Why do horses jog? ~ Bad Manners or Coping Mechanism

why do horses jog

All horses can jog, some more than others. I’m sure most of us know a horse who jogs while out hacking or when being led out to the field. And with most things in the equine world, there are many different opinions on jogging, from naughtiness to pain and everything in between.

What is jogging?

If you are unsure what I mean by jogging, it could also be described as prancing. The jog is a trot, similar to the passage dressage movement. However, whereas the passage requires the horse to round over the back, horses tend to hollow while jogging.

But why do horses jog?

As much as I can understand how it could be considered naughty, or bad manners for a horse to jog, especially when the rider has asked them to stop, I have never known a horse to jog out of pure naughtiness. Much like other “naughty” behaviours such as bucking, bolting and napping, there is nearly always an underlying issue, such as pain or lack of understanding, which causes this behaviour.

Excitement/Stress

All of the joggers I have known have down it out of stress or excitement. Scottie often jogs while out hacking and it is usually because he wants to go faster than we are but instead of relaxing and moving forward, he tightens up and jogs. Sometimes it’s down to the excitement of reaching an open field where he would like to have a canter, sometimes it’s stress about being left behind by the horse(s) we are riding with and sometimes, if we are having a particularly terrifying hack out alone, he jogs because he is just so tense he doesn’t know what else to do with himself!

Pain

Another reason why a horse may jog is pain. If a horse is in pain or uncomfortable anywhere in the body, they will likely hold some tension in the body. This tension can mean that they find it easier to jog rather than to go forwards.

The Rider

Finally, the rider could also be making the horse jog. The majority of riders more wary of riding on a hack or at a show than they are of riding in their arena at home. Therefore they tend to have a stronger contact or a shorter rein. This extra tension in front of the horse, can make them feel restricted and that they can’t go forward. So they may jog as a result.

Can you stop horses jogging?

Yes you can stop a horse jogging. But how you approach it will depend on A) if the jogging bothers you that much and B) what is causing the horse to jog.

As uncomfortable as Scottie’s jogging can be at times, I personally do not feel the need to correct it. I know he only jogs when he gets upset and from experience, I know that by trying to reason with him once he is in that state, that it is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. So instead I have 2 tactics to calm him down, rather than stop the jogging.

Ignore Him

My first tactic is to ignore him. I sit deep, absorbing all the bounce through my body and give him a longer rein. I don’t worry about him running off with me, but if he starts to get a bit too speedy, then a whoa and a quick check is all he needs. 90% of the time he calms down by himself from this tactic and comes back to walk properly.

give them a long rein

Trot On

If my first tactic doesn’t work,  if he is trotting away with me every time I give him a long rein or if he is particularly bouncy and I’m getting a stitch, I push him forwards. I get him to trot on (sometimes canter) for a couple hundred meters or so. Then when I want to come back to a walk he is usually a lot calmer. We might still be a bit jig joggy, but he quickly calms down. If he doesn’t, I pop him back into trot for a bit and try again.

Other people have other methods on how to stop a horse jogging, such as forcing them to stand still and then allowing them to walk on after they have stood still for a few seconds. Or making them come back to walk. But I personally feel that if your horse is tense and stressed, letting them express it by jogging to get it out their system is better than having an argument.

Knowing your horse

The better you know your horse, you will be able to work out what causes them to jog in the first place. This means you might be able to manage it so that they don’t jog in the first place. But as long as you find a way of coping with it what works for you and your horse, that is the most important thing!

 

 

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