By Jennifer Klitzke
After the TWH Celebration Show, my naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse and I were back to being the solo gaited horse/rider entry at the St. George Dressage Academy schooling dressage show held Saturday, August 9, 2014. One of the spectators saw us gaiting and asked if I would be trotting my gaited horse during the test. Was I ever glad that I had contacted the show manager ahead of time and received permission to ride the NWHA gaited dressage tests en gait, otherwise that’s what I’d be expected to do—trot!
Our NWHA Training Level Test Three and NWHA First Level Test One were among the 46 dressage tests ridden—Intro level through First level. Our training level test felt like our best yet with a respectable score of 66.8%. I attribute our success to Jennie Jackson who traveled to Minnesota for the second year in a row to teach a “Dressage as Applied to the Gaited Horse” clinic. Jennie really set us on course in establishing rhythm, connection, and forwardness without rushing. My mare is no longer “flat walkin’ in a tight skirt.” Her hind steps are deeper, more even and consistent, combined with a deeper and straighter head nod. Makana’s canter has also improved. While we love to see a true “four-beat” flatwalk, Makana has achieved a solid “three-beat” canter which is rounder and more engaged.
After our first level dressage test Judge Jim Hatch remarked, “Thank you for bringing your gaited horse to the show. This was a first for me!” I thanked him for his willingness to provide feedback for where we are at in our training. Even though my gaited horse doesn’t trot, the elements of dressage still apply: rhythm, balance, forwardness, harmony between horse and rider, acceptance of the bridle, rider’s correct and effective use of aids, rider’s position and seat, and precision of the required movements.
Thank you to St. George Dressage Academy for opening their beautiful tree-lined facility up for this venue as a chorus a song birds kept us company while we rode our tests.
Video: NWHA Training Level Test Three