Tag Archives: gaited dressage

Naturally Gaited Dream Ride

Balanced flatwalk

By Jennifer Klitzke

Have you ever had a special ride with your naturally gaited horse that remains in your memory as one of those “dream rides”?

I had one of those “dream rides” today. Yes, it happened to be on a sunny, spring day after a week of gray rainy, no-ride days.

Never-the-less, my naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse, Makana, was as happy to be ridden as I was riding her.

She had all of the ingredients for a dream ride: naturally balanced, relaxed, forward, with rhythm, and we had harmony. Makana felt soft and supple; relaxed yet energetic, maneuverable and responsive to my leg and seat. She felt lifted in the head, neck,and withers, yet rounded in the back, and deep striding under her body beneath me.

I embraced every euphoric moment.

Yet, the exquisite steps didn’t last forever. No worry, each time I felt Makana lose her balance, I would regroup with a half halt by slowing down the tempo, lifting her head and neck with my hands by massaging upward, engaging her from behind and in the belly to lift her back in the frame of balance, and sending her off into a proud flat-footed walk.

What an amazing feeling!

Video: Flat-footed Walk

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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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Following Arms & Rubber Band Fingers

Following the Head and Neck Motion

Following the Head and Neck of the Gaited Horse with Relaxed Arms & Rubber Band Fingers

By Jennifer Klitzke

When I returned from my Seattle vacation last Fall, I was excited to try out all I learned from Nichole Walters, a student of Philippe Karl, as it relates to following the motion of the head and neck of the naturally gaited horse.

Granted, I rode trotting horses at Nichole’s farm, but while the trotting horse walks, it expresses an even four-beat gait where the head and neck nod with each step. This is where Nicole encouraged me to relax my shoulders, back, and arms to follow the horse’s motion.

It got me thinking. This seemed like a direct take-a-way I ride  my Tennessee walking horse. It was critical that I learn to follow the motion of the head shaking naturally gaited horse while maintaining an even contact with the right and left rein.

After publishing the video: Following the Motion of the Head Shaking Horse, I received a great tip from someone on the Naturally Gaited Facebook page. Along with following the motion of the head and neck with relaxed arms, a women encouraged to open and close my fingers with each head nod. This is what I call “rubber band fingers.”

I began giving this idea a try with both my naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse and my friend’s fox trotting mare now that Winter is over and I’m back in the saddle again.

Along with following the head and neck motion with relaxed arms and rubber band fingers are the importance of relaxation (of mind and body within the horse), skeletal balance (not to be confused with collection), rhythm for the naturally gaited horse, and engaging the hind leg steps deeper under the body.

I am seeing great results from combining these elements. My naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse’s head nod is more defined and regular in timing with the hind leg steps. Her rhythm is more even, and she seems more forward and engaged from behind.

Video: Following the Motion of the Head & Neck

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Relaxation, Softness & Engagement in the Naturally Gaited Horse

relaxation softness and engagement in the naturally gaited horse

Relaxation, Softness & Engagement in the Naturally Gaited Horse

By Jennifer Klitzke

Wowzers, was she ever a hot tamale! After five months of Minnesota winter off, this was Lady’s second ride of the Spring.

Lady is my friend’s naturally gaited fox trotting horse. She is ridden barefoot and in a snaffle bridle. In this riding session, we focused on relaxation (of mind and body), softness in the jaw, and engagement (stepping deeper under the body).

With a little persistence, gentleness, and encouragement, Lady settled into some rather nice fox trotting that was relaxed, soft, and balanced, with good rhythm and engagement.

Video: Relaxation, Softness & Engagement in the Naturally Gaited Horse

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Thanks for watching. Stay connected by subscribing to the Naturally Gaited youtube channel and join our community on facebook.com/naturallygaited.

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2016 FOSH Gaited Dressage Winners

This year my naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse Gift of Freedom and I gave Gaited Western Dressage a try through North American Western Dressage Association (NAWD) Virtual Shows.

2016 was a year of firsts for all three gaited dressage winners

Friends of Sound Horse (FOSH) announced the award winners for the 2016 FOSH Gaited Dressage Program, a division of FOSH Gaited Sport Horse. This unique program recognizes and rewards gaited horses competing in the discipline of Dressage.

2016 entries included the Spotted Saddle Horse, Tennessee Walking Horse, Missouri Fox Trotting Horse, and Rocky Mountain Horse. Eligible scores ranged from 62.8% to 74.50%. Eligible tests may be Live, Virtual, English or Western. Recognition was given in Two Gait, Introductory, Training, First, and Second Levels.

IJA Western Training 2 canter
Jennifer Klitzke riding her naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse Gift of Freedom at one of three North American Western Dressage Association Shows.

For my naturally barefoot and naturally gaited Tennesee walking horse, Gift of Freedom, this was the first we submitted entries for Western Dressage. While we have been award gaited dressage award winners in the FOSH gaited dressage category, this is the first time we have won in the Gaited Western Dressage division.

Loren Hilgenhurst Stevens riding Sosa’s Playboy at Sonset, a Tennessee Walking Horse.

I am thrilled to see gaited dressage grow! Congratulations to Sosa’s Playboy at Sonset, a Tennessee Walking Horse, owned by Nicole Mauser-Storer of Bartonville, IL who are a new entrant to the FOSH gaited dressage program. Not only did this duo submit seven test scores, they won the award for Training Level and achieved the highest score of 74.50%,.

Congratulations also to Cash-N-Out owned by Loren Hilgenhurst Stevens of Atkinson, NH who was a new entry in 2016. This Tennessee Walking Horse was the award recipient in the Two-Gait category, submitting six test scores.


To be eligible for awards in the FOSH Gaited Dressage Program, three scores of 60% and over must have been recorded in any level of Dressage competitions with a recognized judge. Tests must have been specifically developed and written for gaited horses. Recognized tests include IJA, NWHA, WDAA and Cowboy Dressage.

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