Diggin’ Salt

From Utah to Iowa to Maine and all points in between, it’s been a warm summer. Some weeks in some states have been downright hot.
shHydration for you AND your horse is key.
So is salt intake.

I like tortilla chips myself.
My horses like Redmond Rock.

It’s from salt mines in Utah, not from Pakistan (where they mine the popular Himalayan salt) or from some factory where it’s processed synthetically.

Dr. Rachel Flaherty of Maine Equine Associates told me horses in light work need 1-2 ounces of salt daily. When it’s hot and humid and they’re sweating a lot, they need twice as much or even more.
You can dose your horses by giving them an allotment every day, Flaherty said. “But it’s still good to offer a free choice salt source of some type. And always provide plenty of water when supplementing.”
I prefer free choice with no dosing. It lets the horse choose how much salt it wants and means they rely less on a human’s somewhat arbitrary measure.

Another note about salt:

Many companies make “trace mineral” salt blocks for horses. They may include calcium, zinc, phosphorus, copper, selenium, and REDMOND_ROCK_WEB_READY_2magnesium. They appear in much smaller quantities than sodium, but can still be important, especially if horses aren’t getting them from grass or hay. (Intense farming and fertilizing has depleted many fields of these minerals.)  Redmond tests its salt quarterly and posts the guaranteed analysis here.
Joe Camp gives his horses free choice alright, but doesn’t like salt blocks or rocks or anything they have to lick. They get granulated natural salt. Read more here.

Have Bottle, Will Ride

liberty— Maybe it’s habit from all those road trips with three hungry, thirsty sons.
— Maybe it goes with my Stop-and-Smell-Roses mentality.
Drinks and snacks are essential components for any NickerNews trail ride.
‘Drinks’ means water from a bottle.
But which bottle?

Plastic bottles with screw tops won’t do.

  • They come unscrewed.
  • And the screw threads on your lips will have you dribbling down your chin.

Water tastes good in glass bottles. But who wants broken glass in the saddle bag?

Enter Liberty Bottles.
Liberty Bottleworks is a young company from Yakima, Washington, just east of the Snoqualmie National Forest. They know the outdoors and they know outdoor folks.

They know sustainability, too. Their bottles are made from recycled aluminum. Oh, and they’re BPA-free.

But the best things about Liberty Bottles?

The non-screw top.

  • Doesn’t come unscrewed. (One quarter-turn and a ‘click’ will secure the top.)
  • liberty2Doesn’t cause chin dribbles.

Liberty even has horsey bottles. Check them out.

Thankfully, they’re relatively indestructible and come in different sizes. The 24-ounce version (in photos) carries enough for a ride of several hours and fits nicely in saddle bags. All of them fit well in truck cup holders – another requirement here.

Join our newsletter and get a chance to win one!

Welcome Back, Slaughter?

Slaughter is back, thanks to the powers-that-be: politicians, horse brokers, the meat industry, et al. The Iowa plant, Responsible Transportation LLC , sits about 60 miles from my house.
Of course, slaughter has been an option for horse owners all along. Your ‘livestock commodity’ was just taking a longer, more clandestine journey. Over 100,000 horses have been hauled to Canada and Mexico annually since the U.S. banned it in 2007.  Read Before Horses Die.

So, which is better for the horse?
— 1,000 miserable miles in a transporter followed by death?
— 100 miles followed by death?

If we must have slaughter, give humane treatment a chance. That’s something we might be able to regulate here. Not so, abroad.

If the slaughter plants and their investors ultimately prevail (They’ve been hit with restraining orders and lawsuits which may delay or defeat their operation), let’s work to demand transparent oversight and humane treatment.

Slaughter opponents gain only limited sympathy by blasting us with graphic images of suffering equines. They’d do well to offer sensible alternatives. Right now:

  • There’s no reasonable solution to the huge problem of unwanted horses (Suggesting they all be rescued and adopted is naïve considering the current shape of the equine rescue world.)
  • There’s no breeding regulations or limitations. Anyone can breed a horse; anyone can own a horse. We don’t have to register them. We’re barely held accountable for their welfare. Horse production continues unabated, without any consideration to what might happen to that foal in two or three or 10 years.

High-end thoroughbred breeders, futurity investors, and backyard breeders – they’re all guilty of running the faucet and overflowing the tub.
As a society, we demand more accountability from dog owners and breeders.

Do you see any slaughter operations for dogs?

A simple analysis perhaps. But until changes occur at the faucet end, we’ll continue to have gruesome solutions to horse overpopulation.
Want some rose-colored glasses?

Here’s how Reliable Transportation, the Iowa slaughter company, sees it:

Our mission is to improve the quality of life of the unwanted horse population …We believe it is our responsibility to restore the value of the horse industry. In doing so, the quality of life for the entire population of horses within the United States will improve.

Barn Buddies seek homes

Just like unwanted horses, feral cats have become a hot button, polarizing, animal issue. Cats spread disease and kill wildlife. But that litter of barn kitties seemed awful cute at the time, didn’t it?

Generations later, we have tens of millions of cats living off the land, off of handouts, and out of dumpsters. According to reports, they kill about 500 million birds each year and spread toxoplasmosis, among other diseases.

On one side, folks are lobbying for an Open Season on cats.
On the other side, they say, “Let them be.”

Poster Yard catEnter the Humane Society of the United States and others advocating for the Trap-Neuter-Return program.

Lisa Smith of the Coastal Human Society in Brunswick, Maine, explains:

“The program’s goal is to reduce the population of wild cats by focusing on colonies of uncared-for cats that breed unchecked at an alarming rate.  We spay or neuter them with the plan to release them back to the location they came from with a colony caretaker; ultimately the populations will dwindle to nonexistence over time.”

But sometimes, said Smith, these cats can’t go back to their original location. Nor can they be domesticated.

Enter the Barn Buddies program in which the CHS places undomesticated cats with adopters.

Continued Smith:

– NickerNews is in contact with horse people who have barns.
– Barns have unwanted mice that eat the grain.
– Cats love to hunt mice.
– Cats need homes.
– We’re seeking to broker a trade: Kitty homes in exchange for fewer mice in barns!

For more information, call 207 725 5051 or click here.

Mustang Mules?

I have a thing for mules. Their looks and behavior have long intrigued me.

They set themselves apart from horses in many ways. Some say: Mules think. Horses don’t.

At the Horsemen’s Re-Union, I got to talking with a California woman about mustangs and she mentioned that at the nearby herd management area (HMA) of Bureau of Land Management, there exists a population of mustang mules.Mule rump

Mustang mules?

As you know, mules are sterile by nature. So a consistent “population” could only come from wild mustangs and burros being friendly with one another over generations.

How interesting!

Amy Dumas, BLM manager of the wild horse program in California, confirmed this phenomenon.

“It’s very rare,” said Dumas, who said her Twin Peaks HMA was the only California area and most likely the only HMA in the country with mustang mules.
During the last round-up in 2010, about 1,800 mustangs and burros were rounded up. Ten percent were burros. Only about one percent were mules.

All the mules over age four are returned to the wild, said Dumas. Experience has shown they’re simply toMollysmall copyo hard to domesticate.
But partner a young mustang mule with a really good trainer and you might have success. Here are a few who’ve followed that path:
Photos courtesy of Amy Dumas.

Susan Orlean wrote compellingly about military mules in this article

Check out Save Your Ass rescue here.


Clydesdales Saved

cdrhhHats off to the many individuals and organizations involved in the successful move of five Clydesdales from their Maine farm to Connecticut after their owner died unexpectedly.

Michelle Melaragno (an instructor for Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue) and the Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals teamed with the Connecticut Draft Horse Rescue to relocate the horses from the Morris Farm in Wiscasset after Alan James McQueen died. cdhr

Writes the MSSPA: “We are very thankful to have been an important link in the chain of resources to help get these five Clydesdale Mares from their home in Maine to the Connecticut Draft Horse-Rescue. After their loving owner passed away unexpectedly, a friend of his family contacted the MSSPA for help. Through our wide network of resources, CDHR was identified as being an excellent opportunity for the mares to get the care and training they need to prepare them for carefully approved adoptive homes. We wish the Clyde girls well and we’ll be looking forward to updates. We also extend our condolences to the folks at Alan Dee Dairy and the family and friends of Alan MacQueen. Thank you to everyone who helped put all the links of the chain together to secure a safe future for these beautiful horses!”


Outrunning Rain

It started out as a lazy Sunday ride.
We headed out with the two favorites, Comet and Pep.

rufusSun high and hot.

Nearby fields just cleared of first-cut bales.

Down the road, new neighbors were having a keg party of sorts in their front yard. One man pretended to cast from his skiff. It was on grass, not water. Same for him, I imagine.

They waved and invited us to join them.

Rufus and Firecracker, two easy-going geldings on the corner, called to our mares. We stopped to let everyone sniff.

After a few miles of gravel road, passing fields and woods, we reached my friend’s house where I stepped off to visit with her while Steve let the horses graze for a spell.
stormAnother mile brought us to the top of a hill where we could see clear to the Eastern Iowa Airport, six miles away. The airport was in the midst of a thunderstorm. We watched as a plane flew into thick clouds before safely landing.
— The wind quickened.
— The sky darkened.
— Birds quieted.
— Smells grew intense.

The storm barreled south, heading across the cornfields and directly towards us.
I could hear my mother’s words ringing in my ears:
–  Always walk the last mile.
Never let them run for the barn.

We asked our horses to move out. On the dirt road and its grassy shoulder, we galloped.
— Past the cemetery.
IMG_3525 — Past Rufus and Firecracker.
— Past the lawn party. (“Come back for a cold one,” they shouted.)
We raced those last two miles with the dark, heavy curtain of storm at our heels. We screeched right into the barn, like teenagers into an empty school parking lot.
Then laughed at the rain as it came down in sheets.
And thanked our horses for their fine condition.
Check out a similar summer storm, including a 30-second video.

Fringe Benefit

Like a window-shopper getting drawn into a favorite store, I couldn’t help myself when it came to Fringe, Kathleen Threlfall’s western wear and leather business. Read more about her here.
Her handsome work and prized references from experts convinced me that lone pair of hand-me-down armitas in my closet needed a new friend.
I started by following her measurement guidelines.

The task goes way beyond simple waist and inseam stuff.  There are 10 measurements for custom leggings. Threlfall makes unique patterns for all her customers.

Next, I related my idea for the perfect pair:

  • Light in color
  • Plenty of fringe
  • Buckles (not step-in, zips, or leather buttons)
  • Belt in the back
  • Glove-soft leather

The 24-year old Canadian made several thoughtful suggestions and listened to my needs and wants. She even checked out riding photos, noting that I’d need a mecate- or third-rein loop.

I asked her to take notes and images as she progressed. Check ‘em out.

Make sure to PAUSE the video to read her excellent comments.

Next week, we’ll take them for a test-ride.


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