Welcome to Bit of Honey Training LLC

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

Monday, March 26, 2018

First Cross Country School of the Season

This weekend Miss Pea and Raven went with Jasi and me to Cheyenne to school cross country at Archer.  We have entered both mares in the cross country schooling show in Johnstown at Moqui Meadows for next weekend, and neither horse has been out to school over the winter, so we needed to go somewhere to practice before we tried to do it in public!  Kimberly Hale Photography came along and got some incredible shots, and Sara took video for us.

We arrived early in the morning the wind was blowing, but we figured once we got down the hill that we would be protected a bit.  Getting to "down the hill" was a little challenging, as Raven wanted to fool around and play.  I had lunged her first, just in case she needed to romp around, but she saved her shenanigans for when I was mounted and we were in the wide open.

Sara did get this funny video, where you can see Raven is enjoying her jumping.  When I give Raven a pat and tell her she did it well, she starts to celebrate and hop around because she's so pleased with herself!


Miss Pea was much more civilized.  She and Jasi rode some excellent mini-courses, and did really well both over the fences and galloping in between them.  Miss Pea is really starting to settle on course and listen to Jasi's breath when she asks her to focus and rebalance herself.

In this video you can see how Miss Pea is quietly listening to Jasi, who is being careful and detailed in her time between fences, making sure she gets the correct lead and that Miss Pea still has a good cantering rhythm.  It's really important to teach a horse things like this slowly when you're schooling.  As I often say, with horses fast is slow and slow is fast.  We school slowly and carefully, so that when we actually get to a competition and we're trying to stay within a certain time we can make corrections accurately for having learned them slowly, which in turn makes our times faster and our rides safer.


Raven did finally get her brain in gear.  She is proving to be another one of my bay Thoroughbreds who needs the job to be complicated in order to focus and perform well.  After warming up over some elementary fences on straight lines, I asked her to really kick it up a notch and do some tighter turns, bigger fences, and more complicated lines with hills in them.  Here's a video of her working through the jumps around the empty water complex.  

This video shows Raven's longer gallops and how she nicely collected to do a turn into the opposite direction. 

 Raven and Miss Pea got to work up and down the banks, which they had never done before.  This is where I really appreciate all the time I spend trail riding with my horses before they ever see a cross country course.  Because Raven has done so much out on the trails, camping and leading the group in unfamiliar places and seeing all kinds of things, checking out something new like a step up or down, and changing footing from grass to gravel isn't a big deal for her.  She also isn't too look-y at new fences, because she's learned how to handle new things from seeing so many strange things on trails.

It was a great morning!  The horses had a good time, the humans enjoyed themselves, and we feel much better prepared for next weekend at the schooling show!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Ladd Starts Jumping Training

Finally towards the end of this week my new inhaler started kicking in and I was able to breathe well enough to get in a couple rides.  I found this little image online and thought it was awfully suitable considering how so many of my email and text correspondences have been going:

But today I persevered with a merry attitude and very little voice (that's always the last thing to recover when I've been sick, hence only one lesson was taught all week and that was this morning) I was able to get Ladd started with some canter work in the arena and start him over some simple gymnastic exercises. 

He is super cute, willing, and eager to please.  Because he has that brilliant arabian mind he's figuring everything out extremely quickly, and just tries his heart out.  Here is the video from his last couple times over the cross rails today.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Save the Date!

Save the date! 
May 18-20, 2018 Bit of Honey will be hosting an Open Centered Riding clinic right here in Wellington, CO. This is a great opportunity to dust the cobwebs off you and your mount if you've been wanting to get your horse out to a friendly situation at the beginning of the riding season!

Regina Liberatore will be our level III instructor teaching the clinic, and in true Bit of Honey fashion this will be a welcoming environment for all levels of horses and riders from beginners to accomplished competitors. Lesson horses will be available, and stabling will be provided for horses coming in from out of the area.

More details coming soon!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

On the Road Again

Last week we made a road trip to Meriden, Kansas, outside of Topeka, to visit my Centered Riding mentor, Carol Wilson.  I've been needing some guidance on my work with Raven, and Carol is one of the few people I trust to advise me on such a hot and sensitive horse.  Nothing has been going poorly with Raven, in fact just the opposite is true, she's been coming along great.  Her progress has been so swift that I needed some assistance with furthering her training.

Dewey and Sara came as well.  They are making good progress together too, but Dewey benefited from a long road trip since he's not had that experience before.  As usual, Sara had every riding outfit coordinated.  Dewey was dressed to impress each day in polo wraps that matched his saddle pads, which matched Sara's vests.

The last reason I mention, but the first reason for organizing the trip, was to look at an Arabian gelding named Ladd.  He's fifteen years old, 15.1 hands tall, and completely bay with no white on him.  He is a Polish Arabian, and is incredibly intelligent, calm, and eager to please.  One of my Centered Riding colleagues, Ann, had him available to purchase, but she is located in Iowa.  Since Carol Wilson is her mentor, too, we decided to make a mini-clinic of it and we all trekked to Kansas for riding instruction and to look at Ladd.

Ladd was to be for our Colorado Carol N.  She has retired her Connemara/TB from jumping, and needed something with different conformation who could comfortably do the job of eventing at intro level and showing in crossrail divisions.  Once we had settled into our cabin in Perry Lake State Park (after an obscene amount of driving the first night trying to find said unmarked cabin) and gotten some well deserved rest after the eleven hour trip, we headed over to Carol W.'s to meet Ladd.

My procedure for assessing a horse is thorough.  Ideally we'll have several days to look at him, as we did on this trip.  The first day I have the seller show me the horse, how he behaves on the ground and for grooming.  I watch her tack up, mount, and ride him.  If all looks good, I'll get on the horse and try him.  Since this all went smoothly, I let Carol N. get on him and take him for a spin.

Since Ladd looked to be a great match for Carol N. in size, temperament, and training level, I continued on with doing my physical exam.  I'm not a veterinarian, though because of working as a veterinary technician for many years before I went to training horses full time, I feel comfortable doing a cursory exam on a horse we're looking to purchase.  I have a good sense of what is acceptable to me for each client, and I know when I need to contact a veterinarian for additional diagnostics if needed.  Fortunately Ladd looked great on all counts, and the few very minor issues I found weren't concerning to us.  I always make sure to assess a horse with the future discipline in mind.  I'm looking to see if he is suitable for the job we want him to do, not looking for a horse to "pass" or "fail" an exam.  No horse is perfect, the important thing to remember is that we need to determine if he will be happy, safe, sound, and comfortable doing the job we want him to do.

Once we had decided he looked good after his exam, Carol N. was allowed to put her newly purchased halter on him.  Then we took him to the arena again to see what he thought of jumping exercises.  He doesn't have any jumping training, which is actually favorable to us because I don't need to retrain anything.  He was curious about the poles and small cross rails, but not spooky or concerned about them.  With just a few repetitions Ladd was happily making his way over the small gymnastics I'd set in the arena with Carol N. aboard.

Carol N. took a few riding lessons with Carol W. (my mentor).  This allowed Carol N. to get a different perspective on Ladd in addition to my own, and learn from another Centered Riding instructor.  Things went really well on all counts, so we purchased him and brought him home to Colorado!

Some video of Carol and Ladd can be seen here:

Dewey had an interesting week.  He technically is seven years old now, because all thoroughbreds are a year older on January first.  Physically he's like six and a half, because his actual birthday isn't until nearly July.  Mentally he's like three.  His longest trip prior to this was the hour and a half to Denver from home, so with this as his first big trip he was excited to be in a new place.  Because he was jazzed and ready to frolic with his new found friend in the mirror at the end of the arena, I rode him before Sara got on each day.  Once he had taken care of his jollies he did pretty well in Sara's lessons.

Some video of Dewey's trot work can be seen here:

Raven did great.  We did dressage the first day, jumping the second day, and dressage the last day.  This was particularly helpful to me with switching between jumping and dressage seats, as I have to do at competitions.  Raven was her usual hot-tamale self the first day, but by the third she was almost needing some encouragement to move forward!  Some of the most helpful things I got out of my lessons were:

To imagine my center as connected to hers, which dramatically improved the quality of her through-ness.

Using a power triangle for steering gave us extremely straight trots down centerline.

I also discovered that if I spread my toes apart in my boots I could get a nice trot lengthening from Raven, and if I wiggled my toes in my boots her gaits became much more springy. 

A short clip of Raven's dressage work can be seen here:

The last day we worked on developing a good quality 10m circle, progressing to shoulder-in down the long side.  Getting a centered riding perspective on this helped us tremendously.  Holding the same position in my body as on a 10m circle, but then sending the energy from my center down the rail gave us a couple great shoulder-in steps of higher quality than I've been getting at home as we have attempted the exercise.  

Raven's jumping video:

Jumping using dancing knees and ankles made Raven's landings after fences nearly soundless, which must have been much easier on her joints since it certainly was on mine!  My unmounted work jumping off the mounting block to the ground helped me to land on the center of my foot rather than my toes, which in turn stopped my from gripping with my knees over the fences.