Sunday, December 21, 2008

Horsey Ice Pops

Here is one of those fun "makes you feel good" things you can do for your horses.
A couple that came by the ranch a few years ago shared this idea and I've spiffed it up a bit over time.
This is also a good way to keep horses winter boredom at bay and I get lots of training horses in that are wood chewers so this is another way to curb that desire as well.
Most important element is that you must first live in the right part of the country in which you can freeze water solid out side.
Use one 5 gallon bucket filled 3/4's full with water. Don't over fill or the bucket will split when frozen water expands.
1 cup chopped apple,the apples will float.
1 cup shredded carrots. Don't cut carrots into disk as horses can get theses stuck and possible choke could occur.
The carrots shreds will sink.
1 cup grain
The grain will sink.
So you will have treats on both ends of frozen pops.
1/2 cup Electrolyte mix.
1/2 cup sugar. I use raw sugar just because it's what I use around the house.
Optional: food color to desired depth of color. I use food color when putting the Pops outside so I can see them when the horses are playing with them so they stand out against the white snow. In an unheated barn for stall use food color is not needed.
Mix well
Place buckets outside till frozen solid then bring in to warmth for about 30 minutes for side of bucket to warm up just enough to slide pops out of buckets.
Depending on the horse and weather I get 1-2 weeks of use by a horse.
For the fella to stop wood chewing or just because they are wonderful, a frozen Thai Pandan custard pie.
Happy freezing!

Photo By Dave Genadek 2008
Sun dogs
The above photo Dave took this morning right in front of the house, barns and shop of Sun dogs or also know as sun pillars. Never have I seen them till this morning but in photos.
What the camera caught looks very different than what the naked eye sees.
In the photo between the 2 outside lights makes it look transparent and a beautiful sunny day but to the naked eye the center is very dark and grey with the sun pushing through in the center and all around the out side the sky is white with high winds keeping a white film of new snow carried through the air. We had a blizzard here yesterday and it's -11 with wind chill of -38 here and are snowed in which I love actually.
Dave ran out in his PJ's , boots with no socks, and a car coat to get this shot and came in shouting "Now I know what it feels like to have your "Oh,oh's froze off". The ever dedicated photographer that will do any thing for a great shot and I thank him for it.
Horses are all snug in their stalls , chewing away and I'm playing with some new proto type stall spray and muzzle oil scents for a manufacture with the horses today.
Vet called with a question this morning and just as I suspected he's running him self hard today taking care of colicing horses not getting the care they needed or just stressed out in this kind of weather.

I know so many folks horses make it through just fine and some maybe lucky leaving thier horses out this kind of weather but it bothers me that they would have to. I'd rather have them in out of the wind and cold, not having to walk with snow balls packed in their hooves, fluffy bedding to lay on , warm water to drink and actually be comfortable. They seems so grateful to be in , it's so peaceful in the barn listening to them all chewing in contentment, playing with toys, soft happy nickers to each other and no one giving any indication of wanting to go out to the frozen tundra.
I love the feeling it gives me doing everything I can to make them very comfortable and content, it's just very fulfilling. This is the weather when they need us the most.

Momma Swallow feeding her babes
For those of you thinking spring here is a photo taken from our front porch this summer of a Barn swallow who made her nest on the porch which was an event to watch from start to this point. Always hungry and demanding bunch they we're.
Happy Winter and Holidays from Dave and Liz!

Friday, December 12, 2008

We got the group of three
Last steer to go in
Just Sharing

In corresponding with folks from many places I write back so many of my thoughts and ideas and so tonight I thought I'd share some of them. Maybe they can be of some help to you or someone you know working with their own horses.
1. I desire an acclimated horse , not a desensitized horse.
2. I desire a willing horse, not a submissive horse.
3. Humans create holes in horses training.
4. Strive for an engaged mind in a horse, not a disconnected mind.
5. Any mechanical direction or instruction that is ever given to someone on how to do anything with a horse, is worthless in complete and total success if the horses mind and emotions are not in the right place. Willingness, softness,with clarity must be present for them to give you their body fully and correctly by the mechanical aids we utilize. This being not only the tools of head gear, etc. but of our own body, that most important tool.
6. We create the emotional teaching environment for the horse and should take great responsibility for that, to many people put that on the horse as their job.
The above photos are old ones when Bubba and I were both much younger.
These were taken at Marriott Ranch in Hume, VA back before team penning had really taken off nationally. I enjoyed the sport before it changed. At that time it was more used in that area by the professional reiner's and cutters as a way to keep their horses tuned up. I watched some awesome horses and riders too.
I had to teach Bubba how to work a cow , it did not come naturally as it did with my quarter horses, and learn he did . He enjoyed it and always competed bit less when team penning. He still gets excited and willing to go when he gets around cattle but I no longer let him work them, as his mind says he can but his body should not.
When I think about all the things we have done together I realized long ago horses don't know what trophies or ribbons are, prize money, mileage patch's, power or cultural acceptance among other humans. None of the things humans seek out so often in owning and/or riding horses. What the horses do know is what is the emotion we put off by the experience when we are seeking such meaningless things to them. They can either enjoy the tasks, resent , resist, fear, want to get it over with, or become numb. We hold the key to how they feel about what we ask. My hope is that more horses enjoy their experience rather than the other options.
Liz Graves
copyright 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Who would have Guessed??
Never in a million years did I realized my equine reproduction courses in collage would have me called upon to be the mid-wife for so many creatures over the years.
Above is a photo repositioning and delivering a snow white Cria baby for Momma Alpaca " Loraine".
At least in this case I was keeping to a gaited creature as Alpacas move laterally.
What an adventure this life has been, busy too, just so much to experience!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Fun Blasts from the Past
The family has been trying to pull together some of our old pieces of memorabilia and I just dug up a few old photos I have. Mom now home, is trying to find one of my grandfather Evens in his Calvary garb as he served 2 years before being transferred to the air division. His passion being air planes. Although being brought up to ride, horses were not his joy, his dream was to be a fly boy and he was.
The top photo was taken in 1968 of a stallion we had named"Iron Range Ajax".
What a gentleman he was just as my stallion "Doc Holly Golly" is today.
Very different type from what we see in many Appaloosa horses of today.
I road many reining patterns and a few Junior rodeo queen contests on this horse with huge success in that he showed this little girl how it was to be done and took great care of me. Back then a juvenile could ride a stallion as long as the events did not fall under WSCA rules. Times were different in that stallions were well trained, good citizens and proven as performers, while temperament was paramount for them to remain a stallion and even be considered to cover a mare. Unlike today when many folks will promote an un trained horse and market it on it's ancestors performances but none of their own. It was not uncommon the have 3-4 stallions on organized trail rides of 60 horses and each one was always well mannered and one had to look to be sure they were stallions. Much in horse handling has changed today and not always for the best.

The photo above is of my Father in 1969 riding "Ajax" at the Anoka Saddle club grounds doing a pole bending pattern. Of course no spurs, no tie downs, no flat bats , no long shanked harsh bits, no long strand of lariat hanging off the horn. Good equitation applied just as much then in gaming events as it did in any equitation class. The secret to being as competitive as any of the others with all their gimmicks and devices was simply great horsemanship, show your horse how, reasonably, give them a purpose and make it fun for them and they will give you everything they have to give.

The above photo was taken in 1968 again with my Father aboard "Ajax" at Sugar Hills, MN show heading back for the finish line in Keyhole race. My Dad liked the fast events.
Again as I've said before , ride as close to the base of the wither as you can, making it easier for the horse to carry you, keep your legs draped softly under you and pelvis level for direct, clean signals and a balanced effective seat in any riding applications. The last photo is of my Mother modeling her new riding suit in 1968 she received for Christmas.
I so loved the riding fashions then and miss them.
A bale of hay then was .25 cent , my mother was not happy when it went to .30 cents. Entry fee's were .50 cents.
Sportsmanship,with good behavior was expected by all as it was in the horses and anything else was just unacceptable. No junior high school behaviors, minimal politics or manipulation out of adults back then. Everyone worked for the kids, we were a community that helped each other and worked together.
People treated each other with kindness and respect.
Oh I loved the old Minnesota horse community I grew up in.
Ah happy memories of times gone by.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Equine Affaire MA 2008
The most important message I have to say about this event is my HUGE Thank you to 4 of the most ready awesome participants any
Clinician could ever ask for.
Wow, Wow, Wow!!!!!!!!!!
Jeniffer Johns and Ranger a TWH
Steve Louini and DJ a TWH
Vicki Haigh and Trav a MFT
Janet Aveni and Venessa a MFT
I know Friday was a very hard day and I threw a lot of complicated things at you all very fast but I so wanted you to have the new tools for the next steps in teaching your horses, your all ready and so are your wonderful horses.
To have students like the 4 of you all in one place was such a reward for me. Teaching is not always easy but when we get folks that come ready, with open minds and already having done so much good work with their horses you just cant help your self to want to give everything you have. To see them the very best they can be as they have the desire, the passion and have already proven to put forth so much work , with all the right intentions and nothing getting in the way of that.
I loved teaching you but also loved being a student with you as well.
Thank you with all my heart!!!!!!!!!!!
Liz Graves

Saturday, November 15, 2008

2008 Lee Ziegler Perpetual Memorial
Trophy winner!
Donated by Gaited Horse Magazine & Elizabeth Graves
Presented to the 2008 youth equitation winner
Ava, Missouri
Dillon Peck
riding: Captain Diamond,
owned by: Haldon Burgener
Congratulations Dillon !!
From Gaited Horse Magazine and Elizabeth Graves
Photo Credit: Brian Payne of Everything Digital, Lebanon, MO
Thank you Brain for Permission to use this photo of Dillon and Captain Diamond

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Epistemology of Riding Fundamentals
By Elizabeth Graves
copyright 2008
1. To get straightness and keep it.
2. To engage the hind quarters.
3. To raise or lower the root of the neck.
4. To move forward.
5. To bend in the rib cage.
Notes: #2 through #5 cannot happen in quality application without #1.
A. To use our energy to create the horses energy.
B. To use the proper kind of emotion to create the desired energy.
Notes: Understand the use of positive emotion, not negative to create movement.
A and B are Paramount to have success in #1 through #5
The above relates to all breeds of all horses not specifically to gaited or non-gaited breeds.
What is an Ethical Teacher of Horse and Humans?
The answer to me is one who first looks out for the safety and well being of their students.
Not to enable what the students wants in impulsive desires or unrealistic perceptions or desire of achieving a fantasy.
To of bring them the truth and the reality so they have success, both horse and human.
To bring them to the best they can be without physical or emotional harm within their abilities, and to strive to the maximum possible in any individual.
Teach with truth and honesty, never to hold them hostage to a teachers own limits or desires.
An ethical teacher will be honest in telling a human student they have reached the limits of their teaching abilities and direct them to the next teacher that can take them to the next level.
Will offer the simple reality that any true success is about the correct work and correct work done over reasonable time.
An ethical teachers will recommend proper supportive aids if need be but never allow the student to fall victim to the belief that shortcuts, gadgets, gizmo's and myths will bring them to the highest level of quality.
An ethical teachers is a listener of the student and the horse, firm if need be but, never a bully.
An ethical teachers knows themselves to also be a student.
An ethical teacher always strives to improve themselves and their abilities.
Liz Graves

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pumpkin Carved in foam by my friend Viv
with our logo
This Pumpkin I carved for the Fair Hill trail ride contest I did in
Fair Hill, MD a couple of weeks ago, it won most "Jolly" pumpkin.

Yep I know!
I've not posted anything here in a long time but please understand I have been on the road and just home enough to do my laundry , repack and head out again, not much sleep these days but winter will take care of that too, so I guess it's a good thing.

I have lots of clinics and workshops to write about yet and so much more that I have had on my mind to share related to horses and those of us seeing times changing .
I will get writing here again after this
last run of trips.

Just one thing I do want to share though, we can find hero's in many places if we just look. I recently found one in a horse I finally was able to meet in his glorious, silky horse flesh , his name is Nikki and he is the bravest, strongest horse I have ever met.
His zest for life has moved me in such a way I have not had happen before. Nikki gave me a very special gift when I met him, I can see things so much clearer now, he gave me something I had been needing to find a new strength in myself while giving me the push I needed to keep going in my purpose for the horses.
You will always be with me in my heart.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mom Report

Thank You all that sent prayers and made calls for my Mother.
I was finally able to reach her today, power is back on and phone working once again.
She, her pets, and home fared wonderful. No big trees close enough to the house to cause damage to the house or cars, many of her neighbors did not fair as well.
She is sad she lost her big rubber tree and 2 banana trees but already got replacements to get started again.
Lots of clean up happening in her community and getting life back on track once again.

She is now again excited and looking to her visit here with us in November for 2 weeks. Her most important request to get on a horse one more time. Battling cancer now for 4 years and having her back broken in my youth has made riding not possible for many years.
She has asked to get on Bubba specifically so we will do this for her and at least get her up one more time and he will take the greatest of care of her.
She also requested to hold lots of horses"whole heads' in her arms once again, only a true horse person would understand the need and rewards of doing this.

Thank you all once again, your prayers worked!!


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Please if you believe in Prayers
Pray for my Mother, My Teacher
She lives in Texas and in the path Of Ike
I ask for your Prayers if they are in you to give.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Laura & Chappy doing pattern exercises

Liz & Beau Beau playing after a hard days work

Shades Of Oak Rendezvous Workshops

Yes, it's time to start posting about theses events.I know, I have been selfish and delinquent in this and those that have been here this year have been waiting for me to post on them.
I guess I've just wanted to keep them close to me as they have been very special and better than I ever dreamed, I don't want them to change in any way.
I was a bit scared of bringing folks into my special place being where I rest, relax, regenerate from a very difficult life traveling and being in the public.It's harder for me being a very introverted person myself as many would not know.

What a summer it has been sharing my place of privacy, peace, safety and just relaxation for man and creature that Dave and I have created here on the ranch.

These workshops are very hard work and intensive, not only in riding but in some cases emotionally as well, to be a great horseman the two go hand in hand with the discovery of our horses and our selves.
Horses of all breeds have come, it's not just about gaited horses, people from all walks of life have come together to learn share and enjoy each other on the same journey. The days are long and hard, but the down time is wonderful. One can take a short trail ride in the local city park near by, go for a beautiful country walk, but Tony the Aussie will want to go with you, Or relax on the big porch and just let busy lives go away for awhile.
I still wonder if Jo and Carol with those Fancy foot working warm bloods have recovered, Jo said she was taking 2 months off after being here.
The Gypsy's Came
The Gypsy's Went
And Then They Came Back Again!

Liz & Beau Beau doing some lateral work

The work we do here ranges in vastness from advanced dressage, working youngsters, gait development, over coming fears, riding with physical handicaps and healing horses emotionally from bad pasts.
Laura wanted to share her experience with you so she made a little video. I've posted the link below to share with you.

Laura and Chappy letting the fear free

Chappy showing Laura he will stand solid for as long as he needs to in her journey to recovery
A little on what is happening above is, Laura a very accomplished rider from childhood being a dressage competitor. She suffered a sever accident on her then Friesian which she owned. Having a long period to relive the event over and over while healing in a wheel chair, found fear had taken hold. Finding "Chappy " her Gypsy years later, is now working to come back to the rider she once was. Chappy is the perfect horse in helping her do so.

Mark and Beau Beau

So in finishing here I hope the workshops stay just as wonderful as they have been, with serious seekers coming to be a part of what I feel is a special place, that's very much a part of who I am. To find what I have in a life living with horses.



Monday, September 1, 2008

Let It Be
A Thing Of The Past !

Yes Once again I'm doing silly things, but there is a point to this. Believe me "Purple Pony Skin" put up with a lot more of this type thing from me when I was a kid.
I advise you don't try this on your own unless you are absolutely sure you know the horse very well and are an experienced horseman with good feel and have a spotter around.
I also am actually thrilled for a mature gal on the back end of middle age, I can still do a few of these things.
So here is the story and the message.
This horse a fox trotter, 9 years old now and had a very hard start in his youth, the wrong people and hard methods. He now has a very different owner and getting the chance he deserves to be all he can.
He even has sever scars in the corners of his lips from being cut from a bit.
Due to his past resistance to very harsh training and trying to survive and screaming in his own way that he was unhappy He received a reputation of being a problem or troubled horse. It seems to have followed him for some time.
I found a very different horse in him. I road him 2 days, 4 years ago. Last year I could not ride him due to being unsound in the hind due to improper riding from an exercise rider. I spent that 3 days doing body work on him and just some ground work to create a relationship. This spring he was sound again and certainly remembered me and I spent 4 days riding him. I took the bit out and went with a bosal, I also the first year got rid of the bit and used a side pull. The photos above are of my recent last 4 days with him and again he remembered me and we started just where we left off like I had been riding him everyday.
So in total I have spent 13 days with this horse and ridden him 11 times.
Somtimes it's not what you do with a horse but maybe what you don't do as well.
My goal to help him see me as a different kind of human than he had experienced before, show him I had no fear of him so he would have no fear of me. I showed him how to do things through me teaching and positive responses for his try, never forced him, muscled or bullied him.
Just showed him , asked him and he gave right back. So soft ,so easy and with all the willingness in the world, never have I seen the scary things I have been told he could do.
Why? Because I knew his troubles were people troubles, not his that he created or ever wanted. I never brought the fear of those possibilities to him when with him , so they just were not there.
I trust him and he trusts in me.
My reason for doing the things above was to show he was not what he had been tagged ,but was one awesome horse, very talented and a very fast learner.
So often a horses issues are people created, be through just ignorance,
troubled humans or an incomplete training base, for what ever reason, if we can let the past go, then so can the horse. It just takes time, not always this fast but it can happen if we just try our selves and don't put it all on the horse.
We just have to believe in our selves to let the past go, so they can.
It's common for me to also see people bring their own pasts with another horse to the one they have today.
As I have said so many times before "Ride the Horse you have today".

Liz Graves
copyright 2008

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Fancy's First Ride
The above photo is of a lovely fox trotter mare I have in for schooling named
" Nothing Fancy", her owner is Andrea Kahn of Jefferson WI.
This is Fancy's first time carrying a rider and I thought I would take a little opportunity to share some of my experiences in working with young horses over most of my life time now and maybe there could be something here that may help someone else doing the same work.
Fancy is actually an easy horse in the sense she has truly a good start in life with Andrea acquiring her as a yearling and doing the right things in bring her up as young horse getting her prepared to have a good start and the most possible success when her under saddle work was to begin.
She taught her to be a good citizen from the start in that she does respect space limits, in which they need being such a large animal, not by nature an aggressive one. Andrea did not get greedy in working things over and over until as some horses just get numb,reactive, resentful and/or that zoned out way about them. Fancy is happy, very engaged in her mind and open to everything I present because trust was in place. She has been taught that she is safe living in a human made world and I hope she never gets out of Andrea's possession to find out just how bad it can be with the wrong kind of people.
In my work with her, a big base of ground work was completed, slowly and only in the amount of pressure in which she was comfortable once settling in here which did not take much. Everything done in her ground work is done with the thought that it relates to what she would need to know once I was mounted.
I teach horses never to pull on a lead and everything in communication with halters, leads or long lines it done just as I would with a rein in opening and closing my fingers to create a signal , never pulling and pushing them around. The same applies when I make body contact in ground work, I always do a push release with my hands or body not a steady push. No twirling and jerking on ropes in huge ways are in my program, I don't want them to fear them or be reactive of them but be accepting. All blanket work, rope work ,saddling and everything I do with a horse is about showing them theses objects, let them smell them , touch them and in touching their entire bodies with them in a kind way, learning the feel and movement of them will not hurt them and ever be directed at them in an aggressive way.
I don't want a horse desensitized, but rather acclimated.
I don't want horses to fear me or people. I'm not into that feed the human need of conquering horses, they are not alligators but I see them treated as such all the time. That's a human problem, not a horse problem, but the horses do have to live among people with those philosophies and can say they in my opinion are missing out on how truly the best a horse can be. I only get big when I have to and only as much as I need to, never more and know how to move right on after that, as nothing happened. I'm not one that does the "lets jerk them around in the head to set the ground rules" on top of doing such a thing can do a lot of damage to the neck of a horse next setting them up for failure due to pain issues.
Things are done with consistency here, rules are not changed on a horse because of a human whim or need. Everything is thought out in what the horse needs to be the safest mount possible for them and for people.
There is a world of difference between production training and training to be a safe solid mount with no holes, while still being engaged in the mind and learning to like their job not accept it as "just their fate".
I don't find the philosophies of putting the buck in to take it out, as making a safe mount, this does not always work and have had to re-hab many horses through the years trained with that thought process. Those that don't make it in those programs are just considered throw aways and the horse being at fault or not up to standards, not that the trainer was the failing factor in that horses fate.
Even doing the right things in this manner cant always help when things just sometimes go wrong and the reality of teaching horses this happens. I can bring to mind 2 situations with horses that things went south although both of these horses did not come in with a solid base as Fancy did and had issues before ground work even took place. The first a horse I had going well under saddle and just as very big leggy young gaited horse can do, got his feet tangled up in the arena when I was on and down we went together with me trapped with one leg under him until he got up, after that he was terrified of me getting back on and had to start all over at square one with the mounting process.
The other horse far enough along in that we were out in the back woods riding and a neighbor started brush hogging which was not a problem until he hit a tree stump with it. The huge boom and racket it caused spooked this horse so bad he bolted, tripped and over his head I went, experiencing dirt in every orifice that was not covered by clothing. Again he was terrified of me getting back on and had to start again. Things like this happen and why or how an individual horse will associate any of theses experiences with a human up top and coming off as a bad thing to let one back on , only they can answer. Of coarse the owners were not understanding at all as "we're the trainers" and things like this in their minds are not supposed to happen, well they do and that's the reality of working with a living creature not a machine, but a living being ruled by nerves, muscles and emotions that can have fears.
You ride enough horses and even aged ones with years of riding and training, things happen, it's just the way it is, but we do try to minimize this from happening by getting the basics in place and making them as solid as one can.
Many stories for that book were working on these days.
One, of the biggest things I can convey in the first ride is, be soft, relaxed, but conscious, be reassuring to the horse, remind them your up there with a word here and there. They are just figuring out how to carry your weight, as you can see in the photo above Fancy is taking it all in her legs right now not using her back or upper body to pick me up and carry me. I don't want to push her and make her tighten in her body the wrong way to carry me but learn too with more rides. If we force it by putting stiffness in the body early and teach them how to tighten in the wrong way and use the wrong muscles than we already started in going backwards in finding a collected walk in the beginning and keeping that element of looseness we will need later in the flat walk, running walk or fox trot on what ever breed of gaited horses your working with. On a trotting horse you'll end up with a hollow backed trot and not a collected trot. Why go back and fix that later when you don't have to, just keep everything soft and relaxed, don't get in a hurry, take the time it takes. Shaping the body can come later, just let them learn to carry you, find their balance, realize the communication with rein aids is the same as it meant in the ground work, longeing and line driving. Don't put pressure in those stirrups as the stirrup leathers go around the saddle tree bars and when pressure is applied in the stirrups your putting pressure on the back making it even harder to learn to pick their backs up with you on.
Believe me they can feel every tension and fear you bring up with you in that saddle. Get a hold of your own emotions if fear is present and not transfer this to the horse.
I think it important to mention also if you are not teaching your own horse it is reality to know if your own skills are not in place just because their teacher can ride them does not mean they will be the same for you. You have to make that possible in your self doing your own work to be a good rider and teacher to a horse. You just don't pick up your horse and ride off into the sun set being the star among your friends or fellow riders or in your own mind. It takes years and years to bring a horse to it best possible performance's what ever it's job is to be. It will be dependant on you for sometime to continue to teach them, make that teaching all the good stuff, not the bad.
Also ,do you have the right horse for you, like the old saying "just because you bought a Quarter horse does not mean it will be good at running barrels". Know what your horse is or is not, not what you want it to be as a performer or then it will never measure up and you set it up to fail, while blaming it and everyone that has a hand in it's teaching or advising you.
It's always hard sending the horses in for schooling home, people do dumb and selfish thing all the time to their horses, for Fancy at least this will not be the case, Andrea has years on her own being an experienced horse woman in the show ring and out side and knows what it is to run many sides of equine business's. I can send her home and feel good and breath with ease as her horses well being is first.
People like her keep me going knowing Fancy will have the best working life possible.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Regals Lunar Express
Who we call Major
Major I think of as the "pretty boy".
He does not like to be dirty and it seems to be important to him how he looks.
Major has so much dignity about him, much as Bubba always had but with out the arrogance of Bubba. Major is my performer, he's the most athletic and talented walker I have ever owned, he's that step above and can be very hard on himself. He's been my fastest learner and rarely makes an error when he learns a new skill completely. When we do have those errors it's usually due to my self causing it and him doing exactly what I asked, I just did not realize it at the time. The strength he has, yet so light & soft in how he uses himself , the brilliance of mind and maneuverability is everything I've always wanted to challenge my own skills in working upper level dressage work in a walking horse. He is also is one of the multi gaited horses that can do the foxtrot, running walk, saddle rack.
The saddle he is wearing is a fun one I enjoy riding from time to time, it's a gaucho saddle from South America. I have done a few modifications to it in that I want my saddles to be double rigged not single, so I did re-rig it for use with an X- cinch.
It is a treed saddle in that the tree is just made of leather having 2 stuffed tubes of leather running down each side of the spine laced together to distribute riders weight and create a nice wide and tall channel over the spine. This is a saddle for those that do have the skills of riding with an independent, balanced seat. Those that are still at the level of riding in that they are dependant on swells and a cantle with stirrup pressure to stay atop a horse will not find the security they desire until their skills have come in to place fully.
I have had fun with it and just something different.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Perfectin Gold Stryke
Also know as :
Stryker Dyker
Dennis the Menes
Yellow Butt
It's just amazing I was even able to get these photos as almost every time I've tried to get pictures of this horse they end up being of his tongue coming at the camera or just his muzzle with full view of his sinuses. It's very hard to keep this horse away from you when your around him, where you are, he is.
Also amazing is I got 2 precious hours of my own yesterday after doing morning jobs, and working the string of training horses, I then had this window of time before people came to take my boy Stryker for a ride.
We have 8 horses here of our own and each one means the world to us, they are our family and each one is unique yet so the same in the peace they create in their own security here. Dave and I are always in Ah of how when new horses come in they seem to help them know it's safe here and they all want them to relax here and they do.
Stryker is the one that is a bit different in that he just wants everyone to play with him. We don't leave the lounge door open, house door open, double chain and latch everything and keep nothing laying around that's not specifically for him as toys, or he would be in the house and everything on earth was put here for him to play with.
His wide open curiosity , and zest for life makes him one we have to protect from him self as he knows no fear and he has been put to the helicopter test twice now with Mayo clinic so close and the crop dusters working around the fields adjacent to the ranch.
He's designated himself as the official greeter here on the ranch. He makes us laugh all the time and loves to go for a ride, he enjoys his working time and has not a lazy bone in his body. I so enjoy when I have time just for him and we get so caught up in each other working and playing.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Link to slide show of all photos
Hanover Michigan Clinic 2008
Yes I did it and it's about time!
Having the right enviroment and people makes all the difference in how we come together as a group to learn and share.
Dave and I did a clinic here last year together as well and I knew just the place I was coming to again , the kind of folks this wonderful, peaceful, safe place would bring.
Thank you Jeannie Shepherd for making it all just right for us all , the horses too!
I'm always working hard to take my repeat horse and rider teams to the next place in their homework. Even though we had some new folks and some that had been here at my ranch as well, everyone fit perfectly as a group and more like a family coming together finding each other and just letting it all happen and go where it may.
To open a very important door to that next place I felt I needed was to take them to that place of feeling our emotions to the fore front, to open ourselves up to our horses, and to that place inside ourselves we sometimes guard so well.
That most important element we need show for our horses to give us everything they have in them to perform at their very best.
I'd put some serious thought in what I was about to do, the risk I was taking and hoping having Dave there with me would help and he would pick me up if I fell and not bring what I needed in the people to fruition.
What I did was GIVE THEM MYSELF, my soul on one palm and my life on the other, my own fears, struggles, joy and pain and held them out to them to do what they pleased with it all. That most vulnerable place for us all, I gave freely and in fear. This was very hard thing for me, but what had I to lose. I've spent much of my life being judged, broken to pieces in body fixing other people mistakes, used and spit out by the players. I still have chosen to live my life and work by my gut and my heart even though it did not fit into the cultural rules of those around me, the politics to be one of the "in" crowd.
So I've not become wealthy in some ways due to my choices but have become wealthier in more important ways such as having the best people around me and in my life, and the best part, the gifts the horses have given me in how to live, see them, help them and myself get better along the way.
And Guess What They Did With It All?
Yes , these amazing people took what I was offering of my self and put their own souls and lives out on their palms also, we were all in the same place, our emotions exposed, real and ready to bring them to our horses and go to work.
We all left life's baggage somewhere else just for a weekend, took the risk and took our selves to the horses as equals, yet their guides, teachers and leaders in these teams of horses and humans.
We opened first door of communication in our group ground work session, creating that safe place for the horses to open their minds to us. To listen to what we may ask, while being rewarded with positive words and soft touches all brought about by those clean, honest emotions we had all found in our selves. The calm, the relaxation and the peace that soon came out in ALL the horses and took over the arena was something to behold. They just gave us all we asked willingly and with contentment.
The same energy followed through just as it should in our under saddle work, we had set just the right tone for the horses, they were still open to us and willing to let go of their own bodies and emotions for us to mold and shape in new ways, better ways for them and the ways in which we needed them to go for the advanced exercises that were yet to come.
Our goals to utilize and bring a horses full energy and drive from the back of the horse through to the front, engage the hind quarters. Eliminate any blockages of the back to front power from poor equipment, physical issues, past poor riding or misunderstanding in past training.
To learn to ride from the center of the horse not the front.
How to know ask for and feel straightness, bend a horse in the rib cage, using seat and legs first and head gear communications as our secondary tool, our own bodies being first and foremost, not only in mechanical movement of our bodies but in how we use our own energy through emotion to create the movement and then to feel it all happening below us in the horse, the horse being an extension of our own legs.
How to raise and lower the base of the neck to create different back shapes for various movements.
The best part in knowing these was putting it all to work for us and asking for a lot of lateral exercises in patterns and rather complicated ones, speed increases and decrease for walks and gaits. The importance of it all to bring quality to a horses performance while keeping the bodies healthy physically and mentally and perform with out resistance.
I can still bring the vision of Tina on her Paso Mare doing half passes with directional changes through a cone pattern beautifully. That special very little horse "Mike" and his owner doing a perfect counter bend on a 20 foot circle.
Season finding that collected working walk and her own independent seat for the first time, the smile and joy on her face I will always see. April and her spotted mare "Veges" having coming the farthest from last year with April finding in herself the strength and support to help this sensitive mare over come some past baggage she had when April purchased her.
I saw the most stunning Standard bred mare of my life, she reminded me of Princess Grace Kelly in her manners and quiet unpretentious beauty.
So many special moment for us all to remember.
Again Thank you Jeannie for making this all possible and Dave for all his knowledge he shares so freely and the support you gave me to do something so very hard.
Next year can not get here fast enough.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The European Tour
I wish I could post all the photos from my teaching trip to Belgium and Germany but there are just so many, so I have chosen the above ones to share with you all.
It was an amazing trip for me as I felt like I had gone back in time to the horsemanship of my youth where folks knew the importance and meaning of quality time in the saddle, knew the value of a solid foundation in a horses training before moving to upper levels, gaited or non- gaited.
The maturity, focus and dedication of time in the saddle in Europe I encountered was something often forgotten here or missed completely anymore.
Hundreds and hundreds of years of horsemanship history was so evident,
still solid and there is much we can learn from these people about it not being a fantasy but a reality one must work and work very hard for, it's the only way to get really good, no faking it here.
There were no ego's to work through, no blaming of the horses when things did not go smooth but the riders asking" what do I need to do to make my horse understand what I am asking".
I found it interesting and wonderful that all our male riders rode mares except one who rode several horses but his prized horse was his mare 'Emma".
They were kind , talked to and touched them often, the mares were dedicated and put forth every bit of try they had to give.
The caliber of horses reminded me of years gone by here, solid, well structured and naturally gaited horses, all going barefoot or in a simple keg shoe and the gaits were well in place and true.
Maybe this is where we need to go to find and purchase some of those good old foundation type horses once again.
Bits were either snaffle, pelhams or bit less rigs. No long shanks , strap work, weighted shoes, poor equitation or gimmicks here.
Even though many from the States have been there before me trying to bring some of the poor gaited horses baggage and myths to them, their commons sense and what the horses tell them has not allowed some of the American short cuts to take hold for the most part, I had none of it at my clinics while there.
I also received a copy of the ETWHA rule book and it is what I always dreamed what one in our own country would have long ago been put in place, but politics is politics and I doubt in my life time I will see such a rule book for Walking Horses here to compare, even the so called sound horse and humane treatment Associations should have long ago stepped up and had a rule book like this in place. I also find it interesting that Associations in the US are wanting them and putting on pressure to change the European rules to match the US rules. How silly would that be, also many of the rules allowed here are illegal in Europe now matter what breed, such as the use of turn backs on horse shoes.
ETWHA has no weighted shoe allowances of any kind, keg shoes for protection only. Wire, chain or twisted mouth pieces are not allowed.
Horses under 6 must be shown in snaffles bits and and horses older can also be shown in snaffle bits.
All horses must be 4 years or older to be shown in a riding class.
A horse can only compete in a total of 5 classes per day.
This is just a few of the impressive rules I saw in place.
There were many foals for me to have fun and work with on my own time in Belgium, I miss that not raising my own any more and Sandra had a Palomino spotted foal " Aro" born Saturday morning of the clinic, that was a big surprise event for all of us to enjoy.
Also lots of dogs to enjoy, Chico and Pella my favorites.
I had wonderful trail rides in both counties on awesome horses.
I am so looking forward to next years clinics there and I know the homework I left them to work on will be all done and done well.
I am very much missing all the great folks I met there and hope they will as they can come here and stay with us so I can show them the same wonderful hospitality they showed me.