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:
In this article we are focussing on the first one: Paces.
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 first one is paces with a directive as freedom and regularity. So basically the judge wants to see free and regular paces. But what does this actually mean?
Regularity is the first thing judges are told to look at when assessing a horses paces. Regularity simply means that the horse maintains the same pattern of footfalls. In other words, they maintain a 4 beat walk, two beat trot and three beat canter. An irregular horse could be because of a huge variety of reasons, lameness is of course one of them but a horse could become irregular due to tension, hurrying, being against the bit or not accepting the bit or because they've become unbalanced.
Then there's the freedom side. The judges are looking for paces that dont look restricted. It should look like the horse is flowing around the arena without any tension or resistance. Obviously freedom and regularity will influence each other, if the horse is resistant or tense they may not be able to be truly regular and rhythmical in their movement or if the horse is irregular due to being unbalanced, lame or resisting the bit this will obviously also influence the freedom too.
What the judge is wanting to see in terms of the paces will be different depending on the level. At Intro or Prelim they'll be looking for regular, pure unhurried paces. The odd bit of unbalance or loss of regularity wont be too much of a concern. But at Medium, they would want to see the elasticity developed so the horse by this time should be more supple and elastic to be able to extend and collect easily as well as perform more difficult movements whilst still maintaining the same, if not a higher degree of regularity, rhythm and freedom. Losses of balance, regularity and so on wouldn't be accepted by the time the horse was at this level. Then by the time you get to Grand Prix, they would expect a higher degree again of regularity and freedom but with the horse in total balance, with the weight balanced on their hindlegs and maintain the rhythm and regularity in more difficult movements like the piaffe, passage and pirouettes.
So, how can you make sure you get a good mark for your paces collective. As you and your horse progress, you should find that your horses suppleness, contact, impulsion and straightness all improve. All of which will in turn benefit your horses ability to be regular, free and rhythmical. In our training we (or at least we should be) doing lots of transitions and moving our horses around to improve their suppleness, collection, strength and so on. But what we rarely focus on in our training is our ability to ask for one trot and practice maintaining that same trot, the same tempo, the same rhythm, the same regularity, the same freedom around the arena; and then practice maintaining it on a circle and then in the movements. In the majority of tests you will be expected to ride the same trot or canter aside from your 60m of medium or extended once or twice. This should play into a big part of our test riding that we do at home as it is something that the judges will be looking at. If regularity is a problem for you and your horse then definitely improve this before anything else, it could be that it is a tension issue, or a strength or balance issue. But remember this is the first thing the judge will assess in every movement you do as well as in your paces collective.
So this week, go and work on your ability to be able to ride one trot and one canter in all the movements you are able to do in the test. Pay attention to the rhythm, the regularity and the tempo as you practice this and start to make yourself more aware of those little moments you lose it. How do you get it back, how could you do this more quickly, more effectively or more seamlessly so it is less obvious to the judge. How can you show a horse that has free, regular, rhythmical paces throughout your test.