearch.com.
Arthur Kottas is teaching clinics in two New England locations next week: October 16, 17 & 18 at Capstone Farm in Madbury, New Hampshire, and October 18, 19 & 20 at Bear Spot Farm in Acton, Massachusetts. Auditors are welcome (the audit fee is $20 per day for current NEDA members and $30 per day for non-members) and there are a few openings for riders. If interested, contact Irene Greenberg at 603-770-0939 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Unable to attend a Kottas clinic? Read this great piece by Kottas about measuring degrees of collection on Equisearch.com, and don’t forget to get his book KOTTAS ON DRESSAGE.
Lynn Palm is looking for the best trail challenge tale! Tell your story to win great prizes!
Lynn Palm, author of THE RIDER’S GUIDE TO REAL COLLECTION, and partner Cyril Pittion-Rossillon are offering fans an opportunity to win enrollment to their November 2012 Ride Well Training with Natural Obstacles Clinic, valued at more than $600, as well as entry in the clinic’s Trail Challenge Competition, along with their latest five-disc DVD series Trail Ability.
Lynn is asking riders to submit their favorite story describing an encounter with natural obstacles on the trail or in competition in 500 words or less to email@example.com by September 1, 2012. The winning essay will be announced September 15 and posted for all to see on Lynn’s website http://www.lynnpalm.com. The lucky winner will then enjoy the clinic with Lynn and Cyril Pittion-Rossillon at their Fox Grove Farm in Ocala, Florida, November 2-4, 2012, including two days of instruction, convenient onsite lodging, healthy meals prepared by Lynn, plush stabling, fun evening activities, and the Trail Challenge competition with proceeds going to AQHA’s America’s Horse Cares.
Lynn Palm is also a featured presenter at this year’s Western States Horse Expo, June 8-10, in Sacramento, California. If you are attending WSHE this weekend, don’t miss Lynn’s terrific clinics!
Lynn Palm—2007 American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) Horsewoman of the Year and the Women’s Athletic Association Female Equestrian of the Year, with over 34 AQHA World and Reserve World Championships to her name—has announced what will be featured on the new season of her HRTV® show. HRTV, the “Network for Horse Sports,” regularly features Lynn’s show “Palm Training,” which promises upcoming episodes that include two series: Successfully Traveling with Horses and the Trail Ability Training Series, focusing on natural obstacles both in hand and under saddle.
By popular demand, Lynn’s upcoming shows will feature Unforgettable Rugged Lark, AQHA Hall of Fame inductee, and his owner/breeder and AQHA Hall of Fame member, Carol Harris. “Palm Training” airs on HRTV Dish 404 Tuesday evenings, with additional airings throughout the week and on demand at HRTVlive.com.Visit HRTV on the web, or Lynn’s website (see our links on the right-hand side of the page) for information.
Lynn’s new book THE RIDER’S GUIDE TO REAL COLLECTION is a masterful mix of down-to-earth instruction and legitimate exercises to attain collection with any horse—and especially stock-type horses, whose conformation can often make reaching the goal of collection more of a challenge.