A horse that jigs on the trail is very frustrating. Most of the time the solution is not a one and done sort of deal. Retraining a jigger takes time, patience and repetition. Here are a few tips that can help you get headed in the right (and smoother!) direction.
1. Check all tack! Make sure there is nothing pinching, pulling, pushing, pokingâ€¦you get the idea. A horse that jigs is using it’s back poorly, so a saddle that doesn’t fit can really aggravate an already uncomfortable position. Check for soreness, heat or tenderness across the back. Look for rub marks or lumps on the spine.
2. Check your riding! Are you sitting balanced and relaxed? Stay in the middle of your saddle and back on your seat bones. Tipping forward can encourage an energetic horse to move faster. Keep your back and shoulders relaxed and your arms and hands elastic. Move with the horse. Don’t brace or tense up.
3. Change the routine. Try different route, or go the same route the opposite way. Start heading home and then if the horse starts getting worked up, turn around and go somewhere else for a little while.
4.Reverse psychology. Do you immediately take your horses saddle off and put them away in their stall right after the ride? Instead, go to the arena and do some active riding. Make the trails a relaxing place by working hard in the arena after the ride. It that isn’t suitable to your situation, then tie your horse up still saddle in a safe location without food, to sit for a while. It might make them a little less eager to get home the next time.
5. Develop a cue. I like a head down or vertical flex cue for jigging. The reason is, most horses raise their head and brace against the bit and hollow their back when jigging. By creating a cue to drop their head and neck, it raises their backs and keeps them from getting above the bit and avoiding the bit. However, success is in the release. If the horse walks in response to the cue, you must have good timing with your release. Also, this will have to be repeated hundreds of times depending on the severity of the problem. Start with short rides, so you don’t get tired and the horse doesn’t get frustrated.
6. Don’t use a bigger bit. If your horse is already a nervous type adding a more powerful bit will worry them more. Work on the training of your horse and don’t rely on the equipment.
7. Avoid gimmicks. While a running martingale attached properly is a relatively harmless training tool, other gimmicks like draw reins and tie-downs can get you in trouble and really have no place on the trail. Both devices can encourage bracing and avoidance of the bit, so they really are of no help to a jigging horse.
8. Pick your riding partners carefully. If your horse is a slow walker and you always ride with fast walkers then are not setting your horse up for success. Choose a riding buddy that is willing to help you fix your horse’s problem and won’t leave you in the dust. Or if your horse is the fast walker then ride with other fast walkers. Having to start and stop all the time can also frustrate your horse.
9. Patience! This will no go away in one ride. Try for a slight improvement on every ride.
10. When all else fails, get help. This might be a case for someone with more experience to tackle. If the jigging makes you nervous or the horse is becoming dangerous, then seek professional help!