Category Archives: Naturally Gaited Horsemanship

Trail Challenge at Governor Knowles State Forest

Governor Knowles State Forest Trail ChallengeBy Jennifer Klitzke

Working cows with a gaited horseNext to the 2017 August Cow Sorting League with our personal best by leaps and bounds (5th of 17), I’d have to say that riding the Trail Challenge at Governor Knowles State Forest on September 3, 2017 with Stephanie, Brian, Indy, Lefty and Lady was one of the best memories of the summer.

The St. Croix River vista through the ears of Indy.
The St. Croix River vista through the ears of Indy.

Earlier this year, I made the heart-felt decision to sell my Spanish Mustang Indian’s Legend back to his previous owner, Stephanie. My Dad had passed away after an illness and my life circumstances had changed. Indy wasn’t happy as a backyard dressage horse. He missed our weekend-get-aways.

As much as I miss him, my heart is happy and at peace  knowing that Indy is with Stephanie and Brian who love him like I do. Not only that, but Indy is living in his happy place and in the trail horse dream: miles and miles of mature forests and river crossings every weekend with lots of pasture space to goof off with his fellow Spanish Mustang comrades.

Stephanie had checked in with me a couple weeks prior to the Trail Challenge at Governor Knowles State Forest. I quickly got naturally gaited foxtrotting horse Lady up-to-date on a Coggins so that I could join her and Brian.

All three of us
Lady with two Spanish Mustangs–all barefoot and sound!

What an amazing day: enjoying their great company, great scenery, great horses, great weather, and challenging obstacles, with the added bonus of several river and bridge crossings to boot! A first for Lady.

Indy and Stephanie eating up the obstacle
Indy and Stephanie eating up the obstacle.

It was so fun to watch Indy and Stephanie eat up those trail obstacles. They gave Lady and five-year-old Spanish Mustang Lefty courage to give them a try. There were six obstacles along a 10-12 mile trail through scenic mature forest, ferns, wildflowers, butterflies, and songbirds. The footing was perfect for naturally barefoot horses like the three of us were riding. It was a comfortable temperature and the sun made its brilliant appearance mid-point of the ride.

There were two divisions, the just-for-fun and the jackpot. I entered Lady in the just-for-fun since this was her first obstacle challenge. Stephanie and Brian opted for the jackpot—why not—no doubt Indy was up for the challenge!

The first of six obstacles was opening and closing a gate without letting go. After closing the gate, then maneuvering to a barrel and  picking up a clanger. Then navigating through two poles and ringing the “come-an’-get-it-dinner-is-ready triangle three times in two minutes or less. I was amazed how afraid Lady was of the gate. At home, all she wants to do is open and close the gate herself! Dang! We danced around the gate until the two minutes ran out.

The jackpot level had to back out of the rails after clanging the triangle in the same amount of time. Indy and Stephanie did this obstacle really well.

The second obstacle was navigating the horse through a wooden ladder in two minutes or less. The horse had to step within the narrow ladder prongs, turn on the fore and return through the narrow ladder prongs. After Lady realized that the ladder wasn’t going to eat her, she killed this obstacle—even on a loose rein!

For those in the jackpot level, they had to side pass the ladder in the return. Indy rocked this obstacle! I wish I had video to show for it!

Me and Lady playing some broom ball, if we can only get close enough to the ball.
Me and Lady playing some broom ball, if we can only get close enough to the ball.

The third obstacle was broom balling a heavy soccer ball with a wispy broom through a goal in two minutes or less. Sound simple? Yes, in reality. Yet, it was very difficult. Lady as well as many of the horses seem to have ball phobia. (Peeps, practice makes perfect! Until next time. Right!)

The jackpot level had to WEAVE the ball through a set of cones and into the goal. Stephanie and Indy made it look easy and received the fastest time thus far. WAY TO GO!

Me and Lady at the ring toss
Me and Lady at the ring toss…better luck next time.

The fourth obstacle was a ring toss. The horse and rider needed to pick up rings placed on a barrel next to a super spooky skeleton. Then the rider needed to position the horse at a rail and toss a ring to loop onto a steer horn, then advance to the next rail and do the same.

The just-for-fun level had four rings and the jackpot level had eight rings to pick up and toss in two minutes or less.

I congratulate Lady for her effort. Me, on the other hand, ugh. I did not navigate the rings anywhere near the horn. Stephanie and Indy ringed several on the horn. Well done!

Me and Lady doing the dressage moves through the log obstacle.
Me and Lady doing the dressage moves through the log obstacle. One of two obstacles we crushed!

The fifth obstacle was a log maze. The just-for-fun level had to pivot through the log maze, do a turn on the fore and return through the log maze. Lady rocked this obstacle. We’ve been working on these exercises all summer and it paid off.

The jackpot level had to pivot through the log maze and then rein back through it. Stephanie and Indy killed this obstacle as well!

Harder than it looks!
Harder than it looks!

The final obstacle was picking up a pole where the end of it needed to remain in a hoop while the horse and rider rode in a circle and over two rails and back to the starting point in two minutes or less. Lady’s initial try didn’t go very well as she ran away from the pole that was chasing her. Since we had two minutes, we had time to give it another shot and we maneuvered our way through the obstacle with flying colors and time to spare.

The jackpot level had to do this obstacle with a turn on the fore after the first circle and then ride the opposite direction before returning to the starting point. Indy and Stephanie rocked it again! I was sure that they would be in the money!

Between obstacles the horses rode together terrifically. Spanish Mustang Lefty has such a large, scopey walk that Lady and I fox trotted the entire 3-1/2 hour JOY ride! (I don’t think that Stephanie minded trotting and cantering Indy to keep up!)

I know that there are strains of Spanish Mustangs that have a natural four-beat gait. I wonder if Lefty is one of them. He is a stunning example of the Spanish Mustang. Several riders along our route stopped and asked what breed of horse Brian and Stephanie were riding. I was so happy, none of them asked: “Is that a Norwegian Fjord?” (Really, I have nothing against this breed. I really do like them. It’s just that Spanish Mustangs are not Norwegian Fjords.)

One woman asked what type of horse I was riding. (Yes, it is clear that Lady is NOT a Norwegian Fjord). Of coarse, Lady is anyone’s best guess since she isn’t registered. When my friend bought Lady, she was told that she was a Tennessee walking horse (in part). This woman replied, “I think the horse you’re riding is a Tennessee walking horse/Morgan cross.” Hallelujah! This affirms my thoughts in movement, intelligence and temperament. When Jennie Jackson was in Minnesota giving us lessons, that was her thought, too.

It was a great time had by all—people and horses. Walking Lady back to the trailer, I could hear Indy whinnying through the trees, “Until next time, my friends, until next time!”

Photo Gallery: (Click to enlarge)

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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.

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Wishing you a Merry Christmas!

2014-Merry-Christmas-naturally-gaited

After special times with family, a competitive game of Scrabble, and reading the Christmas story, I saddled up my naturally gaited Walking horse for some walkin’ wonderland.

From my human and equine family to your’s, we wish you a blessed and Merry Christmas! —Jennifer Klitzke and naturally gaited TWH Makana

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Rollbacks and the Gaited Horse

 

Rollbacks and the Gaited HorseBy Jennifer Klitzke

Dressage training has helped my naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse with her rhythm, relaxation, connection, impulsion, straightness, and collection. Yet quickness hasn’t been something I have practiced on a regular basis, and it really becomes apparent when we sort cows.

Recently I took my naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse mare Gift of Freedom (Makana) to a Wednesday evening cow sorting league. We are clearly the odd ball in the group among quarter horses that are naturally built for this sport. These horses are highly engaged from behind and can lope, stop, pivot and spring off in a new direction in half a second.

Will my naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse ever be as quick and responsive as the quarter horses? Not likely, but being lowest on the pecking order seems to motivate her. Makana LOVES having something to push around. Each week we get better at moving the cows from one pen to the next in order, and have more clean rounds than DQs.

Watching the riders warm up their quarter horses, I’ve noticed that they often use rollbacks as an exercise of choice, so I began adopting rollbacks into our warm up.

Rollbacks have great benefits. They increase engagement and make her think about quickness and responsiveness. This is helping us in the hole as we attempt to keep the unsequenced cows from sneaking through before their turn.

P.S. As a side note, I show up at sorting league as a cross dresser: my horse wearing Western attire and me wearing  breeches, half chaps, and my riding helmet. I figure if I’m going to be the oddball among all these spur wearin’, shank sportin’ cowboys and cowgirls riding their cowy quarter horses, I might as well go all out!

Video: Rollbacks for the Gaited Horse

(Take it from me, it is easier to ride rollbacks in the security of a Western saddle.)

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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.

barrels
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

2012 SSHBEA OIP

  • 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 NaturallyGaited.com, please contact me by completing the contact form. —Jennifer Klitzke

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