Welcome to Bit of Honey Training LLC

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

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Belle of the Ball and Edna Update

Edna the 13 year old great dane was having a good morning today. I love to see her actually running and frolicking outside with the border collies instead of just following them around sedately while appearing to proclaim to any who will listen, "I am one hundred and fifty years old, be sure to tell me I'm a good dog and that I'm beautiful". She had the whole day to rest in the house yesterday since I was in Denver teaching about tack fitting, and I think the rest has done her some good. I also think her hips feel better for having lost some weight. When I called her this morning to come in for breakfast after we did the horses, she came RUNNING from around the back of the house, big doggy grin on her face with happy ears lifted high, dog lips flapping in the wind, and tail swinging like a propeller from the back end.

Belle the border collie went swimming this evening in the marsh and pond.  It is a bit of a haven for lost objects, and in the past dogs have brought all kinds of things out of the water.  Some of the notable findings have been crawdads (one clipped my hound dog on the nose, she yelped and dropped it, and it hopped back into the water), fish, muskrat hunting, all kinds of fun can be had in the pond.  This evening, however, Belle came trotting back from the far end of the pasture, sopping wet and smelling like a swamp thing, with a satisfied expression on her black and white face.  She was toting a basketball.

On Memorial day, Dane Edna had a full day...  She got a bath in the morning, which she LOVED.  It was with the hose outside, but she shut her eyes and leaned into the scrub, especially around her neck.  Once she was dry I brushed her really thoroughly, and she got doggy goosebumps with the hair on her back raising up as she swayed for just the right scratch.  Then we went with Miles (also washed and brushed) and Owen to Wellington for the church barbeque.  Miles stole at least 3 cookies and a hot dog, directly out of the hands of short unsuspecting children.  One child actually searched under the picnic blanket looking for her cookie not realizing Miles had pilfered it.  Edna, in contrast, very politely asked for watermelon and hamburgers by sitting at strangers' feet and giving them her doe eyes.  She didn't get any, but it was worth a try.  Because of her appealing size some of the less well attended children acted like they were considering riding her, but after I chastised them they settled for patting her and telling her what a good girl she was.  She's pretty tired, she came right into the house to sleep, forgoing helping me with the evening feeding.  It's ok, though, Miles rocketed around the place helping me in her stead.  Happy Memorial Day!

Tack Fitting

This mare, typical for her arabian breed, has very low withers, a wide back, and a very short back. 

This mare was our most involved horse of the day.  She was sound and very useable, except if she didn't like the way her tack fit she would buck.  This makes sense, since horses don't speak english this was her way of telling the rider to GET OFF because the saddle hurts!  We tried on probably eight saddles trying to find one that works, and had some very interesting findings.  Because her back and withers are short, the lowest point on her back was further forward than most saddles' lowest point.  Because gravity is the rule here on planet earth, the part of the saddle that is lowest will shift until it lines up with the lowest point on the horse's back.  This means that most saddles would slide forward on this mare as she moved, until the rider was almost on her neck and the girth was rubbing her front legs creating sores. 

Pointing out where the lowest point of her back is

Showing how the saddle will crawl forward until the saddle's low point lines up with the horse's back's low point

One question that arose was that of using a crupper.  This is a strap that prevents the saddle from moving forward by strapping it to the horse's tail.  A crupper is suitable if the saddle is a good fit, and the horse will be going up and down steep inclines, like riding in the mountains.  Then it's just the terrain that causes the saddle to shift.  However, using a crupper in this situation where the saddle doesn't fit the horse will just cause the horse to get a sore back, and probably sores around her tail from all the saddle's tugging on the strap. 

checking asymmetry of the treeless saddle
One of the many saddles we tried was a treeless, but the saddle's owner had some back problems that cause her to sit tilted to the left.  This had caused the saddle to break down over time, and the entire saddle was very asymmetrical.  We could see it best by standing immediately behind the horse and looking up the center.  This saddle looked like it was collapsing to the left and wasn't going to fit.

Checking another saddle assessing pressure front to back

checking how the saddle rests on the mare

Happy horse!  No bucking, and she even started to lengthen her stride and stretch while being ridden in this saddle!

Nice impression!  Even and minimal displacement of the dough in the pad!
Success!  It was a great day overall, every horse that I fitted ended up going home with something that would work for riding.  This is terribly uncommon, usually we are looking to purchase a new saddle for at least one horse when doing this many fittings in a day. 

Tack Fitting Sessions

Checking for symmetry through his back and topline
My first horse of the day at the Holistic Horse Care Cooperative's tack fitting sessions was this bay gelding.  We were in Littleton, CO, at Happy Dog Ranch.

Discussing the worn out saddle pad that has to be replaced

Checking the horse's mouth for dental issues.  I found he was packing food in his L cheek, and on closer inspection found a large ulcer on the lower L bar of his mouth, precisely where the bit would rest.  Since that would have caused him significant discomfort, we had him ride in a hackamore with no bit in his mouth for his saddle assessment.

Examining the bit that we decided not to use because of the ulcer in his mouth.
The clear pad filled with dough goes on first

Then the saddle goes on
Take the horse for a 20 min. ride so the saddle can make an impression on the dough

Checking the pad and saddle mid-ride, it had shifted to the R
This was the impression from the treeless saddle with the barn's rider.  Because the pad shifted to the R during the ride, the dough was displaced where there was pressure on the left side of saddle.  This fit with the rider's awareness of her own body and riding tendencies. 

Post-ride, palpating the horse's back and noting some sensitivity in the location that corresponds with the impression pad's dough displacement.  The saddle has begun to break in/break down as well as the pad being worn out so we decided to replace the pad and see if he is more comfortable that way. 

Tack Fitting

Checking his back and topline for symmetry
 Kim did some tack fitting this weekend at Happy Dog Ranch in Littleton, CO as part of the Holistic Horse Care Cooperative.  This gelding is "Earl", who is used for pleasure riding western and trail riding. 
Assessing saddle symmetry from the front

Checking saddle symmetry from the back

Letting Earl check out the saddle before we put it on
Press on the horn, the saddle should remain stationary
Checking the gullet

press on the lowest point of the saddle, it should stay stationary
the owner checking the balance of the saddle
Checking the bridle and bit, and looking for dental issues.  I did recommend adding a throatlatch or changing the headstall since a horse can rub this right off with only one ear loop.
Adjusting stirrup length
Riding with the impression pad and the saddle padded correctly

Impresion pad post-ride - the rider has some balance issues from an old injury, and the pressure point shown by the displaced dough fits with the rider leaning to the R causing the saddle to shift R, resulting in pressure on the L side of the withers. 

Handsome Earl

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Show at the Saddle Club

Today we went to the local saddle club horse show.  I took Cole, the lesson horse, because he needed a day to do some schooling, and Jubilee, the young arabian because she needed a field trip, and Rain, so my student who is leasing her could show.

My student with Rain, warming up
Pre-ride coaching

Post-ride smiles

I do love my knuckle-head of a pony
Cole hasn't been out much this season, and I have been really bummed about not eventing with Cecil since he passed away, so we decided to take a day and support the local saddle club.  Cole went very nicely in showmanship, and his english classes.  We did ride western as well, but he was opinionated and wasn't worth photographing.  By the end of the show he was tired, disgruntled about not getting to hang at the trailer and work on his hay bag, and done showing off.  The thing about Cole is that you ALWAYS know what he is thinking.  He is always thinking.  He loves to show off, but if there are no jumps he eventually gets bored.  For example, at horse expo in Denver in March he was an incredible demo horse, launching over any jumps we set in front of him in the large events center at the National Western Complex and making my working student look incredibly good.  By contrast, when he rode western today, he had complaints about the bit (the rule book requires him to wear a shanked bit when riding western because of his age), complaints about the saddle pad not being quite thick enough, and complaints about the tedium of the equitation pattern.  Although set up perfectly for his canter departures, he took the wrong lead the first time EVERY TIME, then ground himself to a halt, then picked up the correct lead from a halt just to prove he could.  By the end of the day he was wagging his tongue out the side of his mouth at my assistant whenever he rode past her.  Hard to interpret that as anything other than, - pointing at my face - "there is something WRONG with my MOUTH".  Fortunately he was happy to be untacked and loaded right up the trailer to head home with his friends.  He really only competes riding western a couple times a year, and tolerates it extremely well considering his opinions on the matter.
So blessed to live here

Cole pretending to go fast

Documentation that Cole is capable of lengthening!

Square halts - no faults!

The guy does love a good stretch


Beautiful place to show

Jubilee napping at the trailer
A friend riding her little mare who is for sale

Petite little thing!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Eye of the Tiger

Cole's silky purple pajamas
Cole got a bath because he's going to the saddle club tomorrow to show with me for the day.  Being a white horse, he needs extra scrubbing.  Being a white horse, he needs pajamas so that he stays marginally clean overnight in his paddock.  Being a white horse, he needs PURPLE SILK pajamas, that look strikingly like boxing silks.  The only thing that would make this more picturesque would be big puffy leg wraps on his fronts to mimic boxing gloves.  And yes, I did hum "Eye of the Tiger" as I put his clothes on. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Today I spent the morning with a veterinarian I have worked with on many rehabilitation cases.  We looked at and evaluated three horses, all with different issues.  Often new clients will ask me how to rehabilitate a horse, and the answer varies widely from case to case, depending on what the injury is, whether we are focusing on emotional, mechanical, mental, neurological, or some other kind of issue, or combination of issues.  Here is a brief article that opens the conversation for rehabilitating a horse.

Rehabilitation Guidelines

These are basic guidelines for how to “bring a horse back,” to rehabilitate them physically, neurologically, emotionally.  It is a huge undertaking to rehab a horse.  It is a multifaceted and varied undertaking, and very specific to the individual horse.  One would never rehabilitate an off the track Thoroughbred in the same way one would rehabilitate a fat pasture pony re-entering work, or a horse with neurological balance issues.  At Bit of Honey Training we enjoy working with all types of horses, but the ones Kim likes best are the ones to stew over, thinking all the time about a new or different way to reach them.  These are some general guidelines, keeping in mind they must be modified to the individual horse.

  • While it may be the same animal, you have a different horse each day.  Work with the horse you have THAT DAY.  Your goal is change, so this different horse is GOOD. 

  • Never compromise your own safety or the safety of others, including the horse, his emotional and physical safety.

  •  Listen to the horse and he will tell you what he is ready to try and what must remain a crutch a while longer

  • Work incrementally, some horses need only one new stimulus per week, some need one new stimulus per day, some need several new stimuli in each session.                                                                                                                                                                                                  
  • Sometimes a horse needs such careful timing of treatments that the practitioner must pay attention to whether the horse was able to walk for 2 minutes, or 2 min. 30 sec.  Details matter in rehab.

  •  Cater to the horse’s strengths to build his confidence

  • Never punish him or criticize him, even in thought.  Ignore all bad behavior (unless it is a safety issue) and praise/reward any miniscule steps toward the behavior you want to encourage.  Use caution in these discernments and read your horse.  He knows if the praise is genuine or not and some horses are more sensitive to criticism than others.

  • Never over-face him.  If he feels incompetent or unequal to the task that has been set he will not attempt to work for you, and some horses will shut down completely in fear/apprehension/frustration.

  • Remember you are the leader.  There is a time and place for healing yourself, but don’t ask a horse to heal in you what he must be healed of.  (ex. You are both afraid of dogs)

  • Spend time with him NOT working on rehab.  Allow him to “be” with you as he would “be” with another horse.  You can still be the leader and also have him like you.  The best herd managers (equine or human) have the respect of their herd, AND their herd likes to be with them.

  • Quit before he gets frustrated in a session – end on a positive note.

  •  Repetition can be very effective or very detrimental – read your horse THAT DAY.
  • Be present mentally as well as physically when with your horse.  If you are frustrated with work at the office he will only know that you are frustrated.  Horses react negatively to negative emotions – you are working in a mirror.  If you are too upset to focus on rehab that day, skip it.

A horse with neurological problems receiving an e-stim treatment from the veterinarian

Obstacle work is often recommended for a horse needing rehab.  I have developed a combination of pole work techniques that nicely sequence through the simplest of exercises to quite complex tasksThese are the guidelines I give out with these exercises

Guidelines for Rehabilitation Pole work

Take detailed notes of each training session (a calendar works well) note:

·         Which set of patterns you used

·         How the horse reacted

·         Any aids used (physiotape, proprioceptive dangles, therabands, etc.)

·         Time horse took to figure out pattern, if the horse figured it out

·         Length of session (5 min, 10 min, 45 min, etc.)

Be careful to avoid tight turns to go back through the poles.  Even when done slowly and in hand, tight turns can be hard on horses in physical rehab., and tight turns can be precarious for horses with neurological balance problems, depending on severity.  A horse can fall or re-injure if the turns are too tight or fast, and it is important to realize the balance shift, muscular involvement, and strain on joints that takes place in a quadraped doing a tight turn.  Excessive lunging or running in the round pen should be avoided for the same reasons.  Always quit before horse gets frustrated. 

If an exercise is too difficult- i.e. he hits his feet a lot, he stops in the middle of the exercise, he turns and stares at you a lot, go to a simpler exercise.

For neurological cases, if these exercises will help, your horse will improve with a noticeable difference in the next 30-40 days. 

Exercises must be done consistently, 3-5 times per week to be effective.  Multiple short sessions are better than one long session.

Most difficult

Circular patterns  

Angles, circles, faster gaits

Grouped Poles

Raised poles

Flat ground poles in series

Flat Ground pole alone

 Straight and slow


You'll notice that rehab work is quite detailed, precise, and requires a ridiculous amount of attention to timing and note-taking.  Often the exercises are not complicated for a human to do with a horse, but the discipline required on the part of the human is beyond what many people will do consistently, accurately, and while documenting it all.  There is nothing wrong with putting a horse into rehabilitation with a professional, and it may give your horse a much better chance at recovery.  In fact, many of the horses at Bit of Honey Training initially arrived for training, but when we learned of the horses' deficits they are put into a program for rehabilitation at Bit of Honey instead.  

If you have other questions or would like to schedule an evaluation, feel free to contact Kim through www.bitofhoneytraining.com 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Edna Update

Has anyone noticed this food bowl is EMPTY?
Edna the great dane is staying with us for a bit while her humans are back East taking care of some family circumstances.  Although she is geriatric at 13 years old, Edna fits in great with the Bit of Honey herd.  She loves not having to be in charge of anything because there are border collies for that.  She likes to romp outside with the other dogs, and hang out in the grassy areas to watch the games of tug-of-war. 

Last weekend we took her with Miles the border collie to Owen's soccer game on Sat. in Wellington. Miles LOVES soccer, he intensely watches the entire game to see the running, the yelling, the balls in the air, the whistles.... Miles never wants to miss a thing!  Edna thought it was boring. She laid on the grass and waited for people to tell her she was a beautiful and good dog. Which they did.

Though she lacks enthusiasm for soccer, she makes up for it as a riding coach. Today she and the border collies helped me teach 3 lessons.  Edna stands right near me in the middle of the arena and watches the rider, occasionally doing her happy dance (swinging her head in a circle and lifting each front paw alternately) when I cheer for the horse/student. All three dogs were lined up with me in the center, we just didn't have a camera on us. Edna also wants to run with the border collies to chase the large birds in the pond, but she's too big to jump through the fence like they do, so she just trots laps in the yard watching them and cheering from the sidelines.

Because of all this activity she has lost some weight. She looks fine, but I can easily feel her ribs. I increased her kibble a bit, so she's getting 3 meals of 2 cups each. She's pretty pleased with the whole arrangement.  Dear Edna misses her family, but says she's having fun at Kamp Kim.
It is a sad sad thing to wait so long for dinner.
Edna Update: we took her to soccer again this weekend, but this time with Nase because 1. Miles was very swampy after his trail ride, and 2. We had 3 showings on the house and needed the dogs out. A thunderstorm rolled in as the game was going on, so Nase hid and shook under my lawn chair while Edna lay right next to him for comfort at the game. Then we headed to Petsmart to buy Nase a thundershirt. I've heard good things about them and it seems to be helping him a little. Edna was very sociable and visited with all the staff, all the other dogs, large or small, and was of great comfort to Nase in his time of need.

I sometimes get wrapped up in what I'm doing and forget Edna's lunch, so she has started approaching Owen and talking to him. When he asks me if he should feed her, she does her happy dance. This series of events has led us to refer to Owen as the Ned substitute, or "Nedstitute".
I've also noticed that Edna particularly loves little girls, old ladies, with the high voices and little petting motions. She almost seeks out the little girls at the soccer games, and the older ladies who come by the house for church things. It's very endearing.

Not to pester you with Edna stories, but this afternoon was pretty funny.  I was late getting her lunch and so she was a little nauseous.  I gave her lunch in her bowl, but outside on the stoop in case she threw up.  She didn't really want to eat, but stood there staring at the food.  Sabbath the cat sauntered over, since HE likes dog food, and went to put his face in her food bowl and help himself to some kibble.  Edna looked appalled, opened her giant maw and enclosed Sabbath's head in her mouth.  When he withdrew, slightly slimy, she gave him the stink eye.  So he turned around and walked with me to the feed room while Edna proceeded to eat the kibble herself.  I guess a little competition for food is a good thing? But Edna says to watch out for those kibble thieving cats.