We have all seen the horse that won't walk whilst out on the trail ride or
pleasure riding as we call it. Highly frustrating and usually ends up with
the horse doing Piaffe and the rider being Pi-offed. Here's why it happens
and here's how to fix it.
The material following hereafter relates to the horse at the walk, not at
the trot or canter. A rider may ride on the bit or off at those two gaits.
It does not matter. What does matter is how the rider rides the horse at
the WALK. To be relaxed, a horse must be able to lower its neck and just
“mosy along”. It cannot lower its neck if you are sitting there with a
contact, as to do that it actually needs a longer rein because the neck
must be allowed to stretch out further. Tense horses have their heads and
necks up, relaxed ones lower the front end.
IF THE HORSE CAN FEEL YOUR HANDS THROUGH THE REINS AT THE WALK ON A TRAIL
RIDE, YOU ARE LOOKING FOR TROUBLE.
A majority of people like to keep a contact on their horse’s mouth when on
a trail ride. These are almost always the people who end up with jig
jogging horses. They do so because they think that if they do not the
horse will bolt off. I also think that it gives them a comfort zone,
particularly those people who were taught to ride in the 'English' way of
going. In fact, all horses and especially young or freshly broken in
horses should be walked everywhere on a loopy rein and only be “On the Bit
and Round” when doing flat work. This will keep the horse seine and much
more accepting of the hard boring grind of the circle work that flatwork
includes. A horse cannot see the rhyme nor reason in going endlessly
around an arena because in the horse’s mind there is no beginning or end.
Nothing to focus on, no completion, no arrival. This is where you will
always get your misbehavior, tension, stress and un-happiness.
They hold onto the reins and pull on a horses mouth "IN CASE THE HORSE
JOGS" and if it does, they hold on tighter and tighter until the horse not
only jogs but also runs sideways, canters on the spot, caprioles and then
even rears. The horse is locked in a box and has no where to go, so it
chooses one of the available escapes.
They refuse to hang onto the reins and if the horse breaks gait from the
walk they punish the horse by sending it precisely in the opposite
direction that it wants to go and then say, "I dare you to do it again" In
other words, throw the rein contact away totally and be on a “Pleasure
Rein”. That means having no feel of a contact with the horse’s mouth at
all, in fact, a slight loop in both reins. This is not only what a
pleasure rein should mean to a rider but it certainly must be to a horse.
If you are going for a pleasure ride, shouldn’t your horse be rewarded
with the same relaxing feeling, in return for all of its good work on the
Psychological discipline is always the way to go with horses. Instead of
Pi-ing us off, we watch them getting pioffed and we remain relaxed. The
opposite of what the horse is aiming for.
Trying to ride a horse out on a pleasure ride whilst having a contact on
its mouth causes the fight that causes the jig jogging.
You pull on the horse's mouth
it pulls back.
Force meets force.
You give them something to
You are adopting the riding
style that normal people do, not the way "Natural Horseman" do.
Here's how to ride the pleasure ride and why.
When on a pleasure ride and in fact anytime you are riding, asking your
horse except in competition when you may be required to be on the bit,
walk on a loose rein. That means loose as a goose or so that you have no
contact with your horse’s mouth.
People who go along with the good old contact are causing the fight the
horse wants. No contact means no fight.
These riders are holding onto the horse's mouth "IN CASE" the horse jogs
off or breaks stride into the trot. WRONG THINKING. This is precisely what
the horse wants you to do. Suck you into a fight and manipulate you into
frustration in the process.
We should always be thinking along the lines that if our horse is naughty,
it is the one that should receive the frustration not us. We should just
sit there thinking things like, "Go on, do it again."
One should ride on what I call, "a pleasure rein" That means, the reins
long enough that you do not have contact on the horses mouth but not so
long that you do not have control if you suddenly need it. Not Western
length reins. This means learning where your rein hand should be to
I can hear most people thinking that just a little light contact will be
OK. Well it won't. Any contact, light or strong, will give the horse the
excuse to want to jog off. The other thing about a little contact against
a lot and at least having the horse round if you so wish, is that you are
continually building the upside down neck and the wrong muscle
configuration on the horse, not to mention ignorance of every type one
likes to think about.
There is an exception to the rule however. Whenever you see imminent
danger ahead, traffic, a narrow opening or something that the horse
doesn't want to go over or through, collect your reins up briefly so as to
have the lateral control to keep the horse focused on the direction you
want to travel and then immediately drop the reins again back to the
"Pleasure Rein" Even though you briefly shortened your reins, it doesn't
mean that you necessarily have a full contact on the horses mouth. After
all, you want the horse to go forward and to confront its fears, so give
you hands but have the reins short enough that you can instantly steer
from a lateral point of view, in order to keep the horse looking at or
into, where you want it to go.
Ride your horse down the road on a pleasure
rein. The horse may break into a jog. YOU MUST ALLOW IT TO!!!!
If it does, within one step, halt it as
strongly as you need to. Then back it up two or three steps and
instantly throw your reins away to the pleasure rein and no contact on
the mouth. Dare the horse to do it again. When it does, repeat the
With young horses that I break in, I teach them
this on the very first day that they try it and that is basically the end
of it from that day on. Maybe a reminder now and again if they get a rush
of blood. With the older horse that has learnt the habits and needs
Re-educating, you may have to repeat the procedure hundreds of times or
only a dozen times. They are all different. Stay cool and relaxed. Never
tense. Tense Trainers cannot train Horses!
CO-OPERATION FROM YOUR FRIENDS.
If you ride out with friends and you are trying to re-educate your horse
not to jig-jog, you will not succeed unless you train your friends as
well. This is because, every time you stop and back your horse up, your
friends must immediately halt otherwise the training opportunity has been
lost and your horse will get even more frustrated because you cannot train
a horses mind while it's mates are walking away and leaving it behind.
Well a pro may be able to but you won't. You and your horse will need
everything in your favor.
Organized Trail Rides like
Pony Club Rally in the Forrest for instance, are a recipe for disaster
when anti training of such Horses is concerned. For no-one cares what
your Horse is doing and all manner of things go on that compound the
excitability of your Horse and the frustration of yourself. Kids 'hooning'
past from behind and so on. If you have a Horse that has the propensity
to be a candidate for jogging, don't go. Train with your Friends and at
Home. YOU CANNOT TRAIN at Pony Club or Endurance Rides.
Here is another system that works.
THE DIMINISHED CIRCLE
Another system that I have had success with is the use of the one rein
You ride down the road and your horse jogs off. You immediately take a
direct rein and circle the horse on a small 5 metre or smaller, circle.
Direct the horse with the inside rein only and do not pull on the outside
rein otherwise you are up to your same old tricks of fighting with the
horse's mouth with two reins. You cannot win. Eventually, the horse will
slow to a walk because it is going nowhere and not achieving its aim of
ever increasing its speed and promoting a fight with your two rein hands.
The absolute moment the horse makes its transition downward to the walk,
point it in the original direction of travel that you were taking in the
first place. Do not pick the reins up. If it jogs, circle again and repeat
the procedure until such time it gets the message that whilst ever it is
jogging it will be going no-where and only when it walks will it get to
its goal, home.
BOTH SYSTEMS MAKE HORSES WALK FASTER
When you beat a horse as its own game as we say, you find that they always
start to walk faster and with bigger steps than they ever have. This is a
sign that you have won and that they have decided that there is no use
fighting. Therefore, "I will walk faster than I ever have, so as to get
home as quick as possible considering that I am not allowed to jog
anymore." DON’T EVER RESTRAIN THE WALK!! Don't touch the reins of a
power walking horse. Appreciate the training of a better Dressage walk.
TROTTING UP NOT JIGGING
Even if Horses don't fit the
description of jogging because of tenseness, a mouth gripping Rider or
excitability, they can be triggered simply because they cannot keep up
with Horses with better walks. They may be smaller, shorter legs,
shorter strides and so on and if the Owner isn't reading the Horse and
thinking about situations (defensive riding) the Horse can be turned
into a 'jogger'.
When one identifies this
potential, they should regularly trot up and catch up, making the Horse
do the upward transition which makes it ok and stops jogging.
There is a vast difference
between the 'jigging' horse that is trying to catch up but being
restrained to the trotted up Horse that isn't being restrained. I rode
exactly one of these last week and fixed it.
If you avail yourself of the
opportunity of trotting the Horse to catch up, on a pleasure rein and
adding 'stop to seat' as you reach the front Horse each time, you will
find that within no time, your Horse will start to anticipate regular
trot ups and back to walk, at a set point of being left behind. Say 10
metres. You will notice that after a while, your Horse will start to jog
up at it's own set point, something that I do allow but only after the
system is imprinted well and Horse has totally mellowed. Then, they will
even trot up at the very set time and do the downward transition as
well, all with no reins at all. This is a great trick to teach the best
downward transitions to seat, as I did last week. That transferred into
flat work the very next day and was most noticeable.
Whilst ion the subject of
'set points', that happens to be the point in time being one second
before the Horse actually goes to jog off and so that you make it your
command rather than a none sanctioned jogging. There is a vast
difference. To miss the timing of this is to fail at the remedial
training of the problem.
The jog comes with a high
frame and 'on the Bit' as the Rider vainly tries to restrain the Horse.
The steps are choppy and 'passagy' whereas the trot up, done on a
pleasure rein comes with a lowering of the neck in a more Western form
and with relaxed strides that are therefore much bigger.
However, before going to the
trot up, on Horses that have never been first taught that 'jogging' is
not on, first show them the error of their ways by following the back up
system with the co-operation of your Friends. That will then allow the
Horse to appreciate the difference between attempted jogging up and a
command of trot up. It will therefore appreciate the latter and
co-operate with it.
I often get asked about
Horses that continually want to 'star gaze' and look around. I say, "so
what" it is a 'pleasure ride' so why shouldn't the Horse be allowed to
look precisely where it wants? To continually adjust it for those
reasons is to have 'paralysis of the analysis' and make yourself a pain
to the Horse, asking for trouble that you don't want.
ADJUSTING THE COURSE
Again, I bother little about
this as long as we are going roughly in the direction that I want to go
but to get absolutely pedantic is again, to stress the Horse and ask for
perhaps 'jig jogging'
- Never blame the horse or equipment.
- Never go and reach for a bigger bit.
- Don't think gimmicks will help-they won't.
Get professional help if required.
(On a subject such as this, choose a Western Rider.)
Your horse will love you more!!!