Icelandic Horse Connection

Liz Graves Gaited Horse Clinic Reports

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From Joanne:

One more thing... I noticed that when Liz demonstrated and explained that using 4 fingers to hold your rein is better than using 2 or 3 fingers, I could actually see that by engaging those fingers the arm moved less hence you have less unnecessary movement. It is a strong yet smoother and actually more gentle/kind cue.

I very much enjoyed auditing this clinic and learned so much from Liz and from ALL the other participants - great group of folks!

I really had very little exposure/knowledge about gaited horses so this was a fabulous first learning experience. I especially liked the biomechanical explanations for the hows and whys and I think everyone must have been grateful for the saddle fit recommendations on each horse.

One suggestion would be as each horse was being ridden or brought into the arena to have Liz's expert eye give a quick low-down on how the individual horse's conformation would predispose it towards a gait - the more you hear it explained the better you are able to begin to recognize it yourself. I like how Liz has you riding the horse you have and bringing out the best that horse and rider has to offer rather than trying to make a horse into something it is not conformationally born to do. I also appreciate her taking into consideration all aspects of horse care as a basis for being able to accomplish what you wish to do with your horse.

For the group dinner, it would have been better if Liz was seated more centrally located so that everyone had more of an opportunity to share in conversation at that time (although I did thoroughly enjoyed our conversions at our end of the table ;-)

Franís note: I do apologize for Liz sitting so far from the center of the table. She wanted to sit at the end. Next year, she can sit in the middle!!

From Lanna:

I thoroughly enjoyed the Liz clinic this weekend! I learned a lot, especially about saddle fit and the saddle making industry. But Iíll start by saying that I thought everybody who came was really nice and personable. The horses were all beautiful and so vastly different, which I liked. Watching each one of them was a new experience. I had never met a Rocky or Kentucky Mountain Horse in person, and I love those horses now! All of them were so cute, but I just about fell over when I saw Topsie, Rosie, and Bailey. I canít remember the names of the other ones (whoops). All the horses were so well muscled and well loved. Fran, you did an excellent job pulling everything together and keeping it going. I applaud you tremendously (bet you can hardly wait for next year!).

Liz was amazing! I really felt a kindred spirit with her. Her knowledge was so incredible, I was so glad she shared it with us! Also, she really made my life this weekend. After all the work I put into Pitty, to have her notice it made me really happy. It encouraged me that yes I have done some things right for him, and to keep doing those things for as long as I have him. I loved her basic, gentle, philosophy, because itís totally what I agree with. No wonder all the horses loved her so much!

Probably the biggest things IĎve learned (and digested) are saddle fitting, conformation analysis, the difference in gaits, and some equitation faults I have.

First of all, I had no idea that the saddle industry had gone so far downhill! I have been having a lot of trouble fitting a saddle for Pitty, and now I know part of the reasons why. Iím now going to be extremely careful about examining all the parts and pieces of the saddle, and how it affects my horse. Thereís a lot more to saddle fitting than just having it clear the spine and withers, and now I know some of it.

Analyzing conformation and how it affects gait and saddle fit was totally new to me. Iíve seen horses in passing and said ďwow, he has nice conformationĒ, but not known why. Iíve been guilty of looking at the outside of the horseís body, not taking the time to look inside at bone and muscle structure. I did not know that horses have no collarbone! That hugely impacts how hard it is to get them straight. Now Ill be working harder at placing a horseís neck and rear end to get straightness instead of thinking it came from the head. I always thought Pitty had a short back, not only because heís little, but because everyone says ďPasos are short-backed horses.Ē I didnít know that the back came further than where a saddle goes. The concept of a lumbar span was new to me as well, but now I have a glimpse of how where you put the saddle affects it. I didnít know the difference between a ventroflexed gait and one that isnít. Now I can understand why when Pitty puts his head down too low, he trots. The Corto is indeed a ventroflexed gait which requires a higher head carriage and a hollowed back. Pasos necks are set higher because theyíre made perfectly for that. News flash for Lana!

As far as my equitation faults go (or at least the ones Liz had enough time to mention!) I realize now that I turn my horseís head too far to the inside when I bend and turn. I should only be seeing the corner of the horseís eye, when many times Iím seeing the whole head. I need to use more seat and leg and less hand to turn even a stiff horse. If I turn the head too much, I lose straightness and alignment. So I was really glad she told me that. Ms. Lila had mentioned something to me about it during a Dressage lesson on her horse Acid, but I didnít realize I did it all the time!

Liz also told me that I am too hard on myself (and sometimes the horses too). I am a self-proclaimed perfectionist, and I have been in everything from school to figure skating to horse training. I know itís a really bad bent in me, and Iím glad someone other than my family told me to stop it (in a nice way of course). I need to be forgiving of myself and the horses. I need to realize that perfection is not flawless accomplishment, but the ability to look back and say, ďIíve a long way to go, but hereís what Iíve learned so farĒ and be proud of it! So that was an emotional correction that I really needed to hear. Today when I rode I was really conscious of not overturning Pitty, and not letting any little bad thing affect me. I had more fun that way. We rode in the arena with our new ďLizardizedĒ hackamore (and loved it) but then I rode him with a halter and leadrope in the pasture. Shiloh was jealous I think, but we had a blast. He had a bad moment where he wanted to turn around and I corrected him, but instead of taking it personally I told myself that discipline makes him stronger, it doesnít mean that Iím weaker or made a huge mistake.

To sum it all up, I loved the clinic and had a blast! I really enjoyed Liz, the people, the criticism, and the horses. The best thing about it was that when I watched and listened to what she said about other people, I can apply to myself and my riding. A lot of the exercises are going to be wonderful for the mare that Iím training- sheĎs very stiff and crooked.

God bless Liz Graves!

Sharon Settles:

I agree with so much everyone else has said. The clinic was great - wonderful clinician, awesome organizer, and delightful location (boy, would I love to have that covered riding arena and just 1/4 of one of the barns).

Brain dump:

1. Conformation - I have read the articles but now that I experienced Liz explaining it in person I can go back to the articles, re-read and understand further. It was so fast to soak it all in to feel I understand completely, but I am further along.

2. Back mapping - Very cool. I currently can't visually spot the muscle atrophy and crookedness issues, so very good method to help with this.

3. Individual horse/rider part - Interesting to see and hear comments regarding each horse/rider pair. Saddle fit is always a concern so it was nice to see and hear comments regarding so many horses and saddles in one place. Was good to get ideas on ways to make adjustments (as simple as moving the saddle further forward at times or shims at other times) to improve saddle fit. Also, how to recognize when you just need to give up on one saddle and search for another fit. I am still no expert in identifying each gait horses may be doing, but it was very helpful to help me recognize more and more. It was awesome (and surprising) to hear that Liz felt Topsie had lots of various gaits in her, especially the running walk. I had decided Topsie was able to do an excellent flat walk, saddle rack, and rack only. I will work over the next year to add the running walk to one of her gaits we work on.

4. Dental care - Helped reinforce that I need to step up my education on this aspect of horse care. We cannot trust the vets (or other horse health care professionals) to necessarily be the best to evaluate or administer good dental care.

5. Obstacle work - Nice to hear that one does not need an arena to do obstacle work - use various obstacles on the trail. It was good to work on lateral verses diagonal cues.

I also thought it was great to see so many barefooted horses. Showing once again that naturally gaited horses can gait whether shod or not :-)

The horses have the talent, we as riders just need to figure out how to help the horse figure out how to carry us and work their muscles to perform their gaits we love.

I think it would be great if we could get together to discuss the clinic and reinforce what we learned.


Lynne Green:

I would like to first say that this was such a great group to share this learning experience with.

Fran you were such a wonderful host and did such a great job in organizing. Just wish you could have not gotten hurt.

I learned so much Saturday morning and will be doing a back mapping on my horses here. It would have been nice to have two different horses out for the biomechanics to show that one horse is made one way and does a gait and the other be another.

I was very happy that Sioux-z didn't give Liz too much trouble and for the first time I was able to see her gait from the ground.

The saddle fitting, well I just have to get use to having the saddle so far up. I can see it fits better, but just keeping it there is going to be the trick.

I have as Liz said Homework!!!!!! HOMEWORK!!!! Fran you didn't mention that. I felt a few times I lacked knowledge in areas and missed things because of it. I have no idea the English ridings positions and felt a little lost.

I like the fact that Liz didn't look at her watch and say...time's up and move on. Each horse and rider was an indivdual and she showed she really cared. It would have been nice to have a little bit larger arena.

I was very happy that Sioux-z did her best. Just before leaving I found out she had a sand impaction, but just as Liz said "the horse will do what ever it takes for you". Here my girl was not feeling her best, yet she got out there and gave it her all and I think that is the one thing that we all have found from these creatures. They are there for us!!!!!

I know I have learned so much in the past year and hope to take this knowledge and apply it to a more successful time next year.

It might be something to consider that some of us to meet through the year for trail rides or work on our gaiting. I know that not all those that I ride with know the gaited horse.


Also Lynne:

Seeing what Sharon posted, I would like to learn more and understand what the gaits are. Maybe have horses riding by and say "this horse is doing a fox trot" because this leg/foot is here and this one is there and moves this way to achieve the gait.

I am still no expert in identifying each gait horses may be doing, but it was very helpful to help me recognize more and more.

Dental care, I had no idea that Liz would make such a point of this. I understand that we need a dentist rather than trusting a vet.

Dental care - Helped reinforce that I need to step up my education on this aspect of horse care. We cannot trust the vets (or other horse health care professionals) to necessarily be the best to evaluate or administer good dental care.

Barbara Cohen:

I have been reading everyone's thoughts, and I totally agree with them all. I think one of the things that really hit home for me, was how you cannot make a horse go straight by steering his head. Using your hips and body was amazing to me. I am so thankful that Liz found that crupper ring under Bailey's saddle. That made me feel so terrible. Everything she said and did was an amazing enlightenment.

I also really enjoyed seeing the other gaited horses, especially so many Kentuckys. I think we should try to meet and discuss all these things, we would enjoy it. What a wonderful group of people to have come together to learn about our horses comfort, betterment and partnership.

Fran, thank you for all your work in making this so successful.

Patricia Ireland and Hunter Reavis:

Oh my gosh, where do you start? Hunter and I were just blown away. The first day was just like being a sponge. We just wanted to absorb everything that Liz had to say. We were very much interested in the saddle fitting since we have three very different body types in our walkers. Also, I especially enjoyed her informative discussion about how the teeth can affect every part of the horse's body including the spine. I can hardly wait to find that equine dentist in South Carolina!

Everyone was so friendly and willing to share ideas and were very open with each other. Liz was so personable, unlike some clinicians we've seen. She made it very easy to ask questions and never made anyone feel inferior. She's wonderful. I came away feeling so good about taking the time necessary to train our horses "well" rather than rush and leave holes in the process that could make a huge difference in their attitudes towards their jobs later in life. Even though Hunter and I show, I came away feeling a lot different about the show world. Because of Liz, we'll take what ever time is necessary to be sure that "Jr". has all the right things to help him be a better horse. I guess the most important thing that I took away from this is that she gave me permission to take my time and do things right...........Thanks Liz.

Fran, you did an outstanding job and Hunter and I have already decided to bring "Jr." next year.

I can't remember a better weekend that we've had in recent memory.

Lynne Green:

Have something to add. After we started with our horses in the arena, Liz was so wonderful to be instructing/helping/showing the person inside, but she never forgot about those on the rail!!!!!! This made it feel that although we were a group, there was still that one on one feeling. Somebody who has a talent!!!!!!

Was also trying to think if I made mention that it was so thoughtful for the Rescue League to show support at this clinic. Lynne

Sonya Burton said:

I thought the clinic was excellent. Liz is so knowledgeable and so right in her quest to make sure we each have the knowledge we need to make informed decisions. I wish this wasnít the case and that we could each trust information given by various manufacturers, etc., but thatís just not how it is right now. It was also great to meet so many folks who while on different points on the path were all on the path to do the best for the horse. You were all wonderful, auditors and participants alike. Best of all the group energy was awesome. You could feel how happy for each other we all were. Now if we could just influence the world in the same mannerÖ

Personally I would have liked more focus on the gaits & how to recognize each. I could certainly feel the difference on Cody once Liz was able to get us to a running walk and I could see the changes on other horses, but Iím sure I still couldnít look at a horse & know what gait it is performing. Iíd love to have that knowledge. I think if we each had that knowledge to demonstrate to others, weíd be a lot more credible. As someone else mentioned Iíd also have liked to see the biomechanics plotted on a very different type of horse so as to have a better reference as to what points contribute to which gaits.

As I told both Joanne & Liz, I think this clinic should be mandatory for every horse owner. There was just so much good information. I also LOVED that there was no selling of specific products and so many hints of ways to ďlizardizeĒ the products already possessed instead of being encouraged to spend even more money. It was apparent that everyone there was willing to spend whatever it took for their horses and had in many cases already done so. It was nice that in most cases those products could be made to work.

Fran, I think you did a fine job of organizing. The Double D facilities were very nice. I was thrilled to see the large stalls since Cody isnít used to being stalled at all. Iíd also be very willing to go back there and check out the trails. I would love to see them get better door latches, provide some hitching/tack up posts/rails of some description, and add a little more discretionary lighting (it was hard to see in the barn if you were feeding after dark).

All in all this was absolutely the best clinic Iíve attended!

From Mary Lou:

Well - better late than never!!

I just want to second all the positive comments the rest have made, Liz was awesome - knowledgeable & gracious, & Fran, you did a great job of organizing our clinic, down to the last details. Thanks to Bruce for his help, as well as the Daniels family.

In addition to the info on saddle fit, conformation, teeth - I also jotted down:

- keep the horse straight with seat & legs, not with hands (Barbara & I both liked that one!)

- suppling vs. limbering

- ground poles 4' apart (we have wondered)

- horse needs the visual - this was an eye-opener to me, was formerly mostly thinking of all those figures & patterns we did in dressage, but it makes sense that the horse is more engaged w/ a visual prop. Also, as Sharon remembered, we can find our ďprops"/visuals on the trail or wherever.

- don't repeat endlessly. (I have wondered about that, have seen clinicians on RFD-TV repeat the same movement endlessly for 30 min.)

- always remember the horse's viewpoint - be his advocate.

- the more you know your horse, the more you will know yourself.

I'm sure there's a lot more info in our memories, & if I have remembered/paraphrased Liz incorrectly, I hope someone will quick, correct me!!

Again, this was a very rewarding experience for me, not only as an opportunity to work with Liz but also a chance to meet a lot of very interesting people that participated & audited - I am grateful to all of you for sharing your knowledge & experience.

Our Oxford group looks forward to rehashing the weekend and to riding the trails at the Double D.

Really looking forward to Liz in 2005 -

Best to all -

Mary Lou Teal

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