Welcome to Bit of Honey Training LLC

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

Monday, September 26, 2016

Arapahoe Hunt Pair Pace 2016

This weekend we were at Plum Creek Hollow Farm for the Arapahoe Hunt's annual pair pace.  We took seven horses from Bit of Honey to enjoy the day and as many humans.  It was great fun!

Because the pace was in Larkspur, a two hour drive away, we had to leave the barn at 5:30am so we could do a course walk at the farm hosting the event.

Highboy galloped well, but had to stop and look at nearly every fence, then jump it out of a standstill.  He crossed the water and jumped down the banks despite having limited experience with those types of obstacles.  Towards the end of the course there was a group of log fences with a few strides and good hills in between.  Due to the gymnastic work Highboy and I have been doing this summer he was foot-perfect through that portion of the course.  It gives me information about what to work on next with him.  We've done galloping, which he loves.  We've done gymnastic jumping, which he loves.  Next he needs to learn how to jump out of his gallop.  When he puts all the pieces together he is going to be phenomenal. 

The GoPro video from my helmet camera on Highboy's ride can be seen here:

Next from our barn went team Bit of Honey Bees, consisting of Jasi with Cosmo, Carol on Shambhu, Joan with Darby, and Alice with Beauty.  The horses were a little excited because of the environment and all the energy in the air, so they walked and trotted the course.  This was Joan and Alice's first pair pace.  They had a fun time and rode it well!

A portion of Cosmo and Jasi's ride from the GoPro can be seen here:

The final group from Bit of Honey to go was Hot Flashes.  Kim H. rode her mare Rain, and I rode Dewey.  This was the first time Kim H. has ridden in a pair pace.  She has had this as a goal of hers for a long time, and she absolutely loved it.  I think I may have gotten another person hooked.  Rain was great, just a little worked up at the beginning because her best friend Beauty had gone ahead of us with the previous team.  Once she settled down and realized Dewey was her partner for the ride she did really well.  The water crossing went smoothly, Kim H. kept her eyes up and her leg on the horse, and Rain walked right through.  The only hiccup in that area of the course was the young foals in their turnout.  Rain was a broodmare before Kim H. bought her, and she loved that job.  So when she heard the babies nicker at each other she had to call to them, I'm sure remembering her own days of being a good mamma.

This was Dewey's first time riding in a pair pace as well.  Initially when he saw the hectic warmup arena I'm sure he hearkened back to his racetrack training days.  He was too slow to ever make it to his first race, but he did have race training.  The bedlam of the warmup area with all the horses going every direction, then large groups of them cantering and hand-galloping was very exciting for him!  He did well in his warmup, though, mostly trotting figure eights and smaller circles to keep his brain in his head.  I explain this to people with a water hose analogy.  A racehorse who is excited and needs to move is best ridden forward.  Trotting is usually sufficient for Dewey, though some horses need to just canter forwards.  If you try to keep them at a walk or halt it's like putting your thumb over the end of a hose.  The energy has to come out somewhere.  It's better to trot forwards and let the hose open up rather than have the water explode out the side of your horse.

Once he had trotted around some Dewey settled nicely, and he really enjoyed his course.  He went over just about all the small jumps at the walk, and he did a few of the mid-level ones.  I had to roll my eyes a few times because Dewey went over so sedately at the walk and Highboy had launched over the very same fences with melodramatic gusto.

Left to Right we have Shambhu, Carol, Kim on Rain, Beauty, Alice, Cosmo, Jasi, Joan on Darby, me on Dewey, Sara.  Highboy was waiting at the horse trailer, and for some reason we didn't get Rebecca, our generous driver and photographer extraordinaire in the photo.  It was a wonderful day, with personal victories all around! 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Equine-Guided Massage

This afternoon Nase my house dog came back from playing with the barn dogs in the pasture bleeding profusely with a lacerated cephalic vein in his right front leg.  I was comfortable dealing with this on my own because of my years working as a veterinary technician for small and equine clinics.  This injury called for a pressure wrap to stop the bleeding, which I left on for several hours.  When I changed the bandage this evening I had successfully stopped the bleeding, and he is looking good.  This has involved several trips to the barn first aid cabinet because I only keep minimal first aid supplies in the house.

Highboy, who is still living with Fason as his roommate, watched me carefully on each of my trips back and forth throughout the afternoon.  This last trip I went over to talk to him and thank him again for such a fun day yesterday jumping.  He said he enjoyed it, too, but has some tight muscles in places.

I was standing outside the paddock on the outside of the gate, and when I asked Highboy where he was sore, he systematically presented various body parts to my hands that were hanging through the gate.  I rubbed his gluteal muscles and they felt normal, soft and pliable.  His back also felt good.  Highboy then angled his haunches toward me, and sort of sat down on my hand.  I carefully palpated his hamstrings on his right side, which were very hard and felt like tightly wound ropes.  If I'd used stiff fingertips they would have twanged like giant guitar strings.

Because they were so tight I firmly pressed on them, running the heel of my hand lengthwise down the whole muscle belly, then I gently went across the grain with my entire hand.  Highboy closed his eyes and began swaying forwards and backwards to increase or decrease the pressure I was applying to his hamstrings in various places.  What an intuitive horse!

Next he presented me, still outside the gate, with the right side of his neck.  As I carefully rubbed each muscle group in his neck I felt varying textures in the muscles, but when I reached under his mane in front of his withers about six inches (the trapezius muscle for those interested) I felt ridges in the muscle again.  Highboy just wanted gentle pressure on that, so I laid my hand on his neck and let him push against me.  I did sort of lightly comb the muscle fibers with my fingers a bit. When I felt the muscle release and get a little softer I quit on that one.  I then asked Highboy how the other side of his body felt?

Highboy took a moment to chase Fason away since he was getting a little too close and Highboy didn't want to share his through-the-gate massage.  I was still outside the paddock with my arms and hands inside, forearms resting on the metal rung.  Highboy then sidled up to me, back end first, and presented his haunches to me and started leaning on the gate.  I gently pressed on his left hamstrings to see how tight they were, and I felt some hardness to the muscle but not as much as when I'd palpated his right hamstrings.  Interestingly, the right hamstrings were softer than when I'd first touched them a few minutes prior.

When I put my both hands on his hammys though, Highboy made a little noise and pressed into the gate and my hands really hard!  So I rubbed his right and left hamstrings at the same time, pushing harder than I did the first time.  Highboy then leaned into one hand or the other when I would reach certain spots.  After a few minutes of this I switched to just lightly stroking him with gentle pressure and he gave a big sigh, then turned around to face me. 

Highboy placed his head in my hands.  I softly stroked his eyes, cheeks, throat, and gently rubbed all around and inside his ears.  I let him move his head to where it felt best, and all the facial muscles on his head kind of drooped.  He maneuvered as close as he could to the gate, hanging his head over, to get me to rub the trapezius muscle on his left side as well, which didn't feel as tight as the right had been, but obviously he wanted it worked on.  He wiggled around until both of my hands were on the trapezius muscles on both sides of his neck, and I rubbed them with my hands at the same time.
Finally, eyes closed, Highboy reached over and took off my hat.  He tasted my ponytail and gave me a little shove with his muzzle in thanks for the bodywork.  I thanked him again for a good ride yesterday, and he went over to take a long drink of water.  As I walked back to the house he stood at the gate and watched me go into the garage.

It makes sense that Highboy was tight in those places.  His hamstrings yesterday were stretching dramatically when he pulled his hind legs up over larger fences, then firing hard to gallop up hills.  His trapezius muscle is one of several that lifts the front legs by raising the shoulder.  That one would have been working hard to lift his shoulder and legs over the jumps and galloping up the hills.  Who knew my horse was so intuitive as to lead me in giving him such an accurate equine-guided massage?

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Cross Country School with Highboy

This blog post is a load of self-congratulations.  I've been going through a rough time this summer with my health, and to be able to have a day like today makes me feel vastly successful so I'm going to wallow in it this evening. 

Today we got up early and hustled out to Lory State Park to play on the cross country course.  Owen was going to run the trails while we rode, but discovered late last night that there was a poker ride going on in the park today.  It's a large group ride hosted by the Larimer County Horseman's Association, and at each intersection on the trail someone hands you a playing card.  At the end of the ride whoever has the best hand of cards wins a prize.  We only wanted to ride in the jumping field but were concerned we might not get a parking space for the horse trailer if the poker ride had really large attendance. 

Highboy was super alert at the trailer, I swear he kept asking, "Did someone say JUMPING?!  That's my FAVORITE!"

Due to the expected large volume of hikers, cyclists, and trailriders, Owen elected to stay home.  I was dead set on going out with Highboy, though, and I talked Joan and Joyce into coming with me with their horses, as well as Jasi and Kim H. who wanted to take photos, and Sara for moral support.  I dressed in my gear, got Highboy dressed as well, and we headed out to the field. 

Highboy was full of nonsense as usual while warming up.  He would LEAP over a small log and then do a little party dance full of crow-hopping and small bucks.  We got a bunch of photos of him being silly, which I love because it shows his party animal personality.

Fortunately Joan and Joyce weren't phased by Highboy's shenanigans and they calmly rode from one obstacle to the next with me.

As the ride went on I schooled Highboy over progressively larger fences.  I galloped him up and down hills, and got him to do some good flying lead changes.  When I asked for the lead changes I swear he said, "OH!  So THAT'S why we've been working on that in the arena!"

It felt like with each obstacle he improved, thinking his way through some tricky footwork in a line of four log-cabin style jumps with three strides in between each.  It was the real-life version of the grid we had jumped earlier this week. 

There was of course quite a bit of looking and studying fences that appeared new to him, but he did go over everything I asked of him.  There were some new things like rock walls, corner jumps (like a wedge that is wider on one side than the other), and tables. 

Highboy did learn a valuable piece of jumping form today, too.  Because he's so big and athletic, he has learned to tuck his front legs and jump big, but he tends to jump big enough that he then generally doesn't need to tuck his hind legs.  On cross-country it's really important to get all of your limbs over the fences, because if you hit them they don't move.  Highboy was being lazy with his hind legs at the beginning of the ride, and over a coop that laziness bit him in the haunches when he rapped his hind legs hard on the wood.  He was wearing leg protection so no harm was done, but I'm sure he felt it.

Fortunately he recovered safely on the landing and the next time through he jumped much more accurately and folded his hind legs and used his back much better. 

To say I'm delighted with the photos is an understatement.  I'm tremendously impressed with the athleticism in my horse.  I have spent much of the day contemplating the skinny kid Highboy was when he arrived, and how I swore there was the conformation and attitude for a great eventer in him.  I've waited three years for Highboy to be able to do this with me, and wow are we having fun.