Gaited Dressage at Arbor Hill

Gaited Dressage at Arbor Hill

By Jennifer Klitzke

While last week’s schooling dressage show at Wildfire Farms was marked by my bustin’ boot wardrobe malfunction held together with silver duct tape, this week’s show at Arbor Hill nearly went to the dogs!

I was well prepared to leave early for this week’s schooling dressage show when I noticed that the front gate had been left open and the dogs ran off.

Rats! I couldn’t leave for a show until I found my lost dogs. So I loaded my naturally gaited Walking horse Makana into the trailer and off we went in search of small, mastiff, and Lars.

“Jesus,” I prayed. “You know where my doggies are. Will you help me find them?”

At the end of the driveway I sensed a small quiet voice say, “Turn right.” So I did. Slowly we inched our way down the County Road as I scoured the landscape. A two miles later that small quiet voice urged me to look left. And there they were—small, mastiff, and Lars—covered in pond scum, panting to catch their breath.

Thankfully I remembered to cover my dressage whites with an extra layer before hoisting the mud balls into my truck. Frazzled with their untimely departure, yet relieved with their safe return and an answer to prayer, Makana and I were headed to our second show of the season—better late than not at all!

We arrived to Arbor Hills about 40 minutes before our first test. I quickly checked in and saddled up. Makana and I had a lovely warmup in their outdoor arena which was surrounded by mature pines and a chorus of song birds.

The tests were held in the indoor arena, and we were invited to school there 10 minutes before our ride. This helped Makana get acquainted with the letters, judge’s stand, spectators, and plastic plants. This is one wonderful feature schooling shows offer as they help the horse and rider build their confidence for recognized shows that don’t allow pre-ring riding.

I was very pleased with Makana’s warmup. Her strides were even and deep at a medium and flat walk and she felt balanced in her canter in both directions. Then the bell rang and down the center line we rode for Training Level Test Three.

We made many improvements over last week. Judge Molly Schiltgen noted that I rode precise transitions at the letters and accurate geometric patterns. She liked Makana’s willingness and good attitude. The judge’s main improvement remarks were for us to develop more bending over my horse’s back through all transitions which will bring about greater overall quality.

Our score in Training Level Test Three was 67.27% and First Level Test One was 65.56%.

Thank you to Arbor Hill for opening up your elite facility and to Missy for coordinating such a friendly, low-key, and organized show.