Welcome to Bit of Honey Training LLC

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

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Horse-Training Dog

Rizzo is doing well, following in Miles' footsteps as he's been helping me train her to be the next generation of Horse-Training Dog.  Here she is demonstrating her mounting block training skills.  This is more important with the horses just starting under saddle and learning to stand quietly for mounting, but Silver was kind enough to let her practice her new skill set.

And here she is coaching Ferriana over her first fences under saddle, including introducing oxers.

She's gotten good at helping me while I'm riding, but if I'm teaching she tends to stick right next to me rather than "help" my students by running with their horses.  If I'm on foot, she'll even curl up and take a nap while I'm coaching.

After a particularly tiring week, she even crawled into my lap and fell asleep while I was texting clients!

In between rides and lessons she'll often tuck herself away in her hidey-hole under the saddles, rest her chin on a grooming box, and take a little nap.  Trying to spot her is a little bit like playing Where's Waldo, except it ends up being Where's Rizzo.

Rizzo does enjoy going for long cross country course walks, but also enjoys the comfy seats in the back of the car on the way home when the shows are close. Shortly after this photo was taken her eyes closed and she was completely out for the duration of the twenty minute drive home.

I'm so lucky to have this cute dog at my place!  She comes rocketing out of the garage first thing in the morning like she's been shot out of a cannon, talking in her loudest voice and leaping and racing around excited for the day to start.  As the day goes on she eventually settles to being the tired pup you see in the sleepy photos, but she's definitely a morning dog.  It's a lot of work to run around the arena, jump the jumps, truck around the back forty, and teach the lessons.  It is fun, though!

Sometimes as Jasi leaves the house to drive to school, Rizzo will try to follow the car down the driveway asking if she can go, too.  Jasi will text me to come get her and I'll go outside and call Rizzo.  Once Rizzo realizes I'm home and not leaving in the car, she instantly turns away from the vehicle and books it as FAST as she can go, her little legs pumping, with a giant doggy smile on her face aimed straight for me.  If I'm squatting down to catch her, she will launch into the air a few strides away from me and catapult into my arms, eager to be loved on and smooched.  There are few things that feel as good as my dog running for me at top speed with a big smile on her face.

Ferriana Saddle Testing

Ferriana is going well under saddle now.  The routine is still for her to learn something new, think on it all night, and have it mastered by the next day's ride.  Happily, she is LOVING jumping with me aboard.  She's very sensitive and reactive, with phenomenal brakes when I exhale loudly, but she's figuring out the spectrum of slowing down.  A loud exhale means halt immediately, a breath with less air moving through means slow down and rebalance (a "half-halt").

Because she uses her back so well over fences, it's crucial that I have a saddle that fits her just right so that she never has any pain when jumping.  I currently have one on trial that I've been riding in all week, and so far so good.  My personal standard for "perfect saddle" is that I forget it's there while I'm riding and don't notice it at all.  This one doesn't entirely escape my notice, but it's significantly better each time I've ridden in it this week.  It's also new, so needed some breaking in.

We've had a few short jumping sessions, and today a friend got some video for me so I could assess how I rode in the saddle and how the horse went.  From that video I got awesome still photos of Ferriana's jumping form, which is just as nice under saddle as when she's free jumping.  It's also great to hop off her at the end of a ride, and she follows me around asking to have her ears scratched while I set fences for whoever I'm coaching when I'm done with her.  Who knew she'd turn out to be such an affectionate horse?

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Hollywood's Jury For Sale

MG Hollywood's Jury, or "Jury," belongs to a friend and client of mine who has decided she'd rather have an older trained riding horse rather than this spunky three year old, so he is now for sale!  He's approximately 14.2h and a stunning grulla with primitive markings. He is registered with AQHA.  He is halter broke, but has not started any riding training yet.  Jury is sound with clean legs, barefoot, and will be a big kid!  He has a great long trot that will really cover ground.  Jury is available for $3500 currently, with price to increase as he begins training.

Contact Kim if you'd like to schedule a time to come meet Jury!  970-231-9999 or bitofhoneytraining@gmail.com

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Mini Horse Trial at Sunrise Equine

We're fortunate to have a new location here in Northern Colorado that has begun hosting eventing schooling shows!  Sunrise Equine is in Fort Collins on North Shields and we were there on Saturday for their Big Mini-Trial.  They had dressage, a short cross country round, and a show jumping round all on the same day, and offered not only beginner novice level for Silver and novice level for Highboy, but also a cross rails division and a starter division.  Sara rode Dewey in the starter division, as her first horse trial experience, and finished the entire thing!

As in a regular competition, dressage was the first phase.  I helped Sara and Dewey in their warmup, which was in a field with pretty good footing just outside the arena.

I love this photo of demonstrating relaxing and opening the rider's chest and shoulders.  A deep breath and a good stretch will do wonders for both the horse's and the rider's balance and equitation.

Dewey had a good dressage test, fortunately it was the same test they had ridden just a couple weeks ago at a dressage show we attended.

Next was cross country!  Sara had schooled cross country before, but this was her first time doing a full course at a show.  The starter division jumps were ideal for a rider's first go.  Very straightforward approaches, manageable sized logs, with optional water made for a super fun round for both Dewey and Sara!  It's always great when both horse and rider finish more confident than when they began, with giant smiles.

The third and final phase was show jumping.  This course was fun, too.  It had several turns and the footing was excellent in the arena.  Sara did a wonderful job piloting Dewey around both the cross country course and the show jumping arena, and it was immensely satisfying for me as their trainer to see them having such a great time and a positive experience at their first horse trial. 

I rode Silver in the Beginner Novice division at this show.  It was his first time doing all three phases, and while he was understandably nervous he really settled in well.  He stood quietly at the trailer when he wasn't riding, and by the end of the day at the end of three phases he had realized that this wasn't a horse race after all!

Silver started out very racy in his dressage warmup, but I'm sure it was because he didn't yet understand it wasn't a horse race.  I would pause every few minutes to drop my reins, praise him for trying, and ask him to relax by scratching his neck which is what we do at home.  You can see how concerned he is in the first photo, and how he remembers that loose reins mean chill out and eventually he starts to breathe and slow down.

After talking him down he did have some super nice moments in the warmup field.  He was pretty tense in his actual dressage test, but did his best to hold it together and we got it done.  

Next was cross country.  Silver has gone for many walks in the back forty with me, and he enjoys trail riding, so I expected him to like cross country.  He sure did!  He warmed up well despite the  commotion in the warmup area.  I love his form over fences, he's a very natural jumper.  It's my main job to stay out of his way and give him confidence, and he always steps up to the challenges.

Despite having tires at home we practice over, he was a little concerned about going over this particular stack.  I took a deep seat and we did this one steeplechase style.

 But all's well that ends well, and the landing and departure from that fence were great.

By the time we headed around the final turn to gallop to our last fence Silver was happy and confident.  You can see in his face how much he enjoys galloping and jumping.  Not too shabby for his first real course!

Silver was also great in his final phase, show jumping.  This was his first time doing a course like this in an arena at a show and he was awesome.  By the end he had settled into a rhythm and was even getting the lead changes I asked for.


It was a wonderful day for Silver!

Highboy also went to this show and did the novice division.  He was a very last minute add.  I wasn't able to take Raven as I'd planned due to her getting clobbered because she harassed her roommate one too many times the night before.  So after romping around in his paddock and getting his friends all riled up Highboy got his dearest wish of getting to hop in the trailer and go! 

He certainly made the most of his excursion.  I regularly quote my friend Trisha and say "If you can't do it well, at least be entertaining," and Highboy did not disappoint in that area. In the warmup you can see him planning mischief in the expression on his face.

Just before we went into the test I was reminding myself of the pattern for the test as I usually do.  It appears Highboy was also planning his maneuvers, though his plans didn't align too precisely with mine.

His actual dressage test was reminiscent of his early days as a camel.  Thankfully Kimberly Hale Photography was able to capture the very few moments when he looked civilized.  She didn't get any shots of his phenomenal bucking during his twenty meter canter circles since she was so entertained by just watching us.  Honestly, Highboy, all I ask for is approximately four minutes of good behavior, doing very simple maneuvers such as twenty meter canter circles.  Must we turn everything into a circus act?

I couldn't help but laugh at him after the test was over.  It's confusing to me why he thinks dressage is stupid, because I actually quite like it.  The rhythm, repetition, emphasis on relaxation and fluidity makes dressage my daily meditation.  Highboy, however, seems to just mumble "this is stupid this is stupid" through every test, or he launches into the air bucking in an attempt to keep the dressage judge entertained.  The judge was kind with her remarks and told me I'd done some really good riding.

I'm still cautiously optimistic that he might outgrow this nonsense, perhaps when he gets to his late teens he'll be a decently behaved animal.  Thankfully I've taken his training slowly in his youth, so ideally he'll be sound when his brain finally kicks in.

Cross country on Highboy was better.  He of course loves it, so that helps.  He'd never been to this course before, so all the fences were new to him.  I took him over the smaller option for his first fence, and though he stopped to stare at the first couple he figured out that this was "galloping and jumping time" by fence three and we were off.

Because of the tight timing between dressage and cross country with me riding two different horses in two different divisions, Highboy only got to pop over a couple small fences in the warmup area before cross country.  Because of this he was unsure of whether the ditch was to be jumped or conquered as cavalletti, so he compromised.  He put his front feet in between the logs, and jumped it with his hind feet.

The show organizers had also told us that the water was deeper than is common for this area, so I slowed Highboy down before we went in to make sure he would stay balanced.  He was happy to splash through and take the log on the other side.

Show jumping was really as cartoonish as it gets.  Highboy just couldn't get himself to think and go straight to the fences unless they were in a line.  It's a hazard of having a really scopey confident horse that he knows he can jump most anything from any angle, so he doesn't feel like it's important to approach the fences while listening to his rider.  He did his own thing, regardless of how firm or clear I was.  So it ended up being a spectacle for the audience to watch as entertainment.

We went over the first two fences, and for some reason Highboy decided to stop and back.  It wasn't a refusal, because we weren't aimed at any of the fences.  We were simply going around the short end of the arena en route to the next line, and he decided it would be fun to show off his backing skills.

Once I got him going forwards again he approached the next fence sideways (why, Highboy, why?!) and cleared it with plenty of height to spare but it was NOT pretty.  Be sure to zoom in and check out the expression on his face in some of these photos.

Here is a panorama with the entire progression of nonsense up to and including a jump.

We got around, anyway, and didn't knock anything down.  I began the round mumbling, "No, Highboy, you have to do it POLITELY," and finished the round once more exclaiming just loud enough for the gasping crowd to hear, "If you can't do it well, at least be entertaining."  There were a lot of wide eyes, and I felt grateful that I also had Silver at this event to illustrate that not every horse I train is a fruitcake.  It's a bit aggravating because he's a perfectly quiet and lovely ride at home both in dressage and over fences, but the party atmosphere gets the best of him at shows nearly every time.

It was a super fun day, however.  Silver and Dewey were amazing, and I was so proud of Sara for setting a goal to ride in her first horse trial and completing it.  Silver ended up taking fourth in his beginner novice division, and Highboy somehow managed to pull off sixth in his novice division.   This facility is hosting another Big Mini-Trial in a month at their place on 10/19, and we're excited to return!