2014 Jennie Jackson Clinic: Dressage as Applied to the Gaited Horse

By Jennifer Klitzke

Coming from 28 years as a devoted dressage student riding trotting horses, dressage is not new to me. But applying dressage training methods to my naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse has raised a few questions: How do I ride a head-shaking horse on-the-bit? Does the dressage training pyramid apply to the gaited horse? Can a gaited horse reach high levels of dressage? Is it possible to collect a gaited horse without trotting? What about rider position?In January 2013 I stumbled upon Jennie Jackson’s Dressage en Gaite training DVDs and purchased them with my Christmas money in hopes of finding answers to these questions.Jennie is the only person I’ve come to know IN HISTORY who has trained and shown a Tennessee walking horse to the highest levels of dressage: piaffe en gait, passage en gait, canter pirouettes, tempi changes, and has developed the full range of motion–collected through extended walks, gaits, and canters.Watching Jennie’s DVDs began to answer my questions. That’s when I invited her to teach a Dressage as Applied to the Gaited Horse Clinic in Minnesota last year. The clinic was a huge success. So this year, I team with the Minnesota Walking Horse Association for the 2014 Jennie Jackson Clinic held Friday-Sunday, May 30-June 1 in Proctor, MN.

Not only is Jennie the pioneer of Dressage en Gaite, she is an international Walking Horse judge and clinician and has a full scope of knowledge and experience with Tennessee walking horses‒from breeding through breaking, training and finishing, in and out of the show ring: English, western, trail obstacle, driving, stadium jumping, cross-country, and dressage. Plus, Jennie and her husband Nate have been on the front lines fighting soring and abuse for 30 years. What an honor to have them in our midst!

Auditors, riders, gaited horses, and a gaited mule came to the clinic from various backgrounds: some from the Walking horse show world, others from the trail, some new to dressage, and a few returned for more advanced dressage teaching.

Clinic riders and auditors experienced the importance of: teaching the horse relaxation, stretching and seeking a snaffle bit contact; teaching the horse to move away from the rider’s lower leg, step across and under its belly with its inside hind leg, and into the outside indirect rein through leg yield, turn on the fore, and shoulder in exercises; using ground rails to break pace; using half halts to discourage trot and establish a smooth four beat gait; establishing correct canter leads over ground rails; using travere through counter canter to maintain lead; collected walk-canter-walk transitions; simple changes at “X”; applying the freshening canter to establish a true three-beat canter in preparation for flying changes; transitions between collected, medium, flat walk, and running walk; turn on the forehand; turn on the haunches; walk pirouettes; leg yield to half pass; introducing the kinton noseband and its function; introducing a double bridle and the function of the curb vs. the snaffle bit; plus demonstration rides by Jennie on some of the student’s horses to help riders, horses, and auditors understand the exercises she taught.

I hope everyone who attended the clinic enjoyed it as much as I did. Thank you Jennie and Nate Jackson for traveling to MN and to the MWHA for sponsoring this clinic!

For more about Jennie Jackson and Dressage en Gaite, visit www.walkinonranch.com.

For more clinic photos and stories, visit www.naturallygaited.com.

 

 

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Ashley Frones riding collected walk to canter and counter-canter transitions.

 

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 Becky Hansen teaches her horse how to move away from her inside leg to the outside indirect rein.

 

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Candice Rundell teaches her Spotted Saddle Horse how to relax into a soft, stretching frame and to seek a snaffle bit contact.

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 TWH demonstrating a beautiful four-beat flatwalk.  “I didn’t realize that there was so much to this style of riding.” ‒Dave Renne

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Rachal Peppard established canter departs over four ground rails spaced nine feet apart.

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Jennifer Klitzke learned collected walk-canter-walk transitions while maintaining connection and a still riding position.

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Sally Frones beautifully demonstrates the perfect softness and angle of leg yield along the fence line.

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The auditors enjoyed watching those big ears flop each time the gaited mule flat walked.