Welcome to Bit of Honey Training LLC

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

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Western Dressage

Today was Billy's second horse show.  He rode the Western Dressage Basic Level 1 test.  He got glowing praise about what a nice prospect he is from the judge, and did incredibly well for his age of only 4 years old!  A video of his test can be viewed at http://youtu.be/Bv3alW1-38o
Kim riding Billy, while his owner Joyce talks with the old owner of a horse she just purchased

Baby Billy doing his baby horse trot

Such a beautiful place to ride!

Yes, we are standing slightly downhill, but Billy is in a growth spurt and is also a bit butt-high

Tao doing his western dressage class in the spring

Tao in his western dressage class in the spring

Fergie's First Show

Fergie is a Thoroughbred/Clydesdale cross who looks like a Cleveland Bay.  She has had training off and on for years but always struggled with finding calmness and rhythm.  Since arriving at Bit of Honey Training she has learned lovely ground manners, loading in the trailer, and best of all she has a solid walk, trot, and canter with a relaxed and rhythmic way of going.  Here are some of our favorite pics from today, her very first horse show!
Fergie with her owner, Sara cruising around the show grounds

All of this was under 3 feet of water just weeks ago with all the flooding. 
 Triple Creek Ranch in Longmont is a wonderful place to show, with gorgeous grounds, super friendly people, and mouthwatering delicious homemade cinnamon rolls.  They also have several streams that became RIVERS in the last couple weeks with all the flooding that Colorado has had.  Triple River Ranch for a while.  But true to form the barn owner and manager was completely on top of things and had the place in really great shape for the show this weekend, understanding that our horse community needed something fun like a show to recover from such tragedy.
Fergie has an incredible aptitude for shutting her eyes at JUST the right moment for photos.

When her eyes are open she's quite lovely!

Fergie walking in the show arena

Another eyes-closed pic

All done at the end of her classes

The girl does clean up nice!

Rehab Photos

This is what 2 months of quality groceries, focused physical therapy, and lots of playing in the pasture has done for Highboy!
I've posted these photos before, but here are Garmin's "before & afters"

Highboy's Sept Photo Shoot

 Highboy had a photo shoot with me and my camera last weekend, and here are some of my favorites of the big guy.

"Just wondering if we are going to jump these today?"
 Highboy loves to play with stuff.  Everything we do together is one giant game to him, he has such a baby brain!  Although I didn't get any photos of it, when I turned him loose in the arena, he first followed me around like we do most evenings.  Then, all on his own, he went and trotted through the ground poles, quickly returning to me to see if that would earn him a click and a treat.  I didn't have any goodies on me, just the camera, so he moseyed on to the mounting block, sniffing it and standing by it as if to ask, "how about this?  Can we play with this one?"
Highboy checking out the structural integrity of the mounting block

Highboy and Major

Highboy and Tao (notice the height difference!)

Often his trot still looks like this - baby horse with his head in the air.
But sometimes his trot looks like this - stretching and lifting his back up!

Monday, September 23, 2013

As the Thoroughbreds Turn

These are some of the Thoroughbreds who have been through Bit of Honey Training in recent years.  They each have a great story to tell.  Here are some of their brief biographies.

From L to R:  Thai, Cecil, Major, Highboy, Samson, Ben, Frank, Fergie

I found Thai (registered name "Gingko") through a friend of a friend, sitting in a back pasture in Parker, CO.  Prior to that he was being free-jumped over pickup trucks by some cowboys in WY for entertainment on the weekends.  I bought him and retrained him (all he had was track training) and got him jumping 4'6" courses like they were nothing.  He was such an athlete.

Cecil (Show name "C'est Cecil")I found in a pasture in Wellington, CO.  Prior to that he was a baby who had suffered some neglect in southern CO, but was lucky enough to make it to a local trainer's place in northern CO where he was gently started under saddle.  I purchased him as a lesson horse prospect because of his somewhat lazy demeanor, but as he matured he decided he wanted to be my eventing horse.  I jumped him to 3'6", rode him through 2nd level dressage, and he is the horse who got me out of the wheelchair after I had a brain injury.

Major (registered name "Hold the Flight") I found in a back paddock in Fort Collins, through a friend and client.  He had been a race horse in KY.  I evented him through Training level, then retired him to strictly dressage and trail riding.  He currently teaches dressage lessons here at Bit of Honey for the intermediate/advanced riders, and is Kim's "go to" horse for trail rides and pony-ing youngsters.

Highboy (registered as "Colorado High") was found through CANTER Colorado, a rescue group that advertises retired racehorses.  Since arriving here he has been doing liberty work with the clicker, and goes over crossrails in the arena as directed from the ground.  His under saddle training is planned for the next month or two as he develops topline muscle through his back and is able to comfortably carry a rider.

Samson (registered as "Pocket Pal") was in a back pasture in Nunn, CO.  Prior to that he had been in the local livestock auction.  There is a 6 year gap in his history and paperwork, but he had been imported from Canada when he was 4 months old.  I suspect he had been a PMU baby.  These horses are byproducts of the Premarin industry, a hormone that is extracted from pregnant mare urine (PMU).  When I purchased him as a project, Samson was an 8 year old stallion that was not halter broke.  After several months he was gelded and nearly under saddle.  He was a phenomenal jumper at liberty and showed great promise as a dressage horse when he began having seizures of unknown origin.  Now he is the herd manager for the geldings at Bit of Honey.

Ben came to me as a project from a client in the mountains west of Colorado Springs.  He was just 3 years old and I put him under saddle, riding him through training level before he went home to his owner.

Frank (registered name "Solid State") came to me as a client horse as well, for rehabilitation and physical therapy for intermittent lameness and neurological problems.  He LOVED to do work with obstacles and absolutely thrived on "brain work" like ground driving and playing with hula hoops and pool noodles, all things we introduce to horses who need to be kept busy mentally.

Fergie (registered name "True Brit") has only been at Bit of Honey for a short while, but she has made incredible progress in a very short time.  Her ground manners are now nearly impeccable, she walks, trots and canters reliably in the arena, and is solid and quiet out on the trails.  She is very particular about saddle fit and how her equipment feels.  Her first horse show is this weekend, riding an introductory level dressage test.  Her favorite treats are sliced pears.

There are a few TBs not pictured because I didn't have photos of them, but they are also special to me.

While I work with all different breeds of horses here, and we have success with all of them, the TBs are my personal favorites, hence the blog entry about the hot ones.  Future posts will include the Connemaras, Haflingers, Fjords, Quarter horses, Arabians, Friesans, Morgans, Paints, ponies, and warmbloods.  We are definitely a nondenominational facility with a "come one, come all" philosophy, but the TBs will always have a special place in my heart.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Grease Monkey in Breeches and Jubilee's Success

Why yes, that was me this afternoon, kneeling in the mud with a dead tractor, which I did resuscitate by disassembling the starter, unjamming it, and then reassembling and attaching it back onto the tractor. You may now call me The Grease Monkey in Breeches.

The arena footing should be looking pretty good by the weekend so hopefully we'll be able to do some riding.  Today was spent over at the neighbor's indoor arena with Fergie, Jubilee, and Billy.  Fergie is preparing for her first dressage show, and Billy is teaching his owner about some of the new things he has learned here in the last couple months about reining.

Other than the tractor finally starting, the highlight of my day was seeing Jubilee and her owner ride together.  The three of us have been working together for several years, doing lots of preparation and ground work while we waited for Jubilee to mature enough mentally and physically to be ready for riding.  Just this summer she's really been ready to get to work and has come along incredibly quickly.  Currently she is walking, trotting, cantering, and knows her leads.  She backs nicely, turns nicely and goes over all the trail obstacles in the arena quietly.  She is trailriding as well, and loves to come out and work.  Until today she had mostly just done this with me, and occasionally my working student.  My saddle fit Jubilee, me, and my student, but not Cynthia.  It was a bit disheartening to see the horse making such progress and not have Cynthia doing it as well, but we were headed the right direction by ordering a custom saddle that was exactly what they needed.  This is the first saddle that Cynthia has ever had that really fit HER properly, and it also fits Jubilee perfectly.  It is an Allegeny trail saddle, and they are quite reasonably priced.  www.trailridingsaddles.com      We worked with Jen at Happy Horse Tack in Fort Collins to get it.

Total, Cynthia and I have been working with Jubilee for about 6 years, since she was a long yearling and Cynthia bought her planning to invest quite a bit of time, emotion, and money into her.  Today all the years of effort came together, all the training, all the frustration, all the waiting, finally all the puzzle pieces settled into place and the last part arrived this afternoon - the fitted saddle. 

It is incredible to see the investment she has made in her horse pay off.  Cynthia rode around in the arena, walking and trotting in lovely balance with Jubilee, correctly getting her diagonals, with her leg hanging precisely and effortlessly in the correct position because she finally has a saddle that doesn't interfere with her balance.  There was a lot of smiling, giggling, cheering, and one very quiet happy arabian mare in the arena today.  It only gets better from here!

“It is only as we develop others that we permanently succeed.” - Harvey S. Firestone

                   Excerpt from the speech "Citizenship In A Republic" Theodore Roosevelt
                   delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Tales From the Vet Box - An Ill Housecat

Many of you know I worked in vet clinics as a veterinary technician for years.   Some of my best animal stories come from my time spent working with really good vets in Washington State and here in Colorado.

An Ill Housecat

While working at a small animal clinic we had a cat that would come in periodically with its college student owner.  The client took excellent care of his cat, feeding excellent cat food and generally providing a high quality of care.  He was concerned because while otherwise quite healthy, the cat appeared to be having seizure-like activity, with stumbling, weakness, and vocalizing.  During one of these visits the cat appeared to be hallucinating, staring and yowling at the wall.  After conducting a thorough physical exam and not finding any obvious problems other than a slightly slowed heart rate, it occurred to the vet to confidentially ask the owner if there were any, say, illicit substances in the apartment the cat may have gotten into?  At this question the owner paused, slightly embarrassed and said the cat had been licking the bong.

Tales From the Vet Box - The Castration Song

Many of you know I worked in vet clinics as a veterinary technician for years.   Some of my best animal stories come from my time spent working with really good vets in Washington State and here in Colorado.

The Castration Song

We had a client who brought in her four miniature donkeys for annual veterinary work, including vaccines, dental work, and one youngster to be gelded.  The client was a larger woman, sturdy farming stock, with wide girth and muscular arms, wearing a large canvas work coat and coveralls.  She doted on her donkeys as though they were beloved housecats.

She had a song she always sang to them whenever one was castrated.  While the little donkey wobbled under sedation as the veterinarian was crouching down trying to emasculate a testicle, she would kneel in the stall and croon,

"Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they're here to stay
Oh, I believe in yesterday.

Suddenly, I'm not half the stud I used to be
There's no shadow hanging under me
Oh yesterday, came suddenly

Why they had to go, I don't know
She wouldn't say.

But I've done something wrong
Now I long for yesterday"

Tales from the Vet Box - the Prepurchase Exam

Many of you know I worked in vet clinics as a veterinary technician for years.   Some of my best animal stories come from my time spent working with really good vets in Washington State and here in Colorado.  Since it's raining so hard I thought I'd start to document some of the stories in the blog and not just my private journals.

The Prepurchase Exam

One week we had a prepurchase exam scheduled for a warmblood gelding who was being sold to a woman as a jumper for the meager sum of $150,000.  We weren't told this exact amount, when horses cost THAT much people didn't generally share the specific numbers with us, we just were told the horse was a significant purchase.  But I overheard a cell phone conversation with words to that effect, referring to a $50,000 check with "1 of 3" written in the memo line.  When I whispered this amount to the vet I was working for he responded, "we better not miss ANYTHING on this exam...."

He was an 18 hand gelding at one of our bigger show barns.  He was a warmblood with feet like sauce platters, jumping beautifully, quietly, and clearing 5'5" oxer fences with a foot and a half to spare.  I'm not exaggerating.  The seller, if he were to keep the horse, intended to take him as far as he could go, aiming for the World Cup.  (An interesting side note:  the seller used to be a very western roping cowboy who shod horses for a living, but married into significant money and currently dealt with expensive imported warmbloods rather than cattle horses).  The seller had bought the horse and imported him from Canada.  The gelding had a massive chest, and he moved very lightly on his feet especially considering his size.  People watched the riding portion of the exam with awe, speaking in hushed tones of his athleticism.

Since it was a prepurchase exam, we went over the horse with a very fine tooth comb, scrutinizing, analyzing, and examining everything from small shin scars to slight distension of tendon sheaths, to detailed eye exams.  Also a full lameness workup including x-rays of nearly every weight bearing joint in the horse's body including stifles, hocks, all four fetlocks, and front feet.  When the selling price is that high, several hundred dollars in radiographs is no big deal.  The buyer, a fairly wealthy woman whose dog incidentally just had $3000 surgery to replace his hip (people are so eager to share these numbers) was riding the horse on the sharp gravel driveway when we pulled up to start the exam (illustrating that money and sense don't always go together).

We went through all the particulars of the horse's history, 8 years old, well bred, etc., making very detailed notations on the form we always used.  We did the assessment of skin, hooves, legs, eyes, ears, heart, lungs, lameness (none found), flexion tests, all the things the vet studies on a horse's prepurchase exam whether the horse sells for $150,000 or $1,500.

As we were doing the last set of x-rays we were all gowned up in the lead aprons, all the x-ray equipment out and set up, the horse sedated in the cross ties.  Everyone was watching and discussing the beautiful animal he was.  We heard the rustling of paper and I turned around to see Goaty, the barn's mascot pygmy goat, trotting away from us down the barn aisle, happily munching away on the exam form.  Her rotund belly swinging side to side, pooping as she went, she squinted her obtuse eyes with happiness.  I shouted, "Goaty!!" as I ran down the barn aisle after her with my lead apron weighting me down, and then the seller and I pounced on her, each of us grabbing her jaws and attempting to pry the form out of her mouth.  She clamped her sharp little teeth firmly into the paper, tearing chunks out of it and gulping as fast as she could.  We lost the right middle third of the paper - Goaty swallowed it.  We didn't have a single prepurchase exam form from that stable that didn't bear Goaty's teeth marks.  Just goes to show you a goat doesn't care how expensive the horse or his exam is.
This looks just like Goaty, but she had horns.

Water Water Everywhere Part II

9/12/13    While feeding this week I considered some of the things I'm so thankful for... Knee-high rubber boots, my waterproof coat, a wheelbarrow with big wheels that can truck through the mud, a pond and marshland that so far has been more than adequate for holding all the water that has poured down this week. My heart goes out to those battling with rising waters and flooding. We are so fortunate that we and our animals are safe. Be careful out there.
9/14/13   More rain to come tonight...  Thinking of all those who are already up to their ears in water.  We are doing well here, the horses are actually being quite reasonable in the mud.  Only the ones wearing sheets have been rolling, everyone else seems to be waiting to mud-bathe until the weather has entirely passed. Highboy is a little stir-crazy without his daily afternoon turnout, but he'll have to make do with his paddock because I am NOT turning him loose in the big pasture to go water skiing around!  Major and the ponies are very stoic in the field, wandering around sedately and mostly sticking by the gates for hay and water.  The border collies have donned their water wings and snorkels and are continuing to work with me at feeding times.  Greatest dogs ever.

9/15/13   The ponies have officially gotten bored with having to forgo their afternoon turnout in the pasture.  This morning Tao and Garmin staged a breakout (Garmin was the instigator), sneaking the gate open while I mucked around dispensing hay to the geldings in mud that went up over my ankles.  Grateful for those knee high rubber boots!   Garmin nudged the gate open, then sneaked out to sample the leftover mash stuck to the sides of the mostly empty buckets.  Tao thought that looked like fun, so he followed suit.  I was able to lead Garmin back into the pen by his flymask, but Tao wandered off to taste the grass that is finally growing in the yard.  I had to halter him but he came willingly and decided to eat breakfast as it was served after all.  Just trying to add a little entertainment into an otherwise soggy morning meal.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Nine Lives of a Barn Cat

We have a Bit of Honey miracle!  Maya, the feral barn cat, has been missing.  I thought she was gone for good, but I hadn't yet gotten a new feral to do mouse control in the barn.  Today, SIX WEEKS later, she shows up at the top of the hay stack, meowing at me for supper like she was never gone.  She is not thin, but she has a shaved patch on her back.  I suspect someone tried to "rescue" her during one of her wanderings, took her to the vet to have an abscess taken care of, and first chance she got she came home to where we feed daily but don't mess with her.  I just hope they realized she was already spayed before they got too far into her vetting!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Water Water Everywhere

It has been hot.  For the past few weeks we have been taking it easy, drinking lots of water, and training for hoses and baths.  Most of the horses tolerate hoses and water reasonably well here, but there are a few who have distinct opinions on running water.  Major insists that he have a long drink from the hose before water ever touches his body, and if you are filling the water tank look out!  He picks up any unattended hose in his teeth, creating a wide spray, and will purposely drench any human standing nearby, as well as any horse who comes over for a fresh beverage.  Turns out we can add Highboy to the list of water-loving ponies too, he grabs the hose and wiggles it as far up into his mouth as possible before he opens up and drains the mouthful of water all over me.  At least HE has a sense of humor, I swear he chuckles and shakes his head at me every time he gets me. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Betcha Can't Have Just One

This evening I thought I'd play with Highboy with the clicker a bit, since we haven't done too much this week due to my migraine.  He's really understanding the ground manners thing now, he mostly walks right next to me on either the R or L, halting when I take a deep breath out and stop, and trotting when I jog.  With the clicker I don't use a halter or lead, since he has a little more room to experiment and play that way.  Tonight when I jogged, he did his best to trot slowly, but couldn't take the excitement and so moved a little ways away from me and proceeded to hop up and down, tossing his head, and kicking out with his front feet and then hind feet (away from me).  We tried to trot over cross rails, but with the poles and standards newly painted and decorated, Highboy needed to stop and inspect them before stepping over.

One of the best parts of clicker training is the audience.  It's a bit like a bag of potato chips, you can't do the clicker with just one!  All the horses hang their heads over the fences watching me play with Highboy in the arena.  When I'm done with him (much to his disappointment, he always wants to play longer, but we quit while we're ahead so he's always left wanting more), the other horses argue a bit about who gets to come out next to play with me and the clicker.  Major declared he was next this evening, though historically I haven't done much clicker work with him.  He's watched me do it with many other horses, though, and he understands the concept, immediately going to the gymnastic lines of poles and steadily walking through them to turn around and then receive his click and treat.

Tao the haflinger was next.  Similar games with him.  That was really all I had time for before feeding everyone supper, but it is so funny to watch all 10 horses lined up at the gates of their respective paddocks, staring at me while anticipating their turns, glued to the show in the arena like it's the most entertainment they've had all week!  It's even more interesting to notice that they all seem to learn the tricks by watching, even if I haven't specifically done them with that horse.  Like Major knew the jump course at liberty without having done it before, just because he watched Highboy go through it a few times.  These guys are so smart, and it makes me even more careful how I treat each one, since they learn so much by watching me interact with the others.