Tag Archives: western gaited dressage

Harmony, Trust and Partnership

Harmony Trust and Partnership

By Jennifer Klitzke

For years I couldn’t understand why my horses didn’t want to go forward. It wasn’t until I stumbled upon a new approach to dressage that I realized I had been riding with the gas pedal and brake pedal on at the SAME time each time I drove my horse with my seat and legs into closed hands.

I thirsted for harmony, partnership, trust, and lightness in my riding with my horses. I was tired of setting agendas for my horses and ready to invite them into a dance of relaxation, balance, harmony, and lightness—where ever that would lead us.

If you’ve been following Naturally Gaited for the last couple years, you know that classical French dressage has become my language of choice.

I’ve been studying books and DVDs by Philippe Karl, a DVD by Lisa Maxwell (a student of the late Jean Claude Racinet, who studied the work of Francois Baucher), taken lessons from Susan Norman, a student of both Philippe Karl and Jean Claude, and lessons from Nichole Walters, a student of Philippe Karl.

These teachings have rocked my world! Notably because they sharply contrast the German dressage training I had studied for the preceding decades. It wasn’t the contrast that made me switch. It was the truths in the contrast that made me switch. (Just watch the DVD: Classic vs. Classique where the French and German theories go head-to-head in a convincing demonstration.)

For me, I couldn’t understand why my horses didn’t want to go forward. It wasn’t until I began to open my mind to the French method that I realized I had been riding with the gas pedal and brake pedal on at the SAME time each time I drove my horse with my seat and legs into closed hands.

I was also tired of being a domineering micro-manager with my horses, and I thirsted for harmony, partnership, trust, and lightness in my riding. I was tired of “making” my horses DO and GO, and I was ready to “ask” my horses to dance with me—even if it meant giving up showing and my expectation of moving up in the levels each year.

If I was able to maintain harmony, trust, and partnership in the show ring, then I’d be open to showing, but if showing became a demand at every letter, then it was time to recheck my motives.

Last year my Dad grew gravely ill, and I didn’t have time to travel to shows. It was more important to be with my family. This is when I discovered virtual shows. Currently, the only organization that offers virtual shows is the National Western Association of America (NWAA). Many of their virtual shows are open to gaited horses. Not only could I ride and record my test from my own backyard, I could ride my test within the relaxation, harmony, trust, and partnership that I felt was essential in our dressage training.

I hope to get out to a show or two this summer (virtual and/or live). If not, I will for sure enjoy riding my horses with harmony, trust, and partnership.

Video: Separating the gas pedal from the brake pedal

For a list of gaited dressage tests, see “Links” in the right sidebar.

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Life and Random Thoughts about Gaited Dressage

By Jennifer Klitzke

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!

Lady FoxtrotFirst 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.

NAWD Basic 3 stretch trot 1
My Spanish Mustang Indian’s Legend showing a jog by allowing the horse to stretch its head and neck out and down.

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»

050617 Lady jumpingOn 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

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Harvest Virtual Western Dressage Show

2016-harvest-virtual-show

By Jennifer Klitzke

It has been a rainy summer. I was lucky to have one dry day to film our rides for the Harvest Virtual Western Dressage Show before another storm swamped the arena.

Since the last virtual Western dressage show, I’ve been working on improving engagement with my friend’s naturally gaited horse Lady and it paid off. Lady was the only gaited horse shown in NAWD Intro 2 and placed second out of 11 horses with a score of 64.821%.

Video: NAWD Western Dressage Intro 2

Lady ridden in her easy gait.

This show was the first time my Spanish Mustang Indian’s Legend (Indy) and my naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse Gift of Freedom (Makana) competed against each other in the same show, riding the same test.

Indy placed first in NAWD Basic 3 with a score of 66% and Makana placed third with a score of 58.857%. She was the only gaited horse among the three horses riding NAWD Basic 3.

Video: NAWD Western Dressage Basic 3 TWH-style

Makana demonstrating a flat walk.

Video: NAWD Western Dressage Basic 3 Spanish Mustang-style

Indy being ridden on a 20 meter circle allowing the horse to stretch.

The show had a good turnout with 127 entries ranging from Intro through Basic, Freestyle, Therapeutic, Working in Hand and Versatility for Youth, Adult Amateur, and Open.

Harvest Virtual Show results»

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A Full Week: Western Dressage, Cow Sorting & Endurance

IJA Western Training 2 medium walk
Naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse Gift of Freedom performing IJA Western Training 2.

By Jennifer Klitzke

This year I’ve pretty much put showing on hold, because its been so touch and go with my Dad who is in hospice care. But, I thought I could sneak in a few local events: a Virtual Western Dressage Show (that I can do without leaving home), a Cow Sorting League (only minutes from my house) and the Mosquito Run Endurance Ride (held once a year at a local park).

Only I didn’t seem to notice that all three events were held in the same week until the week of. Working full time with an ailing father in hospice, what was I thinking?!

Virtual Western Dressage
North American Western Dressage Association (NAWD) offers several Virtual shows each year. Makana and I  gave it a try a couple months ago and we couldn’t wait for the next one. We have been practicing the feedback I had received from the judge’s remarks and from my gaited dressage mentor Jennie Jackson.

When I saw that NAWD was having another Virtual Show, my over zealous enthusiasm overtook my sense of available time. I registered three horses for the show. Most challenging was finding time to squeeze in the rides between working full time, visits with my Dad, the cow sorting league, endurance rides, filming the tests around my husband’s schedule, the week’s inclement weather, and forcing my grandma brain to memorize three new Western dressage tests!

For this Western Dressage Virtual Show I entered my naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse, Gift of Freedom (Makana), my friend’s naturally gaited grade horse, Lady, and my Spanish Mustang, Indian’s Legend (Indy). It was Lady’s very first show and Indy’s first Western Dressage show.

 

NAWD Intro 2
Naturally gaited grade horse, Lady, in her easy gait while showing for the first time in NAWD Intro 2.
NAWD Basic 3 stretch trot 1
My Spanish Mustang Indian’s Legend showing a required movement in NAWD Basic 3, a jog allowing the horse to stretch its head and neck out and down.

Our window for recording our rides just happened to be at the same time our neighbor took down his trees next to our arena with the brush hog. This stirred up an arsenal of repellent-resistant biting flies that came in for the attack!

Despite the distractions, we made the best of it. I rode Makana in IJA Western Training Level 2, Lady in NAWD Intro 2, and Indy in NAWD Basic 3.

Cow Time!
A couple weeks back I saw a last minute opening for the July Cow Sorting League. I knew Makana was due for some cow time, because it’s her favorite thing to do. (My theory: since she’s lowest on the pecking order, cows give her something to push around!)

Sorting cows with a gaited horse

We finished our first week getting all ten cows sorted in order within 70 seconds! Not the fastest by far (which was an amazing 46 seconds) but it felt good to officially achieve this milestone.

Endurance Ride
On Sunday, I entered Makana in a ten-mile Mosquito Run novice endurance ride at Crow Hassan Park Reserve. That morning we were hit with ANOTHER thunderstorm. Many riders had packed up and headed for home just before Makana and I arrived. So many riders had left that I thought the event had cancelled. (At least it made it easy to find a parking spot!)

The novice ride headed out with two large groups of seven. The footing was slick in spots with lots of puddles, but the storms cooled down the temperature for a comfortable ride.

The week’s thunderstorms had taken a toll on the park. We passed hundreds of mature trees that had fallen during the storms. Many thanks to the Park Reserve staff who worked hard to clear the trails so that the endurance ride could go on.

Our group was composed of three Tennessee walking horses, a Rockie, and three Arabians. It was wonderful to ride with other gaited horses. While our gaited horses outpassed the nongaited horses at a walk, the speed required of the ride in order to make time forced our gaited horses to trot, speed rack (or canter) the majority of the ride. I asked Makana for a speed rack. She held it for a while, but waffled between the rack, the trot, and canter.

Mosquito Run endurance ride

Three miles before the finish line we all cooled off in the lake. Makana and I took our first swim! We walked in the water until her entire body submerged and all that surfaced the water was her ears, nostrils, and eyeballs. Thank God horses are intuitively good swimmers!

Makana and I made the optimum time and took sixth place out of 12 entries.  (We even surpassed the Arabians!)

2016 Mosquito Run

I’ll see you soon Dad. Hang in there! I love you! (Next time I’ll double check my calendar before committing to these events.)

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Video: Western Gaited Dressage – Our First Virtual Show

FOSH IJA Western Training 1 bending through the corners
Medium walk showing bend through the corners.

By Jennifer Klitzke

I felt like I was dressed up for a Halloween costume party wearing this get up, but I thought I’d give Western gaited dressage a try again. This time without leaving home. I saw a Facebook post for a virtual Western dressage show that was open to gaited horses. So my naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse Makana and I rode the FOSH IJA Training 1 Test which calls for regular walk, medium walk, free walk, intermediate gait (flat walk), and canter.

What’s nice about a virtual show is that you can ride from home—no need to trailer to the show grounds, as long as you have an arena marked off and someone to record your ride. No editing allowed, just the raw footage to capture the entire test, post it to youtube and wait for the results and feedback via email.

Then if you feel like it, you can share the video link with others and ask for their feedback as to how you and your horse could have ridden the test better.

Video: FOSH IJA Training 1

NAWD IJA TR1-first place
Always feels good to take home a blue (even if you’re the only one in the class).

One of the judge’s comments about our test was: “Excessive head nod.” Isn’t that what a Tennessee walking horse is known for?

Perplexed, I asked my gaited dressage mentor Jennie Jackson for feedback on how to improve my Western riding.

Jennie gave me terrific feedback in regards to riding the medium walk, which makes up the majority of this test. She said that at times during the medium walk, my horse displays a “head peck” instead of a “head nod.”

“Head peck? What on earth is that?!” I asked. Jennie said that the head nod is where the Tennessee walking horse travels forward from the hindquarters through a neutral to round back into a connection with the rider’s seat and light rein contact (not loose, floppy reins). The head nod should lower down from the head and neck with each step of the hind legs.

The head peck, on the other hand, is a disconnected head motion from the hind leg steps where the horse simply flicks its nose upward.

To correct the head peck, Jennie said that I need to encourage my horse to step deeply under her body where I feel her back raise up under my seat and then travel through the shoulders,neck, and poll to the bit.

Video: Head Nod (or Head Peck)?

Jennie also mentioned that I need to “freshen up” Makana’s canter with hand galloping to get her back to a three-beat canter. It’s not enough to be satisfied with just getting the correct canter lead. I need to work on improving our canter to the quality of the trotting horses. Will we ever attain it? Maybe not, but it is something to aspire to.

Ah, yes! After reviewing the video, I see the nose flicking head peck at the medium walk and the rather flat canter.

Now that’s terrific feedback I can begin working on the next time I ride. I hope by sharing these videos and feedback will help you at home as you train your gaited horse in dressage.

Feel free to write to me any time with your comments, questions, and stories. I’d love to hear about your gaited dressage journey. Stay connected by subscribing to the Naturally Gaited youtube channel and join our community on facebook.com/naturallygaited.

Photo gallery: (click to enlarge)

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