Tag Archives: long and low

Gaited Dressage: From First Level to Intro?

Three Ring Circus Schooling Show

By Jennifer Klitzke

In an unexpected turn of events, Gift of Freedom (Makana) found her way to the Three Ring Circus schooling show held at Carriage House Farm in Hugo, MN on May 28, 2012 and sponsored by St. Croix Saddlery.

And how’s that, you ask? Well, I woke up at 5am to give Indy, my six-year-old Spanish Mustang a bath before his second schooling dressage show, when I noticed a gash under his chin where the bridle would fasten. “Oh, crap!” I thought as I cleaned up his wound. Then I wondered if the show manager would let me switch horses as long as we rode the tests we had entered. Being 5:30am and our first class at 7:58am with an hour drive time, I took the gamble and cleaned up the other horse I have a current coggins on: Gift of Freedom. The only problem is that Makana doesn’t trot and this is a large trotting horse show.

“Oh, well,” I thought, “we’ll go for the experience.” So I quickly got Makana ready, and we were on our way to the largest show I’ve ever been to—over 200 horses entered. Makana rode in place of Indy in Intro A, B, and C dressage tests with 24 horse/rider teams in each category. We drew a lot of attention as the only horse that didn’t trot, and as a result, I had several great conversations with people about gaited horses and dressage training.

I even met one family who’s daughter shows their Tennessee walking horse at a trot and has done very well at recognized shows. She said her horse’s trot is super smooth. Now that would be ideal, a smooth trotting horse. Compare that to my warmblood who practically sends me to the chiropractor every time I ride him! So if you have a Walker that trots, maybe traditional dressage shows are in your future. Gaited dressage clinician Bucky Sparks says his Walking horse stallion can trot on cue without it disrupting the flat walk and running walk, so I know it is possible to train a horse to trot and gait. As for me, I bought a gaited horse to gait and a trotting horse to trot.

We had terrific weather for the show. The Carriage House Farm facility is top-class with dust-free rubberized footing in the indoor and well-drained ag-lime footing outdoors. The show was extremely well organized for the number of trailers transporting over 200 horses and hundreds of cars filled with spectators. Amazing!

Makana seemed to enjoy being there as much as I did. I giggle because we had skipped Intro level when we began showing at dressage schooling shows a couple years ago. Now we are schooling second level and here we were showing Intro level. Makana did the best she could. After the first ride, the judge commented, “I have no idea how to judge your tests because you didn’t show a trot.” After our last ride she commented, “Nicely ridden. That’s a very nice, obedient, supple gaited horse.”

We finished all tests in the 53-56%-range and about middle of the score board—not bad for a horse that doesn’t trot!

Gaited horse at Three Ring Circus dressage show

Gift of Freedom and Jennifer Klitzke were the only gaiting gaited duo among a hundred entries at the Three Ring Circus Schooling Show held Sunday, May 28, 2012.






Record-Breaking March Heat


Western gaited dressage

By Jennifer Klitzke

Lawn mowers, mosquitoes, flowering trees, song birds in chorus, and the return of hay fever—in March!

Midwest March heat melted previous high-temperature records. Perhaps the March heat is what inspired my mare’s record-breaking heat that showed up the day before our western gaited  dressage demonstration this season.

Up until last year when she turned seven, Makana had been a saint 95% of the time. That’s when I began to notice a change in her behavior. Saint one day and erratic the next. It was nearly impossible to get her moving forward.

At first I thought it was my riding position, then I explored saddle fitting issues, tried some supplements, and changed her diet. The one thing I hadn’t considered was a change in her hormones, mainly because I can never tell when she’s in heat. She shows no physical outward signs.

Makana and I had a terrific time riding through the mild winter temperatures, until March, the day before our gaited dressage demonstration at the Western Dressage Clinic. The day before the clinic I had my record-breaking worst ride ever! Explosive, distracted, spooky, unwilling to turn or bend to the right, I couldn’t believe this was the same horse I had been riding all winter! Getting after her only made her behavior worse, so I asked for my saintly husband’s help.

Dan grabbed his helmet and said, “How about if I get on? I’ve never experienced what you’re describing.” He calmly climbed on and walked her around singing, “Rawhide.” Makana mellowed out within a few verses. Was it the song? Not likely, but my husband’s approach made a profound difference, and he taught me an important lesson. He patiently wooed Makana out of her frenzy by inviting her into relaxation. My approach of reacting to her behavior by getting after her only stirred her up more. Ding-dong!

So, at the Western Dressage Clinic, I didn’t sing “Rawhide,” but I did apply Dan’s approach as I dealt with Makana’s marishness and it worked. No explosions; no erratic behavior. My mare could have been more forward and paid a little more attention to me over that handsome demonstration gelding, but I didn’t react to her marishness by getting after her. I kept redirecting her to relaxation through long and low stretching, leg yields, shoulder-in, hauches-in, rein back, transitions between the working walk, flat walk, running walk, free walk and canter. In fact, we even rode through first level, test one!

The success of Dan’s approach really doesn’t surprise me. After all, he knows how to gently love me out of a rather marish day and turn it into smiles and sunshine.

Video: Western Dressage Demonstration: NWHA First Level, Test One

As a “thank you” gift from the clinic organizers, Makana received her first bag of “Mare Magic.” I’ve heard good reports and will keep you posted.


Long and low

Riding your horse in a long and low frame will improve the quality of all gaits. Freewalk on a long rein is a great way to start a young green horse, as well as begin and end every ride on a horse of any level of training.

The DVD “Training the Gaited Horse from the Trail to the Rail” by Gary Lane with Anita Howe shows vintage footage of foundation Walking Horses along with footage of today’s Walking Horses, and offers tips to resolve common gait problems such as pacing and hard trotting in the gaited horse by using long and low. Anita builds her foundation in the easy-gaits by encouraging a forward flat walk in a long and low frame. Over weeks or months of consistent work and after the horse has developed its muscles and established a consistent four-beat step, more speed is added .