Welcome to Bit of Honey Training LLC

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

Thursday, November 28, 2019


Thankful for Docs Bit of Honey, who taught me to listen to the horse's opinion, and for that I named the stable and training facility after her.

Thankful for Thai, who taught me the importance of tack and saddle fitting because he would buck like the 17.1h bronc he was until it was correct, and then he was a stellar 1.4m jumper.

Thankful for Cecil, who was never afraid of my walker. This is the horse that got me out of the wheelchair and back in the saddle after a catastrophic brain injury.

Thankful for Highboy, who reminds me to PARTY, run, and jump!

Thankful for Raven, who is my mirror. She shows me who I am by being herself: intelligent, intense, strong, precise, sensitive, doesn't suffer fools, and an incredible athlete.

These are my heart horses.
Facebook post from cromwellandlucy
Once in every equestrian’s life, they will meet a special horse.

This horse wont necessarily be a Badminton winner or dressage champion. They won’t always carry multiple titles or be the most talented with the best breeding.

Very often, these horses are nothing more than ordinary. They might have the odd lump here or a strange marking there. They probably won’t tick all the boxes for conformation and they will probably have some character “quirks” that not everyone will be able to see past.

You don’t find these horses, they find you. They can come to you by accident or hide in plain sight. They are the one rescued from the meat man or the one in the last stable at the dealing yard. They are the last horse you go to see before you give up searching or the scruffy three year old stood in a field of mud. They are the horse you never even knew you needed.

People will raise an eyebrow when you say this is your “best horse”. Not everyone will see what you see and that’s ok because this horse will be special to you. They will unlock little things inside you and make you feel more at home than you’ve ever felt anywhere else in your life.

They may not always be easy, in fact they might be anything but easy, but it doesn’t stop you loving them. I’m not saying the will follow you round the arena with no lungeline, or that you can ride them tackless down the beach... but you’ll have your own connection that is hard to describe and even harder to explain.

There is no rhyme or reason as to why this horse is so special. You don’t have to have won at every event or defied death together to validate your relationship, it just happens.

You won’t feel this way about another horse. Sure, there will be ones that come close and it doesn’t stop you loving any other horse just as much as this one, but this one is special. This is your heart horse.

Some people stumble across their heart horse early on in their life, others wait a lifetime to meet, but somewhere out there is a horse that was made for you, so if you haven’t met them yet... be patient, they will find you.

They might not always be the horse you want, but they will always be the horse you need.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Snow Day

We've had our first big snow of the season, resulting in about 16" of white stuff for us, and about 35" of white stuff for one of my clients who lives in the foothills.  It did blow around at my place, so we had some pretty deep drifts (like to mid-thigh), as well as some spots that were covered with just about an inch.

When we got up and realized everything was cancelled for a snow day we decided to take the dogs out to play in back.  Kasey and Mahzi have started realizing the routine Kim H and I have of going for a walk in the back forty on weekends when Kim H. is off work.  Now if she comes up to eat breakfast with me in the morning the dogs are pretty sure it means party time.

It was deep for puppy Pascal, but he did his best to keep up with the big dogs.  I had to pause and tell him how smart and brave he was and how good he was to try so hard to keep up!

Rizzo is such a great jumping athlete.  It makes me wish I had more time to train her for dog jumping competitions, but I can barely keep up with my horse jumping competitions, and she doesn't seem to care if the show is all about her or not.

Mahzi is such a chill dog.  It's hard to believe she was such an intense border collie when she was younger.  Two years, 30 lbs, and a decision to retire as a house dog doing guard work have made for a happy life for this lab. 

Next we turned out horses in the fields, round pen, and arena to play.  Thankfully we have good footing under all this fluffy white powder, so it worked out well to let the horses play together.

While they all look like dark bays, we actually have several different horses here.  This first photo is of Beauty, who is actually a blue roan when she sheds out.

 This next one is Beauty running with Raven.

Rain is our rockstar lesson horse with the blue eye.

Raven again, and all three girls together.  They can only be turned out in a large pasture as a group, otherwise there are too many hierarchy discussions among these strong willed mares.

 Note running in the round pen, and kicking up his heels.

Highboy and Dewey got some turnout time in the arena and made the most of it playing together.

Highboy rests his chin on my head often, probably to remind me that I'm actually quite small next to him.  I also imagine he's expressing ownership and stating, "This is my human.  There are others like her, but this one is mine."

While the geldings were playing I spent a little time with Pascal and Rizzo in the arena.  I adore these dogs.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Cross Country Clinic at GEMS

Just before this big snowstorm and in between smaller storms we managed to sneak in a Bit of Honey Training cross country clinic in Deer Trail, CO at the Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary.  I'd been there a few weeks prior for a pair pace so I could see the course and check it out with my own horses, and discovered that it was perfect for introducing people and horses new to eventing and jumping.  We had such fun, everyone pushed themselves and learned new things, and left more confident than when they arrived.

We will definitely be returning to GEMS for another clinic next spring/summer, and I've got to be sure to get a good group photo of everyone.  

I like to do some unmounted work in the mornings before we begin riding, to help everyone get into the right mindset and help loosen up the human bodies.  GEMS had a great little classroom with room for all of us to work on putting equal weight in both feet.  On the first day we initially took care of paperwork.  

Then we practiced "landing" from a jump by hopping off the bottom stair of a mounting block and landing equally in both left and right feet.  We also focused on landing evenly from toe through arch to heel.  The biggest difference we noticed in each other was landing with ankles, knees, and hips bent versus straight legged.  The sound of the landing was very different, much quieter when the joints/springs were engaged.  Also it didn't rattle our teeth when we landed and allowed joints to absorb that impact!  We also did a "shake out" to loosen up muscles (and brains) and help our bodies relax before the first riding session.

Our unmounted work on the second day centered on sports psychology.   My degree is in psychology, anatomy, and neurobiology, and I'm fortunate to use my education every day with what I do.  We practiced and discussed the difference in our bodies when using direct focus with our eyes versus more peripheral vision.  Then we addressed how we sometimes use a critical eye towards our horse and his performance, and even more commonly towards ourselves.  I encouraged everyone to give a name, a label, to that negative and critical voice in their heads.  Some of the identifying titles were The Judge, The Critic, Mean Girl, among others.  I encouraged each rider to set that awful voice aside, and give themselves as much grace as they give their horses.  It was a somewhat emotional unmounted work session, as everyone has that negativity in them, and it can be challenging to set it aside.  However, each person did a great job identifying and dismissing their inner critic.  It's a lifelong skill we develop over years of practice.

I took some time to adjust tack and make sure everyone was safely attired for our activities, and then we headed out to the course!

Since there were so many clinic participants, after sorting through thousands of photos and editing the best ones, I've decided to organize this post by individual horses' photos.  We had everything from a long yearling, a three year old, a four year old, teenage horses, all the way to Rain who is twenty and still is sound and loving cross country jumping.  And of course many photos of my dogs assisting.

These are of Dewey, or Doit's Cat, an eight year old OTTB owned and ridden by Sara.  They are new to eventing, and are working on finding their courage outside of the arena since their arena work itself is quite good.

This lovely gelding is half paint, one quarter friesian, and one quarter percheron.  His name is Harbour, and he's just four years old.  His owner and rider is Pam.  It was a great accomplishment for them to participate in this clinic since they are so new to each other, and to riding at Bit of Honey.  I adore Harbour's quiet brain, and his thoughtful way of working through each task.

Ladd is a fifteen year old arabian gelding owned and ridden by Carol.  They do a ton of trail riding, so this clinic with a "trail-riding over logs" twist was right up their alley.  When I found Ladd for Carol a couple years ago I got him started cantering  under saddle as well as jumping, and discovered he loves it.  Add in the interesting terrain of cross country and these two are a happy pair!

This buckskin gelding is a three year old warmblood with just thirty days under saddle.  The sweet kid has terrible allergies to timothy and sage brush, so it's been a challenge getting him going comfortably.  However, Miles is a totally honest and earnest baby warmblood, and seemed to enjoy both his warmup with me as well as his ride with his owner Michelle.

Obie is a friesian/paint cross I worked with many years ago.  He's a sweetheart and has continued doing low-level eventing with Michelle, who also owns him.  It was great fun to reconnect and see how Obie is doing now that he's a teenager.

Rain is our lesson horse, a twenty year old paint mare I put under saddle when she was ten.  She is owned by KimH. who rode her in this clinic.  It was super helpful to have my schoolmaster in attendance so that when another horse (or rider) needed confidence Rain could demonstrate and lead the way.  It was a stretch for KimH. to do this clinic as well, and I was so proud of her for communicating with me about what she needed, and asking questions so that I could clarify things for her and make the instruction more helpful.

Silver is an eight year old OTTB as well.  He's been with me in training since May and this was a great trip for him.  His owner, Gillian, rode him and did a wonderful job handling his ex-racehorse jitters.  Once he settled into the routine and realized this wasn't that different from riding at home he performed like the rockstar jumping horse he is.  I was proud of him, but I was really proud of Gillian's riding and the fact that she can get the same athletic performance out of him.

Zora was by far the youngest of our clinic participants.  I found her for Amy back in July, and we thought she was about two to three years old.  When Dr. Landes come to do her fall dental, however, we learned that she actually was about eighteen months old!  She's a draft cross, likely mostly percheron, and is a really huge baby.

Since I was running this clinic as a laid back introduction to cross country, I was pleased that Amy came to expose the filly to this kind of thing.  I'll eventually be putting Zora under saddle and this type of field trip is really good for youngsters.  Baby horse sure did have a good time, as evidenced by her in-hand shenanigans during which she laid down and rolled in the mud, laid down to graze, hopped in and out of obstacles with great panache, and generally told everyone that this was a super fun horse party.

Lastly we have the shots of the dogs.  There are few things as nice as sleeping in my horse trailer with my pups, enjoying late night and early morning snuggles with the cutest critters at the clinic.

Rizzo was focused and determined to help me teach.  She does still experience some separation anxiety when she can't get to me, but if I have her on leash she's content to sit or lie down at my feet if I don't ask her to go help a horse.

Rizzo was a little stressed during the session I taught without her and Pascal at my side.  The folks auditing and watching the clinic had her on her leash, but she wouldn't quit talking.  Finally my friend Pat picked her up and snuggled her himself, and that apparently was the only time she quieted down during those two hours!  She must have sensed Pat's a kind person and kind of a softie.

Pascal came with us too, and he was much more easygoing about being passed from person to person if he wasn't with me.  This is all good life experience for my young border collie mix, since his natural tendency is to be shy and withdrawn and situations like this force him to interact with all kinds of people (and different types of dogs who live at GEMS) and build his confidence.  I'm well award of how border collies can be stand-offish and reclusive with new people and situations, but Pascal getting so many traveling trips at such a young age will serve him well in adulthood with his social skills.

Pascal did find this stick that was really wide around, but he carried it in his small puppy mouth the whole weekend, putting it down occasionally to partake of a beverage from a puddle on a large wood obstacle.

I stayed in my trailer with the dogs near the horses, but the rest of the clinic participants who were from out of town stayed in the cute "tiny house" cabins on the acreage at GEMS.  They were also treated to an early morning sighting of the GEMS resident mustang herd of 27 horses.  It was a good setup, but definitely better suited to warmer seasons' events.

It was a great weekend, which we will be doing again likely as a three day clinic in warmer weather.  Keep an eye out for the 2020 Bit of Honey Training clinic schedule!