Welcome to Bit of Honey Training LLC

Welcome to Bit of Honey Training LLC
Welcome to Bit of Honey Training LLC

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Ferriana's First Trail Ride

Today I took Ferriana on her first trail ride.  She's been riding really well in the arena and in the back forty, and since I now have pretty reliable brakes and steering with her it was time to get her out to do something more interesting!

I took some extra time loading her in the trailer to make sure that it was a positive experience for her, though she wasn't concerned at all.  Once we got to Red Mountain trailhead just north of my place with Carol and Shambhu I tacked her up at the trailer just like at home.

Once mounted, Carol and I headed out to start our ride.  Ferriana was a little confused since she was wearing a lot more gear than we've been using at home, including saddle bags, extra lead rope, and a halter under her bridle.  She started out following Shambhu, Carol's horse, since he's a seasoned veteran on the trails and was exuding confidence.

Eventually we got to the little stream at the bottom of Ruby Wash, and Shambhu walked right through like usual.  Ferriana wasn't so sure.  I took my time, because this type of thing could very easily escalate to a big fight with Her Majesty.  I was persistent, however, and eventually she gave up trying to turn around and go back to the trailer and just walked over the rocks and water with no drama.

Shortly after the stream we encountered a very large herd of free range cattle.  There are often cows all over this trail area, but this was Ferriana's first time seeing them.  She thought they were awfully strange looking and smelled funny, and when one of the babies suddenly got up from its nap she decided that this was not a safe situation.  She spun around and hopped down a ledge to get away from the cows, and did this a few times.   Shambhu has been around cattle quite a bit so he didn't care, and I hollered at Carol that I was going to trot Ferriana down the trail so she didn't have too much time to worry about them.  She certainly hustled by at a brisk trot and then canter, but once past the cows she settled down just fine.  It even boosted her confidence to have made it past the monsters, and she decided she could lead the ride for a while.  She paused and shot Shambhu a look that said, "I wasn't scared, were you scared?  Because I wasn't scared."

We rode through the wash, and got some fun photos of the incredibly red rocks as well as a brief video.

Once through the wash portion of the ride we headed up a hill to the watering tank.  Ferriana wasn't sure that it was wise to get too close to the odd looking water, so she just stayed back a little ways and observed Shambhu partaking of a beverage.

The water was about the halfway point, and it was about here that Ferriana quit stopping and asking me if we could turn around now.  She realized we were headed back to the trailer, and she put on a good march.

Here is a short video of Ferriana leading the way.

Overall it was a great trip.  She ended the ride more confident than when she began, she loaded up in the trailer to go home with minimal discussion.  It was really good for Ferriana to get off the property and go do something completely different that made her really think.  There's so much to look at and process on a big ride like this, I figured she'd enjoy it and she sure did!  Shambhu was a good sport about the whole thing, despite the green horse moments he tolerated amazingly well from Ferriana.  I'm sure grateful to have Carol and Shambhu to help me with these green horses on their first trail rides!

Friday, September 13, 2019

Trail Ride at Lady Moon

We had the best of intentions in taking a group trail riding yesterday, but 20+ mph winds thwarted our efforts.  So we postponed the trip by a day and hauled up to Red Feather in the foothills west of my place today instead.  I rode Highboy because he was desperate for a field trip, Alice rode Beauty, Joan rode Sam and Gillian rode Silver.  It was definitely Silver's first trail ride, and it was Joan's first trail ride with Sam.

Highboy must  have explained to Silver what trail riding was all about while they were next to each other in the trailer, because Silver was amazing on this ride.  He was a little nervous while getting tacked up at the trailer, but Highboy stood quietly munching his hay bag and gently bumped Silver with his nose whenever Silver looked too concerned. 

It is so strange to have Highboy being the quiet dependable horse who is counseling the others how to enjoy trail riding without drama.  I still vividly remember him trotting backwards (yes you read that right) past an umbrella on his first trail ride about five years ago.  He's now been on so many rides in so many places with so many road trips he's an old hand for new trails. 

We were also super impressed with Sam.  Joan has been enjoying him in the arena at home and riding around the back forty, and we've done one cross country school with him at Lory.  Sam seemed slightly concerned at the beginning of the ride, wondering if we were headed to a cross country jumping course or if this was some odd kind of race day.  Once he realized that we just walk for miles until we get to the lake, then turn around and head back he was great.

Beauty is the one I call The Anchor when we do these rides.  She's a solid traveler and always rides in the back of the horse trailer because she's the smallest and lightest of the horses we take.  Once on the trail she was in the back there too since her legs are so short, relatively speaking.  Remember she's surrounded by leggy thoroughbreds, but she keeps up pretty well.

One of the best things about this trail is the aspens.  We were just about a week early for the brightest yellow color as they change, but some of them were starting.

The trail we took today ended up at Molly Lake.  Highboy was a little bummed the mud was such that it probably had some major suction to it, so he didn't get to go in and splash or swim.  There was still some good grazing, though.

Silver led most of the way, Highboy was pretty sedate in the back and content to munch on the scenery as he dined and dashed.

Now that all the horses have proven themselves safe and trustworthy on the trails, cross country jumping is going to be much less intimidating.  I frame it as cross country is just trail riding with jumps, so we should be good to go!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Dressage Show and XC School at Triple Creek

This weekend we went to Triple Creek Ranch for their dressage show and to school their cross country course after our tests were done.  I rode Silver, Sara rode Dewey, and Linda rode Sydney.

Silver was first from our barn.  He has very limited experience showing, and this was his first time going to a show at this location.  Because he's off the track, and he did race enough times to know how to play that game, he of course assumed that he was going to race at the show.  Excited atmosphere, got all cleaned up, I wore different clothes... 

While excited, Silver was still trying really hard to listen to me and do the right things.  Because of some confusion with my entry I ended up riding earlier in the day than I'd initially planned and didn't have quite as much warm up as I would have preferred.  However, Silver was simply at this show to have the experience of showing.  I didn't care how he scored, I just wanted him to have a chance to ride in this new style of riding (i.e. not racing) at a new location and realize that it's not a big deal.  Strictly a psychology venture.

The expressions on his face clearly show his confusion!  "WHAT just HAPPENED??  Kim, we definitely did NOT do this at the racetrack!"

When Silver and I were finished with our test it was Dewey's turn to go.  I coached Sara in her warmup with Dewey, and it went really well.

When they got in the show arena they did well there, too.  There are always little things we want to improve upon, but Dewey got his right lead in both of his tests (historically his more difficult lead) and was very level-headed.  This was the first time Sara had taken him to a show and ridden a test with cantering in it, so we were all really proud!

In this photo Silver is trying to convince me we should lip-wrestle while I'm trying to coach Sara and Dewey.  Silver would nuzzle my arm, and I'd scratch his withers.  Then he would rub my arm with his lips and teeth.  Then he would open his mouth wide like he was going to chomp me, and I'd swing my elbow and step away from him, much to his disappointment.  The best way to discourage this type of rough-play from horses is to ignore it.  If I'd gotten after him and engaged in the punching match it would have only egged him on making him think, "Oh yeah!  She DOES want to play because she struck back!"  The motive in the horse's mouthiness is important.  If it's play and I don't want it, I stay out of the strike zone and ignore it.  If it's an attempt to get my attention to tell me something is wrong (like the saddle doesn't fit), I check the tack and fix the issue.  If it's truly aggression (something I see very rarely in horses) then I respond firmly with my voice and getting the horse out of my space.  Silver is such a sweetheart though, this was definitely a gentle request to engage in some horseplay.

After the dressage tests were done we had a quick wardrobe change and headed out to the field at Triple Creek for some cross country schooling.

When we started out towards the field, as ususal I gave my "first cross-country school" lecture.  I use this time to explain to the riders who have never done this with me before that I teach cross country a little differently than they may have experienced in the past.  I tell them that we will initially go walk around the jumps, so that the horses can see the jumps from all angles and out of both eyes.  Then, if we feel like it and the horses are calm, we may walk over some of the very small ones.  We'll repeat this for each grouping of fences, and gradually add in some trot and canter work if everyone is feeling confident.  At the end we may string a small number of jumps together to make a small course.  The goal is to have the horses and riders feeling more confident and calm at the end of the ride than they were at the beginning.  I'm good with any and all questions, and I need to know if the rider has concerns or doesn't want to do something.  If they go home feeling better about their riding and their horses than when we started, that's success!

After walking around some fences, I had Dewey and Sydney walk through the ditch.  I explain that these first cross country jump schools are done "trail riding style," slowly, calmly, and stepping into the shallow ditch if the horse wants to do that.  To provide a frame of reference, it's basically a glorified trail ride, even at the upper levels when the horse is trail riding really fast over big jumps.

Dewey has done a lot of trail riding with me over the years, and he doesn't like to work too hard, so walking through the ditch was easy for him.

Before Linda bought her two months ago, Sydney had more traditional cross country training.  She was a little nervous and confused about why on earth I wanted her to do these things slowly and carefully, but bless her heart she tried her heart out and did everything we asked of her. 

Next we walked down the hill, through a little grove of trees, and after looking at the log from all angles Dewey and Sydney went over it.

 Dewey had quite the squat on his first approach!

When we moved on to the next jump the horses walked around that too.  I told both of them to keep their eyes up and look at Carol....

Then over they went!

After they had gone over several small jumps and were doing it in a balanced and controlled way we put several together as a little course. 

Most of the time when I'm teaching cross country I'm also riding a green horse I need to school.  This was a fun afternoon where I could totally focus on my riders and didn't need to divide my attention between my own mount and my students.  We had a great time and can't wait to do it again next month!