By Jennifer Klitzke
There’s no better way to capture “the feeling of right” than by riding a gaited dressage school master under the coaching of a seasoned gaited dressage legend: Jennie Jackson.
I just got back from my third Dressage as Applied to the Gaited Horse Clinic with Jennie Jackson, but this time I flew to Tennessee. As much as I wanted to ride my naturally gaited Walking horse Makana, I couldn’t squeeze her in my luggage! Words cannot express my gratitude to Ronance for her generosity in lending to me her exquisite naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse gelding Outrageous who became my second level school master for the three-day clinic. He was like riding a Rolls-Royce!
Outrageous is an organically gaited son of the famous gaited dressage stallion Champaign Watchout. I say “organically gaited” because he is ridden barefoot and trained without the use of chains, pads, soring, harsh bits, or artificial gimmicks. He is bonafide USDA approved!
Riding a school master is a terrific way to get established in “the feeling of right.” With Jennie’s coaching, Outrageous answered the many questions I have had training Makana in gaited dressage. He clarified the feelings between medium walk, flat walk, and running walk; the feeling of a correct response when applying my rein, seat, and leg aids for leg yield, shoulder in, haunches in, and half pass in flat walk; how to discern the feeling of stiffness within the horse’s body and resolving that stiffness through suppling exercises; the feeling of horse and rider balance; the feeling of riding on a relaxed and round back with deep stride beneath my seat.
Jennie also coached me through the positioning of “on-the-bit” as it relates to the head shaking horse while maximizing depth of stride; she helped me negotiated which of my body parts remain still and which ones follow the horse’s motion to allow the horse to move freely forward; she coached me through the application, timing, and release of aids for lateral suppling exercises; and gave me effective tools in how to regain trusted leadership whenever Outrageous became distracted or tense when away from home with a stranger he didn’t know. All of this learning will help me so much when I get back home to Makana.
The clinic was held at White Stables in Vonore, Tennessee and featured riders as young as 12 on up with a mix of gaited and trotting horses of various levels of training from green broke to well established in dressage.
In fact, one of the students, Beatrice came to the clinic with her fiance’s three-year-old black Tennessee walking horse filly. She has been a long-time dressage rider of trotting horses and brought her fiance’s gaited horse to the clinic to get feedback from Jennie about which gait the horse was performing beneath her.
This took me back to April of 2007 when I purchased my black gaited filly as a three-year-old and I asked the very same questions. (I only wish that Jennie lived in my State so that I could take regular lessons!)
By the second lessons Beatrice had her filly performing a smooth gaited rack, flat walk, and canter and leading our trail ride on the final clinic day!
A huge thanks to Jennie Jackson for imparting more knowledge and experience to me as Makana and I tackle the new gaited dressage tests this year. There are no words to describe how honored I am to learn from the only person in history who has trained and shown a naturally gaited Tennessee Walking Horse through the highest levels of dressage and who is willing to share her knowledge with anyone willing to learn.
Now that I’m back to snowy Minnesota, I can’t wait to try out all I’ve learned with my naturally gaited Walking horse Makana. (Come to think of it, she’s organically gaited, too!)
For Jennie’s 2015 clinic schedule and for information in how to book a clinic in your area, visit walkinonranch.com.
Special thanks to White Stables who hosted the clinic. What a terrific place to ride—situated on 135 acres of wooded trails which we experienced on our last day of the clinic. Plus a wonderful group of people to ride with!