By Jennifer Klitzke
In January I purchased Jennie Jackson’s Dressage En Gaite DVD set with my Christmas money. She email me for feedback. After watching the DVD showing gaited horses moving in collection, engagement and forwardness, I was sold and asked, “Do you ever hold clinics in the Midwest? That’s how the Jennie Jackson Clinic: Dressage as Applied to the Gaited Horse got started. Six months of preparation came together June 29-30, 2013.
So how was it? Stupendous! The Jennie Jackson Clinic: Dressage as Applied to the Gaited Horse exceeded my already high expectations. Horses ages three to thirteen, green to advanced, and riders new to dressage to experienced dressage riders were stretched beyond their comfort zones to bring home effective dressage methods and tools that address their riding goals—english and western.
Jennie drew from her 40 years of experience training and showing Tennessee walking horses. Both horse and rider received individual instruction as Jennie rode each horse and explained concepts to the horse and then coached the rider through the concepts.
If you’ve been following NaturallyGaited.com, you know the two main questions that I’ve been searching for answers are: “How do I ride a head shaking horse on contact?” and “How do I get my horse to go forward without rushing?” Jennie addressed both questions and set me on course with effective tools that will help me school Makana at home. In both lessons I experienced moments of “the feeling of right.” Connection, forwardness, and engagement in a medium walk, flat walk, and canter.
I’ve been an avid dressage rider since 1988 so the concept of inside leg to outside rein is not new. In fact, I believed that I had been riding this way, but not to the degree needed to ride effectively into contact. Jennie explained the proper use of my rein, seat and leg aids. She helped me tap into the power of the “heart-shaped muscle” and helped me understand why “hands together” equals “horse together” and the difference between direct rein and indirect rein.
In terms of forwardness, Jennie noticed that it took twenty-two cues of squeeze, cluck, tap, kick, throw myself forward, bump, and repeat before my horse finally did what I asked. Jennie said, “Your horse reads you faster than you read her.” Makana has duped me into believing she’s doing the best she can when she’s only been giving me 20% of what she is capable of! It is quite humbling and sobering to realize that for the last six years I had literally desensitized my horse to my leg aids.
Intervention was in order. Jennie showed me ways of retraining my horse to respond to my first cue and to establish myself as the leader in our relationship.
Riders and their Walking horses learned lateral exercises to break up pace or trot, engage the hindquarters, and to introduce, develop and improve the quality of the canter over cavalettis. Lateral exercises as pivoting around the fore, shoulder in, shoulder fore, and leg yield molded horses into exquisite, round and beautiful frames. Then we all got an adrenaline rush watching Jennie coach one of the riders in hand gallop to help develop the topline for collected canter. Both riders and auditors took pages of notes to jog their memories as they returned home.
One of my favorite sessions was watching Jennie ride a multi-gaited Tennessee walking horse through medium walk, flat walk, foxtrot, rack, and running walk and then coach the rider through the same series of gaits. Another session Jennie transformed a pacey horse into a natural four-beat gait using dressage methods and coached the rider in ways to maintain the smooth gait.
An enormous “thank you” to Walker’s Triple R for hosting the event, to riders and auditors that helped bring Jennie to Minnesota, and a huge “thank you” to Jennie and Nate Jackson who drove the 2,000-mile trek from Tennessee to Minnesota and back. We are already talking about when Jennie will be back!
In my quest for answers the last six years riding my Tennessee walking horse using dressage methods, I feel like I have finally connected with “the feeling of right” as it relates to riding a head-shaking horse on contact and forwardness.
For more about Jennie Jackson, visit Jennie Jackson: Dressage En Gaite.
Gaited dressage clinic photo gallery>
About Jennie Jackson
In the 1980s Jennie began applying and perfecting dressage methods of training to gaited horses, and in 1998 she introduced dressage as a humane training alternative to the Tennessee Walking Horse breed. In 2006, Jennie and her famous Tennessee Walking Horse stallion Champagne Watchout performed the first Dressage En Gaite Musical Freestyle at The Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY. The team demonstrated Prix St. George movements as canter pirouette, tempi changes, and piaffe and passage en gaite. In 2010, Jennie and Champagne Watchout were formally invited to exhibit their Dressage En Gaite Musical Freestyle at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games as the official breed representative of the Tennessee Walking Horse. For more about Jennie Jackson and Champagne Watchout, visit Jennie Jackson: Dressage En Gaite.