Welcome to Bit of Honey Training LLC

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

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Trailride at Eagles' Nest

 Today we hauled 4 horses to Eagles' Nest in Livermore.  It was gorgeous weather with perfect temps and wonderful mares!  I didn't take too many pictures of scenery because it was my mare's first time with saddle bags (from whence the camera came) and her first time on a real trail ride.  This mare belongs to a good friend who is out of town so I'm keeping her horse exercised.  The parts of the trail that were most picturesque also had some slightly technical footing so we were all focused on accurate riding with the green horses rather than documenting the trip.  The girls dealt bravely and calmly with water, a large bridge, technical terrain, dogs, gates, cattle guards, open spaces, tight turns, steep inclines and descents.  A great group over a very fun day with really brave mares!

Rosie the Morgan

Rain the paint

The very tired Jubilee, a young arabian

My view for most of the ride from Gigi the Morgan

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

That's What Boys are Made of!

This evening was roommate-swap night, according to the geldings.  I am blessed (or cursed) with smart horses.  Once they have drunk about half of the water trough, the boys like to shove it out of the way, walk under the fence, and change paddocks.  So this evening when I went out to feed, everybody was in the wrong paddocks.  The only horses who had stayed in their designated paddocks were the ones too tall to crawl under the fence.  They are also constantly playing and rough-housing.  I figure at least they're happy and entertaining themselves, right?  As documented in previous posts, the boys are not opposed to jumping over the fence into each others' pens, either, for which I partially blame myself because I taught them how to free jump at liberty and now they know EXACTLY how high they can go. 

It is worth noting that the mares never do this kind of thing.  They stay where I put them, even if the water tank is only 1/4 full.  They don't lip wrestle over or under the fence, they don't chase or hit each other with rubber feed tubs, and there are never wounds from WWF horse-wrestling.  They spend a lot of time in mutual grooming sessions, enjoying back rubs and moisturizing while hanging out over the water tank.  This is the contrast between mares and geldings.  Sheesh.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Speedy Garmin

Pooh and Piglet

We turned the two best pony friends out in the arena yesterday and took some fun photos.  Here is a collage with some of the A.A. Milne quotes from Winne the Pooh that apply best to the friendship between Tao the haflinger and Garmin the PR pony.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Out of the Mouths....

This morning I gave a seven year old girl her first riding lesson ever.  She did a wonderful job, and was very safety-conscious.  When she first arrived I asked her if she knew the difference between english and western saddles.  She said no, so I showed her one of each and we talked about the differences.  I then asked her which one she would like to ride in.  She said "once, I rode a friend's horse and it was in a western saddle, so that's what I'm used to riding in all the time, so I'll ride in that today."

After we had groomed Cole, gotten him tacked up, and the girl was fitted with a helmet, we walked to the arena.  I helped her mount, and we talked about how to make a horse stop, go, and turn.  We walked all over the arena, and the little girl got to choose which obstacles we did with Cole.  I ask a lot of questions in lessons to help the rider identify different sensations to develop a feel for what she is doing.  When I asked her what it felt like to go over the jump (walking over a 6" cavalletti), she said it was like flying in slow motion.  Going over the small bridge and stopping with Cole's front feet on it felt like "taking off in an airplane" and when he stopped with only his hind feet on the bridge it felt like "landing an airplane."

My favorite comment of hers was about the barrels.  As we practiced turning by looking where we were going, I asked her what it felt like to ride Cole in turns around the barrels.  She giggled and said it felt like the horse was using a hula hoop, and that SHE was the hoop!  I thought that was a great seven year old description of centrifugal force!

Cole with one of his many proteges at a show a few years ago

Monday, June 3, 2013

Miles' Job Description

Miles is one of the border collies that lives here at Bit of Honey Training LLC.  This year he is four, and he has been with us since he was a 7 week old puppy.  He'll tell you all about working on a horse training ranch if you come visit.  He talks all the time, yodeling and humming and wow-wowing, and if you respond he'll continue in a very conversational tone.  I suspect this is partly because he spent his first years growing up with a husky and then a hound dog, though his mother is also a talker, which is somewhat unusual for this breed.

Miles was also partly raised by one of the barn cats.  When Miles was a small puppy he would often get overly excited, and when he became too rowdy the barn cat at the time would make Miles lie down, then the cat would sit on his head and lick his ear.  To this day if Miles feels a human child is being too rowdy he will pounce on the child to make her lie down, then Miles will sit on her head and lick her ear.  That's how you discipline the young, right?

While we enjoy all kinds of things about him, in his own mind Miles is first and foremost a working dog.  This breed is not for those prone to relaxation.  He is capable of working cattle and has demonstrated his herding skills by guiding not only cattle, but barn cats, grasshoppers, and rogue soccer balls.  He loves soccer, and if he would stay in the goal he could play on a team since NOTHING gets past him, even the weather.

Thunderstorms can be stressful for many animals, including the other barn dogs.  Miles, however, takes his job seriously as a herding dog and superhero.  I have a little theme song I sing with him to the tune of Mighty Mouse's "here I come to save the day", and he always pitches in on the chorus.  When thunder rolls in over the mountains, he will leap to attention, race out to the south pasture, and bark at the sky as he runs from the west end to the east end of the field.  As another cloud rolls in, he repeats the process.  Thunder always comes in over the west foothills, then heads east out to the plains, and Miles is convinced that he has herded it off of our property.  While the other dogs hide in the barn or in the house, Miles is out there controlling the weather.  All he needs is his super hero cape.

Miles' real talent shines in his official work with the me and the horses.  He has a very calming way about him, and often will stand with nervous horses, soothing them and helping them to relax.  For example, when I am teaching a horse to stand quietly for mounting, I lead the horse to the mounting block.  Miles will stand at the horse's head encouraging him to stand still, while I climb on the block and pat the saddle, weight the stirrup, and lean over the horse.  Then, because I like the horses to stand quietly for mounting on both sides, I'll turn the horse around to do it from the opposite side.  I'll stand at the horse's head, and Miles will get onto the block.  He nudges the horse with his nose, then stands up on his hind legs and pats the saddle with his front paws, weighting the stirrup, etc.  

snuggling with a horse in rehab
Miles is a big help when I have a green horse who needs clarification during riding as well.  Sometimes a horse will get "stuck", and just sort of stop in the arena and as the rider I'm left wondering where the gas pedal is.  If I click at the horse, and if Miles is loose to help me, he'll come racing into the arena.  If I continue clicking, which is the cue to trot, Miles will get right in front of the horse, looking back over his shoulder to encourage him, and trot in front of us.  More often than not this will get the horse "unstuck" and they will follow Miles and do what he does.  It also works for cantering, I'll make a kissing noise and Miles will canter in front of the horse so the horse knows what to do.  When Miles had four legs he would even take correct leads and do flying changes as the canine coach.  

On the trails it is super helpful to have him, too.  He generally runs ahead of us, flushing the birds and pheasant out of the tall grass.  It's nice to have him do that rather than having the bird wait for the horse to nearly step on it before it launches out of the grass, smacking the horse with a wing as takes off.  Horses don't like surprises, and a big flapping thing leaping out of the grass would startle anyone!

Often we have to go over a bridge, or cross water or a ditch and the horse is concerned about it.  I just call Miles back to me and tell him we need a little help, and he'll come right back, gently leading the horse over or through the obstacle, sometimes with the horse's nose on Miles' back for security.

Miles uses a similar technique in the arena when teaching horses to go over a bridge or through tires.  One mare comes to mind, she was older and hadn't been taught to ride yet.  I was trying to get her to put all four hooves on the small bridge in my arena, and she was trying hard to do exactly as I did.  I would put my left foot on the bridge, then my right, then step off the other side.  The mare would place one front foot and then the other, then step off completely without putting her hind feet on the bridge.  Miles watched this for a while, then decided that we needed a little help.  He interjected himself into the session, staring at the horse, then at the bridge.  He then put one front paw on, looked at the horse, looked at the bridge.  Then he put the other front paw on, and looked at the horse and the bridge.  Then he placed his hind paws on one at a time, paused, and slowly walked off.  The mare watched him very carefully, and she proceeded to very precisely do EXACTLY as Miles had done, even down to the same feet in the same order.   She paused with all four on the bridge, then stepped off.  Clearly her prior difficulties were because she was mimicking me with my two feet.  Thank goodness for Miles and his clarification! 
Greeting a foal that was born that morning

Introducing himself to a horse who was afraid of dogs
During my search for our barn pony, Garmin, we ended up at the local auction.  Miles was with me, of course, and when we found ourselves seats we were soon surrounded by strangers who asked if he was for sale, or if I would breed him.  I had to explain that no, he is my neutered pet who happens to work with me, but when Miles got down in his low crouch to watch all the livestock come through the ring, it just fueled the public's desire to have a dog of his caliber.  Miles thought it was a really great day, seeing and smelling so many different kinds of animals.

This past winter Miles lost his right hind leg when someone shot him, but it hasn't changed his personality at all.  He runs a little slower, doesn't wander as far, and doesn't jump on people as often now.  He still helps with the horses and works really hard at his job as the horse training border collie.

Miles has a medical side to his talents; he likes to assist the vet when he comes to do dental work on the horses.  Miles will stand nearby, sniffing the floats and peering into the sedated horses' mouths as though in preparation to do the dental himself. 

All this work calls for a little recreation, and Miles does love a good time.  In his spare moments he'll play soccer, swim in the pond, and he will go to town with me to run errands, since the errands I run are usually to dog-friendly places like Home Depot, the feed store, tack stores, the oil change place, or the trailer maintenance place.  Everyone in town knows Miles, and he has the staff at these locales wrapped around his little finger, getting them to dispense dog cookies every time he sits. 

 Miles gets along with everyone, and this is one of my favorite pictures of him with his friend and roommate, Belle.  They are in their regular location, waiting for me to ready a horse to go on a trail ride.
Greatest smile around