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False Collection and how you can identify it

Updated: Feb 5, 2023

What is False Collection? False Collection means forcing the horse into apparently collected outline through simultaneous actions of rein and leg aid or with the use of gadgets rather than progressive development through training over time. One of the most common causes for problem behaviours to develop. In this instance, the horse is constrained between rein and leg aids - two opposing aids that should never be used simultaneously. The horse simply cannot respond to two opposing cues at a same moment and in long term this causes significant psychological damage to horses. It will on it's worst escalate to a conflict behaviours at a later date or at the very least it will weaken the responses the horse gives to going forward, slowing and stopping aids. The responses become heavy and delayed, resulting for use spurs and stronger bits and eventually leading to a state where the horse becomes dull to even constant heavy aids. It causes confusion and pain to horses and sadly often goes unrecognised by riders. At this point the horse is often described as "lazy, unwilling, dull, stubborn" and such. So why is forcing horses into a frame such common practice? Simply due to ignorance - the rider has simply failed to understand the learning processes and biomechanics of the horse. In addition, many trainers and coaches still advocate for this outdated and incorrect method! Horses cannot clearly differentiate such conflicting aids. Rein pressure should be kept as the aid for slowing, stopping and turning. Adding a second meaning to one aid is confusing for horses. Which is why we should not try to elicit several different responses from one aid. You can however, train one response from multiple aids, for example when seat, voice and rein cues all mean stop. The muscle groups that execute a forward movement are different to those that perform the movement of slowing the horse down. Therefore, pulling on the reins whilst "driving the horse towards contact" with your leg is not practical. The rein aid riders apply should be slowing the legs down, so the rider would be better of concentrating on the amount of steps of the front legs, it takes to transition down a gate, rather than on the position of the head. So how do we train for a round body position? Dressage represents the most sophisticated development of the basic responses. Roundness is a result of the interaction of the basic responses: Stop, Go, Turn, Yield and their development through the criteria of rhythm, straightness and contact. Pressure with both reins on the bit must always mean slow/shorten the legs. Anything else, such as neck-shortening and roundness, adds confusion to the response. Therefore, ‘Roundness’ should not be viewed as a response, but rather as a shaped quality of the basic responses. It will develop at a later stage as the horse progresses through the Training Scale. Image: Australian Equine Behaviour Centre

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