Because I Love You More

Indy_2011

By Jennifer Klitzke

I have always been passionate about the Spanish horse—anything with Iberian blood would do. Only I could never afford such a mount.

On a cold January 2012 morning, I was surfing Craigslist.com and light buckskin dun Spanish Mustang named Indian’s Legend (Indy) showed up in the results.

When my eyes first saw him, my heart leaped.

No, I didn’t need another horse, I already had four, but there was something about him.

The owner loved Indy, no doubt. Yet a single mom, working full time, and a full-time student, she was trying to hold her passions together when reality set in. She knew it was time to let Indy go.

Drop-dead gorgeous and the closest thing to Lusitano I’d ever be able to afford, I had to have him.

It took some savvy negotiating to talk my husband into the idea of another horse. It was easy for me to justify. Two of our horses were approaching their thirties, one was a rescue horse strapped with heaves, the other was a non-aerobic gaited horse. Indy would be about the same cost as a gym membership and I’d enjoy him more.

Loading him into the trailer, Indy’s previous owner’s heart was breaking. Her love for him streamed from her eyes as we drove away.

It didn’t take long to realize that Indy was exceptionally intelligent, bold and curious. He needed lots of variety to keep him from getting bored. He wouldn’t be satisfied with miles of 20 meter circles in an arena.

Indy was game for anything I faced him with. In the last five years he has made many life long dreams come true in my grandma age. We took up trail riding, which led to trail obstacle challenges, which led to endurance riding. Then we took up stadium jumping which led to cross country and dressage shows, which led to eventing. Then we tried cow sorting followed by becoming a demonstration horse/rider team at the Minnesota Horse Expo. We even rode in a Mary Wanless riding biomechanics clinic. She has been an author I have studied for decades through her books and videos.

In our five years together, Indy earned Spanish Mustang Performance Horse of the Year in 2012 and 2015, 2012 Spanish Mustang Conquistador of Performance Award, and we achieved 2,000 trail miles.

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Mary Wanless Clinic (2012)

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Lots of trail rides (2012-2016)

 

2016 Mosquito Run

Endurance riding (2012-2016)

 

obstacles

Trail obstacles (2012-2016)

 

2014 SMR Performance Horse of the Year Indian's Legend Jumping Stadium

Stadium Jumping (2013-2015)

 

2014 SMR Performance Horse of the Year Indian's Legend Jumping a Water Obstacle

Steepleview Schooling Days (2013-2014)

 

2014 SMR Performance Horse of the Year Indian's Legend Jumping a Log

Cross country (2013-2015)

 

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Dressage Shows (2012-2016)

 

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Steepleview Horse Trials (2013-2014)

 

My Spanish Mustang cow clinic

Sorting cows (2013-2016)

 

2016 MN Horse Expo featuring the Spanish Mustang

Minnesota Horse Expo (2015-2016)

 

Spanish Mustang Western Dressage

Western dressage (2017)


Only, I faced a cross road when my life was interrupted by family crisis.

On October 2014, after a family intervention, my Dad was admitted into a Memory Care Unit with Alzheimer’s disease. He was a genius in his own time–only 75 years old. The disease robbed him of his brilliant mind. Mom suffered two strokes trying to take care of him at home. Dad was out of control and Mom was at the end of her rope.

I gave up many weekend of Indy time to be with my Dad and Mom during this crisis. Working full time and caring for my family meant that my intelligent and talented Spanish Mustang’s life was on hold as long as mine was. This weighed heavily on me.

Last summer was hard in many ways. I watched my Dad slip away, and I watched Indy grow bored. He longed for the adventurous life we once had—going places every weekend to new experiences. I managed to squeeze in a few arena rides, but that got boring. I tried to keep it interesting with obstacles, cavelettis, and jumps. It helped, but Indy missed the life we once had and so did I, but there wasn’t anything I could do about the crisis my family was in.

In January 2017, my Dad passed away. Relieved that he was no longer anguished by that brain devouring disease, I miss him.

Now my Mom needs more help that ever. Still working full time, my husband and I help my Mom on the weekends through life without Dad and help her downsize 54 years of memories in order to sell the house and get her moved into a manageable living situation.

I looked ahead at this year’s show schedule. Last year’s best intentions didn’t get us to any shows except for the two virtual shows I recorded from home. This year wasn’t going to be any different.

Going on two years in Indy’s prime of life, it just wasn’t right for me to horde him for myself.

In the last few years, Indy’s previous owner had graduated from college and remarried. We have kept in touch since I bought him, and she asked if I ever needed to part with Indy to let her know. I watched how much fun she and her family have had riding their Spanish Mustangs through mature forest around their home year round. It is the life Indy came from. A life he loved and a life I can’t offer him.

I contacted Indy’s previous owner and asked if she would be interested in buying him back. She was thrilled to be reunited with Indy as her very own again.

Saying “goodbye” to the Spanish Mustang who made my dreams come true felt like a part of me has died, but I love Indy more than to see him waste away in boredom because of my busy life. I have deep gratitude in my heart for the five years we shared. I want Indy to be happy and in his element. Nothing brings me greater joy than to see Indy go back to his first home whose owner loves him like I do and for Indy to live the trail horse dream.

Loading Indy into the trailer, my heart was breaking. My love for him streamed from my eyes as the trailer drove away. Because I love you more, Indy. Because I love you more.

2016 NAWD Harvest Show

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By Jennifer Klitzke

It has been a rainy summer. I was lucky to have one dry day to film our rides for the Harvest Virtual Western Dressage Show before another storm swamped the arena.

This show I entered three horses: my friend’s gaited mare Lady in NAWD Intro Test 2, and it was the first time my Spanish Mustang Indian’s Legend (Indy) and my naturally gaited Tennessee walking horse Gift of Freedom (Makana) competed against each other in the same show, riding the same test.

Lady placed second among 11 entries and she was the only gaited horse among trotting horses. Indy placed first in NAWD Basic 3 with a score of 66% and Makana placed third with a score of 58.857%. She was the only gaited horse among the three horses riding NAWD Basic 3.

Video: NAWD Western Dressage Basic 3 Spanish Mustang-style

Indy being ridden on a 20 meter circle allowing the horse to stretch.

The show had a good turnout with 127 entries nationwide ranging from Intro through Basic, Freestyle, Therapeutic, Working in Hand and Versatility for Youth, Adult Amateur, and Open.

Harvest Virtual Show results»

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Trail Challenge

2016 Trail Challenge

My Spanish Mustang Indy and I had a lot fun taking a new friend and her Arabian to the RNR Ranch Trail Challenge yesterday. The weather was perfect! Six challenging obstacles nestled between the rolling forested hills, plus an additional hour long trail ride at RNR Ranch’s private trails. We saw two fawns trotting side-by-side, lots of song birds, a canopy of trees to keep us cool, and the hills and obstacles kept our horses entertained and challenged.

And not even one comment of the “F” word (Fjord).

Moo(ve) Cow, Move!

My Spanish Mustang cow clinic

By Jennifer Klitzke

I’ll never forget when my Spanish Mustang, Indian’s Legend (Indy), first encountered cows. I was expecting that my bold Stang would eat ’em up, but Indy flipped a 180 and sped for the exit as if he were in the Indy 500!

A month later, I took Indy to a low key Introducing Your Horse to Cows clinic where he experienced a light bulb moment that cows were something he could dominate and push around instead of fear. After that, we signed up for a cow sorting league and had a lot of fun.

It has been two years since Indy last faced cows, so I took him to a Beginner Cow Sorting Clinic at Hi Circle Vee Ranch on Saturday, July 30.  I figured that sorting cows would be another interesting activity to keep his intelligent mind engaged. In fact, my “game for anything” friend I met at the Mosquito Run endurance ride was at the clinic. It was fun to ride with her and her beautiful Arabian mare again.

Indy took to the cows immediately, which confirmed my interest in joining an August league. Plus, the facility is only five miles away and the league is held on a week night, so I can keep my weekends free to visit my ailing Dad.

We met a lot of nice people there (and not one person asked if I was riding a Fjord!)

Cow Sorting Clinic

Return to Eventing

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By Jennifer Klitzke

Jumping and cross country: recently we made headway after an unexpected break. You see, my Dad has been terminally ill. Ever since his fatal diagnosis in since October 2014, my zest for competition has lost its zeal, because time with my family has been priceless.

At the same time, my Spanish Mustang, Indian’s Legend (Indy), hasn’t been himself. He loved the exciting variety we had experienced together: traveling to dressage shows, cross country venues, hunter jumper shows, trail obstacle challenges, cow sorting events, trail rides, endurance races, and more each weekend. I think Indy has been getting bored at home doing the “same old same old.” So I took him on a trail ride at Sand Dunes State Forest, then a Novice Endurance Ride at Crow Hassan Park Reserve, then an endurance-style trail ride at Rum River County Park the last few weekends between visits with my Mom and Dad. It seems to have added more HAPPY to his demeanor.

Then I saw an advertisement for an affordable starter through advanced eventing clinic not too far from home. “Affordable” caught my husband’s eye and “starter-level” caught mine, so I entered Indy in our first eventing clinic. It was our first time jumping in over a year and our first time doing cross country in nearly two years.

Excited and apprehensive, we traveled to Woodloch Stables in Hugo, MN to ride with Lisa Fergusson, a talented and successful event rider, trainer, and clinician.

Arriving I was surrounded by 17 hand Rolls Royce horses as I unloaded my pony-sized Spanish Mustang from the trailer. Fellow riders were friendly and complimentary—especially Lisa, our coach.

On Saturday, we began with stadium jumping. It was an easy start: one cross rail followed by another. Then the line was finished with a vertical. “No problem!” says Indy. Then we added a liverpool followed by a vertical plank. Again, Indy said, “Bring it on!”

We finished our session by riding a full course of cross rails, verticals, double oxers, planks, and the liverpool. The most challenging part was if my grandma brain could remember the 11 fence course.

Lisa was a great encouragement and said that Indy’s eyes lit up with HAPPY as he jumped the fences. He as gentle, enthusiastic, intelligent, and seems to love this stuff!

Lisa offered great tips such as keeping my shoulders back before the jump and landing with my weight in my heels.

The next day we had a private dressage lesson followed by a group cross country session.

Indy trot

Lisa gave us many helpful tips and exercises to improve balance and strength. I asked her if Indy traveled on the forehand. She thinks it is an optical illusion because at a trot his wither is level with his croup and he tracks up in his foot steps. She said he is even more balanced at a canter where his wither rises up higher than his croup. He cleanly moves through upward and downward transitions without falling apart. Lisa encouraged me to ask for more jump in the canter to engage and strengthen him more from behind.

She said riding him straight up and down gently sloping hills at a walk and trot or lunge him on a hillside to help him develop this hind quarters and find his balance naturally. We have the perfect hills in our back pasture to try this out.

While riding in the arena, Lisa suggested to add three ground poles placed four feet apart to trot over and two or three poles placed eight feet apart to canter over. This will help Indy build strength and balance as well. It will also break up the monotony of arena work.

The most important insight for me is to teach Indy half halts from my body and not from the bit. When we tried this in my lesson, Indy responded immediately to my body aids and he didn’t gap open his mouth. Lisa believes that Indy has a sensitive mouth and may be resenting the bit contact. This is very insightful. She also suggested trying a double jointed bit or even a non-metallic Happy Mouth bit.

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There were three of us in our cross country session and it began at the water complex. Oh, how Indy loves the water! We had lots of practice riding in and out of sun and shade jumping over logs and through the water complex. It was great fun and Lisa said that Indy had HAPPY written all over his face.

2014 Pig Pond Classic Cross Country Log Jennifer Klitzke riding Spanish Mustang Indian's Legend

Then we moved to the back course where we worked over a bank, ditch and more logs. I had the opportunity to work through one of our scary issues. At times, Indy will grab the bit, lower his head and neck and take off where I feel out of control. If I pull, he dives down even lower. Lisa made a terrific suggestion. She said, “Don’t pull. If you stop pulling, he has nothing to pull back on and if you pull, he will pull harder and he will win.” Instead, she encouraged me to give him a moment and then half halt and release. We jumped the same sequence again and the release half-halt release worked like a charm.

Indy and I ended on a great note when he jumped the ditch and cantered down his first bank!

Lisa is a terrific coach: she is personable and encouraging, made great corrective feedback, and didn’t over face me or Indy. In fact, I was the one holding Indy back from jumping bigger fences and obstacles.

Special thanks to the organizers and to Woodloch Stables for hosting the clinic with Lisa Fergusson.

P.S. Amazing, not one person said the “F” word (Fjord) at this clinic. (Again, I have nothing against Fjords. I think they are adorable. It’s just that I ride a Spanish Mustang.)

 

Virtual Western Dressage

Spanish Mustang Western Dressage

By Jennifer Klitzke

My Dad has been terminally ill and in hospice care since last October, so I haven’t committed to traveling shows this year.

Thankfully, the North America Western Dressage Association has made a way for me to show from my own backyard. All I need to do is set up a dressage arena, have someone (oh, darling) record my ride, upload the video to youtube.com, and sent the unlisted link to the North American Western Dressage Association within the time duration indicated for the Virtual Show. Within a week or so, I receive my dressage test with feedback from a trained professional as to where we are at in our training and my placement as to how we compare to others around the world who rode the very same test. How cool is THAT!

Video: My Spanish Mustang Indian’s Legend in his first Western Dressage Test

This was Indy’s first Western Dressage Test. Although I feel like I’m dressed for a Halloween costume party, I am pleased with how Indy looks in his Western get up. I could be hooked on this Western dressage after all!

Riding the test, I liked how balanced Indy felt overall and how he reached down and out in the freewalk. The judge remarked. “Yeah, baby!!!”

Although Indy was busy in his mouth, he wasn’t heavy on the bridle or forehand; I think it was the bit. I usually ride him in a full-cheek snaffle and it isn’t legal for Western Dressage, so I switched to a bit he wasn’t used to.

The judge felt we rode the test well and with accuracy, balance and bend. Areas of improvement are for us to work on improving softness in the bridle. She felt Indy was impulsive and balanced in the jog and needs to work on more impulsion in the canter and softness in the transitions to halt.

I had to giggle when the judge remarked how much she loved my “Fjordie.” (Nothing against Fjords, it’s just that my Indy is a Spanish Mustang.)

first placeScore: 69.844% ( 1st of 3)

 

 

 

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Lost one and gained two at Mosquito Run

2016 Mosquito Run

Me and my Spanish Mustang moving out in our extended trot to make time.

Oh my goodness. What a great day! I was so sad that my endurance riding friend had moved away, and I had high hopes to meet others in my area so that I could continue riding endurance style on the trail.

While at the Mosquito Run endurance ride held Saturday, July 9, 2016 at Crow Hassan Park Reserve in Rogers, MN, I met two wonderful ladies who live in my area. One of whom just moved to the area and is a seasoned endurance rider. The other is a “game for anything” rider like me. Now I have two new friends to ride with (endurance style). Woot! Woot!

Our novice group of seven was off to a great start, until four dropped off to take a slower pace.

Suddenly our leader’s horse threw a shoe and had to drop out.

Oh, boy! That left a first-time novice endurance rider and I to tackle the ten-mile course in one hour and 45 minutes without a map or timer. (Thanks to the crew who did a great job marking the trails!)

2016 Mosquito Run

Our group began with seven and trickled down to two: no map and no timer. My riding partner has never ridden in an endurance ride before.

We held an extended trot until we encountered a wild turkey family who were hiding in the tall grass next to the trail. The horses sensed the birds long before we saw them. I coughed, but to no avail. (It seemed to scare away the bears last week at Sand Dunes State Forest.) Then I made my scariest predator sounds. Tom turkey popped up his head above the tall grass to take a gander. Followed by the hen and a dozen youngsters. The horses recoiled.

2016 Mosquito Run

Us after a dip and drink in the lake to cool off.

Finally our horses passed the flock of curious birds and we were on our way. We completed our ride 6 minutes over the optimum time.

Indy and I didn’t place, but we had a wonderful ride, and I enjoyed meeting new friends.

Special thanks to Bob Zimmerman for taking these beautiful photos, for the Park Reserve Staff who cleared the trails of fallen trees from last week’s storms, and for all of the volunteers who made the Mosquito Run possible.

P.S. Two people asked if Indy was a Kiger (and only one person asked if he was a Fjord)!

Polishing up on Our French

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By Jennifer Klitzke

In 2013 my Spanish Mustang Indian’s Legend (Indy) and I were acquainted with classical French Dressage when we rode at the Susan Norman Clinic. She has been a 15 year student of the late Jean Claude Racinet and a 3 year student of Philippe Karl, both whom I have been studying via books and DVDs since our lesson with Susan in 2013. Learning through books and DVDs can be helpful, but nothing compares to one-on-one instruction which provides timely feedback on how information is being interpreted. Plus, the lesson information is custom tailored to my horse’s needs versus a book’s or DVD’s general audience.

Walk halt walk transtions

Walk-halt-walk transitions are a great warm up exercise to get the horse working in balance and paying attention to the rider.

On May 14-15, 2016, Indy and I traveled to Timberlein Ranch in Stacy, MN to ride with Susan Norman. I think I learned just as much, if not more, from watching the other riders’ lessons—some riding green horses and others riding school masters.

Indy and I took in many new exercises to help us increase balance, lightness and harmony; rider position; the timing and application of aids; and entertain Indy’s keen mind from getting bored. Exercises include: figure eights with one loop of true bend to one loop of counter bend while transitioning between walk-halt-walk and trot-walk-trot transitions; leg yields from corner to corner across the diagonal; leg yields of three steps down the center line followed by three steps of straight followed by three more steps of leg yield; and spiraling in and out on a circle at a walk and trot. I noticed immediately improvement in Indy’s bend the moment Susan corrected my application of rider aids when I sat to the inside of the bend and applied my inside calf at the girth (instead of slightly behind the girth where my leg likes to hang.)

Working in Hand: Susan is a big advocate for teaching the horse work in hand before riding. I have to confess that I haven’t spent much time with this, so I asked her to show me how to introduce work in hand with Indy. Susan said it is important that the horse learns forward before teaching rein back or lateral movements. She showed me how to encourage Indy forward by tugging the reins on the back of his neck and walking alongside him for a couple steps and then halting him by alternating a squeeze release of each hand as each front foot steps. She repeated this exercise along the wall for a few minutes in each direction.

trot walk trot

Trot-walk-trot transitions on a figure eight are a great way to add bending in both directions and improve balance.

Once the horse is willingly forward, then rein back can be introduced. It is important to teach the horse to relax the jaw. Never push the horse back with the bit to force a rein back. This only creates tension in the horse and heaviness in the shoulders. When the horse is relaxed in the jaw and softly chewing the bit, the horse will rein back with little to no rein contact, no whip needed, and will be light in the shoulders.

Susan commended me for not forcing Indy’s active mouth shut with a crank nose band, and she praised me for not demanding him to be “on the bit.” Later on in the lesson, Susan pointed out how the balancing, softening, and lightening exercises naturally brought Indy to find his position on the bit.

Another insight from Susan was whenever Indy’s haunches fell in, Susan suggested, instead of forcing his haunches out, to move his shoulders in by bringing both hands to the inside and riding a shoulder fore position.

I was pleased with the progress Indy has made over the last three years from the first lesson I took with Susan and the study we have been doing through Philippe Karl’s DVD series and Jean Claude Racinet’s book “Another Horsemanship.” Indy doesn’t lean on the bridle like he did, nor does he dip his nose behind the vertical to evade the bit. He doesn’t rush off on the forehand and try to pull the reins out of my hands. Instead he is able to carry his own head and neck in a more elegant position for longer periods of time. Indy still has an active mouth and bobs his head at a walk, but Susan feels this will lessen in time. French classical dressage has really helped Indy, who is naturally built like a bulldozer, to carry himself lightly and politely into elegant balance which transforms our rides into more of a dance.

At the end of our ride, a kind woman approached Indy and I and said, “Thank you for bringing your lovely Fjord.” I had to giggle, since this comment pops up at every event I take Indy to, but it also provides the opportunity to talk about how wonderful my Spanish Mustang is.

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2016 MN Horse Expo features Spanish Mustangs

2016 MN Horse Expo featuring the Spanish Mustang

The 2016 MN Horse Expo goes down as one of wonderful connections, reconnections, and facebook come-to-life encounters.

2016 also marks the 20th consecutive year Spanish Mustangs have been a featured breed at the Minnesota Horse Expo thanks to the hard work of Spanish Mustang breeder Jane Greenwood. This year was a return of Spanish Mustangs Indian’s Legend ridden by Jennifer Klitzke and Jetla ridden by Erika Achberger who performed breed demonstrations and were a part of the parade of breeds each day.

2016 MN Horse Expo featuring the Spanish Mustang2016 was the year that Jennifer and Indy were reconnected with Stephanie, Indy’s previous owner; Leslie, the owner of Twin Hollow Spanish Mustangs where Indy was born and raised until he was two years old, and Gary Kupala, the cowboy who broke and trained Indy as a two and three year old.

New connections include meeting a classical French dressage instructor who was free to give Indy and I a lesson at the end of the second day and a well-known saddle fitter who stopped by with trees to measure Indy for a new Western saddle.

Video 2016 MN Horse Expo featuring Spanish Mustangs

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Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving

My Spanish Mustang Indian’s Legend spots the wild turkeys just ahead.

By Jennifer Klitzke

I have so much to be thankful for: a wonderful horse-tolerant husband, a loving family, my faith, good health, lots of friends (many of which are not human), living in a free country, and a job which affords me the means to own and care for my Spanish Mustang Indian’s Legend.

Ever since I was a child I dreamed of living on a farm and riding horses. Every birthday, Christmas, and loose tooth, came with the request of owning a horse. The pony phase never left me. I grew up to be a horse crazy lady and married a wonderful man later in life which led us to the country, a hobby farm, and my Spanish Mustang in my back yard.

Wishing you and yours a blessed and happy Thanksgiving!