Collection isn’t just for dressage horses — it is crucial for keeping your horse healthy and active. Training collection takes work, as it’s not the natural way for your horse to work, so he has to develop the muscles needed to support himself.
Achieving this begins with shoulder-in and shoulder-out, which can be introduced in hand. Here, international trainer Elaine Heney shares how to teach your horse to do shoulder-out from the ground.
“While our goal is to be able to do both shoulder-in and shoulder-out, I recommend beginning with shoulder-out,” says Elaine. “Using a fence line helps to block some forwards movement and encourages lateral movement too.
“I always teach this in-hand first to build understanding of the gentle arc shape we want throughout the horse’s body, and the horse can get an idea of how it feels.”
For this exercise, work alongside a fence line. The equipment needed is a halter or headcollar and a 12-ft lead rope.
How to do it
- In preparation for this exercise, make sure your horse will stand still on a loose rein, relaxed and confident while you touch his hindquarters all over. He also needs to be happy with you moving close to his back end.
- At halt, ask your horse to move their hindquarters over one step. While standing on the ground near your horse’s rib cage, about where the saddle would be, touch your horse very gently on the side just behind where your foot would be if you were riding.
- You don’t want to physically push your horse, just touch him gently, and allow him the time to notice you’re asking him to do something. When you see a tiny weight change (before even a foot moves) give him a break.
- Repeat this a few times over a few days until your horse can happily move their hindquarters over on both sides.
- Next, find a wooden fence (not electric) or create a DIY fence out of poles. Walk along the fence, with you between your horse and the fence. Your two feet and your horse’s front two feet should be in a straight line — your horse should be walking beside you, not ahead or behind. Do this a few times in both directions.
- Walk along the fence line again. This time allow your horse to drift ahead of you as you progress. This is why you need the 12-ft rope: regular ropes are too short.
- As your horse is allowed to walk ahead, he will naturally start to move sideways as well as forwards, looking slightly over the fence. Because you are walking towards his ribs, this also helps the sideways movement.
- Build it up slowly by asking for just a step or two, then revert to both of you walking side by side along the fence line. For the first few tries you are looking for your horse just to get the general idea — don’t expect perfection straight away.
- Do this groundwork for five minutes a day at most. In just a few days you should see good progress.
Read the full training feature about achieving collection in the October issue (473) of Your Horse
Meet the trainer: Elaine Heney is the author of Listenology, an award-winning filmmaker, director of Grey Pony Films, and creator of the Listening to the Horse documentary. She has helped over 120,000 horse owners in 113 countries to create inspiring relationships with their horses. Access her groundwork, riding and training programmes at greyponyfilms.com.