Guide to the Slow Jog

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


  1. All judges want to see is this slow barely moving jog. I’m sorry, but my horse does not move like that. He is upbeat and has his ears perked forward when he jogs in the show arena. The slowest jog always wins, anyways. Western Showing shouldn’t just be about slowness.

  2. This is such a terrible trend! You never see these horses moving like this out in the paddock. Why turn them into robots and ask their joints to do things they were never meant to do? Sure there are SOME horses that actually do jog like this but they are few and far between. I will never ride my horse like this.

  3. Most all show events were made to showcase what these horse were originally bred to do, western pleasure was to show that my horse is a pleasure to ride while working on the farm, well if a horse jogged at that pace around the farm, you’d get no where!! nothing would get done. the horse should be responsive, willing and easy to ride, not so slow he cant move naturally. you have people training these horse and tying them down because the judge wants it to be slow as heck. the horses should be allowed to MOVE HOW THEY WERE MEANT TO!!!
    otherwise you make them crazy and unnatural. it should be a majority of temperment on a horse for pleasure, not how well you can get your horse to put alot of effort into going no where. what a dumb sport we have made out of this one. how did we let our judgement of a pleasure to ride get so stupid? its horrible. its gross. its unnatural

  4. Hey guys stop complaining Western Pleasure used to a lot worse. At least now they are aiming for “forward motion”. Sure they are traveling slower than they would be out in the pasture but it isn’t as unnatural as it used to be. Horses used to become lame because the gaits were so slow.

  5. hmm…dispite what the other people have to say about this article, i fully agree with it. i, in fact, do western pleasure. i think the reason people think it is so horrible is because they have no idea how the horse is ACTUALLY moving…when we slow our horse down, we are actually driving them up underneath themselves, so that they can maintain better balance. we are getting them to the point where we dont have to ‘hold’ them up, so that way, they end up having a soft mouth. it really impoved my horses abbility in alot of different ways. on trail rides, she is better balanced from being taight to hold herself up, insetead of relying on me to hold her up. just because a horse is slow, doesn’t mean that they have un natural gaits. my horse is slow because she is lazy, and pretty much cant run. also think of it this way, people teach gaited horses to pick up their feet and strut their stuff. is that natural? so before you go judging us and our plaesure-ponies, please, take a look at ALL other diciplines (and tell us if they are natural) before you say that they are wrong.

  6. I do 4h with my horse and we do almost everything, my favorite is the games. I would do western pleasure but my horse goes too fast…. otherwise I do not see any thing wrong with western pleasure!!

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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’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.

  10. 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,


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