Category Archives: Naturally Gaited Horse Stories

Tribute to a Legend: Champagne Watchout

Tribute to a Legend Champagne Watchout

By Jennifer Klitzke

With deepest and heartfelt sympathy to Jennie Jackson, Nate, and their family in the sudden loss of their legendary naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse stallion: Champagne Watchout, who passed away on July 17, 2017 at the age of 24.

In the 1980s Jennie Jackson began applying and perfecting dressage methods of training to gaited horses. Then in 1998 she introduced dressage as a humane training alternative for Tennessee walking horses. She began to apply dressage training methods with her naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse stallion Champagne Watchout. The two defied the critics and rose through the levels of dressage [en gaite].

spanish walk
Jennie Jackson and Champagne Watchout performing the Spanish Walk.

In 2006, Jennie and Champagne Watchout were the first duo in history to perform dressage en gaite at The Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY. The duo demonstrated never-seen-before Prix St. George movements en gaite as piaffe, passage, half pass, Spanish walk, as well as canter pirouette, and tempe changes.

Champagne Watchout at Alltech
Jennie Jackson and Champagne Watchout performing at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.

In 2010, Jennie and Champagne Watchout were formally invited to exhibit their dressage en gaite musical freestyle at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. Champagne Watchout became the official Tennessee walking horse breed representative.

Video: Jennie Jackson and 16-year old Champagne Watchout performing their dressage en gaite musical freestyle at the 2010 Alltech World Equestrian Games at Lexington Kentucky Horse Park in 2010

As a life-long student of dressage, I have always longed to achieve piaffe, passage, canter half pass, pirouette, and tempe changes with my trotting horses and now with my naturally gaited horses. In my opinion, Jennie Jackson and Champagne Watchout are naturally gaited dressage legends! They performed these difficult movements en gaite with ease—something many claimed was impossible for a gaited horse.

In addition to his striking looks and athletic moves, Champagne Watchout has a powerful, jaw-dropping, head-shaking, natural flat walk and running walk that turns heads at the rail class events. Champagne Watchout earned the right to compete in the 1999 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration World Grand Championship class. He was the first and ONLY naturally gaited flat shod entry competing among the traditional Big Lick horses.

Video: Champagne Watchout—First flat shod horse to compete at the 1999 TWHBEA World Grand Championship Tennessee Walking Horse Class

Encounters with the Golden One

Champagne WatchoutI was fortunate to have met Champagne Watchout on two occasions. In 2015 I traveled to Tennessee to ride at a Jennie Jackson Dressage for the Gaited Horse Clinic and I got to meet this gentle, golden stallion. Even with his winter fuzzies, Champagne Watchout was a standout.

Jennie and Watchout
Jennie Jackson riding her gaited dressage stallion Champagne Watchout.

The next year, I returned to the South to ride with Jennie Jackson as a working student. While I was there I had the privilege of watching Jennie ride her barefoot, 22-year-old gaited dressage stallion Champagne Watchout.

Back then Champagne Watchout was the ONLY Tennessee walking horse still living among those he had competed against in the 1999 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration World Grand Championship class.

I was privileged to watch Jennie ride Champagne Watchout at Amazing Gaits, piaffe and passage along the ocean coast, and dance to the music during the Marti Gras parade.

Jennie and Watchout
How long do you think the beads will last on this head shaking stallion? Champagne Watchout and Jennie Jackson enjoyed throwing beads to the Marti Gras parade patrons.

Champagne Watchout was the first horse eager to step into the wavy coastline and gave the rest of the Amazing Gait’s horses confidence. In no time all of us were flat walking in the ocean.

And through the Marti Gras parade at 22 years old Champagne Watchout still had all the moves!

We will never forget you, Champagne Watchout. You have inspired multitudes and left an amazing legacy that will live on.


Early years: Champagne Watchout at play and under saddle with Jennie Jackson

2012 Champagne Watchout with Jennie Jackson at the TWHBEA World Versatility Show


Upper Level Movements and the Naturally Gaited Horse

Piaffe in hand for the gaited horseBy Jennifer Klitzke

Should lower level horses wait to be schooled in shoulder in and rein back or is there a benefit to learning these exercises before Second Level? Is piaffe and passage only reserved for talented horses and riders (or only for horses that trot)? I think not, and here’s why. 

In 1996 I sat center line in the balcony at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna mezmorized watching the ivory Lipizzaner stallions being schooled in piaffe, passage, canter pirouettes, tempi changes, and airs above the ground. The dressage training pyramid of rhythm, relaxation, connection, impulsion, straightness, and collection was made complete right before my very eyes. It was a life-long dream come true!

Since 1988 I’ve been an avid student of dressage and have longed to experience piaffe and passage with my horses. Yet these movements are reserved for Intermediate and Grand Prix Levels of dressage, and thus far I have only shown through Second Level. In my Grandma age I was beginning to wonder if I would ever reach these levels of training.

can-german-and-french-dressage-co-existThen in the last year I purchased the DVD Classical versus Classique with Christoph Hess and Philippe Karl. Hess represents the German National Federation and Karl represents French Classical Dressage. Their lively conversation illuminates the rather stark differences between German and French dressage and made me realize that showing dressage and training dressage don’t have to be the same thing. From this DVD, French dressage trainer Philippe Karl gives me hope because he believes that the upper level movements can be performed by any horse, not just the talented ones. And the rather average horse at the age of 12 shown in the DVD learned all of the movements through piaffe and passage by its rider within ONE YEAR under Karl’s instruction!

While the USDF tests and levels make perfect progressive sense for the show ring, and align with the dressage pyramid of training, I no longer believe horses in lower levels need to wait to be schooled in higher level movements such as shoulder in, rein back, counted walk and piaffe in hand. Nor do I believe that piaffe and passage are only reserved for talented horses and riders (or only for horses that trot)!

Intro, Training, and First Levels don’t introduce shoulder in at a walk, rein back, counted walk, or piaffe in hand, yet these exercises provide wonderful benefits to the horse in terms of balance, engagement, connection, straightness, collection, and communication between the horse and rider (as long as the horse is relaxed in its mind and jaw). This is true for both horses that trot or gait. Plus, these movements teach the rider the feeling of balance as the horse bends the hindquarter joints, engages the abdominal muscles to lift the back, and rise up more through the withers.

It’s a fact that few riders and horses ever achieve the highest levels of competition dressage, and the majority of dressage riders never reach Second Level. So why should our horses miss out on training in balance through the benefits of rein back, shoulder in, counted walk, and piaffe in hand while we school the lower levels?

I made this mistake—for years—as an amateur trainer while I was schooling the lower levels with my Trakehner/Thoroughbred gelding. I only practiced the elements of the tests I was showing at. Since then, what I have realized is that this approach taught my horse rhythm, relaxation, and forwardness in a  long and low frame—on the forehand. Long and low is terrific, as long as it is in BALANCE. But balance wasn’t something I learned until I reached Second Level which was several years later.

If you are an amateur trainer like me, who has a full time career, family, and other obligations, plus the five-month-long Winter season and no indoor arena to stay in condition, it takes far longer to make training progress through the dressage levels. Consequently it took me several years to work my way through Second Level with my Trakehner/Thoroughbred and that’s when the tests introduced BALANCE demonstrated through shoulder in, rein back, and haunches in.

Sigh. So for several years, I had conditioned the muscle memory of my horse to carry himself on the forehand—with rhythm, relaxation, and forwardness. I had not developed the “feeling” of balance as a rider, because I had only performed the exercises the Level I was showing at called for.

For me, Second Level was like erasing the hard drive and starting over in our training. I had to learn the feeling of balance and retrain my horse from long and low on the forehand to engagement and connection in balance.

My horse and I would have been so much better off if I had introduced shoulder in, haunches in, and rein back while I was schooling the lower levels because of the balance these exercises produce. Plus, I would have learned the “feeling” of balance which would have helped me train my horse in the lower levels of long and low — in balance — instead of training my horse long and low onto the forehand. Remember, not all long and low is the same.

A few months ago, I purchased a DVD entitled Getting Started in Lightness: The French Classical Dressage of Francois Baucher as taught by Jean Claude Racinet presented by one of his students Lisa Maxwell. This DVD introduces rein back, shoulder in, introductory steps of piaffe, and other refreshing exercises such as the counted walk (something I had never heard of before but produces amazing results in balance: bending of the hindquarter joints, engagement of the abdominal muscles to lift the back, and lighten the forehand with a feeling of the withers rising up).

I immediately I noticed how light, happy, harmonious, engaged, relaxed (in mind and jaw), rhythmic, impulsive, and balanced Lisa’s horses are in this DVD. The horses aren’t fancy, just like my horses, yet they demonstrate some amazing transformations. So I began applying these exercises with all of the horses I ride—Intro through Second Level dressage.

While this DVD illustrates these exercises using trotting horses, I have seen remarkable improvement in balance, gait quality, and transitions with the naturally gaited horses I ride as a result of applying these exercises.

Progression of exercises: First I introduce leg yields along the fence. As soon as the horse understands the exercise, I introduce leg yields from the quarter line to the rail.

I do a lot of circle work with my horses beginning with a 20-meter circle and reducing the size as the horse is able to maintain balance, rhythm, relaxation (in mind and jaw), and softness in the mouth. I include true bends and counter bends on a circle.

As the horse can maintain balance in a 10-meter circle at a slow walk, I introduce to a few steps of shoulder in. After a 10-meter circle, I maintain the arc of the circle as I travel along the fence a few steps.

Over time I will increase the number of steps and increase the tempo from a slow walk to a medium walk as long as the horse remains in balance with relaxation, bending, impulsion, and rhythm. Then I will proceed with shoulder in at a flat walk or fox trot. I also do the shoulder in on a circle at a collected, medium walk and flat walk.

When the horse is forward in the mind and from the leg, I will introduce rein back and counted walk along the fence to help the horse remain straight. I only ask for a couple steps at a time in order to rebalance the horse. Then I begin teaching the piaffe in hand before asking for piaffe from the saddle.

Bottomline: I let the horse tell me what it needs vs. the level we are showing at. I introduce the next progression of exercises as the horse is able to maintain balance, relaxation in the mind and jaw, softness in the mouth, rhythm and forwardness.

canter-left canter-rightIn fact, the improved balance the rein back, shoulder in, and counted walk have established with my friend’s gaited horse, Lady, have built the balance needed to introduce canter to the right and left leads without chasing her into the canter.

Plus, Lady has developed a natural head nodding fox trot that is smoother than a Western jog! I feel that we have made dramatically greater training progress by introducing rein back, shoulder in, and counted walk than if we would have just continued traveling in 20-meter, long and low circles that the Intro Level calls for.

Naturally gaited and barefoot fox trot.
Naturally gaited and barefoot fox trot.


Hindsight is 20/20. I wish I knew in 1988 what I know now. At least I am becoming a rider with more awareness of the feeling of balance and believe I’m moving in a constructive training path of lightness, balance, harmony, and impulsion—especially in the lower levels. That’s not to say that I expect Grand Prix balance from an Intro Level horse; I just redirect the horse into the feeling of balance each time the horse leans on the bit or becomes heavy on the forehand and shoulders with exercises that improve balance, lightness, harmony, and impulsion. In any case, it transforms our training into more of an enjoyable dance.


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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Gaiting the Coast before Marti Gras

riding the ocean coast

By Jennifer Klitzke

Have you ever dreamed about riding along the ocean coast? It’s been a dream of mine, and it came true—but there was a catch. I had to ride in a Marti Gras parade on a horse that had never been in one.

In January I had a week free before beginning my new job and learned that Jennie Jackson was training at Amazing Gaits Equestrian Center near Mobile, Alabama. So I took a spontaneous four-day trip South to briefly escape the arctic blast.

“Make sure you stay through Saturday,” Jennie said, “so that you can ride the ocean coast and in the Dauphin Island Marti Gras parade.”

Ocean coast? Wow! Not only would I be Jennie’s working student and ride several Tennessee walking horses at various stages of training each day, but I would be riding the ocean coast—a dream come true!

I didn’t realize how special this opportunity was until I arrived. Dauphin Island only allows horses on the beach once a year and that’s only for horses that are trailered in for their Marti Gras parade.

Speaking of Marti Gras, Like most people, I thought Marti Gras was an annual event exclusive to New Orleans. Turns out Marti Gras originated in Mobile, Alabama and is celebrated for several weeks throughout the South until Lent begins.

On the third day of riding with Jennie, I met Abbie, a six-year-old Tennessee walking horse mare who reminded me of my naturally gaited Walking horse Makana. Abbie would be the horse I’d ride on the beach and in the parade. Neither she nor I had ever ridden the ocean coast or in a parade, so I did my best to establish trust and team work.

Abbie and I took a nice trail ride with one of the boarders while Jennie taught lessons. We rode up and down hills, alongside a beautiful aqua marine lake with rust colored sand, through the woods, over felled trees, and through creeks. Back at the Amazing Gaits Equestrian Center, Abbie and I negotiated their extensive trail obstacle course . I felt like we had connected well.

The next morning a group of us trailered to Dauphin Island through the grey skies and rain. Thankfully the sun broke through the clouds for our beach ride and parade.

Jennie and Watchout
Jennie Jackson riding her famous TWH dressage stallion Champagne Watchout.
Abbie and I riding on the ocean coast.
Amazing Gaits Equestrian Center’s TWH Abbie and I riding on the ocean coast.

The first one in the ocean was Jennie Jackson and her famous stallion Champagne Watchout. He LOVES the water and gave the rest of the horses confidence to step into the wavy shoreline. In no time we were flat walking the ocean coast. It wasn’t as romantic as I had pictured in my mind—galloping carefree through the water in a long flowing gown—but it was FUN!

Amazing Gaits Equestrian Center fosters a community of wonderful people who enjoy a variety of disciplines with their gaited horses: dressage, trail riding, competitive trail obstacles, jumping and cross country, parades, mounted patrol, and more.

Amazing Gaits Equestrian Center
Our group from Amazing Gaits Equestrian Center.

After our beach ride, our group dressed up in purple, green and gold, adorned in beads, and rode four miles along the city streets to the beginning of the parade route.

Cremelo TWH
The large beads are called sugar beads.
Blues band between the ears
Not your typical between the ears shot.
Abbie and I
Abbie seemed to like the music and danced to the beat.
Jennie and Watchout
How long do you think the beads will last on this head shaking horse?
Large crowds ahead.
Large crowds ahead anxiously awaiting beads, coins and moon pies.
Parade patron
Parade patrons caught flying strings of beads.
She's got the bead technique mastered.
This young parade patron has got the bead technique mastered.
Baby's first Marti Gras.
Baby’s first Marti Gras.
Parade patron
Front row seat.
Parade patron
Parade patrons of all ages having a wonderful time!
Parade patron
Love the hat!
Kathee’s TWH mare Madison leading our group in the Marti Gras Parade.
Parade patrons caught flying strings of beads.
Parade patrons caught flying strings of beads.
Parade patrons
Parade patrons getting a better view!
Parade patron
Parade patron festively dressed for the parade.
Parade patron
Love the hair!
Festively dressed horse and rider
Festively dressed horse and rider.

Thanks to Abbie and the great group of people from Amazing Gaits Equestrian Center, I not only rode on the ocean coast, but I also rode eight miles through cheering crowds, horns, loud music and flying beads and couldn’t stop smiling the entire time!

Getting ready to for the Marti Gras parade
Getting back to the trailers after four hours of riding, my face hurt from smiling about as much as my body hurt from riding!

For more information about Amazing Gaits Equestrian Center, visit their blog or subscribe to the Amazing Gaits Facebook group.


Every Horse is Good for Something

When I first bought my naturally gaited TWH Makana, Candace Rundell was one of the first friends I made with the Minnesota Walking Horse Association. How she acquired her naturally gaited Spotted Saddle Horse, Yankee Doodle Mandy, is heroing on its own. Yet it is the adversity I witnessed this duo face which exemplifies a shining example of hope, a trusting partnership, and what is possible when you persevere to never let up on your dreams.
—Jennifer Klitzke

Jazzy 2013 3 gait champions
Candace Rundell riding her naturally gaited Spotted Saddle Horse mare Yankee Doodle Mandy in one of their dozens of Country Pleasure Championship rides.

Every Horse is Good for Something

By Candace Rundell, Guest Writer

I’ve been horse crazy as long as I can remember and owned my first horse at the age of 9. Gaming and trail riding on the bouncy variety were my gig until I became acquainted with a naturally smooth gaited Spotted Saddle Horse in an unexpected way.

In 2003, my sister and I went to an auction, and I was drawn to a 1993 black and white Tobiano Spotted Saddle Horse mare named Yankee Doodle Mandy (Jazzy). After talking with the seller, I tested out Jazzy’s naturally smooth gait. I liked her a lot, only I didn’t come to the auction to buy. I wasn’t in a place to take on a horse.

When the auction began, my sister and I noticed that not all of the horses were getting sold to good homes. We were sickened to learn that the horses no one bid on were being sold to the “kill buyer.”

Just as my sister and I were ready to leave, Jazzy’s owner caught up to us and said that no one had bid on her. The owner explained that she was pregnant and had promised her husband that she wouldn’t return home with the horse. I saw her husband anxiously waiting by their rig and ready to get going. The woman said in a panic, “It’s either you or the “kill buyer.”

My sister reached into her purse and wrote out a check for $600, and that’s how my first gaited horse entered my life.

“Every horse is good for something.”

Although Jazzy had a smooth ride, we were off to a rocky start. She was rather wild and used to charge at me which gave me quite a scare. After we overcame that hurdle, it took 45 minutes to saddle her and another 45 minutes to get on her back.

Remembering what Seabiscuit’s trainer, Tom Smith once said, “Every horse is good for something,” I set out to become educated about naturally gaited horses and the Spotted Saddle Horse breed. I joined the Minnesota Walking Horse Association (MWHA) and began attending clinics.

Slowly over time Jazzy and I developed a trusting bond, and she blossomed into a wonderfully reliable trail mount. In 2004, Jazzy and I became the MWHA Adult Trail Riding Reserve Champion.

Gaming the gaited horse.

Back in my younger years when I rode trotting horses, I gamed a lot. So in 2006, I entered Jazzy at a local show which offered two-gait game classes. That year we won the 2006 WSCA Free Spirit Riders Spring Fun Payday Walk Trot (two gait) High Point.

Then Jazzy and I rode at a MWHA sponsored B.L.E.S.S. your gaited horse clinic with Bucky Sparks. At this clinic those who watched our rides encouraged me to give gaited breed shows a try. Up until that point showing Jazzy in rail classes had never occurred to me.

gaited horse cantering
Despite the set back of Jazzy losing an eye in February 2010, Candace and Jazzy’s amazing partnership of trust developed their canter before traveling to the Nationals in Missouri.

So in 2009, I began showing Jazzy at gaited breed shows. To my surprise and delight, Jazzy earned Champion in Country Pleasure Amateur Owned and Trained 2 Gait, Reserve Champion Country Pleasure English 2 Gait, Reserve Champion Country Pleasure Western 2 Gait at the MWHA Celebration Show, and we became the 2009 MWHA Trail Riding Champion.

Looking ahead to 2010, I set a goal for Jazzy and I to develop our canter and travel to Missouri for the North American Pleasure Horse Championships.

Before the 2010 show season began, Jazzy sustained a serious eye injury in the pasture. I was devastated to learn that she would lose her eye. During the surgery, Jazzy developed atrial fibrillation from the anesthesia which caused a permanent irregular heartbeat. I feared that she wouldn’t be ride-able again, or worse, that I’d have to put her down.

“You know, you don’t throw a whole life away just ’cause he’s banged up a little.”

Thankfully Jazzy recovered from surgery quickly, and my confidence grew when I began riding Jazzy and discovered that she had become even more responsive and wiling than when she had two eyes!

Seabiscuit’s trainer, Tom Smith once said, “You know, you don’t throw a whole life away just ’cause he’s banged up a little.So just two months after surgery, I took Jazzy to a cutting horse clinic. Not only was she the only one-eyed horse at the clinic, but she was the only gaited horse, and the clinician used her as the demonstration horse because of how soft and responsive she was.

Losing an eye didn’t stop us from pursuing our goals and reaching our dreams. Jazzy and I went on to a stellar 2010 show season. Jazzy earned Champion Country Pleasure English 2 Gait and Champion Country Pleasure Western 2 Gait at the 2010 MWHA Celebration Show before traveling to the North American Pleasure Horse Championships in Missouri to be crowned with a National SSH 3 Gait Grand Championship!

2010 National Grand Champion
Candace Rundell riding Yankee Doodle Mandy at the North American Pleasure Horse Championships in Missouri where the team earned a National SSH 3 Gait Grand Championship the same year after Jazzy lost her eye.

Since 2010, Jazzy and I have gone on to become an ambassador for naturally gaited horses and the Spotted Saddle Horse breed. Jazzy has participated in parades, mounted shooting, cattle work, English and western rail classes, reining, games, speed events, trail trials, and has been a flag bearer. Not only that, but Jazzy is an easy keeper and in good weight—even in the harshest of winters. She has GREAT feet, too, and has never needed shoes.

Gaited horse and trail obstacles
Candace Rundell and her naturally gaited Spotted Saddle Horse mare Yankee Doodle Mandy negotiating a trail obstacle.

As Jazzy turned 22 this year she will retire to a life of trail riding for others who want to come and ride with me as I train and show my other naturally gaited Spotted Saddle Horses.

Indeed, every horse is good for something. I am so glad that I pressed on through the rough beginning to experience the partnership Jazzy and I have developed and all we have accomplished together—even after losing an eye.

Candace Rundell and Yankee Doodle Mandy’s Impressive Show Record
2004 MWHA Adult Trail Riding Reserve Champion
2006 WSCA Free Spirit Riders Spring Fun Payday Walk Trot (2 Gait) High Point
2009 MWHA Celebration Champion Country Pleasure Amateur Owned and Trained 2 Gait
2009 MWHA Celebration Reserve Champion Country Pleasure English 2 Gait
2009 MWHA Celebration Reserve Champion Country Pleasure Western 2 Gait
2009 MWHA Trail Riding Champion
2010 MWHA Celebration Champion Country Pleasure English 2 Gait
2010 MWHA Celebration Champion Country Pleasure Western 2 Gait

2010 North American Pleasure Horse Championships, Sedalia, MO

  • Spotted Saddle Horse Western 3 Gait Grand Champion
  • Spotted Saddle Horse Western 2 Gait Reserve Champion
  • Spotted Saddle Horse Youth Reserve Champion
  • Hi 7 Reserve Champion
  • Spotted Saddle Horse Division Champion with 88 points

2010 AHAGN OSIP Pleasure/Performance Champion
2010 AHAGN OSIP Game Champion
2010 MWHA Country Pleasure Champion
2011 SSLCF Walk Trot (2 Gait) High Point
2011 MWHA MN Celebration 3 Gait Country Pleasure Champion
2011 MWHA MN Celebration Youth Country Pleasure Champion
2011 MWHA Country Pleasure 2 Gait High Point Champion
2011 MWHA Country Pleasure 3 Gait High Point Champion
2011 MWHA Country Pleasure Youth High Point Reserve Champion
2011 AHAGN OSIP Pleasure/Performance Champion
2012 Kutaways Spring Payday Senior High Point
2012 Countryside Saddle Club Spring Show Senior Plus Pleasure High Point
2012 MWHA MN Celebration Country Pleasure 3 Gait Reserve Champion
2012 SSLCF Walk Trot (2 Gait) High Point
2012 Northwood’s Saddle Club INC Pleasure Reserve Champion
2012 Northwood’s Saddle Club INC All Around Champion


  • Adult Champion
  • Western Horsemanship Champion
  • Reining Champion
  • Stock/Ranch Champion
  • Western Pleasure Champion
  • English Pleasure Champion

2012 AHAGN OSIP Pleasure/Performance Champion
2012 AHAGN OSIP Game Champion

2012 Minnesota Walking Horse Association

  • 2 gait Country Pleasure Reserve Champion
  • 3 gait Country Pleasure Champion

2012 MWHA Horse of the Year
2013 SSLCF Pleasure / Performance High Point
2013 MWHA MN Celebration ADP 3 Gait Champion
2013 DFA Summer show 35+ Pleasure High Point
2013 Brew City Classic Charity Show ADP 3 Gait Reserve Champion
2013 ASCA All Around Pleasure Reserve Champion
2013 ASCA English Pleasure Reserve Champion
2013 ASCA English Equitation Reserve Champion
2013 DFA 35+ Game Champion
2013 DFA 35+ Pleasure Champion
2013 Tri-State 3 Gait Country Pleasure Champion
2013 MWHA Country Pleasure 3 Gait Champion

2013 SSHBEA OIP Adult Overall Champion

  • Gymkhana Champion
  • Saddle Seat Champion
  • Equitation champion
  • Trail Obstacle Champion
  • Reigning Champion

2014 SSLCF Pleasure Reserve High Point
2014 Mn Celebration Champion English ADP 3 Gait
2014 MN Celebration ADP West 3 Gait Champion
2014 Brew City Classic ADP 3 Gait Reserve Champion
2014 Tri-State ADP English 3 Gait  Champion
2014 Tri-State ADP Western 3 Gait Champion
2014 Tri-State Model Reserve Champion
2014 DFA Senior Plus Pleasure Champion

2014 SSHBEA OIP Adult Overall Champion

  • Gymkhana Champion
  • English Pleasure Champion
  • English Equitation Champion
  • Western Pleasure  Champion
  • Western Horsemanship Champion
  • Trail Obstacle Champion
  • Reigning Champion

2014 Tri-State Horse of the Year
2014 MWHA Reserve Champion Model, Champion
ADP 3 Gait, Champion Versatility
2015 Free Spirit Riders Spring High Point
2015 DFA Spring Reserve High point Pleasure
2015 DFA Spring Reserve High point games
2015 SSLCF Reserve High Point Pleasure
2015 MWHA MN Celebration ADP 2 Gait Reserve Champion
2015 MWHA MN Celebration ADP 3 Gait Champion
2015 DFA Summer High Point Pleasure
2015 WSCA DFA Buckle Series Reserve Champion High Point Pleasure
2015 WSCA DFA Buckle Series 3rd High Point Games
2015 Brew City Classic ADP 3 Gait Western Reserve Champion
2015 Brew City Classic SSH 2 Gait Western Reserve Champion
2015 Brew City Classic ADP 3 Gait English  Reserve Champion
2015 Brew City Classic AOT 2 Gait  Reserve  Champion
2015 Tri-State All Day Pleasure Amateur 3 Gait
2015 Tri-State All Day Pleasure Western 3 Gait
2015  SSHBEA OIP Overall Adult Champion Candace Rundell

2015 SSHBEA OIP Champion Yankee Doodle Mandy

  • Gymkhana
  • Trail
  • English  Pleasure
  • English  Equitation
  • Western  Pleasure
  • Western  Horsemanship
  • Halter
  • Showmanship

Qualified for WSCA Champ Show 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015

Candace Rundell Yankee Doodle Mandy and Bo's Whistling Dixie
Candace Rundell pictured with naturally gaited Spotted Saddle Horses Yankee Doodle Mandy (left) and Bo’s Whistling Dixie (right).

Candace Rundell and her husband own The Last Resort Farm in Brookston, MN where they rescue, breed, raise and train Spotted Saddle Horses. Candace is a SSHBEA Certified Inspector and SSHBEA Outreach Incentive Program Chair.

I hope you enjoyed reading Candace’s story about her partnership with her versatile Spotted Saddle Horse mare Yankee Doodle Mandy. 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, please contact me by completing the contact form. —Jennifer Klitzke