Welcome to Bit of Honey Training LLC

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

Monday, July 27, 2015

Sweetpeacefuldream and the Gymnastics

Sweetpeacefuldream and I have been working in the arena, and we have started some gymnastic jumping lines!  It is so fun to see her really enjoy her work.  She is a thinker, she likes to figure out the best way to ride these lines and she is so positive and careful. 

I want her thinking about the process, and learning to see the distances herself.  Sometimes she takes off from a long spot, sometimes she chips in and takes off very close to the base of the jump.  I just go with her and do my best to stay out of her way and out of her mouth as she learns to take off from wherever I place her.  This will create adjustablity in her stride and it will pay off later in her training, as she learns to see from where she should take off.  Because she is learning how to do this, Miss Pea will also be able to make corrections for her rider down the road if her rider makes a mistake, a very nice feature in a jumping horse.  I always feel grateful when a horse saves my rear end by fixing a mistake I didn't realize until too late.

I teach this using very small jumps so that if Miss Pea misses and hits the poles it's not the end of the world, and the jump is not intimidating for her.  I purposely put the jumps at strange distances away from each other to make her think about her footwork.  I don't want her to just automatically jump a fence, go a certain number of strides, and then jump the next one.  Just as with everything else, I ignore the inevitable mistakes which just earn her another try, and then praise her when she does it right. 

At this stage in her training, "correct" just means she kept going forwards, did go over the jump, and she felt confident doing it.  I don't care how slowly she did it, or how awkwardly she jumped, I just want her to learn to go over whatever I point her at.  As she figures out how to maneuver her body over things the technique will improve, for now I'm just building her confidence and getting her to ride straight towards the fences.  As you can see from her video, she likes this kind of work! 
Her video can be seen here:

I also learned something fun about Miss Pea's track training today.  As we jumped through the line and ended up at the far end of the arena, the last jump was pretty close to the wall.  When I do this exercise with a horse I always alternate left and right turns at the end to make sure they don't get used to always going one way, and it develops the horse's muscling evenly on both sides.  

Miss Pea very quickly realized that she could tell which way we would turn by my weight shift in the air over the last jump.  Because she had good track training and knows her leads, as soon as she knew which way to go she would pick up that lead.  The speed component makes me think that this is a leftover from her track days, when she is running she can do it without thinking too hard.  If we are slowly setting up while riding on the flat she over thinks it and often guess the wrong lead.   However, when we were moving fast and I shifted my weight to make the turn at speed she automatically landed on whichever lead I wanted.  She would then really sit down to make the turn at the end of the arena.  She is a smart smart mare who is using all of her education both on the track and off to become a successful riding horse. 

Saddle Fitting Fergie and Sara

I got some good photos this weekend of Sara and Fergie trying out different saddles.  We had to kiss a few frogs before we found the prince of a dressage saddle for Sara to purchase, but it's always a learning experience determining the right fit for a horse and rider.

Fergie has a narrow back, with high withers and a long distance between the back of her shoulder blade and the lowest point on her back.  Because of these things we needed to find her a saddle that was narrow enough to sit balanced front to back.  We also needed something that was fairly long so that the lowest point on the saddle would line up with the lowest point on her back.  Because gravity is the rule on our planet, if those two points aren't in alignment the saddle will scoot backwards until those two points do coincide.  Trying to keep the saddle forwards using a breastplate would only exacerbate the poor fit.  Conversely, if I had a horse with a very short back and the saddle was too long, the saddle would shimmy forwards until those low points aligned, causing the saddle to creep up the horse's neck. 

This first pair of photos shows how one of the saddles worked, or didn't work.  The saddle was a fairly good fit for Fergie the mare, perhaps a touch narrow in the gullet.  This caused the saddle to sit rocked back a bit, with the front of the saddle a little higher than it should be in relation to the back of the saddle.  As a result, Sara was pushed backwards into a chair seat, with her legs out in front of her.  She said that this saddle felt like she was definitely sitting ON the saddle, not IN it.  The video of them riding in this saddle can be seen here:

When I watched her ride it looked like she was struggling to find her balance, because she couldn't get her legs underneath her.  I've added the white lines to the photos so you can see that Sara's leg is not anywhere near the line.  Her leg should fall directly beneath her seat, so that the line intersects her ear, shoulder, hip, and heel.  Sara is generally a very well balanced rider, so I knew that this saddle was throwing her off.

We tried several different saddles, some I was able to rule out by looking at the way they fit Fergie while she was standing still.  There were a few that looked pretty good, though, and so we had Sara ride Fergie in those with the impression pad.  The impression pad is basically a clear saddle pad filled with red dough.  As the ride progresses, the dough shifts out of the way, and when I remove the saddle I'm left with an impression of how that saddle fits that horse's back with that rider.  This is important because a horse's back changes shape when she is moving, and a saddle that fits well when the horse is holding still might still create pressure points when the horse is moving.  This saddle's impression showed what I suspected:  it was a little too narrow in the gullet.  Even if it had been a perfect fit for Fergie, we still wouldn't have purchased this one because of the position it put Sara in.

This next picture is the saddle that we ended up having Sara purchase.  Check out the plumb line on this one!

This is a much better fit for Sara, it allows her to get her leg underneath her and balance much more easily.  She said that this saddle felt like she was riding IN it, moving WITH Fergie instead of teetering on top.  The impression pad showed that this was a good fit for Fergie as well.  She was able to walk, trot, and canter both directions in it and they had a wonderful ride.  Hurrah for equipment that doesn't interfere with good equitation!

The video of them riding in this saddle can be seen here:

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Equine Fine Art

I am now the agent for RCoatney Art in Fort Collins.  Many of my clients have expressed interest in ordering fine art from Rebecca, and now we have an efficient way to facilitate that process!  I will be taking orders and scheduling paintings for her, including collecting payment and delivering artwork.  If you would like to place an order please contact me and I can get you scheduled.

To get a piece started I need a deposit for half the price of the art (depends on size, contact me for details), and at least one photo of the subject.  If your horse lives here and you'd like me to take the photo I can certainly do that and have Rebecca choose from a few different shots. 

She works both in acrylic and graphite (pencil), and these are a few of my favorites from her portfolio.  She also does people and other animals, and examples of her work can be seen on her website.

Her website is http://rcoatneyart.squarespace.com/

I can be contacted via phone or email.  My contact information is at www.bitofhoneytraining.com

Dewey is SOLD!

Congratulations to Rebecca Coatney - the proud new owner of Doit's Cat, or "Dewey"!  Dewey has officially been sold, and he has a long fun future ahead of him including lots of time to grow up into himself while riding around in the arena and trail riding.  Eventually they are planning to do some low level eventing with dressage and jumping.  Rebecca has been riding with me for years and Dewey will continue to live here at Bit of Honey and progress in his training.  I am beyond pleased to be able to keep this nice horse in my barn!

Rebecca also does the commissioned artwork at RCoatney Art.  This is a painting she did of Dewey back in February when he was at his first horse show at CSU in preparation for the Equine Comeback Challenge. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Fergie Before & After

The hunt is afoot for a new saddle for Sara and Fergie.  Fergie is INCREDIBLY particular about saddle fit, and unfortunately the one that fits her best out of my collection doesn't fit Sara particularly well.  They have made due for a while now, but things are going well enough that it's time to invest in something that works really well for both of them.  Sara did a test ride in a saddle today to see how it worked, and while it was a reasonable fit for Fergie, it put Sara in an awkward position and made it hard for her to balance.  However, Fergie rode so well today that I took some photos and video to document it.

I remember when they first arrived  at Bit of Honey about two years ago, and I had the usual intake evaluation conversation with Sara.  I asked her what her goals were with her horse, and she said she wanted to be able to ride in the arena at the walk and trot.  I asked what their longer term goals were, did she want to compete or trail ride?  She repeated the same goal of walking and trotting in the arena.  Sara then explained to me that she and Fergie had a long history together.

She and Fergie had been together for about thirteen years, and in that time Fergie had been very difficult to get trained.  She bolted, wouldn't turn left, was always hollow, tense and panicky.  Some sleuthing on my part with the help of my veterinarians revealed that Fergie had some old injuries which had created significant scar tissue in her neck and back.  We put her in a physical therapy/training program with me, and over time we were able to not only get her relaxed in tack that fit, but now Sara has competed with Fergie both in Estes Park and at local shows here in Wellington.  She occasionally canters her in the arena, and has no trouble hacking out in the pastures when we all go riding together.  Fergie is one of my happy success stories, demonstrating how careful correct training emphasizing relaxation and rhythm can produce a beautiful mount, despite prior injuries and training difficulties.

Sweetpeacefuldream and the Farrier

This week Sweetpeacefuldream was due to have her hooves trimmed and to get new shoes.  She was mostly good for the farrier, towards the end she was a getting bored and tried to mess with him a little.  She decided to jiggle her last foot, leaning on him a little for entertainment.  The great thing about her is that once you tell her to knock it off, she generally does and then goes back to being extremely well behaved.  I often forget that she's just five years old, she is very mature mentally for her age. 

Tyler Garrison with Waverly Forge is who I have used for years to take care of my horses' hooves.  He does a wonderful job and has a very relaxed "stall-side manner".  Tyler makes sure that the horses' feet are balanced, angles are correct, toes not too long, and that the hooves are shaped to match the underlying bone structures.  Over the course of just this week as Miss Pea is adjusting to her new shoes I see her traveling much more efficiently.  She is interfering less with her hind legs, and has more of a reach to her stride at the walk and trot. 

I don't have any photos of her rides this week, but she did quite well.  We have continued to work out of the arena in the fields, but she has stayed more tense than I would like.  When Miss Pea is anxious she will clench and grind her teeth, so it is always obvious when she's not feeling her best.  She does it pretty dramatically outside of the arena when we're riding out, and the behavior has not abated as I hoped.  We've tried riding out alone, with just the dogs, and with other horses.  She is best with just me riding and the dogs along.  Adding other horses really gets her amped up.  Because she will need more time to really get comfortable riding out, I've decided to just prepare her for showjumping and perhaps dressage for the makeover in Kentucky.  I still think she would do just fine as an eventer with more training and work, but I think it's in her best interest to play to her strengths for the competition in October, and not stress her by trying to teach her all three phases in such a short period of time. 

I decided on showjumping after taking her through some gymnastic grids this week.  I've ridden her over cross rails and led her over the barrels, and lunged her over poles.  She really seems to "get it" with the jumping in the arena.  She settles down, gets all focused, and really hunts for the jumps.  Her ears prick forward and she gets all stretchy and limber when arranging her feet over fences.  The gymnastic line we worked on this week was a long straight series of about six fences.  Three ground poles set at a trot distance, then three cross rails with two strides in between, then two low verticals set with three canter strides in between.  She loved figuring out the puzzle!  I of course don't jump the youngsters very hard, but I like to keep their brains working towards problem solving.  Lots of low jumps with complicated footwork is great for their brains, as well as helping them be more coordinated.  Miss Pea enjoys it tremendously, and I love feeling her quiet down and really reason through the challenges. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Morning on the Back Forty

Today I got up and started riding early to try to beat the heat.  I put Highboy and Tao in the arena with the idea that they would do some weed eating for me, but they ended up playing and jumping through the gymnastic lines I had set up instead.  While they were occupied, I rode Jubilee the little arabian, Miss Pea, and Monty.

Miss Pea is so much fun, she really is settling in well and gaining confidence with every ride.  We just walked around in the back pastures with Mahzi the dog and looked at the new logs that are slowly arriving for the cross country course.  I'm always amazed at how gorgeous her red hair is.

Later in the morning I got on Tao the haflinger to take him out to the back forty as well.  It was another relaxing ride.  He did run a little bit, but it was very much "I'm feeling good, can we run?" so I let him go as fast as he wanted, and used the terrain to slow him down.  He decided it was too much work to gallop up and down hills, so he came back down to the walk.  We did several laps of the back pasture, but his whole ride was fun and relaxed, not at all tense or rushing.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Mahzi in the Arena

Mahzi had some fun in the arena today, too.  Mahzi is getting better and better at working here at Bit of Honey Training LLC​.  She is now 72 lbs (20 lbs heavier than when she arrived in October '14) of solid muscle.  She runs while I ride the horses, covering at least 5 miles each day, plus working with me in the arena.  Her favorite things are leaping over the jumps to show the young horses what to do, and climbing on the mounting block.  She spends most of her time off leash, but is very obedient, and she likes to take trips to town to go to the feed store because the cashiers always have cookies for her.  This week she got to follow a herd of antelope as they leisurely ran figure eights around us on a ride in the back pasture, and she enjoys trying to chase the jack rabbits on the property, too. 

 Mahzi met Josie, one of my students, and they had fun pestering each other.
Our regular evening thunderstorms are back, too, and I got this cool shot of the sky this week.

Dewey and Rebecca Ride Again

After the show today Dewey and Rebecca went for another ride together.  They really are a nice pair, well suited to each other.  The great purple saddle pad in these photos is a find we made when making a trip to Franktown, southeast of Denver, to pick up Miss Pea last month.  We stopped at the Dover tent sale on our way and Rebecca saw this pad on sale.  Purple is her favorite color, and so she bought it.  We then facetiously discussed her needing a horse to go with her saddle pad, and my mind landed on Dewey.  He's so dark that purple looks really nice on him.  Now we have Rebecca riding Dewey, in the purple saddle pad, with the Bit of Honey crew cheering them on!

Fergie Guns it at the Saddle Club Show

Fergie went with Sweetpeacefuldream and the Bit of Honey crew to the saddle club show today.  Fergie has been hyper vigilant about herd management since we have increased our mare herd at the barn, so she was pretty wound up at the show trying to make sure everyone was where they were supposed to be.  It made for some gorgeous photos, though.

While waiting for her classes, Fergie stood feeling statuesque outside the arena, and sometimes she stood making faces outside the arena.