This is a brief clinic report from the Liz Graves (http://lizgraves.com) clinic in Southern California.
Liz is a top gaited horse judge, trainer, and clinician who incorporates her knowledge of bit fitting and mechanics, saddle fitting, and equine biomechanics into her clinics.
This clinic had mostly Tennessee Walking Horses along with some Icelandic Horses, with a crowd of auditors.
Saddle fit was an issue for several horses. Some problems were able to be attended to with shims; some saddles were too narrow in the withers. Liz explained about bridging, extended bars, impact on the loins, and particularly how "gaited horse" saddles work to create gait by hollowing the back.
There was detailed explanation about the construction of bits, how they affect the horse and his mouth, and how that affect travels thru the body. Several horses were switched from one bit to another. Different bits have different actions on the horse; high headed horses may need something different than low headed horses, and this also is dependent upon which gait is being sought.
Suggestions for several horses, after bit and saddle fit, were lighter hands, concentration on getting the horses relaxed (head down for some), asking the horse to carry himself, and more work at the walk and flatwalk, before asking for speed in gait.
Liz also has a "heat sensor" which she used to locate hot spots on a horse. For one horse, the reading on his feet, with shoes, was very high.
The following is a clinic report from Karen Howard:
This past weekend, I attended Liz Grave's weekend clinic up in Winchester,
which is not far from Murrieta. I am so glad that I went! She knows more
about gaited horses than anyone I've seen. Certainly she is among the top
10 experts anywhere on this subject.
The horses really love her. I'm sure they understand that she cares about
them. She always puts the horse first, in front of horse show requirements,
fads and whims of those who would like beautiful ornaments, rather than
happy healthy sound horses.
She is a wonderful teacher, in that she explains everything very well, and
is willing to answer any and all questions. She is a walking encyclopedia
of horse facts (she has decades of experience, since childhood), all based
on experience and the horses' well being.
An extra bonus was all of the great people who attended. This was the
friendliest clinic I have ever been to. Seemed like everyone had a sense of
humor and was willing to talk and share ideas, information and stories. It
was more like a party, than "a serious activity"; really a lot of fun, in
spite of the monsoonish weather that we had on Saturday. We all know that
horses learn more when not under stress, and I'm sure people are the same
Be sure and make the next clinic, even just to audit it. I took a ton of
notes. It was so informative. I learned so much that will help me with my
own horse. It will also save me money, as I won't throw away a lot of money
on the wrong tack.
The clinic covered in great detail: saddle fits, bitting fits, sidepulls vs
bits, treeless saddles vs treed saddles, visual demonstration of why certain
horses are built to rack better than others, why some tend to pace more or
trot more, things like that. Saddles and bits were confusing to me. I
didn't know why some worked and why they didn't. On the rainy day, Liz did
LOTS of saddle fits and we could see exactly why the saddle didn't fit, and
then, how it could be fixed.
Here's what was really great: On the second day, we saw a number of horses
and riders. They would show the horse at the horse's gait, what they were
working on, and what any problem was. Then, Liz would fix or adjust the
saddle and bit as necessary, and (usually) ride the horse, showing how to
help the horse carry himself better, how the rider could sit a little
different, and in every case, the horse did much better. More relaxed,
happier, and a better gait! Then the rider would get back on, and Liz would
help the rider achieve the better result, too.
She is coming back in October and I will attend again. I would not want to
miss it and considered the weekend VERY valuable.
Explaining different types of backs and withers.
Explaining rock, twist, and flair.
In consideration of the horse, showing her the saddle before putting it on her.
Showing the light contact that the horse feels thru the bridle.
Asking the horse for self-carriage.
"Walk, the mother of all gaits."
Work the walk; get a good walk, then get a good flatwalk.