Welcome to Bit of Honey Training LLC

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

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Rush Returns!

Whenever I sell a horse, whether it's one of my own or for a client, I put in the sale contract that the horse can always come back to Bit of Honey.  I'm particular about what kind of horse I'll take into training to be sold, because I do put my name on the horse for life to help protect them should circumstances throw the new owners a curve ball.  Maybe the new owner is in a car accident and can't take care of the horse any longer, the horse goes lame for some reason or no reason at all.  No matter what, the horse can always return to Bit of Honey if they are ever in need of a place to land.

Over the years I have occasionally had this happen, and I'm always grateful when the buyer returns the horse to me.  This is my way of ensuring that the horse will always be safe and never end up sold "down the road".  This weekend Rush came back to Bit of Honey after life got in the way, and we are so happy to have him back!

Rush is beginner safe, and has been content as a husband horse on several occasions.  He has lots of experience trail riding and is fun to ride in the arena as well.  He is sixteen years old and about 16.1 hands tall.  He is a retired racehorse, an appendix (thoroughbred/quarter horse) who is one of the kindest souls I've worked with.  He is easy to handle on the ground and while riding, and despite being out of work for at least six months, he was remarkably good for me when I got on him today.  He does have several large melanomas, but they have been thoroughly examined by the veterinarian and an ultrasound done on them.  Rush was given a clean bill of health and we were told there's no reason he wouldn't be happy and riding for another ten years.

My plan is to work him into the lesson program since he is quiet for beginners as well as gentle and sound.  If the right person shows up I would consider selling him, but otherwise I'm very pleased to have him back in the barn as a lesson horse.  Now for a warm day to get this grey horse sparkly white again!

Here is his video with me riding this morning after who knows how much time off.  He was well behaved, and despite being out of shape he felt good enough to try to play some with the dogs!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Midnight Misadventures

This morning I went out to feed and discovered Highboy had jumped the hay feeder to enter the neighboring paddock, probably so he could play with the mares, Rain and Dancer. That’s one of the hazards of training my horses to jump at liberty- they sometimes decide to do it without me.

Unfortunately it didn’t work out exactly as Highboy had planned. I found him standing in the corner politely asking if he could go eat some hay... It looked like the girls had schooled him pretty thoroughly in manners!

He very deferentially walked with me back to his own pen while Dancer gave him a crusty look. I suspect he won’t repeat this endeavor simply because playing with the mares was not as fun as he had anticipated when he conceived his grand plan.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Thoroughbred Selfies

This morning was chilly, but at least it was not the -5 deg we had last week!  I fed everyone hot mash for breakfast, but it was just each horse's regular feed with added hot water.  It's not good to change or add feed concentrate when horses are already stressed from extra cold weather.  Once they were finished with their hot slurpees my thoroughbreds all gathered around for selfies. 

 Highboy has mastered his selfie game.

Raven is getting good at posing, too.

Note took a few more tries than the others, but we got a good shot eventually.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Saddle Fitting Struggles

Note had been having some difficulty bending to the right and lifting his back while riding, and when the vet looked at him last week we discovered that it's likely due to saddle fitting issues.  Because of that I have embarked on a saddle search to see if I can make Note more comfortable.  I've tried five different saddles so far, but here is a glimpse into one of them.

These first two photos are of Note and me doing a saddle fit trial in an extra narrow County Innovation.  This saddle is one of my favorites, and one which looks pretty darn close to a good fit when he's standing still.

The bucking showed that Note wasn't entirely comfortable with the fit of this saddle as-is.  I've taken his measurements and compared them to Raven's, who is built very similarly to him.  They are close in age, both just under 16 hands tall, both have high withers, both have strong opinions on things with a temper to back it up.

They even have similar bucking styles - this is Raven expressing her opinion.

I got a great question this weekend while I was messing around with saddles for Note.  I was asked, "Since your horses tend to express themselves with shenanigans anyway, how do you know whether it's saddle pain or just being fresh?"  It's an excellent question, as I often ride my horses through nonsense unrelated to saddle fit.  The big giveaway is that "poor saddle fit" bucking causes back pain in my own body.  Usually I'll hurt in the same place the horse does once I take the saddle off and palpate his back.  Horses being silly and playing doesn't hurt (unless they get me off, then the ground can be sort of hard....)

There are other things I notice when it's saddle fit, too.  Note moves with  tension in his gaits, smaller steps that may be faster or slower than normal for him.  When cantering he will toss his head, but also weave left and right like a fish, often swapping leads and finally deciding to keep one lead in his front end and the other lead in his hind end.  When he is comfortable he will keep the same lead in front and back, his head is quiet, and he will canter in a straight line.

This is video from the first ride, and the exciting bits start just after 2:20.  It's at that point the impression pad has compressed and Note is starting to feel the true fit - which he obviously doesn't like.  Cantering makes any discomfort more obvious, as the gait naturally lends itself to the horse lifting and rounding his back.  When the saddle is wrong, lifting your back into pain results in strong objections!

The impression pad is a clear plastic saddle pad filled with red dough.  I place this closest to the horse, then tack up as usual and ride for about a half hour.  Afterwards when I carefully untack, any displaced dough shows where pressure point were on the horse's back from the saddle or pads.

After this first ride I took a correction half pad and shimmed it in a way that I hoped would resolve Note's issues.  Then I rode the same saddle with the correction pad and the impression pad again.  The impression wasn't great either time, but Note seemed much more comfortable the second ride, showing that at least the shimmed saddle was better than without a correction pad.

He was so much better behaved that I even popped him over a couple cross rails.  That was so I could see how the saddle fit over fences when he was lifting his back in a more pronounced way.

I rode Note in the same saddle again today, with the correction pad but no impression pad.  This was so I could try him without the first ride in a painful setup to compare.  Note still didn't seem entirely comfortable, although he wasn't a bronc.  I think I'll pass on this particular saddle and wait for just the right one.  This is a tricky case, as I can tell when the saddle doesn't fit, but in this situation I'm not entirely sure WHY it doesn't fit.  At least Note is telling me what he thinks, and since his opinion matters the most I can go with that.

Stay tuned for further saddle fit rides.  I'm planning to get Note going well enough to start competing him this year, so a properly fitted saddle is a necessity.  I'll get it sorted out eventually, this is just proving to be more complicated than my average tack adjustments.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Saxon is SOLD!

 Saxon has found his new forever home, and he got there safely yesterday!  Congratulations to Mark and all the folks at The Village Club in Denver, you will all get a tremendous amount of joy from this big guy!

Saturday morning I loaded Saxon into my extra large trailer to head south to Denver to his new home.  Thankfully the trailer is plenty large enough to accommodate the big guy!

When we arrived at Saxon's new barn we got there about five minutes before Mark, his new owner.  We took the time to capture some glamour shots.  

Once Mark arrived and we had finished the last of the paperwork I unloaded Saxon from the trailer. 

As they were getting Saxon's new stall ready with fresh shavings, water, and hay Mark led Saxon to the arena so he could get a good look at his new home.

Pointing out the barn to Saxon as he's given the tour.

Saxon will have a special place both at the barn and in his new family's heart.  About two months ago they unfortunately lost their previous horse at nearly thirty years old.  Saxon is the new equine member of the family, and is already touching the hearts of everyone who meets him!

Once the stall was prepared, we all headed to the beautiful stone building where Saxon's new stall was located.

Saxon happily went right into his stall, then through the door into his run on the back side of the barn.  To his delight, with his height he could easily reach over the fence into his neighbor's feed tub to have a mouthful of hay.  It was a simple matter to scoot the hay feeder over to the other side, and Saxon got his own pile of snacks inside his stall.

We left Saxon with his new fan club adoring him, feeling quite happy with how things turned out for this special horse. 

The following morning I got this text with a photo from Mark: "Very spoiled!  He is incredibly affectionate.  Yesterday we were talking and he had to be in the mix."

I'm so pleased we found such a great match for Saxon.  Congratulations to Mark and his family, as well as the other folks at The Village Club.  We wish you all the best and are so pleased you found your newest family member!

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Turnout in the Arena

Today I packed as much as I could into our lovely 54 deg weather.  I did some saddle fitting and riding with Note, then rode Raven, taught two lessons, met a new client, and gave Atlantis, then Highboy and Dewey turnout in the arena.  It's funny how turnout there works.  Everyone lives in a paddock that is close to or the same size as the arena, but something about the jumps and the change of scenery brings out the silly in everyone when they have free time there.

Dewey actually put the greenery in his mouth, rolled it around and chewed it up, then spit it out while giving me a scolding look for only having fake flowers.

Atlantis posed with the flowers as well, though he at least realized they were plastic before he put them in his mouth.

Highboy and Dewey thoroughly enjoyed their lip wrestling, and took breaks to run around the arena.


Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Winter Art

I've sold a few pieces since I announced in Nov. that I was going to begin selling my art.  This portrait was purchased by my friend for her mother.  It's her horse Rawhide, who I had here in training last summer.

This one is a study of Miles' eye.  I feel like eyes are difficult to do, so I've been drawing many of them to try and get myself to see just the shades of grey, not cognitively recognize it as an "eye".

This one is Billy, one of my most favorite quarter horses.

An old friend of mine from WA has a cute tricolored corgi named Simon, and she commissioned a portrait of him which I mailed out this week.

This is a drawing of Highboy that I did in about an hour.  I'm finding that he is difficult to draw because I know him so well.  I find that I see "Highboy", instead of seeing light, dark, and shades in between.  As a result I end up drawing him often, trying to get it just right.

Today I worked on my first mule, and I thought to take some photos of the process:

First I draw a grid onto my reference photo, and a proportionately sized grid onto my paper, which in this case was 2' x 3'.  After the grids are there, I draw an outline of whatever the subject is.

Next I add some scribbles to designate dark areas.  I fill in the darkest parts first with a conte crayon since it's the blackest thing I've found.  If it's a horse I always do the eyes second to last, and tack (if it's there) very last because those parts are the most detailed.

Then I continue filling in the other parts of the drawing, making the dark parts as dark as I can.  The lightest parts I do with pencil, and the medium shades I do in charcoal since it covers large areas pretty easily.  I use graphite pencils for the really detailed parts, and a blending stick if I'm trying to get the drawing really close to photo accuracy and don't want pencil lines.

The results are pretty cool!  I still can't believe I can do this - I'm so grateful for this perk to brain damage.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Note's First Trailride

Sometimes a person just needs to get out of town and onto the trails with a horse.  Carol and I found ourselves in this position this week, so we decided to grin and bear it and headed out to Eagles Nest.  Just an hour or so south of us there was significant snow on the ground and it was bitter cold, but every once in a while there's a perk to being annexed by Wyoming!  We didn't have any snow to speak of, and it was closer to 30 deg at my place. 

Carol arrived around lunchtime, and we loaded up Shambhu and Note in the trailer.  This was Note's first trail ride, and his first time off the property since a small schooling show about eighteen months ago.  To lend some perspective, let me reflect on Note's training time here at Bit of Honey.

Note arrived here almost three years ago, in spring 2016 with the Jockey Club name One For Nothing.  I got him from a wonderful woman who owned him in Arizona where he had been racing at the track successfully before he was retired and came to me. 

Note was a cryptorchid stallion with a retained testicle that required deep abdominal surgery to retrieve and remove.  I had the surgery done on him here in Colorado successfully later that spring. 

Once Note had a chance to heal up and was comfortable going back to work I learned I had a horse who had LOVED to race.  Note thought I was a foolish human for not allowing him to run whenever we tacked up, and he had a temper to back up his opinions.

I tried several things to get Note to quiet down, and I quickly discovered working him harder was not the solution.  He kept himself very fit just in turnout, and there was no way to get him tired enough that he wouldn't have a tantum if I restrained him while riding.  Lunging was nearly always a rodeo.

I ended up going a totally different route with him, tacking him up, getting on, and just walking him once around the arena each direction, then getting off and putting him away, repeated regularly for months.  This completely different routine communicated to him that he now had a completely different job.  He gradually realized that he was NOT to run as fast as he can, but be civilized and polite and quiet under saddle.  From the very brief walk workouts he eventually graduated to some trotting and cantering, and eventually jumping and riding out in the back forty.  I'm grateful I've had the means to let him come along at his own pace, with very long letdown and slow retraining.

Now that we're several years into his transition from racehorse to sporthorse, Note's usually a perfect gentleman with me.  However, Note can still be somewhat aggressive with other people and horses. He remembers being a stallion and still occasionally shows interest in the mares if we ride together, so I need to be very careful when handling and riding him to redirect his attention back to me rather than instigating an argument or allowing him to pursue the ladies. 

This winter I've been riding Note casually in the arena, often using him while I'm teaching lessons to give him the experience of standing around for a couple hours.  When I use him for cavalletti lessons he also gets to experience the coursework and practice his footwork without the pounding of bigger fences.  He then often goes for long walks in the pasture after the lessons to cool out while riding with the other horses. 

Note has settled down well, and even occasionally acts bored with some of his arena riding, so I figured the time was right to get him out on the trails.  With Carol and me itching to get out for a trail ride today, I loaded up Note and Shambhu to head into the foothills.

When we got to the trailhead Note was very worked up.  He shows his worry by shaking his lips, clapping them together in agitation.  After opening his window in the trailer Carol and I could see he was stressed.  We unloaded both horses and tied them on opposite sides of the trailer because Note still doesn't play well with others.  He did settle down once we went through our usual routine of grooming and tacking up, and he didn't object at all to the saddle bags despite this being his first time wearing them.  I did leave his sight for a minute to use the restroom before our ride, and that was just enough time for Note to get nervous and begin calling for me.  I shouted back that I was right here, not to worry, and he stopped calling.  He even stood quietly again as soon as I was back in sight. 

Once tacked up we headed out on the wide dirt road, and surprisingly Note led most of the way.  He had a much bigger walk than at home, more of a march really.  Carol and Shambhu followed us at a safe distance and took some photos of me and Note.

Mostly Note was quiet and well behaved.  I could feel him getting tense and excited, but with steady breathing and wiggling my toes I was able to keep a lid on him and we enjoyed about an hour long ride.  When we got to the first gate by a cattle guard Carol dismounted and opened it for us.  I thought Note might rocket through it because the metal-on-metal hinges sounded a lot like a starting gate and Note was definitely ready for takeoff.  Thankfully, he thought his way through the issue, remembered that his new job is not like his old job, and walked nicely.

The only other spot we had trouble was going downhill over a section of trail that was supported to prevent erosion.  Note was convinced that it was unsafe and even after watching Shambhu go over it he was reluctant to put his feet near it.  I did eventually get him down the little hill, and once he was walking nicely Carol and I decided to turn around and head back so it was my idea not Note's.


It was a successful and uneventful ride, just the way I like it with a horse new to the trails.  Note did exclaim a few times, "Hey, Kim, we DEFINITELY did not have those at the track!" when he saw cattle in a neighboring field, but he behaved himself amazingly well.  I am super proud of him, and happy that he was so interested in this new aspect of his job.  Sometimes horses progress really quickly, like Raven, and sometimes it takes longer for them to adjust and enjoy their new jobs, like Note.  I'm so grateful to be able to help all kinds.