versatility of the naturally gaited horse

“Dressage is more than trot…and the saddle you ride in.”
—Jennifer Klitzke

About Dressage for the Gaited Horse

Some traditional dressage riders believe that dressage is ONLY for horses that trot. While another portion of gaited horse owners believe that dressage will MAKE their gaited horse trot. Many gaited horse owners believe that teaching their gaited horse to trot on cue will ruin their horse’s natural gait.

I challenge these notions and here’s why…

Dressage is a French term for training the horse and rider. Whether you ride english or western; whether your horse trots or gaits, it doesn’t matter. Dressage improves rhythm, relaxation, balance, connection, harmony and engagement and helps you grow in knowledge and application about rider position and effective use of aids.

Good dressage training brings about the best natural movement in your horse whether it walks, trots, gaits, or canters, and it helps you become a better rider so that you will be able to develop a consistent communication with your horse as your body awareness grows in the timing of your aids.

That’s not all! Dressage training translates far beyond the four walls of the arena into versatility training. I find it refreshing to bring my naturally gaited horses to team penning, cow sorting, and trail obstacle challenges, as well as trail riding, endurance races, and gymnastic jumping.

Dressage training has made my naturally gaited horses more maneuverable around obstacles, jumps, and sneaky cows, and they are more reliable on the trail. Plus, a naturally gaited horse is easy on an aging grandma body like mine!

Dressage training has made all the difference for me and my naturally gaited horses, and it hasn’t made them TROT (unless I’ve cued them to do so!)

Enjoy the journey!

—Jennifer Klitzke

About NaturallyGaited.com

Naturally Gaited is a blog written by Jennifer Klitzke who shares her journey as she applies dressage with her naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse Gift of Freedom (Makana) and other gaited horses.

Jennifer has been an avid dressage student since 1988. In 2007 she became acquainted with naturally gaited horses and has discovered how much dressage improves the quality of movement in gaited horses through relaxation, balance, forwardness, rhythm, and connection.

About Jennifer Klitzke and Naturally Gaited Tennessee Walking Horse Gift of Freedom

Rail Shows

Jennifer began showing her naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse, Gift of Freedom (Makana) in 2008 at TWH breed shows where the team earned “2010 Trail Pleasure Champion of the Year” with the Minnesota Walking Horse Association.

Gaited Dressage Clinics

The rider/horse team has attended numerous gaited dressage clinics with Jennie Jackson, Larry Whitesell, Jennifer Bauer, and Bucky Sparks.

Demonstration Team

Jennifer and Makana have been a gaited dressage demonstration team at western dressage and traditional dressage clinics, and have been a TWH demonstration team at the 2010 and 2011 Minnesota Horse Expo.

Dressage Shows

Since 2010 Jennifer and Makana have shown successfully at open schooling dressage shows as the only gaited dressage entry. The team has ridden over 60 dressage tests—Intro through First Levels—using NWHA, FOSH, and NAWD tests. Makana is ridden barefoot and with a mild snaffle bit.

In 2014, Gift of Freedom and Jennifer Klitzke, earned Training Level Champion, First Level Champion, and earned the Highest Score Award in the 2014 FOSH Gaited Dressage program.

In 2015, Gift of Freedom, ridden, trained, and owned by Jennifer Klitzke, earned Training Level Champion and First Level Champion in the 2015 FOSH Gaited Dressage program and earned First Level Champion in the 2015 NWHA Gaited Dressage program.

In 2016, Gift of Freedom, ridden, trained, and owned by Jennifer Klitzke, earned Western Dressage Training Level Champion in the FOSH Gaited Dressage program. Jennifer also began showing her friend’s fox trotting mare at NAWD virtual shows where they placed 2nd of 11 in Intro 2 and 5th of 9 in Intro 1 Western dressage as the only gaited horse in the class of trotting horses.

United States Humane Society Award and Grant

In 2015, Jennifer and Gift of Freedom, received an award and grant from The United States Humane Society “Now, That’s a Walking Horse” Program recognizing correct training of horse and rider without the use of artificial enhancements or aggressive shoeing techniques while focusing on the gymnastic development as a way to improve and establish the gaits of the Walking horse and through volunteer efforts to “spread the word” by sharing the good news about the natural Walking horse to the trotting as well as to gaited enthusiasts who have seen the limitless potential in the breed in new ways.


Jennifer is a member of Central States Dressage and Eventing Association and Friends of Sound Horses.

Video: Age-defying Dressage

13 thoughts on “About”

  1. Can anyone tell me of upcoming GARY LANE clinics? I am in the process of reading his book and am very interested in seeing him in person. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for your question. Gary Lane will be coming to the MN Horse Expo in St. Paul, MN. For more of his scheduled clinics, visit: http://www.windsweptstables.net/Schedule.html

      Gary Lane and Anita Howe recently produced an excellent gaited DVD called “Training the Gaited Horse from the Trail to the Rail.” There is video footage of the foundations of the TWH alongside some of today’s naturally gaited walking horses, natural-training techniques to help you achieve a smooth and correct four-beat gait which includes discussion about the German dressage training pyramid and the importance of strengthening the topline, and slow motion video to help you see and understand what a correct four-beat gait is. I love this video and watch it over and over again.

  2. I am in South Central MN and I bought my first TWH this past May. I am not into showing and I don’t ride in anything fancy, just a western saddle on gravel roads. I just want to know if there is going to be any clinics in my area, Mankato, New Ulm, Fairmont. I am in an area where if it’s not a QH, it’s not a horse. My horse gaited fine when I test rode him and now he doesn’t at all. He is 14 so I know he knows what he’s doing, but I can admit that I don’t. I would love anything, lessons, clinics, a riding buddy, anything. I got this “gaited” horse for my bad back which his trotting and pacing isn’t helping. I would love to be able to enjoy my horse more and to help him with his gait. Any help or advice would be appreciated!

  3. I am in South Central MN. I just purchased my first TWH this past May. He gaited just fine when I test rode him, but now all he does is trot and pace. I am in an area where if it’s not a QH, it’s not a horse. I would love to be able to enjoy my horse again. I am interested in lessons, clinics, a riding buddy, anything! I don’t ride in anything fancy and I don’t intend to show. All I use is my old western saddle and we go down the gravel roads. Any feedback, advice, help would be appreciated!

    1. Hi Jenny,

      Congratulations on your TWH! I bought my first Walker 4 years ago and have really enjoyed learning all about their unique, smooth gait.

      Below are a few ideas in your quest for answers.

      Have you heard of the Minnesota Walking Horse Association? There are members all over the state and maybe in your area that could help. They host a few excellent clinics each year: the BLESS clinic with Bucky Sparks in June and Larry Whitesell will also be doing a clinic end of June 2012 at Simons Arena in Cannon Falls, MN. There are wonderful DVDs you can rent through giddyupflix.com about working with gaited horses. One of my favorites is by Gary Lane “TRAINING THE GAITED HORSE: From the trail, to the rail.”

      Also, if you click to the naturallygaited.com home page and scroll to the bottom of the right column, there are many links to resources, discussion boards, videos and articles that I’ve found helpful.

      Feel free to ask questions on the naturallygaited facebook page. Others may have some ideas too. Keep in touch and enjoy the journey!


  4. Hey thank you to whoever wrote to me, the message wasn’t signed. The MN Walking Ass. doesn’t have anybody in this area. I have looked, they are mostly in or near the twin cities. They do not have any contact info. on their web so nobody to talk to either. June 2012 is a long time to wait and could do a lot of damage to a horse if I’m riding incorrectly so hope I don’t have to wait that long. I will check out the DVD listings to see if that is a potential. What I really need is hands on help, the sooner the better. Thank you for your reply and I will keep checking on the resources the web has.

    1. Hi Jenny,

      I think the Gary Lane video would be helpful regarding the pace and trot. Gary talks a lot about riding the horse with a lowered head and neck to help build the topline muscles. Gaited horses often pace when their back is hollow and their head is up, so encourage your horse to move forward in a relaxed state with a lower head and neck position. Try this on a large circle at a walk and then gently ask for a few steps of gait, then go back to walk. You can add more and more consecutive steps of gait before the downward transition to walk as your horse gets consistent.

      I hope this helps a little.


  5. Thank you for the reply. My horse tucks his head so nice, when he wants to. I don’t know how to get him to do it consistantly. Do need a martingale? I think the biggest problem I have is what I’m doing wrong and not the horse since he is 14 and he did it find when I test rode him. I have been told that the faster you push a horse, the better he will gait. I have also read that gait training works going up a hill. (ha ha live in S. MN and try to find a hill!) All the advice is helpful, but I still think I need a trainer for myself. I will look at the DVDs today and see what I can find.

    1. Hi Jenny,

      Yes, lessons are so helpful. I’ve been taking lessons for 25 years and always find something more learn. Another pair of eyes is so helpful. I also set up my Flip camera and record my riding so that I can see for myself what I am feeling. I watch a lot videos which help me to watch others riding effectively and working through issues I might be encountering. There are so many great videos. Since I can’t afford them all, I rent them from giddyupflix.com. Most of the gaited videos address pacing and trotting, it’s very common problem.

      As for a martingale, I don’t ride with them because I can’t show with them. I ride dressage with a mild snaffle bit and I ride western with a mild mylar curb. I’ve also ridden with the Imus comfort bit, which I love but I can’t ride a dressage test with it. Recently I had some instructional feedback regarding proper saddle fit and learned that my saddle was too far forward and was pinching my horse’s shoulders. This makes an impact on freedom of motion. Maybe check your saddle position on your horse’s back and make sure it fits properly and if the bit fits comfortably. Horse’s sometimes tell us they are uncomfortable with their equipment by high headedness, hollowing the back, pacing, and trotting.

      The other thing I’d try is slowing down to the place where your horse is relaxed with a lower headset on a 20 meter circle and get that gait consistent before increasing the speed.

      I hope this is of some help to you. Thanks for your questions. Let me know how it’s going.


  6. Relaxed, ha ha that’s a good one 🙂 My horse is so tense on the road. He goes out with his head cranked to one side because all he wants to do is turn around go home. Did I happen to mention how well he does on the way home? He does not neck rein so I have to constantly pull on one side of his mouth just so he watches where he is going. I don’t get it, all he has is a mini donkey at home who he doesn’t even like!

    You have given me a lot of good advice, but I don’t understand a lot of what you are talking about nor how to achieve the things it sounds like I need to do for him. I haven’t owned a horse in 20 years and am still green myself. I sure wish I had somebody near here to actually come out and help me.

    I work on the walk and speed it up a bit. I have heard that the faster you push a horse, the better his gait will be. I bought him from an old TWH breeder and had my saddle both times I rode. He didn’t say anything about fit. One thing I did when I bought my horse is changed his bit. I don’t know how this would effect the gait, but he originally came with a bent double twisted copper thing that looked really painful. So I have something that resembles a tom thumb with a short shank. I also loosened his bridle. He was showing too much teeth, tossing his head and had more than one wrinkle by his mouth. I had to really crank on his ears to get that thing on! He is very sensitive so didn’t need to have that resistance IMO. I have also tried working with him to make the gravel road fun. He side passes really nice and seems to enjoy it! The only problem is once he starts side passing, he doesn’t stop! Any little touch sends him to one side or another. He is 14 and loves to go go go! He is a joy to ride, but wish he would gait.

    Do you know anybody a breeder, trainer, anybody who owns a TWH who lives in south central MN? I am wililng to travel!

    1. Hi Jenny,

      I’m glad I made you laugh anyway! My imagination was playing some pretty funny pictures reading your message. I’ll do some checking and see if I can find a few names for you to call for lessons. Clinton Anderson put together a gaited DVD series. He took two horses through 4 weeks of training and it really made a big difference. One of the horses was 14 years old and very hot. He transformed the horse in a month where the rider now enjoys the horse. Clinton shows you step by step his training process. I learned a lot from watching that series.

      I’ll get back to you as soon as I find some resources in your area.

      Hang on and have fun!

  7. Great news! I went out to the farm today to ride. I tried something that I read about online. We also went a different route. I don’t know if the combination of putting the saddle further down on his back rather than in the traditional wither position, the fact that we went a “new” way or if the stars are in perfect alignment, but HE GAITED!! Not the smooth gait I know he can do, but he didn’t brake stride like he normally does. He actually took more than a few steps! I wonder if the saddle was prohibiting movement? Maybe it’s the cooler weather and I’m not convinced he’s (or I’m) cured, but it was a huge plus! I positioned my hands real low on his shoulder to get him to tuck too like you suggested and that helped. So maybe I’m not a lost cause afterall! Who says you’re too old to learn HA!

    I had to laugh on the way home. I know exactly how Standardbred racers feel when their horses brake into a gallop when racing. It’s how I feel when my horse goes from the nice smooth running walk into his severly choppy trot!

    I am still interested in lessons! This could have been a fluke.

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Dressage is more than trot and the saddle you ride in!

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