Welcome to Bit of Honey Training LLC

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

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Thursday Wash Day

The curse of the white horse is that it is so much work to get them to look clean.  Since Grace has a propensity to wallow in the manure at every opportunity, I've been watching the temperatures in hopes that we'll have a day warm enough to bathe her before the expo.  Since that didn't look likely, I took a bucket of warm water and a large sponge out to her paddock around lunch time to get her cleaned as best I can while it's at least in the 40s.  I could bathe her at the expo in the wash stalls, but I didn't want that to be her first experience with a bath in the midst of all the stress of the event.

Rain is modeling the mud that Grace also was sporting pre-wash.

Sabbath the barn cat

I wet Grace down with the warm water using the sponge, which she didn't mind too much.  It made a huge difference just to get the top layer of dirt off her.  Then we lathered up with whitening shampoo and let it sit for a while, and I also washed and conditioned her mane.  Her only objection (and with good reason) was to the hose and cold water for her quick rinse at the end.  Grace is a really good sport.  She let me rinse the soap out, and then put a green polar fleece cooler on to keep her warm while she dried.

The drying process takes a long time when the horse still has so much of her winter woolies, so we went to the arena and worked with barrels, tires, and poles while she wore her cooler.  I set up the barrels so that they formed a narrow chute, and she was happy to follow me right through.  I also led her into a small box which I laid out using jump poles, then turned around first one direction, then the other.  She walked over and around the tires some more, and only jumped a little when I was fluffing up the cooler over her buns.  I don't think she has ever worn blankets or other horse clothes before, but she tolerated everything remarkably well.

When she was dry enough, I removed the cooler and put a sheet on her as my earnest attempt to keep her clean, or at least minimize the manure stains she'll acquire between now and next Thursday when we leave for expo. 

So, Grace, tell us how you really feel about baths.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Media Info

I updated Grace's ad on Equine.com with more photos and details about her presentation at horse expo, and particulars on her private treaty sale.  If you'd like to check it out you can find it at http://www.equine.com/horses-for-sale/horse-ad-3284883.html 

Another fun link is the A Home For Every Horse website, with their featured segment about the trainers participating in the Equine Comeback Challenge.  You can see that at

There has also been a press release with details about the Equine Comeback Challenge, which can be viewed at

Happy web surfing!  We should have more photos and hopefully a video of Grace riding in the next few days, weather and paparazzi schedules permitting. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Grace Travels for Teaching

This weekend Grace had a big trip from Bit of Honey Training in Fort Collins, to Coal Creek Stables in Aurora, to her overnight stay in Parker, Colorado.  I was teaching at a client's barn for the day Saturday, and it was the perfect opportunity to bring Grace and let her see what a clinic situation is like.  I'm planning to ride her while I'm teaching my jumping clinic at the horse expo in just over a week, so this was a good rehearsal for her.  We arrived at the barn late in the morning and unloaded, groomed, tacked up, and perused the indoor arena while we waited to meet our first riding lesson of the day.
Collecting folding chairs for the auditor area for the riding lessons

Grooming at the trailer

Tacking at the trailer
 Once we were in the arena we spent a little time hand walking around so Grace could get a good look at everything.  When she was fine with all the new stuff I lunged her for just a couple minutes to increase the distance between us and make sure she still felt confident.

Then I mounted and we started teaching!  All of Grace's previous rides have been just me and her, and my attention has been solely on her.  Saturday was a different indoor arena with unfamiliar horses and to add to the circumstances, I was talking not just to Grace, but to several other people and horses as well.  When we first started riding around with my first lesson, Grace did pause a couple times and look at me saying, "what do you mean, wiggle your toes and relax your elbows?!"  I explained to her that she had an easy day today, I was just going to ride her while I talked to the others, and that she was doing a good job.  She relaxed and then marched along like a champ.  If I got distracted and stopped directing her in my efforts to explain something to my student, Grace would head to the poles in the arena and go over them.  When in doubt, go over an obstacle, because that's usually the right thing to do.  When she realized I didn't actually even need her to keep walking, she was content to stand quietly while I taught from her back.

Tack check for safety before mounting

A little blurry, but you get a good idea of her marching capabilities.

We had one exciting moment when another horse in the arena unexpectedly spooked as his rider removed her vest.  The horse leaped sideways towards Grace and spun around to stare at the vest on the ground.  Grace, like the solid citizen she is, just stopped and watched him while I talked the rider through the situation.  To get the gelding comfortable with the vest as it lay on the ground in a heap, Grace followed my direction and walked steadily in a circle around the vest, getting closer and closer with each circle a little smaller than the last, and the gelding who had spooked followed her and did just as Grace did.  Eventually we were standing in the middle with the vest on the ground, no worries at all.  Grace set a fabulous example.  I had my ground assistant come pick up the vest and walk towards Grace with it, and she was totally unfazed.  I took the vest from my assistant, draped it over Grace's withers, and patted her with the ends.  Then we gave the vest back to my assistant, who walked away from us, and Grace followed her and the vest to the edge of the arena.

Grace and I did a small amount of trotting, and then I hopped off to give her a break and so I could teach from the ground.  

Assessing rider symmetry from behind

 Grace was patient and easy, I passed her off to my assistant and continued lessons.
The happy artist sketching the events of the day
Observing a new horse and rider pair

Explaining the "why" behind an exercise

Listening to client questions

Discussing moving the rider's leg back so the body is in a plumb line to make the rider more stable and secure.
 After we were done teaching our lessons for the day, Grace loaded back up in the trailer to go spend the night at our friend's place in Parker. 
Arriving at Motel Marion

Putting the horses away for the evening

Beautiful barn in which Grace spent the night

The stable's pony hamming it up for attention in the barn aisle

A shot of my boot socks

Saying goodbye to Gracie the next morning

Heading home

I'm awfully proud of Grace.  She was a brave, quiet, well behaved mare this weekend, and made quite a splash at the indoor arena, with several people saying that they would love to have a horse like her, solid, dependable, and good looking.  I think she's going to have quite a fan club at the horse expo, only a week and a half away now.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Grace Rides Around the Neighborhood

This morning Grace and I saddled up and put on her snaffle bit, then used the arena here at home.  Despite having several days off while I was out of town, she didn't need any lunging.  So I just climbed on from the black mounting block and off we went.  We did some walking and trotting in the arena, practiced turning using my seat, and only briefly tried to pounce on my assistant, Miles the border collie.  Grace said it was just so much fun to be out of her paddock and chasing him!

After we had ridden over all the jumps, ground poles, and shimmied around tight spots between jump standards we decided to try something new.  We practiced opening the gate to the arena, with lots of forwards and backwards until we were close enough to unfasten the latch.  Grace is so patient and such a thinker, she just keeps trying until she gets it right.  Once we had opened the gate we went for a walk around the big south pasture, then practiced opening the pasture gate.  Then we rode down the driveway, up the road, through the empty field, and out into the neighborhood.  We did have to pause to look at the neighbor's alpacas and llamas, but when Miles said it wasn't a big deal and ignored them so did Grace.  We went up and down through some ditches along the gravel road, and then turned around to head home.

When we got home I discovered Grace had been thinking really hard about the bit.  She was wagging her tongue out the left side of her mouth at me.  When I dismounted to check things I found she had put her tongue over the bit.  Normally the bit should sit in the horse's mouth on top of the tongue.  I generally start a horse with the snaffle bit so that it rests in the mouth with two wrinkles in the corner on each side of the horse's lips.  If the horse wants it to hang higher or lower in the mouth she'll tell me.  Grace has a really fuzzy face, and when I bridled her this morning I couldn't tell exactly how high the bit was hanging, and I erred on the side of too long.  Putting her tongue over the bit was Grace's way of telling me that she preferred the bit to be higher in her mouth to really be comfortable.  Wagging her tongue at me was how she got my attention that the bridle needed adjusting.  I dropped the bridle down so she could get her tongue back underneath the bit, and then I fixed it by raising the bit one hole in the leather.  Grace then kept the snaffle where it was supposed to be in her mouth and was more relaxed.  I mounted again, this time from her right side, and we walked around the arena some more to make sure she liked where the bit was this way.  She seemed just fine with it, her mouth was completely quiet.

Then we untacked and groomed some more, since Grace has turned out to be a champion of wallowing in the mud.  I washed her tail and put conditioner in it, then braided it into a bag in an attempt to keep it clean between now and the horse expo.  She didn't mind the fuss, she was only concerned about the smell of the shampoo.  Similar to the concern with the spray bottle of waterless cleaner, it's unfamiliar smells that bother her.  To overcome this, I've been using the herd to help her.  All the other horses here are used to these funny smells and human nonsense, so I've been regularly tying the other horses immediately next to Grace's stall and paddock and spraying them with waterless cleaner, hair polish, bathing them, and using the clippers.  Grace has now watched 10 different horses be cleaned and groomed repeatedly with funny smelling stuff with absolutely no concern from the other horses.  She's decided that maybe it's not a big deal after all.  I love using the horses to teach each other, they learn so much from watching and by example. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Field Trip for Trotting and Jump Work

Here's to mud....  It was entirely ice here yesterday morning while I was feeding, and I pondered how Olympians manage to not only stay upright but skate at record breaking speeds on ice when I could barely walk a straight line with a bucket of mash.  Now on to the mud wrestling.  First thing in the morning the ground here was frozen enough that I could get the truck and trailer out without too much mucking around in the mud, so we seized the day.  Grace and I went to the neighbor's indoor arena this morning to ride.

When we got to the indoor arena Grace was a little wound up, and I considered that this is just a lot to ask of a 20 year old mare.  Basically what I'm trying to accomplish with Grace is the equivalent of getting a 70 year old woman who has been living as a sedentary hermit emotionally, mentally, and physically ready to run a 10k with a large crowd of people in only 45 days.

But she truly is Grace Under Pressure, and after leading her around in the arena and setting up some cross rails and ground poles she was quiet enough to let me mount.  She was wearing her jumping saddle and her bit with the bridle, only her third time with the bit in her mouth.  In a slight oversight on my part, I had cleaned and conditioned the saddle before last weekend's horse show.  Today I was wearing full seat breeches, and it wasn't until I went to sit in the tack that I realized it was a noisy combination.  As soon as my buns touched the saddle there was a ridiculous amount of squeaking and noise as the fabric of my pants and the tacky conditioned leather saddle touched and rubbed against each other.  A lesser horse might have panicked and bolted at the bizarre noise, but Grace just froze and aimed her ears back at me as if to ask why I hadn't considered this possibility.  I told her it was ok, and that while it would be a noisy ride we would be fine.  She started walking for me, keeping at least one ear on me.

Grace and I then walked and trotted around the arena on the rail, going over the small jumps as we went.  This was her first time trotting with a rider because of the footing and weather being uncooperative for the last week or so.  She is very smooth at the trot, and figured out steering with the bit and a rider easily.  By the end of our ride today she was working well off of my leg and only needing the voice commands once in a while for clarification, and mostly she steers by my weight shifts with the reins as backup.  Though we weren't working for a very long time, she was sweaty when we were done and mentally ready to stop.  However, after reasoning through trotting figure eights and serpentines, while incorporating crossrails and ground poles and adding transitions between the walk, halt, and trot I completely understand her fatigue.

We headed back to the trailer and untacked, and she was happy to hop back inside for the short trip home.  I'm impressed again and again with Grace's willingness to try new things and her bravery in the face of completely unfamiliar tasks. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Grace's Snaffle Bit Work

Grace and I did some more work with the snaffle bit this afternoon.  I took her out, tied her to the hitch rail and she was pretty mellow for all the usual grooming.  I got her dressed in the surcingle and bridle, and gave her a few moments to acclimate to the idea of having metal in her mouth.  She adjusted quickly this time, remembering the last time she wore the bit and bridle.  I put her halter on her over the bridle and we headed to the snow filled arena to do a little thinking.

I started Grace out on the lunge line, since young horses often need some time to mess around with the bit in their mouths a little more freely before setting up the long lines and ground driving.  Grace the adult thought that was dumb, she obviously knows what she's going to be doing, so why waste time with lunging?  After she stopped and stared at me a few times I caught on to what she was telling me and I set up the lines.

Grace and I proceeded to march all around the arena with her taking directions from the bit.  This is the first time we've done ground driving with the bit instead of her hackamore/noseband, but she figured it out incredibly quickly.  If she didn't understand something she would stop and look back at me behind her, and I would clarify what I wanted.  Then she would try a couple things, and as she figured out what the correct behavior was I would make my voice a bit higher and praise her.  This method of positive reinforcement works really well with most horses, but especially with the draft brain.  She gets a chance to think about each task and then builds her confidence with praise for doing the right thing.  After about 20 minutes of walking, stopping, and turning I began directing her over the cross rails, tires, and small jumps that were set up.  She marched over everything with no hesitation, nevermind the 5" of snow, she is a steady draft cross and will not be deterred by mere complications of footing. 

This is a great indicator that she'll be a lovely mount for riding, since she's figuring things out so quickly and has such a mellow temperament.  I'm getting excited for what she'll be able to do by the expo!

Monday, February 10, 2014


Finally!  Nase is brave enough to hold still for the camera!  He came to me from Denkai Rescue in Eaton, CO four years ago.  He was born into a hoarding situation and spent the first six months of his life in a cage with his siblings.  When the animals went to the rescue he was the last of his siblings to be adopted, probably partly because he was so shy.  We did dog school at the Canine Learning Center in Fort Collins a couple summers ago, for the sole purpose of helping Nase find his courage.  Finding his courage has been a project for years.  He prefers to hide under the bed when frightened.  However, now that he is five years old he has finally summoned enough bravery to have his photo taken, WITH the flash!

In this one you can truly appreciate his excellent beard

 I also must include a few photos of Miles looking like the gorgeous border collie he is.