Maine, Iowa, Utah

nicker plateFrom Maine to Iowa and now Utah!

These past few weeks have been nutty, as I traveled home to Maine, then back to Iowa and now, we’re off to Utah.
The time in Maine was too short. I did manage to catch up with a few horse friends and gather material for upcoming features and blog posts. It was great to see folks busy with the riding and haying seasons.

Here in Iowa, we’ve traded flooding for drought conditions. This week didn’t have a single day under 90 degrees and we haven’t had rain in months. The conditions haven’t stopped us from having a summer full of adventures. But with parched pastures, we’re feeding ia2002out hay early again this year.

Heading west has always been on my Bucket List. And NickerNews and BestHorsePractices are mobile by design.
I just didn’t think the opportunity would arise in 2013.

By chance, my significant other, Dr. Steve Peters, heard of a position in Provo, Utah. (He’s a neuropsychologist by day. In his spare time, he co-authored Evidence-Based Horsemanship with Martin Black. This November, the pair will conduct another Evidence-Based Horsemanship seminar. It’ll be held in Pennsylvania. Details coming soon.)

ut_license_plateIn a few months, we will head to mountains and desert terrain with the thoughts:

‘Life is Short’ and ‘You Won’t Know if you Don’t Go.”

I called Elijah Moore yesterday. The popular Maine horseman grew up in Utah and knows much of the country like the back of his hand.

“It’s the prettiest place in the world,” Moore said of the Panguitch area.

I’m looking forward to the wide array of public lands and to acquiring new skills needed for that kind of horsemanship. I’m grabbing my saddle bag and humming the Dixie Chicks’ Wide Open Spaces!


5 Star gets Five Stars

Saddle pads and cinches aren’t the most glamorous tack items in your barn. But they may be the most essential.

  • 5 star 1Bad ones make your horse miserable and cause sores and sore muscles.
  • Good ones make even marathon rides easy and fuss-free.

Just ask Ben Masters, leader of the Unbranded team. The four men and 14 horses have nearly completed their 3,000 mile trek from Mexico to Canada.
Masters told me their 5 Star Equine pads and cinches have been the key to comfort for horses and riders.

“I’ve used their products in the past. Never had any problems. We decided to outfit pads and cinches entirely with 5 Star. I’m really glad we did,” said Masters during a rare rest day in Lincoln, Montana.

unbranded1There’s a lot to like and we’re thrilled to welcome the company to our sites:

  • 5 Star uses wool. It’s natural.
  • Research shows no synthetic fabrics outperform it for wicking away moisture and keeping horses comfortable.
  • If you call them, you’ll talk with a real person and get sound advice on the best pad for your horse and the work you’re doing.

The Unbranded team uses Mountain Packer Pack Saddle pads. I’m ordering a pad specially contoured for the new mule, Jolene.
Check them out here.


Meet Jolene

muley My friend, Bill, started talking about this certain mule a few months ago. He knows I’m fond and curious of mules.

Read more mule posts.

Read about mules and Your Ass Rescue.
Bill’s brother had recently purchased one at an Iowa auction. It wasn’t working out; the mule was often frightened and took off during a recent trail ride.

She was hard to catch and harder to comfort.

Long story short:
We welcome Jolene, a six year-old molly (female mule) from Missouri to our herd!
She stands at about 15 hands and looks more horsey than many mules with white feet, black coat, and an auburn-tinted tail.
Jolene’s adjusting well to her new herd and her new surroundings. We gave her the paddock for several hours while the horses looked on. In the afternoon, we let them intermingle over our 7-acre pasture.

Jodi (who ranks second) wasted no time asserting herself. There was no blood lost, but lots of charging, ear-pinning, head-tossing, and kicks in the air. The two main combatants seem to enjoy hanging out together, actually.
Herd dynamics are intriguing and it’d be tempting to expound on who likes who and where individual members stand. But the reality, I think, is much muddier than we humans would like to believe. Dynamics are not strict and fixed. They flow more like a weather system or an office where sometimes actions of the less dominant have significant impacts on the upper-ups.

Read herd article and watch video.

Read some great herd-related blog posts.

Stay tuned.
Visit our facebook page for new album of Jolene and the rest of the herd.

Fatal Virus is Here

While dry weather is making wildfires a constant concern for horse owners out west, the wet weather is increasing the threat of contracting Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile virus in New England.

This week, EEE was detected in York County (Maine) mosquitoes. It’s a nasty brain infection that’s usually fatal among unvaccinated horses.
Says Dr. Dave Jefferson of Maine Equine Associates:

“We are especially concerned about encephalitis this year.  We’ve had plenty of rain which means standing pools of water with rapid mosquito multiplication.”

In 2009, 15 Maine horses died of the virus. None were vaccinated.

Less often, it can affect humans. Last year, two Vermont men died of EEE.

Bottom line:

  • Get your horses vaccinated.
  • And for yourself: wear bug dope, long shirt sleeves and pants, avoid hanging out in wet areas, especially at dawn and dusk.

Read Burlington Free Press article.
Read Bangor Daily News article.

Fringe Leggings, Tested and Approved

They came in a plain white cardboard box marked with international postage. The mail lady had left it unceremoniously on the floor of the garage.

DSC05261But it was a Special Delivery nonetheless, containing my first pair of custom-made leggings.

Six weeks prior, I had taken many precise measurements and corresponded back and forth via email with Kathy Threlfall, the owner of Fringe Custom Chaps in British Columbia, Canada.

Read more about Fringe here.

In short order, Threlfall had completed the project and sent along the prized pair:
A belted, butter-colored pair of armitas with long fringe and delicate, chestnut tooling.

Of course, the success is in the comfort and fit; I put them to the test right away.

(I’d been wearing a borrowed pair of step-in armitas. They were ok, but they made my pants ride up. Also, they were cut for a man and as such, the waist and thigh were a bit big.)

These new leggings fit so well, I nearly forgot I had them on. Threlfall’s practice is to make a fresh pattern for every order and that precision paid off in my comfort.
— No pants riding up over the boots.
— No gaps at the waist or thigh.
mecate loopI particularly like the handy “mecate loop” or “third-rein loop” and the complimentary Jeremiah Watt buckle. (see photo).

Thanks, Kathy! Now, I’ll be well-outfitted for the trails.

Horsemen and women are today’s heros







Hooray for the backcountry horsemen and women – Mary Young, Mike Young, Mark John, and Christa John – the four Idahoans who tipped off police to the whereabouts of kidnapper Joseph DiMaggio and his victim, Hannah Anderson.
According to a report in the Boise newspaper, the four riders came across the two Californians in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. They were concerned for the girl and thought something wasn’t right, but were camping and did not know about the massive, multi-state manhunt for DiMaggio and the Amber Alert for Hannah.

It was only when they returned home that night to Sweet, Idaho, that they connected their encounters with the breaking news.

Mark John is a retired county sheriff and called a colleague at the Idaho State Police with their urgent information.
Andrea Dearden, spokeswoman for the Ada County Sheriff’s Office, praised the foursome.

The information from the horseback riders was crucial to Hannah’s rescue, Dearden continued, saying it was “absolutely” the needle in the haystack investigators were hoping to find.

“Their information, that’s what led people here,” she said. “We had no way to know where to look until we were able to speak to them.”

“They played the biggest role in this operation,” Dearden said.
Read more from the Los Angeles Times article


Like Whale, Like Horse

Blackfish is this summer’s hot documentary. It’s a movie about killer whales and how captivity makes them miserable and crazy.
blackfish2It’s an easy concept for us horse owners to understand.
A recent Los Angeles Times piece suggested humans should get out of the whale captivity business. These animals, like so many animals, need their herd and they need their freedom. Migration over thousands of miles is built into their biology and their being.

“Killer whales form close-knit, lifelong family groups… They travel long distances in a day and are extremely intelligent. Marine parks are not aquariums that exist to rescue and study animals in humane environments and to educate the public. They are high-profit water circuses in which intelligent ocean predators have been forced into unnatural lives.”

The vital role of family and freedom resonates with horse owners. We know that the more space we give our horses, the better off they’ll be. And that to be with friends and family is essential.
The more we constrain their movement, the more stressed they’ll be. They may not kill us (like captive killer whales have been known to do), but their stress will express itself in stereotypies, raised cortisol levels, abnormal behavior, and physiological issues.
And it’s the same deal with keeping horses isolated.

horse captiveRead more here.

These are simple animal priorities. But in our zealous attempts to control them and create human-like living arrangements, we overlook the fact that they are not humans. We forge ahead and then wonder why we have troubles.

With their behavior, ‘difficult’ horses are simply saying, “Let me be a horse.”
And the whale is just saying, “let me be a whale.”

Bernice’s Big Bucket

Bernice-Ende-Card-Photo-2012NickerNews premiered Bucket Lists a few years ago.
Since then, dozens have posted their goals and dreams. Bucket Listers look forward to riding in the Grand Canyon, volunteering at the Olympics, camping in Acadia, and riding on the sand hills in North Carolina.

Exciting stuff.

In researching Unbranded and similar treks, we’ve come across additional riders with some big dreams and heady accomplishments. One stands out:

Meet Bernice Ende.

Since 2005, she’s ridden 18,000 miles across North America. Ende, a retired teacher, has completed major treks from Montana south to Texas, and north to Canada.

Want a big loop ride?

How about a loop including Montana – North Dakota – Minnesota – Iowa – Nebraska – Kansas – Oklahoma – Texas – New Mexico – Colorado – Utah – Idaho – Oregon – and Washington?

No kidding.
200911map1-300x278A recent Today show bit highlighted her feats.
She told Bob Dotson near Glacier National Park in northwest Montana:

“See those peaks up there? It’s like they’re saying, ‘See if you can come up here.’ One peak leads me to the next, and I want to go on.”

Her scariest moment:
She recalled a mustang stallion who tried to steal her mare and get rid of Ende.
“You’re constantly riding that wave of uncertainty,” said Ende. “The ride demands my skill, attentiveness, and caution or I’d be dead.”

Create your Bucket List here.


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