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 third one: Submission
We are onto our third article of this series and its great to hear how much you are enjoying this mini-series on The Collectives and to hear how much you are learning and how it is helping you improve your scores!
This week is all about Submission. Its a collective that encompasses a lot; from the quality of the contact to the balance and weight on the hindlegs to the behaviour of your horse and the overall picture you give as a combination. So there's a lot that comes into this collective!
Lets take a look at the directives for submission (the directives are the descriptions that are given under each collective that gives you an idea what the judge is looking for)
Submission: attention and confidence, harmony, lightness and ease of the movements, acceptance of the bridle and lightness of the forehand.
Attention and confidence: This is all about how much your horse is focussed on you and how happy they are in the arena. If your horse is spooky or naughty this is the collective where they will give you a lower mark. The judge is looking for a happy and confident horse that is listening to its rider and reacts willingly to the riders aids. So things like spooking, losing attention, not listening to the riders aids or any behavioural issues like rearing, kicking out, bucking etc. will all lose you marks in this area.
Harmony: This ties in a bit into what we've just spoken about as, if your horse isn't confidence and listening to you, you wont be able to show a harmonious partnership, A harmonious partnership are those tests where everything looks seamless and flowing and smooth. Everything looks easy and as if the horse is doing everything themselves with the rider guiding the horse around the arena. Its a very peaceful, rhythmical, easy picture. The judge is looking for a rider that gives small, subtle aids with a horse that reacts quickly and smoothly to each one. The rider and horse should look like they are in tune with each other and that the horse is constantly waiting for the riders next cue. Nothing should look hard or difficult or an effort if you are wanting to achieve a harmonious partnership. So any big and obvious changes in the way of going; whether that's the rhythm, suppleness, contact, impulsion, straightness or collection; lazy, slow or inactive transitions; the rider giving big kicks or sharp tugs on the rein; loses of flow and rhythm |(whether that's because of a spook or a big tug on the rein or whatever the reason) and a rider that has to make big adjustments in a movement are all things that could influence the harmony.
Lightness and ease of the movements: again this is pretty similar to harmony, the judge is looking for a horse that looks confident and happy in the movement with a consistent way of going maintained throughout to show the horses strength and ability to perform the movement. Any losses of rhythm, impulsion, contact or suppleness could highlight a horse that is not finding the movement easy. It shouldn't look like either the horse or rider is struggling to perform the movement.
Acceptance of the bridle: This is where submission starts also meaning other things. Up until now it has just been about everything looking easy and soft and flowing and harmonious with no spooking or naughtiness or losses of attention or flow. The acceptance of the bridle means that the horse is maintaining a soft consistent contact and seeks to take the bit down and out. The judge is looking for a calm and quiet mouth and a consistent soft and elastic contact. Any head nodding, coming off the contact, head coming up in transitions or movements, becoming strong or any inconsistencies in the contact would be an issue here.
Lightness of the forehand: With acceptance of the bridle comes self carriage. We dont just want a horse that takes the contact and the bit out and down, we also want that horse to be able to balance himself. To not rely on the riders hand to hold themselves up and instead balance their weight off their hindlegs and be in self carriage. As you progress through the levels the degree to which the judge will expect the self carriage and lightness of the forehand will increase. At Prelim a horse will probably lose balance and sometimes drop onto the forehand at times, as they progress through the kevels up to GP a horse will need to have the majority of their weight on their hindlegs to maintain self carriage consistently throughout the test. Horses that rush or run in the trot and canter, lean on the riders hand, are unbalanced or have most of their weight on the forehand would all be issues with the lightness of the forehand. Movements like the Give and Retake highlight to the judge whether the horse is balanced and in self carriage and the judge will be looking out for whether the horse loses balance when the rein is given away.
What is the judge looking for? What would get you a 10?
So overall, the judge is looking for a horse that is a well behaved, happy athlete; that listens to his riders aids and allows the rider to guide them round the test. He is balanced for the level he is at and takes the bit down and out with a quiet, soft mouth in a elastic, consistent contact. But he also does not rely on the rein to balance himself and instead is in self carriage, with his weight on his hindlegs . At the lower levels there are no big losses of balance, rhythm, suppleness, contact or impulsion and at the higher levels there should be no seen losses what so ever. Now this is where your test riding comes in because, lets be honest every horse will lose the odd moment of suppleness, or impulsion or rhythm and so on but the key to being a great test rider is that you don't let it show and it shouldn't affect the test. The horse flows around the arena in harmony with his rider.
How do the 3 collectives interlink?
We have now spoken about 3 collectives so far: paces, impulsion and submission. These are the 3 collectives that are mostly related to the horse (although the rider and their training will play a big role).
The judges job when they mark the collectives is to work out where the weak link is. What is it that is stopping this horse and rider from getting higher marks? So if you have a horse that usually has nice paces but they were a bit distracted so the contact and rhythm got a bit dodgy, they wont slate you for both. They will deduct the marks from the collective that is causing the issues. Sometimes its an easy choice for example if a horses natural paces are irregular, the mark that will be lower is the paces. But if the horse is losing rhythm because they are behind the leg then the impulsion should be the lowest mark. If the horse is losing rhythm because it is spooking and not listening to the rider then the submission should be the lowest mark.
So, when you take a look at your test sheet its important to know how to read it. If your lowest mark was for submission, have a look through those directives and see what specifically you need to work on. A judge may have been really helpful and underlined some of the directives or guided you in the comments over what to work on. It might be that you know your horse has a contact issue but you're not sure why. If you're getting a low mark for impulsion then that could be why, if you're getting a low mark for submission then that could be why. The judge is quite literally telling you how to fix the problems you have and guiding you as to how to get higher marks. Don't disregard this. These are the people that judge us and decide what mark we get, and they are specifically telling us exactly what we need to do to get extra marks. So don't disregard it or ignore it or read it quickly and forget about it. Make a note of it. Write down the weaker areas, write down the strengths and compare them across your other tests. Do you agree with them, do you not? All this things will help you and guide you to exactly what to do in your training and what to work on with your horse to get higher marks for each movement and higher marks for those collectives.