A Horse’s No Win Situation

That was the tough, take-away message from Dr. Rebecca Gimenez when asked about how to protect your horses in the event of a tornado.

  • Close them in barns and you run the risk of harming them when the barn collapses. You may also stress them severely in taking away their ability to move and use their flight instinct.
  • Leave them in the pasture, they may get hurt, too.

Those in tornado-prone states (Here in Iowa, we’ve had some tornado watches and warnings.) may be tempted to build fortified structures, she said, but these will cost a lot and compromise light and ventilation. (Think concrete bunkers, eh?)

Preventative measures are key:

  • Consider microchipping your horse.
  • Braid contact information into their mane and/or paint it on your horse.
  • Store or get rid of equipment or other things that may become airborne and harm your horse when it goes flying (Think lawnmowers or that old bed frame around back)
  • Take care of yourself, first and foremost. (If something happens to you, you won’t be there for your horses.)

Read more from Gimenez here.

Check out 30-second storm video.
Horses choose to stay out during hurricane.
Chincoteague ponies fine during hurricane.

Absence makes the heart grow Appreciative

loadMay has been full of travel.
It’s involved truck and horse trailer alright. But this time, the rig was filled with bookcases, lamps, clothes, and keepsakes instead of horses.

3,000 miles. From Iowa to Maine (empty), then back to Iowa (full) as we completed the cross-country move initiated last year. For this gal going solo, it was a white-knuckle haul, made only less stressful because the cargo wasn’t precious like last year. (Read more)

Needless to say, I was thrilled to get back to the farm and breathe in the sweet smell of manure, not exhaust.
Of grass, not diesel.

And hear cardinals, sparrows, and mourning doves instead of the constant din of highway traffic.

And get tired from physical farm work, not fatigue from the sheer monotony of interstate miles.

Upon return, I sank my face into the horses’ necks and gave thanks.

It felt some good to leave the highway behind.

Read more about travels with our Mainers Away articles

Memorial Day may be for horses, too

IMG_3519Barbara King is a member of a small group of articulate scientists discussing and contributing exciting research on non-human emotions.

It’s a fascinating field and one that has, over the generations, weathered challenges of anthropomorphizing and, on the other end of the spectrum, outright dismissal.

  • We know it’s silly to say: “My pony had a grudge on me and dumped me in the puddle.” That would be anthropomorphizing.
  • But we’ve also seen horses act in ways unexplained by simple trained habits or muscle memory. And we certainly recognize they don’t like seeing another horse harmed. Even slaughter advocates would agree there.

Click here for article on compassion.
41dDnKPcnZL._SY346_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_Click here for article on intelligence.
King points out that not all species of animals grieve and even within a species, not all individuals grieve. Or, if they do, they may show it differently.

She writes:

I define grief as some visible response to death that goes beyond curiosity or exploration to include altered daily routines plus signs of emotional distress.

Horses who merely nudge or sniff at the body of a dead companion, for example, can’t be said to be grieving.

Horses who stand vigil in a hushed circle, for many hours, at the fresh grave of a lost friend may well be grieving.

A horse who refuses food and companionship, becomes listless and won’t follow normal routines for days when her friend dies?

Why wouldn’t we see this as grief?

Read more here.
Read an interview with King here.

Order her new book here.


Wear your heart on your sleeve

erideonpileOr wrist.

I recently discovered MudLOVE, this cool little company based in nearby Indiana. They make nifty ceramic bands with simple sayings. What’s more, they give a full 20 percent of all sales to help folks in Africa get clean water. NickerNews has the custom-made ‘Nicker More’ band, fresh out of the kiln!

MudLOVE is a faith-based operation that’s grown quickly since opening a few years ago.

You can get a FREE MudLOVE band with any donation of 12 bucks or more!

Click here to donate.

Then click here to let me know which band you’d like, “Ride on.” OR “Nicker More.” Each come with purple, turquoise, or navy blue bands, so if you’re picky about band color, indicate your preference. We’ll get it right out to you.



Disaster Strikes. Do you have a plan?

I met up with friend Rebecca Gimenez a day after the lethal tornado plowed through Moore, Oklahoma.
Dr. Gimenez, president of Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue, has seen her share of disasters and has trained thousands how to save horses and other animals from peril. She was giving an awareness course for Iowa agriculture folks at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids.

Gimenez works with trained horse, Torque, at TLAER course

Gimenez works with trained horse, Torque, at TLAER course

She had strong words for those of us anxious to help: Stay out of the way.
That is, unless you belong to an organized team and are called to deploy, please stay away.

“We call them ‘SUVs,’ – self-deployed, unwanted volunteers,”

Instead, she said:

  • Give money.
  • Give blood.
  • Join a team so you’ll get called next time.

Years ago, Gimenez convinced me of the need to be personally prepared and professionally engaged when it comes to animal rescue. After taking her course, several of us went on to found and/or join County Animal Response Teams and train as First Responders. In today’s world, that makes us much more useful and valuable than Good Samaritans.

As we’ve seen, disasters can strike quickly and randomly.

  • Do you have a plan if you lose water, electricity, or have to evacuate in an hour?
  • Can you trailer load your horses and grab your Go Bag in minutes?

Read about CART team training

Read more about TLAER course, including video

Read what NOT to do

Weight does matter

Together with the horse, we’re Olympians.
Together, we’re scholarship athletes.
We’re a legendary duo, crossing continents, scaling mountains, swimming rivers, and outsprinting nearly every other species on the planet.

fattrainerBut somewhere along the line, it became OK to partner-up with our horses as overweight, out-of-shape humans. Increasingly, the horse community seems to give heavy riders a free pass, an enthusiastic blessing even.

  • We don’t hurt feelings.
  • It’s more important that we ride well and treat our horses nicely.
  • Who cares if we’re heavy?

Those were some sentiments posted in response to the BestHorsePractices Rider Weight article. It reviewed research by a pair of English scientists looking at the issue as it relates to horse wellness. It found that horse injury and “bad behavior” (rearing, bucking, etc.) were associated with an increase in human weight.
Commenters brought up excellent points.
Namely, that rider weight shouldn’t overshadow the need to have lightness, balance, and a proper fitting saddle. I couldn’t agree large_rocknegcmore. Read a NickerNews guest columnist’s Point of View.

But for the sake of a reasonable discussion on rider weight, let’s assume those variables are controlled.
In other words:
Take two riders with equal balance, lightness of feel, and properly-fitting saddles. Would the horse do better with a 100-pound partner or a 200-pound partner?

Clinicians are worried.

They see more and more riders compromising their ability because they’re overweight and unfit. They worry these riders won’t be handy getting out of a jam. They worry about the horses.

It’s time we reconsidered ourselves as athletes and athletic partners.

bobbyThe only successful heavy athletes I’ve seen lately are golfers, bowlers, and the occasional relief pitcher. Riding requires significantly more effort, agility and athleticism than swinging at or throwing a ball.
Heavy athletes are most certainly rejected from other sports where lifting or carrying them is required (figure skating, ballroom dancing).

All other things being equal, let’s think about our weight and how impacts our horses, say nothing for our own safety and ability to be agile in the saddle.
Admitting the problem can be the first step in remedying it.

Win something for your pocket




CONGRATULATIONS to Kathy from Freeport, Maine. She won this month’s contest. Thanks for the great response!

ropeWe’ll give away Redmond Rock next week and Eco Lips again soon!

…It’s one thing most of us riders have with us all the time. We’re as likely to have it as a cell phone, money, or pocket knife.

Lip balm.

You know I’m not into product pushing. But I started thinking about lip balm after getting a complimentary Eco Lips stick in a running race packet. It was coconut-flavored and organic.



Us Mainers would like to believe Burt’s Bees is organic. But it’s ‘natural’ (which doesn’t mean much anymore). Plus, Burt’s is owned by Clorox, stripping away its original Maine-owned character.

Eco Lips is a cool, little Iowa company. Its president, Steve Shriver, met his wife, Andrea, back when she was cooking up homemade lip balm in her kitchen.
Some years later, Eco Lips is hitting the big time. It’s Mongo Kiss line is perhaps the most affordable item Whole Foods has ever stocked. (A steal at two bucks)
Shriver, 40, calls it a “gateway organic product.”

“You can have organic and fair trade and not pay that much,” said Shriver. “For a lot of people, Eco Lips is their first organic experience.”

Filling Machine

Production manager Ron Willenborg monitors Eco Lips machine.

The operation has gotten a bit more sophisticated over the years; they churn out about ten thousand sticks per day in their semi-automated Cedar Rapids plant with flavors like lavender-lemon and kiwi-strawberry. They have lovely tinted lip balms, too.

Want to try it?

Click here to enter. We’ll select a winner at random and send off some Eco Lips Gold on a nifty carabiner that you can clip right to your saddle/belt/handbag.

Since it’s “Nature is Best” principles are so in line with those of NickerNews and BestHorsePractices, we’re partnering with Eco Lips to offer these great give-aways every month.

A Win for the outdoors and a Win for you!

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