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Lengthening and collection

Lengthening and collecting is a useful exercise to practice during schooling sessions because it improves your horse’s level of responsiveness and accuracy, as well as encouraging your horse off the forehand and onto his hind legs. It’s important not to overdo the lengthening and collection in any schooling session because it puts more strain on your horse and can be very tiring for young or unfit horses.

Bring your horse back to a working gait once he’s offered a few lengthened strides.

Good for:

  • Improving responsiveness.
  • Improving adjustability.
  • Getting a horse off the forehand.
  • Encouraging an uphill frame.

Send him forward

Ask for the lengthen with a clear and precise leg aid and allow him to move forward without interfering. If you feel that you constantly have to nag with your leg to keep him forward then you have another schooling problem on your hands altogether (see p26 to fix this!).

To start off, ask for a lengthen and after about four or five strides half-halt and bring him back and then ask for the lengthen again. This will help him stay balanced and also prevent him from falling onto the forehand. Concentrate on also keeping your horse in self-carriage throughout the extension. You can use a half-halt to remind him to carry himself if you feel him starting to lean on you.

 Collection work helps a horse sit onto his hindquarters and come off the forehand
Collection work helps a horse sit onto his hindquarters and come off the forehand

Bring him back

Collection work requires your horse to sit on his haunches, carry himself uphill and use his hind legs to step under him. As with the lengthen, you should be able to give an aid and interfere as little as possible once your horse has moved into collected steps.

Start by half-halting on the outside rein to ask him to slow his pace, and maintain a strong inside leg to still encourage forwardness and avoid him collapsing into the downward gait. You can use an upward half-halt if your horse struggles to keep himself uphill in the collection. Once he has offered four or five collected strides, reward him by allowing him to move forward again and then ask for the collection again. Concentrate on encouraging him to use his hindquarters to support the collected steps and not fall onto the forehand.