Tag Archives: Jennifer Bauer

Spooky Horse or Nervous Rider?

Depth of stride
Nothing improves depth of stride better than a camera man hiding in the bushes!

By Jennifer Klitzke

I believe that riding fear is very common, and if you struggle with it, I certainly relate with you.

After a few scary falls in my early twenties, I became gripped with uncontrollable and paralyzing riding fear to the point of hyperventilation. The fear controlled me because I felt out of control whenever my horse did something that MIGHT result in me falling off and getting hurt again. I only felt safe riding in an indoor arena with no distractions on a calm day riding to the left at a walk.

I faced a cross roads: give up riding horses, my passion, or meet this fear head on. Thankfully the latter won out!

During the course of the last 26 years, I have developed a theory about spooky horses and nervous riders which is based upon my plight with riding fear, coupled with the people (and my faith) who have made a difference in helping me manage it. Most helpful to me are a blend of teachings from these great mentors: Larry Whitesell and Jennifer Bauer who have taught me how to become a trusted leader, Jennie Jackson who has taught me gaited dressage and riding confidence, and Mary Wanless who has taught me a secure riding position.

My theory begins with this: I don’t believe that there are bomb-proof horses. I think some horses are more reactive than others and a fearful rider will heighten a horse’s reactivity. I’ve seen it dozens of times when an owner turns over a spooky horse to a clinician and the horse relaxes as soon as the clinician takes over.

My husband proves it to me each time I lose my focus and struggle with my naturally gaited Walking horse when she spooks at a swaying bush on a windy day. My darling husband hops on and in a matter of minutes he’s riding by the disco bush without a care. I’ve had hundreds of dressage lessons over the last 27 years and he’s had a handful. So how does he do it?

For starters I believe that God brought horses into my life to mirror my soul and help me get in touch with what’s really going on. I used to run to horses as an escape from a rough day only to have had the worst ride of my life. Over the years God has used horses to teach me about myself and lean on Him as my Source of Life. From time to time I lose sight of this and horses continue to humble me and keep my priorities in order. My faith has given me life purpose, meaning, identity, and the courage to persevere and not give up.

Jennifer Klitzke riding at a Larry Whitesell gaited horsemanship clinic
Larry Whitesell demonstrating and explaining
shoulder-in as I get a feel for it from the saddle.

Secondly is the leadership I convey to my horse which I have learned from Larry Whitesell and Jennifer Bauer. My Walking horse mare tends to be reactive to noise and sudden movement. How I react to her makes all the difference. When I maintain myself as a trusted leader by calmly bringing her back to balance and relaxation and redirecting her attention through transitions every few steps (walk, halt, rein back, walk, shoulder in, etc.), that’s when we are successful. BUT when I react to what she MIGHT do, irrational fear springs up in me, I tense up, make a high pitch scream, and pull on the reins (something like the top photo), and it only exacerbates the nervousness in my horse.

2013 jennie jackson dressage en gaite clinic
Jennie Jackson teaching dressage
as applied to the gaited horse
.

Most recently God has aligned my path with gaited dressage master Jennie Jackson. She is the only person in history who has trained and shown a Tennessee walking horse to the highest levels of dressage with her naturally gaited stallion Champaign Watchout. I am honored to have brought her to my state for two years in a row for intensive lessons which have catapulted me and my naturally gaited mare into a fearlessly forward moving flatwalk in connection. Jennie has challenged me to confidently ride through the storms, not react to them, and train myself to replace a high-pitched scream for a low growl. These tips have increased my riding confidence and have reduced my mare’s spookiness.

Finally, developing a secure and balanced riding position builds rider confidence like none other. Right after facing my cross roads in 1988, I began studying riding bio-mechanics from Mary Wanless when she published her first book, The Natural Rider. This book addresses riding fear in a way that makes sense to me.

Jennifer Klitzke riding at a Mary Wanless Clinic
Jennifer Klitzke riding her Spanish Mustang
getting established in the ABCs of riding
bio-mechanics with Mary Wanless.

Since then I have purchased Mary’s Ride With Your Mind DVD series, several of her other books, and have audited her clinics whenever she comes to my region. I was fortunate enough to have ridden at one of her clinics three years ago. Mary brought the book and DVD learning to real-time application. She taught me the importance of aligning my external anatomy, breathing deep into my stomach, and the isokinetic effort of bearing down my internal anatomy and sealing my seat and thighs alongside the saddle for a more secure position while distributing my body weight more comfortably along the horse’s back. Instead of fixing the horse, she challenged me to become aware of my riding position to fix myself which naturally restores my horse’s way of going.

Mary’s riding bio-mechanics have taught me a more secure and balanced riding position. Because of this I am better able to confidently ride through spooks. As a result, there is less fear in me and I produce less reactive fear in my horse. This translates into less overall spooks and a more harmonious riding relationship with my horse.

So what is my darling husband’s secret to calmly riding my mare by the disco bush? I think he is deeply grounded in his priorities, he presents trusted leadership with the horse, and a naturally balanced riding position. If the horse were to spook, he wouldn’t get rattled by all that the horse MIGHT do. (In fact, his mind doesn’t even go there.) His secure position would keep him in the saddle, he would bring the horse back to balance and relaxation, and the horse would look to him as the trusted leader.

The example between my husband and I riding the same horse within minutes of each other with the same conditions and completely different outcomes reinforces my theory: Some horses are more reactive than others and a fearful rider heightens a horse’s reactivity.

If you struggle with riding fear, hang in there and persevere. I’m sure glad that I did. My struggle with debilitating fear didn’t disappear overnight. But today I enjoy showing my naturally gaited Walking horse at open schooling dressage shows, trail riding, team penning, sorting cows, endurance races, jumping courses, cross country, and trail obstacles.

Fear no longer controls my life—thank God—I am FREE!


For more about riding bio-mechanics, visit mary-wanless.com.

For more about gaited dressage, visit Jennie Jackson at, www.facebook.com/groups/JennieJacksonDressageEnGaite/

For for more about natural gaited horsemanship, visit Larry Whitesell’s Web site, whitesellgaitedhorsemanship.com and Jennifer Bauer’s Web site, gaitedhorsemanship.com

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Video: “I bought a gaited horse, why isn’t it gaiting?”

Gaited Dressage: Training Level
First gaited dressage show (2010).

By Jennifer Klitzke

“I bought a gaited horse, why isn’t it gaiting?”

Does this sound familiar? Many people, like me, buy a gaited horse and are perplexed that it doesn’t come out of the box gaiting. While the easy gaits are hard-wired into a gaited horse’s genes, it takes miles of correct and consistent training to develop a four-beat, head-nodding, ear flapping flat walk, and many miles more to build the running walk and canter. A special bit or gaited saddle won’t make them gait either. But an ill-fitting saddle can hinder a gaited horse to gait.

Some people invest hundreds and even thousands of dollars in professional training to make their horse gait. While professional training is a great investment, it still pays to learn how to ride in the manner the horse was trained. That way the rider and horse will communicate with the same language that the trainer taught the horse. And that takes time for the rider to develop—especially if dressage is the method of choice.

In 2007 I bought my first gaited horse, Gift of Freedom (Makana). She was just turning three years old with 20 rides on her. Me, I had over twenty years experience riding and training hard-trotting horses dressage-style, so gaits like the flat walk, running walk, and rack were completely foreign to me. All I knew is that I wanted a smooth horse to ride.

I wanted smooth and I got smooth—only discerning which smooth gait Makana was performing with each step took some time to develop a feel for. In the beginning of her flat walk training it was common for her to take a couple steps of flat walk, a few of step pace and a few steps of rack. Then we’d slow down enough to untangle her legs and started again.

So, how do you develop the feel for the easy gait of choice from the saddle and how do you get your gaited horse to become consistent in it? Here’s what I did:

1. Study good books and videos. There are lots of resources out there. The following books and videos have been helpful to me: The late Lee Ziegler wrote a terrific book, “Easy-Gaited Horses” that is very descriptive in how the gaits sound and feel. Gary Lane and Anita Howe’s DVD “From the Trail to the Rail,” the late Brenda Imus’s DVD “Gaits from God”, and Ivy Schexnayder’s “A Smooth Gait Naturally” are wonderful and affordable DVDs that show correct gaits in regular and slow motion with tips on how to achieve them for yourself. Clinton Anderson’s DVD series “Gaited Horsemanship” helped me in Makana’s early training as a three year old.

2. Get good coaching from gaited dressage and gaited horsemanship instructors. I’ve been fortunately to get great coaching from people like Jennie Jackson, Jennifer Bauer, and Larry Whitesell who travel to my state each year. Jennie Jackson’s gaited dressage coaching has helped me establish connection and forwardness to improve my horse’s flat walk, while Jennifer Bauer and Larry Whitesell have helped me learn a natural and humane training philosophy which is based on classical French dressage.

3. Record your riding. I like to capture a ride a week on video which helps me see what I feel from the saddle. I set my video camera on a tripod to capture glimpses of my ride while making comments about how the ride feels so that when I watch it I can see if what I feel matches what I see. (I’ve uploaded a few of my videos on the Naturally Gaited You Tube channel.)

4. Enter your gaited horse at schooling dressage shows. This is my favorite way to get feedback from a professional eye on where I’m at in regards to rhythm, relaxation, harmony, balance, connection, engagement, gaits, rider position and effective use of aids.

When I learn of a schooling dressage show in my area, I contact the show manager and ask if I can ride my gaited horse using a NWHA or FOSH test. Then I mail the tests in with my entry form. The judge will write comments the score sheet of areas that went well and areas that need improvement. This helps me know what to work on when I get home. I find this feedback priceless.

Over the years Makana and I have progressed from Intro, Training and First levels of dressage. Now we are working on Second level movements to refine the quality of our running walk and collected canter.

At the 20-plus schooling dressage shows I have ridden at, I am far outnumbered by the trotting horses. Intrigued people always ask, “What kind of horse is that? She looks so SMOOTH to ride.” And I always say, “Yes, the sitting trot was hard on my grandma body and I didn’t want to give up dressage. I just wanted SMOOTH. That’s why I bought a gaited horse.”

So if your gaited horse hasn’t been gaiting lately, now you have a few new ideas to try and reclaim your SMOOTH!

Video: A Collection of Naturally Smooth Gaits

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Gaited Dressage: The Feeling of Right

Gaited dressage: The feeling of right

By Jennifer Klitzke

So much of effective dressage training comes through knowing and applying “the feeling of right.” This entails discerning when the horse begins to move off course and making adjustments to restore balance, relaxation, rhythm, harmony, suppleness, and impulsion. It takes time to develop what balance feels like in each gait and feel the difference between a quality and impure gait from the saddle, to feel when the horse begins to rush or lag, go hollow, duck behind the bit, drop its back, fall on the forehand, get tense in the jaw, lack bend or rhythm, and the list goes on.

Since 1988, I have been an avid student of dressage and competed successfully through second level until life-altering circumstances and my aging dressage horse ended our competition in 1996. Over the course of the next 16 years, I moved to a hobby farm in non-dressage country and relied on the knowledge and skills gained through 12 years of regular dressage lessons in my daily hacks.

In 2007, I purchased my first naturally gaited horse—mainly to save my aging body from the sitting trot. I knew nothing about training gaited horses. All I knew is that I wanted SMOOTH, and out of default dressage became our method of training. I wasn’t even sure if dressage and gaited horses worked together. We would just have to find out.

So much of effective dressage training comes through knowing and applying “the feeling of right.” This entails discerning when the horse begins to move off course and making adjustments to restore balance, relaxation, rhythm, harmony, suppleness, and impulsion. It takes time to develop what balance feels like in each gait and feel the difference between a quality and impure gait from the saddle, to feel when the horse begins to rush or lag, go hollow, duck behind the bit, drop its back, fall on the forehand, get tense in the jaw, lack bend or rhythm, and the list goes on.

While there are many similarities between riding trotting and gaited horses, I quickly discovered how “the feeling of right” on a trotting horse is not exactly the same as how it feels on a gaited horse. It was easier for me to feel balance, rhythm, impulsion, and connection in trot than it was to feel balance, rhythm, impulsion, and connection in flat walk and even harder for me to feel these qualities in lateral movements as shoulder-in at a flat walk.

I became perplexed with questions like: How do I develop “the feeling of right” between flat walk, rack, fox trot, stepping pace, and running walk when they are all SMOOTH? Once defined, how do I discern the difference between an adequate flat walk and an exceptional flat walk when both are SMOOTH? What does balance, rhythm, impulsion, and connection feel like in each smooth gait? How do I ride a head nodding horse on the bit? Do my hands move to and fro with the horse’s head nod (as I would follow a trotting horse at a walk)? Or do my hands remain stationary and let the horse learn how to nod without getting pulled in the mouth? I had 20 years experience riding trot and this dressage en gait thing was a whole new experience.

It became clear that I needed gaited dressage lessons with my horse to learn a new sense of “feel.” Since gaited dressage instruction didn’t exist in my area, I began trailering my horse to gaited dressage clinics that came to my region each year. Receiving instruction from Jennie Jackson, Larry Whitesell, Jennifer Bauer, and Bucky Sparks began to give me a better feel for balance, rhythm, impulsion, and connection, discernment between the gaits, and gait quality.

If you’re fortunate enough to live by a gaited dressage instructor, start taking regular lessons. If not, join a local dressage club to connect with dressage riders and find an open-minded dressage instructor who will teach you rider position and effective use of aids and help you establish balance, rhythm, impulsion, and connection in gait.

Pursuing “the feeling of right” is an ongoing journey and thanks to the quality instruction I’ve received, I’m developing a better sense of it.

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Naturally Gaited 2013 Most Memorable Moments

By Jennifer Klitzke

From scenic trail rides to new gaited dressage venues to gaited dressage clinics and many firsts, here are my top 10 most memorable moments of 2013:

naturallygaited-riding-in-snow

10. Riding in the snow
The winter of 2013 didn’t want to end! A snow covered landscape through May gave me many memorable moments of walkin’ in wonderland!
Story: Walkin’ in Wonderland

naturallygaited-rocking-r-farm-gaited-dressage

9. Rocking R Farm Schooling Dressage Show
I’ve ridden at several Rocking R schooling dressage shows since 2010. They’ve been offering gaited dressage classes at all three of their annual schooling shows (Western dressage, too). I hope 2014 is the year that I won’t be the only one riding a gaited horse!
Story: Gaited Dressage at Rocking R

 

naturallygaited-whitesell-bauer-unlocking-braces

8. Larry Whitesell/Jennifer Bauer Gaited Dressage Clinic
In August I returned to my third Whitesell/Bauer Gaited Dressage Clinic. Among the many memorable moments were connecting a few more dots in grasping Larry’s riding philosophy which is patterned after French classical dressage (see clinic recap); solo rides through the beautifully groomed trail system on my Spanish Mustang while Makana rested up for another full clinic day; and gaining important answers to the reason I returned to Larry’s clinic a third time.
Story: Back and Forth to Better Movement

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7. Orienteering
2013 held many firsts for me and my gaited horse Makana which included learning how to follow a map, read a compass, and decipher clues to find six hidden targets on our first mounted orienteering event.
Story: Maps, Compasses, and Clues

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6. Autumn Trail Ride
I experienced many memorable trail rides this year. Among them was the autumn trail ride through Crow-Hassan Park Reserve on my birthday with my saintly husband. Riding through the canopies of gold was like a sunrise in the forest. Photos>

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5. North Run Schooling Dressage Shows
Ranking five among my most memorable moments of 2013 was showing at North Run Farm Schooling Dressage Shows. North Run became another traditional dressage venue which welcomed gaited dressage entries. Both North Run shows I took my gaited horse to were extremely well organized, drew a friendly crowd, and the judge provided encouragement to each rider after each test. If you’re thinking about giving gaited dressage schooling shows a try in 2014, North Run is a wonderful venue to start with.
Story: Gaited Dressage at North Run

naturallygaited-dressage-at-st-geroge

4. St. George Schooling Dressage Shows
Like North Run, St. George Equestrian Center also graciously accommodated gaited dressage entries at their schooling shows this year. St. George is a posh, brand new, state-of-the-art facility with perfect footing, a competition sized outdoor arena surrounded with scenic woodland, an enormous indoor arena lined with mirrors and giant fans that circulate the air. The shows are well organized and the atmosphere is beginner friendly, helpful, and relaxed. In addition to the scoring sheet, the judge gave each rider significant suggestions after each ride to help them improve.
Story: Gaited Dressage at St. George

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3. Endurance
My third most memorable moment of 2013 was taking my gaited horse to a 10-mile novice endurance ride. I was pleasantly surprised when my naturally gaited mare was naturally forward the entire ride! This had been the first time I actually felt what “ahead of my leg” on this horse is suppose to feel like. (Now if I can harness this forward desire in an arena, we might just break into second level this year!)
Story: Naturally Gaited at Mosquito Run

naturallygaited-working-with-cows

2. Working with Cows
My second most memorable moment of 2013 was discovering how much fun Makana and I had working with cows. If it weren’t for my cow-chasing friend, I would have never given it a serious thought, but she got us signed up for the “Introducing Your Horse to Cows Clinic.” After the clinic we joined a cow sorting league and a couple team penning practices. Chasing cows is another activity that inspires my mare to be naturally forward.
Story: Gaited Dressage and Cows?

naturallygaited-Jennie-Jackson-dressage=as=applied-to-the-gaited-horse-clinic

1. Jennie Jackson Clinic: Dressage as Applied to the Gaited Horse
Hands down, my most memorable moment in 2013 was spending a few days being coached by Jennie Jackson. Jennie is the only person I know of in history who has trained and shown a Tennessee walking horse to the highest levels of dressage: piaffe en gait, passage en gait, canter pirouettes, tempi changes, and developing the full range of motion–collected through extended walks, gaits, and canters.

During the last seven years of pursuing dressage with my gaited horse I’ve wrestled with a few questions: How do I ride a head-shaking horse on-the-bit? How do I develop an elegant, balanced dressage form in my gaited horse? How high up the dressage levels can a gaited horse go while maintaining gait? Is it possible to collect a gaited horse?

In January I purchased Jennie Jackson’s Dressage en Gaite training DVDs in hopes of finding answers to these questions. After watching the DVDs I knew that Jennie would be able to help me and my horse. That’s when I asked Jennie to teach a Dressage as Applied to the Gaited Horse Clinic in my state. The clinic was a huge success.
Story: Dressage as Applied to the Gaited Horse Clinic with Jennie Jackson.

As an added bonus, Jennie’s husband Nate also came to the clinic. The Jackson’s traveled half way across the country in an RV and camped at my place during the clinic. Words do not describe the honor and respect I have for the Jacksons’ tenacity, perseverance, and integrity as they have taken a stand against TWH soring and abuse for 30 years. While they camped in their RV parked in my backyard, it was a privilege to call them neighbor and leave as friends!

Here’s hoping for another clinic with Jennie Jackson in 2014!

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Gaited Dressage Riding Recipe

Gaited dressage: my riding recipe

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.

Bon Appétit!

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