Welcome to Bit of Honey Training LLC

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

Monday, June 25, 2018

Rawhide Learns to Ride

This pretty boy's name is Rawhide.  He arrived a couple weeks ago for training, after coming to me initially for an evaluation.  What we know of his history is sparse, but he's been fairly willing to confide in me what he understands and doesn't.  During his first visit when we did his evaluation, I took him to the round pen and removed his halter and lead rope.  I had been told by his humans what they knew of his story, but I wanted to give Rawhide a chance to tell me himself. 

I know this kind of conversation with a horse sounds strange, but they communicate significant amounts of information to me through their body language.  Rawhide was very friendly with me, and despite not having a halter or lead rope on he was willing to follow me around the round pen, wanting to stick close by my side.  At one point he paused to sniff some manure in the sand, and I continued to walk away.  When he looked up and I was gone, he hurried over to me at the trot.  This told me that he trusted me, and was willing to stay with me and sought me for comfort in a new situation despite me also being new to him.

After I'd properly introduced myself to him in the round pen, I put his halter back on and proceeded to lunge him both directions.  This was to assess how he responded to my voice commands (his owner has done extensive ground work with him), and see how well he could balance himself on a circle.  He's twelve years old and so has a better control and balance with his body than the average baby horse.  However, he struggled with maintaining his gaits when tracking right, and had difficulty with staying in the canter both directions. 

Next was evaluating him under saddle.  I don't always do this portion of an evaluation on the first day, but I knew his owner had thoroughly practiced ground work with him over the past year.  He had come mostly so we could find out what he knew about riding, and then he stayed to learn more. One interesting observation was that he seemed concerned about my metal stirrup irons.  He eventually relaxed about them and let me ride.  Later rides showed me that he was concerned about the metal irons because he was worried about spurs.  I rarely ride with spurs, and he has figured that out, but it was very telling that he spent so much time shoving the metal with his nose before I got on, and after my feet were in them. 

It turned out that Rawhide knew very little.  He had perhaps a teaspoon of knowledge regarding how to be a riding horse.  He stood quietly at the mounting block for me to mount and dismount from both sides, which was nice.  But once I was aboard he had no idea what to do from there.  When I bumped him with my legs he would turn his head around and snurffle his nose up and down my legs asking what on earth I meant by it.  I was able to bridge that gap with the voice command, "walk on", and got him going that way.  I got a little bit of trot work both directions, and then I quit. 

We decided to leave Rawhide here at Bit of Honey Training to see what he could learn in a month, and hopefully by then be able to recommend whether he would be a suitable mount for his owner or not.  Over the course of the next two weeks we went from walking and trotting in the round pen to walking, trotting, cantering, and doing circles and serpentines in the arena.  Rawhide is probably half quarter horse and half mustang, and I definitely see the mustang mind in this horse.  As a very intelligent creature, he is smart enough to both learn quickly, and attempt to get his own way about things.

Rawhide is always ready to argue, but when I don't engage with him he settles down nicely.  He seems puzzled that I don't get wound up about things, and that if he makes mistakes it just earns him another try.  I started him as I do most of my horses under saddle, with a simple routine we repeat every day.  Grooming at the barn, tacking up, going to the round pen or arena, lunging a little bit, mounting and walking, trotting, cantering, practicing starts and stops, then walking back to the barn when we are done. 

I do things in this same order because it gives the horse a chance to feel confident since they always know what's coming next.  This is really important in the beginning so the horse can anticipate what the "right" answer is to each of my cues.  Today was his seventh ride total, and he decided to get it done in a hurry.  I mounted and when I asked him to trot he did for a length of the arena, then burst into a canter.  His thought was to hurry up and get his canter work done then he could go back to breakfast sooner.  I let him canter on a circle until he slowed down, and then resumed my trot work doing figures.  Then we did our starts and stops (which would normally be last). 

When I asked him for canter work he was confused, and didn't want to work anymore.  He figured he had already cantered at the beginning, and we had done our starts and stops, so he was done.  I insisted that he at least try to give me a canter in both directions.  He responded by trotting faster.  I gently encouraged him to pick up the canter coming out of each short end, and eventually he did it.  There were a few bucks each direction as he protested the work, but ultimately he did do what I asked. 

He's an interesting one, because he is smart enough to realize when I've changed the order of things in our routine.  He also is always ready to argue.  If I were to get rough with him, or even be too liberal with my crop or spurs, I have no doubt he would blow.  Since I don't fight with horses, so far we've had success.  It's always in the back of my mind, though, that this horse is one to be careful with for safety reasons.  He's learning fast, but I'm still doing a tremendous amount to balance him and diffuse his tension.  Hopefully as time passes and he makes more progress he'll realize that riding can be fun, and his confrontational tendencies will abate.  In the meantime I'll continue to be careful with him, praise all his good efforts, and this week we should get to riding out in the back forty!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Ladd Returns

This spring Ladd's owner broke her wrist and after having surgery to place a metal plate in her arm the doctors told her she can't ride for several months.  To keep Ladd in shape and get him some more jumping training she sent him back to Bit of Honey for the summer. 

I went to Castlerock at the beginning of the month with a friend and her husband to pick up a new-to-them horse trailer they had purchased.  On the way home we swung by Carol's place and picked up Ladd as well.  Unfortunately we also had a tire blow out on the freeway after we had gotten Ladd, but it wasn't too big a deal to pull off into a hotel parking lot and switch it out for the spare once Owen had brought us the trailer jack. 

Ladd was none the worse for wear and has been enjoying his time back at Bit of Honey.  I've been working with him on his canter under saddle, especially the right lead, as well as his jumping both in the arena and in the cross country field. 

Yesterday we went to the back forty for a conditioning gallop and he had a great time.  I didn't braid his mane for that ride, and in my two point position I was getting whipped in the face by his long hair!  We enjoyed the run, and I even hopped him over some of the smaller logs.  He didn't have to look at them too hard before he was happily popping over anything at which I pointed him! 

Ladd's jumping in the arena is coming along well, too.  This week Carol finally got the all clear to be able to drive, so she came and watched his training session this morning.  She took some video, and this was Ladd's best round through the grid:

He's such a cute little guy, and he likes having a job that makes him think.  The more footwork that's involved, the better he goes.  He's very thoughtful and careful through the gridwork, and is even starting to get his flying lead changes over fences.   I can't wait to see what he's doing by the time I send him home in August!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Red Mountain is Green

Today we took Beauty, June, and Highboy to Red Mountain for the first time this season.  I was astonished at how green it was.  We had some rain at our place about two weeks ago, but it quickly dried out and everything here is now looking sort of burnt.  When we got up to a little higher altitude at the Red Mountain parking area things were the greenest I've ever seen there.

We did about a nine mile loop, and the horses sure enjoyed themselves.  Highboy with his long legs led most of the way.  June prefers to act like she's in charge of everything, so she made some faces at Highboy and Beauty, but ultimately decided she was ok with Highboy leading.

There were a few sections of trail where we did some trotting, and it quickly became obvious just how much taller Highboy is at 17 hands than June and Beauty are at near 15 hands each.  Highboy was trotting, and Beauty kicked it into another gear with her sewing machine trot.  She was so fast that Alice could barely keep up with posting.  June decided that was silly and just loped instead.  Eventually Beauty began to canter as well, since Highboy had launched into his big extended trot.  Highboy could hear the mares cantering behind him, and he though that he should canter too!  At that point I just stopped him and we resumed our walk before things got too out of hand.

We took a little time to let the horses drink, and Highboy played in the water at the crossing.  All three horses are seasoned water ponies so there were no troubles other than the mares being really insistent that they should get to snack on the weeds.

One of my favorite parts of this trail ride is going through Ruby Wash.  The rocks are so incredibly red, and adding the brilliant green to it made it especially scenic today.

When we finally returned to the horse trailer we discovered another trailer had parked near us.  It had goats painted on the sides.  While we were loading the horses up to go home the woman and her pack-goat returned to the parking area and we got to meet them!  The goat's name is LeDoux, and he is a year old Nubian/Lamancha cross.  He is learning how to pack so that once he's fully grown he can do big hikes with his owner.  She also owns mammoth mules, and rides them.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Moqui Meadows June Cross Country Day

Today we went back to Moqui Meadows in Johnstown for another day of cross country schooling rounds.  I took Raven and we did the Novice level course twice.  I had a completely different horse than last time I took her to an event.  Mostly because it was just Raven and me, no other horses from our barn came.  Since Raven could only look to me for support, she focused on me and there were no temper tantrums because of wanting to return to her barn friends.  Raven of course made faces at the other horses in the warmup because she has such a large personal space bubble, but otherwise had an uneventful warmup.

The first time through the course she was very looky and had to slow down to get a good view of each fence before she jumped it.  It made sense to me, she hadn't ever done these jumps before.  We'd only done the level below this in the past.

At the last fence in the first round she hit her front legs hard on the top of the jump.  She hit hard enough that she knocked her left front boot down her leg a bit.  This made her mad and after scrambling on the landing she did some bucking and striking with the mis-booted leg.  I got her stopped, and then made her walk civilly through the finish flags.  I was grateful I had her boots on!  Since these fences don't fall down it's important to have leg protection on the horses in case they hit them as Raven did.

The second round went better.  Since Raven had already taken a good look at everything she was much more forward and brave, and overall it was much smoother.

This bank was pretty entertaining to watch. We jumped the log, and ideally it would have been two canter strides to hopping down a small bank.  I haven't schooled banks much with Raven yet, so this was a new question for her.  The result was a nice hop over the log, then lurching to a trot then halt.  She stood at the top of the bank and stared down skeptically out of her right eye.  I managed to convince her to try it.  She decided to squat down, then launch forwards with a poof of dust behind her.  I somehow managed to stay aboard and we were on to the next fence. 

It was a great day, and for once Feisty McSassypants left some of the sass at home.

Here is a short video of how her second round went: