Western Gaited Dressage

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By Jennifer Klitzke

flatwalk stretch
Both tests required a 20 meter circle at a flat walk allowing the horse to stretch.

My naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse mare, Gift of Freedom, and I took our a stab at Western Gaited Dressage for the first time in three years of showing gaited dressage at schooling shows.  Walker’s Triple R in Cambridge offered classes in traditional dressage, western dressage, gaited dressage and western gaited dressage. I was thrilled because this was also the first dressage show we’ve attended in which we weren’t the only gaited dressage entry! There was another gaited dressage horse and rider team who rode FOSH Intro A and FOSH Intro B tests.

Since no Western Gaited Dressage tests are currently available, Makana and I rode the NWHA tests. We received a 68% on NWHA gaited first level test one and a 65% on NWHA gaited training level test one. Highlights were receiving a “9” on our centerline/halt first level test and “8’s” on our free walk on a long rein.

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We scored “8” on our freewalk on a long rein.

Improvement areas are finding a well-fitting western saddle. We are working on getting this resolved soon. The saddle I rode in, even with shims, hindered her shoulder movement. Although we received “7’s” for impulsion and quality of gaits, Makana felt reluctant to step deep and maintain a fluid canter in this western saddle. My gaited horse moves best in a dressage saddle, but I can’t ride western gaited dressage in an english saddle! I wonder if there is a saddle maker who produces a western looking saddle on a dressage tree?

The Walker’s Triple R schooling dressage show encouraged western entrants to ride in snaffle bits. Our next schooling dressage show at Rocking R Farm allows western dressage riders to ride in curbs or snaffles. It will be interesting to see the difference a better fitting saddle and riding in a curb make in our movement and scores.

Western Gaited Dressage photo gallery>

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For the NWHA tests which are patterened after the USDF tests with flat walk in place of trot, the rider is required to maintain a contact in all gaits (walk, flat walk and canter) while riding in a mild snaffle bit.

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