Do you have a naturally gaited horse and wonder why it doesn’t have a consistently smooth natural gait?
Lots of people buy a gaited horse thinking that they all automatically gait. While they are all born with the ability to perform naturally smooth gaits, it takes time to train the gaits. It takes time for the horse to develop balance, muscle memory, rhythm, strength to carry a rider in gait, and for the rider to develop the sense of “feel” to discern the difference between a quality step from an unbalanced, rushed, hollow, or disengaged step.
In this video I share what I’ve learned about developing quality gaits —one step at a time. Don’t practice poor quality steps, just transition down and restart with a quality step and build upon that.
I hope your Spring is off to a great start! After six month of winter’s dark and cold, I was chompin’ at the bit for sunshine and ridable terrain to be back in the saddle and riding my naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse Makana and my friend’s naturally gaited fox trotting mare Lady. Thankfully, I’m back riding again. I hope you are, too!
First off, I have great news: Lady, my friend’s fox trotting horse, has officially become a part of my family. Lady has been boarded at my place the last three years and my friend feels called to other time commitments in life. She has turn Lady over to my care, yet she knows that any time she wants to ride, she is more than welcome!
At the same time, due to my aging parents, a full time job, and the demands of life, I had to part with my once-in-a-lifetime Spanish Mustang, Indy, who had made many of my life-long dreams come true: cross country, endurance, stadium jumping, trail obstacles, dressage, and more.
Indy was missing our continual weekend adventures that I no longer had time for during my Dad’s grave illness and my Mom’s need for our assistance on the weekends. I sold him back to the owner I purchased him from. Now Indy is living the trail horse dream. Here’s Indy’s story»
On the bright side, Lady possesses many of Indy’s brave qualities, so who knows, after we get her canter consistently well established on both leads, maybe we’ll be back competing at these same events–only as a gaited duo!
So, now that it’s been Spring, here’s what’s been percolating since I began riding…So much of my focus has been on the depth of stride from behind. Lately I’ve been contemplating about fore stride in addition to the hind leg stride as it relates to head nod, throughness, connection, balance, engagement, rhythm, shoulder scope, and following the horse’s natural movement with my arms and seat. It seems the more I follow the natural motion of the horse, the more freedom I’m seeing in the horses I ride.
Video: Naturally Gaited Tennessee Walking Horse Flat Footed Walk
Have you ever had a special ride with your naturally gaited horse that you replay 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, and forward with rhythm, and a beautiful head nod. We had harmony in our engaged, deep striding even four beat flat-footed walk. Makana felt soft and supple; relaxed yet energetic, and maneuverable and responsive to my leg, seat, and rein aids. She felt lifted in the head, neck, and withers with each deep-swinging head nod in timing with her hind leg steps.
Her head and neck nod came from thoroughness and connection: from the hindquarters, through her engaged abdominals which lifted her back and whither to lighten her forehand and free her shoulders and through my seat and following arms and hands with her head and neck motion to the bit.
I embraced every euphoric moment.
Yet, the exquisite steps didn’t last forever. No worry, each time I felt Makana lose her balance, by beginning to rush or lean into my hands, I would regroup with a half halt by stilling my seat and lower back and squeezing my hands on the reins to slow down her tempo. Then I lifted her head and neck with my hands massaging the reins upward with my palms facing up. As soon as she was no longer leaning on the bit, I asked for engagement from behind and tickled her belly with my heels to lift her back in a frame of balance, and sent her off into a proud flat-footed walk.
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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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.
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.
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.