Fireworks & Farms

Efforts to rein in the use of fireworks in Maine are moving forward in Augusta.
Four fireworks bills have been scheduled for Public Hearing on March 11 at 10:00 am with the Criminal Justice Committee. They Fireworkswill be heard sometime after 10am on the fourth floor of the State House.
Small Business advocate, Peggy Schaffer writes:

“If you cannot make the hearing, testimony can be presented in writing – though a real person testifying would be better.  If you are going to turn in written testimony, committees require 25 copies.  
The best testimony I have seen is based on short, impactful stories.  Talk about the impact of fireworks on your business and animals, but try to be brief.  
Also you do not need to read what you are turning in as testimony – so what you turn in can be longer than what you say.  I have found that the committee is more interested in you telling your story, than reading it while you are telling it. “

Read about Senator Johnson’s bill to establish reasonable restrictions on fireworks, including set back for farms.  His bill includes a set back for farms:

Read about Rep. Dickerson’s bill to create a mile set back from farms.

Read about Rep. LaPlante’s bill to require a local permit for fireworks

Read about Rep. Crockett’s bill to change the time fireworks are allowed.

Click here to read previous posts, including contact info.

Why the Mess over Horse Meat Matters

The growing Horse Meat debacle in Europe has elicited a number of responses from us Americans.

  • Sure glad we don’t slaughter horses here.
  • Sure glad we don’t even eat horse meat.

meatIt’s easy to dismiss the mess as their problem. But if you dig deeper, you’ll see why we should pay attention, too.

For starters, Europe’s food standards on the whole are arguably better than ours, especially since the Mad Cow Disease scare. (They banned GMOs, antibiotics, and hormones years ago while us Americans are just coming to terms with those treatments’ side effects.)

The Horse Meat problem has made headlines because of the processing system, not because horses were slaughtered. And we process our foods just as much as Europe does.
There are so many channels of distribution and so much processing, finding the slaughterer who killed horses isn’t the problem.  It’s what happened after that; it’s a matter finding the criminals who swapped a cheaper meat for a more costly one somewhere along the line. It’s an understandable problem when the production includes such a multitude of players.

Good luck.

Tracing the trail from carcass-to-cutlet has become as difficult as tracking soap suds down a public sewer system.

carrotsFor me, it’s just another reason for knowing my farmer and growing my own vegetables. In Maine, I bought beef and turkey from Keena Tracy’s Little Ridge Farm in Lisbon. I bought a butchered pig from Troy Pride of Limington.
Now in Iowa, our Saturdays include trips to the farmers’ market and I’m looking ahead to growing season.

Maybe I’ll plant some carrots for them horses. If they don’t like ’em, they can look me in the eye. Just like I can with my farmers’ goods.

Treatment as Tattoo

chris1 I was talking with Chris Lombard the other day about horsemanship. The dictionary calls it the ‘skill of riding horses.’
But we know it as the relationship with the horse and the skills around that relationship.

“It’s not only how to handle horses,” said Lombard. “But how to be around them.”

So often, he said, we can get caught up in “This guy says this. That guy says that. Who do you believe?” It can be an exhausting search for answers in all the wrong places.
The thing that really matters, he said, is not your connection to a trainer. It’s your connection to your horse.

When Lombard works with horses, he’s giving them something that’ll last a lifetime. Sounds high-minded, but we all do it.

tattooTreatment – good or bad – can be as indelible as a tattoo. Just ask anyone with a rescued horse or one with a troubled past.

Treatment sticks.

Kyla Pollard knows this from starting scores of colts in New Brunswick and British Columbia, Canada.
“The different way you work through the process will create a different horse,” said Pollard, who has worked with Martin Black and Jonathan Field.

Recently, Lombard met horses who’d spent time with Kris and Nik Kokal, the New Hampshire brothers whose impressive horsemanship was highlighted in the mustang documentary, “Wild Horse, Wild Ride.”

kylaHow did he know they’d been with the Kokals?

“I could feel it,” he said.

As we look ahead to the riding season, perhaps the best strategy is not register for the next great clinic, but to pause for a moment and look in.

Visit our Events and Bucket List pages.

“Believe yourself,” suggested Lombard. “People have gone clinician crazy instead of thinking for themselves. You have to get back to feeling it on the inside. ”

Then perhaps find the talented horseman or woman who can help improve with your ‘relationship.’

Welcome Rose & Sagebrush

I want to welcome two friends, Kimber Bogue Black and Sandy Black, to the blogosphere.
The ranch ladies have started up Roses and Sagebrush.

Way to go, gals!

They nominated me for a blog award and had a few questions.

sheaWhy did you start blogging?

To write, share opinion and highlight the do-gooders in the industry – just a few of many reasons.

What is your favorite sporting event?

I love watching any horse event where the connection between horse and rider is highlighted.
Otherwise, I’ll watch anything my sons do (soccer, tennis, white water kayaking, running).

Were you raised on a ranch?

I was raised in Maine where we have “farms” instead of “ranches.” My family was super active with camping, hiking, skiing, etc. From age 12, I worked in exchange for riding privileges. I rode trail horses, big hunter-jumpers, and polo ponies. I learned wilderness skills from trips in Maine and out west. I learned carpentry skills from jobs with several contractors.

Name one thing on your bucket list you plan to do in the next year?wylie-coyote

I’m naming two, please! Ride with Randy Rieman and horsepack with Kyla Pollard

Do you like Roses or Sagebrush?


What size is your purse?

Small. To prevent me from carrying around too much garbage.

Are you a planner or do you fly by the seat of your pants?wrangler

Both! Love making lists and then deviating from them!

If you were a cartoon character who would you be?

Wylie Coyote.
And, though not cartoon characters, I always loved Annie Oakley and Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island

Do Wrangler butts drive you nuts?

Oh, yeah.

Winter Ride

winter snoww

How much do you ride in the winter?
Does it get harder to stay warm and embrace the season as you get older?
I found myself surfing the Internet for rechargeable heated gloves the other day. Two hundred bucks didn’t seem so much…

Read a Maine house swap ad here.


So, yes, I have my struggles and they aren’t limited to squirming into coveralls and another five layers day after day. (Read more about that deal here.)

This first Iowa winter for me seems a bit erratic, with lots of cold and wind but pockets of balminess. Today gives us 10 degrees with 40 mph winds, bringing the wind chill to about -20.
But combined with ongoing drought conditions, we have no snow cover to go with the frigidity.

Just yesterday, it was 30 degrees warmer and rainy. Shea and Pep and I got out for a few hours, leaving the pasture for the first time since December. The three staying back did wind sprints for 10 minutes, bucking and farting in our general direction, reacting to this novel development.

We found some excitement when trotting by the firing range (much respect to all you Cowboy Mounted Shooters!) and later when two rude quad riders buzzed past us on the gravel road.
The woods have opened up and we found some new formal trails and less formal deer paths. It was a stark contrast to the vine-y jungle I first encountered here in May.

Each season is a gift in its own way.

Watch winter video.

Watch summer video.
But gotta say, I’m looking forward to spring. Bring on Mud Season!

dry winter

Firework Frenzy

When fireworks became legal in Maine last year, there was an audible ‘@#$%&*” from the horse community.

Fireworks tend to freak horses out, especially when combined with darkness and surprise (I’m pretty sure horses don’t have 9pm, July 4th marked on their calendars.).

The results can be scary and potentially tragic as horses bolt from this loud, bright, indeterminable danger.

fireworksMaine legislators have submitted a total of six bills to change the current firework legalization, according to Peggy Schaffer, Small Business Advocate in the Secretary of State’s office.
Representive Lizzie Dickerson (D) of Rockland has put forth “An Act to protect Farm Animals from Noise from the Discharge of Fireworks or other Explosives.”

The bill prohibits the use of consumer fireworks or explosives, either loose or contained within a tube, within one mile of a field or pasture that contains livestock.
With any luck, concerned horse owners will have some legal support by summer or so. But it may not happen without our community testifying.

Contact your representatives and consider speaking up at the committee-level public hearings.

If state laws fail to restrict fireworks near your barn, Dickerson and Schaffer both mentioned that towns can enact specific restrictions. For change on the municipal level, start by contacting your town or city representatives and attend town meetings.
All firework-related bills will go through the Criminal Justice committee before heading on to the House and Senate.
To follow proceedings, check out the legislative calendar here.
Connect with Schaffer here.
Connect with Dickerson here.

Hi. I’m Calling about Your Horse.

IMG_6462Most writers are readers. While writing is their occupation, reading is one of their passions.

I’m no exception.

When contests surface, I get excited at the prospect of entering but also of reading all the other submissions. Such is the case with National Public Radio’s Three-Minute Fiction. It’s free. Thousands enter. The winner gets his or her essay published in the Paris Review, a literary magazine of high repute.

There are monthly renditions with rule variations but always with the fixed 600-word limit.

A while back, I entered. For the March, 2010 version, the story had to have these words in it: plant, trick, fly, button. Read the story.

This week, the contest prompt is “Leave a Message after the Beep.” In other words, the story must be in the form of a voice message.
My added challenge, of course, is leaving a horsey voice mail.

Give it a try!

All submissions will be posted on NickerNews!

They loved our horse videos

That’s my relief at making tomorrow’s deadline and submitting two videos to the Equestrian Social Media Award headquarters in Manchester, England.

(Ok, I did not hand-deliver them but used DropBox.)

The videos, revealed during their Awards Week later this month, are required for all finalists. This year, there were over 10,000 nominations whittled down to 297 finalists.

“The ESMAs goes from strength to strength with every year and it’s inspiring to see the global equine community embracing social media in a way which benefits the entire industry,” said ESMA director Liam Killen.

There are 10 Best Blog finalists. To vote, click here and scroll to Number 17 for NickerNews.

esma13Many thanks!

I sure wish I could share the vidoes (Killen said the NickerNews videos were among the favorites), but they remain under wraps until the awards ceremonies.

See Ya, Salazar

Mustang advocates are cheering the upcoming departure of Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

helicopter stampede(1)During his term, he made news for threatening reporters and horses alike. Specifically, he’s made life miserable for tens of thousands of mustangs as he sticks to expensive, inhumane policies enforced by the Bureau of Land Management. Read NickerNews editorial here.

More than 50,000 mustangs and burros are stockpiled in BLM pens.
Less than 32,000 remain in the wild.

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Ken!

In advance of the nomination process, wild horse proponents are circulating a petition, encouraging President Obama to nominate Congressman Raul Grivalja, an Arizona democrat.
Read more about the issue at American Wild Horse Preservation.

Sign a petition, urging President Obama to nominate Gravalja.

Herd Dog Tips and Tipping Point

kip2The development of our Ride Along Dog reached a tipping point recently.

At seven months, Kip has matured physically and mentally. Weighing 40 pounds, she’s all speed and agility. On the last few pasture walks, her herding nature has blossomed in full form. She’s done with being intimidated and confronts the horses with new authority.

This confident attitude reminds me of our young mare, Jodi, when she first arrived. They both seem to say to the other farm animals:

I’m here and I can make you move.

She’s figured out how to stress the horses alright. And therein lies the problem.

While Kip generally stays clear of danger, I’ve realized obedience – not instinct – is what is going to keep her safe and the horses sane.

“Have a good ‘down,’ a good recall, and a good ‘off,’ “said Dr. Cynthia Reynolds of Searsport, Maine. “It will save her life in a lot of situations.”
For those unused to those dog commands:

  • Down: Lie down wherever you are.
  • Recall: Come to me.
  • Off: Leave whatever you’re interested in right now.

Aside from working as a veterinarian with acupuncture and chiropractic expertise, Reynolds is also an avid herding dog trainer.

kip1She also suggested leashing Kip, walking her around the horses in a calm manner and then leading the horses around Kip. It’s important to use a lot of positive reinforcement, always rewarding her for calm, added Reynolds.
Just like horses, the more you extend training to different scenarios, the more likely your dog will behave.

“You can have it perfect when it’s just you and her, but then you get around livestock or other dogs and it’s a different story,” said Reynolds. “Take her to different places so it gets really solid. Obedience classes are really helpful.”

  • Obedience class – check
  • Positive reinforcement – check
  • Field trips – check.

Thanks, Dr. Reynolds!

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