I’ve spent a lot of time these past decades trying to understand the term “collection” in regards to riding saddle horses. Early on I thought it meant to pull back on the reins and “compress” the horse. The mere use of the word “collect” implies to me the use of the hands, like collecting eggs in a basket. Well, once I finally “got” that contact with the rains should be soft, and independent of my balanced seat, I changed my focus from my hands to my pelvic bones. It turns out that “seat” is also a bit of a misnomer. You actually balance on to little bony protrusions called the ischial tuberosities which are considerably forward of your actual seat or butt, a.k.a.the gluteus muscle. Using these bones we can direct the movement of the horse kind of like we would move a beachball if we were sitting upon it. If I sit to the left, the ball will try to get out from under me to the right, and vice a versa. The horse responds much the same way as the beachball. Likewise if I want my horse to move forward I apply pressure on the back of my seat bones, and if I want to move him backward, or slow down if he’s too forward I imagine lifting my tail out of the saddle, rolling my tummy down toward the saddle. This must not involve leaning forward with the upper body. Like salsa dancing, the torso must remain upright while the pelvis moves. If I want to urge him forward I use my pelvis to push him, then when he surges forward, I receive the movement in my soft receiving hands. If I sponge the reins for a second and then soften, he will begin to carry his weight, balanced a little more on the hind legs – self carriage!
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