Welcome Valley Feed & Ranch Supply

We welcome Valley Feed and Ranch Supply of Bayfield, Colorado, to our family of advertisers.

The feed store, run and owned by Tracy McCracken, is a full service feed and ranch supply store and generously participating in the baling twine recycling efforts offered by the Four Corners Backcountry Horsemen. Read more about that here.

Valley Feed carries Purina, Ranchway and Blue Bonnet products and they have a great selection of pet food and supplies, including farrier supplies, ropes, and tack. They are located at 39987 US Highway 160.

We’re checking out their EquiLix, an all-in-one, all-season vitamin, mineral, and digestive aid supplement for horses made by SweetPro. EquiLix comes in a 125-pound tub (other sizes are available as well as bags for top dressing feed). It has diatomaceous earth, flax, prebiotics, probiotics, and best of all: NO molasses. The horses seem to love it.

Welcome Valley Feed!

Boulet Boots dedicated to serving riders

Recently, we spoke with Louis Boulet, vice president of the Boulet Boot Company. The 84-year old company is still based in the small town where it was founded, Saint-Tite, northeast of Montreal, Canada.

Boulet is not your typical cowboy boot company.

Typical:

  • Start making boots for real cowboys, then expand to appeal to urban cowboys or other wearers who value fashion over function.
  • Start by making boots locally, then outsource to China.

At their Quebec facility, the quality of manpower is high. The staff turnover is low. Of its 200 employees, all but 25 are dedicated to bootmaking. Many Boulet bootmakers have been with the company for decades. That dedication shows in the quality of the boot, said Louis Boulet. In this video, Boulet describes how the company distinguishes itself, with a focus on the manufacturing process.

G.A. Boulet founded the company in 1933. During World War II, Canada commissioned Boulet to make its Armed Forces boots. It also excelled at industrial footwear and dress shoes.

Grandsons Louis and his brother, company president Pierre Boulet, run the company now and a fourth generation is coming up. Younger family members, Jenny and Francois, are involved in marketing and accounting, said Boulet.

With its focus on footwear for real horsemen and women, with styles from buckaroo and rough stock, to packer and roper, Boulet workers produce 850 boots daily.

Louis Boulet said his family and his company are dedicated to preserving the cowboy boot traditions, crafting safe, comfortable boots with soles that slip out of the stirrups easily. Boulet leathers come from Canada and the U.S. and are tanned in Mexico. Aside from exotic leathers and cowhide, the company recently added North American bison hide to its inventory.

“We want people to wear the product, to abuse the product, to appreciate the quality. We make a good boot and we target horse people, not fashionistas,” said Boulet.

In our telephone conversation, Mr. Boulet said his family decided years ago to choose quality over quantity and to rely on customer feedback and reward loyalty. It’s not unlike the back-and-forth of horse work, said Boulet, who rides often. “You might ask for something. The horse gives it to you and you let go. You have to listen. It might take 15 minutes or an hour and a half. The horse will tell you. “

About 50 years ago, the company helped develop what would eventually become Festival Western, one of the biggest rodeos in North America. The multi-day event brings hundreds of thousands of attendees to Saint-Tite annually. Check it out here.

Stay tuned. We’ll review men’s and women’s Boulet boots soon.

Festival Western in St-Tite

 

Saddle Fit with Letitia Glenn

Letitia Glenn video-records Steve Peters with Jolene.

This week, we visited with Letitia Glenn, owner of Natural Horseman Saddles. The Colorado-based horsewoman showed us how much more comfortable Jolene the mule was able to move when properly fit. For years, Glenn has helped riders understand saddle fit and helped dismiss some common myths. Her clients include clinician Dave Ellis and all members of the Police Department Mounted Patrol of Austin, Texas.

Glenn writes:

If you’ve ever been told to avoid putting your saddle back where your horse would have to carry some weight behind the 18th rib, we suggest you challenge that advice by asking your horse.

In the images at right, Dino is a Paso Fino with a typically short back and we tried to follow that very rule when I first rode him. Even a small saddle restricted his shoulders because it had to be shifted quite far forward to stay in front of his lumbar vertebrae. When we rode in the mountains, I noticed that he managed to shift the saddle back further when we climbed hills and I could feel his strides instantly became more powerful and smooth.

Dino experienced more comfort when the saddle was set further back than standard fitting.

I started leaving the saddle back there, paying close attention to his movement and checking carefully for tenderness in his back when we got home. We’ve been riding that way for years now, and Dino clearly prefers it. He doesn’t get sore back there and he’s 18 years old.

I would imagine that most traditionally-trained horse people looking at Dino’s sweat pattern (see right) might think we’ve been cruel to him.  But I always check his back when returning from a ride and again when I saddle him the next time.  No flinching, so I know he’s happy.

I make sure that the front of my saddle is behind his shoulder blade’s back edge when I tack up English or when riding Western, that the front concho is behind his shoulder blade’s back edge. We have a wonderfully rhythmic rides.

When the saddle’s posterior edge eclipses the last thoracic vertebra (see image below), it’s not as if it is restrictive back there. The slight “pivot point” between the 18th rib and the lumbar group will be accommodated because the saddle does not clamp down there.

Instead, we know that lumbar pain comes from:
  • head carriage being too high
  • midsection sunk too low
  • abdominal muscles unable to contract and push the back up
  • inability of back muscles to flex in the proper direction because they’re tense and contracted
  • hips rotated forward with hind legs strung out too far behind instead of underneath
All of which is going to happen if shoulders are restricted due to the saddle being too far forward or pinching to block the scapula swing. We know that the horse will also experience pain if the rider is driving the saddle forward, bracing in stirrups, or hanging onto the reins (which may very well be too short).

Letitia shows shoulder blade, saddle and shim placement

If you’re interested in experimenting with saddle fit, try this experiment:

  • Saddle up with your saddle forward so that the girth is right up in the armpit of your horse and you feel pressure when you reach under the saddle up along the bars where the shoulders need to bulge in full stride. Ride around a bit and ask for a canter.
  • Saddle up with the front of the English saddle behind the back edge of the scapula or the front concho of your Western saddle behind this back edge of the scapula while your horse is standing still and you have at least one shim (preferably a tapered foam one) set back so the “nose” of the shim is at the scapula’s maximum back-swing point.  Ride around a bit and ask for a canter.

Please let us know what you felt and noticed. Email us by scrolling down on this page. We’re always thrilled to collect more empirical data!

Don’t fret if the end of the saddle extends beyond the 18th rib

Welcome Back Third Coast Equine and Morton Real Estate!

Dr. Janelle Tirrell

We welcome back Dr. Janelle Tirrell of Third Coast Equine and Morton Real Estate to our fabulous family of advertising partners.

Third Coast Equine, based in Palermo, Maine, offers three tiers of Wellness Plans to give horse owners an opportunity to plan ahead and invest in their horses’ health. Wellness Plans include farm calls, fecal egg counts, vaccinations, dental care, and even Coggins testing, depending on the tier.

Read more and sign up for Wellness Plan here.

Tirrell has been practicing veterinary medicine in Maine since graduating from Michigan State University in 2006.

Welcome back, Janelle!

Morton Real Estate of Brunswick, Maine, has been serving the midcoast community for more than 40 years. It recognizes the area as a very special place. Its realtors have an appreciation for the history and architecture of each property.

Currently, Morton has several horse-friendly properties becoming available. For starters, check out this listing on Westport Island: it’s a beautiful log home on about seven acres with gorgeous views of the Sheepscot River as it wends its way to the ocean. Check out the photo gallery here.

 

Linda Mannix: Sounds of Silence


One of my favorite gals around these parts is Linda Mannix. The director of the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Mannix is a walking, talking fireball. She has more energy, ideas, and initiative than I could ever hope for. Technically, she is a senior citizen. But practically, she’s more a 30-year old overachiever. Yet her drive and productivity do not preclude her from appreciating quiet times.

Here, Mannix shares a moment of downtime with her beloved equines:

It is late winter in southwestern Colorado, a time when icy cold storms are followed by brilliant blue-sky days bearing a hint of spring.  My husband and I live on an old ranch where we raised cattle to sell all-natural beef at the local Farmer’s Market.  Now we just raise hay.  Weather, livestock, and wildlife are a constant in our lives.

Linda and Tio

On the ranch, we used horses to work cattle. Several years ago, we bought a nice six-month old colt from another ranch.  I named him “Tio” after a dear friend.  Tio and I have had our ups and downs (Literally: I was bucked off while rounding up bulls in a rainstorm. That incident led me in search of newer and better ways of training a young horse, strategies better than just riding the buck out of them.)

Tio and I are older and wiser now, with a balanced sense of trust and respect between us.  Two other horses and three donkeys fill out the remains of our string.  Our ranch does not have a barn, so the horses and donks are turned out in a large, dry trap all winter.  I feed them three times a day, keeping hay in their bellies to fend off the cold.

Last week, I went out on a moonless night to do late feeding about 11 pm.  These journeys always afford me a vigorous walk after dinner, some excellent star gazing, and quality nose time breathing cold air next to frosty whiskers on the horse’s muzzles.

When I got to the feed ground, there were no horses or donkeys to be seen.  They hang out in the trees at night, so I went ahead and spread the hay out.  The longer I stood there, the more I realized I could hear nothing.  The sound of silence. No braying, no crunching hooves on snow and ice.  Nothing.

As I headed back towards the house I had second thoughts about leaving them unaccounted for.  Our property backs up to a canyon which is home to mountain lion and coyote.  I began searching with headlamp to find my tiny herd.

Finally, a beam caught the glint of reflection in eyes.  Still, not a sound.  I looked closer and they were all there.  Horses and donkeys standing ankle deep in half frozen mud in our old branding pen.

Tio gave a concerned nicker and moved towards the walk-through gate.  I looked at the footing and realized there was no way I could go in there.  It was suck-yer-boots-off mud.   So I circled around the outside of the pen and walked past an open stock panel where the horses could get out.

My big red horse looked at me. I looked at him, and kept on walking.  He slogged his way out of the pen and followed me.  No halter, no lead rope.  He trusted me and I trusted him.  He did not panic nor barge past me.  Just walked steadily behind.  It was an invisible bond between us which we have worked for years to build.

As we walked back around to where the feed was, the others followed.  When they were all there, I clicked off my headlamp and sat down on a log.  All the bustle, noise, and news of the day meant nothing compared to the simple joy of listening to those animals chew their feed on a cold, starry night.  I realized once again how much these large, flighty animals touch our souls.  The depth of their being reminds us to savor every moment in our lives.

Thanks, Linda!

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