Category Archives: Gaited Dressage Clinics

Sore No More: Rehabilitating a Big Lick Horse with Dressage

Sore no More

By Jennifer Klitzke

Can dressage training rehabilitate a former Big Lick Tennessee walking horse? Can dressage transform a tense, high-headed and hollow-backed frame into a relaxed posture that builds the top line? Can dressage break up a hard pace into a natural four-beat gait without heavy shoes and pads? Can dressage mend a damaged mind to develop trust in a rider, accept a soft snaffle contact, and respond willingly to leg aids without exploding? Can humane training methods prolong the life of a Tennessee walking horse?

In January I had the opportunity to address these questions when I applied the grant awarded by the United States Humane Society “Now That’s a Walking Horse” program and flew to Theodore, Alabama to be Jennie Jackson’s working student at the Amazing Gaits Equestrian Center. Jennie is the only person in history who has trained and shown a Tennessee walking horse through the highest levels of dressage, and she, along with her husband Nate, have been on the front lines fighting against Big Lick soring and abuse for over 30 years.

While I was there I had the privilege of watching Jennie ride her barefoot, 21-year-old gaited dressage stallion Champagne Watchout in person! He is the ONLY Tennessee walking horse still living among those who he had competed against in the 1998 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration World Grand Championship class. He was also the only flat shod entry ridden in that class among Big Lick horses. Horses simply don’t live that long when subjected to the cruelty and abuse of soring.

Jennie and Watchout
Jennie Jackson riding piaffe en gaite with her barefoot, 21-year-old TWH gaited dressage stallion Champagne Watchout.

My days with Jennie were filled with riding several Tennessee walking horses at various levels of training, flat walking the ocean coast, riding in a Dauphin Island Marti Gras parade, and being introduced to the challenges of retraining a rescued Big Lick horse.

Big Lick it’s something I’ve ever encountered in Minnesota. In fact, I didn’t even know what Big Lick or soring was when I bought my naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse Gift of Freedom (Makana) in 2007. It wasn’t until I began surfing YouTube for information about training a Tennessee walking horse when I stumbled upon Big Lick. After watching a few Big Lick videos, I wondered, “Is this how a Tennessee walking horse is suppose to move?”

To me, the Big Lick Tennessee walking horses are like a Picasso painting coming to life: exaggerated, disjointed, and unnatural. Picasso once said, “Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.” While some people might think Big Lick is expressive and exciting to watch and ride, how the motion is achieved unveils a horrifying truth. The exaggerated Big Lick motion is produced by applying caustic agents to the horses’ front feet known as soring. Then heavy shoes, pads and chains are added. Horses are forced forward by the riders’ sharp spurs. With each step the chains slap against the horses’ sored feet. The horses’ pain reaction, propelled by the heavy shoes, are the real reasons why the horses lift their front legs as they do. To evade the pain, horses learn to shift most of their weight to the hindquarters which produces extreme engagement. Then the horses are ridden in harsh curb bits to restrain them from exploding. Torturous. Sadistic and unlawful. Yet Big Lick still exists.

I made a firm decision after watching a couple Big Lick videos that dressage is all my barefoot Tennessee walking horse was going to know. Then I began to support organizations like Friends of Sound Horses (FOSH) who advocate against Big Lick soring and abuse, and I began to meet others like Jennie Jackson who teach and train dressage as applied to the gaited horse.

Thankfully my Tennessee walking horse has never experienced Big Lick. Makana was imprinted at birth, family raised and trained when I bought her in 2007 as a barefoot, just-turning-three-year-old filly. Natural and humane training methods are all she’s known—no rehab needed.

Not so for many Tennessee walking horses down South.

A few weeks before my trip, Jennie had acquired a lovely mare named Sweet Caroline who had sadly experienced “Big Lick” training trauma. Like many Big Lick Tennessee walking horses, Caroline was breed to pace where when heavy shoes and pads are added they would offset the pace into a four-beat sequence. For years, Carolyn had been driven forward with sharp spurs into a harsh curb bit which taught her to rush off in a tense, high-headed, hollow-backed frame. The soring scars on her front feet tell the rest of the story.

Now that Caroline is barefoot, could dressage break up her pace to develop a natural four-beat gait? Could dressage transform her tense, high-headed and hollow-back frame into a relaxed long and low posture? Could dressage help her develop trust with a rider, seek a snaffle bit contact, and accept leg cues without rushing?

If anyone could teach me, it would be Jennie who has been training naturally gaited Tennessee walking horses for decades using dressage. Jennie had been retraining Caroline for several weeks prior to my arrival, so she knew how to coach me as I rode this hot, tense, and sensitive mare.

Sweet Caroline and I
Jennie Jackson coached me on how to achieve relaxation and rhythm with a former Big Lick Tennessee walking horse using dressage. This horse is being ridden in a Happy Mouth Pelham bit which functions as a snaffle or a curb depending upon which reins are applied.

Relaxation and Rhythm
Dressage training produces relaxation and rhythm in any horse breed whether the horse trots or gaits. Jennie showed me a great exercise to establish relaxation by riding Caroline at a dog walk on a 20-meter circle and transition between a true to the inside of the circle (shoulder fore) and a bend to the outside of the circle (counter bend). This exercise helped her lower her head and neck down and out and break up the pacey steps into a four-beat walk.

The shoulder fore/counter bend exercise taught Caroline to step beneath and across her belly with her hind leg each time I applied my calf lightly at the girth. This engaged her abdominal muscles and lifted her back and lowered her head and neck. As I squeezed and released the inside rein softly, it unlocked the tension in her poll to look slightly to the inside of the circle. The opposite rein (the indirect rein) maintained a light contact against her neck to keep her from moving sideways. Then I’d squeeze and release the outside rein softly to unlock the tension in her poll to look slightly to the outside of the circle while applying my outside calf at the girth.  I clearly felt the “before” and “after” difference. Each time Caroline got tense, dropped her back, and rushed off in a pace, I felt like I was riding a stiff bumpy plank, but as soon as she relaxed into the bending exercise, she felt smooth and pliable.

Half Halts
When Caroline relaxed into the bending exercise at a dog walk, Jennie encouraged me to move her up into flat walk. That’s when she taught me the importance and effectiveness of half halts. Each time Caroline would rush or pace, I squeezed my fists together on the reins and at the same time stilled the motion of my hips and back. As soon as Caroline responded to the half halt by slowing down or breaking up the pace, I immediately relaxed my grip on the reins (without letting the reins slip through my fingers), lengthened my arms toward the bit, and resumed following her movement with my hip joints and lower back.

I got LOTS of practice with half halts and releases while riding Caroline. We’d have a few soft, round steps in rhythm and relaxation before she would try to rush off again. It takes a lot of patience and quiet repetition to rehabilitate a Big Lick horse like this.

riding along the lake
Riding up and down hills is a great way to build top line muscles and balance.

Cantering the Hillside
After Caroline and I became acquainted in the arena, Jennie tacked up and we rode along the scenic trail system at the Amazing Gaits Equestrian Center and to the lake where we schooled flat walk and canter along the hillside. This really helped Caroline engage from behind as she cantered up the hill and learned balance walking back down. I switched up the flat walk and canter each time I rode up the hill so that Caroline would listen to my cues instead of anticipate the gait.

In the short time I was there, I was delighted to witness how dressage could rehabilitate a horse damaged by Big Lick. Each day I rode Caroline, we had more prolonged moments of relaxation and rhythm. Her pace was being replaced with a natural four-beat gait. She was beginning to seek a snaffle bit contact instead of evading it, and we began to build a some trust.

I grew to love that spunky little mare, and returning home I felt good knowing that Sweet Caroline was in good hands with Jennie and that for the rest of her life she’d be sore no more.

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Gaited Cowboy Dressage: My Journey Begins

Did you know that Cowboy Dressage welcomes naturally gaited horses? Among the people I’ve met through cyber space since launching NaturallyGaited.com is Dollie Horst who just returned from the 2015 Cowboy Dressage World Finals with her naturally gaited Rocky Mountain mare, Annie. I asked Dollie if she would share her story with us about how she became involved with gaited horses and the path which led her to Gaited Cowboy Dressage. I think you’ll love what she has to say about Cowboy Dressage, its training philosophy, and the people who have taken the Cowboy Dressage “handshake” to live out its lifestyle. —Jennifer Klitzke


Cowboy Dressage: My Gaited Journey Begins
Dollie Horst on RMHA registered/certified mare MMR’s Cover Girl aka “Annie” at a Cowboy Dressage Clinic in Colorado. Photograph by Richard Horst.

Gaited Cowboy Dressage: My Journey Begins

By Dollie Horst, Guest Writer

My introduction to naturally gaited horses came five years ago when my husband and I were offered a management position at Mountain Magic Ranch, a private Rocky Mountain Gaited Horse ranch in Three Forks, Montana.

Before that, non-gaited horses like thoroughbreds, AQHAs, APHAs, and BLM mustangs filled my riding background—mostly for trail riding, packing, reining, and working with cows. Like most non-gaited horse people, I thought gaited horses were just, let’s say, different. But with my new job working with mountain gaited horses and my love for anything “horse,” I kept an open mind and willingness to learn.

Meeting the Mountain Gaited Horses
My husband and I have done a lot of mountain riding and pack trips. We immediately saw the value gaited mountain horses brought to “the hills.” These horses can cover country like no other breed we had worked with, and their cool temperaments are exactly what you need when you’re 33 miles into the wilderness.

When I began training the Rocky Mountain and Kentucky Mountain gaited breeds, their exceptional learning capacity really stood out. Overall, they have been the most willing, level headed, intelligent horses I have ever worked with. Not only do they learn twice as fast as the non-gaited breeds I’ve trained, but they seem to retain their schooling with less repetition.

Since gaited horses were new to me coming into this job, I held true to my training philosophy that “a horse is a horse first.” Whether gaited or non-gaited, my goals were the same: develop a soft, supple, relaxed partnership which is based on trust and mutual understanding. After that, I began to recognize the natural four-beat gait, and then train, develop, and certify the gait in the young horses and the horses newly started under saddle. I have found that most people who are interested in the gaited mountain breeds are looking for smooth, soft, willing trail partners.

Introduction to Cowboy Dressage
I don’t ride in a fancy saddle, just a well fitting one. I don’t use a special bit, just a snaffle or bitless bridle. I like to ride on a loose rein or light contact. I love to lope the gaited horses I ride. I respect the time it takes to build a solid foundation and master a maneuver before progressing to a more challenging one. I strive for the ultimate partnership and develop a seamless communication between me and my horse as if we become one in the same. While I love this method of training gaited horses to be trail partners, something seemed missing. I longed for a show venue which aligned with my training philosophies and would showcase the philosophies and would showcase the multiple talents of gaited mountain horses. Little did I know that what I had longed for had already been coined “soft feel” by Eitan Beth-Halachmy, the founder of Cowboy Dressage.

Then in June 2015, I learned of a Cowboy Dressage clinic taught by Dr. Jenni Grimmett, DVM and held at Sleeping Willow Ranch in Stevensville, MT. What I knew of Cowboy Dressage piqued my curiosity, so my husband and I made the 3-1/2 hour drive to audit. Little did I know, this decision would become life-changing.

Listening to Dr. Grimmett explain the Cowboy Dressage principles and philosophy, I couldn’t stop nodding and smiling. Cowboy Dressage is not just a riding discipline or competition; it is a way of life. Cowboy Dressage is a commitment in how we treat our horses, and how we treat each other—everyday, anywhere—regardless if anyone is around or not. It is a commitment to the development of the horse as an individual, at a speed the horse can grasp. Cowboy Dressage transcends training exercises; it is the fundamental relationships between you, your horse, and others.

Membership in Cowboy Dressage is represented in a virtual “handshake” instead of paying joiner’s fees. The Cowboy Dressage Handshake is your word to pledge to “try” to:

  • become the person others can trust with your handshake and your word.
  • exemplify the Cowboy Dressage way of life and find the courage to chase your dreams.
  • not allow defeat when faced with setbacks in your life and your horsemanship.
  • treat all horses and people with integrity and kindness.
  • look for the “try” in your horses and always reward them.
  • look for the “try” in people as you travel down your horsemanship path.

When you pledge this handshake, you become a member of the Cowboy Dressage World and you ride together with others who have also done the same, including its founders Debbie and Eitan Beth-Halachmy, Lyn Moe and Garn Walker.

4 The Girls
From Left to Right: Dr. Jenni Grimmett DVM, Dollie Horst, Trish Knight enjoying the comradery and friendship that is Cowboy Dressage. Photograph by Richard Horst.

I had finally found what I had been yearning for! The girls at Sleeping Willow Ranch must have noticed, because they graciously let me ride their horses just so that I could participate in the clinic. I will never forget their kind gesture. Seriously, who lends their horse to someone they had just met, so that they could ride, not just audit a clinic?! People who have pledged the Cowboy Dressage Handshake—that’s who! Thanks to Shannon, Debbie, and Dr. Grimmett, I left the clinic that day completely engulfed in Cowboy Dressage and couldn’t wait to share it with my gaited four-legged friends!

Annie's first ride
May 9, 2015 Annie’s first ride, Dollie Horst aboard. Val Geissler snubbing on his BLM mustang “Smoke.” Photograph by Richard Horst.

Returning home I began applying what I had learned at the clinic with my registered/certified Rocky Mountain mare, MMR’s Cover Girl (aka, Annie). She had been started under saddle in May, and what better foundation could there be for a green horse then one of “soft feel”? On top of that, Annie has a great mind and confirmation for Cowboy Dressage as well.

In September and October, I brought Annie to two different  Cowboy Dressage of Colorado clinics taught by the Cowboy Dressage founder himself, my new friend Eitan Beth-Halachmy. Eitan was happy to see a gaited horse at the clinics and welcomed us wholeheartedly, as did the other non-gaited riders!

Eitan and I
Dollie Horst and Annie pictured with Cowboy Dressage Founder, Eitan Beth-Halachmy. Photograph by Richard Horst.

At the clinics, Annie and I learned the ‘ins-and-outs’ of riding the Cowboy Dressage tests; as well as exercises we could do to improve our communication and relationship in order to thrive in any riding discipline. Eitan is an incredible teacher and someone I feel so grateful to work with. His vast knowledge is delivered humbly through whit, humor, and a go-getter mentality that is empowering. He makes everyone feel equal, and what he recognizes most, is not the ability, but the “try.”

Annie and I have reached new levels of trust and partnership. Cowboy Dressage has helped me develop a better seat as a means of communication with my horse, and soft contact helps Annie understand more clearly what I am asking of her. She is pliable and bendable to my slightest cues. Her movement and transitions are more fluid and understood. Her gaits are more balanced and rhythmic, with the ability to shorten and lengthen her strides without changing speed. Her natural four beat (intermediate) gait, is smooth and accomplished through light, soft contact. Annie knows what is expected of her and where she needs to be.

Through Cowboy Dressage, Annie and I have learned and accomplished so much in such a short period of time, as have the other gaited mountain horses I work with. In fact, gaited horses thrive with this concept of “soft feel,” and I strongly believe have the most to gain from Cowboy Dressage!

CO Show
Dollie Horst on RMHA registered/certified mare MMR’s Cover Girl aka “Annie” at a Cowboy Dressage Show in Brighton, CO. Photograph by Richard Horst.

Cowboy Dressage Shows
Not only did I travel to three Cowboy Dressage clinics in 2015; Annie and I competed at three Cowboy Dressage shows. Two shows were held in Colorado where Annie and I won the Amateur Gaited divisions.

The third, and most recent show was the 2015 Cowboy Dressage World Finals in Rancho Murieta, California, which drew over 900 entries. At first I hesitated to compete at the World Finals. I wondered if I was ready or if I was good enough, but Cowboy Dressage has helped me put aside those demons and give it a “try.” One of the most valuable lessons I have learned in my horsemanship and life this year is that accomplishment begins with the decision to “try.” That we did. At the Cowboy Dressage World Finals, Annie and I won the Reserve Highpoint Champion in the Amateur Gaited Division.

5 CA Show
Dollie Horst riding RMHA registered/certified mare MMR’s Cover Girl aka “Annie” on the first day of the Amateur Gaited Classes – Cowboy Dressage World Finals 2015 in Rancho Murieta, CA. Photograph by Richard Horst.

As a participant at these events, I believe Cowboy Dressage is here to stay, and it is growing at an incredible rate—gaited, non-gaited, all breeds, all associations, all ages and people from all over the world of all walks of life. It is truly an inclusive group of liked-minded, kind, and supportive people who are in it for the horses, one another, and the betterment of horsemanship in general.

The Cowboy Dressage World Finals particularly, was unlike anything I had ever experienced in the horse show world. Not once did I meet someone in passing who didn’t say, “hello” or “how are you” or “nice ride.” Nowhere did I see harsh equipment or rough riding. Never did I see anyone “taking it out” on his or her horse at the barn, warm up arenas, and show areas alike. In fact, the show even had an official to make sure each horse was treated fairly and humanely. What I did see was a commitment to kindness toward one another, the slow, endless journey that is horsemanship and especially toward the love for horses – with patting, rubbing, hugging, smiling, and endless “talking” to their four-legged friends everywhere you looked.

6 CA Show
Dollie Horst thanking little Annie for a job well done after showing the second day at the Cowboy Dressage World Finals 2015 in Rancho Murieta, CA….This is what it is all about. Photograph by Richard Horst.

Annie and I have a long way to go, but we have started our Cowboy Dressage journey to which I am fully committed. For me, there is no other way than to “try.” Thank you Eitan, and thank you everyone committed to the Cowboy Dressage lifestyle.


I hope you enjoyed reading Dollie Horst’s story about how she became involved with gaited horses and the path which led her to Gaited Cowboy Dressage. If you have a naturally gaited horse you’ve developed a special relationship with and ride gaited dressage or versatility, and would like to share your story on NaturallyGaited.com, please contact me by completing the contact form. —Jennifer Klitzke

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From Trail to Rail to Dressage?

Jennie Jackson and Cynthia Priebe
Pictured left to right: Dressage en Gaite Clinician Jennie Jackson, Heritage Walking Horse Temp’s Red Rascal, and Cynthia Priebe.

By Cynthia Priebe, Guest Writer

If you Google “Dressage,” you will learn it is a French term most  commonly translated to “training.” To most horsemen it conjures up
images of horse and rider teams such as Charlotte DuJardin and the great Valegro. We think of FEI, USEF, WEG and the Olympics.
We may think of Levels, tests and Freestyle performances. We recognize and may even understand a leg yield, shoulder-fore or shoulderin. We may not however think of our gaited horses doing these maneuvers, but we should!

Dressage at its most fundamental is a standardized and progressive training method intended to bring out a horse’s natural athletic ability and willingness to do what its rider asks of it. At its peak, the horse will respond ably to a rider’s minimal aids. The team performs together and it looks effortless. It is NOT breed specific. All horses can benefit from its principles and techniques.

However, over the years if I would discuss dressage as could be applied to my TWH, I would receive odd looks, wrinkled up noses, scoffs or comments of “Dressage does not and cannot apply to a Walking Horse.” If I was referring to the Equestrian sport of the FEI, USEF or USDF, they are correct, but I was referring to its principles and exercises for training.

The last few years have changed that. Gaited Dressage though not widespread is now recognized. Facebook and Web pages are dedicated to the subject. Clinicians and trainers of the gaited horse have written books, posted videos and sell DVD’s.

This past April, Temp’s Red Rascal and I attended a Jennie Jackson’s Dressage en Gaite Clinic. A day of watching other riders learn how to apply dressage principles to their gaited horses, and a one-on-one session of our own. Rascal and I haven’t really done anything but ride around the barn for the last few years. Improving health and other factors have revitalized my energy. Rascal’s abilities, temperament and patience have revitalized my confidence. My goal – use dressage to get us both back into shape.

Cynthia and her Heritage Walking Horse Temp's Red Rascal
Cynthia and her Heritage Walking Horse Temp’s Red Rascal

Jennie is so good at communicating with any and all levels of rider experience. She is patient, and really understands the gaited horse. She helped me understand where we are in the training pyramid and what we might be capable of. We successfully performed leg yields and shoulder-in and learned a new way to warm up for focus, muscle elasticity and increased responsiveness to the aids all without expending the energy Rascal would need to perform properly. May not seem like much, but what we learned that day has completely changed our relationship and what we have been able to accomplish together since.

Most of the Walking Horses at the clinic were from show bloodlines, and Rascal presented very differently so I seized the clinic as an
opportunity to discuss the Heritage Walking Horse. Other than Jennie, no one was familiar. Jennie explained how Rascal’s temperament, build and “On/off” switch where hallmarks of
the Heritage horse. She took the time to explain that though Rascal’s build kept him from having a big over stride, it was not what he was bred for. He was bred for a steady and consistent 4 beat gait that would cover uneven ground safely. So proud that Temp’s Red Rascal could be an ambassador for the Heritage Walking Horse that day!

Since the clinic, Rascal has been improving in all aspects of his condition, responsiveness and ability. He has actually increased his stride length which I attribute to our lateral work and the conditioning that dressage provides. We plan on showing again this year in Halter, Western Pleasure and Horsemanship (Equitation.)
I am not sure where we will pin, but I know we will have more fun this year than we have had in long time. And I am looking forward to the growth of Gaited Dressage and the possibility of testing in the near future on Temp’s Red Rascal.

So next time you hear “Dressage,” think Dressage en Gaite!


For more about the International Heritage Walking Horse Society, visit IHWHA.com.

To learn more about Jennie Jackson and her dressage en gaite clinic schedule, visit Jennie Jackson’s Dressage en Gaite Facebook Group.

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2015 Jennie Jackson Clinic

Jennifer Klitzke riding a gaited dressage school master
No better way to discover “the feeling of right” than by riding a gaited dressage school master.

By Jennifer Klitzke

Blooming trees and sunny daffodils, friendly southern folks, and lots of gaited dressage learning experiences to apply with my naturally gaited Walking horse Makana.

March 20-22, 2015 was my third Dressage as Applied to the Gaited Horse Clinic with Jennie Jackson. Only this time I traveled to White Stables near Knoxville, Tennessee instead of hosting a clinic in my state. I thoroughly enjoyed time with my gaited dressage mentor and an early spring with daffodils and flowering trees in full bloom, plus no snow. (Well, not until I returned home!)

Champagne WatchoutEn route to the clinic I had to stop by and visit the legendary naturally gaited dressage stallion Champagne Watchout. Still wearing his winter fuzzies, he stood handsome for a picture!

The first two days of the clinic were held in the spacious outdoor arena where Jennie taught riders the importance of teaching their horses lateral exercises such as pivot the fore and leg yield.

lateral exercises
It is easiest to teach lateral exercises to the gaited horses in hand before applying them from the saddle.

Both leg yield and pivot the fore are helpful in relaxing the horse’s back and break up pace to establish a natural four beat gait.  The pivot on the fore is a great exercise to teach riders the coordination of inside calf to outside indirect rein which relate with the horse’s inside hind leg as it steps beneath its body and neck, shoulder, and outside fore. Once each horse and rider understood these exercises in hand, they mounted up and applied the exercises from the saddle.

By day two every horse and rider were catching on wonderfully to these new exercises. Then Jennie proceeded to coach them to establish forwardness, rhythm, relaxation, and depth of stride in medium walk and gait. Each time the horse began to pace or stiffen, Jennie asked the rider to turn the horse into the fence and leg yield until the natural four beat gait returned.

Naturally gaited Champaign horse
Leg yield breaks up pace to restore a natural four beat gait.

The more advanced dressage riders worked on canter departs from a shoulder fore position, as well as breaking up stiffness at a flat walk (or trot) using shoulder in and haunches in. (I say “trot” because there were a few non-gaited horses at this clinic in addition to us gaited folk.)

This dressage rider brought her fiance's three-year-old TWH filly and got established in flat walk, running walk, rack and canter by day two!
This dressage rider brought her fiance’s three-year-old TWH filly and got established in flat walk, running walk, rack and canter by day two!

On the second day Jennie demonstrated canter and counter canter; showed the difference between flat walk and running walk; demonstrated how shoulder in, haunches in, shoulder out, and haunches out at a flat walk break up tension and stiffness within the horse to make them soft and supple; and she showed us ways to lengthen the gaited horse’s depth of stride.

Jennie Jackson demonstrates canter and romvere on a gaited horse
Contrary to popular belief, cantering the gaited horse actually improves the four beat gait while lateral exercises improve relaxation and suppleness.

Video: Jennie Jackson demonstrates cantering the gaited horse

Video: Jennie Jackson demonstrates how lateral exercises supple the gaited horse and improve depth of stride in the flat walk

The third day our group headed out to the trails to enjoy the beautiful 135 wooded acres surrounding White Stables.

trail ride
Gaited horses and trotting horses riding together on a trail ride—who said it can’t be done!

What a great group of people I met in Tennessee. I couldn’t help but giggle at your friendly Southern accents, yet ya’all kept insisting that I was the one with the Minnes-O-ta accent!

Jennie Jackson Clinic Photo Gallery»

White Stables

Thank you to White Stables for opening your beautiful facility to host the clinic. Thank you to Ronance for lending your exquisite gaited dressage school master to me, and thank you to Mary and Sydney for taking photos of me while I rode.

For Jennie Jackson’s Clinic schedule or to book a clinic in your area, connect with Jennie on Facebook at Jennie Jackson Dressage en Gaite.

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The Gaited Dressage School Master

Gaited Dressage: The School Master

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.

Beatrice and JazzIn 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 Jennie Jackson Dressage En Gaite on Facebook.


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!

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