Thursday, December 30, 2010

Are you making your Horse Deaf or Noise Sensitive?
Our horses can only be as good as what we bring to the saddle or are everything we bring into the saddle.
They can be made deaf through over use of hand, seat and legs aids that make no sense to them.
The opposite effect can be what I term as a horse getting on the high side, meaning nervous , unsettled or reactive.
The presence of each effect is going to depend on how a horse is wired and/or the history an individual has had in it's life experiences, from the environments they live in, to the training and/ or breaking they have received.
Note: Physical pain can also bring about either of these behaviors.
Time and time again I witness situations when a horse is in pain for many reasons such as ill fitting or pain inducing equipment, poor horsemanship, lameness issue, etc.
Yet the owners time, and time again will argue that nothing is wrong when the horse is screaming through it's body language and /or physical shape .
So who is really the deaf one here??
Another common factor that effects a horses listening abilities is what are the emotions is one bringing into the saddle and communicating through their aids to the horse.
Horses are wonderfully emotional creatures and I have learned are the best of listeners when everything is honest, fair and has clarity in meaning.
It's all to often the horse gets the blame for what happens when working with them , so who really is the over sensitive one?
It's the bigger person inside that will step up and ask '' what am I doing?", and try to correct themselves to help the horse perform better.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

New Career

The Woodpile Horse Gang
left to right: Chompin Chestnut, Sr. Cedar,
Mr. Walnut, Baby Boy Pine, Birch Bark & Stixs
The Wood Pile Horse Gang, embark on new career.
Their goal , to be back up singers for the hit new single ' Horse Outside" !

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Woodpile Horse Gang
From Myself and all the critters at Shades of Oak

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Jill Davis long time horse owner
also known to many of us as "Beeswood" a very well known and talented Artist as a leather tack painter.
The post below was one that Jill wrote and posted on a forum, the subject being " Do we over analyze our horses".
I loved it and found her insight was so worth sharing with others so I asked her permission to post it here.
By Jill Davis
Many who now own horses have their 1st horse 'later in life' - when they have finally been able to afford their dream. I am so NOT KNOCKING this, but it's fact. Along with that first horse thrill AND being a wiser, more 'responsible', educated adult, comes the desire to it all "right". We have awesome clinicians these days that offer a huge leg up on understanding the equine thought-pattern, we have excellent saddle makers/fitters who offer close-to/custom saddles for pretty fair prices, and everyone is concerned about health and safety - so riding helmets, 'perfect pants', etc. are all part of the package. People do their best to set up a Win/Win situation from the start. Nice idea, commendable... ...Then the over-thinking comes into play, and at times the Little Girl Who Communes With Horses fantasy edges in - because having the chance to LIVE your childhood dream is AWESOME! Only problem is, it doesn't always work the way we "dreamed it" and we are so accustom (as adults) to being able to buy/get exactly what we want when we want it, that we have forgotten the all important ingredient of TIME with PATIENCE. We don't want to admit we don't know it all...or can't DO it all...yet. There is an ENORMOUS learning curve with horses - each one is different in some way, so what one may learn in theory doesn't always 'fit', and you have to improvise. If your knowledge is 'just book', not experience, it's going to be frustrating. Bottom line is that THERE IS NO SHORT CUT. But so many don't want to see that, they just want to buy the next video, go to the next clinic, get the next gadget that promises "success". If people would just chill out, quiet down, and be patient (I think) they might begin to learn stuff from the source itself..the horse. I also think a lot of folks are over mounted - be it out of vanity or honest ignorance. No one should be embarrassed or ashamed of a 'less than perfect' horse, because THAT horse is going to teach you things like trust and it you to them or they to you. Everyone thinks they 'need' a young horse to grow old with, when often times owning a steady-Eddy 15 y.o. for a few years could build confidence, teach you so much, and set you up for someday choosing that long-term horse. It's not a bike, and activity or a sport that we can control 100%, EVER. Nothing is perfect. Your Lifetime Horse is probably NOT going to be one of the first ones you own, so get that straight right off the bat, and you're that much closer to it. Anyway, I know there are those who will 'beg to differ' with me, and that's fine, but I've been watching this for about 50 years. In that time I have had 3 'nearly perfect' horses for those times in my life. Currently I am fortunate enough to own #3, but it wasn't without many, many others in between!!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Anna Up, On Spanish Mustang Salsa
I never did have time to share this summer that my friend Anna From Germany was able to come for a visit here at our ranch.
It was a delight for me to return some of the hospitality that Anna and her family have shown me on my trips teaching in Germany at Down Under Stables.
What a wonderful guest she is and more so for me is to spend time with a fellow horsewoman as passionate as I am about riding and our journey to get as good as we possibly can.
It was fun to see that familiar twinkle in her eye every time I would ask" Would you like to ride this horse" and each and every time up she went with a smile on her face.
Reminds me of me!
Only difference is I'm old and get up slower.
One of these horses was a Spanish Mustang owned by Zen Cowboys and Anna's first experience with this breed . Anna just wowed us all with her skills in bringing Salsa who was feisty this day into collection in Bosal being Anna's first time using this type of equipment. Good horsemanship is good horsemanship regardless of the tools we use, and Anna demonstrated this beautifully.
Dave and I were able to get a little time away and show her some of our state as well ,a treat for us too.
Dave and I think of her as "Our Anna" and look forward to many return trips from her in the future and next time she will have a 60 meter Dressage arena to ride in.
So much to look forward to and Dave will have to bring us our meals up at the arena.
Heads up Dave!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Rita with Sharon up
At times in our lives we are so blessed.
Blessed by the contact of those special beings.
They touch our lives in extraordinary ways.
They guide, and teach us to be better.
They accept us as we are.
They teach us about relationships.
They teach us about dignity without arrogance
Rita was one of these beings.
She had the magic as I say.
Not only as an advanced performer,
but in the grace she lived her life.
Thank you Rita for allowing me the honor to share your space.
Thank you for being Sharon's partner and friend.
Thank you for touching our lives.
Thank you for being you!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

This 57 second Video Dave put together from some of our Pryor Mountain Mustang trips.
To so many of those in our close circle they really get it and understand the importance of the message put so well into words by Dave.
We are finding it interesting though that some folks just don't get it at all.
Others do, but don't care.
Some do and are working so hard in getting it all to happen for them in their horse/human relationship.
Some don't get it in reality, but know the message is of value to bring in the possible client to sell their wares with no intention of actually enacting lessons learned in this message into their own horsemanship, I call these"Those that walk the grey line".
Very telling in that many folks have different reasons and goals in having horses and I understand that.
No matter the choices ,we are each so different and that's what makes life so interesting.
For the horses I wish more would get the message, if even not for themselves , then in that the horse deserves fairness and quality of life as we expect in our own.
copyright 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Excitng New Designer Horse Breed!!

The Graves /Greenwood Woodpile Horses
After several Years of hard work, research and planning we have developed the fool proof breed anyone can enjoy and certainly everyone knows someone that this breed is the perfect match.
If you have ever been told you need a 4 wheeler not a horse, the Woodpile breed is for you.
Benefits if this breed
1. No more saddle fit or bitting worries.
2. No need for Farrier, vet or dentist.
3. Nutritional needs non existent.
4. Can be ridden from front to back.
5. Adjustable changes from uphill to downhill conformation preferences.
6. Never worry about collection again, always carries it's self in a neutral spine.
7. Guaranteed no behavioral issues such a resistance or aggression.
8. No riding skills needed, heavy hands welcome.
9. Handles abusive humans perfectly, always willing.
10. Can also be used as a walking stick.
11. No need for hoof boots or winter blankets.
12. Comes in many colors.
13. Easy to transport, no expensive trucks and trailers needed.
14. No training needed.
Of coarse any horse with such a vast list of attributes is not going to be inexpensive so be prepared to pay a premium price for such a versatile breed as the Woodpile Horse.
This is a reverse situation in that the initial investment of the horse will be the most expensive part and zero expense thereafter.
This years lovely seedling foal we named "Pine"

Warning: It is recommended not to pasture your Woodpile horse with horses that are known to be wood chewers!
We also recommend a helmet if you are known to trip over you own 2 feet.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Color, color color!

As you can tell I'm no fashion diva in my riding attire, it's about comfort for me, not how cool I look and as of today that meant some layers in clothing.
The horse is named Joker and an Appaloosa that's in for continued education and he was born in good cloths.
What cool colors and pattern, the same in his mind, one neat, fun horse to shape and mold , emotionally and physically.
Training is like getting Christmas gifts, there is something different in every package to discover and enjoy!
OK most of the time , sometimes we do get those unexpected surprises that you would like to send back to the store but not often.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Doc Holly Golly
Barn Name Scott
May 1979- Oct. 25Th 2010

Scott Daughter with foal

Scott Daughters with foals

It is in sadness to bring the news of Scott's passing.

Scott had been with me 21 years of his 31 years, and Dave's favorite horse here on our ranch.
Scott had a successful career as a reining competitor and money earner until a stall accident
injuring a front leg ended it. The the rest of his career was as a proven producer of NRHA and NCHA money earners,. Numerous AQHA performance point and ROM earners in a variety of events . He was the sire of Holly Mona Lisa, 1988 European Reining Champion and Sports Holly Golly, 1991 Reserve world Sr. Reining horse Champion.
He was enrolled In the NRHA sire and Dam program for many of the years I stood him at stud.
I would like to thank all those over so many years that believed in and supported my breeding program. This great stallion made it all possible, yet was more a part of my horse family in always being the gentlemen while a quite, affectionate and social ambassador of a breed that is my roots and am still so very tied to in my passion of horses. Working quarter horses are one my delights and at one time only dreamed of having such a stallion in my life.
I am grateful for the years we had together.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Toads rule because Toads are cool!

I thought is was so interesting that this Toad had the similar color of the arena footing of sand and ground up tennis shoes!
Toad in Camouflage!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Perfect Fall!

Beau Beau & Liz, Chappy & Laura
Friends, Horses and trail riding!
Does not get much better than this!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Gift

Hi- Hats Bubba
This sculpture was an extremely moving and emotional gift to me, commissioned by my long time friend Joanna Swartz in memory of Bubba.
I cant even express in words the emotional release and the feelings I lost control of, that ran through me when I pulled it from it's tissue paper wrapping.
I knew it was him before I saw the brass name plate.
It was Bubba's big beautiful Walking Horse head I knew so well.
The sculptures artist is Barb McCay of Colorado
I hope she does not mind that I post her info here.
This work is her calling in what she captured in my horse, one she had never even met.
I could see she knows horses and knows them well, she has to be one of those that knows how to touch a horse, it shows to me in her work.
To view more of her work it can be found on her blog
It is now one of my goals to meet her someday and spend some time sharing something I feel we have in common., that being we can see horses for what they truly are.
Thank you so much Joanna for a gift like no other, I will cherish it always.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A good student

Miss Dusty the Fox Trotter taking in her next instructions!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

To be a little girl again!

You betcha!!
It really is the same Champion many of us rode as a kid and begged those nickles from our parents to ride again and again.
Never did I dream I'd ever see another one as an adult, let alone one that still works too.
I had the time of my life riding Champion again.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Strong message I know, and just dont care!

Whatever God or Higher power you may believe in, the Horse is a special gift. Given to us all to enjoy and helps us in many ways.
I don't believe the intention was to:
for greedy, sick , narcissistic or selfish purposes.
Especially being done so in the name of who ever your God may be.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Just not possible!

No matter how hard we try
It cant be done
You can fool yourself you can
But you only fool yourself
I cant do it, you cant do it

What it is it?

Nothing is better at being a horse
As a Horse

Liz Graves
copyright 2010

Monday, August 16, 2010


It's about being comfortable together in it.
It's about knowing the risks, and finding our comfort zones in them, yet having the freedom
and feeling the freedom when we reach our goals

I love to ride to music and when the song " Gravity" was released by John Mayer on his continuum CD it became my favorite. It says so much about how I feel and the challenges that we work with to be good riders. One of the important lessons I teach in my travels is how we and our horses must work together in the world of gravity we live in to create the emotional and physical shapes of the horses and ourselves. Both are needed to get to the finest place possible in our work of getting there.

The road to learning this is just the best to me!


Let it move us all!

Something we should do more among our own specie.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Discovering Collection in the Beginning

Below are before and after photos of a private one day workshop I conducted here at the ranch yesterday. It's purpose was learning Bio-mechanics, locomotion and collection.
Of coarse the after photos are just a start for these horses and riders and none are in finished, refined form. In 1 day we made big changes through riders discovering what the shape of collection is, what the human, and horses body both need to do to create it, not make it.
Added to this is the saddles must fit,be placed properly and strapped on properly to allow a horses body to function properly. Headgear must help support when needed, not create discomfort or communication from hand to head gear will be compromised. They must be used properly with hands that can feel.
This was a super group of people, in that they came with their minds open and wanting the best for their horses in turn making the best for themselves.
I love people like this and none were afraid to work.

Morgan Horse before
This horse is a true ewe-necked horse in that the s-shape his cervical vertebrae create a small S-curve at the top and a long S-curve at the bottom
the higher he elevates his head the more evident this is. A neck like this can naturally incline a horse to be inverted and collecting these horses for life time of back health and soundness is imperative.
Morgan Horse After

Chestnut Quarter Horse before

Chestnut Quarter Horse after

Bay Quarter Horse before

Bay Quarter Horse after

Fjord Horse before

Fjord Horse After

Liz Graves
Copyright 2010

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Working back to front

TWH in collection in downward phase of head shake, would be in neutral position in upward phase of head shake.
Being ridden with no hands, horse is in self carriage of gait.
Fox trotter in bosal in collection at the fox trot
with soft support of aids
Foxtrotter in a collected flat walk in side pull
I am guiding, directing and supporting at this time with aids
Foxtrotter in collected fox trot in side pull
He is in self carriage of gait.

I have been asked a question about collection, types of head gear used to get it and self carriage in gait. So I thought my blog may be a good place to answer it for anyone that may be having the same very common questions, and how I see it, and answer it.
Many people have a lot of opinions of what collection is and how to get it.
I will answer in how I work with it and how I see and achieve this.

As to head gear used this is a personal preference, I am one who believes less is more if I have done my home work and taken my horse through all the proper phases of teaching starting from the ground work up.
I work on teaching a horse collection from the ground first before I ever get up.
Everything in my ground work relates to making communication easy and clear so when I get on a horse, much is already done.
Yes, this takes more time to start but saves me time later,while avoiding holes in a horses education that later would have to be gone back and repaired anyway to get where I need to in the best performance, physical health and emotional well being for the horse.

Keep in mind a large amount of my career has not been breaking horses, but fixing them after they have been broken.
In my opinion and experience, yes you can achieve collection without a bit, as shown in a few of the photos above. Longitudinal work can be done in bit less head gear.
Collection to me is working from the back to the front of a horse.
This when astride means I work from the center of the horse first when asking for it.
By this I must be in a centered, balanced position with an open pelvis and ask the abdominal muscles to lift up to me through my pelvis and leg aids. This in turn raises the loins of the horse , engages the pelvis ,while opening up the hind quarters of the horse to reach well under its self, and raising the spine upward.
This puts the horse in that desired weight bearing posture.
The secondary aid is through my hands to head gear, asking the poll of the horse to relax back to me. There is a difference in having a poll relaxed back to you when asked rather than pulling the poll to you and flex with tension.
In the poll that relaxes back to you, the jaw is also relaxed on the horse and in turn the horse will lift the 3rd and 4th cervical vertebrae, this is what lifts the horse off the front end, raises the root of the neck. The horse should give you it's poll, your not taking it.
This creates the horses total weight to be distributed more evenly through out the body rather than by nature, be heavier on the forehand.
This opens up the front leg assembly to now be able to achieve maximum reach and/or lift and fold that is in an individual horses structure to achieve.
Yes we do need to know how a horse is built to know how to maximize what is achievable in performance, yet not ask it to do more than it's capable of .

It does baffle me that so many want their horse to perform what they want, yet know nothing of the structure and demand in asking or forcing horses to do what may not be possible for them no matter how hard they may be pushed.
Teaching self carriage for collection takes time and it is all in knowing how to :
1 Guide
2. Support
3. Direct
It has to be done properly and a horse must be worked from the mind first in keeping it open to you through trust, in you being reasonable in what and how you ask something of the horse.
A horse has to be emotionally sound and healthy first before it will give you it's body to fully guide , direct and support. If they hold back in emotional discontent you will never get the very best a horse has to give you.
It's not about controlling the mind, to control the body.
It's about asking for the mind to work with you and in turn it will trust you to bring the body in the proper shape needed to execute collection and maintain it.
Know that collection done properly feels good to a horses body and is a healthy shape for a horse to carry it's self and you at the same time when they know how.
Remember they are not born knowing how to carry people , we have to help teach them this.
Conditioning for self carriage is also a very important factor to have in place also .
One cant just expect, because we had our horse working in self carriage of collection last fall , and it sit all winter doing nothing, that in the spring it can bring it right back. Just as any athlete and a horse is just that, we have to bring the conditioning back into place. This is not just in how long we can get our horse to work, but what is the quality work we are asking. The 5 Essentials of Horsemanship must be worked on again and brought back into place.
When all is in place then working in self carriage is ready to be asked for and achieved.
This means asking the horse to be in the right shape of collection, and then not engaging your guide, support and direct aids even for just a brief few seconds and see if the horse will hold it for you on it's own. Be quiet when doing this, no big moves or just throwing away your aids, it's a subtle softening of them. When the horse falls out of the shape of collection you can immediately guide , support and direct where you need to to bring them back into collection.
I start with my seat and legs first, rein aids second only if I need to.
I try to keep the horse going and knowing it's doing it properly, through my own emotions of positive energy. A verbal reward or even just a slight touch to the wither with a finger and say the word "yes" . They may not know the word but they do know the positive emotion I deliver the word with, and in turn horse wants to please. When they know they are doing well they want to keep trying to find what made you pleased with them.
So I'll stop here for now, but know, yes, it does take lots of work, and lots on your part, but a horse can only be as good as what you bring to the saddle as a teacher and a rider.
It's in our body's and attitude, if and when we succeed in finding collection.
Once found,
beware you may become very addicted to it, as there is nothing that feels better when on the back of a horse and it's something you earn ,making it all the more worth while.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

It's Humming bird season

This is the Rufous Humming bird
The most feisty of them.
The most difficult thing for me to photograph is the hummers and I just keep working on it.
I love the challenge and the joy they bring every year.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

He's just so special to me!

Liz up on MFT Lucky, 7-2010

He may not be my horse, but I love him as much as if he was.

Lucky is the rehab horse I wrote about on my blog back on 9-1-2008.

Titled" Let it be a thing of the past".

He was almost lost to us all last year after I left him on my 2009 trip.

Lucky flipped a section of his colon and by some miracle without surgery it got re flipped back in place but not without some compromise to the circulation. So up until 2 months ago he was having many minor colic episodes.

It seems now the damage to the colon has rectified its self and he is doing great once again. It was a long year hearing the reports on his progress and I feared the worst in that he would not be with us this year when I went out to work with all the horses on this ranch.

How does one describe a relationship such as the one Lucky and I have?

He remembers me each and ever year, he gives me in return a loving greeting and to work we go.

We just get so absorbed in each other, we are just both so open to each other. What I ask he just gives 100% with no misunderstanding or resistance, the communication between us is so clean, clear.

Each year I add more to his knowledge base and he works so hard at finding it, getting it and executing it.

When we work on the ground or under saddle we are just one!

My heart just sings when we are together and when we finish each session he wraps his head and neck around my body like he is trying to hold me close.

Yet I still get very teary each time I look at the corners of his mouth seeing the cut scares from life in his past from bits used with mean, angry hands that just never understood or wanted to see how great and giving this talented wonderful horse is.

Why has he opened up to me and let me be his teacher and share our short time together each year, he has the right to have kept his door closed to all humans forever.

I know I have received a great gift and continue to from this very special horse named Lucky.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Lee Ziegler up on her TWH mare "Sarah"

"Greet the light, joyous one,

Feel the promise that brings of warm days and soft nights,

of gentle green wrapped Spring.

But 'til those promised,perfumed breezes blow,

Greet the light and Dance upon the snow."

Written by : Lee Ziegler late 70's or early 80's

Upon my return from working in WY, was the sad news of Lee's TWH Mare Sarah's passing at the age 20


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Life and Times

The Greatest Horse Ever
This amazing piece of art named Rex stands at Sarah O'Dell Fredrickson of "Saddles That Fit"
on her horse training facility.
It's the amazing horses that bring us together!
Peggy Cummings, Liz Graves, Sarah O'Dell Fredrickson, Marty Tadtman
A rare occasion for all of us to spend a relaxing evening
sharing lots of good, a little bad , a little ugly and tons of magical in our adventures.
I think I ate until I almost busted of tapas, piaya and finished off with Chocolate torte served with drizzled caramel and a dusting of grey sea salt.
I now love grey sea salt!
A wonderful evening polished off with a shopping trip to the International market.
Thank you Sarah for making it all possible!
Marty and Sarah on main street Poulsbo, WA

Marty giving us the grin!

Main street Poulsbo WA
Life is great most of the time!
Just keep the crazy people away!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Holiday Weekend

Happy 4 Th of July to All !!
Have fun and be safe!
I don't often get this weekend at home and will be spending it here with a long time friend visiting Dave and I.
Of coarse will be riding horses!!!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Lady of the House

Sissy ,the epitome of sweetness
Sissy the athlete

Sissy the hunter
It's been a fast year to realize our Gordon Setter Sissy has been with us a year now.
She to us is a beauty queen, the sweetest and kindest dog friend anyone could ask for.
She lives her life wide open and wow does she love to hunt and point birds.
I love spoiling Sissy and Tony both.
I say often, I am a trainer of horses ,but a wrecker of dogs.
They own me thats for sure and I love every minute of it too!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Sad to Learn

Pryor Mountain Babies
It was very sad for me to get home and learn of Senator Byrd's Passing.
I had the honor of meeting him while in collage when he came and taught the Equine Law class for my Equine management course.
Very distinguished gentlemen with so much knowledge to share.
He introduced me to the "K.I.S.S." ( Keep it simple stupid) method in Law.
I have several family members that are also lawyers and have helped me over the year to be come better educated in this field as well.
I love learning about law almost as much as I do about horses,
and have spent many an hour in the legal library in government centers studying the books just for the fun of it.
The State Statute books being my favorite as they can keep you busy for hours!
A good Minnesota winter pass time.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Family

I'm home for a day here before I head back out to Washington State, but wanted to share some fun photos I took.
When on this trip in WA I just came home from I was able to spend some time again with our dearest Tony's Mom and Grandmother who live in that beautiful state surrounded by what is called the fingers of the Rockies.
I will get the clinic photos up from that clinic as soon as I can.

This is our Tony, now 4 years old
This Is Tony's Mother Annie now 8 years old

This is Percy Tony's Grandmother now 12 years old.
Percy and Annie live next door to each other and share each others ranch visiting back and forth each day