A Ride with Unbranded’s Ben, Dino, and Chief

ben1Last week I headed to Montana for the lovely opportunity to ride with Ben Masters, the team leader of Unbranded.
We took two of his mustangs south of Bozeman into the Gallatin National Forest for a beautiful ride through the season’s first several inches of snow.
I rode Dinosaur, a palomino gelding from Utah. Masters rode Chief, a good-looking grey gelding.
We climbed from about 6,000 feet elevation at the trail head to 7,000 feet on snowy paths abutting Ted Turner’s massive Flying D Ranch. (The Flying D covers over 113,000 acres. All told, Turner owns over two million acres, making him the second largest individual landowner in North America.)

Did I mention a fear of heights?
At times, the trail left little room for error. But I knew better dinothan to try to guide Dino. In fact, he did just fine with little or no rein contact. Sketchy bridges, sheer drop-offs, icy spots. He did marvelously on all.
Sure-footed, for sure. And in impressive condition, even after several weeks off. We climbed for more than an hour, never stopping. Dino wasn’t even breathing hard.
For these guys, the day was inconsequential, compared to what the two horses and one Texan have seen this year.

But the ride and the good company were quite a treat for me.

When a skeletal horse is a good thing

We’ve just got to give Big Props to Sandy Cramer and her registered paint, Raven.

The two in fantastic costume have been a fixture at the local farmer’s market and flea market in Hocking County, sandyOhio.

Sandy studied equine science for a few years but now dedicates her time to Knot Just Rope, a specialty tack shop. She makes custom rope tack, including halters and bitless bridles, for customers around the world. Pieces are made especially for each customer, each horse.

The skeleton get-up came about when Cramer, 33, entered a Halloween costume contest last year for horse-and-rider. She put past classes in equine anatomy to good use! Cramer uses horse-friendly acrylic craft paint that washes and wears off with water and time.

The initial painting takes over two hours. Touch ups take about 40 minutes.

The pair have been a big hit and have been treating customers with rides and picture-taking every weekend at no cost.

Cramer said she was especially pleased with her horse’s attitude during all the attention; she’s remained calm and cool

“There are crowds. People waving flags. Pop-ups. Banners flapping. My horse has been excellent.”

Hats off to you, Sandy!



About our partners and sponsors

As we grow, NickerNews and BestHorsePractices are forming partnerships and sponsorships with like-minded companies liberty-300x295and individuals.

Like-minded how?

Read the BestHorsePractices mission statement. You’ll see that we follow a Nature is Best philosophy. We recognize that sustainability and simplicity are essential to horse care and management. The same could be said for our partners and sponsors. They share some of the same philosophies and goals.

Read how Nature is Best helped shape BestHorsePractices.

Whenever possible, we want scientific research to support any claims.

If the proof of the pudding is in the eating, then the proof of the horse training, care, and management is in the doing. The goal of BestHorsePractices is to celebrate like-minded doers and call out those who don’t pass this principle.

Like-minded who?IMG_0049

Here are just some of the folks we partner with and feature:

We hope you find time to check them out and give them a test drive. We think you and your horses will definitely approve.

Darn Tough suits us

grumpyI remember our laundry room way back when. On its wall hung sock stretchers, metal frames to stretch out ragg wool socks. One errant toss in the dryer and those socks were goners. Shrunk beyond use.

The special care seemed like a big hassle for socks that made you itch like heck and looked like sockland’s version of Grumpy Old Men.

I grew up. And I gravitated back to wool.

Thankfully, I found a kinder, prettier sock from Darn Tough.
I’d been wearing other brands for years, but their socks tend to wear out at the heels and their fanciful patterns compromise durability.

With Darn Tough, pretty socks last.

IMG_0007Horse work means being outside a lot.

  • It could be in the saddle.
  • Or shin-deep in mud and snow.
  • Or in muggy, 90-degree heat.

Makes no difference with these wonders.

  • They last.
  • They look good.
  • They don’t make my feet sweat.
  • They keep my toes toasty.

A lot of research goes into sock making. Who knew 1,440 stitches could be packed into each square inch of sock?
And a lot of resourcefulness, creativity and tenacity go into not manufacturing in China or wherever. All Darn Tough socks are made right in Northfield, Vermont. Read more about our featured products, sponsors, and partnerships.

All this makes the socks Darn Attractive. Literally and figuratively.
Check out Darn Tough’s news page here or their sock selection here.

Breaking Bad and Horse Success. Really.

With open minds and a few decades of experience, we can begin to see patterns, common developments across geographies, species, and time.
ea378e8d-4dbc-05cd-f811-4883e0a6fa8c_barrel2_bb4-1-_custom-c6a858256b2f91c9cd527212012e2e81f7bf3b0b-s40-c85It happened to me while listening to an interview with Peter Gould, a writer and producer for Breaking Bad, one of the most successful and critically-acclaimed TV series ever.

He spoke about the process of writing episodes and how he considers and respects the audience.

“Let them be smart,” Gould said. “As Billy Wilder said, ‘Give them two and two. Let them make four. They’ll love you forever.

In other words, let the story be a collaboration, not a mandate.

Not a bad strategy for horsemanship, either.
Horsemen from Elijah Moore to Buck Brannaman stress the importance of letting horses find their way to the answer instead of forcing them to it.

Both horsemen share this example with a horse who’s practiced the one-rein stop:

brk elij point

Elijah Moore

Sitting on your horse, ask him to flex laterally by applying light pressure to one rein. If the two of you have done this before, your horse will bring his nose towards your stirrup. Now, instead of releasing your rein like he’s accustomed to, maintain pressure. Don’t offer release yet.

Let your horse think it through and solve the problem.

To get away from the pressure, your horse will eventually step over his hind quarters.
That’s when you release and reward.

That’s when you let him take two and two and make four.

Read how neuroscience impacts how the horse learns, with Martin Black and Dr. Steve Peters

RTT instructor among nation’s best

Congratulations to Kate Davis McKelvy of Riding To The Top Therapeutic Riding Center in Windham, Maine. The long-time instructor has been named Region 1 Instructor of the Year by PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship instructors-2International).

She’s been a certified instructor for 13 years and has worked at RTT for more than 10 years where she teaches people with disabilities, organizes educational clinics, and mentors instructors-in-training.

“Kate’s award is an achievement that speaks highly of her commitment to her clients, volunteers, and horses and reflects positively on her work at Riding To The Top,” said Sarah Bronson, Executive Director of RTT. “

Region I includes Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island and the Canadian provinces Printof New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Quebec.

RTT will recognize Kate’s commitment and contribution to their programs and the therapeutic riding world during their 6th annual Triple B – Boots Band and BBQ fundraising event at the farm on October 19th.

A lifelong horsewoman, who taught in Colorado before starting at RTT, McKelvy lives in Freeport.

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