On the way to collection there is horizontal balance. The horse goes from it’s natural balance to shifting more weight to the hind legs and becoming more free in the shoulders.
If you imagine an old fashioned scale, then the scale is about equal. The rider sits in a horizontal balance, too – not in a forward seat and not in a collected seat – somewhere in the middle.
The forward-down tendency of the neck and back should still be there, however – the horse should stretch the nose forward and out. A horse behind the vertical is not in horizontal balance.
How do we get there?
The first step is a relaxed forward-down with a forward hind foot and equal bending to both sides. Here we work on shoulder balance: The horse learns to carry equal weight with both front legs in both directions. Without correct shoulder balance, your half-halts will not go through and will get stuck in the shoulders. At the same time, we work the hind legs more forward and, through exercises such as shoulder-in, prepare them for taking more weight.
When the horse has a good shoulder balance and the hind legs are well prepared for taking more weight, our half-halts can go through and shift weight from front to back. It is like sitting in the middle of a teeter-totter (in German “Wippe”) and bringing it more down behind you.
From the horizontal balance, we continue our work towards collection.
A horse in horizontal balance is easy to turn and has fluid gaits. Even if you don’t want to become a dressage freak, a horizontal balance is important for the well-being of every horse as it allows for carrying itself and you in a healthy way.
Have a good time with your horses!