Welcome to Bit of Honey Training LLC

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

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Raven at the Sunrise Mini-Trial

The smoke from the wildfires has been terrible at our place this week, but we were fortunately able to go into Fort Collins where the smoke wasn't so bad for the Sunrise Equestrian Mini-Trial on Saturday.  Due to one thing and another, Raven hasn't completed all three phases of a horse trial at one event in a couple years.  She does all three phases quite well in schooling, so I entered her at training level so I could ride first and get home early before the heat and too many people had arrived.  

Raven was definitely amped up for dressage, at a new location where she'd never been before.  I got a couple nice moments in the warmup in between her screams for friends (she didn't want to be the only horse in that field!)

Her test went reasonably well considering the circumstances:  never been to this location, really needs a dental, one of the first horses to go so warming up solo, and there's always the circumstance of her being a very hot horse.  

The judge was very kind, and gave us some really great scores.  Raven got a 7 on her gaits, on her free walk, and her medium walk.  The comments at the end included "Very nice mare.  Tactful rider on extremely hot horse."

When we get shots like these dressage canter ones, I always want to caption them with "Ride and OTTB - get your dressage test done faster!"


Show jumping went really nicely.  Raven was very careful and didn't touch a thing.



After show jumping we headed over to the cross country course.  Raven excelled here, too.  She did look at a few fences, but never stopped.  It's interesting to see photos of 15.3h Raven with these jumps compared to 17h Highboy - he makes them look small but she has some serious spring!



I was so pleased with how Raven went today.  She's such a small athletic sports car of a horse, and she's so responsive to me and all business on course.  Kimberly Hale Photography got these incredible shots, and Sara took the videos.  All Raven needs is some more show mileage (she's already an old hand on trail rides and going schooling) and she'll really be on her way.  The icing on the cake this time was the matching yellow ribbon we took home.  

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Ferriana and the Walkover Exercise

Recently Ferriana and I did the walkover exercise.  This is the one where I set up two standards and a couple poles in the center of the arena, and I begin by walking over the ground poles once each direction.  I'm basically walking across the arena the short way, with a jump in the middle.  After the horse has gone over it once each direction, I have the jump raised a hole.  With Ferrriana we did this in three inch increments and slowly worked our way up the green jump standards.  Walk over the new height once each direction, then raise it one hole.  The green standards are approximately six feet tall, and we quit when Ferriana was clearing four feet in height out of the walk.  However, she has such thrust with her hind end that she ends up jumping higher with her hind feet than her front feet.  In some of the still photos her hooves are nearly as high as the top of the standards.

Here is the video of the final fence, set at 4' high:


 Here is video of the entire exercise:


It's interesting to watch the whole video and see how she thinks her way through the exercise.  She definitely takes off very close to the base of the jump, which is why she hit her front legs on it several times.  I don't mind this, because in an eventing horse I want them to get to the base of the fence.  Even though she's very athletic and could get over just about anything from a long distance, it's safer to have her take off from the base rather than take off too early and land in a solid fence.  She definitely figured out how to rock back on her haunches and spring up to get over the jump with very little speed.  As the jump got larger I did let her pick up impulsion on the approach, because she needed to have her hind legs "spring loaded" in order to get her body (and mine!) over.

This was a good point in her training to do the walkover exercise.  After the cross country school at Archer where she was a bit over-faced at the hanging log we needed to do something that would boost her confidence and help her feel like a flying superhero again.  During her ride prior to the walkover exercise she was rushing small fences, partly because she was a bit nervous.  The other part of rushing the fences was she thought she needed more speed to clear them.  

The walkover exercise taught Ferriana not only to rock back on her haunches and approach the jump in a very collected frame (which she created, not me), but it also taught her she can jump pretty much anything from a walk.  That gave her confidence and helped her realize she didn't need to rush.

Another interesting bit of information I discovered when analyzing the video in slow motion, she pops her back so significantly when jumping, that occasionally the saddle actually hits me in the butt when we land.  In this photo you can see that I land pretty well in a plumb line, so that if you erased the horse I would still be able to stand with my feet under me.  However, the saddle and her back are really high up under me even when she's landing.

Going back to some of the other photos, you can see the saddle pop up when she really rounds her back.

Raven really cracks her back over jumps, too.  I went back into her file on the computer and discovered some photos where this is happening on her as well.  It's not as obvious in her photos because she rides in a sheepskin saddle pad which takes up some of the space, but if you look closely you can see the cantle lifting up off her back.  It's not as pronounced on Raven so it doesn't cause me as many issues when I ride her, but I definitely am noticing the butt-slap with Ferriana.

My plan is to have the flocking in Ferriana's jump saddle altered slightly  to see if we can change the balance enough that I don't get popped in the buns over the larger jumps.  The saddle fits her nicely otherwise, and she certainly tells me if something is ill fitting with her tack.  It will be interesting to see what Ferriana thinks of the change and if we can get the saddle to quit popping me in the butt.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Highboy at Red Mountain

This morning Owen and I took Highboy to Red Mountain intending to repeat the 12 mile loop we'd done with Raven a few weeks ago.  We got three miles in and needed to turn around because of the smoke from the Cameron Peak wildfire.  I did get a photo of the smoke cloud when we were at the top of Cheyenne Rim trail.  After I took this photo the wind shifted and there was too much smoke to comfortably continue our ride, so we turned around and went back the way we came.

While the smoke was less at the lower elevation on our way hustling back to the parking lot,  I let Highboy gallop through the wash until we reached our turn back onto the harder footing.

We also did some trotting along the trail, too.  Highboy was ok when the smoke wasn't too bad, but he definitely slowed down and coughed a bit when the smoke was thicker.

I got very sparse photos since the ride was so short and quick, but I took the obligatory selfie of me and Highboy when we returned to the trailer, as well as one selfie with Owen in the background.

My favorite shot was the selfie Owen took.  Highboy was trying pretty hard to nuzzle Owen and smooch on him during the picture, but we got a good one.  I love trail riding with my Barefoot Mountain Thoroughbreds and Owen!

It was warm when we got back home, and it's supposed to be in the 90s today.  Tonight, however, I'll be blanketing all the sparsely-coated horses in their winter pajamas because we have a snowstorm moving in with predicted temperatures in the 20s overnight.  We're supposed to get 3-9" of snow over the next few days, so the next blog post will likely be another series of stunning photos of horses in the powder.  

Colorado weather is so odd, but with any luck this will extinguish the wildfires burning to the west of us.  I'm going to hope the 50mph wind doesn't affect the fire other than to blow it back onto itself.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Cross Country Schooling at Archer

Silver and Gillian, Sidney and Linda, and I with Ferriana all headed up to Archer for some cross country schooling.  We got lucky and there was still some water in the water jump leftover from two weekends ago when they had the rated horse trial there.  


Sidney was assigned relaxation and trail riding behavior, which she did pretty well!  We didn't put her cross country gear on, just her saddle and bridle like it was a trail ride, and it seemed to help her realize she could treat it like a trail ride.  My plan for the next couple weeks while she's living here in training is to do a lot in the back forty on a very loose rein and see how much let down we can accomplish.

I was super proud of Gillian and Silver.  Silver was pretty laid back about the whole thing - he's gotten the idea that we do the same kinds of things every time and he's been to Archer several times so it's all very familiar to him now.

One of the big wins today for Gillian and Silver was galloping in the field.  This has been on Gillian's goal list for some time, and today they really were able to open up a bit between two of the jumps.  It's so much fun to ride a racehorse!

Ferriana did well today, too.  I started by hopping her over a bunch of the elementary level fences to build her confidence.  She certainly is a careful horse, she looked hard, then over jumped most of them until she realized how small they actually were.  All normal green horse moments.  I need to do a better job remembering that she's still green, and that she's only been under saddle for about a year.  She sure has been fun to bring along, though!


Once Ferriana had the idea, we started going over some larger jumps. 

In this photo you can see the size of the jump compared to Sidney, and in the next one you can see Ferriana clearing it with plenty of room to spare.



This was her first cross country school with jumping down into water, and she was so nonchalant about it!

This hanging long is a training level jump when done in combination with the green roofed cabin set up after it, but the combination was too much for Ferriana.  She is so athletic and had been riding so well that I got greedy and forgot that she is still a green horse.  I paid the price with an unscheduled dismount.  To be fair, I don't know how anyone could have stayed on with the swerving she did prior to the refusal.

All's well that ends well, though, and no harm was done.  I had both my impact vest and my air vest on as well as my helmet, as I do every time I go cross country.  This was my first fall where I hit the ground and the air vest deployed, and this is totally how every fall should go.  As I came off there was a pop and the vest inflated before I got close to the ground, and I landed bouncing like I was cocooned in an air mattress.  This is definitely the best way to fall!

Poor Ferriana was confused, this was her very first time losing a rider.  She was pretty sure that the scary jump had snatched me from right off her back.  She hurried over to Silver and Sidney in search of comfort since her security blanket (me) was gone.  Gillian caught her and gave her back to me once I caught up.  Ferriana didn't even want to walk near the jump once I had remounted (having borrowed Linda's undeployed air vest).  We spent some time walking around the jump from both directions until she wasn't so concerned, then moved on to the green roofed cabin.

We schooled over the cabin, which must have looked huge to her after her ordeal with the hanging log.  Based on the size of her first leap she may have mistaken it for a puissance wall...  These photos are from her second, much more conservative attempt.

Lastly we all headed up the hill to the beginning of the course where the start box is located.  We happened to be there schooling on a day when there was a very impressive motocross competition going on.  This was our view as we walked up the hill:

In true eventer style we just continued on regardless of background commotion, and Ferriana hopped over a few more of the small fences to rebuild her confidence after the green roofed cabin.

I'm really pleased with the day, and I'm doing my best to forgive myself for overfacing Ferriana like that.  I knew better, but everyone makes mistakes and I'm fortunate to have good safety equipment that works properly and kept me safe.  Silver was incredible, Sidney is really starting to relax, and my riders are making great progress.  I can feel it - good things are coming for all three horses!