Suzy Maloney B.Eq.Sc.
Dealing with the JigJog Horse
Updated: Sep 4, 2022
Some horses seem unable to walk calmly along and are constantly doing a jigjog. It is not a walk or a trot, but a bouncy jogging that is tiring to ride. It requires the rider to be constantly working and there are no restful long rein breaks for either horse or rider. When dealing with any challenge I like to look at it in 4 steps - environment, horse, rider, and training. Environment – Does your jigjog horse live in a stimulating pasture with other horses where they can run at liberty and use up excess energy? How much sweet pasture is in the paddock? Some grass is full of sugar, perhaps you need to restrict access to lush pasture? What else in the environment could contribute to this behaviour?
Horse - What are you feeding your horse? High energy feeds like grains need to be removed gradually from the diet and replaced with high fibre feeds. Could your horse have a physical issue that is causing pain? Is their back sound and pain free? Does your saddle fit well? If you are using a bit perhaps consider using a bitless bridle, as all bits work by creating pain. Is there anything else with your horse that could be causing pain or discomfort? Rider – Are you hanging on to your horse all the time? This can wind the horse up like a spring, causing them to bounce along in the jigjog. The horse needs to be given releases when they do as you ask and be given times when they can relax with a loose rein. Perhaps check in and see if you are anxious or fearful? Are your arms relaxed and allowing the horse softness and movement of their head? Ensure your leg and buttock muscles are relaxed and are not gripping, effectively giving a go aid all the time. Check in on your ego. I have ridden with people on jigjog horses who are holding on to their horses constantly, creating a lot of energy build up. They make comments indicating they should be admired for their control of such a high energy horse. Their egos are invested in riding and controlling a ‘difficult’ horse. Analyse other areas of your riding to see if there is anything else you could change to reduce the jigjog. Training – This must come last. If any of the above have not been addressed and you go straight into training, it will be difficult, slow, and unproductive. Always spend time connecting with your horse before riding. When your horse starts to jog do not try and stop them. Turn your horse in smallish circles, it does not matter if you need to do 20. They can jog around for as long as they like while you sing a song! Eventually they will go back to the walk (the 1st time can take a while), when they do, allow them to walk along in a straight line again. When they start jogging again, repeat the circles. Alternate sides so they get a good stretch both ways. It is a great flexing exercise to loosen up your horses’ muscles. Expect for every time to be less circles, you can count them if you like. Horses are smart, after a while your horse will twig to the fact that when they jog they must work harder (small circles are hard work for horses), and they will start to control their own behaviour. This is what we want, for the horse to work out the answer and offer it themselves. You can make the walk sections extra sweet by giving verbal praise and neck rubs. Then it all comes down to patience, consistency, and repetition. If sometimes your horse jogs and you let them, the whole thing will take longer to fix. Consistency is especially important for horses. Following these 4 steps ensures you are using a holistic approach to dealing with any challenges you meet with your horse. These 4 steps can of course be applied to any other area of difficulty you are currently working with. Good luck and happy riding.
Suzy Maloney B.Eq.Sc.
Happy Horses Bitless
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