What comes to mind when we talk of a slow jog in the context of horse riding? According to the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) Handbooks, the jog is described as a smooth, ground-covering, two-beat, diagonal gait. Does that sound straightforward to you? If so, can you differentiate between a spectacular jogger and others?
When it comes to the best jog, I use the so-called five C's in my evaluation of a horse: carriage, collection, cadence, consistency and correctness. Carriage describes a horse’s topline and balance, with the topline being on the same level with the horse when he is carrying his weight evenly over the forehand and hindquarters. Ultimately, the goal is to reach self-carriage, something that can be accomplished if the horse is able to maintain the frame with little rider support.
Collection refers to the horse getting his back up. As the back lifts, he will be able to drive his hocks further under the body to generate forward energy and reduce his up-and-down movements. Subsequently, this ends up smoothing the ride even further due to the fact that the horse's gait has less suspension.
Cadence refers to the horse’s footfall accuracy, meaning the front and its corresponding diagonal hind foot need to hit the ground simultaneously, producing a clear and distinct sound. This means that if a horse is jogging in front while at the same time walking in back, it is going to have a poor cadence indicating an unbalanced gait.
Consistency refers to the horse’s ability to repeat what he did in his previous strides; it is the rhythm of the horse’s strides. For a horse to be described as a consistent jogger, each time the judge throws his eyes in the horse's direction, he should look the same. This is also a sign that his rider is having a trouble-free ride.
Correctness describes the horse’s frame in conjunction with the evenness of his gait. If speed is too slow, then it interferes with one of the 5 C's and the horse will no longer be correct. This is about conformation too. The horse should not be asked to strain to perform beyond his natural ability. When all these things are conformed to each other, the horse will be able to hit the ground very softly.
Image source: flickr.com
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