Saturday, December 10, 2011

A time of Passing

The Greatest Horsewomen
Lessons from My Mother

The Greatest Horsewomen always tend the stock before themselves.

The Greatest Horsewomen share their experience, knowledge and wisdom so that others may have success, if they want it.

The Greatest Horsewomen feel no jealousy, yet thrive on true sportsmanship in healthy competition.

The Greatest Horsewomen see into all the souls they meet human and horse. Always trying to work confidently, yet  gently as possible to bring them understanding and peace.While knowing their risk of not always having success in doing so.

And where do the  Greatest Horsewomen go?

They go home to all the horses in heaven they once knew in life.

How do I know?

One of the Greatest Horsewomen I know told me so! 

Written by: Elizabeth Graves. December 2011

Give all our old horse friends there a big hello hug from me Mom.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Yes once Again!

The controversy over what saddles to use and how to use them has always been and will always be.
I have always kept and held true to my opinion through my experience on this subject and yes I have put my neck on the chopping block many times over willingly and taken my public and private verbal whooping like a big girl . I have done so in that through my life time to date and many thousands of horses now, I have always looked to what the horse has taught me in what works best for them, not for me. I refuse to allow my self to be held hostage by marketing techniques, regurgitated words, and yet a product never performs as the words were spoken. I refused to be held to what is popular or the saddles being status symbol to own, only by what is best for the horse. Below is from an e-mail I was sent yesterday on a study conducted from a source that I hold in high regard and have learned much from over the years.
I know in some situations a treeless saddle is the only option for some horses just due to shape and a tree for that shape can not exist unless custom made so there is and can be a place in those situations. IME I see no place for a bar-less saddle though.
I am also aware of the issues that exist in conventional saddle fit, but this is a human problem in the industry due to lack of tree manufactures and saddle builders being educated enough, and willing to learn more about the horse in it's true conformation and how the body needs to function properly in carrying a human and performing what we ask. This should not be IMO, with all the avenues in technology we have to research and expand the overall knowledge base on this topic. It should be more than just make the sales pitch sound great, but must also perform great. The saddle owners DO hold a huge responsibility in this also, in how to use the products properly as well as applying good horsemanship skills. When big money, ego's and politics enter into anything the true path gets blurred and we have to do our homework which takes time and brain power. We should not allow our selves and our horses to become  victims of it all. Saddle and tree manufacturing is an art but the artistic pretty or fancy saddle also holds secondary place to function, pretty will not keep your horse sound , your horse safe, you riding properly and you safe as well. Be sure it fits and functions first, and then one can chose what the appearance can be.

Treeless vs. Conventional Saddles: Back Pressure Evaluated
by: Christa Lesté-Lasserre
November 23 2011, Article # 19191
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Treeless saddles are often said to be more "natural," more comfortable for riders and/or horses, or more universally fitting for all equine back shapes and rider seats. But according to a leading equitation scientist, the tree still seems to serve a very important purpose: regulating pressure distribution.
"What you can see with the treeless saddle is a very definite concentration of pressure right underneath the rider's seat bones," said Hilary Clayton, BVMS, PhD, Dipl. ACVSMR, MRCVS, Mary Anne McPhail Dressage Chair in Equine Sports Medicine at Michigan State University, during the presentation of her study at the 2011 International Society for Equitation Science (ISES) Conference, held Oct. 26-29 in Hooge Mierde, The Netherlands. However, that's not the case with a well-fitted conventional saddle, which pressure mats reveal applies much more even pressure with lower peak forces across the horse's back, she said.
"That suggests that the tree is indeed doing what it's supposed to do, in terms of spreading the force over a larger area of the horse's back," she said.
In her study Clayton fitted eight purebred Arabian horses with pressure mats under their saddles and had them ridden at a slow, sitting trot in a straight line by the same, experienced rider. The rider rode each horse once with a treeless saddle and once with a conventional English saddle custom-fitted to an Arabian horse. The saddles weighed exactly the same, and the rider rode without stirrups.
What Clayton and her colleagues found was that the conventional saddle was much more effective in spreading out the pressure on the horse's back caused by the rider's weight, Clayton said. Generally the treeless saddles resulted in higher peak pressures, and more sensors detected significant pressure levels (higher than 11 kilopascals--a number that's significant in the appearance of clinical signs of back pain and injury, according to Clayton)--meaning a larger number of high individual pressure points.
"For the conventional saddle the loading was approximately equal across all thirds (of the saddle from front to back), whereas for the treeless saddle we had a very definite concentration of loading in the middle third (where the rider sits)," Clayton said.
Pressure would be even higher with a heavier rider (the study rider weighed 125 pounds) and at faster gaits, she said.
Learn more about successful training from weaning to early under saddle work in the gimmick-free guide Understanding the Young Horse.
Even so, conventional saddles are not necessarily ideal, according to Clayton. "The tree is a somewhat rigid structure, and the fact that it is rigid means there is need for the tree to fit correctly both to the horse and to the rider," she said. "A lot of riders have become very frustrated because it has become difficult to find a tree that does fit comfortably on both the horse and the rider."
Thus it's important to ensure your saddle fits your horse and isn't causing him back pain, and a saddle fitter or experienced horseman can assist in this task.
It would be interesting to see in further studies if a treeless saddle might still be an improvement over a poorly fitted conventional saddle, Clayton said. Additional studies should also test different kinds of treeless saddles.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Fortunes Lost but Family Gained

Meet Rosewood! Cousin of the Woodpile gang.
Now she comes from those big city woods in the family not the common woods like our loved gang here on the ranch.

Rosewood has had a very nice life knowing luxury and comfort to the fullest.

Indoor showers. Not the outdoor kind like here at the ranch.

She has had all the conveniences of life.
The sad news is that with the economic crash and the fall in demand for the fine woods, her close family fortune has been lost.
Sooooo what does a smart, tough, city woods kind of gal do????

She picks up her stick , takes up her roots and does what she needs to with pride in tact and starts sewing some new seeds!

Welcome to Shades of Oak Rosewood!


Friday, November 18, 2011

Equine Affair MA 2011

Oh what an amazing weekend it was!
First a bit of history in that Equine affair started in 1994. This is their 18th year, and their 14th at the MA location. I did the first one in OH in 1994 when it was held in Dayton, OH when I still lived in VA , I was the sidesaddle clinician.
It has been a wonderful working relationship I have had with the staff over the years and am still in Ah of how well and easy they make my job at each event.
I would also like to thank friend Zeke Taylor and friend and family Sue Graves who I handed my camera off to and they did a wonderful job of getting photos for our memories.

The EA arena staff and I always have a lot of fun with each other and this year they started calling our session participants " Liz's Calvary". Oh little do they know our gaited family and how much they love to have a great time!
The last session of the weekend on Sunday evening the riders got together and decided to enter bearing the American flag and enter in formation. Steve 1st as flag bearer, Jen 2nd,Bob 3rd,Bonnie 4th and Kate 5th. The crowd and the staff were delighted!

Now in this photo I will have to point out a little about it for folks to understand.
Take notice of the white blob in front of Jen's horse Ranger her which I'm standing next to laying at his left front hoof. Also notice my face and hunched posture. Seems my razzing my east coast friends about not snowing here while they were receiving a very destructive snow storm made for a bit of revenge. Steve saved and made snowballs from that very storm and froze them in his freezer just for this event.
Yep they did!! Steve handed snow balls during the session , my having not a clue about what was about to happen. I got blasted!! Snowball storm indoors and the coolest part beside it being fun, but every single horse did not react to the snowballs flying, now that speaks loud and clear for our breeds and the quality of horsemanship and training of this group of horses. The spectators loved it!
Now this is a special photo to but I have to direct your eyes again to Steve first in the Red, white and blue shirt. Now notice in his hands is a longe whip with a piece of twine tied to the lash and along the right side of his horse DJ's head you will see a carrot tied to the twine. This seems to be a new and up coming big game sport called deep arena fishing. Steve had very good luck to as he caught Bobs Horse Bud the sorrel on the left with the carrot on the twine. I also saw them doing this at stalls out back and I believe in that case it's called deep stall fishing. Again the spectators were thrilled with the fun being had along with the education going on, but Bud was the happiest since he got the carrot.
Once again Jen dressed Ranger in Leopard print saddle pad and leg wraps knowing it's my very favorite print from my childhood in spending a lot of time around Oselot cats belonging to an adult friend of my Mothers. Never will I tire of that print.
Everything always comes together when our gaited horse family can get together and relax at the end of a great day of fun and work around a meal together. I had escargot and scallops which were awesome and made my taste buds dance.
Take note of the new woodpile member center table!
More to come later on that new adventure.
Signing off with a big smile after a great time!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Lots Happening!

It's been very busy here so I am just am throwing up a bunch of photos this time of happenings.
This is such a little part of whats been going on here during a very perfect fall and I hope yours has been a wonderful.

Jeanne Learning the art of bosal on her mare Fancy
Liz with Major up
Liz with Stryker up
Jeanne with Fancy up
Jeanne riding our Quarter Horse mare Candy Cow Cody
Tony & Sissy with Marty playing in their pile of toys
Jeanne riding our TWH Mare Super Mans April
Jeanne & Pretty Boy Floyd all taped up keeping body alignment Maintenance happening
Wendy, Val & Marty , horse gals relaxing
Cordura/ leather saddle Dave just finished making
Pop Wagner & Dave spending a day in the shop working and playing with their dogs.
Wylie,Sissy and Tony


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Knowing horses from the outside in!

Here is a beautiful done video of an equine dissection.
It is about 46 minutes long and even if your not into this kind of education this one will hook you. How can we ask our horses to move if we don't know how the body functions.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Placement and Strapping on the Saddle

This is a video Dave and I did off the cuff yesterday for a gal making the transition from an english saddle to a western saddle and how to position and strap it on. May be helpful to others doing the same.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Photos From Smartville, CA Clinic

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From hats eat horses, to Oh don't I look good in one? It's all in how we present and help over come fears.

I am so behind and just now getting photos gone through and I had over 1400 from the last 3 events. One more to go and I'm caught up!

Here is the slide show from the Smartville , CA workshop in Sept.
Lots of old faces and so many new ones this year. I loved how the regular crew took in the new folks with warmth, sharing and so many smiling faces on people , horses and the dogs! I don't know about the pot belly pig though , it was to hard to read it's expressions!
Once again we also had the treat of Gail's homemade ice cream to cool off in some very hot weather. Bob did his famous barbecue also. Always warm of heart and a happy a place to be.
Baby Boy Pine I see had a blast while I was not looking too!

Friday, September 30, 2011

8th Annual PA Clinic

Link to Clinic Slide show.

The slide show gives a good feel for the depth of work at this clinic.This group of 14 was very ready , and had progressed too and were very open in their desire in doing this kind of deep work. Awesome riders! Not all clinics are ready for this kind of work but my dream is that folks will get to this point in them selves to seek it, finding that higher level of horsemanship. This is the fun stuff and the results in our horses is aw inspiring. Knowing just how to touch our horses is a must and knowing it's OK to do so is that first big step through the door. Through this we can communicate with clarity, feel in softness and find the fluidity in our own bodies to help our horses preform the same. All in turn clearing their emotions to hear our intent and open their willingness to listen and just give us their try.

This is the world I love to live with horses and want to share with you on how to also!

Warmest, Liz

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Good Bye for now my long time and very dear friend Gertie, who passed 9-25-2011 in Winnipeg Canada
I hold close mine and many others special memories of playing with the horses and sharing roasted marshmallows around many a campfire with the young people just starting their journey in horsemanship.
Most important I will keep close those late night conversations we had about life, living it fully and your experienced wisdom in helping guide me in my life journey.
Thank you with love for an honest real friendship.

Monday, September 19, 2011


Dave and our new used toy and ranch machine!
I'm still to chicken to drive it, if it does not have a mane or tail I'm just not very comfortable with things like this!
You can bet I'll have a helmet too before I try it also!


Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Law Enforcement received a suspicious "character on the hoof" call at 9 am today.
The call was responded to when received by an employee from AAC Feed Mill, Stewartville, MN
Although the horse burglar was disguised in a new mask, officers immediately knew this was their suspect from the Shades of Oak robbery held in Spring Valley, MN by the cash stashed all over his body.
When feed mill Manager was interviewed we asked what made them suspicious to make the call to police?
The manager Mr. Grainbin stated they had the feed mill listed for sale for quite some time and several previous offers had been made by on the hoof prospective buyers and the asking price is 3,000,000.00 USD. When the suspect offered 5,000,000.00 with made in China money we became suspicious.
The exchange rate we could have gotten for the 5,000,000.00 of made in China money would have been around in 31,000,000.00 USD, it just did not add up. One could buy a lot more than one feed mill for that kind of money in USD.
Another employee when interviewed, Ms. Cornshuck did say that the suspect did have yellow hair and you know what that means, wink, wink!!!
Suspect has been identified as "Perfectin Gold Stryke", The name says it all in that he would be led to a life of crime in pursuit of money, any kind of money!

Although the Woodpile Gang is still deep rooted in mourning over the loss of partner and friend Stix . Baby Boy Pine did state that they just don't grow hard woods like Stix any more and he was green treated so it was one of those relationships that lasts forever.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Crime on the rise in Spring Valley , MN

Photo of Suspect Captured on Stable Cameras

Law enforcement was called to Shades of Oak Ranch with the report of robbery in progress!
1 death incurred as hero 'Stix" of the Woodpile Gang gave his wood grain in fighting off the suspect when the suspect was caught red hoofed in the barn safe stealing the money from the Woodpile Gangs second summer job of dancing evenings at the Lumber Yard Club. It's estimated that 5 million of made in China cash was stolen. The suspect is still at large.
Identity has not been confirmed as of yet but hoof prints and hair samples are being run through Codis data base .
Much of the fight between the suspect and Stix was caught on barn cameras with photos below.
WE CAUTION: Viewers of the violent nature of the photos below.

Stix fought hard before falling to his injuries
Suspect was last seen gaiting away from the scene of crime after stashing the cash on his body.

Services for "Stix" were held at Compost Cemetery.
In attendance were the remaining members of the Woodpile Gang with blood shot eyes and still in evening dance costumes. In a Statement taken from the Gang they said" Their hearts are absolutely splintered over the loss of their partner and friend".


Friday, August 26, 2011

Our thoughts are with all of you on the east coast getting ready to experience Irene
Please be safe !!
Dave and Liz

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Finally Perfect summer days

Our Quarter Horse Mare " Doodle Annie" watching me bring in her best friend Floyd in from the pasture for the day.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

All in Fun!!

What do you do when you can't hit the broad side of a barn with a bow and Arrow???????

You volunteer to be the target!!!!

Lots of practicing going on in the evenings as they do mounted archery instead of shooting, since it's the law you must have 2 feet on the ground to shoot fire arms in Germany.

Down Under Stables is always doing something fun to put everyone's horsemanship skills into practice.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Please help us all learn!

The Gaited Horse Study being conducted over the next few years has me so excited!!!
It's a world wide study of all breeds of Gaited horses from all over the world and they are in need of as many participants as possible. No limit on numbers of horses needed.
All information and participant instructions and forms are on the web site link I will post here.
Please take some time to do this for our breeds and to be a part of something to benefit us all in expanding our knowledge base.
Those that learned to mark up and see key conformation components from Lee Z and myself over the years should find the measurement portion easy and takes maybe 15 minutes to complete. Get groups of friends together if needed to get photos and video done for submissions.

Please share the link and spread the word!!!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Horse Skeleton

For those that knew and have asked about the exhumation of the horse Bubba we are going to be rebuild the skeleton of, we did complete the digging today. What we found after 2 years, is that MN is better at preserving than composting.
The body had composted very, very little. We were able to remove some parts on the right side and I will complete the rendering of those. We decided to add some bacterial cultures to help things maybe get better started again and reburied and will try to bring the rest up in a year or 2 more, hoping it does compost down.
I did get my pony finished this spring but will not rebuild as a full skeleton as it's nice compact size makes it easy to use as a teaching aid in separate systems.
Glad our Mothers are not around or they would not have allowed either of us near the house but the dogs thought we smelled and looked wonderful.
Will I have nightmares tonight, yes probably, but it's in the name of education.
This horse I started myself as a youngster and owned until he was 33 years old, so any thing I do find abnormal in damage, I was responsible for and no excuses for that from me. I will hold myself accountable for what I find and learn from it and hope others learn from my mistakes so they do not have to make them on their horses.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Free to ride in comfort, Thank you Vicky for showing me the way!

Free to be me!
If Vicky from CA can be comfortable enough in her own skin to ride in fancy PJ's and her knitted ski cap, then I discovered I should be able to do the same in my favorite riding clothes!
Ahh the freedom not to be held hostage in wearing:
Brand name jeans
Sweaty cowboy hats
Belt buckles the size of manhole covers
Rag scarves
Yokes on shirts
Name brand riding gloves
Form fitting English britches that make you feel your butt following you!
Freedom, freedom freedom!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Hot New Stable and Ranch Fashions!

Excessive heat warnings today of 110 makes any ranch gal plan for comfort!
Baby Boy Pine opted for the birthday suit !
Happy 4th of July Weekend everyone one, be Safe but have fun too!

Monday, June 27, 2011

A good question & Answer to share.

Below is the link to the post I wrote last year in which the question below comes from.

The Question:
Hi Liz,
At David's recco. on the esi forum, I read your blog about collection - I've also attended a talk you gave last spring at equineaffaire, and attended Dave's saddle-fitting seminar in ShadowHills CA in April, before we came east for the summer. Anyway I'm hoping you can answer this question for me (if it's answerable, in words):
You say:"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."

I fully understand , and of course agree with, the philosophy - and the emotion, mental, and also physical preparation we need to give our horses.
My question:
When you say "ask the abdominal muscles to lift up to me through my pelvis and leg aids..." please, could you possibly say a little, just in practical terms, about what the pelvis and legs are actually doing?
I mean if that's possible. Thank you.

The Answer:
I’ll do the best I can, it’s fun stuff and we just had a workshop this past weekend working on this very thing.
In person it’s easier as I can point out the positive and negative results as they occur.
Your pelvis should remain neutral doing nothing if it’s in the proper position it will be level and open. This means NO stirrup pressure. Stirrup pressure tells the spine to drop away. Heels should be level not down or up as these positions also tell the spine to drop away from your pelvis.
If your horse responds well to leg aids I’ll roll my legs on to the horse abdominals ( not Lift or bend the legs upward or back or this shifts the riders pelvis). I softly flex my leg muscles in a feathering motion asking the horse to use its abdominals and lift up to my pelvis. It’s a small squeeze release motion of the legs. If the horse holds its abdominals then I make my legs aids quiet. If the horse does not sustain the body position I ask with the legs, then I again engage leg signals again and continue the process until the horse is clear that when I am on his back I want him to have more muscular tension on his underline than his top line all the time when I am on his back. When you can see a line of demarcation along the horses abdominals you know he is engaging his rear end. In my head I’m thinking the words “ too me , too me” This creates a pulling upward energy from my own body the horse hears my intent and raises to it. From astride one can feel the horse lift up to your pelvis and when your rhythm is in time with the horse it feels
like two toilet plungers stuck together, it’s a hooked together feeling and you flow together in every stride.
Not sure if this helps any but it is hard to describe the feel but easy to say the mechanical aids used to achieve something.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Woodpile Gang having Identity Crisis!!

An old quote of mine is : Don't humanize your horse,
and your horse will not horselize you!

Another great Quote not mine most are familiar with is:
We fear what we do not know.

It has been my experience that not truly finding a complete understanding what a horse is and what drives it's whole being in instincts, emotions, its purpose known to a horse as a specie and defined as a horse would define it, to you a human may be very different than what we as human have defined it. More often we have defined the horse in terms we understand and can accept but one that horse does not know and thinks very differently than we do.
So often we in what we are get in the way of seeing the horse as it truly is, be it fear, ego, narcissism, jealousy, competition, power, the need for control, so many of the things that drive humans that horses dont understand but are the recipients of in the way we treat, train and interact with them.
When one really learns to understand as best we can in what a horse really is and needs to be, then at that time the door to finding true horsemanship in it's completeness can actually be achieved but this is also a path in looking into our selves and seeing our own weaknesses, yet also learning of our own strengths .
When we see this and learn to see the horse, it will know you see it and accept it for what it is, and work with in those parameters.
The horse will then hear you, and give to you in all it is capable of understanding.
So my Final quote today many have heard me say so many times over the years:
It's not about me, it's about we, you and your horse!

Now the Wood Pile Gang has a one question quiz to help all on their understanding of defining what things truly are!

Woodpile gang question:
What is the Woodpile Gang??????????????

Scroll down to Answer below:
A bunch of sticks in the MUD!!!!!


Liz Graves 2011

Sunday, June 19, 2011


David Genadek President of About The Horse Inc. Will be conducting a free saddle fit Webinar on line Tuesday June 21,2011 at 7 pm central time.

This is the link for instructions to down load the program to partake in this interactive webinar.

This is not a movie or video but a live on-line interactive presentation between all logged in at that time.This is as always with Dave not a selling of product session but one to empower all horse owners with knowledge. It's a great presentation and have your questions ready and notebooks on hand for note taking as the information is vast.

Also here is a link to a short video done for last years Iowa Horse fair that explains what the webinars will cover.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Time Fly's!!

Baby Luke Little
Baby Luke Big!

7 years ago a client purchased a RMH mare and foal , Monica being the Mare and Luke, 2 months old and had them shipped directly to me from WV. I was to do a riding evaluation and tune up the mare and teach the foal all the baby basic of being touched all over, pick up hooves to clean, tie, halter, lead , etc.
As you can see Baby Luke and I spent much time smoozing it up and I always called him Baby Luke and he is the foal in my Structure videos running around and sniffing up the camera.
Such fond times and memories for me and he is a grandson of RMH Buddy Roe who I had the honor of riding in a halter and lead rope in KY at Carl and Wanda's so long ago now and Buddy Roe has long passed now but Luke brought back so many fond memories as a foal of special days spent in the KY mountains with special folks for me.
I did a clinic recently in Watkins MN and Broken Wheel Farm and one of the participants came up to me and said," I have a horse you may remember". Well upon seeing him I did not and his now owner Dianne told me who he was and the work I had done with him as a foal, my heart just melted for the now big horse I knew as Baby Luke.
When calling home that evening to let Dave know I had arrived safe and well, I told him of Baby Luke and he asked if he remembered me, as it's common most horses I teach do but was sad to tell him that Baby Luke did not.
The next day during a wonderful clinic and during our ground work session as always I pulled out my bottle of lavender to help relax and introduce myself to the horses in a positive way, a tool I have used for over 16 years now. Wow that turned on the light bulb for Baby Luke as at that moment he remembered me!! It was hard to keep him away from me !
To see him so happy, healthy and well with his owner Dianne who did all his saddle work her self and do a great job, while give her new home work to advance his skills such as lateral work. He loved the new work and took to it right off , with my self to be able to ride him and experience him as an adult horse was one of those highlights that sticks for ever. He will always be Baby Luke to me and have a place in my heart!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Minesota green Gang!

This is one happy crew, they have waited 6 months for the glorious green stuff!

TWH Stryker the rubber band boy he's so elastic. Cant believe he has not got his legs crossed to get closer as it's not uncommon for him to do so!
TWH Major who has to be on very sparse grass due to his Thyroid.
Love his big old time walking horse head.
TWH April, daughter of Millers Superman, a line I love. My very multi gaited girl!
Quarter horse Lassie who who is 26 this year and have had her since a few months old.
What a great mare she is!
RMH Pretty Boy Floyd falling in love with the MN green!

I did not get a photo of Doodles today but will.
This is my horse
family that are my friends, my healers when life gets hard and my partners in work!