Gaited Dressage

Gaited Dressage: Dressage is More that Trot and the Saddle You Ride in.

Below are stories I’ve written as I’ve explored gaited dressage with my naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse, Gift of Freedom (Makana). including our experiences as a demonstration gaited dressage duo, and our experiences traveling to traditional dressage shows as the only gaited horse entered among trotting horses.


Dressage is More than Trot

Coming from over 20 years of dressage riding non-gaited horses, much of my focus had been on the quality of the trot. Before buying SeilTanzer, my German warmblood in 1989, I had looked at over 50 dressage prospects to find the best trot I could afford. Back then the trot seemed to define dressage, especially in the show ring.

Eighteen years later I bought my first gaited horse. Dressage was the only training method I knew, so out of default that’s how I trained my Tennessee walking horse from the age of three. I haven’t force a trot, rather I use relaxation, balance, and rhythm to establish her flat walk. This proves to be extremely helpful as my mare has more gears than my trotting horses ever did. more»


Age-Defying Dressage

H-X-F, extended trot along the diagonal. Oh, dread, my German warmblood Seiltanzer has never been smooth to sit, especially at the extended trot, and over the last twenty years both of us have aged. Each stride has become more dislodging, resulting in back pain, sagging breasts that seem to hit me in the face with each step, and sometimes “splash”—the loss of bladder control! What began as a beautiful dance between horse and rider has now become a losing fight with gravity. more»


Gaited Dressage: Convergence of Two Worlds

Gaited Dressage: Convergence of Two Worlds

There’s a convergence in gaited dressage: the traditional dressage rider who later applies what they know to riding gaited horses and the traditional gaited horse rider who later learns dressage methods of training.

The former describes me, and I can’t ride my gaited horse well without learning from the latter. Each paradigm offers unique perspectives about what is “correct.” I believe gaited dressage has an equation: “both” + “neither” = “correct.” Both perspectives add value to this equation. Neither perspective holds the fullness of “correct.” Yet one perspective without the other is only half the gaited dressage equation. more»


Misconceptions of Gaited Dressage

When you watch a gaited horse performing a dressage test, do you expect to see the show gait movement of a rail class? Do you think that dressage permanently alters show gait movement? Could it be that riding show gait or gaited dressage as simple as flipping the switch of rider aids? more»

Age-defying Dressage
Why Show?

What motivates us to show? Is it all about the blue ribbons and bragging rights?

I roll my eyes and gasp when I think back to my first days of showing my Trakhner/Thoroughbred gelding SeilTanzer (Seili). I had saved my money and bought the best trot I could afford. My motivations were to take Seili to the top levels of dressage. Why? Because I wanted to be noticed. I wanted to be recognized. I wanted to be accepted among my peers. I found out quickly that these were really bad reasons to show. more»

Gaited Dressage Demonstrations

Northwoods Dressage Association Gaited Dressage Demonstration

USDF Northwoods Dressage Clinic features
Gaited Dressage Demonstration

Tennessee walking horse Gift of Freedom and Jennifer Klitzke were featured as one of the demonstration teams at the Northwoods Dressage “Ride-A-Test” Clinic in Proctor, MN on a surprisingly sunny day. The team demonstrated how gaited dressage training can improve the natural movement of the gaited horse and rode through First Level, Test Two by memory before a couple dozen onlookers. more»

Western Dressage Clinic features Gaited Dressage

Over fifty fun and friendly horse people came together for a wonderful Western Dressage clinic hosted by Enchanted Hollow Farm in Buffalo, MN and organized by Judy Conger and Gene Hacket which included a gaited dressage demonstration ride by Jennifer Klitzke and her 8-year-old Tennessee walking horse mare, Gift of Freedom. more»

 Gaited Dressage Shows


2016 Harvest Virtual Western Dressage Show»

IJA Western Training 2 medium walk

2016 Midsummer Virtual Western Dressage Show»

FOSH IJA Western Training 1 bending through the corners

Western Gaited Dressage: Our First Virtual Show (May 2016)
I felt like I was dressed up for a Halloween costume party wearing this get up, but I thought I’d give Western gaited dressage a try again. This time without leaving home. I saw a Facebook post for a virtual Western dressage show that was open to gaited horses. So my naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse Makana and I rode the FOSH IJA Training 1 Test which calls for regular walk, medium walk, free walk, intermediate gait (flat walk), and canter. more»

Gaited Dressage at Arbor Hill

Gaited Dressage at Arbor Hill (May 2015)
While last week’s schooling dressage show at Wildfire 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! more»

Gaited Dressage at WildfireGaited Dressage at Wild Fire (May 2015)
I took my naturally gaited Walking horse to our first 2015 schooling dressage show. Of 42 tests ridden, Intro through Third levels, only 2 were gaited. more»

Gaited dressage and jumping at Northwoods

Gaited Dressage [and jumping] at Northwoods (May 2015)
Northwoods offered their first annual schooling dressage [and hunter] show on May 30, 2015. I took my naturally gaited Walking horse Makana—the only gaited horse/rider entry among 29 trotting horse tests ridden, Intro through First Level. more»

Gaited Dressage at Carriage House

Gaited Dressage at Carriage House (August 2015)
Inspired by seeing another gaited horse at the last Three Ring Circus schooling dressage show, I had to take my 11-year-old naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse mare, Gift of Freedom (Makana) to Three Ring Circus II held Sunday, August 8, 2015 at Carriage House Farm in Hugo, MN. more»

Wildfire Schooling Dressage Show open to gaited dressage

Gaited Dressage at Wildfire II (August 2015)
I was so excited to return to Wildfire with my naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse mare Gift of Freedom (Makana). This time to ride for USDF “R” judge Nancy Porter. more»


Gaited Dressage at North Run (November 2014)
At the North Run show several spectators were given an introduction to dressage as it applies to the gaited horse. After every two test rides, the arena opened for ten minutes of schooling, so Makana’s expressive head shaking movement was quite the contrast as we warmed up with the trotting horses! Many onlookers had never seen a gaited horse ridden dressage style, barefoot and in a snaffle bit (without mechanical devices, big bits, and heavy shoes). Plus, the SMOOTH ride was evident in comparison to the bouncy sitting trot. more»

Gaited Dressage at St. George (August 2014)
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! more»

TWH Celebration offers Gaited Dressage (August 2014)
When the Minnesota Walking Horse Association asked if I would be willing to help set up the dressage arena for the first ever gaited dressage classes offered at the 2014 Celebration Show, I gladly accepted. I’m all about supporting the cause for gaited dressage and advancing the use of natural and humane training methods. more»

Gaited Dressage at Lakeview (June 2014)
I took my naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse Makana to Lakeview Farms on Saturday, June 21, 2014. The farm hosted an open schooling dressage show featuring traditional dressage, western dressage and gaited dressage. It isn’t surprising that we were the only gaited entry, but, I was surprised to learn that our First Level Test One ride was the highest level test ridden of all competitors that day! Most exciting is that we were being judged by USDF “R” judge Nancy Porter. more»

Gaited Dressage at St. George (August 2013)
What could be more unusual than seeing a Mustang among Warmbloods at a dressage show? How about a barefoot horse that doesn’t trot!

Last month I took my Spanish Mustang to St. George’s Dressage Academy Schooling Show and was so impressed with the facility, the friendly people, and the show organization, that I asked if I could bring my Tennessee walking horse to the next show and ride the NWHA tests that mimic the USDF tests with gait in lieu of trot. After the show secretary talked with the judge, they both welcomed us into our own division. more»

Gaited Dressage at North Run Farm (July 2013)
Three weeks after the Jennie Jackson Clinic: Dressage as Applied to the Gaited Horse, I took my Tennessee walking horse mare, Gift of Freedom (Makana), to the North Run Farm schooling dressage show held on Sunday, July 28, 2013. I was curious if the judge would notice a difference since May as I have been working on the tools Jennie gave us to improve engagement into connection, balance, bending, and increasing the depth of stride. more»

Gaited Dressage at Rocking R Farm (June 2013)
Rocking R Farms in Foley, MN ordered perfect weather for their Spring Schooling Dressage and Jumping Show: sunshine, light breeze, not too hot or cold, and no bugs.

Rocking R Farm is one of the few facilities in my area which accommodates gaited dressage at their three schooling shows each year. I’ve been participating at Rocking R’s schooling shows since 2010, and so far have been the only gaited rider/horse team entered. I long for the day when more people give it a try. The feedback received from a trained eye is very helpful! more»

Gaited Dressage at North Run Farm (May 2013)
Our 2013 show and clinic season was off to a late start with wintry weather through April and treatment for Ehrlichiosis from a deer tick bite just days after the snow melted. Would we be ready for the May clinic and show schedule? more»

Gaited Dressage: 88 entries and only one gaited (October 2012)
Peak autumn color draped the landscape of the Rocking R Farm schooling dressage show held September 29, 2012 in Foley, MN. Eighty-eight horse/rider combinations were shown and only one of them gaited–me and my eight-year-old Tennessee walking horse mare Gift of Freedom. Her black winter coat was well on its way as a gorgeous Indian Summer day heated up to 80-degrees. more»

Western Gaited Dressage at Rocking R (August 2012)
My Walking horse and I rode our Western gaited dressage using the NWHA gaited dressage Training level, test one and First level, test one. As of yet, no gaited Western dressage tests are available. The rules also allow entrants to ride in a snaffle or curb. We opted to try out our Mylar level 2 curb. Makana received her highest scores yet! 70.83% in Training Level and 71.38% in First Level. more>

Western Gaited Dressage (July 2012)
Tennessee walking horse mare, Gift of Freedom and I took our a stab at Western Gaited Dressage for the first time in three years of showing gaited dressage at schooling shows.  It also was the first dressage show we’ve attended in which we weren’t the only gaiting gaited dressage team! There was another gaited dressage horse and rider team that rode FOSH Intro tests. more»

Gaited Dressage: Rocking R (June 2012)
At the June Rocking R Farm Schooling Show, Gift of Freedom (Makana) and I took our first crack at riding through a stadium course over ground rails. What a large and fun course of 12-plus fences it was! We began well until we reached the fences along the bushes and Makana got stuck. It felt like we were stuck for HOURS! When we reached the finish line, my saintly husband said, “Hmm, I’m not sure Makana is suited for this type of showing.” Well, maybe not, but schooling over rails and fences at home has really improved her canter. more»

Gaited Dressage: From First Level to Intro? (May 2012)
In an unexpected turn of events, Gift of Freedom (Makana) found her way to the Three Ring Circus schooling show held at Carriage House Farm in Hugo, MN on May 28, 2012 and sponsored by St. Croix Saddlery. more»

Gaited Dressage: Rocking R (October 2011)
It was a perfect autumn day, 75-degrees and sunny, and made for a wonderful schooling show at Rocking R Farm in Foley, MN. Forty-nine horses were entered in dressage, cross-country, and stadium jumping. Many horse/rider teams rode all three disciplines. Next year I hope we’ll be one of them! more»

Gaited Dressage: Showing Solo (September 2011)
I’ve never had so much fun getting lost as I did yesterday at Sand Dunes State Forest (North) with my husband riding on a beautiful fall day. However, yesterday’s limited daylight ate up his golf time, so he opted out of the Walker’s Triple R show to play a couple rounds before cold and darkness envelop us. So I squeezed into my “big girl pants,” as my friend so often says, and loaded and trailered Makana to the show by myself, rode two tests without a reader, as the solo gaited dressage rider, and even managed to record video! more»

Gaited Dressage: Rocking R (August 2011)
Rocking R Farm, Foley, MN hosted their second of three well-attended 2011 schooling dressage shows on Saturday, August 6, 2011 open to gaited dressage. I rode Gift of Freedom, my seven-year-old Tennessee walking horse mare in First Level, Test One (63.1%) and First Level, Test Two (65.67%). We were the only gaited dressage team riding among 36 horse/rider combinations. more»

Gaited Dressage: Walker’s Triple R (July 2011)
The record heat wave with 82% dew points and 105-degree heat indexes broke just in time for the Walker’s Triple R Schooling Dressage Show in Cambridge, MN. Mike and Judy Walker put on another relaxed and well-run schooling show for 22 rides ranging from Intro through 2nd Level. more»

Gaited Dressage: Walker’s Triple R (May 2011)
A lovely spring day blessed 21 horse/rider teams at the Walker’s Triple R schooling dressage show held May 15, 2011. Gift of Freedom, the only gaited horse entered among Friesians, Warmbloods, Arabians, and Thoroughbreds placed second in both First Level tests with scores of 65.9% and 63.9%. more»

Rocking R Schooling Show Open to Gaited Dressage (October 2010)
Rocking R Farm, Foley, MN hosted their second of three well-attended 2011 schooling dressage shows on Saturday, August 6, 2011 open to gaited dressage. I rode Gift of Freedom, my seven-year-old Tennessee walking horse mare in First Level, Test One (63.1%) and First Level, Test Two (65.67%). We were the only gaited dressage team riding among 36 horse/rider combinations. more»

Walker’s Triple R Dressage Schooling Show (September 2010)
A beautiful fall day, lovely horses of various breeds, and warm and wonderful people of all ages graced this summer’s third well-organized schooling dressage show held at Walkers Triple R Farm in Cambridge, MN on September 19, 2010. This was Gift of Freedom’s (Makana) first dressage show, and we entered not expecting to place since we were riding with trotting horses. Makana is a Tennessee walking horse and I planned on riding her flat walk in lieu of the trot (sitting of course). more»

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

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