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Tightening the reins is no answer for jigging out on trail

By SHERYL LYNDE / Horsetrader columnist - October 15th, 2014 - Trainer Tips

Sheryl Lynde BadgeJigging out on trails stems from a few different causes Ð buddy sour, barn sour, competitive (always wanting to be in front) or bored because they have not been worked sufficiently to expend their energy. Whatever the cause, the least effective way to correct this behavior is to tighten up the reins, hang on the mouth and try to restrict their movement. You cannot force a horse to walk when all they want to do is jig.

You have to change their mind by turning what they want to do into work, and turning what you want to do into rest. In order accomplish this, you have to make their feet move with energy and change direction frequently, thus keeping their attention on you.

If it has been a while since your last ride, I would warm up your horse in the round pen or arena properly before your ride, getting his attention. You need to pick the appropriate trail for training purposes and include another rider who will support you in your effort to train. The trail needs be wide, with plenty of room in order to make corrections and work your horse. You have to be 100 percent committed and consistent until you see results. The biggest mistake I see is that people give up too soon.

When I am out on the trail and the horse I am riding begins to jig, wanting to get ahead of the horse in front of him, IÕll oblige him. IÕll squeeze him up and increase his speed from a jig to a trot or cantor, then begin a multitude of exercises. As the rider in front of me continues to move forward, IÕll lope several circles around them in each direction, working on lead departures and directional control. Or, IÕll take my horse off to the side of the trail and trot around brush and trees, working on roll backs and softening exercises to get him off my legs and hands. Then I will give him an opportunity to walk as I position him behind the horse he wanted to pass. I will keep the reins loose, making him responsible to go the speed my body is directing him to go, which is a walk. My shoulders are relaxed, and my legs and seat are, too.

As soon as he takes one step into a jig, I will squeeze him forward again — passing the rider and asking my horse to perform different maneuvers such as side passing in each direction until he moves energetically off my calf. Once the side pass has improved, then I will begin trotting ahead about seven paces and then ask for a collected stop and an immediate light back up, repeating several times until his stops have improved and he is backing with energy off my seat and legs. Then, I will again give him another opportunity to walk behind the horse at the speed I have requested on a loose rein. As long as he walks, I leave him alone and maintain a loose rein Ð this is his reward. As soon as he takes one step faster than I have requested, off we go again. We can do more circles at the lope around the horse in front, practicing lead departures and then rollbacks to change directions, more side passing with energy, more stopping and trotting around brush and trees. Again, I will position him behind the horse in front of me and give him a chance to walk.

At some point in time — it may be today, a week from today or a month from today, depending on the horse — but at some time I assure you that if you are 100 percent consistent with this work, your effort will be rewarded. You may have to invest considerable time in the exercises to begin with, but eventually it will take fewer repetitions for your horse to understand the concept. You will notice a change in his thought process during one of your sessions. While riding behind a horse, he will have the thought to jig and then correct himself knowing that it is entirely too much work to be ahead and much easier to be where you have directed him to be.

You will experience multiple benefits from your work, including increased horsemanship abilities by training, not restricting. You will have a softer, more responsive horse and you will have improved his circles, lead departures, side passes, back-ups and stops. Restricting the horse, such as tightening the reins or the use of a more severe bit, elevates the behavior. You are only riding the horseÕs issues, which never stay at the same level Ð they will continue to increase if left unchecked, requiring tighter reins or bigger bits.

Training takes time and energy. But it will alleviate the behavior you have set out to correct, and you will enjoy a safer more relaxed trail ride.

Horsetrader columnist Sheryl Lynde is a John Lyons Certified Trainer who specializes in foundation training, colt starting and problem-solving. She is based in Temecula.

One comment has been made on “Tightening the reins is no answer for jigging out on trail”

  1. DebbieLynne Costello Says:

    Hey Sheryl, I’m glad I ran across this blog post. I have a fairly new horse and have been doing a lot of ground work with him. He’s been a great horse and seems to want to please. I did some ground work with him and we rode around our 22 acres. We had gated off 3 of our other horses who like to come running and get the horses we are on fired up. We were riding the home stretch and my horse started jigging. He wanted to get back to the other horses. I tightened the reins (I know now I shouldn’t have done that!) and he did about 3 crow hops and went into full bucking mode. He has never bucked since I’ve had him. I ended up diving off and snapping a rib. I’m only 1 week into the healing process but am trying to figure out what I need to do when my 2 months of healing are over. Do you have any suggestions?

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