Welcome to Bit of Honey Training LLC

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

Monday, November 30, 2015

Chilly Winter Evening

It has been cold here for several days, like with highs in the twenties, and we've gotten about four inches of snow since Thanksgiving last week.  Some of it has melted, most of it has blown away.  There is just enough left to get some photos of my horses all bundled up in blankets (the ones that don't grow fur), and everyone is hovering around their giant hay bales like hobos keeping warm over a fire in a metal barrel.

Several of the horses here are hard keepers, or horses who have to work harder to keep warm and thus have trouble keeping weight on.  I know many humans who would be thrilled to borrow the Thoroughbred metabolism around the holidays, but since it doesn't seem to be something that we can exchange between species I have to accommodate for the burning of extra calories.  Basically,the hard keepers don't grow much of a winter coat, so they either shiver to burn energy to warm themselves up, or they run around to warm themselves.  To combat this hemorrhaging of body condition I blanket them to keep them warm and make up for their minimal fur.  I feed unlimited hay so that it ferments in their gut and heat is released inside their bodies to keep them warm.  I also change their regular mash to hot mash by making it with hot water.  Increasing the amount of food that the hard keepers eat in the cold weather is good too, but I have to be careful to increase the correct things.  The high fiber foods such as hay and beet pulp are the best for increasing body heat and adding safe calories.  Things like oats, corn, and other grains actually don't ferment the same and don't warm the horse like high fiber feeds.  When I make the beet pulp mash with hot water it becomes a tasty steamy and fragrant meal.

It's entertaining to introduce a new horse to hot mash.  Since I feed the hard keepers mash twice daily throughout the year (especially if they are working and in training) they are used to eating it, and they happily follow me over to the dish at meal time expecting the usual cuisine.  The only change is when the temperatures get this low and I switch the liquid to hot water instead of cold.

As I present a new horse with hot mash for the first time it's always a bit of a spectacle.  I dump the concoction into the feed tub, and of course that releases steam in a large white puff, then gradual tendrils of warm moisture rise up from the bucket.  The new horse will back up quickly, the shock of this presentation usually elicits a good honk and a snort from the surprised equine.  Then the horse will tilt his head sideways, eyeballing the witch's brew and alternately looking at me with the question of "What have you DONE to my meal?!"  It doesn't usually take long before he gets closer to take a sniff, then a small bite, and before I know it the horse is diving into the food and slurping up the broth with gusto.  A friend once accurately described the accompanying noises as the sound of a toilet being plunged.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

26 Thanks for the 26th Day of November

I am thankful for so many things, here are just 26.  I'm thankful for :

26.  Routine.  I thrive on routine.  Feeding my animals and caring for them in the same way every day brings predictability, stability, and calm to my life.  I think this is why the breeds who need elaborate structure (border collies, thoroughbreds) do so well here at Bit of Honey.  Even when holidays hit and most of the country is wound up and stressed out, I have my routine to keep me grounded and remind me that "it came to pass".  It didn't come to stay, it came to pass.  

25.  Healthy Highboy just outside my front door, happy to eat the apple cores from the pie I made today.

24.  My hardworking dogs.  I couldn't do my job nearly as well without them.

23.  A barn full of happy horses, tucked into their winter blankets if they need them, tucking into the giant hay bales if they don't.

22.  A heated house to keep us humans warm.

21.  My body, my finest instrument in my work.  With it I can walk, run, ride, jump, drive, carry feed, hug, groom horses, and smile.  I am so grateful to have such an effective and functional container to carry my soul.

20.  This blog.  It started as merely a way for me to record the fun animal adventures of my daily life, and has grown into a 3000 viewer vehicle to get information out to other like-minded horse people, as well as many "not horse people" who just like a good story!

19.  Relationships with clients, horse owners, horsemanship students, race tracks, aftercare organizations.  They enrich my life and help me pay my bills.

18.  A variety of horses in my barn.  At this very moment I have 2 warmbloods, 1 arabian, 1 paint, 2 quarter horses, 1 connemara, 1 haflinger, 1 pony, and 5 OTTBs.  Riding so many different types of horses has made me into a better rider, and learning to teach to so many different learning styles has made me a better trainer. 

17.  I never have to be hungry, and neither do my animals.

16.  Time.  I love this quote by Ann Rice from her book Interview With a Vampire:  "My lips moved, but nothing came out of them; yet this didn't really matter.  All the things I had ever wanted to say were clear to me, and that is what mattered, not that they be expressed.  And there was so much time, so much sweet time in which to say anything and do anything.  There was no urgency at all."  I feel this when I'm standing in the barn waiting for a horse to finish his mash in the evening, while Z the barn cat is tucked into my coat, and my dogs are snuggled into the loose hay together.  My idyllic life.

15.  The scent of good leather.  I love the smell of the tack room, especially when someone has been cleaning leather.  Mix in the aroma of grain and Platinum horse vitamins and you're smelling my heaven.

14.  Electricity.  Enjoying the wait in the barn is infinitely more enjoyable with cozy lights.

13.  My phone.  I had no idea when I got it how much I would love being able to capture so many moments in photos and videos.  Silly Kim, I thought I was just going to make phone calls with it.

12.  Music.  Mostly lyrics that speak to me about the things that matter most to me.  Home.  Getting better.  Safety.  Support.

11.  Horse shows.  There is something very freeing to be able to gallop on course, dressed our best, and feeling like we have really accomplished something.  They have given me reason and motivation to travel more then I ever would otherwise. 

10.  A new mattress.  I've had lingering leg pain since the back surgery a year ago, and buying a new mattress for our bed a few weeks ago has made a dramatic difference.  I'm nearly off of all pain medications now!

9.   My education.  People often ask if I went to CSU for equine science, but I actually like the education I got better.  I use the knowledge I gained while getting my degree in psychology, anatomy, and neurobiology every day.  If I were to go back for more graduate school, I'd love to learn about small business management, but so far the library books I borrowed when I set up Bit of Honey Training as an LLC have served me well in getting me to professionals who can help me.

8.  My faith.  Every day I find something in my regular life that directs me to approach my Higher Power with gratitude.  I pray for safety every morning over my bowl of cereal, and God continues to deliver.  My activity in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a huge blessing in my life.

7.  Clothing.  I always have something to wear, whether it's to the barn, to the competition, to church, to town, or around the house. 

6.  Good books.  I'm grateful for the ones I've read, I have yet to read, the ones I've written, and the ones I have yet to write.

5.  My small animals.  I love my guinea pig who keeps me company indoors in my office, humming and purring while I write these blog posts.  My barn cats do an excellent job of mouse control near the feed and tack, I'm hoping they soon find greater ambition and aspire to clear the pigeons out of the barn.  The great horned owl living in the indoor arena has very thoroughly addressed them in that building.

 4.  Mobility.  I have a wonderful truck and horse trailer, two legs that work well now, and the ability to fly on a plane.

3.  Art.  I don't have an artistic bone in my body as far as producing paintings, drawings, or sculpture, but I sure value those abilities in others.

2.  Sunshine.  I moved to Colorado because the brochures said 300+ days of sun per year.  An old friend of mine used to come to all my exhibitions with the horses, and he always called me Sunshine because I was always wearing yellow.  Sunshine makes me smile, it makes the grass grow, it keeps things from being too muddy, it makes my horses' coats shine.

1.  My number one gratitude is for Owen.  My husband doesn't get mention on this blog terribly often since he's not really a horse guy, but I would not be without him.  He keeps me grounded when I start to think the horse world is the whole world.  He laughs with me.  He helped me, and still does help me, when the brain injury interferes with my life and I need someone else to take a hold of things.  He has never complained about needing to come pick me up or help me get somewhere, no matter the distance, when I needed him.  My entire life is better because he is in it.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Announcing 2016 Equine Comeback Challenge

This year I have been asked once more to participate in A Home for Every Horse's Equine Comeback Challenge.  I have been involved with this program since it began in 2014.  The goal of the Equine Comeback Challenge is to show people how nice, usable, marketable, and sound horses from rescues can be.  There is prejudice in the horse world declaring that if a horse has been through a rescue he's useless, either worthless mentally or broken physically.  Often a horse will be donated to a rescue through no fault of his own, in fact many of my clients' horses have been through a rescue at some time in their history and are now very nice mounts.

The Equine Comeback Challenge gives each horse ninety days with a trainer to be educated and transformed into a riding horse.  The horses will then be presented at the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo in March of 2016 in a riding competition which will demonstrate their new training as well as showcase just how marketable these rescue horses are.  The horses will be available to purchase after the event in Denver.  There also is a Comeback Challenge which happened on the East Coast in October the past two years.

The first Challenge happened at the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo in Denver, CO in March of 2014.  That year I worked with Mountain Valley Horse Rescue who gave me a sweet 20 year old Percheron cross mare named Grace.  She had been a PMU mare and came to me only barely halter broke.  I trained her, presented her at the expo at the National Western Complex, and shortly after that she was adopted by wonderful woman named Marleen.  They are enjoying their happily ever after with trail rides in the mountains near Vail, CO.

In its second year, I was able to do the Equine Comeback Challenge as an exhibition ride in 2015.  I worked with CANTER Colorado who provided me with a retired racehorse.  Doit's Cat was a three year old Thoroughbred, too slow to race, who had narrowly missed being sent to slaughter and was donated to CANTER instead.  Dewey's mellow temperament and eager-to-please personality made it possible for me to train him and present him at the expo in March despite my back surgery that January.   Several months later one of my clients purchased him, and now Rebecca and Dewey are enjoying their happily ever after right here at Bit of Honey Training.  Dewey lives here and is even in training with me this month while Rebecca takes regular riding lessons on him.

For 2016 I'll be an exhibition ride once again.  This year I'm working with Northstar Horse Rescue, a nonprofit 501(c)3 that recently relocated from Maine to Pagosa Springs, CO.  My horse for this Equine Comeback Challenge is Touch A Prince, a chestnut OTTB gelding.  He was bred by Adena Springs and sold as a two year old in 2006 for $55,000.  He last raced in 2009 in Massachusetts, my own home state, and over the course of his racing career and 26 starts he won $58,481.  The woman who took him after he was done racing loved him, but his boisterous and pushy temperament outstripped her own skills and she was unable to do much with him.  As a result he spent approximately six years living in a pasture, and now is a 15.3 hand eleven year old whose only under saddle training is from the track.  When his owner was no longer able to care for him she donated him to Northstar Horse Rescue who did ground work with him, and now he will be headed my way to train for the 2016 Equine Comeback Challenge. 

Touch A Prince is coming to me at an ideal time.  I've been casually and quietly looking in my local area, online, and in forums for a new project horse for myself, but my requirements are specific.  Because I want something very undesirable to the average buyer, I'm looking in a very low price range for a sound, mature horse who has little to no training.  I wanted something old enough that he is physically mature and I could really start working him hard without concern for growth spurts.  On the other hand, I also want a horse who doesn't know anything about jumping or dressage so I can teach him the eventing game in whichever way he'll best understand, and I don't have to undo training from anyone else.  Periodically the universe seems to send me the horses I really want, and it has impeccable timing.  Touch A Prince fits all my requirements.  I'm excited to meet this guy and discover what he likes to do.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Animals Everyday

On an easy going morning last week Rebecca was mugged at the picnic table for her morning beverage by the border collie, the lab, and a cat. 

I've also posted before about the owl that has taken up residence in the indoor arena.  It doesn't seem to mind my excited barking dogs or my days full of riding, I guess he's a heavy sleeper.  By day he is snoozing in the indoor arena, by night the great horned owl patrols the entrance of the property.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Antelope Runs

On many of the early morning gallops this summer out in the back forty we were accompanied by herds of antelope.  It started in the spring.  I would watch from the house as large groups of antelope, two dozen or more, would all approach the fence line shared with the west pasture horses.  When those four horses charged the fence, the antelope didn't run away as I expected.  Instead, all the horses and antelope ran up and down the fence line together!  They enjoyed a large game of tag or sprint races or something, and I was amazed that the wild creatures didn't leave.  Perhaps they knew that the horses were also herbivores and not to be feared?

This friendly approach on the part of the antelope continued into the summer.  As the weather tends to do as June becomes July, it got pretty hot pretty early in the day.  To be able to work the horses, especially on conditioning gallops, I would get up just as the sun rose and start riding before things heated up.  This hazy dawn hour seems to be prime grazing time for the antelope.  I would ride a horse out to the back forty while it was still cool out, and we would run into these herds.  We were literally running into the herds, galloping right into the circle of grazing animals.  To my amazement, the antelope would then surround me and the horse, and run with us.  It was quite an experience to be on a racing horse, the wind rushing through my eyes making them stream tears, while entirely surrounded by antelope so close I could hear their hooves patting the ground.  It feels sacred to me, to move so fast with these untamed creatures.

The antelope also seem to have a sense of humor.  I usually ride with my dogs, who over-zealously pursue anything that moves in hopes that they will someday catch a jackrabbit.  The dogs also try to  chase the antelope.  When there is just one antelope hanging around it will taunt the dogs, staying just close enough that the dogs think they have a chance, but just far enough away that they really don't.  When there is a whole herd of antelope the dogs will go running at top speed towards the herd.  The antelope will take off at a leisurely lope, swinging around in broad circles around me and my horse, dancing in figure eights until the dogs are too tired to keep up.  I can almost hear them snickering at the dogs' entirely futile efforts.  

We are solidly into fall and I haven't seen as many antelope now that the mornings are downright cold.  I have Dewey in training, and we have been galloping out in the fields, sans antelope.  I've been working with Dewey in the arena over ground poles and little cross rails to teach him where his feet should be going, and riding out in the fields for the same reason.  I have some great hills here (butt muscles for everyone!) and Dewey is getting pretty good at maneuvering his feet.

This morning Dewey and I went for a walk with the dogs in the first pasture where the ponds are.  This time of year they are all dried up so I have great footing in the bottoms, but I also have ledges to hop up and down with the horses as they walk in and out of the pond depression.  This gentle hill work helps strengthen Dewey's haunches, and teaches him how to be more coordinated as he adjusts to his quickly growing body.

After we were done with the ponds, Dewey and I headed for the west property line.  We trotted all the way out there with Mahzi and Miles, and then Dewey said he was ready to do some galloping.  I let him gallop the perimeter of the property, then I brought him back to the trot to make sure he paid attention to his feet as we traversed the hills and the dogs caught up.  Dewey said he sure enjoyed feeling the need for speed, even though it wasn't for a great distance.  I love when the retired racehorses get to really open up and run in the fields.  I feel like they're fulfilling their calling when they run just for the joy of it, and I have the blessing of being on their back as they do so.  I feel even more grateful when I have a horse who was physically unable to run like this, who made it through extensive rehabilitation, and then is able to enjoy the wind between his ears.  Dewey wasn't a rehab horse, but Highboy sure was.  It's so satisfying to know I made his life better just as he enriches mine.


This video is from a few weeks ago when Dewey was being ridden by his owner, Rebecca.  We did one lap around the field, and I took the first part of the video.  Notice how he almost looks drunk, winging his front feet and crossing them, and his head bobbing in every direction.  After a second lap I took another short video.  In the second part he is moving his head only up and down, and he is placing his feet much more confidently and in a straight line.  This is all in one ride, and a good example of how effectively riding on uneven terrain works for the young horses, whether or not they are ready to run with the antelope.

Turnout Adventures

Highboy just can't stand it when his friends ignore him. Unfortunately that seems to be the best way to deal with him because if you engage, the harassment never stops.  He's not really the mean kid, just the irritating one who is constantly asking, "Wanna play? Wanna play? Wanna play? How about now? Wanna play?"

I keep watching the video and noticing how the other horses shift away from him, "Don't make eye contact...." until Samson lays down the law when Highboy won't quit rearing at him.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Riding an Orangutan

Today was pretty full.  In the morning I rode Dewey and Beauty, and taught lessons on Rain and Tao.  In the afternoon I clipped Highboy and pulled his mane, then tacked him up and took him to the arena to ride.  I don't work him as often as I would like to, because of him being such a late bloomer mentally and physically.  If I put him into a training program of riding four to six times a week like he needs mentally, he would be very body sore and it would be too much strain on his young developing muscles and joints.  But to only ride him occasionally is hard on me, because when I do get on it's what I imagine riding an orangutan would be like.  I'm just waiting for him to hook his hoof on one of the indoor arena rafters and dangle from the ceiling.  Or I might be riding the star of a cartoon again. 


We started out on the lunge line, with Highboy leaping around and doing airs above ground.  Mazhi the dog added to the bedlam by barking and trying to run underneath him while he's airborne.  This works out fine when they are loose in the round pen together, but when I'm trying to keep his attention on me in the circle she adds a significant degree of difficulty.

I do like having the dogs with me, though, because it teaches the horses to pay attention to me and ignore distractions, however entertaining they may be.  I continued lunging Highboy and having him do transitions from trot to canter to walk, then changing directions and varying the commands.  I also had Highboy going over at least four ground poles on the circle while he was lunging, to get him to think a little more and romp a little less.  He always starts out LEAPING over poles and then bucking, kicking, and generally demonstrating his athleticism.

One of Highboy's favorite maneuvers is what I call the "fist bump".  He keeps his body quite low to the ground, and then randomly strikes out with one of his hooves, as though he were a frat boy greeting his compatriots at a party.  Another move he demonstrates is one I call "porpoising ".  This one looks like he's a dolphin diving in and out of the water, humping his back and occasionally kicking his heels above his head on the dive. 

When I attempt to ride with friends there are always more than a few skeptical looks begging the question, "Are you really planning to climb on that horse?" 

Sometimes in between gymnastic endeavors on the lunge line Highboy will suddenly slam on the brakes, turn in, and look at me saying, "Ok, I'm done and ready to ride now".  I always reply by telling him that I don't believe him, and that he has to PROVE to me that he's ready by walking politely and quietly on the lunge line for a few laps and then show me some quiet balanced and well behaved transitions.  Most of the time he does indeed have some yahoo left in him, to which I remark, "I thought so."

Eventually, though, Highboy does settle down and I can get on.  Today we did some walk, trot, and canter in the arena before we headed out to the fields to ride with friends.  Highboy hopped over the cross rails and stepped well over the ground poles, even gave me a couple nice back stretches at the trot.  He stood quietly for me to open the gate for everyone (all my horses open gates with me mounted, I think it's an important skills regardless of riding discipline).  Then we started to walk towards the back field, and Highboy sort of tried to hold it all in.  He was just LOOKING for reasons to leap around and do his airs above ground, so there were several ridiculous moments when he catapulted into the air or leaped sideways.  I have to laugh at him because he's such an athletic nitwit.  Fortunately the horses that were with us are very mellow souls, and neither Dewey nor Darby thought Highboy had any sense at all.  They just kept walking and ignored him.  I'm really grateful for the people who are willing to ride with me despite Highboy's shenanigans. 

We ended up doing a couple circuits of the pastures when another friend arrived to join us.  When we didn't stop at the barn but continued to start another lap around the fifty six acres, Highboy got a little mad.  At that point he was hot, sweaty, itchy, tired, and a little miffed that his ride didn't end when he thought it should have.  I always ride him with a crop (mostly for help steering when he's silly but occasionally for its intended purpose), and I'm sure glad I had it with me today.  Highboy started walking AS SLOWLY as possible, to express his disgust regarding this additional lap.  I gave him a little swat with my crop and in response he very very subtly lengthened his stride.  When we fell behind the other three horses while going downhill Highboy stopped to stretch out.  I thought he had to urinate, so I let him stand for a moment.  The next thing I knew he had folded his knees and hocks and was on the ground intending to roll.  I started shouting at him hollering, "Get up!  NO!  Get UP!" and smacking him with the crop.  He begrudgingly stood up again, luckily without damaging me or my saddle.  He gave a little kick as he started walking again, just to make sure I knew he his thoughts on the matter.

The rest of the walk went pretty well.  The ride's events led me to ponder why Highboy was such an abysmal racehorse.  He raced twice in New Mexico when he was three and came in last both times.  I'm sure it's because he spends all his energy jumping up and down in the air, and then when he gets a little tired he just wants to stop and roll.  There's not much for forward flat racing energy.  I still love him, though, because he's a challenge and makes me lie awake at night wondering how I'm going to get through to him.  I love my lesson horse, Cole, because he was equally complicated as a youngster, though in a different manner.  I also know that when the job is interesting, Highboy is all business.  He loves cross country because it's running fast and thinking hard about terrain and jumping.  He likes jumping in the arena because it's a puzzle to solve.  He likes LONG trail rides because there is so much to look at and think about.  Highboy needs to be an endurance horse or three day eventer, something to keep his mind busy.  But first he needs to finish growing!  17.1 hands and counting....

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Sweetpeacefuldream Goes to Her New Home

I took a photo this morning of all of Sweetpeacefuldream's winnings over the summer.  It really is a pretty good haul for just four months.  

Right before we left for Kentucky Miss Pea had a showing with a potential buyer who lives locally here in Fort Collins.  Her name is Rose, and she just fell in love with Miss Pea.  We hurried with the schedule, and Miss Pea had her prepurchase exam the day before I took her to Denver to catch her ride.  All went smoothly with the exam, and Rose decided to purchase Miss Pea. 

Now that Miss Pea has been back at Bit of Honey for a week to de-stress and relax after her huge trip we were able to send her on to her new home this morning.  Miss Pea will be in training to learn how to be an eventer, and staying in the Fort Collins area.  I'm excited to see what these two accomplish together, and that Miss Pea will be close enough for me to easily visit!

Congratulations to Rose and her new mare, Sweetpeacefuldream!