This exercise will help you polish your horsemanship skills at the extended jog.
The Show Pen Ideal
Your horse extends the jog and transitions out of the extended jog where the pattern diagram indicates to do so (the extended jog’s placement and duration will vary with each individual pattern). Your cues to him are nearly invisible, leaving the impression that he lengthened stride of his own volition. You maintain a vertical alignment of your ear, shoulder, hip and heel, and you keep your heels well-lowered in your stirrups despite your horse’s increased activity. You absorb the added motion of this extended gait with your lower body, while keeping your leg still and your upper body tall and straight, yet not stiff. You guide and slow or stop him with a steady rein hand that stays within a few inches of your saddle horn.
In this exercise, you’ll ride along a line of four markers, such as plastic cones. First, set the markers on a straight line in an arena or other level area with safe footing. Consider the first marker as A, the second as B, the third as C and the last as D. Set the distance between Markers A and B, and between markers C and D, at approximately 20 feet. Set the distance between Markers B and C at approximately 30 feet.
Ride along the line of markers, asking your horse for a regular jog from Marker A to Marker B. As you pass Marker B, move him into an extended jog. Then, as you pass Marker C, ask again for the regular jog. After exiting the line at Marker D, position yourself for a second pass. Strive for subtle cues, but if more overt cues are needed at first to achieve the extension and the transition back to the regular jog, use them. Your horse will become more sensitive to your cues as you practice this exercise.
Vary the exercise by simulating different tests found in real horsemanship patterns. For example:
- Start from a standstill at Marker A and finish with a halt at Marker D, with an extended jog in between.
- Start with a hindquarter pivot at Marker A and finish with a back-up at Marker D with an extended jog in between.
- Practice transitions between gaits by combining the extended jog with loping and walking segments in your line (adjust the distances between markers for a practical and fluid exercise).
- Set the markers on a curve and practice riding corners at the extended jog.
This exercise’s variety helps your horse learn to distinguish your specific cues for various gaits so he won’t mistakenly lope when you ask for the extended jog, one of the most common errors in the show pen. With an instructor to oversee and correct your position throughout, this exercise will prepare both you and your horse for success in horsemanship classes.
Rob Meneely enjoys judging skilled riders. He’s carded with the APHA, ApHC, PHBA and NSBA, and has developed numerous world champion horses and riders from his Meneely Show Horses, Ltd. in Conyers, Georgia.