Welcome to Bit of Honey Training LLC

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

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Saddle Club Show

We drove five minutes up the road today to ride at the Rockie Mountain Saddle Club show.  We had a good sized group including five horses and six humans from Bit of Honey.
L to R:  Phoenix, Garmin, Taz, Connie, Khreed, Joyce, Billy, Kim L., Kim H., Fergie, Sara
I rode Fergie (far right) english, it was her second show ever, and her first saddle club event.  She was quite well behaved and brave, and her owner rode her in the walk/trot english pleasure class.  There are two videos of Fergie cantering in the warm-up which can be seen at:

I let Fergie really book it when they asked for the extended canter, we had so much fun.

I then rode Billy western in equitation, pleasure, and showmanship. 

Joyce rode her gelding, Khreed, in the walk/trot western equitation and pleasure as well as showmanship.

Connie used her gelding, Taz, for english pleasure and the western classes.

Garmin was there theoretically for moral support, but in actuality he played with Phoenix most of the day. 

Bored at the trailer

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Highboy Goes to Town

I've been trying to get Highboy out to new places to work and ride so that he gets accustomed to traveling, working, and going home at the end of the day.  This afternoon we went to my friend's place and rode in the arena there, then went for a short walk around her neighborhood with her morgan mare.

Bo's Progress Photos

 We're only 23 days into Bo's rehabilitation, but I'm already seeing some good changes in his posture, attitude, and muscling.  Here are photos to document his progress.
Much happier demeanor

More reach in his stride, longer steps

Monday, April 21, 2014

Horse Psychology for Sparky

The past few days have been very revealing with regard to Sparky's thought processes.  Despite being able to see the other horses, she became very agitated when we took the other mares out of the paddock (including Fergie, our leader and alpha mare) and rode them at the same time while Sparky was left alone in her own pen.  Our ride was quite boring, but Sparky spent the entire time hurling herself into the fencing, screaming, and running the fence line.

When we were done riding we all ignored Sparky completely, untacked the mares and put them away.  They also ignored Sparky completely.  It took about an hour, but Sparky did settle down eventually.

After discussing with Sparky's owner, we decided to duplicate the experience this morning so that the owner could see how to handle Sparky when she is that wound up because this is a common scenario when Sparky is at home at her owner's place.  We put the other two mares out in the arena to play for a few minutes while Sparky got increasingly more agitated.  She didn't throw herself into the fencing this time (an improvement!), though she did run herself into a sweaty lather.  We put the mares back after about 10 min. in the arena, and they returned to their hay, ignoring Sparky.  Very quickly Sparky settled down and returned to her own breakfast, in minutes instead of an hour like over the weekend (again improvement).  Then I donned my helmet, haltered Sparky, and took her out.  She was quite well behaved for me.  I established right away that I was in charge, I had a plan, and she was to keep to strict behavioral parameters.  This kind of structure is the best thing in the world for this horse.  She is a submissive horse in the herd, and it really stresses her out if she thinks she's in charge of things.  Just like some people panic at the thought of leading a group of people, Sparky panics if she thinks she has to lead, protect, and defend her herd (even if the "herd" is just herself or herself and a human).

I've encountered this before, in horses who seemingly look like they are bossy tyrants, but really they are trying to get the human to establish boundaries.  The horse feels safer and more secure when the rules are strict, precise, the horse knows what to expect from the human, and the horse knows what is expected of the horse at all times.  If there are not clear boundaries the horse stresses out and becomes dangerous because that horse was not cut out for leadership and doesn't want to be in charge.  If the horse thinks it's necessary to take the lead because they don't see the human taking charge, the horse will do it, but they don't like it and often become dangerous because they are poor leaders.

The solution to Sparky's issue with being aggressive with humans is to give her very specific and strict rules she must adhere to with her behavior.  For example, she is not allowed to come close to me unless I invite her into my personal space.  She must stand quietly at the hitch rail for grooming, never kicking at the human and never biting.  When we go to the arena or round pen she must pay close attention to the handler, obeying the commands to walk, trot, whoa, reverse, and stand as soon as they are given, not even two strides later.  We have also started mounting block work, and it is Sparky's responsibility to stand quietly at the mounting block with a loose lead rope while I pat her all over and scratch her back from both sides.  This way Sparky's job is clearly defined, and she knows exactly what to expect from the human.  If there is any ambiguity in the human's commands, Sparky gets upset thinking that she will have to take charge because SOMEONE has to be in charge.  As a good friend of mine always says, "with horses you either lead, follow, or get out of the way."  The key to getting Sparky to behave herself was not more soft words, more freedom, more kindness, but MORE STRUCTURE.  She was stressed, not because anyone was unkind to her or she feared confinement, but because she needed to know someone else was in charge and would take care of her and any impending threats. 

I think this is more common than we realize with horses, the fact that they want and need someone else to be in charge.  So often we treat them like people, trying to give them more freedom and more praise and more kindness in an effort to make the horse like us and respond affectionately.  Horses do not think like people do.  It is often more stressful for a horse to have the space to make what she considers big decisions.  "Do I trot on the lungeline or walk or gallop?  Ack, I don't know what to do, and now I'm feeling nervous, so I better just run, and now that I'm nervous everything looks like a threat that needs to be kicked or run from."  Diffusing this tension is done by giving the horse very strict boundaries and rules to follow, that way she never feels like she has to be in charge of the interaction.  With this kind of stability she can relax and know that I'm in charge, I'll take care of everything, and her only responsibility is to stand quietly, or walk over the complicated poles pattern, or figure out what to do with the tires, whatever the job is that I have given her.  In this way firmness and structure is kinder to her than freedom.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Western Dressage at Triple Creek

We attended the schooling dressage show at Triple Creek Ranch this morning.  Taz went for horse show mileage and to compete in dressage for the first time, Garmin went for moral support. 

Inspecting flowers and talking with the judge

Garmin congratulating Taz on a job well done

Feeling proud of himself