Spotlight on Baja Vaqueros

This year’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering will shine the spotlight on the vaqueros of Baja California, folks who still adhere to the ranching and horsemanship ways used for hundreds of years on the rugged Mexican peninsula.

Poster for this year's National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada

Poster for this year’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada

They use horses and mules for their work with cattle and goats. Mules are preferred by many because they tend to be tougher and can sustain themselves better on the Baja’s diverse and sometimes paltry forage. It’s fitting that this year’s poster, by Mexican artist Carlos César Díaz Castro, is of a vaquero and his mule.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Poetry Gathering, check out the Western Folklife Center’s event, which annually draws thousands to Elko, Nevada.

You can read more about it here.

Interested in the Baja cowboys? They’ve adapted to beautiful but treacherous environment in countless ways. Check out, for instance, the leg protection (to keep the cactus at bay). It comes mostly in the form of armas, leather skirting attached directly to the saddle. Don Jose y la Pancha, the man in the poster at right, has them. So does the vaquero below.

There’s an excellent documentary to watch: Carazon Vaquero: The Heart of the Cowboy. You can purchase it or watch excerpts on YouTube.

Cowboy wearing armas

Cowboy wearing armas

Water, water, nowhere

Liberty bottles tie easily to your saddle strings

Liberty bottles tie easily to your saddle strings

As summer winds down, I’m giving thanks to a spectacular season; one that gave me a crash course in riding and hiking essentials here in Utah.

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Sure, there’s the need for carrying a cell phone, a good knife, and for wearing sunscreen. But the biggest essential?

Water, of course.

After too many needless days of screaming headaches and swollen feet, I’ve learned to drink before I’m too thirsty. I’m a happy hydration queen. Read this excellent article on the importance of water.

In the Oquirrhs, there are virtually no water sources during the hot months. Even with a filtration device, we’re out of luck. My saddle bag or backpack was typically stuffed with at least a half gallon of fluids. The horses need water, too, but they typically fare better than humans and dogs when it comes to going without for several hours in the heat. They did seem to relish long drinks and cool showers upon return.

Liberty Bottles, recycled aluminum bottles made right in Washington State, served me well. I can jam two or three in a saddle bag and unlike other bottles I’m not worrying about leaks. If the horses kick them or step on them? No big deal as they are more durable than alternatives. The nifty top means I can tie them to the saddle, too, by simply looping it through a leather string.

The dogs took to their Olly Dog Lapper immediately.

The dogs took to their Olly Dog Lapper immediately.

Call me finicky, but the lips-to-drink connection is important. Since Liberty Bottles are metal, have no threads, and have a wider-than-pop-bottle opening, they’re wicked nice to use. It’s almost like drinking from a glass at home.

The dogs were treated to fluids in an Olly Dog Lapper, a foldable travel bowl that packs easily and takes up very little space. Much more convenient (and stylish!) than alternatives. It can hold more than a liter of water and has enough surface space (lapping room) for two thirsty dogs to drink at once. Like me, Belle can be awfully picky about her water delivery system. But she took to the Olly Dog with no reservations.

Olly Dog’s rectangular shape means you can easily pour the unfinished dogs’ water back into their bottle. Give them another mile, they’ll be craving more.

Read more about hydration scares and tips.

Liberty Bottles

Olly Dog.

The Lapper shape allows you to easily pour water back into bottle

Peters on weighty matters

20130201_jbl_WFC_1955Dr. Steve Peters, the neuropsychologist whose collaboration with horseman Martin Black produced Evidence-Based Horsemanship, joined the call for better horsemanship through better personal health with his recent Personal Statement, posted on the Evidence-Based Horsemanship facebook page.

It echoed recent BestHorsePractices posts, which explained research and implored riders to be mindful of the impact their weight and fitness have on their horses. Read research on Rider Weight. Read related blog post.

Reprinted with permission, Peters writes:

Everyday I counsel patients on what we refer to as “Chronic Metabolic Diseases”. The medical field is concerned with the epidemic of obesity and the diseases linked to it such as diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, heart disease, stroke, and dementia. I don’t counsel and educate these patients to be demeaning or find fault, but to help them manage their risk factors so that I don’t have to see them in the hospital with a stroke at relatively young age of 50.

This message is one of the few that can actually be life-saving and benefit your horse’s health and well being.

I think many of us fear not being politically correct or do not want to hurt someone’s feelings when we note that they are too large for their horses.

fat3-300x184 To know if you are the right weight use the 20 percent rule which includes you and your saddle’s weight in the formula. This weight combined should not exceed 20 percent of your horse’s ideal weight. This does not mean that simply fattening up your horse helps..It makes it worse. We are talking about the horse at its ideal weight. For example, if I weigh 150 pounds and I have a 50-pound saddle, the combined weight is 200 pounds.Therefore, I should not be riding horses under 1,000 pounds. The wear and tear on their joints and back have been shown to be excessive when we exceed this limit.

I am hoping that more people will begin to consider riding draft crosses. We own a Belgian cross who has become quite agile here in Utah’s mountains and fun for our bigger friends and family to ride.

I would like to challenge you to make some lifestyle changes if necessary to maintain the 20% rule because I want you enjoy your horse into your golden years and to have many happy horse-related days with kids and grandkids.

I wish you healthy days ahead and the best care you can provide your horse.


Dr. Steve Peters


NickerNews at the OR

At NickerNews and BestHorsePractices nearly all our posts come from getting outside and spending time with horses. This week, however, we spent entirely indoors and horseless. Small sacrifice for what will be gained for our readership!

OR2Specifically we were at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Salt Palace was home to Outdoor Retailer, one of the largest trade shows in the country with over 135 acres and 1,600 booths of outdoors-y stuff.
Marketing director Emily Thomas Luciano and I spent four dawn-to-dusk days meeting, networking, discovering, and researching all the people and products that could benefit our readers.

Here’s a sampling of things to come:

bertucciWe chatted with Mike Bertucci who owns and runs the American watch company of the same name. Bertucci watches are field tough and work brilliantly for those twilight rides. Stay tuned for a review.
Nature’s Bakery: a fast-growing, super-tasty fig bar company with fabulous flavors like mango, peach-raspberry, and blueberry. Think WAY better than Fig Newtons. Nothing gucky. That means no genetically modified ingredients, etc. Become a paid subscriber and we will send you samples.

Something for your dogs, too:
We discovered the zealous folks at Zuke’s dog treats. These Colorado folks make such high quality goodies, you can eat them, too. Natures-Bakery-Fig-BarsIndeed, we snacked on the jerky treats. Wow!
Olly Dog – these folks solve the design problems of dog accessories in a fun, pretty, and super-practical manner. We particularly loved their solutions for thirsty dogs. Stay tuned for reviews and give-aways.

Byer of Maine traveled far to show off their hammocks and cots. Again, stay tuned for more news and giveaways from this company, founded about 130 years ago in Bangor.
The folks at Muck Boot were excited to hear that their boots have consistently placed among the top boots in our Bestuvs surveys.

muckOther companies we loved and are looking forward to sharing with our readers:

Liquid Hardware – the cap to their insulated bottles sticks (magnetically) to the side of the bottle. They guarantee you’ll never lose your lid. And get this: float the lid in water and it serves as a compass!
Kershaw knives – not surprisingly their Leek pocket knife, with a half-serrated blade is their most popular models. We’ll tell you why soon.
Pocket Monkey – a wallet-must-have. 12 tools in a thin, stainless steel slice of hyper-utility. Slips in your wallet and solves a dozen problems and is even TSA-friendly.


Olly Dog travel water bowl

Ryan Michael and Barn Fly – beautiful clothing for men and women, on or off your horse. Western shirts with bite and pizzazz.
Locally Grown Clothing Company – a purposeful, Made in the USA company based in Des Moines, Iowa.
The New Primal – Kiss GORP goodbye. Say hello to trail packs with jerky mixed with mango and cashews. Gourmet hiking, for sure.
Adventurista – beautiful, outdoor adventure-minded jewelry from Missoula, Montana.
Frogg Toggs – raingear for your saddle bag or day pack
Aloe Up – sun and skincare products for your saddle bag or day pack.

Liquid Hardware, magnetic and insulated

Liquid Hardware, magnetic and insulated

Great sharing features for rides and riders

imageAs summer wraps up, the time is ripe for celebrating the season’s great rides, checking off some from the To Do list and make plans for bigger and better ones.

Redmond Equine has a great way to share and get inspired with their new FaveRide feature:

Simply upload your favorite ride (making sure to include your horse’s ears in the photo) and your location.

Make sure to check out the map to see the growing number of destinations. Start here.

I uploaded three images – one from the Oquirrh Mountains in Utah, one from the fields of Iowa, and one from Acadia National Park in Maine.

sign copyAnother great sharing feature is right here on NickerNews. It’s Bucket Lists. You can upload items on your Bucket List and return as you make progress.

Check out other Bucket Listers and share.

Read more and watch video here!bkt

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