Welcome to Bit of Honey Training LLC

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

Friday, December 30, 2016

Trailride at Horsetooth Open Space

Today was nearly 60 deg, lovely weather for the end of December!  Here are some photos of Horsetooth Reservoir as we drove up into the foothills for a trail ride. 

Owen, Jasi, Carol, and I took horses trailriding at Horsetooth Mountain Open Space to celebrate the day.  For those not local to Colorado, yes there is actually a mountain called Horsetooth.  It's shaped like two teeth in a horse's mouth, and there is a park around it. 

Owen ran on foot, I rode Walsh, Jasi rode Beauty, and Carol rode Shambhu.

The path was open to horses, bikes, and hikers, but parts were very iced over and muddy.  The horses were great though, they plowed through like the seasoned trail horses they are and picked their way through the tricky footing.  Walsh and Beauty share a fence line at home and seemed to be in a little bit of a competition regarding who can walk the fastest. 

I have a rule when trail riding that the horse can walk as fast as he wants, he just can't jig or trot.  Walsh has been working on breathing halts at home, so when I take a deep exhale and tip my pelvis back he stops abruptly because he knows that stopping will sometimes earn him a cookie.  Intermittent reward is very powerful stuff!  It worked well out on the trail today.  When he got a little jiggy I just took a deep breath, and he came right back to a walk or halt and we could resume walking on a very loose rein.  Walsh despises having someone hanging on his mouth with the reins, and if the rider pulls excessively on his face he gets very upset and goes faster in an attempt to avoid the pressure.  So this breathing halt thing works fabulously to keep him slow and relaxed because I don't need to use my reins.

A fun day with friends, horses, and Owen!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Puppy Cuteness

While in town running errands we stopped by my friend's place to visit and see their new puppy.  He's probably an Australian Shepherd/German Shepherd mix, but he came through a rescue so we'll just have to see as he gets older what he looks like.  The family dog who had been with them for nearly 17 years passed away this spring, and they were ready to open their home to a new family member.

It was very appropriate that Forrest and Miles came with us to welcome the new pup to Colorado.  Their older dog's name was Foster, and he was an Uncle figure for Miles when Miles was a puppy.  Today we watched the newest generation romp around and try to engage Miles and Forrest in play, just as Miles had done to Foster nearly nine years ago.

Of course there were lots of human snuggles to go around with little Knewton, too.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Note Ground Driving

Note and I have been working on ground driving this week.  He is a very intelligent horse and he loved his job racing.  This has created a situation where he thinks that wearing a saddle and bridle and having contact with a bit in his mouth means he's going to run, and if I don't allow him to go at top speed he gets very tense and has done some impressive bucking under saddle.  I'm not concerned about it since this is a common problem I work with, but it means I need to back up some in my training to teach him that this type of riding is different than running on a track and there's no need to get upset if I don't allow flat out running.

To help him learn that this new job is different, I'm restarting him completely, just as if he had no riding training at all.  Since being here at Bit of Honey he has learned voice commands for walk/trot/canter/whoa/reverse/back.  He knows how to lunge in both directions and how to go over obstacles like the bridge, tires, and small jumps while I'm leading or lunging him.  The next step is teaching him how to ground drive. 

The first day I set up the ground driving equipment on him he was a little goosey about the two sets of long lines.  Basically I start them ground driving just like they were lunging.  They are on a 20m circle, the left line is attached to the left side of the bit via the ring on the surcingle, and the right line is attached to the right side of the bit, via the ring on the right side of the surcincle, and it goes behind his haunches.  Note the athlete objected to the rope under his tail when he first felt it, which resulted in big kicking with both hind feet.  That's why I start horses this way, so if he kicks out I'm well out of range in the center of the circle as he is on the perimeter.

The first day that's basically all we did was let him get used to the long lines.  Here is some video I took with the GoPro if you're interested in how it looks from my perspective.  (It's too many things for me to hold the phone too when you consider I have both ropes and a whip.)

The second day ground driving Note was much quieter.  He understood what I wanted and didn't feel like he needed to go so fast or be explosive.  I want him quiet, thoughtful, and listening to me.  It doesn't make for dramatic photos, but the horse learns so much better when he's not excited or stressed.  Jasi was here and took some photos but they ended up pretty boring, which is exactly what I want when a horse is learning!

He walked and trotted both directions on the lunge line circle with the long lines attached, then I proceeded to guide him around the round pen and obstacles turning both left and right, stopping and walking, and halting and backing.  This smart horse stayed quiet and thoughtful the entire time and figured out everything I wanted him to do based on the voice commands he already knew. 

I love this last photo of him.  He's relaxed, there is soft contact with the reins and bit, and I like his posture.  I'm already having a good time with One For Nothing, Note is going to be such a fun project.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Caught That Like a Broncos Wide Reciever

This Christmas has been a little bit of a mixed bag for emotions for me.  I've greatly enjoyed the family who have been in town and seeing my nieces and nephews has been tremendous fun.  We had pony rides with Cosmo and Cole and have generally enjoyed the nice weather.

The downside of this Christmas eve was Sal, my new cat.  During the day the garage doors were left open as they so often have been.  For some reason known only to her, Sal left.  I was heartbroken when I went out to feed the horses Saturday afternoon to find the garage empty and quiet, no meowing or beautiful cat prancing around.  I hoped she had only recently wandered off and that she hadn't gone far, so I left the garage door open for a few hours in hopes that she would return.  She didn't.

I went to sleep tearfully that night, hoping that she had found a warm spot in a bale of hay or at least the shelter of a rock.  The barn was open if she managed to find her way there, too.  I've lived in the country long enough to have a realistic idea of what happens to cats who wander off, but I couldn't bring myself to think about that yet.  Sal was feral before she was trapped by the rescue, so I held out a small amount of hope that she had the "street smarts" to make it on her own.

Two more days went by, and there was absolutely no sign of Sal.  I let my friends who live downstairs know that she was missing, and described her to them just in case they saw her wander by the glass door or something.  Finally, just this evening while I was doing the pm feeding for the horses, my friend found me as he was leaving to go to work at his night job.  He said he woke up and saw my cat, trapped in the window well by the downstairs bedroom window!  We've had all kinds of critters trapped in there before, mice, grasshoppers, birds, voles, rabbits, and now my cat.

I hustled over to the window well to confirm that it was indeed Sal, and there she was, crouching in the small pile of leaves and staring at me, wide-eyed.  I spoke gently to her and expressed how HAPPY I was that she is ok, and she gave me a few meows.  I then went into the house to let Owen know she was found and that I'd need help getting her out of the window well.

I again approached the window well, this time with my cat carrier.  Owen met me out there and we formulated a plan.  Owen would lift the cover/grate off the top of the window well, and I would go down the ladder to the bottom.  Once I was low enough he was to replace the cover.  I would grab Sal, and once I had her in a secure hold (wrought of many years wrestling angry felines when I worked at vet clinics) Owen would lift up the cover and hold the cat carrier in such a way that I could shove her in.

You know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men....  A cat can foil both!  Owen lifted the grate off the well.  No sooner had I placed one leg into the well near the ladder than Sal EXPLODED up out of the window well.  Like greased lightning she clawed her way up my leg and bolted under my arm to make a bid for freedom while spitting with teeth and claws flying!

I was born for moments such as these.  I saw her coming up my leg, and having already donned my thick leather gloves I was equipped to seize her.  As she squirted under my arm I squished her with  my elbow, simultaneously managing to scruff her with one hand and then shove her with the other hand into the cat carrier which Owen had quickly put forth.  I shut the door as she began attacking it with both claws and screaming, and the deed was done.

Owen and I took a moment to pause and stare at each other.  He then said with awe in his voice, "You caught that cat better than a Broncos wide receiver, and that was a football with knives!"  We exchanged a victorious high-five.  I proceeded to take the growling Sal in her carrier back into the garage.  We closed up the garage and put the dogs away, and I opened the carrier to replace Sal  in her large dog crate for re-adapting to domesticated garage-cat life.  She was so happy to return to her safe comfy box with blankets, water, and cat food that she darted right in.

I'll now repeat the cat-taming process with Sal, getting her acclimated to me and reteaching her that the food arrives in that little metal bowl via my hands every day.  Hopefully the fact that she hung around the house (resulting in becoming trapped in the window well) means that she likes it here ok, and maybe this second round of domestication will be effective in keeping her at our place.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Holiday Lip Wrestling

Walsh and Dewey spent some time playing together and partaking of some holiday lip wrestling this afternoon. 

The video can be seen here:

and here:

Walsh did some cute bucking too while they were running around.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Baking Cookies or The December Kitchen Debacle

Kim Leonard may be known for her abilities to unravel complex equine behavioral problems, but that same deductive reasoning skill set doesn't seem to be effective in the kitchen. What kind of witchcraft is this?

Alas, yet another kitchen debacle for the books. I tried to make the tasty delectable cookies which Kimberly had made at the party last weekend (yes, the same ones that I consumed in bulk on Sat morning). It looked SO EASY when she did it, and there are only about 3 ingredients and I HAVE the recipe, so how hard could it be?

Apparently it's much harder than certain other things at which I am proficient, such as replacing the starter on my tractor, feeding 14 horses every morning, or riding a bucking Highboy over big jumps. As I embarked on mixing the ingredients, no matter how long I stirred by hand or how long I ran the darn mixer, the dough never turned into dough. It stubbornly remained fluffy powder and tasted like chalk. I was pretty sure it looked like dough when they did it Sat. 

I texted Kim and talked to Owen, who determined I had only added half the required amount of butter due to the "sticks" being "half sticks" in this brand. (Why aren't these things standardized? Another culinary mystery.) So Owen proceeded to add the remainder of the missing butter, which then made the dough appear doughy.

I carefully measured out the cookie dough into balls using my cookie dough baller, given to me by my ever-enthusiasic mother-in-law who never loses faith that I might one day be able to cook something other than oatmeal in the microwave. I sent the tray into the oven at 350 deg just as the recipe prescribed.

Ten minutes later the dough didn't look any different. I added another two minutes to the timer. It still didn't look any different. I kept waiting for the "tips to brown" as stated in the recipe. It never happened, so I just took them out of the oven and put in the next batch.

Once the pale lumps of flour and cornstarch were cooled Owen was brave enough to eat one. The thing split horizontally like a biscuit (my BISCUITS never split nicely like that!) and the bottom half dropped to the floor where it was promptly consumed by a watchful and happy house dog.

I attempted to eat one myself, and the thing was the consistency of a tablespoon of wet chalk dust. It didn't really taste cookie-y at all. What happened to the delicious melt-in-your-mouth bites of heaven I had consumed mere days ago?? 

I tried again with two more batches to no avail. The last one was at least somewhat edible, probably because I added sprinkles. Kim promised to help me next time so these things are not a perpetual mystery. I guess I better stick to my title as The Grease Monkey in Breeches.

Horsing Around

The horses are all a little stir-crazy due to weather, and tonight as I waited for water tanks to fill I was treated to a show of horse wrestling.  Horses are measured in hands, or the equivalent of 4" increments and their height is determine by the highest point of their shoulder, just in front of where the saddle would go.  Anything shorter than 14.2 is considered a pony.  That means Walsh, the one in the green blanket, is 13.3 hands tall (4'7" in human terms).    Monty is 16.2 hands tall (or 5'6").  Since he is a foot taller, Monty has a distinct advantage when the two of them are wrestling.  However, for what he lacks in stature, Walsh makes up in determination!

He would stand straight up and spar with Monty, then jog off only to return for another round.

When they were done they both bolted and ran a lap around the paddock.

While this is all quite dramatic to a human eye, it is very normal horse behavior.  Part of why I like my horses living in small groups, or herds, is that they can do this any old time they please.  That makes them happy and content.  It should also be noted that it's good to let them have ample play time with their four legged friends so they don't try to do this with their human friends.  Though it's normal horse behavior, it of course is very dangerous if they try to play with a human this way.  All young horses must learn how to play nicely in a herd, as well as what is acceptable (and safe) for interacting with humans.

I did capture some of the fun on video, which can be seen here:

They remind me a lot of Garmin and Major.  They had their fun in my pre-smartphone days, so I don't have any video of them, but they were fun to watch.  Garmin is 11.2 hands (3'10"), and Major was 17 hands (5'8").  Just to reach Major's lifted head Garmin would stand straight up on his hind legs and swing at Major with his front hooves.  Major would merely lift his chin, wait for Garmin to come back down, then nip him on the shoulder.  When Garmin got really sneaky he would start going for armpits and the backs of Major's knees.  Ah, horsing around!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Tuesday Evening with Sloane

This evening I took Sloane out for a ride.  Because the weather has been so frigid for the past several days, everyone has gotten a little stir-crazy.  Forrest the border collie saw me tacking up and when the saddle came out he was overjoyed to go for a ride!  I managed to get a photo of his happy face in between his excited leaps in the air.

Sloane and I went out to the back forty, and she was ready to run.  We got to the middle west pasture and she picked up a strong trot, then as we headed up the hill to the back she started to gallop.  We ended up doing several laps in the back forty as she raced around enjoying the freedom out of her paddock.  I was impressed with how much "go" she showed me tonight!  Usually she is relaxed and pokes around without any cause for excitement.  She even did some darting left and right as we ran past the logs, demonstrating some cool flying lead changes while she was at it.

When Sloane was done running we settled into a nice walk to cool out.  We did another lap in the back as we watched the sun go down.  I imagined her marveling at her LOOOONG legs in her shadow!

We sure have stunning views out here.  Because our place is located on a plateau in Wellington I sometimes complain that we don't get as much snow as Fort Collins when I want more water for my pastures .  However tonight I felt grateful that I had solid dry footing on which to gallop a horse who really needed it.  And who can complain about the golden fields of dried grass with sunbursts peaking through the clouds?

Note Running at Sunset

Today I officially entered Note (Jockey Club One For Nothing) as my horse for the 2017 Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover.  I also took some time with him out in the round pen to play and tell him about our exciting upcoming adventure.
This evening I explained to Note that he is about to learn the most fun job a horse can have. He tried to insist that galloping and racing is the most fun job for a Thoroughbred, but I explained that being entered in the Makeover and learning eventing will be even more fun than he can currently imagine.
Note made me laugh because he lives in a large pasture with his friends, but apparently going to the round pen with me and the dogs is sufficient reason to frolic and run.  I got some fun video of him racing around which can be seen here:

I also got a couple still photos with my phone.  Is there anything nicer than a gorgeous horse in a gorgeous sunset?