Welcome to Bit of Honey Training LLC

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

Monday, March 30, 2015

Gratitude and Thanks

Big thanks to all those who made the 2015 EquineComebackChallenge‬ possible:

First and foremost, thank you Mariah Hammerschmidt for being our fearless leader, coordinating the entire challenge, organizing sponsors, promotional info, and publicity. Without you none of this could have happened and we are all very grateful for your intense and vastly successful efforts.

Thank you A Home For Every Horse for being the driving force behind getting rescues and their horses national recognition.

Thank you Tractor Supply Co., Zoetis Commitment to Veterinarians, Purina, and WeatherBeeta North America, for sponsoring the horses in the Challenge.

Thank you Dressage Today Magazine for recognizing Dewey while he has been at Bit of Honey Training LLC, thank you also for acknowledging all the potential and athleticism retired racehorses have to offer.

Thank you to CANTER Colorado for entering Dewey in the Challenge and helping to promote OTTBs in second careers.

Thank you to the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo for providing a location for the Challenge this year and last.

Thank you to Equine.com for listing the horses available on their website.

Thank you to Warren Miller Entertainment for doing video of the event.

Thank you to all the other trainers who helped get these horses recognition and training in preparation for their forever homes.

Huge thank you to the Bit of Honey crew for helping me during not just the actual Challenge event, but supporting me and Dewey through my back surgery and recovery. It takes a village, and you are my village!

The video of Dewey and Kim's ride is available to view at http://youtu.be/b4HB5_h6VBI

Dewey Rides Out

Dewey has been really well behaved for many new things related to horse shows and expos, so  I thought this morning I'd give him something different to think about.  I first messed around with fitting his saddle.  I swear his back changes nearly every day as he is growing!  Good thing I'm a tack junkie and have a saddle and pads for nearly every back shape.  (Eventing requires three sets of tack for every horse, one for each phase of competition.  Yes, please!)  Once Dewey was comfortable we went riding with the dogs out to the back forty. 

There must be spring in the air, because walking in the back field was like surfing a tidal wave of grasshoppers.  They would rise up in clouds, clicking and flashing in the sun, bumping Dewey's chin, belly, and even MY face and legs!  Dewey spent a good chunk of the ride nodding and tossing his head as the little bugs hit him.  When we were walking in areas where the grass was  shorter the grasshoppers weren't as intense and Dewey quit shaking his head. 

We also encountered a herd of antelope.  There were at least a dozen of them, and they were spread out, grazing in the field.  As we approached and got to the top of the little hill they suddenly came into view and they all lifted their heads at once to inspect us.  Dewey noticed them, but didn't react at all.  The dogs were in front of us and they weren't interested in the antelope.  Meanwhile the grasshoppers were still ricocheting off of us and the neighbor's llamas were staring at us.  The antelope took off as a group, silently speeding away from us.  They didn't go too far though, and then they resumed grazing.  This allowed us to approach them again, and the second time they did go under the perimeter fence and ran farther away towards the foothills. 

When not concerned about the bugs Dewey had his ears forward, and he gave me a gigantic big walk.  My best comparison is to my friends' Morgan mares.  We always say that the Morgans were bred to pull the cart when the family goes to town for shopping, and the Morgan hustles so it can get home before the ice cream melts.  Dewey's big walk felt like we were for sure doing a Morgan March.  Dewey can seriously cover some ground when he is enjoying himself.  He asked if he could trot a couple times, but I kept him in the walk because I wanted his first ride out to be calm.  We did go and inspect the logs, and Dewey walked over the smaller ones with no problem.  The dogs were happy to show him how it was done, and then he just followed. 

Dewey was a little clumsy on the uneven terrain, but this is partly why I like to get young horses out of the arena and working in the field as soon as I can.  It gives them a chance to really pay attention to their feet instead of just always riding on perfectly manicured sand footing.  Dewey had small missteps a couple times over hills or thick clumps of dried grass, mostly when he was hurrying and not paying attention to his feet.  I use the voice command "careful" when there is something tricky coming, and Dewey quickly realized that he needed to watch his feet when he heard me say it. 

Mostly Dewey thought riding out was way better than riding in a show ring.  He was relaxed, forward, interested in everything, and even boldly went in the front when the dogs got off course because they were distracted by a rabbit hole in the neighbor's field.  Those rascally rabbits.  I am glad for the time I've spent with Dewey in the round pen when I didn't have any other options because of my back surgery, because it really built trust between us.  Now we can just go marching out into the wild yonder to face antelope, llamas, distracted dogs, giant logs, and wave after wave of grasshoppers.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Gold Crest Classic Show

This weekend was the Gold Crest Classic horse show at The Ranch in Loveland.      It was the first Colorado Hunter Jumper Association competition of the year.  Highboy and Dewey both attended, because the group they came through, CANTER Colorado, worked very hard to get this show to hold Thoroughbred Incentive Program classes.  I wanted to be sure we supported having Thoroughbred-only classes at the horse shows this year so that they will continue the program in our area.  Off to the show we went!

We started show prep the night before by braiding Dewey and Highboy.  I grew up in Massachusetts doing hunter jumpers, but it has been a LONG time since I've gone to a rated H/J show.  Despite the howling winds on Friday, Sara and I got the horses ready for the following early morning.  This was Sara's first time riding Dewey, and she was comfortable riding him for the first time at the show because who wants to ride in 30pmh wind at home just to practice for a show on a mellow youngster?

We got to the show really early in the morning on Saturday, and found that it was already packed with horses.  We hurried and got tacked up so that we could use the arena to let Dewey and Highboy look around at the jumps and check things out.  It was bedlam, as warm-up arenas usually are.  There were horses galloping, jumping, standing still, spooking, trainers shouting to their students and at their horses, all the usual commotion of a warmup at a large show.  It was indeed a large show, the low hunters division had 35 riders.

Each rider in the jumping classes had three rounds over fences, and each round took approximately two minutes.  That resulted in a four hour wait for our first class, which was only class number four on the prize list!  So after our warmup we went back to the horse trailer to get the horses some water and hay bag snacks, and we perused the show grounds. 

We did all the usual horse show day things, visiting the concession stand (tasty breakfast croissant), the vendors (cute custom saddle pads and exquisite leather hunter bridles), and watched some of the jumping rounds in both the hunter and the jumper rings.

Finally our turn to ride rolled around, and we went back to the big arena.  Sara was working with Dewey and I was with Highboy.  This was Dewey's first real horse show, and he was a little nervous about the drainage grates at the opening of the barns.  Highboy, seasoned show horse that he claims to be, showed Dewey how to step over bravely.

We entered the arena for our first class and did our walk, trot, and canter both ways with the group.  Highboy was a little frisky during his first canter to the right, and was sure he could engage all the other horses in a rousing game of horse wrestling.  It always makes me laugh when I encounter these baby horse moments, and fortunately I was up in a two-point position so my back wasn't jostled too much by his shenanigans.

The second class was the TIP class for just the Thoroughbreds.  Dewey and Highboy stayed in the arena for another go, and both horses did well.

Because the classes were so large and we were definitely on the greenest horses there, we didn't bring home any ribbons.  It was fine with us because our success for the day hinged on the horses enjoying themselves and having a positive experience at a big show.  All kinds of good things happened.  Highboy got both of his leads and overcame anxiety about the bleachers, Dewey was brave around large groups of fast horses jumping in the warmup, my back felt fine at the end of the day, and Sara rode in a jumping saddle for the first time in nearly twenty years. 

When we were all done we loaded up and went home with very tired ponies.  Dewey was literally nodding off at the trailer before we put them in, his eyes closed, lower lip drooping, and head bobbing as he fell asleep.  A fun day, though!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Highboy Trail Rides at Barr Lake

Yesterday on the spur of the moment a friend invited me to go with her and her gaited horse to Barr Lake for a trail ride.  I didn't realize it was with a large trail riding group, so I brought Highboy to put some more out-of-the-arena miles on him.  If I had known the demographic we were riding with (mostly retired or semi-retired women on older horses) I would have brought a more sedate mount.   Highboy is still a young silly horse who needs to get out and see the world before he will transform into a quiet adult horse.  These nice ladies were out to enjoy the scenery on a walk around a lake with their horses, I was using it as a schooling ride.

It turned out that Highboy was a bit intimidating to the others in the group, so my friend and I rode the loop in one direction, walking very fast because Highboy is tall and her horse is gaited.  The others walked the loop in the reverse direction.  About halfway around, a woman in her twenties and her really cool sorrel Quarter Horse mare caught up to us and rode the second half of the loop with us.  

She wasn't bothered by Highboy's stature and was impressed with how he settled down and focused on the ride for being so young.  His ears were up the entire time, eagerly looking for the next great adventure.  We rode on the top of sort of a berm, with the lake on one side and a drop-off on the other.  There were geese launching out of the tall grass, cyclists and hikers, as well as several very large bridges with both metal and wooden sides.  The footing varied from walking on grass to concrete, pavement, and gravel.  There were shadows and trees as well.  Highboy really enjoyed everything, and he did it all with his traditional panache', eager to go attempt all the new things.  He also stood quietly at the horse trailer after we were done, forty five minutes before everyone else thanks to our efficient pace.

 By the time we got home we were certainly tired, but for a horse and human who love to go and play it was a very fun day.  

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Trail Ride and Run/ Sabbath the Stowaway

My husband, Owen, is a runner, he especially loves trail running.  He's currently training for a trail race at one of my favorite places to ride the horses, Eagles' Nest in Livermore, CO.  It's very close to our place and easy to get to, so this morning we put Beauty the cutting bred Quarter Horse mare in the trailer and headed up to the foothills.

When we got to the parking area I unloaded Beauty from the trailer and tied her so I could put on her equipment.  I heard an angry yowl from the tack room of the trailer, and when I opened the door I discovered Sabbath, my black barn cat, had stowed away in the gooseneck.  He was not pleased with his unplanned road trip.  I had to make a hasty decision about what to do with him.  If he sneaked out the door while we were at the trail head he would wander off and I would lose him.  I couldn't leave him loose in the tack room because each time the door opened he tried to escape.  I decided to shove him into my tack trunk and latch it shut.  He wasn't pleased with this solution, either, and continued to yowl and moan from inside the box.  I didn't want a random passer-by to hear him and open the door to see what the matter was, letting him escape and get lost, so once I had Beauty all tacked up I locked the tack room door as well.

With Owen in the lead we started down the trail.  We went about 5.5 miles total, Owen running, Beauty and I trotting and cantering.  Parts of the trail are a little technical, with rocks in the path and sharp turns and switchbacks along the hillside.  Beauty was a rockstar, she was careful with her feet, and did really well keeping up with Owen.  She jumped the parts where there were lines of rocks in the trail to minimize erosion, and when we were cantering and there were tight turns or switchbacks she did either simple or flying lead changes to stay balanced in the corners.  There were a few places where we simply had to walk because of footing, and Owen got a little ahead of us.  Whenever he would round a corner and disappear out of sight Beauty would call to him, whinnying for him to wait for us!

At about the halfway point there is a large wooden bridge, which Owen ran across and Beauty obediently followed him with no hesitation.  On our way back, I took some video with my phone of us trotting behind Owen and then crossing the bridge.  It's a little shaky since I took it while we were trotting, but you can watch it here:


After crossing the bridge I decided to let Beauty play in the water since she was pretty warm and sweaty.  She LOVED the water.  Her owner told me that Beauty will dip her whole face in her water tank when she gets hot.  Beauty marched right into the river, and began pawing at the water.  I was careful to pay attention since often horses will lie down in the water if they start pawing at it.  She didn't lie down, but she waded out until it was fairly deep and pawed some more to cool herself off.  We were pretty soaked, but much cooler.  Owen got some video of her playing in the water, and that can be viewed here:


Then we headed back to the trail head, continuing to trot and canter most of the way.  We took little walk breaks, and then whinny at Owen some more as he would turn a corner and go out of our sight.  Finally we made it back to the trailer.

I went to unlock the tack room door only to discover that the lock was jammed, and my key wouldn't turn.  Sabbath was still in the latched tack trunk in the locked tack room, and I had no way to get him out!  I untacked Beauty and put the equipment in the back seat of my truck, and after loading Beauty into the trailer we headed home.  Once back at the ranch Owen had the thought to spritz a little WD-40 in the lock, and fortunately that worked and he was able to free Sabbath.  Impressively, Sabbath didn't come launching out of the trunk with claws and teeth bared, he slowly lifted his head and looked around.  When he realized he was home he sauntered out of the trailer and went to lie down on the picnic table to have his belly rubbed.  I thought this little adventure would deter him from re-entering the trailer, but not ten minutes later he was back in there, looking around again. I guess Miles isn't the only stowaway we have on the place.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Behind the Scenes

Here are some of my favorite shots from behind the scenes at expo this past weekend.  The first one is of me, Miles, and Dewey in the Stadium arena on Thursday shortly after we arrived.  We toured the facility so that we were all comfortable with riding in the various locations.

 Some of the Bit of Honey Crew in the stands in the Events Center
Miles spent a good bit of time in the tack stall resting on his dog bed.  Periodically he would poke his nose out the front to see if his services were needed elsewhere in the barn or on the grounds.

 Dewey was sporting the OTTB saddle pad so people would know he was a retired racehorse. 

Dewey also assumed that the trash can was another obstacle to be mastered.  This is what happens when I teach my horses to be brave in the face of new things - even a trash can is worth investigating to see if it might yield up any horse cookies. 

 Dewey made lots of faces at the expo, his "smile" is priceless.

We all liked the Westin hotel, but Miles may have enjoyed the hotel room the most.  He doesn't often get to sleep on beds!  He also was a good photography assistant helping Kim H. with her camera in the evenings.
I had to schedule time to lie down so that I was horizontal to take pressure completely off of my back.  Miles was always a willing snuggle buddy.
Dewey laid down in his stall on Saturday morning so he could rest up for the big Equine Comeback Challenge. 
Our tack stall was a fun place for everyone to gather to read about Bit of Honey and view the posters from Dewey and Highboy's stalls.

Highboy in the Retired Racehorse Project Jumping Clinic

I was also feeling good enough to ride Highboy in the jumping clinic with Steuart Pittman from the Retired Racehorse Project.  It was a big milestone for me as my first jumps since the back surgery, and a milestone for Highboy because it was his first time RIDING in six months.  He was silly on the lunge line before I mounted, and then did some hopping around and playing while we warmed up.  I kept telling him that he needed to behave or else we wouldn't be able to ride and jump.  I think he listened, he did his very best to keep it together!  We were able to go over the ground poles and cross rails, and even hopped over a few of them. 

 I love this picture of Highboy lunging, I laugh because it makes me think of a racing camel.

 I also like to record the green horse moments so when he's all grown up and jumping well we can look back at how far he's come.

Highboy finally slowed down and relaxed after doing some fun running around in the arena.  Then we were able to get to jumping.

Not too bad for our first ride in six months.  The important thing is that I didn't hit the ground.  As my doctor counseled me, "you can ride, you just can't fall".  Success!