Often misunderstood and rarely performed correctly, the free jog has many aspects that have to come together. I’ll break it down first from the judge’s view and what we want to see for the perfect free jog in the show ring. In my next blog I will then talk about how to train for it at home!
Let’s say you are supposed to do a 20m free jog circle at B. Here is the hypothetical; all the stars are aligned, perfect free jog:
1. There is a noticeable difference between the working jog and the free jog!
2. It is shown right at B and doesn’t take 1/2 the circle to develop!
3. There is a lengthening of stride and a stretch over the top-line!
4. It is consistent throughout the whole circle!
5. The circle geometry is correct!
6. The horse is bend and balanced correctly! If all those things are there, you should get a very good score!
What do I mostly see in the real world where stars are seldom perfectly aligned? Worst case scenario, there is no lengthening or stretch and the horse might even hollow. This could be due to show nerves or a lack of understanding of the movement. The judge doesn’t know how you ride at home, his/her job is to score what’s being shown in the ring at that moment and believe me, I would much rather give 8′s and 9′s than 4′s and 5′s! Often I see moments of correctness, but they are not sustained. Still, this is encouraging, because the beginnings are there and the rider just needs to string the moments of perfect together and keep them throughout the circle. I have yet to meet a horse that doesn’t enjoy the free jog once it is taught correctly!
Here are some tips to maximize your score even if you don’t have a perfect free jog yet:
1. Prepare adequately for the transition at B and show a difference starting right at B.
2. If your horse does not have a huge stride make sure your working jog is shortened before you get to B so you can show some difference.
3. Posting is not mandatory, but very few riders can get a correct free jog while sitting. Remember, your horse has to round and lift his back in order to to step underneath himself and lengthen his stride.
4. Do not rush! Your horse will likely fall onto the forehand and take quicker, smaller steps instead of longer ones.
5. Make sure you give him enough rein so he can stretch forward, down and out. I frequently see the horse offering to stretch and not being able to because the rider is not giving enough rein.
6. Don’t throw away the reins either, if your horse hasn’t been taught to stretch correctly the sudden freedom can cause him to speed up, bring his head up or just dump his head down in a peanut roller fashion which will throw him onto the forehand.
The two pictures above show an example of a working jog and a free jog. You can clearly see the difference in stride length in the two pictures and the stretch over the top-line, as well as the open throat latch, in the free jog. If I was to nitpick, I’d say the horse could have stretched even more down, but these photos are a good representation and should give you an understanding of what is expected. I will go more into detailed training exercises in my next blog. Until then, I will be waiting for your comments and questions!