Welcome to Bit of Honey Training LLC

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

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Fason Explores the Arena, Welcome to New Dog!

This weekend Fason has really started to settle into the routine here at Bit of Honey.  I got a nice round pen photo, a good photo of him during his first turnout in the big arena, and a nice headshot with the mountains.  He is also realizing that we are at higher altitude here in Colorado.  Bit of Honey Training is approximately a mile above sea level, and after five minutes of hard running and playing he is quite out of breath!  He only romps around for a short while, then quickly approaches me and follows me around in our liberty work routine.  On Friday he was pretty hot after playing and I swear he planted his sweaty face in my hand and said, "What happened to all the oxygen?  Can you scratch my forehead?"

Overall he is easy going and friendly, and has a big swinging walk that is to die for. 


Might Fason understand he's no longer the newest animal on the ranch?  I got a new border collie this weekend.  He moved in to help Mahzi the lab and Miles my current border collie with the workload as I move Miles into a management position.  He turns eight this year and is slowing down with only his three legs.  Miles will still be going to expos and horse shows with me this season, but he just can't continue the day to day, all day, physical labor around the ranch at home.  The new dog was living with an older couple in Windsor, but since border collies need more exercise and job satisfaction than can usually be found in a residential area they decided to give him to me so he can come work at Bit of Honey. 

He is a beautiful three year old with lots of energy, and he happens to fit my dog color scheme really well!  He looks a lot like Miles, just with less white on his face.
He spent yesterday with me doing barn chores and watching riders.  I had him tethered to me by attaching a dog leash to my belt.  I'll do this for about a week until he understands he is supposed to follow me around and stick with me.  Once he knows the voice commands and hand signals I use (which are a little different than the traditional dog training cues) he can start being off leash with Miles and Mahzi.  So far the dogs are having a jolly time together, wrestling and playing and talking.  The new dog is also learning about horses.  His first time watching Sara the grey arabian in the arena his herding dog brain thought perhaps he should chase her.  That's another reason I have him on a leash until he knows the rules.  It's very dangerous for a dog to chase horses, they cannot be herded like sheep or cattle, and will go after a bossy dog. 

True to his border collie intelligence he has figured out very quickly what is allowed and what is not.  He was a little nervous around one of the horses this morning and curled his lip at her, so I gave a little jerk on the leash.  That was the only discipline he needed.  There was one other time he was feeling intimidated and he lunged at one of the geldings because he didn't know what to do, but a quick "NO" from me, then briskly walking the other way as a distraction solved that easily.  The border collies are sensitive, so it is important not to over-correct or they start to worry.  So far he has only made each mistake once, and as soon as he knows what the behavior standards are he is fine.  If I have to go into a pen with a horse I tie the dog to the fence outside so there's not the safety issue of dog plus leash tied to human plus horse to cause mayhem.

Another new interest for the dog is my barn cats.  They are very dog savvy, and have their own ways of dealing with young canines.  Initially the dog thought perhaps they could be chased, but it of course didn't work since he was tethered to my belt.  My cats know how all this works, so Z my calico stays out of the way and up high, but Sabbath likes to tease the dogs.  He saunters by, sashaying his tail in the new dog's general direction.  He will even get close enough to touch noses with the dog, but if the dog makes any sudden moves Sabbath will sit down and smack the dog on the face.  He doesn't use his claws, but this always startles a dog who is expecting to give chase, not get slapped!  This only happened once, and the smart new dog then began looking at Sabbath with a deferential sidelong glance.  The dog also now gives him a very wide berth when Sabbath parks himself in a doorway and the dog and I have to get past him. 

Many more episodes of "training the horse-training dog" to come! 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Fason's Official Height and a Day of Thoroughbred Rides

Today I was visiting with my friend Trisha on the phone discussing potential horses, events, and hotel accommodations for said events.  When I told her that Fason makes Highboy look small she mentioned she had an actual measuring stick, with a level on it, to assess a horse's exact height.  I had to ride Dewey in preparation for the Equine Comeback Challenge where he will be presenting his encore performance, and Trisha had entirely too many stalls to clean at her barn, so we decided to meet up at my place in an hour.

Dewey had a lovely ride.  I've been riding him in a hackamore and he is so much more focused and balanced than with a bit.  I'm sure he needs a dental, so I'll have the vet take care of that when we have our pre-expo appointment next week to make all the horses street-legal with health papers.  I experimented with Dewey a little, hopping him over some small jumps and playing with flying lead changes.  He did a couple flying lead changes correctly, but then he got tired and discombobulated.  As a four year old, sweet Dewey is in the midst of his equine teenage years both in personality and in growth spurts.  He periodically gazes at his recently elongated limbs and wonders where they came from and where he should put them.  I decided to be grateful for the two nice lead changes he was able to give me.  We quit for the day, walking around the back of the arena and then moseying through the fields past the house before returning to the barn.

Next I took Highboy out to groom him.  My mission this morning was to remedy the clipper debacle from last week.  A week ago I did a cursory clip job on Highboy in an attempt to make him look more like a horse and less like a yak.  The lighting in the barn wasn't great, Highboy was wiggly, and I somehow managed to transform his visage into something resembling a yak that had been attacked by a lawn mower.  Just as I was finishing with Highboy's reparative grooming Trisha arrived with her measuring stick.  For fun we had Highboy stand on the cement pad in front of the barn and got a good, accurate measurement.  Exactly 17 hands.  We then pondered aloud how a horse can seem so much bigger when his personality is so enormous!

Next we measured Fason in his paddock.  He was initially kind of bug-eyed about this tall wooden stick ominously creeping towards him, but after a few cookies he decided to stand still for us.  He nearly was off the measuring stick for height, but we were able to assess him at 17.2 hands.  Amazing how two more inches and a high set neck can create such presence in a horse.

After visiting for a while Trisha headed home again, and I tacked up Highboy who had fallen asleep while tied in the sunshine.  Since putting the ponies out in the far west pasture there is a strikingly different tone to my barn full of thoroughbreds.  Normally I blame the young thoroughbreds for all the rough and tumble lip wrestling and subsequent superficial injuries, but I now suspect I was amiss in assigning responsibility to them.  Since moving the ponies several acres away, the barn now has a very quiet timbre to it.  The thoroughbreds still play and goof around, but overall things are much softer.  They don't wrestle and kick so much, there is less racing up and down paddocks, and they are all eating more.  I'm now seriously considering the option that the PONIES were the ones instigating all the drama.  It seems fitting that the short trouble makers would get the big horses all riled up.  Baiting them, then retiring to the farthest corner of their pen to eat hay while the thoroughbreds were left to run up and down the paddocks, bucking and insisting that the ponies COME BACK HERE THIS INSTANT to complete the grappling they had instigated.

Highboy carried his new found mellow mood through our arena ride.  We did our regular flat work, and then I hopped him over cross rails while we rode in figure eights.  He loves this stuff, the more complicated and the harder he has to think the better he behaves.  At the end I tried to take him out for the same pasture walk I'd done with Dewey, but that was too exciting for Highboy to maintain his decorum.  He did some bucking and hopping around, but after I yelled at him he quit and I sent him forward into a strong trot.  We made horseshoe shapes around the house, trotting up and down the hills, towards and away from the barn.  Once Highboy started to ask the right questions: 1 - was this ride was ever going to end?  and 2 - was he ever going to be allowed to stop at the barn?   I let him walk.  He was of course much sweatier than if we had done just our arena work, so I rubbed him down with a liniment wash.  I'm not sure he liked it, because he kept turning his head to try and steal the towel out of my hand.  Then when I turned him out in the paddock with Dewey and Monty to play for the afternoon, Highboy rolled at least six times in different spots, trying to itch the tingling in his body from the liniment.

While Highboy was working on romping around in turnout (I guess I didn't work him too hard after all), I went to get Fason and tied him for grooming.  He is a little grumpy about being groomed around his middle, so I've started him on some ulcer medication.  Most of the track horses come with ulcers and so it's a fair guess that he has them, especially considering the long and stressful trailer ride to Colorado.  Once he was groomed and booted up, I took him to the arena for the first time.  This was a little bit much for him.  He behaved himself, but was quite the looky-loo when we approached the jumps, the poles, the tablecloths, the barrels, the pinwheels, the flowers...

I started to lunge him in the arena, but he was too wound up to really think or focus on me.  We adjourned to the round pen where he was used to the tires, the barrels, the tarp, and the ball.  Once back in a familiar setting he visibly relaxed.  I took off his halter and let him roam around while the dogs nestled down in the deep sand and I sat on the mounting block.  After checking things out and having a good roll, Fason then approached me all on his own.  He nuzzled my back, played with my hair with his lips, and then politely asked if I had any of those tasty cookies on me by chance?  I obliged and gave him a couple.  I put his halter on again, and we went back down to the arena.

This time he was much quieter, and much more contemplative.  We walked over to the bridge, and he touched it with his nose.  I stepped up onto it, and then stomped my feet several times.  When I called him to me he then put his front feet on it, and stomped them a couple times.  We then both walked off of it, no problem.  We walked over a few ground poles, we walked over a cross-rail.  The whole time he had his head low and really appeared to be studying each question.  I felt pleased that he could be so anxious, but then quickly return to relaxed when I let him have a minute in familiar territory.  As I enlarge his concept of what is familiar he will become an even more confident gelding, which is exactly what I want in an eventing horse.

Throwback Thursday - Miles

Throwback Thursday to Miles the border collie as a puppy.   Despite his adorable cuteness, he was actually a busy busy smart smart bundle of trouble in three colors.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Fason Assesses Kim

I was careful when I chose Fason.  I researched his bloodlines, racing records, soundness history, I had several conversations with the seller and with CANTER Kentucky, I had a veterinarian go over him with a fine-tooth comb so I knew as much as it is possible to know about a horse before I buy him from across the country.  Fason wasn't given the same opportunities to "vet" me as a trainer.  This sweet trusting horse just climbed into a horse trailer and traveled across the country, and ended up at Bit of Honey Training.

After his exciting arrival this weekend he was looking a little shell-shocked.  My other jolly thoroughbreds have been talking and playing with him over the fence, which has helped him settle in.  I have also created an elaborate routine that Fason fits into quite nicely.  When I go out in the morning, the first thing I do is call hello to Fason since he is in the paddock I can see first from the house.  After greeting him I go into the barn and measure feed for the horses who get grain.  All the horses have hay available all the time.  Fason can hear me in the barn talking to the cats and the dogs, and shortly after that I appear around the corner with Fason's morning mash.  He is eager to partake of the goodies, and I stand for a moment scratching his withers under his blanket as he takes his first few nibbles. 

Then I feed the other horses, and refill water tanks.  Once feeding is done, the dogs and I return to Fason's paddock and I halter him, lead him around the barn, and tie him for grooming.  Yesterday was his first full day at Bit of Honey, and as such this was his first time experiencing the routine.  He was wiggly while he was tied for grooming, and stomped his feet when I put hind boots on him in preparation for going to work.  It didn't take much, only a firm voice and he cut it out, and then settled down looking grateful that someone else was in control.  I think he is the type of horse who needs the human to run the show, it stresses him out if he thinks he has to be in charge of things. 

Once he was dressed in boots (I mostly work horses in boots, especially if I'm not sure how wild they will be), we headed with the dogs to the round pen.  Fason watches the dogs with a question mark in his eyes, but so far he is tolerating them well.  It won't take long before he realizes they are fun, and can even be partners in crime. 

In the round pen I sent Fason out on the lunge line to see what he knows.  He obviously has been lunged before, he knew exactly what I was after and went very easily in a circle around me, to the left and also to the right.  He doesn't know the voice commands I use, but that won't take long to learn.  He went each direction a few times, and he was settling in nicely.  I got to watch his exquisite trot and canter.  He also started keeping one eye on me, and listening for what I might ask next.  We didn't lunge for very long, this was just to give Fason a chance to assess what kind of person I am in a structured environment so he would hopefully decide I'm a decent human.  Based on what happened after I let him loose, I must have passed his test.

I removed his halter and turned him loose in the round pen.  He continued to follow me like a puppy dog, with my actual puppy dogs also following along.  All four of us walked over the ground poles, and Fason stepped over them nicely after a cursory sniff.  I then went to sit on the mounting block, and dismissed Fason.  He chose to go trotting over the ground poles, then hopped over the cross rail that was set up.  The dogs gave a congratulatory woof, and then laid down in the sand next to me.  After a few minutes Fason returned to me, and I haltered him again and we walked back to the barn. 

I then went through my whole grooming routine with Fason again, curry, brushing, combing mane, removing boots.  This time he stood like a rock, just turning his head to face me when I offered cookies.  Then I put him away, and he was looking markedly more peaceful.  Later in the day at dinner I stood with him for a little while again, and Mahzi sneaked in to have some mash.  The dog LOVES beet pulp.  Fason was skeptical about whether he was allowed to eat mash while the dog was helping herself.  Here is some video of Fason deciding he would eat out of the tub, too, and Mahzi might be a suitable dinner companion.


Today I repeated all the same things we did yesterday, and Fason was noticeably more relaxed.  It's always hard to go through the routine the first time, because you don't yet know that it's the routine or what will come next.  Now that Fason has experienced it once, he very easily settled into the same actions again today.  He was quieter while standing tied, he was quieter about having hind boots applied, he was quieter on the lunge line, and he hopped over the cross rail a few more times all on his own.  He now snuffles the dogs with his lips, and of course they happily accept any equine affection.  Tomorrow I'll repeat the routine again, and perhaps add some saddle fitting to see what will best accommodate his long high withered physique.  I like to start off slow with a new horse, because sweet Fason wasn't given an opportunity to inspect me before purchase, so it's only fair that he is given a chance to acclimate to how we do things here at Bit of Honey and assess my quality as a trainer, just as I assessed his quality as a horse. 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Fason Arrives at Bit of Honey

After a very fun visit with Carrie in Oklahoma, yesterday we said our thank yous and goodbyes, then loaded up to begin our trip home to Colorado.

Fason leaped into the trailer, then was happy to hang his head out his window for a photo shoot.  He was a rockstar for hauling these past two days to Colorado from Oklahoma.  He loads like a champion, and just needs to learn how to back out of a step-up trailer.  Fortunately my rig can accommodate a horse of his size, even if he has to turn around before coming out.
At our first rest stop Fason and I took a couple selfies in between his sips of water.  He was a hit at the gas station.  A girl scout was selling cookies at the truck stop, and she came over and asked to pet him.  For safety reasons we said no, but told her she could watch him from a safe distance.  She stood there for about ten minutes, until her mother called her back to her girl scout cookie table.  She continued to stare at Fason from there. 
We spent the night halfway in Russell, KS at a horse motel called M Bar T Ranch.  The people were nice, the facility was safe, they checked health papers, and let us humans sleep in the living quarters of the trailer.  The guy who got us all checked in was floored at the size of Fason.  In Kansas as barrel racers he and his wife mostly work with shorter compact quarter horses, occasionally appendix quarter horses who are retired racehorses themselves.  But nothing as large as Fason.

Once I had the horse settled, Sara and I went to Sonic for dinner.  My rig wasn't anywhere near small enough to fit in the drive through ordering stations, but there wasn't a restaurant where you could go in.  We didn't realize that, so we ended up standing in the kitchen ordering our chicken fingers and milkshakes directly.  The employee serving us was very befuddled with this aberration from his normal routine, but after entering our order into the computer three times and running my card twice he managed to get us food.

We got an early start this morning and arrived home around noon.  There were several people around, including my hay guy, the folks helping him, my husband, my friend Joan, as well as our friends who live downstairs.  Because of this we got some fun photos and video of Fason's arrival at Bit of Honey.

After I had Fason unwrapped from his trailer ride, and once I turned him out in his large secure paddock, he showed us just how pretty his trot will be.  Here is some video of him romping around:


Some video of him meeting his new neighbors over the fence is here:


I did have to move some horses around to accommodate everyone.  I moved my ponies and Samson to the west pasture, since they are the wooliest and I need to get to them the least often.  After they were moved everyone else settled down nicely.  Fason still looked out of sorts, despite having a full tub of hay and clean water.  I went into his paddock to brush him off and blanket him.  As soon as I put the halter on him he heaved a huge sigh, and stood perfectly still for me to brush him.  He looked so relieved that someone had arrived, who was in charge, and who was doing something familiar for him.  After I had him clean I held up the closed front blanket, and he emphatically lowered his head and dove into it so I could toss it over his neck and back, then fasten all the buckles.  Such a gentleman.  Luckily he and Highboy wear the same size pajamas.

His face just looks so tired to me, I imagine he is exhausted after this trip from Turfway Park in Kentucky all the way to Oklahoma City, then on to Wellington, Colorado.  He has been so well behaved.

After caring for the other horses who needed attention, lastly I fed dinner.  I carefully introduced Fason to a small portion of my mash concoction.  Fortunately after a cursory sniff and sample taste he dove right in.  I have to introduce this new feed slowly and carefully, since he was on a very different diet at the track which lent itself to fueling a racehorse.  I'm now trying to put weight on a sport horse, but I'll increase the amount of feed and increase the fats and calories gradually so that I don't upset his digestive system too much.

Tomorrow will be more introductions for him to my elaborate routine, so that he sees while it's a different routine than at the track, it's still a dependable list of activitites he can count on for mental stability.  This is really important for the track horses to help them adjust to normal horse life.  I look out the window from the house and see Highboy is already coaching him over the fence and explaining that Bit of Honey is a totally fun place.

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Rumors Are True!

We arrived safely in Oklahoma last night.  It was a long flat drive powered by gasoline and caffeine.  The trickiest part of the drive was getting out of Denver.

I went out to introduce myself to Fason in the round pen this morning.

Turns out he loooves having his ears scratched!


Once we had shmoozed a little and he had decided I'm a pretty nice human, he began to follow me around like we were old friends.

Fason is definitely an immense horse, particularly when standing near Carrie's normal to smaller sized quarter horses.

Size is all relative though, as illustrated by Carrie's house dog, Roxy, who is the same size as a chicken.
We have enjoyed a really nice visit, and we will start the first leg of our journey home to Colorado with Fason tomorrow.  He has been happily eating my timothy grass hay and is drinking reasonably, so hopefully he handles the next leg of his trip well. Now I know the rumors are true.  He really is as friendly and gentle a horse as they said, not to mention being this huge gorgeous athlete...  I'm very happy with my makeover mount, and I cannot wait to start riding him!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


Fason has arrived safe and sound at my friend Carrie's place in Oklahoma!  He looks tired in his photos - which makes sense after he has done two days of traveling.  My friend Laura who took him from the track in Kentucky to Carrie's place in Oklahoma said he is "...a sweetheart, no problem, huge doll baby.  He has a little bit of cockiness to him but he's mindful."  These are all things I love to hear, since I want a horse who is confident and cocky for cross country jumping, and respectful when being handled.  

He will be hanging out in Carrie's round pen while I drive out there tomorrow with Sara to pick him up.  We will take Friday to rest and visit with Carrie, and then drive home with Fason Saturday and Sunday.  I have arranged for us to stay at a horse motel about halfway home, so that should break up the drive some.  I'm so grateful for Carrie being willing to keep him so he can rest for a few days before I ask him to climb back in the trailer and travel the rest of the way to Colorado. 

Thank you to my sweet husband who is holding down the fort back at home, feeding and taking care of the remainder of the herd.  I'm also feeling grateful for the acupuncture treatments which have enabled me to make a trip like this, and made it so I'll be able to train and compete a horse of this caliber.  I plan to get the best of this nerve pain yet.  Onward and upward!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Poster

Because I am a facility that works with CANTER Colorado horses, today in the mail I received a great poster from the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance.  This nonprofit group is a wonderful supporter of Thoroughbreds and provides assistance to them after they have retired from racing.  TAA accredits, inspects, and awards grants to approved aftercare organizations to retire, retrain and rehome Thoroughbreds using industry-wide funding.  As part of the lengthy and thorough process for CANTER Colorado to be approved with TAA, the Bit of Honey Training facility was inspected and approved by a TAA representative.  CANTER Colorado is the only Thoroughbred aftercare organization in Colorado to have received this approval and accreditation. 

It's a markerboard-style chart for emergency numbers, barn appointments, and a calendar.  It truly appeals to my inner type-a personality! I hung it in the tack/feed room on the door where it's easily visible in the barn.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Accepted into the 2016 Retired Racehorse Project!

 This great news arrived today in my email:

Dear Kim,

Your Thoroughbred Makeover Trainer Application has been accepted. You are one of 480 professional, amateur, or junior trainers who will acquire, train, and show a Thoroughbred racehorse on a national stage in your chosen discipline(s).  See today’s press release and the online Thoroughbred Makeover Trainers page.

Shortly after the email with good news arrived this morning, I received word that Fason, my Retired Racehorse Project mount, was on his way to me from Turfway Park in Florence, KY.  

Fason (pronounced "fasten") was born in Ohio, sired by Mahogany Hall and out of Camero with nice bloodlines.  He began racing in 2009.  Racing nearly every month, he started 78 times, winning 15 of those races.  Over the course of his racing career Fason won over $90,000, finishing his last race on Dec. 1, 2015 as a sound 10 year old.  He is huge, 17.1 hands tall.  Because of his large size and his puppy dog personality, they called him The Gentle Giant on the backside of the track.  

I found Fason on the CANTER Kentucky trainer listings online. He has lovely conformation, so in anticipation of acceptance into the 2016 Makeover I called both CANTER Kentucky and Fason's contact at the track.  From the track they explained to me that Fason has always been sound, which I verified by looking at his racing history and having a prepurchase exam done by a veterinarian at the track.   They also told me that Fason is a big gentle creature who is adored by everyone.  They explained Fason is a great racehorse, who is still winning, and if he didn't sell to someone like me then he would continue racing. The great folks at CANTER Kentucky confirmed what a nice horse he is when I spoke with them on the phone, too.  I love to hear this information, because I wanted a horse that was old enough to be physically mature, past his "baby brain" days, and who was ready to go to work in a new career without needing a couple years to finish growing.  If a horse can stay sound while racing for that long, that is a great indicator that he will stay sound in his second job as well. 

After the veterinary exam I decided to buy Fason, so we took care of necessaries and I arranged to have my colleague Laura Wiencek, president of the Thoroughbred Barrel Racing Association pick him up while she was at Turfway Park shopping for OTTBs for her students for the makeover.   She was stopping at that track on her way from Ohio to Oklahoma with a horse she was transporting herself, and she generously offered to haul Fason for me to my friend's place just outside of Oklahoma City. I'll leave later this week to go pick him up and haul him the rest of the way home to Colorado.  Fason will then begin the transition from a winner at the Sport of Kings, to becoming a King of Sport!  

My colleague has taken several photos for me of Fason as he begins his journey to Bit of Honey Training and ultimately the 2016 Retired Racehorse Makeover.  He was well behaved and loaded nicely into the trailer to leave the track, and settled in calmly at Rosecrest Farm and Guesthouse in Paris, KY where they will spend the night before continuing on to Oklahoma. 

I'm very eager to get my hands on this wonderful sporthorse prospect.  With his sweet temperament, his large stature, his perfect age, and his history of soundness, I fully expect him to make great waves in the horse world as we train at competitive trail riding as preparation for eventing.