Welcome to Bit of Honey Training LLC

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

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sunday Shenanigans

Most afternoons I put the squirrely geldings out in the arena to play, and this is a good example of the hilarity that ensues.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Until We Meet Again, Belle of the Ball

Said a very tearful goodbye to my sweet girl today after she battled with neuropathy for a few months. Miss Belle was the ultimate working dog, herding everything from grasshoppers to cattle. She was a team player, worked well hunting with the barn cat to take down rascally rabbits. She was a distance dog, running for hours and hours at a time with me and Miles while I was on horseback on the trails. She was a quintessential fetcher, be it tennis balls, frisbees, soccer or basketballs, or even pieces of fencing. She was the matriarch of the neighborhood, keeping all the neighborhood dogs in line and behaving themselves when they would come over to visit.  Belle was truly a working dog and partner to be admired. I know she'll be waiting for us at the ranch in heaven.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Teaching at Coal Creek Stables

This past weekend we went to Denver again to teach at Coal Creek Stables.  We did a bunch of work on saddle fitting, body positioning, keeping human arms and leg joints soft and supple, and even some jumping gymnastic work.

The first saddle fitting session was a precursor to Pat's riding lesson on his gelding, Rush.  Watching him in the cross-ties, I noticed Rush's back muscle had changed since the last time I saw him, and his posture was slightly different.  I checked his back and he was a bit sore, and when I palpated his haunches through his hamstrings he was sore there as well.  I checked the saddle that he was being ridden in, and found it wasn't a good fit, it bridged significantly and was too wide, which was causing pressure points in several areas.  Rush is such a quiet sort, he never complained, just braced and got a bit tense when the saddle was being cinched.  We were able to use a different western saddle for him that was padded appropriately, and got him significantly more comfortable.  He had some nice back stretches by lowering his head during his ride, which he wouldn't really do in the other saddle because lifting his back into an ill-fitting saddle was painful and uncomfortable.
Stretching his back by lowering his head and stepping well underneath himself with his hind leg

Finding the neon pink plumb line to keep Pat balanced in the saddle
The other saddle fitting this weekend included a test ride with a new/used saddle for a sweet chestnut arabian, and his petite owner.  They have been looking for a saddle for months to fit his very wide and very short back.  I had looked at him last month when I was there teaching, and had been keeping my eyes open for something that might work.  I stopped by one of our excellent local tack stores here in Fort Collins, Sport Horse Tack, and I discovered a used Pessoa all purpose english saddle with slightly more of a forward seat for jumping.  It looked promising to me, so I took the saddle on trial to see if it might fit the arabian.  We were so fortunate - it was a lovely fit, the price was right,  the rider sat quite nicely in it, and most importantly the horse loved it.  Success!

Discussing with Carol on Obie, Michelle on Bo, who also had a saddle fitting.  His looked great.
As is usually the case, I had assistance with my instruction this weekend.  The barn cat was careful to supervise my communication style and be sure he was on hand for video.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Cole and Samson Teach a Round Pen Lesson

Today I did an initial interview and evaluation with a new client.  She is interested in learning how to better communicate with her anglo-arabian mare and help her horse to calm down and trust her.  Riding will be on the lesson plan at some point, but for now we need to help the two of them understand each other better so that training can proceed and be a positive experience for all of us.

While I can visit with a human for some time, I really get so much more information about people from seeing how my horses react to them.  We had an initial conversation, followed by her watching me work a horse and teach a short lesson to another client.  Since ground work with her horse has been a challenge, she decided she'd like some instruction using my horses regarding the round pen.

I wanted to get a better feel for how she communicates with a horse, so first we went to the round pen with Cole.

Cole has been with me since he was a yearling, and he is now 14 years old.  He has only ever known what it's like to have Bit of Honey style training.  As a result he has no fear of people, no nervousness about whips, and no anxiety about the round pen.  I appreciate his confidence and the fact that he's not going to clobber anyone in fear, and his personality and history makes him a very sedate and quiet lesson horse.  Because he also is kind of a slug, it takes a lot of energy and bold body language from the human to get him to perform in the round pen.

Cole was his normal self, and just did his super slow walk and jog for the new client.  She felt like she was sort of "shouting" at him with her body language to get him to pay attention, which is normal for working with Cole.  He demands that the human be clear and assertive.  To clarify to her how much she really needed to do, I moved Cole a bit by hitting my whip on the ground, stomping my feet, loudly giving him a voice command, getting him to canter one direction, stop hard, and reverse into the canter going the other direction.  She was surprised at just how bold I could be without him getting upset at all, since her horse is quite sensitive.

Once she had the idea of how to move Cole, we put him away and I led Samson to the round pen.  Samson and Cole are as far apart on the sensitivity spectrum as it is possible to be.  Just glancing at Samson's eye is enough to get him cantering around the pen, and a mere audible exhale is enough to bring him to a sliding stop.  I started this section of the lesson asking Samson to walk around on the rail, by simply raising my right hand to hip height, pointing which way I wanted him to go, and wiggling my fingers with my left hand.  He briskly began marching to the right in a circle around us, and with me just glancing halfway up his neck, he picked up the trot.  Then I looked at the ground and backed up, which made him halt, turn towards me, and walk straight to me.  Even very small weight shifts on the part of the human mean something and cause a reaction in Samson.

Bubble Visual:  the human moves the horse by pushing his bubble with hers
Then the new client took a turn with Samson.  Her first comment was "his personal space bubble is SO BIG"!  This is very true.  Cole would let you climb all over him, which is what makes him great for kids' lesson especially, but Samson generally doesn't allow anyone to touch him, and if he does it is usually only on certain parts of his face or neck.  When teaching round pen work, I have people think about when they are in line at the checkout counter at the grocery store, and how close a stranger can get before you start to feel nervous or weird, like that person is "in your bubble".  Horses also have a "bubble", and I tell people to picture his bubble and your bubble while you are together in the round pen, and imagine you are pushing his bubble with yours.  The bigger the horse's bubble, the smaller your own motions need to be to get him to do what you want without panic (Samson).  The smaller the horse's bubble, the bigger your own needs to be in order to get any movement out of him (Cole).

Monday, March 17, 2014

Cleaning Tack

 I got a few rides in this morning before the wind turned on, and then I gathered some leather for cleaning this afternoon.  Nase is assisting, mostly by trying to eat the tin of saddle soap and the sponges.

It's Time to Meet the Muppets

It's time to meet the muppets, it's time to light the lights, it's time to put on makeup for the muppet show tonight!

I enjoy taking all kinds of silly quizzes online, including one called "Which Muppet Are You?"  When my results came back that I was most similar to Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, I couldn't resist making this meme of me and my sidekick with the muppets.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Hilarious Highboy

Highboy and Garmin are mostly recovered from the big adventure that was our trip to Denver last weekend for the expo.  Highboy is back to his regular antics, anyway.  This morning a friend of mine came over with three of her kids, ages 5-11, since there was no school today for the elementary aged group for teacher development.  The kids of course wanted to see the horses, and Highboy is one of the two tallest so he makes quite an impression.  Highboy hadn't really seen kids except for last weekend at the expo, and then he wasn't really interacting with them.  Today was a different story.

My friend let her kids go up to his fence, and Highboy initially snorted and backed up, wondering what these miniature humans were all about.  The kids thought that was funny, so laughed and went on to the next paddock to see Garmin and his roommates, who of course hustled over to the fence for attention.  Highboy watched from a distance, then decided that they could be his next big adventurous partners in crime!  He pranced along the fence to get the kids' attention again.  They walked over to his fence, and pet his nose.  Highboy was of course still covered in mash from smooshing his unfinished breakfast all over his feed tub (and himself) so the kids did squeal in fun when they realized they needed to squeegee the beet pulp off of themselves.

Highboy assumed their squeals were the beginnings of WWF horse wrestling.  So he stood himself up as tall as he could, then tilted his head to the right, giving the kids a sidelong glance down the side of his face and pursing his lips.  This is Highboy's trademarked way of initiating lip wrestling with another horse.  The kids thought it was pretty funny, and began to hop up and down.  In response, Highboy tossed his head.  Then the kids tossed their heads in imitation.  Highboy paused, studying them.  He nodded his head, and the kids nodded their heads.  He tossed his head side to side, and the kids did the same.  Then Highboy shot me this look like, "Hey, Kim!  Do you see this?  I taught these small humans to shake their heads on command!"

The kids did request that Highboy be let out into the arena with them so they could all play together.   I explained that while Highboy is a lot of fun, because he is so young he doesn't really understand that he is so much bigger than them and he might run them over accidentally.  So we left Highboy in his paddock while the kids leaped over jumps on foot and built a tunnel with the plastic barrels.  Highboy laid down and took a nap, and even stayed there, giving the oldest kid a nudge with the still mash-covered nose when the kids came over to say goodbye before heading home. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Geldings Enjoy Horse Expo

 Highboy and Obie were roommates when Obie was here for training last fall, and they hadn't seen each other since Obie went home in December so this was a happy reunion for them.

This is Highboy's characteristic gesture, indicating that he is READY to frolic and wrestle

Highboy thought the entire horse expo was THE MOST FUN he has ever had.  The first day he could barely contain himself there were so many exciting things to look at, horses of all shapes and sizes, new people, reunions with old friends.  Each day he got a little quieter and more mannerly, with less attempted frolicking on the end of the lead rope.  I think this weekend was a good indication that Highboy will love traveling to shows. 
There was a round pen just outside the main arena, which Highboy enjoyed for turnout a couple times

Highboy inviting me to lip wrestle with him while I wear my Equine Comeback Challenge shirt after Grace's event.

Highboy the excited muppet

Highboy and I were playing in the arena underneath the vendor area.  He thought the bridge was fun, but spent a LONG time taking in the view from way up on top.
Garmin of course enjoyed some hand walking and turnout as well.  Sometimes I wonder if he gets sick of random strangers approaching his stall and squealing, "he's so CUUUTE!"  But he always goes to the front of the stall to greet every single person who does it. 
Sneaking in a roll at the end of his tour of the events center