Welcome to Bit of Honey Training LLC

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

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Border Collies

I recently took some photos of my gorgeous dogs.  This is Belle with her mask of sorts.

 She is very focused when she plays fetch
 She does sometimes look less distinguished.

Miles is my hard working tri colored border collie. Even despite being on three legs he escaped the barn by scrambling to the top of the hay stack, leaping over the stall wall, and running to my aid because he was sure I needed him to help me while I was riding. 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Custom Browbands

I got the empty channel leather browbands in the mail this week, and I've started making beadwork to put in them.  Here are the first ones!  Various colors and patterns, one brown and gold for Highboy.  I'm getting pretty fast now that I have the hang of using a loom.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Throwback Thursday - Digger

This is Kim riding Digger, or "Hot Diggerty Dog" at a show in WA state about 1996.  He was given his registered name over a pizza and one too many beers.  He was a character.  His owner purchased him when he was a weanling, though she didn't know too much about horses.  He grew up to be one of the slowest moving horses I've ever worked with, and I started with him when he was 4 years old.  He was built to be an english horse, leggy and dark, but he surely wanted to mosey.  I trained and competed him at local open shows for his owner in hunter under saddle classes.  When I think of slow horses, I think of Cole, Digger, and a mustang named Coco.  All smart, all uninterested in speed. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Sending the Mule Home

Got the mini mule back to the neighbor's this morning.  My neighbor wasn't strong enough to muscle him down my driveway with the leadrope, so I took him.   It crossed my mind to put a chain on his halter but I didn't follow the prompting.  After he flew me like a kite and tossed me into the snowbank-filled ditch I decided to get a chain. 

Of course, we had to catch him first.  He had run straight back to my barn to Major and Samson.   I got a bucket of grain and attempted the lasso trick again, but he is so smart he remembered the first time and knew what I was up to.  He wouldn't let me swoop the leadrope over his head while it was in the bucket.  I had taught him about hand feeding while he was here in my stall, and so he would take the grain from my hand.  While he was nibbling out of one hand I grabbed his dangling lead rope with the other.  

He took off kicking like crazy, but I was standing by his side, had a good grip, and I could bend his neck around.  As quickly as I could I put the chain on his halter and that gave me sufficient leverage that I could keep him from taking off and running back to my barn. We got him to cross the creek between our properties, we slid up the muddy hill to the neighbor's other pen, and deposited the mini mule in with the mini donkeys.  After I let him loose he stood by me for a few moments and let me rub his shoulders before trotting off to greet his friends.   Hopefully the fencing is secure now and we can keep him from returning! 

 And his name is "Cassanova".   Even though he's a John (altered male), and I think he's much better suited as a "Napoleon".

Friday, December 20, 2013

Evening with Visiting Miniature Mule

For weeks the neighbor's miniature mule has been coming over to Bit of Honey in the morning and begging for mash.  My horses won't share with him.  It doesn't stop him from ducking under the fence at his house, trotting over, and asking me for a little something.  He spends most of his time eating from my big hay bale and traversing my north pasture.  If I try to go out and catch him, he turns around, aims a kick in my general direction, and runs home under the fences.  As soon as I ignore him, he comes right back.

This morning he had gotten a bit more adventurous and was ambling around on the county road, and roaming my south pasture.  When he saw me emerge from the house to distribute mash, grain, and morning vitamins he hurried right over, ever hopeful.  I held both ends of a lead rope which I put around a bucket on the ground with a little of Major's mash in it, and the bucket in front of the mule.  He happily marched over to the bucket to help himself, and I quickly slipped the rope around his neck.  Once he realized he was caught he immediately tried to run hard past me, but he's small enough that I could just muscle him into a hold of his head.  Then I attached a lead to his halter (he wears it all the time but the neighbor still couldn't catch him).  He wasn't happy with me, but he let me lead him into the barn and into the third stall, which normally belongs to Maya the barn cat. 

The ears that made me think he's a mule and not simply a pony
Wearing a halter and drop lead so that I can catch him when I go in

Begging for freedom

I gave him some water and a small mesh hay net to keep him busy.  He was not happy about his confinement....  he was a lone free ranger and not pleased with the accommodations.

Maya the cat wasn't thrilled, either.  Normally that's her stall where she eats her kibble and naps in a flake of hay, her way of avoiding the border collies who are constantly trying to herd her around.

the happiest face Maya could come up with for a photo
Rolling her eyes at my hospitality

I called my neighbor, who had been given this pony a few weeks ago by some either well-intentioned or diabolical people at her place of employment.  Well intentioned if they were trying to save a cute pony, diabolical if they had known how MUCH TROUBLE he was going to be and gave him to my neighbor anyway.  We all thought he was a pony since he was so furry, round, and small, and we couldn't get close to him.  Really he's not much taller than Miles the border collie.  Once I had him in my barn and performed a closer inspection it became obvious that this is no simple pony.  For one, his ears are huge.  His feet are somewhat misshapen like a miniature horse, but long and kind of rectangular like a mule's.  The dead giveaway is is voice, though.  When I talk to him he responds with a high pitched whinny, "meee heeheehee...."  and ends the call with a "honk honk".   The deep honk is his tell.  Mules and donkeys will make that noise, but not horses.

The mares wouldn't go into the barn tonight for dinner, since they knew there was something not quite horsey in that third stall.....  I had to halter them and lead them in when they usually just come in themselves.  The dogs think he's kind of fun, at least the three of them seem to be talking over the stall door.

The plan is to have a client look at him tomorrow when she comes for riding lessons.  She was thinking about getting a small equine to keep at her place anyway, and this one is pretty cute, even if he is a houdini.  We'll see how it goes, and what his name ends up being.  I would lean towards Melman or Napoleon, but that's for his new family to decide.

Yes, Highboy is really that big.

Highboy asking about the visitor in the other barn

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Throwback Thursday - Cajun

This is Kim in approximately 1998 with a 7 year old OTTB, Cajun. He was named Cajun because he was that hot! We are at a schooling dressage show in WA state, and he rode a 1st level test, which he did incredibly well. I still have the blue ribbon from that ride. I adored this horse, he was so much fun to work with and had all the heart that a typical OTTB possesses!  I remember the first time I rode him on the schooling racetrack at the facility where I worked, and he just OPENED UP and RAN.  It was great!  I had worked with other retired racehorses before Cajun, but he was one of the first to really steal my heart.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Mr. January

The CANTER Colorado calendars are out!  CANTER (canterusa.org) is the off track thoroughbred rescue network where I found Highboy, and they asked for photos of CANTER alums for their 2014 calendar.  Highboy is Mr. January!  There are still some calendars available if you'd like to support the rescue group, they can be purchased at:

I also included a picture of Highboy from after his workout today.  He continues to fill out, gain strength, get more coordinated, and I suspect he's still growing.  It's hard for me to tell since I see him every day, but several clients have sworn to me that he has gotten taller and bigger, and today the vet declared he had definitely grown.  I need to get out my measuring tape and see exactly what kind of growth spurt we're dealing with.  I think we're also due for some more video for comparison.

12/14/13 update:  I remeasured Highboy this morning, and he is an inch taller than when he arrived, so he is now 16.3 hands.  He also is 4 inches larger in blanket size, he was a 74" (center of chest to center of tail) when he arrived and now he's a 78".  When I got Garmin he was about the same age as Highboy is now, and Garmin grew 2" in his first year here once he had some good nutrition.  We'll see if this continues for Highboy, he has been needing a different saddle just about every time I ride him because his back shape is changing so dramatically and so quickly as he gains weight and muscle through his topline.

Here's another group of photos of Highboy's progress because I'm still amazed at how much he's changed.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Throwback Thursday - Stella

Throwback Thursday!  This is me at age 11 or 12, with a 2 year old paint mare named Stella that I showed on the Paint and Pinto breed show circuits in New England. This is one of our showmanship classes in Oneco, CT. She is probably the reason I love bays so much.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Grooming Once-Over

When grooming your horse it's important to keep one hand on the grooming tool such as the brush, and the other hand on the horse.  This posture has several purposes.   Safety is the first reason, since keeping a hand on the horse allows him to feel where you are at all times.  Horses have blind spots around their body where they can't see a human (directly in front of them and immediately behind them), so keeping a hand on the horse lets him know where you are even if the brush changes places quickly, decreasing the chance that you'll surprise him and get kicked.

Keeping a hand on the horse also lets YOU know where the HORSE is at all times.  Horses can move very quickly, called a "spook", and if you were concentrating on that one dirty spot you might not realize he is getting ready to jump sideways.  If you have a hand on him and he jumps, you have advanced notice before he lands on you.  So keeping a hand on the horse during grooming is definitely a safety rule. 

Another reason to keep a hand on the horse when grooming is to make sure you don't miss anything about his body.  In preparation for riding it's important to groom the horse to clean him and make sure there is nothing irritating under the equipment such as burrs or dirt.  Grooming also frees up loose hair, dirt, and brings the natural oils in the skin to the surface to protect the coat.  Another benefit to grooming thoroughly, even if you don't plan on riding, is that you can often spot things on the horse's body or in his demeanor that will give you advance notice of trouble brewing.  For example, when grooming the horse's legs, make it a habit to run your hands down the horse's legs and hooves and notice what "normal" feels like.  That way, if your horse were to injure himself you will recognize the difference between normal and injured.  Signs of injury can include heat, swelling, skin redness, or reluctance to put weight on a limb.  These are all flags to get your attention.  If there is something wrong, often you'll notice the horse is hesitant to have you clean out his hoof on the opposite side, since he would have to stand on the sore foot.  

Other reasons to keep a hand on the horse while grooming is to note how his weight is doing.  Horses are like people, some gain weight more easily than others.  Keep a mental note of how clearly you can feel his ribs, hips, and shoulder.  I have a binder in my tack room where each horse on the property has a section.  Anything odd or potentially relevant to a later problem I jot down in his file, that way if an issue were to arise weeks later I have a record of the history.  For example, a jumper I had years ago had just a very mild swelling in his front leg which I found while grooming him.  He was a little bit lame on it, but after the vet did his assessment and we did some diagnostic ultrasound to look at the internal structures, we found it was a strained tendon that needed 6 months of rest before he returned to riding work. 

When taking the time to groom your horse it's important to be thorough.  Even if I'm not riding, I still look at and put my hands on each horse in my care daily.  This alerts me to anything odd that might be brewing, and as we all know, the earlier you can attend to horse problems the better (and generally less expensive) the outcome!

Here are some things that have been found on my horses during grooming and daily checks.
Samson's facial swelling.  This picture shows he's in pain with the closed eye.

Cecil had an allergic reaction to something and his face swelled up until he looked like a hamster.

Swollen R hock
Another note on keeping a hand on your horse:  as prey animals, horses are hard-wired to run or kick in self defense first, and ask questions later.  They are able to do these things much faster than we as humans can react to them, and horses are capable of great movement and speed even when sedated.  Drugging a horse slows down his brain, but not his body, which actually makes it more dangerous to handle sedated horse than awake ones.  Since the instinct is to react, we train horses' brains to think and consider so that we can manage them.  When the vet sedates a horse to slow down the thought processes, the horse's reasoning slows dramatically, while the "fight or flight" reflexes remain at full speed.  

While handling horses and working for vets for years, keeping a hand on the horse at all times became a really good habit for me.  For example, when removing stitches from a healed wound the horse can be a little ticklish if I were to go at the thread with just the tiny pointy end of the scissors.  The horse will twitch or jerk a leg away as though I were a fly, and voila' the thread is nowhere near where I was aiming.  It seems counter-intuitive to put more pressure on the horse to get him to stand still, but just the steady pressure of your hand near where you are working keeps him quieter because you're not surprising or tickling him with pokes, and if you are able to keep the hand with the instrument on him then your hand moves with the horse as he moves.  These techniques tend to keep a horse calmer during procedures.

Keeping a hand on the horse is a good general practice, and now that I'm considering the benefits perhaps these are examples of "keeping the situation in hand' and "handling a horse".

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Herd Dynamics

With all the transfers at Bit of Honey in the last week we have some new herd dynamics.  The new boys are Taz the palomino, and Nitro the black and white paint.  Taz arrived first and proved himself to be a gentle and affectionate soul.  When Nitro arrived two days later the weather was just starting to turn, and he was sort of unsure about his new surroundings with so much wind.  Now that he's been here a few days and understands the feeding routine around here he has gotten bossy.  I had him living in the paddock with Taz, but by this afternoon Nitro was getting quite rough with the little guy, and there were several new large tears in Taz's borrowed blanket.  Nitro was also getting progressively more demanding with me, walking into me and if I didn't move, turning his butt towards me and backing up.  These are terrible manners for a horse, and very unsafe behaviors.  When he was being borderline aggressive towards me I actually whacked him on the head with a bucket to get him off of me, and he was BARELY reacting to that.  Because it's so cold (high today was 8) and I don't want to be outside much, nor can I work the horses hard when the air is this cold without doing damage to their lungs, I needed an alternative to managing Nitro's discipline myself.

Initially I moved Nitro into the paddock with Cole, who is quite a dictator himself.  Nitro and Cole immediately got into a kicking match (no one was hurt) and unfortunately Nitro came out as in charge.  I can't have that; the need is for Nitro to have a spot beneath another horse in the herd hierarchy to teach him some respect and manners. 

Samson in 2010

So I called in the big guns.  Samson had been in the North paddock babysitting Major for a few weeks, but Samson is BY FAR my best herd manager.  That's why he's so good for Major, he doesn't allow Major to be in charge (big herd decisions stress out poor Major)*.  I went to halter Samson and as I did so I explained to him that we had a new gelding who needed some discipline and I really appreciate all the work Samson does to keep the herd running smoothly.  He carefully walked with me over to the other paddock through the ice and snow.  When he sniffed Taz he began to puff himself up and I said, "no, this one's ok, it's the other new kid".  Samson immediately ignored Taz and proceeded to march with me to the far paddock gate, where he majestically entered with his head held high, appearing at least four inches taller.  He gave a nod to Cole, he gave a nod to Highboy, and then he determinedly walked toward Nitro.  Nitro went up to him and touched noses.  Without any drama or fuss, Samson just tilted his head and gave Nitro a LOOK, and Nitro instantly backed up, letting Samson have his pick of the hay piles.   I think this will work quite well.  Thank goodness for Samson.  Once things thaw out a bit Nitro and I will revisit the "how we treat humans" chapter of the lesson manual, but this will keep the boy in check in the meantime.

Samson playing with Tally the dog in 2010

*I did move Tao the haflinger pony over to Major's pen so he at least wouldn't be by himself.  Tao was thrilled to have unlimited access to the big hay bale.

Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday!  These are photos of Cole at 2 years old when he was very dark, and this past summer at 13 years old when he is very white.  He gets lighter every year!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Hot Water Trips

As much as I dislike hauling buckets of hot water from the bathtub in the house to the horses by the barn, it makes my heart feel good to see everyone happily drinking their fill from steaming buckets of warm water.  Regardless of temperature, of course Highboy still thinks it's funny to fill his mouth up with water, sneak up behind me, and then open his mouth dribbling slimy water all over me. I swear I can hear him snickering.  Perhaps he thinks these are my just desserts for telling everyone about his miniskirt.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Arctic Blast in a Mini Skirt

The weather is turning on us.  Yesterday we had sustained winds in the 40s with gusts to 80 mph.  In the next few days the forecast has us anticipating highs in the single digits and lows around -10.  (And prior to today they were talking about windchill to -36!)  At this point I told the horses that blankets are no longer optional.  

So I went out to blanket everyone this afternoon in preparation for the siberian cold front only to discover that I think Highboy has grown... When I got him I purchased blankets in the size he measured, plus a couple inches to account for gaining weight, and they all fit him generously at the time I bought them. However, he currently looks like he's wearing a mini skirt in preparation for this arctic blast.  Guess I need to re-measure and keep an eye on the holiday horse blanket sales.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Day of Transfers

 Obie went home today, but we got to meet his "brother," Michelle's other horse Bolero.  We did some tack fitting and a riding lesson with him and did our best to make him as comfortable in his equipment as we could.  This photo is of Bolero on the left and Obie on the right getting ready to head home to Parker.
Once Obie headed home, Taz, the palomino quarter horse, arrived!  Rebecca Coatney  of https://www.facebook.com/RCoatneyArt did this rendition of the hilarity that ensued when Taz began to harass Cole while Highboy leaped around wanting to play and Tao munched at the hay bale. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Last Red Mountain Ride of the Season

Rather than battling crowds at the stores for Black Friday, this morning we saddled up and headed to the mountains.  Owen ran on foot (9 miles - yikes), and I rode Major while Kim H. rode her mare, Rain.  We did one of my favorite trails at Red Mountain Open Space, the Ruby Wash Trail where we are riding in semi-deep sand for a long while, and we got to spend some time schooling in the water.  Rain had never done water before, and she was a perfect example of how a horse's first time through water should go.  She followed Major right in, and after 6-8 crossings she was dipping her lips in the water and splashing a bit with her front feet.  Major wanted to drench us all with his playing, he had a few good drinks, and then politely asked if we could have a good roll in the deep sand (I declined). That horse is amazing - doesn't matter what I teach him, he's good at it.  He walks the whole time on a loose rein, wearing his aussie saddle with packs, ropes, and first aid kit.  The only thing he occasionally spooks at are the big white rocks that lurk suspiciously at the side of the trail - especially if the shadows play tricks on his eyes and make the rock appear to be preparing to pounce.  But even so he just lifts his feet up extra high as he walks past them. 

Proof that Owen was there and did the whole thing on foot
Kim H and Rain on the L, Me and Major on the R

Kim and Rain on the trail

This photos is fun because of the weird way my phone's camera interpreted the sunlight, warping the whole picture