2015 NWHA First Level Dressage Champion

Naturally gaited TWH Gift of Freedom ridden by Jennifer Klitzke was named 2015 NWHA First Level Champion.
Naturally gaited TWH Gift of Freedom ridden by Jennifer Klitzke was named 2015 NWHA First Level Champion.

By Jennifer Klitzke

When I bought my naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse Gift of Freedom (Makana) in 2007, I had no intentions on showing her—especially in dressage—because I thought dressage was only for horses that trot. I just wanted a smooth horse to ride that would be easier on my aging body. Since dressage had been the only riding style I had studied since 1988, that’s what became our training language.

Since I lived on a hobby farm with no gaited dressage instructors nearby, I rode by myself and applied knowledge from 12 years of traditional dressage lessons and attended clinics when gaited dressage instructors traveled to my state.

In 2010, I saw that a USDF schooling dressage show would be held ten miles away. I contacted the show manager and asked if I could ride my TWH but replace trot with flat walk. She agreed. (Little did I know that the National Walking Horse Association (NWHA) had already written dressage tests which did exactly that.

Getting to the show that day, I thought I would be laughed off the planet, because I’d be the only one riding a horse that didn’t trot. But I didn’t care, because it meant more to me to receive feedback from a dressage professional as to where we were at in our training as it related to rhythm, relaxation, connection, impulsion, balance, and harmony. The feedback we received that day was meaningful, challenging, and affirming. It gave us something to work toward.

Both Makana and I enjoyed the day. My mare was relaxed and curious. I made significant connections with owners of gaited trail horses. Many of which had never considered applying their dressage training to their gaited horses until seeing gaited dressage in action. Two women even invited us to join their next trail ride. As long as Makana and I had fun, we’d try it again.

After that show I became introduced to the NWHA dressage tests which are the same as the USDF tests with flat walk in place of trot.

Five years and fifty-five gaited dressage tests later, USDF schooling dressage show judges have provided constructive feedback to help us grow in our training from Intro through Training to First Level and have challenged us to face all of the required movements in both directions. This would be easy to avoid if we were just hacking at home.

In 2015, the NWHA launched a dressage awards program. I have so much gratitude for the NWHA. I appreciate all of the hard work in getting the tests approved through the USDF every four years. If it weren’t for these tests, I likely wouldn’t have had the opportunity to show at open USDF schooling dressage shows the last five years. For these reasons I became a NWHA member to support the dressage awards program.

In 2015, Makana and I showed at five USDF open schooling shows as the only gaited horse among the trotting horses and rode 10 NWHA tests (two at Training Level and eight at First Level). Five scores were required from three different “L” (or higher) judges within a level to qualify and one test being the highest of the level. The horse with the highest median score would determin the winner.

2015 Gaited Dressage Show Record

May 2, 2015
Wildfire Farms Schooling Dressage Show
Maple Lake, MN
Judge: Jodi Ely
NWHA Training Level Test 3: 68.2%
NWHA First Level Test 1: 70.4%

May 9, 2015
Arbor Hill Schooling Dressage Show
Stillwater, MN
Judge: Molly Schiltgen
NWHA Training Level Test 3: 67.27%
NWHA First Level Test 1: 65.56%

May 30, 2015
Northwoods Schooling Dressage Show
Corcoran, MN
Judge: Colleen Holden
NWHA First Level Test 1: 65.926%
NWHA First Level Test 3: 70.294%

August 2, 2015
Carriage House Farms Schooling Dressage Show
Hugo, MN
Judge: Jennie Zimmerman
NWHA First Level Test 1: 64.07%
NWHA First Level Test 3: 62.06%

August 15, 2015
Wildfire Farms Schooling Dressage Show
Maple Lake, MN
Judge: Nancy Porter
NWHA First Level Test 1: 66.5%
NWHA First Level Test 3: 63.9%

I’m happy to announce that Makana and I were named Champion in First Level, followed by Banner’s Dixie Belle ridden by Scot MacGregor, and Heat Stroke ridden by Pamela Polydoros.

For complete dressage award results visit www.NWHA.com.