Every horse I train learns how to jog. It is one of the most foundational movements I can develop in a horse. It just has to be taught with some insight. I’ll probably include it in my manual I have thought about writing for a couple years now called “Dressage for Dummies” (Hey, I’m a simple guy too). I’ll bet that would make everybody happy.
If your horse is only ever asked to jog at one speed, you do not have a suppled horse. “The dog don’t hunt.” The lack of suppleness and rhythm are evident when judged, thus a comment like “too slow” is given; a western horse performing dressage like that is simply a moving statue. Rigid muscles, the opposite of supple, will tell and emphasize the lack of purity within the two-beat rhythm of the gait. It is true, a jog has no moment of suspension like the trot, but it can be balanced—it is balanced if the hindquarters are engaging under the horse.
If your western horse travels around without ever having to open its stride (and doing so without speeding up), when you do ask him to move forward, he will not know how to lengthen his stride from behind, and will simply rush (too fast).
Regarding tests: In my clinics, I teach simple, basic exercises that give you the ability to know whether your jog speed is correct, and to fix it if it isn’t. If your horse is lagging behind behind (not a typo), and moving too slow, you won’t be able to perform the exercises. If your horse is too forward, uncollected, and quick, he won’t be able to execute the exercises in balance either. If you know how to perform the exercises I teach, and your horse knows the exercises you taught it, any imbalance can be corrected before a test, and—wait for it—you will know you are at the correct speed.
On another slightly random note, long before the creation of Western or Cowboy Dressage, I enjoyed starting and promoting a young Morgan named Brian. He was a very bright, eager-to-please gelding; a fun and true Cowboy Dressage horse because it was all so easy for him. I didn’t have Cowboy Dressage then; I had only Western Pleasure, so that’s what I did with him.
I remember showing him at his first show. He made me grin like a dead pig in the sun. Ride with me as I try to paint the picture for you. As I was loping down the long side in front of the judge, beautifully, I might add, and one handed, I must have tightened through my seat slightly. I was exactly perpendicular to the judge when Brian decided to add what he believed I had just asked for: a nice, clean flying change—imagine my surprise at that moment! I remember changing back quickly, but I don’t remember any ribbons. It didn’t matter, Brian was a green horse, and that’s what green horses do.
Because I had practiced lead changes at home, Brian’s enthusiasm for his work and what he could offer showed through. What mattered most to me (yep, more than the ribbon) was that he was balanced, supple and loose enough to be able to perform whatever was asked, at any moment. He was supple through all of his gaits, and then some.
Pursue the elements of flexion and suppleness to develop your own unique rider/horse combination. That’s the pursuit to enjoy. Other struggles will clear up, and you’ll be ridin’ happy…like a June bug on a tomato plant. Riding should be like your favorite dessert. It should taste so good your tongue jumps out and licks the eyebrows right off your head.
By Jeff Wilson
In the photos are Jeff Wilson and his Andalusian, Celesto
I’m still laying in the dirt with the social media stampede. Please take some time and “like” www.facebook.com/Jeff-Wilson-Cowboy-Dressage so I can stand back up and dust myself off. That’d make me happier than a full breeze from a corn-eatin’ horse. I have been training horses for over 35 years and value the western horse lifestyle in my approach to training. Giving clinics and seminars on how to reach your full potential with your horse through the training foundation of Cowboy Dressage keeps me young.
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