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Guide to the Slow Jog

Learn what sets a spectacular jogger apart from the rest of the pack.

By Dale Rudin | December 2007 HI Exclusive

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The Five C's and how they create the perfect horse jog

The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) Handbooks describes the jog as “a smooth, ground-covering two-beat diagonal gait.”  Sounds straightforward, right? But what then sets apart a spectacular jogger from the rest of the pack?  Dave Whitaker, the director of the horse science department of Middle Tennessee State University, a carded AQHA judge of 21 years and a three-time judge of the AQHA World Show, says, “Years ago I had a trainer describe a horse with the best jog as the one he’d want to be on if he had a 10 mile ride ahead of him.  I’ll never forget that.  Whitaker also uses the five Cs to evaluate a horse’s jog: carriage, cadence, collection, consistency and correctness. 

Carriage refers to the horse’s topline and balance.  The topline should be level with the horse carrying his weight evenly over his forehand and hindquarters.  The ultimate goal is self-carriage, which is achieved when the horse can maintain his frame with minimal support from the rider. 

Cadence describes the accuracy of the horse’s footfalls.  The front and corresponding diagonal hind foot should strike the ground at exactly the same time, resulting in a clear and distinct sound.  A horse that is jogging in front and walking in back will have a poor cadence that indicates an uneven or unbalanced gait. 

Whitaker describes collection as “the horse getting his back up.”  As his back lifts, the horse is able to drive his hocks farther under his body creating forward energy and reducing up-and-down movement.  This results in a smoother ride because the horse has less suspension in his gait. 

Consistency is the ability of the horse to repeat what he did in the previous stride, the stride before that, and so on. A consistent jogger will look the same every time the judge glances in his direction, a sign that the rider is enjoying a trouble-free ride.  Consistency also refers to the rhythm of the horse’s stride.  Each step should be a steady repeat of the length and speed of the one before.

Correctness, Whitaker says, is about the horse’s frame and the evenness of his gait.  “If the horse’s speed is too slow, it will interfere with one of the five Cs and that horse will no longer be correct.”   Conformation plays a role, too.  If a horse is asked to perform in a way that contradicts his natural ability, it will be difficult for him to perform well.  When it all comes together, Whitaker says, “The horse will hit the ground very softly.”   

There are classes Whitaker has judged where the quality of some horses jogging in the arena is comparable, so he rewards the horse and rider teams that offer a higher level of difficulty.  “If a horse can travel slowly while maintaining the five Cs,” that is a plus.  If he’s carrying himself on a loose rein, it will help him move up in the ranks.  When he’s evaluating a class, Whitaker says, “I look for the horse that I’d want to ride for those 10 miles.” 

Further Reading
Can't Relax at the Lope

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Reader Comments

Erin    Somewhere, MN

12/19/2013 8:05:25 AM

So happy that AQHA is starting to ask for extended gaits and that a fast jog is accepted. It is so much more comfortable and healthy for the horse,

Diana    Cedarville, NJ

9/5/2011 9:02:01 AM

Susan from NY..I totally agree with you on the natural gaits. My 12 yr. old daughter just started showing her 7 yr. old paint in our local horse club..New Jersey Horse Assocaiation and we love it. Lincoln really hasn't had professional training for showing..but he's very natural and balanced. Each time she has shown him she has gotten higher & higher in judging. Her very first show she was 5th & 6th out of 6 with 2 judges. Well her last show she placed 3rd out of 9..and she really doesn't ask him to tuck his nose at the trot. She's natural and light with her hands and he does great. Now on the other hand I see these other people constantly pulling, bumping and yanking on these poor horses just to get them to rub their noses just about to the ground for the canter..it's just terrible and so un-natural but yet they still place high..I just don't understand it..I will never let my daughter do that. If I ever saw her in the show ring yanking on her horse to get him to do anything un-natural..I'd yank her right off him and pull her right out of the ring. If it's not fun anymore than get the heck out!! Oh right now my daughter only does Walk/Trot HUS and English Eq. but she does canter at home and does beautifully even bareback.

Susan    Apalachin, NY

12/8/2010 4:42:55 AM

My guess is that the original "Western Pleasure" idea was a good one, classes showcasing the easiness and pleasure of a nice Western riding horse. Over the years, the things got misconstrued and the judges started looking for gross exaggerations that led to very unnatural movements in the jog and lope, such as the "trot in front and walk behind" for jog, and a 4 beat something that in no way resembles a jog or canter! This unnatural training will lead to eventual lameness in those horses. I've seen local WP riders constantly jabbing their horses' bit in a effort to "train" their horse to carry his head so his nose is level with his knee!! This is so WRONG! The poll of the horse should never, ever go below the height of the wither and the jog should be clearly two beat (both front and back jogging) and the lope should always be 3 beat and above all, according to the AQHA, all gaits should be natural to the conformation of the horse. If one has to jab and jab at the bit (which, by the way is considered abuse according to the AQHA rules) then the gait is no longer natural. WE have to get through to the judges that they must look for "correct and natural" movements and never pin the offenders. That's the only way the abuse will stop.

Horse lover    Somewhere, IN

4/20/2010 9:02:05 AM

I think western pleasure is fun..I really like it when my horse is slow.western pleasure is also how a horse carries himself I know when I go to a show the horse that carries himself better wins over the slow sloppy horse.If your horse is bred for pleasure it is a lot easier for the horse too.. If you have a horse that naturally moves slow western pleasure is great!I really like western pleasure and I wish people would stop judging the people that love pleasure!!If you don't like pleasure don't do it but don't talk bad about it under a pleasure article.

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