Jiggy Horse (my horse won’t walk or stand)

A lot of people have trouble with a jiggy horse – a horse that won’t walk or has the wiggles and cant stand. Lets just say from Ray Hunts book Think harmony with Horses to Bill Dorrances book True Horsemanship through Feel, I’ve had a lot of help in this area. This stuff didn’t just come to me – man, don’t I wish I were that smart!

The jiggy horse usually is the one to catch a bad rap on this deal. Sometimes, the first thing we do is so often the last thing that the horse needs at the time. The usual situation with a jiggy horse, is that he won’t stand for mounting or won’t walk when on the trail. There are different approaches to helping the horse with this and be assured, they’ll tell you which one works best for them.


There are always variables, but some common things to look for with a jiggy horse and ask yourself:

  • Am I getting on correctly? – Or am I trying to step up on a horse that isn’t prepared (all four feet on the ground and squared up.) Be realistic, you may need a mounting block. Try not to pull him off balance, especially on a colt.
  • Do I tend to just get on and go most of the time? If so, your horse may think this is what needs to happen all the time.
  • Does the horse just need to go? There are times that the horse may have a lot of life and need to step out. It is then that you help him learn to wait on you. This is really taught from the ground by helping your horse back one foot at a time or step up one foot. It’s a lot easier to teach him to wait for you on the ground first. One thing you can do is prepare to step on and when they go to leave, give them the feel to stay. When they pick up your feel and quit squirming, go to step on again. This may take several times before they’ll square up and stand, allowing you to mount. If everything remains quiet and calm, they usually figure it out pretty quick.
  • On a jiggy horse that has an “excess of energy” you won’t ask them to stay to long All your doing then is picking a fight. When the horse will stand long enough for you to mount, you’ll try to be ready to leave when they are! Over time they’ll pick up the feel to wait for you. Remember – it takes the time it takes.
  • Common courtesy! When others are mounting (especially on colts) don’t just ride off. Their horse may feel a real urge to leave and follow yours. There is a cowboy rule that when you get off to get a wire gate, everyone waits to go on until you’re up and ready. This is just a common courtesy.


Always remember, your horse is doing what he’s lived. Some jiggy horses get fed a lot of high energy feed, then pulled out of the barn, (once a month or so) and expected to act like a plug. This is kind of like feeding a child a lot of candy or sugar, and expecting them to sit still. Not going to happen most of the time.

A lot of jiggy horses are operating through or with fear. They may not get ridden a lot, or weren’t started right, and are just generally unsure of what to do. One of the typical scenarios is, someone decides to take their hunter jumper or show pony on the big trail ride – when maybe the horse hasn’t really ever been outside. This won’t fly for some horses and one of the ways they will let you know is by jigging down the trail sideways or just plain taking off. In the same way you might have felt nervous riding that colt out of the round pen the first time, your horse may feel nervous about it too. Things may feel or look different out in the big world.

One of the first temptations would be to try and hold the jiggy horse back. This can really build a spot (problem) in there. If in your judgment, you felt like that was what the horse needed, thats okay, but you wouldn’t just hold. (Typically on these types of horses, you see a lot of Head Bobbing, for this very reason – holding them in.) You might take a hold, using as little firmness as was needed, then as soon as you felt the slightest change, release. If they even think about slowing, you would reward that. I hope that before you “fix” this on the trail, you would take the time to learn with your horse about a soft feel as well as flexing and bending at home.


  • If your jiggy horse is unsure (lacking that confidence) when on a ride, pulling his head off with the bit is going to make it that much worse. He may feel like he has to move and if it can be done safely – move. Let him know it’s ok and when he is ready to stop, be there for him then too. This helps your horse feel of you and lets him know you’re feeling of him as well.
  • Moving out good and stopping are very close in a horses mind. At times the horse that just won’t go will then have trouble “putting on the brakes.” For this reason, I really want my horses leading up free. . This teaches them (or helps them I should say) get with my feel.
  • Sometimes when a jiggy horse has this life coming up strong, I’ll just work with it, not really ignoring it – just directing it. I might let him move out but do some circles small and large (think spirals) moving out in a small circle is a lot of work, and the horse might decide to slow down and I’ll sure reward that alright. I hesitate at times to use the phrase by Ray Hunt “make the wrong thing difficult and the right thing easy” because it seems like people tend to do the first, but forget the right thing easy part. Ray is right though!
  • I would help my jiggy horse learn to follow my feel to flex and bend and move one foot at a time from the ground. This helps him to get with me from the start. Remember, how the horse is on the ground is how he’ll be in the saddle. All that is connected.
  • I would make sure that I could get my horse’s hindquarters anytime I asked. Not only does this direct the horse’s energy, it can also be a safety valve. Shutting things off before they ever get out of hand.
  • When you go a few steps and the horse begins to get the wiggles, you might ask him to back up. You would want to be very quiet and calm doing this – no pulling his head off. When he backs, start forward again. If he begins to wiggle, then calmly ask him to back again. Remember, this may take more than once.
  • These are a few of the things I would try. I would sure want a good foundation in there, with my horse real strong in some basic things. I really like a horse that moves out with a good extended walk. After working cows or making your circle, it’s nice to get back to the house on a good moving horse. That’s just my opinion (and its free).

  • For questions about a jiggy horse, contact us.

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