Welcome to Bit of Honey Training LLC

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

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Sweetpeacefuldream Wins at the Horseshow

We are very fortunate to have a great group here locally in Wellington, Colorado.  It's called the Rockie Mountain Saddle Club and I have been bringing my young and green horses here for years to experience their first horse shows.  Everyone is very friendly and welcoming, and no one minds if my youngsters are a bit excitable their first time out.
 I didn't have to worry about Sweetpeacefuldream being wild, though!  This mare acted as though she does this every weekend.  We started with hand walking in the arena, followed by some lunging and looking at everything.  The loudspeakers were on and they had music playing, but Miss Pea wasn't phased by that at all. There were several other horses lunging in the arena at the same time but Miss Pea was fine with that too. 

Once we were done checking out the arena, Miss Pea and I went back to the trailer to get dressed while the show began with showmanship.  After the in-hand classes are over they open the arena again for a brief riding warm-up. It was already getting warm, so I warmed up without my coat.

Next we had a little time to waste as we waited for the kids classes and the lower levels to ride.  The leveling system is a more recent development at this club, but it has been a great change.  I ride in the highest level, even if my horse is young or inexperienced, because I'm a professional trainer.  It doesn't feel right to me to compete against my students or the kids who have come to practice their 4-H skills, so I just always ride at this level and ask my horse to do the best she can.  While we waited for our turn we wandered around the show grounds and played with the trail obstacles since the trail judge had not arrived yet.

Finally it was our turn to compete!  Today was a very large turnout for the horse show, and there were easily ten horse and rider pairs in most of the levels.  It is fun to see the big groups, and makes me feel good for supporting our local saddle club which has helped me get so many young thoroughbreds started competing.  Miss Pea and I rode in English Equitation, which was a pattern that was a little too small for Miss Pea to really shine.  She did the best she could, though, and behaved herself very nicely.  She came away with a red second place ribbon in that one.

We also rode in Show Hack, which was a class that had the horses demonstrate extension and collection at all the gaits.  In a slightly oversimplified explanation, that means Miss Pea had to show she has three speeds at the walk, three speeds at the trot, and three speeds at the canter.  In this class she was absolutely spectacular.  All the time we've spent at home working on weight shifts and breathing really paid off.  All I had to do was either slow the motion of my seat or exaggerate my motion, add in either a deep or a fast breath, and Miss Pea responded nearly flawlessly.  She had dramatic collection and extension within each gait, and of course was the very nicest at the hand gallop.  The judge was duly impressed, taking a moment at the end of the class to tell us we had the best variation within each gait, and she awarded us first place.  Miss Pea had her first blue ribbon today! 

The next class was Controlled Riding, which is a longer pattern than the equitation class, but otherwise fairly similar.  Miss Pea went very nicely and even performed her lovely flying lead changes in that section of the pattern.  We had the great opportunity to talk to people at this show about what good race training can do for a horse, and then demonstrate Miss Pea's adjustability.  Her flying lead changes made her look good in Controlled Riding, and people were very impressed with her Show Hack class.  The last class of the day was Hunter Hack, with just two small vertical jumps and working on the rail.  Miss Pea had to take a moment to look hard at the jumps, but then she went right over.  This was really a fabulous successful first show for Miss Pea, and a great step on the way to preparing her for show jumping in Kentucky in October.

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Curse of the Smart Horse

Jubilee the little arabian has been back at Bit of Honey for some more work this summer.  She is very intelligent, which I call The Blessing and the Curse of the Smart Horse.  Her latest trick has been acting barn sour while riding out in the fields, and wanting to rush back the barn.  She tries to accomplish this by throwing temper tantrums in an effort to intimidate her rider.  It was working pretty well for her at home, but then she was sent to Kamp Kim for some attitude adjusting.

The first couple times I took her out to the back forty pastures to work she was a pistol.  When we would make our circle to begin heading back to the barn, she would start tossing her head.  Then she would sort of lean back on her haunches and pop up her front end, bringing each front hoof down and stomping them on the ground.  Then she would pause, turn her head and look at me out of the corner of her eye saying, "Did it work?  Are you scared and getting off now?"  She was so obvious about it that I actually laughed at her on those first rides, which only made her mad.  She would get progressively more emphatic with her foot stomping, but each time she would pause and check in with me to see if I was scared enough to get off.  When it accomplished nothing but earning her another lap around the field she eventually gave it up.

Now she is well behaved enough to go riding with her owner out in the fields.  I've been riding Monty with Jubilee and her owner, because Jubilee does gain quite a bit of confidence (and thus better behavior) from having another calm horse with her.  It's funny to work with a horse as smart as Jubilee, because when she does behave herself and I pat her and praise her, she gets sort of huffy with me.  She pretty clearly says, "Oh, don't PATRONIZE me, I know exactly what I'm doing and you're just lucky I decided to cooperate."  Like I said, it's a blessing and a curse to have such a smart horse.

Some video of Jubilee and her owner walking in the pasture can be seen here:

Sweetpeacefuldream Plays in the Sandbox

This week I have set up some of the Bit of Honey Circus in the arena.  I lay out ground poles to make a square shape, and then I put all kinds of stuff inside the box for the horses to look at.  I call it the Sandbox.  There is a large plastic laundry detergent container, old plastic cottage cheese containers with rocks in them, sparkly tinsel decor from the dollar store, plastic bags full of plastic bags, and a variety of other things.  For some reason, when the novel stimuli are located within the confines of the sandbox the horses are braver about dealing with them.  I'm not sure why this works so well, if it gives them a psychological boundary, the poles protect them from the scary stuff?  Then when the horse walks into the box, it is to master the objects because the stuff never left the box to come after the horse.  At any rate, it works really well so I use it often.

Miss Pea thought it was pretty fun and interesting.  I let her look at everything while I was on the ground first, and then I got on and rode for a while.  We also rode through the sandbox, and she has no problem stepping on the hula hoops filled with beads to make noise, the plastic bags, or the cardboard box.  Even the blue foam wasn't an issue.  We still need to try out the pink pop-up umbrella, but I don't expect any problems with that either. 

The point of the Bit of Honey Circus is not to teach a horse how to hula hoop.  In fact, I don't care if the horse never picks up a hula hoop in her life.  The whole point is to teach her how to be brave in the face of new things, even scary ones.  I don't care if a horse never ever walks across a tarp, I just want her to learn how to handle herself when she is nervous, and to learn to look to her human for security and support.  I like this kind of thing for all horses.  It's useful for trail riding preparation because a horse might encounter just about anything on the trails.  It's useful for a jumper because they learn how to think about scary things and be brave, instead of being afraid and just rushing and jumping to get it over with.  I like it for dressage horses because you never know what will catch the wind and go flying across the dressage court at a horse show while you're riding a test.  Every horse can use the life skill of handling herself well in a stressful situation. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Sweetpeacefuldream Progresses in the Arena

Sweetpeacefuldream is doing really well.  I haven't had a moment to capture her on camera because of my somewhat nonsensical work schedule...  It's great being self-employed, you can work any eighteen hours a day you want!

I have been riding in the mornings before it gets too hot.  Miss Pea had gotten a little bit grumpy when being groomed or having her girth tightened, and she had started grinding her teeth while riding in the arena again.  I suspected a recurrence of ulcers, and got a refill on her medications.  Sometimes a horse needs longer than thirty days to really kick the ulcers, and sometimes the ulcers return unexpectedly.  The pharmacy I use is wonderful and sent her medications right away, so she has been back on omeprazole since Monday.  Already she is more relaxed again when riding.

I've also been fiddling with saddle fit for her.  She is very thin skinned and sensitive, so she really appreciates all the puffy sheepskin saddle pads and girth covers.  She also is in a bit of an odd position at age five with a growth spurt, so it's nearly a daily evaluation to decide which saddle and pads will accommodate her and keep her comfortable for that ride.  Fortunately, she has no problem expressing her opinions.  If she doesn't like the girth she curls her head and neck around to my side while I'm fastening the first buckle.  She will take it between her lips and she shakes it saying, "KIM, THIS is the part that is not right.  Can you get me a different one please?"  If she has no complaints about the girth she ignores the process of tacking.  Similarly, if the saddle or pad isn't quite right she will lift her head as I place it on her back, sometimes turning to me to give me the stink-eye.  If the saddle and pad are comfortable for her she ignores them.  I like it when the horses tell me these details, it makes it so much easier to figure out what works for her.  Every once in a while I get a really stoic quarter horse or draft cross in for training who refuses to ever complain, so then I have to get technical with my measurements and diagnostic evaluations of tack for those horses.  Usually the thoroughbreds are pretty explicit with their opinions. 

Miss Pea is jumping once or twice weekly, just enough to familiarize her with the possible questions she'll be asked on course in KY, but I don't want to pound on her because she's still young.  I'm helping her to settle and relax when jumping so we do mostly low gymnastic exercises.

Miss Pea's flying lead changes are spot-on, and she totally understands the differences between crossrails, verticals, and oxers.  She has jumped up to 2'9" with PLENTY of scope to go higher as she matures.  She's good with all the ridiculous decorations I have as well.  In addition to the jumps, my Bit of Honey Circus includes pool noodles, hula hoops, pinwheels that spin, various fake flowers, trees, and bushes in pots.  Most of it I've picked up at the dollar store or at yard sales.  I like to take this economical route because the geldings seem to think the objective with the toys is to see who can disassemble them the fastest.  Pinwheels don't last too long when you have Highboy and Cole plucking the petals off and spreading pieces all over the arena.

I'm planning to take Miss Pea to the saddle club show in Wellington this Sat., I'll braid her and do the whole thing so we have some nice photos.  Stay tuned for her glamour shots!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Nase the House Dog

I'm always writing about the border collies and all that they do around the ranch to help me get work done, but tonight I have photos of my house dog, Nase.  He came from the Denkai rescue in Greeley five years ago, which makes him the same age as Miles at seven years old.  He is a timid soul, best suited to napping and hiding under the bed or in the closet.  He is afraid of many things, but has gotten progressively braver as we have continued helping him to find his courage.  I love my little bearded buddy, he is a great house dog.

Friday, August 21, 2015

My Favorite Haflinger

Tao is quite possibly the best haflinger I've ever met.  I just adore this steady little guy.  Here he is taking good care of his owner, Kathy, as they trot in the round pen this morning. 


Monday, August 17, 2015

Monty's Weekend at the 3 Day Event

** Monty is for sale ** check out his sale ad

This past weekend Monty the OTTB, Miles the dog, and I all headed down to the Colorado Horse Park for the 3 day event.  We started out with a literal bang, with a blown out tire on I-25 just before the Longmont exit.  This time it was the right side of the trailer, and the wiring on that side needed repairs.  I called Murdock Trailers and explained my situation:  on the side of the freeway with a horse in the trailer on the way to a competition.  They were wonderful, and said to come right in and they would get me taken care of.  I put the spare tire on the trailer, then headed back up the freeway to the Johnstown exit and pulled into Murdock's.

When I got to Murdock's they already had a trailer up on blocks in their shop area, but Carlos dropped everything to repair my wiring as soon as I arrived.  I was concerned about going the rest of the way to Denver without a spare tire, since my spare was on the trailer.  I called around and it looked like I was going to have to haul my whole rig including the horse into Loveland to a tire place that could sell me a new tire and had the equipment to put the new tire on the old rim.  While I was making these arrangements on the phone, Carlos came out of the shop wheeling a tire for me!  It was already on a rim, and while not a perfect fit for my rig he said it would do in a pinch.  When I asked for the paper so I could pay for the wiring repair and the spare he told me no charge!  I said I would bring the tire back after the competition, and he told me not to worry about it, just to go and enjoy the weekend.  This place is just amazing, with good people working there and I can especially vouch for Carlos in the shop.

Once I was on the road again we made pretty good time getting to the show grounds.  They were on top of things, with a veterinarian checking paperwork and horses as they arrived to make sure the show stayed free of vesicular stomatitis, a contagious disease that has been going around Colorado again this summer.  I love it when shows are thorough about this kind of thing, it gives me great peace of mind to know that all the horses were checked and found to be healthy so I don't need to worry about Monty being exposed unnecessarily.

Thursday evening we settled in and went for a walk around the grounds.  Monty looked at everything and generally took it all in.  Mentally he is very mature for six, he is interested in everything and very calm.

I had given Miles a bath and brushed him, so I let him sleep with me on the mattress in the gooseneck of the trailer.  After a night of spooning and lounging in the blankets he said he's never going back to regular barn dog life.  It was hard to get him to come down in the mornings to walk to the barns and help me feed Monty!  Each time we would walk back to the trailer he would hop in, stare at the gooseneck, and give a little woof to tell me he'd like to be lifted back up there please.

Friday was hot.  My ride time for dressage was 11:22am, and the sun was blazing.  After some slight shenanigans in the warm-up arena Monty settled to business and rode his nicest dressage test yet.  He was rhythmic, round, and kept light contact with my hands for most of the test.  There were of course a few things I'd like to improve, but mostly it was a very nice test for him.  At the end of dressage day we were in 11th place out of 14. 

Saturday dawned with a gorgeous sunrise, which I took as a good omen that I was to have a great cross country round.

Saturday turned out to be the hottest day of the summer.  I had cross country in the afternoon, at 2:43pm.  For cross country jumping I wear my riding clothes, plus a thick black safety vest, plus an inflatable air vest, plus a plastic pinney with my number on the front and back.  I was well insulated under all those layers of black polyester.  After a brief warmup in the cross country field Monty felt attentive and ready to go.  I don't like to school hard in the warmup before a cross country jumping round because it was so hot, and too much drilling right before the round tends to make the horses (and me) tense.  I'd rather it was a forward, steady ride than a tense rushing one.  Just enough warm up to get the horse warmed up and relaxed.

A balanced, forward, and steady ride is exactly what Monty gave me.  He went double clear, which means he had no time faults (not too slow, not too fast), and no refusals at any of the fences.  He was much more conservative about his jumping efforts than the last time we did cross country here in May, and he was much lighter on his forehand.  He balanced himself well going down some steeper inclines, and cantered most of the course.  I love it when the horse learns to respond to my breath and weight shifts and I don't need my hands or legs much.  When we crossed the finish line there were volunteers there handing out bottles of water, and Monty and I walked back to the area where I could wet him down with ice water to get his body temperature back to normal.  The large tanks of water from which to draw had bags of ice in them, and I have to confess I was sorely tempted to climb in!  At the end of cross country day we had moved up into 7th place.

At the end of the day Monty enjoyed a handful of Mrs. Pastures cookies from his owner.  Monty loves the Mrs. Pastures cookies the best.

Sunday was hot, too, but I at least had show jumping in the morning, with my ride time at 10:18am.  It was warm, but not nearly as bad as Saturday afternoon had been.  By then I was awfully tired and grumpy, and I consider it a small victory that I didn't yell at anyone all weekend, because people were so irritating to me by the end...!  The heat just makes me a cranky mess.  Fortunately Monty is an understanding soul and he was still willing to try his heart out for me.  He went double clear in show jumping as well, no time faults and no rails down.  He was a little unsure of how big to jump some of the fences, so a couple of them were cleared like they were twice that size.  Because I was so tired it wasn't our most skillful round of jumping, but we got it done.  In the video it actually looks better than it felt. 
The video can be seen here:

The details suffered (my turns weren't awesome and we didn't always have our leads), but Monty did his best to make up for my shortcomings.  Another perk to having a horse who has been taught how to think through a jump course!

Because we had no faults on cross country or in stadium jumping, we landed 6th place out of 14 overall for the event!  Monty got a beautiful huge green ribbon, and many many cookies and pats for being such an incredible baby horse.

We ended by running with the group in the victory gallop, one last hurrah to celebrate!  Monty thought it was a little silly, hadn't he already run enough this weekend?  But he went along with it and I got the photos I wanted.  It was a wonderful weekend and we drove home happy with an uneventful ride in the air conditioned truck.