Getting that nice slow jog
I don't do western pleasure, and the paint I'm working right now is not bred for it. She does not have the attitude or the conformation. So I'm not expecting her jog to be super slow, her head quite as low, or it to be as smooth as a real western pleasure horse.
But I would like some tips on how you all have improved on your horse's jog. Like I said, she's not bred for it and I would never expect her to have the ideal jog for western pleasure but I would like her to be able to jog along nicely and slower, with a lower, relaxed head.
What's worked to improve your horse's jog?
I'm not sure I'm going to explain this correctly, but I'll try. My trainer has me lift the reins up (keeping my elbow still and at my side) to ask for my mare's head to lower, while continuing to push her forward with my legs. The second she lowers her head, I release the pressure by lowering my hand and stop pushing her forward. It is essential that you release the pressure as soon as the horse's head lowers. Whenever she starts to speed up and lift her head, doing that always gets her to slow down and lower her head. It forces her to engage her butt muscles as well.
Well all kinds of basic things can help. Lateral flexion and hip disengagements for softness. Then I like to do lateral flexion at the walk. Then I like to pressure and release in order to get the head down where I like it. Sensitizing the horse to the bit so it takes less and less pressure and the horse leaves the head a longer amount of time.
Circles are a good idea to do at the same time. If the gait is too fast, circle with softness in the bend to even out the head and speed. Once you get to a slower, softer jog, go back to the straight line. In a straight line you can also hold your horse collected and push him up into the bit to get him to round up and slow down. Remember to stay sensitive to the bit and encourage self carriage with big releases. I would also invest in learning to leg yield/two track at the walk and jog.
It's also wise to teach your horse half-halt cues through your knees. I usually do this first at the walk. If I want a slower walk I'll push with my knees. They won't know what to do at first, so you go right into the back-up. After a while they associate the knee cue with backing up, so they slow their pace. You can get a nice crawly walk or a subtle decrease in the jog speed this way.
And don't forget to work both ends of the spectrum. I do a long of fast trotting, both "long and low" and collected up. The rounded fast trotting will help to engage muscles and push through for softness. I also want to have an amazing back-up that I can do without reins. I usually cue by bouncing my legs, then pulling. Once they associate rhythmic leg movement, they usually start to step back on their own, and it's up to you to moderate speed.
It's all about softness, sensitivity, and speed control. If you look into Dressage a lot of it will help you out as well.
Thanks! I have been looking into dressage some and it's been helpful. I usually ride English, (huntseat) but at the same time I do like the real relaxed wp jog.
I have been trying some of these things so it's reassuring that that's how other people do it to.
I'm working a lot on getting her softer with the bit right now. I'm riding her in a snaffle but she is used to a curb. She will try to rush and brace against contact because she thinks she can and because she doesn't understand what I'm asking for. I think there were a lot of gaps in her basic training. We've been doing a lot with the rein pressure, right response, release. She's starting to get it, but it's not always consistent improvement.
Another method I've had great success with is this one.
The Road of a Horse Trainer: Teaching "Cruise Control"
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