Downward Transistions, No Substitute for Hard Work
In our pursuit of horsemanship and our search for improved performance some are willing to try anything for a quick solution to achieve collection. But, the reality is that there is no substitute for the hard work and hours of practice that is required to achieve true collection. True collection cannot be achieved by a stronger bit or tools that force the horse into a position. What I offer is a natural approach to achieve softness and to work with the horse and not against him. For a lack of a better term, I am after a holistic approach in the training process, one that the horse will understand and allow him to learn in a natural manner without force.
Many of the horses that arrive by me have been already started but have hit a road block in their training process. One of the biggest mistakes I see is the horse that has been asked to be collected too soon. Too often, people are in a rush and are not willing to wait on the horse. They are not willing to put in the time to develop the foundation that leads to natural collection.
I like to think of the horse as a spring, where the hind end of the spring is pushed or ridden into the front. This riding forward builds up energy and rounds the back of the horse thereby lightening the front end. The problem with the bigger bit theory is that the horse is reluctant to move forward. This causes the horse to stop driving from the hind end, and the shoulder and the back to drop. The horse is often reluctant and locks up in the shoulder.
What is needed is not a bigger bit or a stronger hand but an exercise that works on the natural mechanics of the horse and allows the horse to understand what is being taught without pain or intimidation. Think of the spring, and imagine pushing the spring forward on a table with your finger. Then take your other finger and gentle slow the spring down, just for a second or two. Notice the center of the spring will bend upward off the table. This is collection. Slow the spring down just for a second and then release the spring forward. The release is just as important as the collection if we want to teach self-carriage.
A simple exercise that I like to use to start to achieve collection is a downward transition exercise. I start with the horse soft and giving to the bit. I walk the horse forward and wait on the horse to be relaxed. When I feel that he is ready, I push the horse forward into a collected trot just for twenty to thirty feet, then, I transition down to a walk for a stride or two. After a few steps at a walk, I transition back to a collected trot for twenty to thirty feet, then back down to a walk for a stride or two. I will repeat this exercise five or six times around the arena and then stop collected. I will then change directions and repeat the same exercise again, making sure to work both sides of the horse equally. This exercise should be performed three or four times in both directions. What I am waiting on is the horse to elevate at the shoulder in the upward transition and not elevate at the head and neck. This exercise can be practiced throughout the training of a horse and at any age.
What makes this exercise so wonderful and easy for the horse to understand is there is a built in release that allows the horse to search for self collection. As the horse advances in the training process, his self-carriage will last longer and longer. And the horse will feel lighter in your hands. This method works with the natural make-up of the horse and the language they understand. No gimmicks or quick fixes just solid horsemanship that builds a solid foundation.
Steve Lantvit is a professional trainer/clinician whose goal is to contribute to the betterment of the relationships between man/woman and horse. Steve’s focus on training is that of all around Horsemanship and the creation of the versatile horse. He is an active competitor with the American Ranch Horse Association where he has earned World Champion and Multiple Reserve Champion Titles. Steve takes his skills to the equine world through his appearances at equine expos, clinics, and his television series, “Sure in the Saddle” airing on Rural TV/FamilyNet on Saturdays at 3:30 cdt.