Training Tip: Collection and Extension

Dressage expert Trevor Woodward discusses how Collection and Extension are two sides of the same coin.

You will not have good extension without good collection.

To talk about collection and extensions is to talk about two-sides of the same coin. While collection and extension seem like opposites, they are actually complementary and interconnected to one another.

Collection is a term used when the horse is balanced well with increasingly flexed joints, his hindquarters lowering, and with more engagement. In the trot, the leg should lift and go down as in a marching sequence.

To collect, we use the energy created from the half-halt to lift and shorten the horse’s stride. Collection isn’t just about shortening of the stride, but a gathering of energy, that when tempered and released, creates a light-footed suspension, throughness, and self-carriage. To collect any horse we have to shorten the stride with half-halts, stride-by-stride and little-bylittle.

TIP: Think slow front legs as you go

Extended work refers to the use of the advanced form lengthening and stretching of the horse’s frame and overall outline, whereby the horse covers maximum ground in all gaits.

All extended exercises require thrust from the hindquarters. The same is true for collecting exercises, which require the horse to carry more weight on the hindquarters. Hence playing two side of the coin: you will not have good extension without good collection. Therefore, with extensions, you must accept the degree of collection as the limiting factor.

You will not have good extension without good collection.

Suspension is essentially energy, so if we can introduce some degrees of additional energy into the gait then we have better chance of improving the extension. Try this:

TIP: From a working trot apply a forward moving downward transition to walk, then use this additional energy to start work in the extended walk.

Never ask too much from extensions and accept your horse’s limitations. The more power from the hind end you can generate with collection work, the more you will have to work with in extensions.

Lastly, in the show ring, try to show the judge a differentiation in the gates. Do this by working just below your horse’s limitations in the medium gates so the difference when moving into your extensions appears that much better.