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


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.


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, 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


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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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!

2014 SMR Performance Horse of the Year

Jennifer Klitzke and Spanish Mustang Indian's Legend at the 2014 Steepleview Horse Trials

By Jennifer Klitzke

2014 SMR Performance Horse of the Year and 1000 mileage patchAn unexpected surprise came in the mail the other day. My Spanish Mustang Indian’s Legend was awarded 2014 Performance Horse of the Year with the Spanish Mustang Registry, and we earned our 1,000 mileage patch. Thinking back to 2014, Indy and I did a lot of cross country schooling shows which included dressage, stadium jumping and cross country, one recognized Horse Trial, a trail obstacle challenge, novice endurance ride, and lots of trail riding and training miles.

Here’s what Indy adventures contributed to the award:

2014 SMR Performance Horse of the Year Indian's Legend Reaching 1000 Miles

Reaching 1,000 miles in the saddle!

May 25, 2014
Three Ring Circus Schooling Show, Hugo, MN

2014 SMR Performance Horse of the Year Indian's Legend Three Ring Circus Dressage

Dressage: Training Level Test 3: 1st of 13 entries with a score of 72.8%

2014 SMR Performance Horse of the Year Indian's Legend Three Ring Circus Hunter

Hunter over 2’3″ verticals: 5th of 8
Hunter over 20″ verticals: 4th of 4

June 29, 2014
Pig Pond Classic Cross Country Schooling Show, Ham Lake, MN

2014 SMR Performance Horse of the Year Indian's Legend Pig Pond Classic Dressage

Dressage Test: 33.1% (66.9%)
2nd best score of 23 beginner starter novice entries

2014 SMR Performance Horse of the Year Indian's Legend Pig Pond Classic Stadium

Stadium (no faults)
2nd best score of 23 beginner starter novice entries

Cross Country (schooling only)

July 13, 2014
MNDRA Endurance Ride, Crow-Hassan Park Reserve

2014 SMR Performance Horse of the Year Indian's Legend Endurance

Novice Endurance, 6th of 15

July 20, 2014
Steepleview Schooling Days, Delano, MN

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

Jumping up and down banks

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

Jumping over solid obstacles

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

Jumping over ditches

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

And jumping in and out of water complexes
(schooling only)

August 2, 2014
RNR Ranch Trail Challenge, St. Croix Falls, WI

2014 SMR Performance Horse of the Year Indian's Legend Trail Challenge

August 3, 2014
Rocking R Cross Country Schooling Show, Foley, MN

2014 SMR Performance Horse of the Year Indian's Legend Rocking R Cross Country

2014 SMR Performance Horse of the Year Indian's Legend Rocking R Cross Country2

Starter Novice Cross Country: 4th of 6

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

Hunter over 2’3″ verticals: 1st of 2
Hunter over 20″ verticals: 3rd of 4
Jumper over 2’3″ verticals: E

August 23-24, 2014
Steepleview Horse Trials, Delano, MN

2014 SMR Performance Horse of the Year Indian's Legend Dressage

Starter Novice Dressage: 36.5% (63.5%), 1st of 11

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

Stadium, 5th of 11

2014 SMR Performance Horse of the Year Indian's Legend Cross Country

Cross Country, E
Team Challenge, 2nd of 2

September 14, 2014
Gambler’s Choice, Duluth, MN

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

Stadium 2’3” (schooling only)
Cross country over solid obstacles, ditches, and banks (schooling only)

My Spanish Mustang Indy has made this timid dressage rider’s dreams of riding cross country come true. I love my boy!


Dressage (Spanish Mustang Style)

Trail Obstacles and Dressage

By Jennifer Klitzke

While riding in the dressage arena last week, I could tell my Spanish Mustang Indian’s Legend (Indy) was getting bored. Then it occurred to me that I could make dressage more interesting for him if I were to add a trail obstacle to our riding session. Better yet, I could add the trail obstacle as part of the dressage exercise—and that’s what we began to do.

The other day we practiced leg yield, rein back, and pivot the fore around a trail obstacle to help Indy get better balance and shift his weight to the hind quarters. Indy’s reward was a release of the reins and getting to go over the obstacle. It’s was a win-win!

So if you have a horse like my Spanish Mustang that is highly intelligent, likes trail obstacles, variety, and gets easily bored, here’s an exercise we tried and made us both happy.

Video: Trail Obstacles and Dressage

2015 Trail Challenge

My Spanish Mustang crossing the river

By Jennifer Klitzke

My Spanish Mustang Indian’s Legend (Indy) and I went to Governor Knowles State Forest on September 6, 2015 for a Trail Obstacle Challenge. Getting there was the most challenging part. Google took me to the North entrance which was 30 miles North of the horse trails. Thankfully Indy and I made it with a couple minutes to spare before our start time.

Indy and I were rode with my friend Kristin and her wonder horse Whiskey. Just a month after I purchased Indy, she set out to buy her first horse. I’ll never forget saying to Kristin, “Whatever you do, don’t buy the first horse you see.” And that’s what she did—but it was for a good cause. She rescued an underweight Arabian/Quarter Horse from a dire situation. He was abandoned on a foreclosed property with no food or water and his hooves hadn’t been trimmed in over a year!

“Something about him made my heart leap,” she said with a smile.

The next month was rather trying as Whiskey pushed his boundaries, but my friend got good instruction and set Whiskey on the right course. Within no time, Kristin and Whiskey were sorting cows, attending ranch rodeos, fun shows, endurance rides, trail rides, and swimming at the lake. Plus, Whiskey is hard to beat at trail obstacles as he took second place!

Whiskey and Kristin

Whiskey and Kristin successfully accomplishing the noisy obstacle drag.

Indy and I enjoyed our time with Kristin and Whiskey and riding through the wooded three-hour trail ride on a beautiful bugless summer day. We negotiated six obstacles: crossing the river, weaving through poles, walking through streamers, opening a mail box, dragging a pole, and walking over rails decorated with spooky items. Indy did very well and tied for sixth place out of 18 riders in our division. We had so much fun crossing the river, we had to do it again and again!

Spanish Mustang Indian's Legend on trail challenge

Me and my Spanish Mustang Indian’s Legend on our three-hour trail challenge on a beautiful summer day at Governor Knowles State Forest.

P.S. While at the rail obstacle, the judge asked me what kind of horse Indy was. Bracing for the common “Fjord” response, she said, “He looks Iberian.” When I told her that he is a Spanish Mustang, she said she totally sees it. Not more than five minutes later, a group of trail riders passed us and remarked, “That’s the skinniest Fjord I’ve ever seen!”

Video: My Spanish Mustang crossing the river

Ditches, Banks, Water and a Few Jumps

Ditches, banks, water and jumps

By Jennifer Klitzke

It’s been a rather rainy show season. Every show my Spanish Mustang Indian’s Legend and I have entered, it has rained. Storms cut us short at the last Pig Pond Classic schooling show and we had to take a rain check on the cross country, so this time we skipped dressage to make sure we’d have time for cross country before the rain moved in. Birchbury Farms who hosts the Pig Pond Classic just completed their water complex, and I didn’t want Indy to miss out on his favorite thing to do. After our 2′ and 2′-3″ stadium course rides, that’s where we were headed.

jumping the 2'3" stadium course

Jumping the 2’3″ stadium course.

lengthened trot

Leaving the arena at a lengthened trot.

Due to our rainy summer, Indy and I haven’t had much practice over fences, yet I was very happy with how well he jumped his 2′-3″ hunter course. He took every canter lead on cue and jumped the first six fences with beautiful form until we reached the seventh fence. It was a very tight turn into an oxer and Indy unexpectedly put on the breaks. I struck the oxer like a bowling ball on its way to a perfect 300 game—it sounded like it too! Indy stood over me wondering what I was doing on the ground.  Thankfully I landed between the rails and walked off the course with only a scraped arm. After a short break we were on to the cross country field.

Indy and I jumped a couple new fences we hadn’t tried before, practiced the banks and the ditch before heading to the water complex.

Jumping the log pile.

Jumping the log pile.

Jumping the table.

Jumping the table.

Jumping the ditch.

Jumping the ditch.

Indy loves the water and entertained a couple onlookers.

Up the bank.

Up the bank.

Down the bank.

Down the bank.

Cantering the water complex.

Cantering the water complex.

Jumping up the bank

Jumping up the bank.

Down the bank.

Down the bank.

Jumping up the bank

Through the water and up the bank

While riding the cross country course I recognized the horse/rider team we met at Three Ring Circus, Megan and the Mustang who changed her life. Wow, not only is their story inspiring, but that Mustang jumps with great form and Megan is a lovely rider.

Megan and the Mustang that changed her life.

Megan and the Mustang that changed her life.

Megan and the Mustang that changed her life.

Megan and the Mustang that changed her life.


We squeezed in the stadium and cross country just in the nick of time. As soon as we trailered up the skies grew dark and the clouds let loose another dose of rain to fuel the bug population. Indy and I had a wonderful time and were glad that we squeezed it all in before the rain. Special thanks to Birchbury Farms and to all of the volunteers for putting on the Pig Pond Classic.

Video: Ditches, Banks, Water (and a Few Jumps)