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The Collectives: Impulsion

In this mini-series we are going to take a look at the collectives. These are the marks you get at the end of your test for paces, impulsion, submission and your riding.

When a judge marks you they have two parts to fill out. The first part are the marks for each individual movement where the judge assess the quality of your horses way of going and the actual performance of the movement and will take both into account when deciding on the mark. The second part is the collectives which are at the bottom of the test sheet which they will fill in once you have finished your test. These marks have a coefficient of two which means they are worth a total of 20 marks rather than the usual 10/ They should show the overall impression of your whole test. So it should show the strengths of the test as well as areas that need developing All of this, should be related back to those Scales of Training. Its basically a blue print to show you what to go away and work on in your training.

At Prelim, the collectives are laid out differently to how they are laid out at Novice level and above. When we get to the heady heights of FEI tests; there is only one collective which is called 'general impression' (except in freestyle tests). This takes into account the whole test including the harmony,, presentation and the riders seat and effectiveness). In this series we are looking at the Novice and onwards collectives but all the information will still help you if you are competing at Prelim level.

Here's a little reminder about what the collectives are:

  1. Paces

  2. Impulsion

  3. Submission

  4. Rider Position

  5. Rider Effectiveness

In this article we are focussing on the second one: Impulsion


If you look at a test sheet you will see the 4 or 5 collectives (sometimes rider position and effectiveness of their aids are one collective rather than two).

The second one is Impulsion. On your test sheet the directives for impulsion says 'desire to move forward, elasticity of steps, suppleness of back and engagement of the hindquarters). But in this article were going to take a look at what that means and what the judge is wanting to see as well as how you can get it.

'Desire to move forward' refers to a horse that is taking its rider forward and wants to go forward; the rider shouldn't be kicking every stride to keep the horse going or looking like they are having to carry the horse around. Instead it should look like the horse is effortlessly carrying their rider around the arena.

The 'elasticity of the steps' is all about the horses ability to extend and compress themselves and their stride. The directive though is 'elasticity of the steps' so this is just about the steps and strides that the horse is taking rather than their body (and well talk about that later).So they should look and feel a bit like an elastic band where the horse can take longer steps that cover more ground but also take shorter steps too The degree of this will be totally dependent on the level you're at. At novice, you'll see they say things like 'show some medium trot steps' rather than by Advanced Medium you're expected to show an extended trot with clear transitions into the extended and back to collected. This requires the horse to be more elastic as well as more supple.

Which takes us nicely onto the next one 'suppleness over the back', this ties into the elasticity in the sense that for a horse to be elastic and be able to extend and compress their steps they need to be able to extend and compress their body too. But suppleness over the back also means that the horse is round, so they should lift up at the belly or their core and should be soft and round over their neck and back.

All these together (the suppleness over the back, the elasticity of the steps and the desire to go forward) gives you a horse that is 'through' (see training article here).

The last directive on 'impulsion' is the 'engagement of the hind quarters' (to find out more about engagement see the training article here). This means that the horse should step underneath their body with their hindlegs and take active steps. This allows the horse to balance better and carry their weight on the hindlegs, bringing the weight off the front end (the forehand). Again, as we go through the levels more engagement is expected. At Prelim, a little on the forehand moments is okay but by the time we get to Grand Prix the horses need to be so engaged that they are able to piaffe, passage ride steep half passes and canter pirouettes.

What is the judge looking for?

So, to put everything together then, the judge is looking for a horse that takes the rider forward, that has an ability to extend and compress their body and stride, that is through and engaged (in other words it steps under with active steps into the contact).

What will the judge mark you down for?

When a judge watches your test she or he will be looking at the quality and way of going in each movement but they'll also be having those collectives at the back of their minds too. They'll be looking out for anything that indicates the impulsion is strong and consistent or if there are any issues. There are a number of things that highlight a concern with the impulsion:

- Desire to go forward: inactive or slow paces, sudden downward transitions,

- Elasticity of steps: quickening in medium paces, rushing or shuffling

- Suppleness over the back: loss of round frame, head up in transitions, medium paces of movements

- Engagement of the hindquarters: slow or inactive hind legs, hind legs not stepping under, on forehand or not enough weight on hind legs, rushing or losing balance.

How to improve your impulsion:

If any of the above sound like your horse then this is definitely something you can work on in your lessons with your instructor or on your own at home. If you're not sure whether your impulsion collective is good enough have a look through your last through test sheets. See what mark you were given and if there was anything underlined or commented on in the judged comments.

Transitions and transitions within the paces are a great way to improve your impulsion collective, they get your horse responding to your leg and taking you forward as well as improving your horses strength and engagement behind.

We do have a whole 4 part training series over on the hub that has loads of different exercises and ways to improve your horses impulsion if this is something you struggle with.


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