Welcome to Bit of Honey Training LLC

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

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Cross Country Schooling At Archer

The water jump in the cross country course was filled this weekend at Archer, WY and open for schooling.  To avoid the crowds a few of us got up at O'DarkThirty, fed and loaded Silver, Highboy, and Daisy, and went to WY to school the course.

The backstory for Silver is that while I was getting mash ready yesterday morning I heard a commotion and banging on the permanent metal fencing.  My dogs were in their barn kennel but started to bark in alarm so I poked my head out of the feed room to investigate.  I saw Silver had just laid down and managed to get himself cast up against the fence, with his left hind fetlock somehow wedged between a wooden post and the permanent fencing which had been bolted tight to that same post.  I grabbed a halter and lead rope and booked it to the far end of the paddock (because that's always the wrong choice when approaching a trapped prey animal is to run straight towards them).

My common sense kicked in and I stopped before I reached Silver who was lying on the ground with his leg stuck in the fence.  As he thrashed I quietly said to him, "Silver, I can get you out but you're going to have to lie still for a minute."  To my utter shock he immediately stopped moving and laid on the ground quietly.  I climbed over the fence to assess whether I could maneuver his foot out or if I'd need to go get some tools to disassemble the fencing.  I realized it needed a socket wrench and a crescent wrench, so I climbed back over the fence again and ran back to the barn for the required tools.  As I passed Silver I said again, "Stay still, I'll be right back."

When I hurriedly returned, Silver was lying right where I'd left him patiently waiting for me to get him out of this predicament.  I got back over on the far side of the fence and got to work loosening the bolts that held the metal panel to the wooden post.  When Silver felt the first bolt start to give he began wiggling again, but I quietly said, "Hang on, Silver, I'm almost done but I have to loosen both of these."  He once again held perfectly still for me to finish loosening all the pieces.

Once I had the panel disconnected I gave his hoof a little shove in the right direction, and he was free.  I told him to lie there for a minute and make sure everything feels ok before getting up.  He did, and gently flexed each leg as if to check how they felt before rising back to his feet.  Once he was upright again he repeated the flexing of each leg, and then jogged off to go get some hay.

I'm often totally astounded at how much of what I say the horses seem to understand.  Usually when a horse is cast and stuck against a wall they totally panic and it's all you can do to get ahold of a leg with a rope to try and un-wedge them from their sorry predicament.  I ran at Silver, told him I'll fix it if he held still, he stayed perfectly still while I assessed, ran away, ran back with tools, loosened the fence, then when he's finally free he follows my instructions and gots up after checking each limb?  Amazing.  How did he know exactly what I said?

Anyway, the result was that Silver was a little sore after his tangle with the fencing and so he just went to Archer with us for a light hack to stretch his legs and walk in the water.  Thankfully that's all he had going on was a little soreness!

He did some walking and trotting around the course, and through the water.  He also popped over the little ditch we worked on at the end and did such a nice job!  I'm incredibly proud of Gillian and how she handled his nerves at the beginning.  She did exactly the right thing and put him next to Highboy (how odd to have Highboy be the steady one!) and when Silver needed to move she trotted him in big circles to help him find his rhythm and settle his mind.  Thoroughbreds kind of hypnotize themselves with the rhythm of their gaits, and it's a great technique to get them quieter.

We live close enough to Cheyenne that we arrived at the course at 6:15am.  This was so we could go directly to the water and do our schooling, then play on some of the rest of the course, and be headed home before anyone else arrived or wanted to school the water.  Traditional cross country schooling can be kind of intense, with lots of galloping and shouting and commotion especially in the warmup.  I prefer to avoid all that and school cross country trail riding style, slowly and in a leisurely way to give the horses confidence and introduce things in a way that doesn't surprise them or wind them up.

The plan worked great - by the time we left there were probably a dozen other trailers there but we never had to ride with anyone else's nervous horses.  I love it when the cross country school is good and boring.

This was Daisy's second time schooling cross country, and her first time off the property for it.  She marched around like she owned the place. Jasi did an incredible job introducing Daisy to water, trotting and cantering in and out, jumping out, and lastly jumping down into water.  They also did a nice job schooling the ditches on the other side of the course once we were done in the water.

Daisy hadn't seen this type of jump before and she REALLY didn't want to hit it by accident.

Working around the ditch was also new for Daisy, and she very clearly illustrated that she is capable of much higher heights than the tiny logs required.

Highboy had a great time today, too.  He enjoyed coaching Daisy while I coached Jasi.

There were some comical moments as I introduced him to jumping down into water.

After jumping up the bank a few times out of the water we turned around and headed the other way. Highboy very gently stepped off with both front hooves as if to test the temperature, decided he wasn't sure how deep it would be, and then essentially sat down and pulled his front hooves back up onto the ledge!

Once he realized it was the same water he'd just jumped out of, he lowered himself very carefully and then hopped off in carousel horse fashion.

Highboy has been in and out of water many times, on trail rides and at other cross country courses, but this was his first time jumping into water.  Introducing it slowly paid off, though, because after just a couple repetitions he was happily jumping in like an old pro.

Highboy enjoyed running through it, too.

He even got the hang of cantering into the water, jumping this log, and cantering in and out of the water on the other side.

Lest one believe that Highboy has entirely grown up and is now behaving like the mature eleven year old he is, I should also note the shenanigans which occurred.

This photo is super intense, as Highboy was arguing with me about dashing towards the jump without care or discretion.  I had to get a little strong with him to ensure we had the strides right and he didn't just launch over the jump without regard for safety or speed.  You can see in my face and body that I was aiming for the middle of that jump and he was trying to swing sideways and go faster.  The look on my face is certainly some clear intent, one of the Centered Riding Basics from my instructor certification.

This was how the first time over that jump went...

And once Highboy realized that me setting the pace and steering was non-negotiable he jumped quite nicely.

We had a similar discussion over the blue coops as well.  In this first photo you can see in his eye the mischief he is planning...

Then he throws his head and shows his teeth in protest of my guidance...

But he decides the jump is fun so he'll do it nicely after all.

Once we got to the ditch, Highboy had decided that ditches are entirely too small, and it's a little insulting to be asked to jump something of that size so he better kick at it to express his distaste for small fences.

After the ditch he cantered up the hill and jumped the large coop at the top.

This was a super fun day.  It worked in our favor to get there so early, not just in lighting for gorgeous photos but as we finished up we saw a dozen horses galloping around in the warmup.  We got back to our trailer and saw many other rigs full of horses had joined us, but we scored in having the whole course to ourselves for the early morning.  We were loaded up and headed home by 9am.

Many thanks to Kimberly Hale Photography for coming with us despite the extremely early morning!

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