Collection–it’s like having a kitten in your lap.

Dale Forbes

When I was a child–in the time of bedtimes for children–I was put in bed at 8:30 at night and had to stay there.  Sometimes–in summer–it was still light at 8:30, sometimes it was dark.

But no matter the light, 100% of the time it was lonely.

Reading was allowed for a short period and then lights out.  (Rick’s daughter, who has many foster babies and children, as well as her own, would say this is not such a bad plan–that modern children are often too tired–but that is not my area of expertise so I cannot say.)

In those wakeful hours waiting for sleep, any company would be welcome.

And so it came, The Cat.

We actually had two of them, Pixie and Dixie, brother and sister, dragged from Idaho in a time of strife and let loose in our farmhouse in New England.

I would lay in bed hoping for one of the cats to come, and sometimes one would–more commonly it was Pixie, a black long-haired male.

He would nestle down near my knees and start to purr.  If I was gentle, I could pat him.  If I played with his tail he would leave.

That is called a learning curve.

So here are a few hints on how to make collection/contact fun for your partner–back to riding.

I’ve been seeing something of late in my teaching, something that I think has to do with the transformation of the rider from a lower level (Basically below Prix St Georges) to an upper level rider.

If you think about it, the obvious difference between the upper and lower FEI is the work in Piaffe and passage–which in themselves teach the rider a great deal about organizing a horse.

I’m going to give you a tape below of one of our rising judging stars, L (learner) Judge program graduate, Sally Sovey, who  is working her way up to the next level,  judging recognized shows.  (This is not easy.  Please see post in the future re judging and where these people are largely coming from.)

This tape was taken some time ago, and Sally has actually mastered the piaffe very well now.

As a learning tool, she has said it was okay to show this trial effort–on her horse, Ricarda (From Regazzoni) who I trained, and actually knows the piaffe pretty well. (And so now does the rider–we will show you in another post).

Sally, at the time, was not so clear about creating “shape and boundary” at a slow gait.

And so trying to be kind–because she is–she was asking (and hoping) that Ricarda would stay with her without a front boundary.

The horses would actually like to stay with you, assuming you do not grab and hold (think cat), but they cannot stay with you without both a safe place to BE–and the direction from above that it would be best not to leave.  That means limits and shape, but gentleness within the limits.  Make it nice to be with you–give space, but not the back forty.  That’s too much.

Therein the cat at various training levels:

You have the unbroken feral that you cannot touch–do XYZ.

You have the shy, training level kitty that you have to coax a bit to trust you.

You have the mid-level kitty who wants boundaries–grab the darn thing–and then make sure it is nice to be there with you.

You have a trusting kitty sitting on your lap, and you’d like to have it stay there, what do you do?

Make it nice to be there.  Light communicative touch, creating a limit.  But don’t let them leave–and that is a fun dance of touch and release, then seduce, “Come to me, I love you and it is safe here, and by golly don’t get out of frame–it’s not safe out there!”  (Balance issue?  Never mind you don’t have to worry because I won’t drop you.  I promise)

Riding: it is a lot like holding a kitten.

But, maybe not like Pasha tonight, who appears to be lacking engagement. . .