Tennessee walking horse Gift of Freedom and Jennifer Klitzke were featured as one of the demonstration teams at the Northwoods Dressage “Ride-A-Test” Clinic in Proctor, MN. The team demonstrated how gaited dressage training can improve the natural movement of the gaited horse and rode through NWHA First Level, Test Two before a couple dozen onlookers.
Dressage is More than Trot
I was honored to bring my seven-year-old naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse mare, Gift of Freedom, to the Northwoods Dressage “Ride-A-Test” Clinic in Proctor, MN to demonstrate the benefits of gaited dressage training.We were among five demonstration horse/rider teams over the lunch hour. Other informative and well-executed demonstrations included gymnastic grid training over fences, dressage driving, tandem driving, and an encapsulation of Training-Fourth Level frames, gaits, and movements.
After a bouncy, three-hour trailer ride along 35W road construction, Makana, my saintly husband, and I made it safely to the Dirt Floor Arena with an hour to spare before our NWHA First Level, Test Two gaited dressage demonstration. There were the usual Proctor race track distractions such as a model airplane show to our right, heavy equipment prepping the race track behind us, and a well-used port-a-potty relieving spectators to our left, plus cones, jumps, and carts chasing horses around the warm up arena. My husband even caught on camera some impromptu port-a-potty inspired piaffe between restroom visitors.
Makana rode a respectable test–gaited dressage style–demonstrating the range of gaits: medium walk, free walk, flat walk, running walk, canter, medium canter, and halt. Afterwards we demonstrated suppling exercises that help establish balance, bending, engagement and range of motion. These exercises included the leg yield, shoulder in, haunches in, rein back, transitions between flat walk and canter, serpentines, and 10- and 15-meter canter circles. In case you are wondering, these exercises are not intended to train the gaited horse to trot. Rather, these dressage exercises are meant to bring out the best natural, innate smooth gaits your horse can achieve!
While USEF tests require a trot, dressage as a training method is not measured by whether your horse trots or not. The essence of dressage is to produce balance, rhythm, relaxation, connection, harmony and engagement. These qualities improve the movement of all horse breeds, whether they trot or gait, and to help any horse be the best it can be and a joy to ride.
Whether you intend to show gaited dressage at schooling shows, recognized dressage shows that offer gaited dressage classes or just ride for pleasure, dressage training builds teamwork with your horse and improves your horse’s movement without the use of mechanical devices, harsh bits, and expensive shoes. I’ve witnessed dozens of pacey horses transformed into four-beat, smooth mounts with the use of dressage training–and not one of them trots!