Welcome to Bit of Honey Training LLC

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

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

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Throwback Thursday - Honey

Throwback Thursday! This is a photo from when I was in high school of me riding Docs Bit of Honey in the ocean.  Honey was a Paint with an attitude, and was the one who taught me to really listen to the horse's opinion. I learned so much from her it would be impossible to enumerate the many lessons, but it is because of her the stable has such an appropriate name that works on so many levels.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


I've been thinking a lot recently about so many of the wonderful things in my life.  While I of course have challenges, I choose to focus on the incredibly good things.  I received some perspective this evening.  I have a friend who has a horse that is sick with an undiagnosed problem, he is very special and would be exceedingly difficult to replace as a performance horse, and impossible to replace as a friend.  Because of her situation I've been reflecting on my Cecil, and I still get tearful when I remember he's gone.  Cecil was the horse that got me out of the wheelchair after the brain injury, and I still ache inside when I consider the potential he had as an eventing horse.  I was never able to really see how far we could go together, partly because  of my limitations with recovering from the brain injury, partly because he passed away just as we were starting his first real eventing season.

There are several things that bring me comfort when I get too frustrated, and one of them is Highboy.  In an attempt to bring a ray of light to an otherwise difficult situation, another friend brought to my attention that I wouldn't have Highboy had Cecil not passed.  At the time this comment was made I would have kept Cecil in a heartbeat rather than have Highboy.   However, now that I've had time to grieve and process, it has become obvious to me that Highboy is a real blessing in my life.  He has been a stellar example of how quickly and steadily a horse in rehabilitation can improve.  He has given me a view towards the future, I now have goals and aspirations and excitement about what we will accomplish together.  All of his progress has been in the right direction.  While at times it has felt slow, compared to other rehab horses I've worked with he has progressed amazingly quickly.

I rode him again this afternoon, and while lunging prior to mounting I asked for a canter and he got a little excited, and tugged the lunge line out of my hands.  He then proceeded to gallop around the arena trailing the line along, occasionally kicking out and running away from it as it chased him.  (It was only Highboy, me, and the dogs in the arena so no worries about ruining anyone else's ride!)  Once he had finished being silly, I asked him to whoa, and he halted and walked towards me, keeping one eye on that suspicious rope.  As I gathered the excess line I talked to him and he stepped closer to me, putting his forehead in my hand for a comforting pat.  I sent him out on the lunge line circle again, to make sure he was confident with what we were doing, and bless his heart he just walked and trotted like a perfect gentleman, occasionally stopping and facing me to ask if we were ready to ride yet?

After all this excitement, Highboy was quiet and thinking again.  I love that about this horse.  No matter how scary something is, I can still get him to refocus and settle and get back to work.  I've had other horses who, after a scary incident like that, would be mentally done for the day and I'd have to finish with just quiet lunging.  But Highboy collected himself mentally, and said he wanted to ride after all.  We went to the mounting block and I climbed on, with Miles my border collie coaching from the ground.  Highboy and I worked on circles and leg aids again, walking and trotting around the arena.  He only jumped around a little bit when Miles got too close in his demonstrating of correct trotting.  (Miles helps me with the green horses by doing whatever I cue the horse to do, but on the ground in front of them.  That way they have something to watch and when they do what Miles does, "ding ding - right answer!")  Highboy also began walking and trotting over ground poles while I rode him today. 

To finish up we did some breathing halts, where I stop the horse using a weight shift and a deep exhale.  Highboy is wonderful with this since he learned it from the ground.  It has been standard practice whenever I handle him and want him to stop moving.  I take a deep breath and I halt, and he mimics me.  The only new part is feeling me shift my weight from his back since he already understands the concept.  All the time and training I've done with him on the ground is all transferring beautifully into his under saddle work.  I can't get over how this ride, the second day in a row, he was still strong and graceful while riding, with no soreness when we finished, despite the yee hawing on the lunge line in the beginning.  If he can come this far in the short time I've owned him, we will have amazing things happening here shortly.  Highboy is definitely one of the blessings in my life for which I feel strong gratitude.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Highboy's Ride

Well, Highboy wasn't kidding yesterday when he said he was ready to get going with his riding.  I took him out this afternoon and tacked him up with a different bit (a regular D ring snaffle, since he said the 3 piece snaffle was too much movement in his mouth), and his saddle.  I lunged him very briefly just to make sure he got his wiggles out (there weren't any), and then climbed on.  I swear, he feels like a TOTALLY different horse than the one I rode a few times 6 weeks ago.  Now it feels like he's dancing with me on him, lifting his back and swinging through his whole body, rather than the stiff and somewhat staggering gait we had in his first rides.  Now he's nimble on his feet and flexible through his back and topline, the best comparison I could make was he felt as free and agile as Jubilee, the little Arabian that was here all summer.  I am amazed at the change in him, mentally and physically.  Rebecca even arrived while we were trotting to the right, and she thought I'd gotten a new horse in for training - she didn't recognize him!  Highboy and I rode for about 20 minutes, working on leg aids at the walk and trot, with much more trotting than I've ever done with him before.  Miracle of miracles, he was completely relaxed and even at the end was not sore AT ALL near his sacrum or in his lower back.  Now I'm really starting to get excited about what we're going to be doing by spring!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Highboy's Mounting Block

Highboy wants to get back to work!  He's been a little neglected recently with all the traveling, he is just getting turned out with his friends to play.  This morning I put him in the arena and Obie was getting tired of Highboy pestering, so I went to turn out one of the ponies with him.  Highboy had been standing at the fenceline talking to the ponies, but as soon as I entered the pen he immediately latched on to me and began following me around asking ME to play with him.  We fooled around in the arena a bit, free lunging both directions.  Both leads are easy for him now, and he knows all the voice commands.  In the last month, even when he's out playing for hours he doesn't get sore anymore.  I went over to the mounting block and sat down for a few minutes, thinking I'd watch him run and play, but to my surprise he sauntered right over to where I was sitting and lined himself up at the mounting block for me to climb on from his right side.  I didn't have a helmet on, so I just patted him on his back and leaned over a bit.  Then I got off the block, he turned around, and looked at me like, "so are you going to get on from this side or what?"  I think the boy is eager to get riding.

Riding Around the Neighborhood

Photo is a little distorted from the phone camera, but we have Michelle and Obie on the L, Kim H. and Rain in the middle, and Sara on Tao on the right.  I'm riding Fergie and taking the picture backwards while she dances around.
A group of us went around the neighborhood this weekend, all the horses were wonderful.  It was Obie and Michelle's first ride out of the arena, and Obie was a champ. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Nebraska Horse Expo Behind the Scenes

Sheridan tacking up Major

Wrapping polos on his legs

Cooling out behind the barns after Major's rides

L to R:  Sheridan, Major, Kim L., Jesse, Kim H., Michelle, Kathy

Sunset shadows on the arena walls from where the horses cooled out

There was a HUGE representation for the draft horses!  Riding, driving, you name it, they did it.

A cute haflinger pulling a cart

Jesse gets to sit on the clydesdale she watched all weekend

Garmin has his moment in the sun

Garmin lips!

Garmin's stall was the same size as Major's, but it felt bigger since Garmin is so small.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Riding at NE Expo

Our motivation for traveling to the Nebraska Horse Expo was twofold.  Firstly we attended so that I could ride with Jane Savoie.  She very rarely comes to the middle of the country to teach, since she lives in VT and winters in FL.  I had met her and audited her presentation when she was in Denver two years ago, and enjoyed it immensely.  Secondly, I've been asked to teach a jumping clinic at this expo for 2014, and I wanted to evaluate the facility and expo to make sure this was a location where I want to teach.

Jane getting some history on our horses before beginning the clinic session.  On the left is a well schooled Morgan gelding who rode in the session as well. 

Feeling fancy

Jane talking about rein aids

"turning the key" to get flexion at the poll
Major's nice working trot

I love this beautiful boy


Major went really well on Fri morning when I just rode him in the arenas so he could adjust.  Then on Sat morning he was wonderful in the first clinic session, demonstrating the stretchy trot beautifully, doing leg yields with his head toward the wall, and showing off his trot/halt transitions.  Sat. afternoon was a whole different kind of stressful.  There was a bull whip demonstration happening in the next building over, and the buildings were connected so Major heard EVERY crack of the bull whips.  For those who haven't been around them, bull whips are much louder and more intense than any lunge whip used with horses.  Major has some history with being spanked over fences before he came to Bit of Honey Training, and he was really really upset.  That ride was kind of a wash, I was just grateful that he wasn't too sore after being so tense.  Sunday morning, however, we were able to redeem ourselves. Major did a lovely demonstration of +7 +1, a suppling exercise where you flex the horse's neck 7" to the right of vertical, then 1" to the right of vertical, repeated three times, then allow him to stretch and relax while increasing the walk stride length.  He also was able to "Hollywood" things for the audience.  I asked him to travel hollow and stiff, then to round out and lengthen to show the auditors the difference.  Whenever something needed to be over-exaggerated to make a point to the audience, Major was the go-to horse.

Discussing leg aids with a cute Morgan gelding

Finally smiling as Major "Hollywoods" tense and hollow to round and through

Sporting the Bit of Honey Training vest

Love my stretchy TB

Listening for the bull whips

Working on suppling my big nervous pony

Just about ready to take a bow

Good boy

Nebraska Horse Expo

We made the trek to Lincoln, NE last weekend for the Nebraska Horse Expo at the Lancaster Events Center.  Major and I were accompanied by Garmin (Major's moral support), my working student Sheridan (chauffeur extraordinaire), and the entourage consisting of Kim, Michelle, Kathy, and Jesse.  Bit of Honey Training was well represented! 

First refueling stop of the trip - stretching legs and letting the horses rest.
 Major acted like he does long hauls all the time, as I'm sure he did when he was racing in Kentucky and on the East coast.  He ate his hay, he played in the water, and generally kept little Garmin calm. 
Garmin in the trailer
 Garmin wasn't so sure about such a long trip.  He was pretty nervous and didn't eat his hay like usual in the trailer when he goes on shorter adventures. 
Garmin's nose in the stall at the expo, "remember I'm the cutest Public Relations pony here!"
When we initially arrived at the grounds on Thursday evening we were greeted by the friendliest parking people I've met yet.  They checked all our health papers and we headed into the barns to set up.  We were in a main aisle just off of the barn arena and round pen, however Major's stall was immediately beneath the PA system and the speaker was quite loud.  To start with he toughed it out pretty well, simply shaking his whole body when the vibrating speaker would sound, until the announcements became more frequent.  By mid afternoon on Friday he was literally climbing the walls and kicking the canvas dividers down in agitation.  If I walked him outside he immediately settled and was fine.  I went into the barn office to describe my situation and the office volunteers were wonderful.  They completely understood that Major is sensitive and I needed stalls located further from the speakers, especially when I explained the stall would likely be demolished by morning if we didn't move him. 
Major in his stall with his poster next to our tack stall with display
Once we were able to move everything (Major, Garmin, all our shavings, and the tack stall decor) Major was much happier.  He still noticed the PA system, but no longer was agitated by it.  We still went for at least twice daily walks outside for him to decompress, but overall he was much happier in the new locale.

Hand picking the shavings and tangles out of Major's tail before our first clinic session ride on Sat. am
Sporting the Bit of Honey Training vest