Western Dressage Exercise – Collecting Strides

Collection can be an elusive feeling. We strive for a powerful yet lofty output from the horse’s hind legs up through his back and forehand. We ask him to express this surge of expressive, energetic activity with calm controlled strides. To say the least, this is anything but simple. Most often, a rider ends up with a horse moving in short, choppy strides under her. Or perhaps the horse moves slowly but without sufficient activity in the hind joints. Showing the horse how to gather his energy without just becoming stilted requires maintaining ample forward-thinking momentum. Below is one of my favorite exercises to introduce this concept. It preserves the forward energy of the horse while allowing the rider to remain supple and influential. Most importantly, it develops collection progressively, emphasizing quality of steps above quantity.

This exercise requires an effective use of the rider’s half halt. For some riders, this aid can seem complex. To simplify it, I always tell riders to ride the half halt exactly like it sounds—by riding half way to the halt from whatever gait he or she is currently in. Think of this as you tackle the exercise below.

Collecting Strides:

  1. Develop working jog tracking right.
  2. As you pass E, ask your horse for a slightly slower jog for 4 strides. Then allow the jog to move more forward again, resuming working jog.
  3. When you ask for these “compressed” strides at E, visualize riding shorter but higher steps, as though your horse is jogging over slightly raised ground poles. Strive for animated slow-motion jog steps.
  4. Resume working jog to B.
  5. At B, ask again for 4 strides of a slightly slower, more articulated jog. Then refresh the energy of your working jog again.

Check points:

  • Does the horse feel springier during your collecting strides at E and B?
  • Did the horse remain straight through his body when you asked for the collecting strides? Or did he swing his hindquarters around?
  • Did the weight of the contact change?


Western Dressage Weekly Exercise – authored by Jec Ballou | Copyright © 2014

Comments are closed.