My horse does not jog safely! Does this matter?
YES YES YES! There are many reasons your horse needs to jog properly and safely. One, you may be at a show and it’s required! Hunter classes at some levels of shows require that you jog your horse before the final placings are decided. FEI horses must be presented to the ground jury before they are allowed to compete. You may need to jog your horse for the Veterinarian - this is common during lameness examinations. You may also need to jog your horse to get out of the way of something while walking along - another horse, a car, an alligator.
The problem with having a horse that doesn’t jog safely is that with increased speed comes increased chance of shenanigans. If he’s not in line with you and paying attention, you may end up squished, knocked over, or just embarrassed.
So - the basics of jogging your horse:
- You need to have two hands on the lead rope in super proper form. NO LOOPS.
This horse is right where he needs to be - alongside. Using two hands would be ideal.
- He must remain so that your shoulder is between his shoulder and his head. You need to be able to see him.
- This allows you to tug to the left if he looks right. You can also raise your left hand and put it towards his face if he looks left and tries to cut you off. You can also swing your lead rope or whip around the left side of your body to encourage him to go forward from his hind end instead of from you dragging him along.
- If he’s behind you, he can zip left or right taking your arm out of it’s socket on the way. He can also freak out and trample you from behind.
This horse has a great opportunity to slam on the brakes, turn right or left, or jump on his leader.
This horse is exactly where he should be.
- He must match your pace. Often times, a horse will display a lameness that is easier to see when jogging fast or slow - hence your Veterinarian will ask you to jog fast or slow. If he’s not matching your pace he’s ignoring you and not in line with you. Please refer to the above sections on getting squashed and/or embarrassed.
- He must trot on command as you set off and walk on command before you finish (or turn). This is not car racing, your needs to go calmly walking the turns and crossing the finish lines.
- Speaking of turns, it’s customary to turn to the right when jogging your horse for FEI events and for your Veterinarian. This allows you to remain in control of his head, neck and shoulder. If he turns towards you, he can oh-so-easily keep going and make you one with the pavement by ramming their shoulder into you. Turning away to the right gives you the upper hand.
This rider is preparing to turn to the right - notice where she's looking and she's guiding him over.
So how do you teach your horse to jog safely?
First - he better know how to WALK safely alongside you. (Of course I already have an article about that here).
Then kick it up a notch in little increments. First jog a few steps, then gradually building up to longer and longer distances. No marathon here, but enough for your Vet or the judge to see what they need to see. Practice the walk/trot transitions and trot/walk transitions a lot - this helps your horse’s focus to stay on you.
And of course praise for a job well done! Practice often and practice well! Does your horse jog well or does he need jogging school?