Welcome to Bit of Honey Training LLC

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

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Turnout in the Arena

Today I packed as much as I could into our lovely 54 deg weather.  I did some saddle fitting and riding with Note, then rode Raven, taught two lessons, met a new client, and gave Atlantis, then Highboy and Dewey turnout in the arena.  It's funny how turnout there works.  Everyone lives in a paddock that is close to or the same size as the arena, but something about the jumps and the change of scenery brings out the silly in everyone when they have free time there.

Dewey actually put the greenery in his mouth, rolled it around and chewed it up, then spit it out while giving me a scolding look for only having fake flowers.

Atlantis posed with the flowers as well, though he at least realized they were plastic before he put them in his mouth.

Highboy and Dewey thoroughly enjoyed their lip wrestling, and took breaks to run around the arena.


Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Winter Art

I've sold a few pieces since I announced in Nov. that I was going to begin selling my art.  This portrait was purchased by my friend for her mother.  It's her horse Rawhide, who I had here in training last summer.

This one is a study of Miles' eye.  I feel like eyes are difficult to do, so I've been drawing many of them to try and get myself to see just the shades of grey, not cognitively recognize it as an "eye".

This one is Billy, one of my most favorite quarter horses.

An old friend of mine from WA has a cute tricolored corgi named Simon, and she commissioned a portrait of him which I mailed out this week.

This is a drawing of Highboy that I did in about an hour.  I'm finding that he is difficult to draw because I know him so well.  I find that I see "Highboy", instead of seeing light, dark, and shades in between.  As a result I end up drawing him often, trying to get it just right.

Today I worked on my first mule, and I thought to take some photos of the process:

First I draw a grid onto my reference photo, and a proportionately sized grid onto my paper, which in this case was 2' x 3'.  After the grids are there, I draw an outline of whatever the subject is.

Next I add some scribbles to designate dark areas.  I fill in the darkest parts first with a conte crayon since it's the blackest thing I've found.  If it's a horse I always do the eyes second to last, and tack (if it's there) very last because those parts are the most detailed.

Then I continue filling in the other parts of the drawing, making the dark parts as dark as I can.  The lightest parts I do with pencil, and the medium shades I do in charcoal since it covers large areas pretty easily.  I use graphite pencils for the really detailed parts, and a blending stick if I'm trying to get the drawing really close to photo accuracy and don't want pencil lines.

The results are pretty cool!  I still can't believe I can do this - I'm so grateful for this perk to brain damage.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Note's First Trailride

Sometimes a person just needs to get out of town and onto the trails with a horse.  Carol and I found ourselves in this position this week, so we decided to grin and bear it and headed out to Eagles Nest.  Just an hour or so south of us there was significant snow on the ground and it was bitter cold, but every once in a while there's a perk to being annexed by Wyoming!  We didn't have any snow to speak of, and it was closer to 30 deg at my place. 

Carol arrived around lunchtime, and we loaded up Shambhu and Note in the trailer.  This was Note's first trail ride, and his first time off the property since a small schooling show about eighteen months ago.  To lend some perspective, let me reflect on Note's training time here at Bit of Honey.

Note arrived here almost three years ago, in spring 2016 with the Jockey Club name One For Nothing.  I got him from a wonderful woman who owned him in Arizona where he had been racing at the track successfully before he was retired and came to me. 

Note was a cryptorchid stallion with a retained testicle that required deep abdominal surgery to retrieve and remove.  I had the surgery done on him here in Colorado successfully later that spring. 

Once Note had a chance to heal up and was comfortable going back to work I learned I had a horse who had LOVED to race.  Note thought I was a foolish human for not allowing him to run whenever we tacked up, and he had a temper to back up his opinions.

I tried several things to get Note to quiet down, and I quickly discovered working him harder was not the solution.  He kept himself very fit just in turnout, and there was no way to get him tired enough that he wouldn't have a tantum if I restrained him while riding.  Lunging was nearly always a rodeo.

I ended up going a totally different route with him, tacking him up, getting on, and just walking him once around the arena each direction, then getting off and putting him away, repeated regularly for months.  This completely different routine communicated to him that he now had a completely different job.  He gradually realized that he was NOT to run as fast as he can, but be civilized and polite and quiet under saddle.  From the very brief walk workouts he eventually graduated to some trotting and cantering, and eventually jumping and riding out in the back forty.  I'm grateful I've had the means to let him come along at his own pace, with very long letdown and slow retraining.

Now that we're several years into his transition from racehorse to sporthorse, Note's usually a perfect gentleman with me.  However, Note can still be somewhat aggressive with other people and horses. He remembers being a stallion and still occasionally shows interest in the mares if we ride together, so I need to be very careful when handling and riding him to redirect his attention back to me rather than instigating an argument or allowing him to pursue the ladies. 

This winter I've been riding Note casually in the arena, often using him while I'm teaching lessons to give him the experience of standing around for a couple hours.  When I use him for cavalletti lessons he also gets to experience the coursework and practice his footwork without the pounding of bigger fences.  He then often goes for long walks in the pasture after the lessons to cool out while riding with the other horses. 

Note has settled down well, and even occasionally acts bored with some of his arena riding, so I figured the time was right to get him out on the trails.  With Carol and me itching to get out for a trail ride today, I loaded up Note and Shambhu to head into the foothills.

When we got to the trailhead Note was very worked up.  He shows his worry by shaking his lips, clapping them together in agitation.  After opening his window in the trailer Carol and I could see he was stressed.  We unloaded both horses and tied them on opposite sides of the trailer because Note still doesn't play well with others.  He did settle down once we went through our usual routine of grooming and tacking up, and he didn't object at all to the saddle bags despite this being his first time wearing them.  I did leave his sight for a minute to use the restroom before our ride, and that was just enough time for Note to get nervous and begin calling for me.  I shouted back that I was right here, not to worry, and he stopped calling.  He even stood quietly again as soon as I was back in sight. 

Once tacked up we headed out on the wide dirt road, and surprisingly Note led most of the way.  He had a much bigger walk than at home, more of a march really.  Carol and Shambhu followed us at a safe distance and took some photos of me and Note.

Mostly Note was quiet and well behaved.  I could feel him getting tense and excited, but with steady breathing and wiggling my toes I was able to keep a lid on him and we enjoyed about an hour long ride.  When we got to the first gate by a cattle guard Carol dismounted and opened it for us.  I thought Note might rocket through it because the metal-on-metal hinges sounded a lot like a starting gate and Note was definitely ready for takeoff.  Thankfully, he thought his way through the issue, remembered that his new job is not like his old job, and walked nicely.

The only other spot we had trouble was going downhill over a section of trail that was supported to prevent erosion.  Note was convinced that it was unsafe and even after watching Shambhu go over it he was reluctant to put his feet near it.  I did eventually get him down the little hill, and once he was walking nicely Carol and I decided to turn around and head back so it was my idea not Note's.


It was a successful and uneventful ride, just the way I like it with a horse new to the trails.  Note did exclaim a few times, "Hey, Kim, we DEFINITELY did not have those at the track!" when he saw cattle in a neighboring field, but he behaved himself amazingly well.  I am super proud of him, and happy that he was so interested in this new aspect of his job.  Sometimes horses progress really quickly, like Raven, and sometimes it takes longer for them to adjust and enjoy their new jobs, like Note.  I'm so grateful to be able to help all kinds.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Saxon Riding

Saxon is such a lovely forward and light ride for a draft horse!  I'm enjoying him tremendously, and he is continually getting more balanced with every workout.  This fairy tale horse is available to purchase, he is as kind and gentle as they come. 


Now that the holidays are over, I was able to procure an old Christmas tree for jump decor in the arena!  Highboy has been recovering from a mild injury he acquired while messing around with his friends around Thanksgiving, but has now been cleared to resume work.  The key portion of this work release was when Dr. Landes said he can return to work GRADUALLY.  Highboy doesn't really do anything gradually....

The day Highboy had his last vet appointment was during the first week of January. I put him in the round pen for a few minutes before the appointment to move around a little.  Highboy decided that the round pen was simply insufficient for his galloping needs.  He proceeded to take down the very large gate, jumped out of the round pen over the downed gate, and then raced up to the fence to look over the big round hay bales at Jasi in the front pasture.  Jasi reported him peering just over the bales, only head and ears visible, straight up in the air, swiveling on his long neck in a remarkable imitation of our llama neighbors.

Jasi next heard me exclaim, "What are you DOING?!" and then watched as Highboy took off at top speed for the open back pastures.

Jasi came in from the front, I retrieved Highboy's halter and a few horse cookies.  As I began walking towards the back we began to play a slightly distorted game of keep away.  It involved me shouting to Jasi, "He's coming up around the back side of the house!" as Highboy ran the perimeter of the property.  Then she would shout to me in reply, "He's on his way back to you!" as he pranced along the outside of the arena with his head and tail both straight up in the air.  This comedic routine repeated multiple times, until finally Highboy decided he'd gotten it out of his system and calmly walked up to me to ask for his halter and a cookie.

I led Highboy back to the barn and he stood in the middle area with steam rolling off of him like we were offering some sort of spa treatment.  Dr. Landes and his tech arrived to the happy sight of Highboy beaming with pleasure over his morning escapades.  Since Highboy's muscles were plenty warmed up Dr. Landes checked him anyway, and declared he was ready to go back to work.  We all watched as Highboy rolled his eyes and muttered, "Of course I am... I've been saying that for a week."

Highboy definitely doesn't do anything gradually.

Saturday, January 19, 2019


When I was in college I took a statistics class.  I struggled with it despite being a math person myself, because the professor was extremely soft-spoken and it was difficult to hear him, as well as the fact that he was opposed to using an eraser on the chalkboard.  This resulted in many a lecture spent at the front of the classroom, straining to both hear and see what was going on with the equations.  I determined that I needed some additional help, so I went to see the free tutor in the study hall specifically for this class.  He was a statistics major, and so I naively assumed he would have a grasp of the topic.  He seemed to be able to solve the problems himself, but because it came naturally to him he struggled to explain the concepts to me, to whom the information did not come easily.  On the other hand, he also spent quite a bit of time telling me about his excitement about his upcoming trips to Blackhawk, a casino here in Colorado.  I was also confused by this, as he was a STATISTICS MAJOR and I figured that would mean he had some grasp of what the odds were of hitting it rich while gambling...

This weekend reminded me of my statistics class and was a gamble in a few ways.  Firstly, Friday morning I needed to move big round bales into a few of the paddocks for the horses.  Normally I do this by shoving the bales around with the lowered bucket on my tractor, as I don't have the hydraulics to lift 1000+ lb bales with my small 1950s Massey Fergueson.  I've lived here for four and a half years now, and so far have not had much difficulty placing the bales in their final destinations using this method, despite some gradual hills on the property.

This morning, however, I gambled and nearly lost.  I was pushing a bale along the back side of the horse trailer and barn in some significant wind, when suddenly the bale got away from me.  I immediately stopped the tractor and watched in slow-motion as the bale proceeded to tremulously roll downhill, rotating end over end three times until it finally halted against the wall of my trailer.  It was close enough that I was going to have to do some careful maneuvering to get it away from the trailer without scratching the trailer.

My truck was also parked in its usual spot, which meant I didn't have enough room to get the tractor to the correct angle of the bale to get it un-wedged from its resting place.  I went in the house, grabbed my truck keys, and moved the truck out of the way.  Then I restarted the tractor, carefully shimmied the bale away from the trailer, down the backside of the barn, and into the west paddock.  Thankfully no damage was done, though I feel fortunate that this gamble worked out for me in the end.

The other weekend gamble was in Denver, at the showjumping competition called the Gambler's Choice.  This is a competition where riders have sixty seconds to take their horses over a series of jumps that the rider chooses, with each jump worth a certain number of points.  If they clear the fence they earn the points, if they knock anything down they don't.  At the end of their minute round they have the choice to jump the Gambler's Choice fence, the largest and airiest looking jump in the arena for 200 points, but if they don't make it they lose 200 points.

We watched the twenty four pairs go, and had a great time observing the different riding styles and different jumping styles of each horse.  One rider had a surgery on her ankle prior to the competition which removed a portion of the ankle.  Because her ankle was non-weight bearing she was doing the competition without stirrups.  That was certainly a gritty ride, she was very determined!

Between memories of statistics class, gambling with a 1000 lb hay bale in the wind, and the showjumping gambling, I think I've had enough gambling for a while!