As I start this blog, I want to say that many of the topics I discuss here often come from conversations with my students and so is the case with this short topic.
One rarely hears the concept of the horse's body as a spring. This is a shame because it can be a very helpful training concept. Think of compressing a spring with both your hands, holding with just enough pressure so that it is contained. The amount of pressure determines how tight the spring is. Then release the spring gradually - I teach my students to release this spring slowly and softly, allowing the horse to relax but not to "spring" out of its frame. A horse with good confirmation will learn to stay collected. Remember the spring actually over-collects the horse and the release is what allows the horse to go into the desired frame.
This concenpt of collecting a horse is very useful for riders who struggle with collection. It can also improve the quality of a horse's gaits. It can be helpful with spins and flying lead changes and sliding stops.
I should mention that this would should be done in a snaffle. A good combination is snaffle, cavesson and martingale. Draw reins can be used if needed but my advice is to use as little draw rein as is absolutely necessary.
As the horse progresses you can put him in a light weight, flexible training curb bit such as a correction bit. Ideally, a bit with medium shanks that are not straightened and are not solid and have a soft mouthpiece. I am not fond of mullen mouth pieces because of the pressure on the tongue. Many people mistakenly think these are soft bits but the softest part of a horse's mouth is his tongue. So, while mullen mouth bits are easy for a horse to accept initially, they can be very harsh when doing the type of work I have just discussed.
See you next week! JD (P.S. and to all of you who asked for more: See! I am talking about bits again and will have more later so keep on reading!)