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!
Promote Your Page Too