Category Archives: Gaited Dressage

Quality Step to Quality Steps

quality step to quality steps

By Jennifer Klitzke

Do you have a naturally gaited horse and wonder why it doesn’t have a consistently smooth natural gait?

Lots of people buy a gaited horse thinking that they automatically gait. While they are all born with the ability to perform naturally smooth gaits, it takes time to develop those gaits through consistent training. Over time the horse will develop balance, rhythm, and strength to carry a rider in gait which will engrain muscle memory.

Developing a consistenly smooth natural gait requires a rider to develop the sense of “feel” to discern the difference between a quality step from an unbalanced, rushed, hollow, or disengaged step. This is why I continue to take lessons, attend clinics, study DVDs, read books, and record my rides for feedback in becoming a better rider.

In this video I share what I’ve learned about developing quality gaits —one step at a time. This is very important: Don’t practice poor quality steps, because that’s the muscle memory you’ll create. When the horse loses rhythm, becomes unbalanced, rushes, hollows or becomes disengaged, simply transition down to a slower gait, establish quality steps. Then transition to the next level of tempo and refine a quality step to quality steps. Over time, steps will turn into circles and then a longer duration of time.

Video: Quality Step to Quality Steps

Stay connected by subscribing to the Naturally Gaited youtube channel and liking and following our community on facebook.com/naturallygaited.

Share

Life and Random Thoughts about Gaited Dressage

By Jennifer Klitzke

I hope your Spring is off to a great start! After six month of winter’s dark and cold, I was chompin’ at the bit for sunshine and ridable terrain to be back in the saddle and riding my naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse Makana and my friend’s naturally gaited fox trotting mare Lady. Thankfully, I’m back riding again. I hope you are, too!

Lady FoxtrotFirst off, I have great news: Lady, my friend’s fox trotting horse, has officially become a part of my family. Lady has been boarded at my place the last three years and my friend feels called to other time commitments in life. She has turn Lady over to my care, yet she knows that any time she wants to ride, she is more than welcome!

At the same time, due to my aging parents, a full time job, and the demands of life, I had to part with my once-in-a-lifetime Spanish Mustang, Indy, who had made many of my life-long dreams come true: cross country, endurance, stadium jumping, trail obstacles, dressage, and more.

NAWD Basic 3 stretch trot 1
My Spanish Mustang Indian’s Legend showing a jog by allowing the horse to stretch its head and neck out and down.

Indy was missing our continual weekend adventures that I no longer had time for during my Dad’s grave illness and my Mom’s need for our assistance on the weekends. I sold him back to the owner I purchased him from. Now Indy is living the trail horse dream. Here’s Indy’s story»

050617 Lady jumpingOn the bright side, Lady possesses many of Indy’s brave qualities, so who knows, after we get her canter consistently well established on both leads, maybe we’ll be back competing at these same events–only as a gaited duo!

So, now that it’s been Spring, here’s what’s been percolating since I began riding…So much of my focus has been on the depth of stride from behind. Lately I’ve been contemplating about fore stride in addition to the hind leg stride as it relates to head nod, throughness, connection, balance, engagement, rhythm, shoulder scope, and following the horse’s natural movement with my arms and seat.  It seems the more I follow the natural motion of the horse, the more freedom I’m seeing in the horses I ride.

Video: Naturally Gaited Tennessee Walking Horse Flat Footed Walk

Stay connected by subscribing to the Naturally Gaited youtube channel and joining our community on facebook.com/naturallygaited.

Share

Naturally Gaited Dream Ride

Balanced flatwalk

By Jennifer Klitzke

Have you ever had a special ride with your naturally gaited horse that you replay in your memory as one of those “dream rides”?

I had one of those “dream rides” today. Yes, it happened to be on a sunny, spring day after a week of gray rainy, no-ride days.

Never-the-less, my naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse, Makana, was as happy to be ridden as I was riding her.

She had all of the ingredients for a dream ride: naturally balanced, relaxed, and forward with rhythm, and a beautiful head nod. We had harmony in our engaged, deep striding even four beat flat-footed walk. Makana felt soft and supple; relaxed yet energetic, and maneuverable and responsive to my leg, seat, and rein aids. She felt lifted in the head, neck, and withers with each deep-swinging head nod in timing with her hind leg steps.

Her head and neck nod came from thoroughness and connection: from the hindquarters, through her engaged abdominals which lifted her back and whither to lighten her forehand and free her shoulders and through my seat and following arms and hands with her head and neck motion to the bit.

I embraced every euphoric moment.

Yet, the exquisite steps didn’t last forever. No worry, each time I felt Makana lose her balance, by beginning to rush or lean into my hands, I would regroup with a half halt by stilling my seat and lower back and squeezing my hands on the reins to slow down her tempo. Then I lifted her head and neck with my hands massaging the reins upward with my palms facing up. As soon as she was no longer leaning on the bit, I asked for engagement from behind and tickled her belly with my heels to lift her back in a frame of balance, and sent her off into a proud flat-footed walk.

What an amazing feeling!

Video: Flat-footed Walk

Stay connected by subscribing to the Naturally Gaited youtube channel and joining our community on facebook.com/naturallygaited.

Share

Gaited Dressage for the Trail Horse

by Jennifer Klitzke

Have you longed to learn dressage with your gaited horse, yet have a trail horse that detests arena work?

Not all horses are wired the same. That includes my friend’s naturally gaited horse Lady. My friend asked me to work with Lady and see if I could bring out a smooth gait—something between the dog walk and a hard bouncy trot.

I began riding Lady in the arena, because that’s how I’ve introduced dressage to all of the horses I’ve ridden over the years.

Lady is a marvelous trail horse, and I quickly discovered that she didn’t understand the purpose of repetitive 20-meter circles without a change of scenery!

Instead of fighting with her, I took Lady to her happy place—the trail. And that’s where we worked on our gaited dressage. We used natural obstacles to maneuver around such as trees and the fire pit. Then we would leg yield from one side of the path to the other, followed by a soft halt, gentle and slow rein back, to a walk, and then transition to her easy gait for a few strides before transitioning back to a walk.

Changing up the requests along the way did three things:

1) Instead of being a passenger, I became an active participant in our relationship,

2) It gave Lady a reason to stay dialed in to me instead of relying on her fight and flight instincts.

3) Working together developed a partnership of trust.

While on the trail Lady began to ride the elements of a low level dressage test, and she seemed to enjoyed herself.  Come to think of it, so did I. Our ride became a dance; a partnership. Lady became more relaxed, more balanced, and in more rhythm. She began to listen to me more without resistance and began to trust me more.

For me, dressage on the trail has become a new kind of training—training without walls in the beauty of nature which feeds my soul while freeing me of the rigidity and perfectionism that often plagues me in the arena.

Stay connected by subscribing to the Naturally Gaited youtube channel and joining our community on facebook.com/naturallygaited.

Share

Following Arms & Rubber Band Fingers

Following the Head and Neck Motion

Following the Head and Neck of the Gaited Horse with Relaxed Arms & Rubber Band Fingers

By Jennifer Klitzke

When I returned from my Seattle vacation last Fall, I was excited to try out all I learned from Nichole Walters, a student of Philippe Karl, as it relates to following the motion of the head and neck of the naturally gaited horse.

Granted, I rode trotting horses at Nichole’s farm, but while the trotting horse walks, it expresses an even four-beat gait where the head and neck nod with each step. This is where Nicole encouraged me to relax my shoulders, back, and arms to follow the horse’s motion.

It got me thinking. This seemed like a direct take-a-way I ride  my Tennessee walking horse. It was critical that I learn to follow the motion of the head shaking naturally gaited horse while maintaining an even contact with the right and left rein.

After publishing the video: Following the Motion of the Head Shaking Horse, I received a great tip from someone on the Naturally Gaited Facebook page. Along with following the motion of the head and neck with relaxed arms, a women encouraged to open and close my fingers with each head nod. This is what I call “rubber band fingers.”

I began giving this idea a try with both my naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse and my friend’s fox trotting mare now that Winter is over and I’m back in the saddle again.

Along with following the head and neck motion with relaxed arms and rubber band fingers are the importance of relaxation (of mind and body within the horse), skeletal balance (not to be confused with collection), rhythm for the naturally gaited horse, and engaging the hind leg steps deeper under the body.

I am seeing great results from combining these elements. My naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse’s head nod is more defined and regular in timing with the hind leg steps. Her rhythm is more even, and she seems more forward and engaged from behind.

Video: Following the Motion of the Head & Neck

I hope you find this video helpful. Please let me know your thoughts by completing the contact form.

Thanks for watching. Stay connected by subscribing to the Naturally Gaited youtube channel and join our community on facebook.com/naturallygaited.

Share