Welcome to Bit of Honey Training LLC

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

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Accomplishments at the Saddle Club Show

The show this weekend was all about pride and accomplishments.  It was a great preparatory show for our trip to Estes Park next weekend when we will be riding dressage tests and challenging ourselves a bit more, but today was all about reflecting on how far we have come and appreciating our accomplishments.

The last thing I do before leaving for the show is corral all the dogs into their kennel for the day.  No dogs allowed at these show grounds, so much to Miles' chagrin he has to hang out in the barn with the others for the day. 


There are involved back stories for each of the riders who went to the saddle club today, especially from Bit of Honey.  We had seven horses there from our barn, as well as two fjords that I'm going to claim because my friend Trisha is basically the Mountain View Arabians branch of the Bit of Honey Crew and we love her and her horses.  The only one who didn't actually show was Highboy, who just came because he loves a field trip and he hates being left behind. 

My main purpose today was coaching, and because there were so many riders from Bit of Honey I didn't compete myself but focused on helping some first-time competitors through their debut horse show experience. 

Kathy began riding a few years ago, and as we all know it is a big challenge to start learning a new physical skill or sport as an adult.  Kathy is the absolute picture of successful perseverance.  She has battled to learn the skill set required to become a capable horseman, and recently this spring we have had some major breakthroughs.  One of the factors is that she began taking lessons on Rain, a paint mare that I lease for riding lessons.  Rain has been a great confidence builder with her even temperament and smooth gaits, allowing Kathy to really focus and relax when making corrections as things go awry in a ride.  We also have had Kathy riding in the new Bua saddle this year.  This is a completely new tree technology developed and recently patented in Ireland, but I have the only prototype here in the US and I'm finding it incredibly useful for helping adult beginner riders to feel rhythm and increase endurance while posting.  The spring in the seat helps just enough to get the rider in a regular posting rhythm.  Today was Kathy's first time riding in a horse show, and we may have gotten her hooked!

Another first time competitor was Jasmine, or Jasi as we call her around the barn.  I am incredibly fortunate to have her as my working student this year.  Not only is Jasi a machine when it comes to efficiently cleaning paddocks, but she rolls leg wraps with the best of them, and grooms horses whenever she sees an opportunity.  As if that weren't enough, she also has a very natural seat and balance on the horses, a great sense of timing for aids, and a very soft way with the horses.  She could ride just about anything on the place, but she has generously been putting training rides on Cosmo, my lesson pony.  He is a wonderful creature with an ideal kind and gentle temperament, but needed to learn to relax and slow down while being ridden off the lunge line.  Jasi has worked with him for several weeks now, teaching him to slow his gaits and perform downward transitions with merely breathing and weight shifts.  Fortunately Jasi is quite petite, and has promised not to get any taller this summer.  This was Jasi's first horse show of this type, and she spectacularly accomplished our goals of Cosmo staying relaxed and soft, with easy downward transitions in the warmup arena as well as in his classes. 

Jacob the Fjord is another great story.  Trisha got him several years ago, having always wanted a fjord.  He came with significant baggage, and only recently began cantering without anxiety.  He is now quiet and confident enough to start simple lead changes at the canter, and this show was his first field trip off Trisha's property.  Knowing where he started, to perform as quietly as he did, as well as cantering confidently made everyone who knew him feel about two feet taller.  Plus how could you not just want to smooch his adorable nose?

Shambhu and Carol have overcome all kinds of odds to be able to show together.  From old injuries plaguing Shambhu's natural athleticism to Carol's fervent attempts to locate and purchase just the right show clothes, they have steadily pursued the process of becoming not just accomplished trail riders, but an attractive pair competing at the local shows!

Dewey has a long saga which can be read about here, but he is currently enjoying being in my lesson program and ridden by Sara and Kathy both on and off the ranch.  His quiet demeanor has made him the perfect spokes-pony for OTTBs, teaching everyone he meets that the stereotypes are just that, and illustrating that retired racehorses can be quiet minded and adjustable even at barely five years old.

Jocye and Khreed have been a pair who just continue to get better.  From when she first purchased him a couple years ago, through the "getting to know you stage" to learning incredible amounts from this well trained Arabian, now they are consistently getting their leads at the canter both at home and at shows as well as rocking their regular trail rides.

I love the group photos we got from this show.  Whenever I watch a movie about team sports, and they do the closing credits with group photos of the team, it has always made wonder what that would be like, to be part of a team.  I never played team sports growing up, I was always competing in the very individual sport of horseback riding.  However, now I get photos like these.  I reflect on how we captured a moment in time, a day when this team Bit of Honey was working together, supporting each other, not caring one bit about whether we won or lost, but celebrating our individual accomplishments. 

Overcoming injuries to a horse, battling to a place of confidence as a rider, laughing at Highboy's desperate pleas for attention, admiring each other's bargain hunt coats.  There is something special about the Bit of Honey Crew, I've never ridden at a barn quite like this before.  I'm incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to coach, support, and lead such an amazing group of women and their horses. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Highboy and Dewey Return to the Alma Mater

Today was the Heritage Ride for the Colorado Horse Council.   Arapahoe Park, the racetrack here in Colorado, hosted the ride.  It began with some opening remarks near the registration tent, then we headed out to the actual track for a lap around, then to the adjacent park for a short trail ride.

Bit of Honey went to this activity to support and represent CANTER Colorado with some of our excellent retired racehorses.  Dewey was a CANTER owned horse in their aftercare program for a while before he came to Bit of Honey Training for the 2015 Equine Comeback Challenge, and Highboy was in the CANTER Colorado trainer listings where I found him back in 2013 as a four year old.

This morning was very exciting for several of the horses in attendance, since they had trained and raced at this track and they clearly remembered their old alma mater.  Highboy took one look at the starting gate, and even though we didn't go through it of course, he was pretty sure his job today was to RUN!  I was able to keep a lid on him though, and he and I went for a nice trot/walk around the track with some of the other horses.

Dewey also trained at Arapahoe Park.  Though he was too slow and quiet tempered to ever make it to his first race, he also recognized his old stomping grounds and was a bit "up" as we toured the race track.  We jokingly declared that Dewey set a Personal Record today, he finished his first "race" around the track with a time of approximately 35 minutes!

After our lap around I attempted to snap a shot of our group on the track, and while Highboy was kind of a camera hog I did get a shot of us.

Then we headed out with the very large group of horses to the neighboring fairgrounds for the remainder of the trail ride.  Highboy ended up leading most of the way.  Despite coming in last in both of his races when he was actually running, he did seem to remember the importance of being in front.  He was the tallest horse on the ride, and had the longest legs and stride.  Therefore my view for most of the morning was empty trail and green fields.

At the end of the ride we found the executive director of CANTER Colorado, Jamie, and we got a photo with her.  It is always a fun reunion when we get Dewey and Jamie together, since she saw him as a squirrelly youngster just fresh from the track.  That was before he became the ambassador to debunk all the myths about high strung OTTBS by making himself the favorite quiet temperament in the Bit of Honey barn.

There were some interesting episodes on the ride, but I didn't fall off of Highboy, so as with previous rides we're calling it a great success.  It definitely counts as experience for all the horses, and CANTER Colorado gave us some great Thoroughbred themed t-shirts as thanks for coming and representing.  My favorite parts of the day were seeing Baby Dewey be so brave both on and off the track, seeing Kim H. ride so incredibly well on a very challenging trail, and watching Darby stride out comfortably after a month of careful reconditioning.  

But the best part for me was riding my retired racehorse on the racetrack where he ran years ago.