Welcome to Bit of Honey Training LLC

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

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Saddle Club Photos

Saddle Club Show Highboy and Rain

We spent the day at the Rockie Mountain Saddle Club and I rode Highboy english, then rode Rain western.  I planned ahead and had all my horses with me for the day so I didn't need to make any trips home to swap horses this time!  Highboy did his best yet, marching right into the trailer without any argument, and he won his showmanship class to get his first blue ribbon!  He also rode quite well, getting his leads and even cantering in circles for the pattern classes.  His steering is much better and overall he is much more relaxed and easy-going about the whole experience.  Not one person was concerned for my safety this time!

 Rain also was phenomenal.  I used her in western showmanship, equitation, pleasure, and reining again.  That mare thinks reining is pretty awesome, she sure books it when the pattern calls for big fast circles, but very politely comes right back down to a reasonable canter for the small slow circles.  Spinning is a bit tough for both of us, because of the dizziness I still experience as a leftover from the brain injury.  The start of the pattern called for four spins to the right, then four spins to the left.  Then we were to do the galloping and rollbacks.  I was pretty proud of us, since it was not too many years ago that even a single rotation in a spin would induce dramatic vertigo for me, and two spins would just about make me topple off the horse.  Rain and I did all eight spins, I was dizzy and then headed into my gallop to the right instead of the left as the pattern dictated.  The judge was pleasant and accommodating, understanding this is a schooling show and I was there to practice, so she let me finish my ride even though going off-pattern normally would disqualify me.  It was wonderful that I was even able to do the rest of the pattern, knowing how the spins would have finished me off just a couple years ago.

Friday, June 20, 2014

How to Clean Tack

I had the privilege of helping a client purchase new tack and riding equipment for her horse recently.  This led to a conversation about cleaning and maintaining leather tack, which led to a blog post!

For my favorite tack, the leather that is the highest quality and would cost me the most to replace, I use good quality products.  Things that don't matter so much, like the leather straps on breakaway halters I just use cheap neatsfoot oil.  The best practice is to wipe down tack after each use with a damp cloth or sponge, or as needed.  I condition my good stuff regularly, I want it to last a lifetime.  This includes saddles, bridles, halters, girths, and anything else leather.  Bits get rinsed and occasionally sent through the dishwasher to be sterilized.  I store things I'm not using regularly in cloth bags or tack trunks.

Firstly, I put some water into a bucket and get out a tack sponge.  Any sponge will do, but I like these because they are a little tougher about getting grime off dirty tack and suds up well.  For the detailed tooling on leather saddles or the tough grime on daily used leather halters I'll take a wet toothbrush with saddle soap to it and that works well, too.

Once the sponge is wet, I rub it on some saddle soap, such as Fiebings black or yellow soap.  I rub the damp sponge on the soap, then apply the suds to the leather.  I rub it in well, removing any built up sweat, dirt, or crud.  Periodically I rinse the sponge out in the bucket of water and wipe the tack to remove any foam leftover after the dirt is gone.  For black tack the black soap is my favorite, it makes everything quite dark again even if it has started to fade.  If there isn't any conditioner put over it afterwards, though, it will dye white dressage breeches if you ride in a black saddle. 
If the tack is brown (any shade) I like to use the yellow Fiebings soap.  It doesn't change the color of the leather, so it's safe to use on saddles and bridles that I want to keep a light color.

If I want to make the brown color darker I use neatsfoot oil to darken it after it's been cleaned.  I do this by applying the oil to a dry rag and wiping the leather.  This oil will rot stitching if used too often, so be sparing with it.  I also just use it on tack that is less expensive.  In drier places like Colorado, you can use it pretty often and be ok, even once a month.  In wetter places like the western sides of Oregon and Washington, once yearly is plenty or you're looking at mold on your equipment.  In New England I would oil tack twice a year. 

For my more expensive tack, I use higher end cleaners that are pH balanced to preserve the leather.  I really like the Oakwood brand saddle soap, it doesn't change the color of the leather either. Teir conditioner is good as well, but I'm allergic to the oils in it.  (I have a lot of contact allergies, I don't know anyone else who has problems with this one.)

The higher end conditioner I do use without an allergic reaction is Passier Lederbalsam.  After the tack is clean and dry I wipe this on.  It can be buffed later after the leather has absorbed it to make it shine, but I usually skip that step since I figure the seat of my pants will be buffing the saddle soon enough.

I do love tack cleaning.  It's a soothing thing for me, often done in front of the TV the night before a horse show as part of my pre-competition ritual.  I enjoy the smells of cleaned leather and it's not unusual to find me cleaning my favorite pieces at the picnic table near the tack room on a summer day, too. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

What's in a Horse First Aid Kit?

I've had a request for a blog post about first aid kits and what is in mine.  Because I worked as a veterinary technician for so many years I have a few different kits, so I'll go over the items I keep in each one.  Many of these things are fairly specific in their use.  If you are wanting a good kit that will get you through in an emergency until the vet arrives I would recommend the Horse Trailer Kit, and everyone who rides out on trails should have the items from the trail riding kit somewhere in their saddle bags.

Horse Trailer Kit:

betadine soaked gauze squares - for cleaning out small wounds
triple antibiotic ointment - good for applying to small wound after it's cleaned
vetwrap - can be used for many things, most often I clean out a small wound with betadine, then put triple antibiotic ointment on it, and a loosely fitted piece of vetwrap to cover it and keep it clean.
no-bow leg wrap - if you are able to correctly wrap a horse's leg this can be used for pressure wrapping.  It is foam covered in fleece that distributes pressure across the bandaged area
Standing bandage - used with a no-bow to correctly wrap the lower leg
stethescope - for taking heart rate, listening to gut sounds and lungs
watch with second hand - for taking vital signs
scissors - I always need these for something!
thermometer - I check temps on my horses at overnight competitions daily or anytime they look like they aren't themselves with the stress of travel and competing
hoofpick - you never know when your horse will pick up a rock in his hoof that needs to be pried out
Banamine paste - a pain reliever prescription you can get from your vet that is like horse tylenol - works for generalized pain (colic) and eye issues.  The other pain reliever is Bute, also a prescription, which is more like ibuprofen and used for localized swelling.

Trail Riding First Aid Kit (I carry with me on the horse in saddle bags):

hoof pick
triple antibiotic ointment
squares of gauze soaked in betadine
long piece of hay twine

In the tack room:

My kit in the tack room is really more of a first aid closet than a kit!  It has a really comprehensive assortment of veterinary items.  Many of these items the average horse owner won't use unless directed by a veterinarian anyway, but I thought I'd give you a peek into my tack room first aid closet

watch with second hand
gloves (latex and powder free since I'm allergic)
gauze squares
white gauze
brown gauze
sterile gauze
white cloth tape
soft roll cotton
no-bow bandages
cotton leg wrap
duct tape
epsom salts
7% iodine
old mac boots of varying sizes
antibiotic ointment
bag balm
hoof knife
hoof pick
bandage scissors
liniment (Absorbine gel because I'm allergic to most of the others, but Sore-No-More also works well)
furazone ointment
hoof testers

In the locked medication box in the house:
TMS tabs
cough medication
allergy meds
syringes and needles
Neo-poly-bac eye ointment
Neo-poly-bac with dex eye ointment

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Garmin Gets Published

Today I received the latest Platinum Performance vitamins catalog and found Garmin's story on page 21!  My little buddy is definitely a good PR pony for Bit of Honey Training and Platinum!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Halters 101

Often I get questions about halters, which one is best for a specific horse and why.  I thought I'd go through some of the halters in my collection and explain why I use them in difference scenarios.  It's worth noting that with most everything in the horse world, you can spend as much or as little as you want.  Just because someone well known has put their name on a piece of equipment doesn't mean it's any better than the item identical to it without a famous name.  Usually the company has sponsored the trainer and gotten them to put their name on the equipment in an effort to market the product.  If the name is important to you, go ahead and purchase the equipment, but just understand that you're paying for the name. That being said, there are brands of leather that are higher quality than others.  Prices can vary from $15 to hundreds of dollars for a single halter.  I usually advise people to pick a budget that works for them and look within that price range.  If I'm buying a daily-use halter for a young horse who is often silly and behaving wildly, I'll go less expensive so that if/when it breaks it's not bank-breaking for me to replace it.

This first photo is of Major in his everyday leather halter, with the halter parts labeled.  Hopefully this will help with some of the vocabulary in the rest of the post.

This is Highboy's regular halter for everyday things.  It's brown leather with a brass nameplate because I like how that looks.  I like the leather because it's easier to clean than nylon or cotton, and it will break if he gets stuck or pulls back.  I have quite a few horses come to me for rehab and physical therapy that panicked and pulled back while tied in a solid halter and did damage to hamstrings, pelvis, neck, nuchal ligament, back, gluteal and psoas muscles...  lots of parts can get injured this way.  The horse's instinct is to run and escape at all costs, even when it means they injure themselves.  A horse can flex its muscles hard enough that it rips pieces of bone off of the skeleton, and I've had more than one horse come to me with what the owner thought was behavioral problems that turned out to be injury from pulling back.  The behavioral stuff was the horse's only way to tell us humans that he was hurting.  So for trailering a horse, general tying, and regular handling I prefer to use a good quality leather halter that will look nice, but break if necessary.
 This halter is also made mostly of leather, but it has silver attached to it.  It is used only at shows for halter classes or western showmanship classes.  It's an older style of silver no longer really in fashion, but it serves my simple purposes at the small local shows where I compete horses in hand for experience.  The silver is to accent the face and make the horse stand out from the competition in the class.

This is an example of a breakaway or safety halter that is mostly made of nylon, with just a leather piece near the buckle.  This particular halter was worn by a horse with a history of pulling back, and he did it while wearing this halter, resulting in the leather breaking as it should.  If a barn requires that the horse wear a halter during turnout, this one or the entirely leather crown piece style are the safest way to go, since horses are notorious for finding ways to injure themselves and getting the halter caught on fencing, a foot, or another horse is quite common.  In these cases it's best to have a halter that will break so the horse doesn't!  It is important to understand the best and safest way to do turnout is without a halter. 

This is called a breakaway halter as well, it is made mostly of nylon, but the crown piece is made of leather.  This is so that if the horse panics or pulls back while tied the leather will break rather than the horse injuring himself.  I prefer to use something like this or a completely leather halter for safety reasons when training horses.  When the leather breaks I usually replace it with worn out english style stirrup leathers that are no longer suitable for use on a saddle for riding.  You can purchase replacement leather crowns, but I have a surplus of stirrup leathers that have either stretched so the holes no longer line up or the leather is near enough to breaking that it's a safety concern with a saddle.  You can almost always find old leathers at yard sales in horsey areas, too.

With this type of halter it is important to note that some horses (example: Cole my incredibly smart lesson horse) figure out that all he has to do is jerk his head a certain way when he's tied and I'm not looking, and the leather piece pops and breaks, then Cole is free to wander away and eat grass.  For him it's a very calculated maneuver, not done out of fear but out of a reasoned thought process which results in grazing.  So for horses like him I will often use a rope halter, shown in the next photo.

This rope halter is blue with a yellow lead rope tied to it.  There are no pieces of leather or buckles to break, so the horse is pretty secure in this one.  It's not a good choice for a horse who is likely to panic (keeping in mind that all horses are hard-wired for flight if they sense danger), but it gives the human quite a bit of control over the horse's head.  The knots are tied in such a way that they apply pressure to the sensitive parts of a horse's face and give the human a bit more leverage.  I'll use this one if I have a horse who doesn't respect my space and I need more control while handling them on the ground, or with a horse like Cole who knows how to pop the breakaway halters.  When I tie a horse with one of these I always use a blocker tie ring, which is a contraption that allows the rope to slide through if the horse pulls back in an emergency.  If I don't have one available I just wrap the rope once or twice around a fence post without any knot.  Rope halters are good for horses who need to be handled more firmly, but don't need a chain attached, which is the next level of control.  The severity of a halter is increased or decreased based on how the chain is attached, but I rarely need to use one.   

This last yellow halter is just a completely nylon version.  I like to use these when I'm not tying the horse, but I'm giving him a bath.  The nylon usually doesn't bleed onto white faces like the leather can, and since the horse isn't tied I don't have to worry about him pulling back and injuring himself.

It's worth noting that when I teach a horse to tie, I like to use something that doesn't necessarily break, but will slide through the blocker tie.  I often do this in the round pen with a long lead rope to start, so that the horse can back up and pull on the rope, but he will run out of space and his buns will touch the other side of the round pen before he runs out of rope.  In this way he learns he's not tied solid (thus preventing fear), but he doesn't learn that he can get loose, either.  I also don't leave him unattended, so that I can immediately gather the rope and return him to the proper distance from the hitch rail should he pull back.