I wanted to address the terms Connection (in the physical sense), Collection, and Connection (in the bonded sense).
A lot of people interpret a horse that is balanced, rhythmic, and in a frame to be Collected. This is actually Connection in the physical sense. It means the horses body is moving as a unit in harmony. The hind end is Connected to the front end through the soft relaxed back, The horses body is free from brace, left, right and over the topline. The horse is also balanced in his movement. This creates a picture that most people see as harmonious and flowing whether it is on a long rein, in a halter, bareback, dressage, jumping, reining, bridless, bitless or anything else.
Collection is a technical term. It is the last stage on the Training Scale. The Training scale follows this progression Rhythm, Relaxation/Suppleness, Contact, Impulsion, Straightness, Collection. The Training scale helps you with a guideline of what to train in what order. In other words, You wouldn’t train Collection before your horse had consistent and reliable Rhythm. You wouldn’t ask for Impulsion until your horse had found the Frame etc. So you try to get one area very good before you go to the next progression. Collection literally means to compress or shorten the frame of the horse while maintaining energy and power. It is not slowing down the rhythm, It is not taking the horses stride away. The horses frame and body get shorter because they go up in the poll and rounder in the back instead of longer and more extended in the stride and frame. They cover less ground because of this compression. It is challenging to the horse and requires careful preparation, fitness and foundation training to not have it be just a slower gait with a short stride. Collection is found in Western Pleasure, Reining, Dressage, Jumpers, Equitation, and any other discipline where there are changes of gait. Collection is also not just physical. It requires a horse to understand it in his mind before he can understand it in his body. Exercises that build Collection successfully teach the horse to Collect himself out of his choice.
Now Let’s talk about Connection in the bonded sense. This to me is desire in the horse and rider. The horse likes and wants to be with the person working with him. The person likes and wants to work in partnership with his horse. They are both working together toward a common goal in balance and Harmony and they are enjoying it even when the work is challenging. They are enjoying it because you (the leader) are making it enjoyable and looking out for your partner’s well being as you would any person you cared for.
If you combine this with your horsemanship, you will always enjoy your horse, and your horse will always enjoy you!