I could just go and pick up a book and quote a definition but first I’d like to explore my own head a little. Horses don’t need collection to carry a rider, they need self- carriage (or let’s say it makes for a nicer ride if they have), it’s helpful (I’d say almost essential), that a horse has a naturally good conformation. It’s neck and head coming out of and at a good angle to it’s well sloping shoulder. A strong, not overly long, back and quarters that balance well with the front end. Of course it would be a whole other subject for me to go into greater detail but suffice to say that a horse with the correct raw material will find collection way easier than a horse that was born on it’s forehand.
Before riding our beautifully put together steed we will prepare with groundwork to strengthen and enable him to grow accustomed to our bizarre human behaviour. Once mounted for the first time we will begin to allow him time to rediscover his balance whilst carrying his wieldy load. There are many ways of starting horses but most will use this type of progression. After a period of time we will ask more of our horse through transitions, changes of direction and the beginnings of lateral work. We will take him out for hacks and walks to further increase his confidence and strength and after (ideally at least) two years we may begin the serious work. That isn’t to say that we have had zero collection before this time but any collection should have come through the horses own desire to perform a task better and not by us asking for it. What should be obvious to the onlooker by now is the fact that the horse can carry himself and his rider, he is relaxed and able to stretch down and he can keep a good rhythm.
Aside from being able to place the head left or right to turn and maybe some rudimentary stopping (as a last resort) why would we need a bit? Do we need a bit for these basic commands?
Next I want to look at the journey from the ‘straight line horse’ that has no collection to the horse that begins to engage his hinds and step under himself.
That is, however, for another day.