Gaited Dressage: Convergence of Two Worlds

Gaited Dressage: Convergence of Two Worlds

By Jennifer Klitzke

There’s a convergence in gaited dressage: the traditional dressage rider who later applies what they have learned to the gaited horse and the rail class rider who later learns dressage methods of training.

The former describes me, and I can’t ride my gaited horse well without learning from the latter.

I believe gaited dressage has an equation: dressage + gaited equitation = correct. Both perspectives add value to complete this equation. Neither perspective holds the fullness of “correct,” yet each paradigm offers unique perspectives about what is “correct.” One perspective without the other is only half the gaited dressage equation.

Riders like me who have spent decades studying dressage on trotting horses understand the importance of rhythm, relaxation, connection, balance, impulsion, straightness, collection, harmony, rider position, and use of aids to develop the horse’s full range of motion in each gait equally in both directions to produce an ambidextrous horse.

Dressage was the only training language I knew at the time I bought Makana, my first naturally gaited horse. I quickly learned that what is “correct” on a trotting horse, is not the same as what is “correct” on a smooth-gaited Tennessee walking horse. Makana’s flat walk and running walk have a distinctly different “feel” than that of the trot and lengthening of my Trakehner/Thoroughred.

Riding a head-shaking horse on-the-bit has a distinctly different “feel” as compared to the stationary headset of a trotting horse. To help me in this difference, I’ve needed the perspectives of knowledgeable gaited riders to help me develop “correct feel.” And I’m still learning.

On the other hand, there are gaited rail class riders who are new gaited dressage. They know how to ride a head-shaking horse in a shank bit yet need to learn even contract through a snaffle bit. They know how to keep their gaited horse in a consistent four-beat gait along the rail, yet need to learn the concept of the inside leg to outside rein to establish bend and balance in the gait through circles, lateral exercises, transitions within and between gaits, and to develop the full range of walks, easy gaits, and canters on both reins, precisely on the letter. It takes the perspective of a knowledgeable dressage rider to learn this.

Dressage is challenging no matter how many years you’ve been at it, and riding a gaited horse consistently well is challenging. The goal for is not perfection, rather improvement. Dressage is a journey, not a destination.  So be part of the equation; you’ve got something to offer (and learn from) the other half!
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6 thoughts on “Gaited Dressage: Convergence of Two Worlds”

  1. So true so true! I have ridden gaited horses all my life and now am trying to learn dressage. I am trying to figure out why my TWH mare gaits better with her ported shanked TWH bit then she does with her snaffle…..

  2. Very nice article. I am a professional trainer specializing in Gaited Dressage. It certainly is true that there is a learning curve for both Dressage and Gaited riders when starting Gaited Dressage. It has gained huge popularity here in the Southeast. My horses have had great success in both Breed and open shows, often times beating the trotting Warmbloods. I also train trotting horses for Dressage and work all of my horses either trotting or Gaited with classical Dressage methods.

    1. Claudia,

      I am sooooooo excited to hear from you! Your gaited dressage YouTube videos have deeply inspired me. In fact, I posted the foxtrotter one on the naturallygaited facebook page last week. Please let me know if you’re ever in Minnesota. I would love to ride with you! And feel free to post videos, photos, and comments on http://facebook.com/naturallygaited.

      Jennifer Klitzke

  3. Thanks, Jennifer! I would love to meet you sometime. I am so glad to see a website devoted to Gaited Dressage. It has become so popular and many people do not understand the training process of Dressage with Gaited horses. I would be happy to help anyone who has questions!

    1. Hi Claudia,

      Thanks for the kind words. I would love to meet you some day too. In the mean time. do you know what would be super cool and fun? Is if people would post their short gaited dressage videos and we could get your feedback on what is going well and how to improve the gait, balance, harmony, relaxation, impulsion, rider position, etc. I’d be happy to post videos if no one else wants to. Let me know what you think.

      Thank! Jennifer

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