Tower Ride

Tower Ride and Jigginess

Members of The Sawtooth Mountain Riders rode the tower ride overlooking Lake Superior last Sunday through a blazing scarlet sugar maple forest at its zenith of fall colors. It was as spectacular a day as any crisp, clear September day could be. Jim, a friend from Iowa, said that they were having such a beautiful fall down there that if it got any prettier the angels would start to sing, but up here on the north shore I really thought I could hear the angels singing faintly in the trees.

A horse riding buddy, Jennifer, and I each had to choose a horse from our strings, so out of her string I chose a horse for her, and she did the same for me. She chose Cypriot. He is always a pleasure, but we haven’t done much trail riding lately, so I suspected from his past behavior he would turn jiggy (1) on his way back to the trailer. (1) A definition for Jiggy is not found in dictionary; here is a new entry by JR Lewis; Jiggy: an attempt by the horse to go faster than the designated speed or gait set by the rider; resulting in behavior such as head tossing, and prancing with mixed gaits, It is an undesirable habit or trait difficult to correct. To a bystander jiggyness often looks fetching or flashy like a display of spirit, to the rider it is an argument with the horse and potentially dangerous. Hot blooded horses (i.e. Arabian or Thoroughbred) are predisposed toward this vise, but any horse under stress may attempt to relieve his stress by running away; so caught between the primal desire to run away and a rider or driver holding him back with reins, results in the horse becoming jiggy. Horses at the beginning levels of training are rarely if ever jiggy. Instead they will attempt to relieve their stress by bucking or bolting.

On a trail ride I generally ride with a light hackamore or bosal. At home in the training pen, I have attempted to learn the art of the vaquero style of dressage for the last several years. The vaquero, buckaroo or Californio method employs specific kinds of curb bits with a loose rein. During his jigginess, Cypriot can be heavy on a halter or a bosal, so the argument in my brain of which bridle to use boiled down to potentially hurting myself, or potentially hurting the horse. Probably either option was fairly remote, but I had already broken a rib last summer in a horse accident. Call me a wimp–I decided on the curb bit.

We took our beautiful ride. Everything went fine, but as predicted, as we turned to ride home, Cypriot became jiggy. He is so trained that his jigginess is consistent and manageable, but only to a point. He did not throw his head or bang against the bit. I never rode with a tight rein. We could collect a trot, a canter, half pass and side pass, but he would not walk and we could not extend. Any hint toward faster and he would push harder. Meantime, Jennifer was riding just behind me, her horse walking along relaxed, with only a halter for restraint. She was enjoying the scenery, and trying to engage me in a discussion about the theory of bridling. I am afraid I didn’t do a good job of explaining my interpretation of the theory of the vaquero method. Cypriot and I were both worn out by the time we completed the three or four miles back to the trailer.

These are some of the trials and tribulation of riding a jiggy horse on a trail ride.

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