Category Archives: Natural Hoof Trimming

Naturally gaited duo receives US Humane Society Award

Naturally gaited TWH dressage duo, Jennfer Klitzke and TWH 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.

By Jennifer Klitzke

Exciting news arrived in the mail! I received a letter from The Humane Society of the United States announcing that my naturally gaited Tennessee Walking Horse Gift of Freedom (Makana) and I have received an award and grant from The Humane Society of the United States “Now, That’s a Walking Horse” (NTAWH) program.

Cheryl Jacobson, Deputy Director,  Equine Protection of The Humane Society of the United States writes:

“Your application showcases the sort of approach to training of Tennessee Walking Horses that the NTAWH program hopes to promote. This includes 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.”

“We are further impressed by your volunteer efforts to “spread the word.” The best promotion for the breed is a good example. It is clear that you have provided that, 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 because of your efforts.”

A couple years ago The Humane Society of the United States began to offer an award program called “Now, That’s a Walking Horse” which recognizes individuals who demonstrate natural and humane ways of training their Tennessee Walking Horses(s). This year, I pulled the material together and applied for this recognition award and grant.

2 year old Tennessee walking horse
Gift of Freedom as a frolicking two-year-old filly.

I’ve been an avid dressage rider since 1988 with trotting horses and on Valentine’s Day 2007, my husband caved in a moment of weakness and said “yes” to one more horse. I purchased my first naturally gaited Tennessee Walking Horse, Gift of Freedom (Makana), just before she turned three years old. She had been selectively bred by a private family farm, imprinted and raised, and had 20 rides on her. Initially I was struck by her black beauty, and then her friendly “meet me at the fence” personality stole my heart.

I had no intentions of showing her—especially dressage—because I thought dressage was only for horses that trot.

I had no intentions of showing her—especially dressage—because I thought dressage was only for horses that trot. I just wanted a smooth horse to ride that would be easier on my aging body. However, since dressage had been the only riding style I had studied, that’s what became our training language.

TWH 3-gait Trail Pleasure Rail Class
Jennifer Klitzke riding Gift of Freedom at a TWH breed show in the 3-gait Trail Pleasure Rail Class

Later on I joined a local Tennessee Walking Horse association. They pleaded with members to show at the county fair for fear that classes would be cancelled due to a low number of entries. So being a good sport, I took my then four-year-old TWH mare to her first rail class show. To my amazement, Makana came alive in the show ring. We had so much fun I showed her at TWH rail classes for three years where she earned Trail Pleasure Champion in 2010 with the Minnesota Walking Horse Association. Makana has always been ridden and shown barefoot and in a mild snaffle bit or Imus Comfort Gait Bit.

versatility of the naturally gaited horse

encountering the moose obstacle
Jennifer Klitzke riding naturally gaited TWH Gift of Freedom at a Gaited Trail Trial encountering the moose obstacle.

In addition to showing Makana in Trail Pleasure rail classes at Tennessee Walking Horse breed shows, we had been a TWH demonstration horse/rider team for the Minnesota Horse Expo, gaited dressage demonstration team for a traditional dressage Ride-A-Test clinic, and a gaited western dressage demonstration team for a Western Dressage clinic. We have competed at a gaited trail trial, an orienteering race, novice endurance races, team penning and cow sorting leagues, ridden hunter over rails courses, lots of trail riding, gymnastic jumping and gaited dressage.

Video: Minnesota State Fair TWH Stakes Class
(the only barefoot horse competing in the class)

Video: Minnesota Horse Expo TWH Demonstration Team

Video: Gaited Dressage Demonstration
at a Traditional Dressage Ride-A-Test Clinic

Video: Endurance Riding with a Gaited Horse

Video: Sorting Cows with a Gaited Horse

Video: Gymnastic Jumping with a Gaited Horse

Video: Gaited Dressage


Gaited Dressage: Training Level
Our first gaited dressage show in 2010.

I never imagined that I’d be back in the dressage arena after a 16-year lapse on a horse that didn’t trot!

Gaited Dressage
In 2010, I saw a post on advertising a schooling dressage show near my home. I called the show manager and asked if I could ride my gaited horse in flat walk instead of trot. The show manager agreed and that’s when we made the switch to showing gaited dressage. I never imagined that I’d be back in the dressage arena after a 16-year lapse on a horse that didn’t trot!

Since 2010, Makana and I have ridden over 55 gaited dressage tests at open USDF schooling dressage shows and have been the only gaited entry among the trotting horses. Being the odd ball at these events has sparked great conversations. Many people ask what breed my horse is and when I tell them she is a Tennessee Walking Horse they are wonderfully surprised to see a barefoot and naturally gaited TWH moving in a smooth four-beat gait without heavy shoes, artificial enhancements, or a harsh bit.

The main reason I bring my naturally gaited Walking horse to schooling dressage shows is to get feedback from a professional as to where we are at in our training. Plus, dressage tests force me and my horse to face all of the required movements ridden in both directions. The difficult ones would be easy to avoid if I were just hacking at home.

In 2014, my naturally gaited Tennessee Walking Horse, Gift of Freedom, was named Champion in Training Level, Champion in First Level, and received the Highest Percentage Award in 2014 by Friends of Sound Horses (F.O.S.H.).

Flat walk
In First Level tests the horse must show bending through the corners at a flat walk, circle 10 meters at a flat walk, perform a 20 meter flat walk circle allowing the horse to stretch its head and neck down and out, and leg yields at a flat walk.

2015 Gaited Dressage Competitions
In 2015, my naturally gaited Tennessee Walking Horse, Gift of Freedom, and I competed at five USDF open dressage schooling shows and rode 10 NWHA Training Level and First Level gaited dressage tests. We were the only gaited horse entry among trotting horses at these shows which always opens the door to wonderful conversation with fellow competitors and onlookers. Nine times out of ten, people say that they own a gaited horse for trail riding, and it had never occurred to them that dressage training methods could actually improve their communication and partnership with their horse on the trail until seeing it in action!

My first recognized dressage show with my Trakehner/thoroughbred gelding in 1992.

Dressage Education
Beginning in 1988, I took 12 years of regular dressage lessons and showed my Trakehner/thoroughbred gelding SeilTanzer successfully at USDF recognized shows—Training Level through Second Level—until his retirement in 1996. Now with my Tennessee Walking Horse, I have resumed my dressage education by attending gaited dressage clinics with instructors who travel to my State, since no gaited dressage instructors teach nearby.

Riding at a Jennie Jackson Dressage as Applied to the Gaited Horse Clinic in 2013.

Among the clinicians who I have ridden with are Larry Whitesell, Jennifer Bauer, Bucky Sparks, and I have coordinated two gaited dressage clinics with Jennie Jackson in Minnesota (2013 and 2014). In March 2015, I traveled to Tennessee to ride at a Jennie Jackson Dressage en Gaite clinic.

I also study the work of Mary Wanless riding biomechanics through her books and videos, Philippe Karl French Classical Dressage DVDs, and Lisa Maxwell Riding in Lightness DVD.

I am a member of Central States Dressage and Eventing Association and show my naturally gaited TWH at their schooling dressage shows and have been a member of Friends of Sound Horses (F.O.S.H.).
In addition to training and showing gaited dressage, I launched in 2010 as a means to promote natural and humane training methods for gaited horses using dressage. This blog features stories, photos, videos, and information about how dressage can improve the quality of natural four-beat gaits without the use of abusive handling, heavy shoes, harsh bits, and artificial gadgets or enhancements. I also participate and promote natural barefoot trimming.

“Dressage is more than trot and the saddle you ride in.”

Readers of learn that dressage can help their trotty or pacey gaited horses smooth out as they develop relaxation, balance, rhythm, collection, and impulsion. Dressage training improves the rider’s skills, sense of feel and timing of the aids in communicating with the horse, and develops more harmony between the horse and rider relationship. In fact, dressage training improves the horse’s natural gait whether that be flat walk, foxtrot, or trot. Indeed “dressage is more than trot and the saddle you ride in.”

Volunteer Work

As a volunteer instructor, I have introduced dozens of students, young and old, to the naturally gaited Tennessee Walking Horse and gaited dressage.

My naturally gaited Tennessee Walking Horse has introduced dozens of people—young and old—to the basics of gaited dressage as I offer lessons as a volunteer instructor at my hobby farm. I have also served as a volunteer foster care home and have trained and placed many horses for the Minnesota Hooved Animal Rescue Foundation. In 2010, my husband and I fostered, broke, and trained a three-year-old Arabian gelding and competed him at the 2010 Trainer’s Challenge of the Unwanted Horse.

Over the last five years I have volunteered hundreds of hours providing graphic design, story writing, and photography for the Minnesota Walker publication for the Minnesota Walking Horse Association and cover designs for the Heritage Highlights publication for the International Heritage Walking Horse Society. Both non profit organizations are supporters of humanely treated naturally gaited Tennessee Walking Horses.


piaffe en gaite
Jennie Jackson riding TWH stallion Champagne Watchout in piaffe en gaite.

The NTAWH award includes a grant to use in furthering my gaited dressage education with my mentor Jennie Jackson to which I am so grateful. Not only has Jennie Jackson accomplished what no other person in history has by training and showing a Tennessee Walking Horse to the highest levels of dressage, but Jennie and her husband Nate have been on the front lines for over 30 years fighting against the soring and abuse that has tarnished the TWH industry. I am humbled to know them as mentors and friends.

I am honored to receive this recognition award by the United States Humane Society “Now That’s a Walking Horse” Program and am so thankful to obtain a grant to further my gaited dressage training with my mentor Jennie Jackson.


Barefoot and Sound

natural hoof trimming
My naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse competes at gaited dressage without shoes.

By Jennifer Klitzke

Are shoes required for showing? Do shoes make a horse sound? Can a horse perform well barefoot and sound? How I threw the shoes and discovered soundness naturally.

During the years I competed my Trakehner/Thoroughbred gelding in dressage, it was a given that sport horses wore shoes on all fours. That’s what everyone did, so I did too. I didn’t know any better. In fact, my horse wore shoes year round.

Then my gelding became stricken with laminitis at 12, so the farrier added pads and wedges to the shoes so that he would be sound. I believed that if I were to let him go barefoot, it would make him worse not better.

Little did I know.

In 1996 I retired my gelding from dressage competition and seven years after that I moved North to a hobby farm. There I spent the next nine years hacking with my gelding and other horses which included Makana, my naturally gaited Walking horse mare.

My horses rode barefoot because I had no intention of showing. Little did I know that barefoot was actually healing my gelding from the lameness he had—that and limited pasture and a low-carb, grass hay diet.

I continued to hire a farrier to trim my horses’ feet every 6-8 weeks. I didn’t know much about healthy hooves, because I relied upon my farrier’s expertise.

Jennifer Klitzke aboard Gift of Freedom, four-year-old Tennessee walking horse.
Riding my four-year-old barefoot naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse at her first show.

Then the Walking horse club I belonged to pleaded with its members to enter the County Fair in fear that Walking horse classes might not be offered the following year. So I took my barefoot Walking horse to a rail class show and was surprised that this group of riders encouraged barefoot showing.

At another Walking horse show, a fellow competitor discretely pulled me aside and said, “I hope this doesn’t hurt your feelings, but I’m concerned that if you don’t get your horse’s feet trimmed correctly, she might not stay sound.”

Alarmed yet grateful, I thanked this woman for the risk she had taken to open my eyes to what I hadn’t seen. It was ignorance on my part to blindly trust my farrier just because he had been trimming for years.

I tried talking with my farrier about making some corrections to how my horse was trimmed. This didn’t go so well, so I hired another farrier who confirmed my friend’s concerns.

From that point on, I began a quest to become an educated and informed caregiver. I wanted to learn how to keep my horses’ hooves healthy from the inside out.

Over the course of the next year I began to study the work of natural barefoot trimmers as Pete Ramey, Jaime Jackson, and Linda Harris of “The Happy Hoof Channel,” among others, and learn about diet and its affect on soundness from sources like

Then in 2011 my farrier had to retire, so I took the plunge and began trimming my horses. Wow, is trimming ever a strenuous job. Hats off to professional farriers. You couldn’t pay me enough to do this for a living. While it’s a killer on my grandma body, and it takes me 30 minutes to trim one foot, it has been rewarding for me and the handful of horses I work with.

A healthy hoof is a science. There are so many factors that affect the feet: climate, terrain, diet, conformation, workload, and genetics to name a few. Among the experts I study, there are slight to strong differences of opinion which makes me be discerning as to which approach to take. Do I trim the bars, frog, and exfoliate the dead sole or leave it alone? Do I bevel the wall or not? Are the feet round or oval?

Seili at 29 barefoot and sound
Seili at 29 barefoot and sound.

For me, I like to feed a low carb diet, grass hay, limited and strategically timed pasture turnout, and keep my horses on a regular trimming cycle of 4-6 weeks. Since I began trimming in 2011, my retired Trakehner/Thoroughbred gelding began to move better than ever at the age of 27 than he did at 12.

So, whether you ever end up trimming your horses hooves or not, I highly encourage you to become an educated caregiver. Having faith in your farrier is great, but it pays to understand the inner and outer workings of the hoof.