By Jennifer Klitzke
Have you ever thought about the art of gaited dressage in the way a culinary chef experiments with flavors, colors, textures, temperatures, and techniques to enhance a recipe?
I do. I like to keep my mind open to ideas that improve rhythm, relaxation, balance, impulsion, lightness, harmony, and trust as I ride my naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse, Makana.
Over the years I have learned a lot from a diverse mix of equestrian professionals such as my gaited dressage mentor Jennie Jackson; riding biomechanics clinician and author Mary Wanless; gaited horsemanship clinicians Larry Whitesell and Jennifer Bauer; natural horsemanship clinician Pat Parelli; and classical French dressage clinicians Nichole Walters, Susan Norman, Philippe Karl, and Lisa Maxwell.
Each clinician has taught me life-enhancing ingredients for my riding recipe whether in person or through their books and DVDs.
- Jennie Jackson has helped me best understand how to ride a head-shaking horse with contact to develop a quality four-beat gait.
- Mary Wanless has helped me improve my riding position to become a more confident rider which has helped me overcome riding fear.
- Larry Whitesell and Jennifer Bauer have helped me discover how to become a trusted leader for my horse and to understand the bio-mechanics needed to help my horse improve the quality of her gaits by unlocking the braces in her jaw and back, and by engaging her abdominal muscles to lift her back and engage her hindquarters.
- Pat Parelli has helped me by demonstrating the partnership and trust that is possible with a horse when I seek to understand how a horse thinks, reacts, and behaves so that I can be more effective in my communication.
- Nichole Walters, Susan Norman, Philippe Karl, and Lisa Maxwell have helped me develop the feeling of balance in relaxation (of body and mind), with rhythm and forwardness (without rushing), in order to produce lightness and self carriage.
Blending these essential ingredients has enhanced my riding recipe.
Sometimes one instructor’s philosophy or set of aids differs from another’s. This is when I experiment with the ingredients of my riding recipe to see what will work best for the horse, its level of training, and the situation.
While my goal to produce rhythm, relaxation, balance, impulsion, lightness, harmony, and trust does not change, the ingredients I use in my riding recipe are a work in progress.
In the end, I aim to bring about a riding recipe that delivers a harmonious partnership of trust with my horse, where we move together as one in rhythm, relaxation, and balance to produce my horse’s best movement in elegance and lightness of aids.