Naturally Gaited Dressage

naturally gaited dressage by jennifer klitzke

By Jennifer Klitzke

To me naturally gaited dressage is a humane method of training and communicating with a horse that brings about beauty and harmony, balance, rhythm, relaxation, and suppleness, which results in gait quality. It develops a connection of trust and respect between horse and rider, and as the relationship grows in trust, understanding, skill and refinement, the horse and rider transform into a wonderful dance partnership without the use of heavy shoes, big bits and spurs, and mechanical devices.

I took my naturally gaited walking horse Makana to North Run Farm for our last schooling dressage show of the season. We were the only gaited entry among trotting horses. I bring her to schooling dressage shows because I like to get feedback from a professional eye as to where we are at in our training as it relates to balance, rhythm, gaits, impulsion, submission, harmony, rider position and effective use of aids, and accuracy of the required movements. It helps confirm areas of improvement and areas we still need to work on.

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.

Thanks to the fine coaching I had received from Jennie Jackson this summer, the dressage judge remembered us from last year and commented on how we had made a noticeable improvement. We placed 5th of 9 in Training Level with a score of 67% and 4th of 6 in First Level with a score of 68.966%.

A huge thank you to my wonderful husband who volunteered to film my rides. (Wow, I love that man!)


Video: Warming up with the Trotters

Video: 2011 NWHA Training Level Test Three