By Jennifer Klitzke
I was so excited to return to Wildfire on Saturday, August 8, 2015 with my 11-year-old naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse mare Gift of Freedom (Makana). Why? Because this time to ride for USDF “R” judge Nancy Porter. Normally one has to ride at a recognized show to be judged by this caliber of a judge.
However, we were off to a rough start. First my GPS was out of order and my cell phone ran out of juice, so we hustled back home for an ol’ fashioned map.
On our way to the show, a car that pulled out in front of us and I had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting the car. Thankfully we didn’t collide, but the sudden stop left Makana rather rattled.
Forty minutes later we arrived safely at the show. I let Makana relax for a while then tacked her up for some long and low before beginning our warm up. Then I set up the video camera only to discover that I left the video chip at home. Rats! No photos or videos to capture the event.
On the bright side, we couldn’t have asked for better weather: 70 degrees, partly cloudy with a light breeze. And this time, no disco-dancing flower boxes to contend with.
But Makana’s heart didn’t seem to be into showing today. (I felt like I was squeezing an empty tube of toothpaste the morning before my annual dentist appointment!) I don’t know if it was the sudden stop or if she felt entitled to a weekend off after such a wonderful performance last weekend at Carriage House.
We rode NWHA First Level Tests One and Three. Areas we excelled in were center line halts (straight and square), 10-meter half circles at a flat walk, transitions and quality of our medium walk and free walk, flat walk leg yields, 20-meter flat walk stretch circles, 15-meter canter circles and transitions from flat walk to canter and flatwalk to medium walk to freewalk.
Improvement areas are showing more balance in the counter canter serpentines, showing more difference between the working and medium canters, and overall impulsion.
Despite how sluggish Makana felt, we received respectable scores of 66.5% in NWHA First Level Test One and 63.9% in NWHA First Level Test Three.
For me it was an honor to ride for an “R” judge at a schooling show! Normally you have to ride at a traditional USDF recognized show for this caliber of judge.
After the show, I had the chance to talk with Judge Nancy Porter in the show office with a couple of other riders. Nancy asked me about gaited dressage, and I was able to share about how it is a humane and natural alternative to the soring and abuse that has tarnished the Walking horse industry. She fully supports the fight against soring and is all for applying dressage training methods for the gaited horse as an alternative to abusive and artificial training methods.
Wildfire Farm has hosted several schooling dressage shows this summer and has accommodated traditional dressage, gaited dressage, and western dressage tests. The next schooling show is scheduled for September 12. If you live in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, and are interested in giving gaited dressage a try, this is the perfect, low-key, beginner-friendly schooling environment for you!