Welcome to Bit of Honey Training LLC

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

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Super Dew

I'm pleased to report that after a couple months of training Dewey has settled right into life as a regular riding horse.  He's been sitting and doing some occasional riding for a couple years as we waited for him to finish growing.  Now that he's seven years old and has grown (hopefully) his last half inch taller in the past six months, we're seeing him become more coordinated and able to carry himself in a much more balanced way. 

 Dewey is officially 16.1 1/2 inches tall as measured with a stick and a level, and has muscled up nicely.  He's riding training level dressage in a calm manner and happily jumping 2'3" in the arena.  He still loves to eat and nap, and it can be a struggle to get the lazy fellow up to ride sometimes.  Dewey never did get the memo that he was supposed to be a racehorse.

Here is Dewey cantering on his right lead, which historically has been his most difficult.  He and his owner, Sara, are also starting to get the hang of the stretchy trot together.

I'm also really happy with how he and Sara have progressed with their jumping training as well as cavalletti work.

While he was in training, Dewey and I also went to a dressage show earlier this spring where he got to strut his stuff in public.  He looks so grown up and no longer like the gangly baby horse I knew. 

Though his physique may have matured, I think he will always have his droopy lips.  They always make us smile!  With all these good changes, he has now officially gone from "Little Dew" to "Super Dew"!

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Ferriana Handling Hooves

When she first arrived Ferriana was fine leading from the trailer to the paddock (towards horses), but the first few times leading from the paddock to the round pen (away from horses) she was pushy.  Not terrible, just trying to walk in front of me and turn back towards her friends.  Now that she understands leading with a halter is just like leading without a halter in the round pen, she just stays by my side. 

Structure, consistency, and known expectations are big for her - as long as she knows what she is supposed to do she's good.  Ambiguity is super hard and stressful.  She is a dominant enough personality that she will take charge if she thinks no one else is doing it, but it stresses her out and she becomes pushy if she thinks she's responsible for everyone and their safety as the leader of the herd.  It's too much responsibility and too big a job to do calmly for this horse. 

Knowing that I'm the herd leader or "alpha mare" is actually quite comforting to her.  She knows I'll keep her safe, she doesn't have to be in charge or make the decisions, so she feels relief around me and wants to stay close and follow me. I'm a good herd leader, so I've kind of become her security blanket and she wants to stay close.  That's why the liberty stuff is working so well - as a herd animal she's looking to me (her 2 legged herd leader) to keep her safe and she knows what to expect from me. 

Ferriana is doing well working with me in the round pen. She comes when I call her in her paddock because she like to go do things, and she is very polite and mannerly walking from her paddock to the round pen even though we are leaving her horse friends.  Ferriana free lunges well (no ropes or halters), and understands the voice commands for walk, trot, canter, whoa, and reverse.  Standing quietly for grooming is no problem, and I've pulled her mane and given her a bridlepath so she looks more like a sport horse now.

She has been watching the other horses being ridden and worked with an astonished look on her face. I've made a point to ride all the other horses past her paddock, and even let them stop and graze with me aboard so Ferriana can see that none of them are concerned with me being on top of them.

In this photo Ferriana is asking Ritzy why she's eating grass but Ferriana can't.  I'm pretty sure Ritzy answered, "because everything great and fun happens when Kim is riding."

Currently we're working on letting me pick up and clean Ferriana's hooves.  Historically this has been challenging to do with her, and the vet has been giving Ferriana heavy sedation for farrier appointments. Needless to say, good manners for the farrier are very important so we are addressing that as a top priority.  Still at liberty, I'm now able to pick up and clean her front hooves with no issues after just brief discussion initially.  The first time I tried to pick up her hind feet she merely stepped away from me with her hind end, but didn't kick at me or try to leave.  I let it go that first time, because I want her to know that her opinion matters.  Today, however, I pursued it with a little more purpose so she can also learn that while her opinion matters, it doesn't always change what we're doing.

I began with the usual small amount of free lunging in the large 100' round pen.  Then I called Ferriana to the center and groomed her with the curry, brush, and combed her mane. Next I picked up and cleaned her front feet, and after a couple tries she gave me her back left foot to clean.  The back right hoof proved to be more tricky.

I'm not sure why she had decided she wasn't going to allow me to pick up and hold that right hind hoof.  By this point in the training session she was getting a little bored, so amusing herself may have been one reason.  However, she still didn't want to cooperate even after I gave her a break to trot and canter around.  She's been here a week now, and it was time to see how she handled being asked to do something that wasn't her own idea.

I put the halter back on, and had a long lead rope attached.  She never tried to leave or walk away from me, but having the halter and lead on allowed me to turn her in tight circles when she tried to pull her foot away.  I kept my hand on her hip as she pivoted around me, and eventually she stopped and stood still. Standing still earned her a cookie.  Then we could really see the hamsters starting to run on the wheels in her head, as evidenced by the ears tilted towards that hind foot and me. 

I would pat her on the haunches and slide my hand down her leg towards her hoof, but each time I got to her cannon bone she would pull her leg away and pivot again. It was becoming a game of keep-away to her, and I didn't want her to think refusing to give me her hoof was an option.

I got a second lead rope and began some rope work with her.  I draped the rope over her neck, back, and haunches, and then slowly pulled it off of her repeatedly.  She was a little concerned at first, but quickly realized it was harmless and just stood for it.  Once I was sure she was not going to worry about the rope, I looped it loosely around the right hind leg while holding both ends.  I gradually lowered the rope down to just below her hock, then began giving her the voice command I use for picking up feet: "Give me your paw."

I repeated the phrase while gently pulling on both ends of the rope, tugging gently with a pulse so she had time between tugs to decide what she was going to do.  When she picked up her foot in response to the rope pressure I immediately released the tension on the rope, praised her, and gave her a cookie.  This very quickly made sense to her and she realized I just wanted her to pick up her foot but not step away from me.  I repeated this exercise multiple times, gradually increasing the duration of time the hoof was in the air before I let go and praised her. I also progressively lowered the rope until it was draped around her pastern.  Eventually she would pick up her foot with a gentle tug and a "give me your paw", and hold it in the air for me.

Next I had to transfer the concept of using a rope to pick up the hoof and hold it in the air, to letting me do it with my hand.  Ferriana is incredibly intelligent, and when I ran my hand down her leg again she let me place my hand on her fetlock and pastern.  I tugged gently with my hand, said, "give me your paw", and she picked up her hoof and let me hold it in the air for a couple seconds.  I let go before she could pull it away.  I gave her a fistful of cookies and then immediately put her away in her paddock.

Once she was loose in her paddock, I swear she wanted to talk to Highboy about what I had been doing.  She hurried to the fence she shares with him, ignoring all the other horses, and whinnied at him.  He moseyed down to her and they began to conference about her training session.  I always feel a little weird when new horses do this.  It happens with every new complicated horse - the new horse wants to talk to one of my personal horses about what on earth is going on with Kim the Strange Human.

Highboy and Ferriana them touched noses as though conversing, then turned their heads to me, paused, and stared.  When I walked by they went back to touching noses and talking, then paused again to stare at me as I walked away.  I swear Ferriana was describing to Highboy what I'd done with her, and he was explaining that it's no big deal.  He probably told her to just cooperate and then she can get on to the fun stuff like jumping.  My ears sure were burning, though.

Over the following week this super smart warmblood mare continued to make good progress. Her ground manners are improving and she's no longer looking at other horses being ridden like they're crazy and in danger.

I've been holding a haltered Ferriana when I'm in the arena on the ground teaching lessons. She was super freaked out during the first lesson she watched but has acclimated to watching riding horses pretty well.

At the beginning there were many questions from her, such as:
"Why is Dewey allowing that human to sit on top of him?!"
"Why is he cantering calmly around like it's no big deal?!" "Why is he jumping over those poles and looking HAPPY while he does it?!"
"This is the strangest place I've ever been."

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Cross Country Jump Schooling at Archer

This weekend I took a group of clients to Archer to school cross country with the horses.  Silver hadn't ever jumped out in the open before (his first cantering jumps in the arena were just two weeks ago) so I rode him since he's in training.  I put his owner, Gillian, on Rain.  Joyce rode her gelding Khreed, and Alice rode her mare, Beauty.

We began as we always do, with walking around on the flat, then a little trotting and cantering in a big circle to settle the horses and riders.

Once everyone was warmed up we began walking around the first log jump, letting each horse see it out of both eyes.  I always start slowly like this to introduce cross country jumping as mellow trail riding with the occasional jump to go over.  With this being Silver's first time schooling cross country jumping I wanted to make sure he thought it was super fun and not at all stressful.

After they had all seen the small first jump and walked around it, we then walked over it.  It's about the size of a log on the trail you might have to walk over, so it was a great first obstacle.

After the horses had walked over it we approached it at the trot to help build everyone's confidence.

Silver was thoughtful about his first jumps, but seemed to enjoy them.

Rain really loves jumping, and she was so excited to have Gillian aboard who also love jumping.  Rain felt her out during the warmup, and when she realized Gillian wasn't a beginner rider you could see something shift in Rain's face and she morphed into this super happy jumping machine. I also want to call attention to the fact that Rain was started under saddle at ten years old, and she is now twenty.  She is sound, loves her job as a lesson horse, and takes amazing care of her riders when jumping.  Rain knows when to pour it on and really enjoy herself over fences, as well as when to tone it down and take care of her rider.  I'm so incredibly lucky to have her in my barn.

Beauty had a good time, too.  She's done quite a bit of cross country jumping in riding lessons I've taught, but this was Alice's first time doing it with her.  One of my favorite moments was when something clicked for Alice and she suddenly got the sensation of "landing in her feet" after a jump.


Silver caught on to the idea of what we were doing really quickly.  He was calm, confident, and really tried hard.  He doesn't have enough jumping experience to find his own distances to jumps yet, but as long as I told him where to take off he was easy to take over just about anything!  We even schooled some novice level questions including a corner and the training level ditch.

This is the intro level corner, you can see the novice level corner just to the right of his nose.

And this is Silver jumping the novice level corner with no problems.

I love how introducing jumping carefully and slowly like I've done with Silver creates this confident jumper with amazing bascule and natural form over fences.  Because I don't interfere, just stay out of this way and give him a verbal cue for when to take off he is careful and thinks it's super fun.

These are the two ditches Silver jumped.  I let him walk around each of them both directions, and then asked him to trot over.  He hopped right over with no hesitation, just listening for me to tell him how to do it.  He then cantered up the hill like an old pro.

Because Silver is somewhat green having had minimal training off the track since he stopped racing a year and a half ago I had to do some rebalancing for him when going up and down hills.  Racehorses have a tendency to get flat and fast, which works on a groomed racetrack.  On varying terrain with lumpy footing however this will end with you and the horse plowing headfirst into the ground.  I've taught Silver breathing halts, which means if I sit up and exhale audibly he will rock back on his haunches, slow down, and start to pick up his front feet better.  He was a little confused when I first started asking for this while schooling, but figured out quickly that if he did it galloping on the hills became much easier.  This is also how I teach my green horses to go cross country with just a simple snaffle bit, or no bit at all (Rain for example).

In between jumps and at the end of the ride Silver was just as relaxed as at home.  He walked around on a loose rein and enjoyed watching his friends take turns over the jumps too.

We had such a fun time.  We're looking forwards to another trip with the folks who weren't able to make it on this one!  As always, big thanks to Kimberly Hale Photography for the amazing pictures.