Welcome Lucerne Farms!

HeaderwithBlueSky copyWe’re excited to welcome Lucerne Farms to our growing family of advertisers. The Maine company, based in Easton and Fort Fairfield, fits our values and mindset to a T: a small company with a high quality product that’s great for owners and their equines.

It’s the perfect time of year to know more about Lucerne Farms. Many of us like to supplement our horses’ diets to ensure weight maintenance through the cold months. Grain’s not always a good choice; forage is safe, affordable and horses love it!

Horses stomachs are small, about the size of a football. As grazing animals, they are designed to eat slowly and almost constantly. That makes forage a great option in any number of situations including when:

  • hay may have iffy nutritive value
  • pasture doesn’t give them what they need
  • turnout isn’t an optionAlfa-supreme-photos-003

Horseman Chris Cox worked with Lucerne to develop a special blend. This video explains how much he favors forage over grain or other alternatives. The popular clinician uses it year round.

Lucerne makes many varieties, most with a blend of timothy and alfalfa grasses. I love “Hi Fi” as we call it at the feed store. Hi Fiber has timothy hay, alfalfa hay, and oat hay with a touch of molasses to tamp down any dust and add a smidge of flavor. It’s nine percent protein and 30 percent fiber.

For those wanting more protein, there’s Alfalfa Supreme with 15 percent.

If you haven’t tried forage, give Lucerne products a try. We’re betting you’ll see positive changes.

Want more ideas for keeping the weight on in winter? Read more.


Generations ago, Smith knew ‘Nature’s Best’


Tom Smith and Seabiscuit (Note the hay)

Tom Smith knew what happened off the track was crucial to victories on the track. Diet and horse keeping practices were key to the champion he developed out of the fussy, difficult Seabiscuit. Read about Seabiscuit: An American Legend and other favorite horse books.

​Nervous behaviors ​and stereotypies (non-functioning, repetitive movements) are physical manifestations of an ill-kept horse. They are diseases of domestication that make for stressed, underperforming and downright unhappy horses.

We can prevent the onset of issues and possibly undo these problems if we take away the artificial components of our care and maintain more natural elements.

Back in the 1930’s, Smith knew that if he could make Seabiscuit happier and more relaxed, he could make him a winner, too. The trainer didn’t just focus on split times and jockey assignments. He scrutinized every aspect of Seabiscuit’s life from handling, to companionship, to feed and living space.

Or, as Dr. Steve Peters and Martin Black write in Evidence-Based Horsemanship:

“Any changes you introduce away from a natural setting will have an impact. You may not notice it, but varying levels of domestication will indeed impact the horse on a physiological and psychological level.”

Even within the constraints of the thoroughbred racing world, Smith worked this altogether simple magic. Over time, Seabiscuit relaxed, shed his stress and correspondingly became one of the most celebrated horses of all time.

Stereotypies are behaviors like cribbing, weaving, pacing and head bobbing. Researchers have found these movements linked to increased cortisol levels as

Shelter should be a choice, not a forced deal.

Shelter should be a choice, not a forced deal.

well as reduced levels of serotonin (respectively, these are chemicals associated with stress and mood stability). They most often develop when you take away horses’ ability to move, graze normally, and socialize.

Think your horses are OK in stalls where they can see each other?

Think again.

Writes Peters, “simply housing horses together in separate stalls does not satisfy their need for sensory communication.”

In other words, offer your horses the option of shelter, but don’t make confinement mandatory.

Even when he traveled cross-country by train, Smith gave Seabiscuit a jumbo stall.

The trainer also offered scores of companion animals to the finicky horse. When he introduced a goat, the horse famously grabbed her by the neck with his teeth and tossed her over the stall wall into the barn aisle. Finally, Smith tried a retired Montana cow pony named Pumpkin, a “general calmer-downer” writes Laura Hillenbrand in her book, Seabiscuit, an American Legend. “They conversed and developed a fast friendship… and lived and worked the rest of their lives together.”

Consider diet:

Chris Cooper played trainer Tom Smith in the movie adaptation

Chris Cooper played trainer Tom Smith in the movie adaptation

Horses’ stomachs are small, about the size of a football. They are designed to take in small amounts of food over long periods of time (ie, grazing much of the day). But if you impose human-like meal times, you’ll run into problems – and not just digestive issues like colic. Research shows horses can develop stereotypies when forced into strict routines, especially around food. In the horse world, there’s no such thing as mealtime.

Seabiscuit got lots of free-choice hay and some oats. Had it been an option, he might have considered Lucerne Farms forage. Read about it here.

The iconic stallion wasn’t treated like a champion in our human interpretation of the word, with isolation and quartered privilege. He was treated like a horse. Behind all the pomp and circumstance, that’s how Smith nurtured him from troublesome mediocrity to the stuff of legend.

Another gift idea for 2015

Maine’s Kim Stone spent several summers working at the Alvord Ranch in eastern Oregon and learning from Idaho horseman Martin Black. Read more 10710315_10203100927628858_5692690853599785063_ohere. Now she’s brought her horses and talents back to her home state where she raises a young equine addition (at right) alongside two new grandchildren.

But did you know she’s also an excellent photographer?

This year, she teamed with the Black camp to produce an exquisite 2015 calendar to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Black’s Y6 family ranch in Bruneau, Idaho.

The process had Stone sorting through seven years of possibilities with an eye toward bringing fans a diverse and inspiring collection. Shown here are February and July shots.

February for NNBlack is known to be reserved with his compliments, but he remarked: “All I can say is ‘amazing.’ Kim has done an amazing job and put together an amazing piece of work.”

Congratulations, Kim!

Check it out here.

Al Dube Quarter Horse will host Kim Stone. Read about the facility here.

July for NN

To Wear or Not to Wear, that’s the Helmet Question

Culture and vanity vie against common sense and science in plenty of our personal decisions. Take tanning:

This year, the World Health Organization added tanning booths to the list of the most dangerous forms of cancer-causing radiation. People get skin cancer and die from frequenting tanning booths and eschewing sunscreen. But there are lots of tans folks out there. Society chooses tan over pale nearly every time.

Likewise, evidence overwhelmingly supports wearing a helmet to protect oneself from head injury while horse riding.

emergencyHere are nuggets from several research projects aimed at riding and hurting your head:

  • Head injuries make up 23 percent of riding injuries resulting in Emergency Room visits. Read more.
  • You’re four times more likely to die while riding if you don’t have a helmet. Read more.
  • Most injuries happen in younger and less experienced riders; many occur when working with a young horse. Read more.
  • Most traumatic brain injuries result from falling or being tossed off a horse, but some happen while on the ground (like being kicked in the head).

Helmet wearing seems to be a no brainer.

Yet millions choose not to wear one and suffer no ill consequence during a lifetime of riding. Insurers increasingly mandate helmets at events and facilities. For the rest of us, the freedom, risk, and choice is personal.

And like many personal choices, folks can get downright emotional about it.


Emily Thomas Luciano with helmet

The usually sensible Rick Gore has a long YouTube tirade against wearing helmets: he says they give riders a false sense of security, empower riders to take greater, ill-advised risks and that only helmet companies are advocating for helmet use. It’s silly stuff, but serves to illustrate how polarized the argument for and against helmets has become.

NickerNews and BestHorsePractices are more concerned with providing perspective and less concerned with taking a position. But here’s a middle of the road stance from our Marketing Director, Emily Thomas Luciano. She writes from her home in Florida:

I’ll be the first to admit that I probably should wear a helmet every time I saddle up, but frankly, sometimes I just don’t want to. Maybe I’m having a good hair day or maybe it’s hot. Whatever the reason, I’m not always the poster child for safety.

I do, however, have a few hard-and-fast times when I’m a stickler for wearing one:

  • If I’m putting the first handful of rides on a horse.
  • If I’m hitting the trail alone.
  • Emily Thomas Luciano without helmet

    Emily Thomas Luciano without helmet

    I take the horse into consideration as well: my mustang gelding who can be a bit unpredictable, so I always wear a helmet when riding him. On the other hand, I leave it off when riding my quarter horse mare that I’ve owned for all of her 15 years.

  • Lastly, I try to be a little smarter about helmet usage when my husband is deployed. With family 12 hours away by car, I couldn’t manage a head injury with him gone.

But really, is a head injury something that any of us can afford to manage?

The risk and choice is yours.

Read Anatomy of a Wreck.

The Way to a Horsewoman’s Heart is through her Feet


boots5If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, the way to a horse owner’s heart is through his or her feet. Comfortable feet are key to our days spent riding, mucking, tossing hay and otherwise caring for our equines. (What’s your boots-to-bras ratio? Read that here.)

New England winter weather especially makes great footwear essential. (Think snow, slush, ice, followed by wind and rain. Repeat for four to five months.)

Just in time, we’re giving away a pair of Muck Boots!

Send us photos of your tired and worn out boots, ones that sorely need to be replaced with a new pair of Ryder Muck Boots. You can email them to info@nickernews.net or post them on our facebook page. All submissions are due by December 9. We will consolidate photos in an album and let readers vote on the most worthy of Ryder replacement. The photo with the most ryders__12384.1404305088.451.416“likes” wins! Voting ends 12/12.

As with all Muck boots, the Ryder is 100 percent waterproof. It’s easy to get on and off with pull-on side handles and heal spurs. The style is conservatively western and it comes in four trim colors, including pink and purple. A $150 value.

We’ll look forward to seeing your boots.

Check out more holiday giving here.

Good luck!


Holiday Giving & Getting, Part I

logo211As NickerNews and BestHorsePractices have grown, we’ve acquired some lovely perks for our readers. To date, we’ve sent out nearly $1,000-worth of freebies including Redmond Equine products, Darn Tough socks, Liberty Bottles, Eco Lips lip balm and Kershaw and Gerber knives.

Remuda Readers get extra bonuses, including automatic qualification for a $100 gift certificate from 5 Star Equine.

Take advantage of our associations with the following discounts:

  • bengal-side-pockets-220 percent off Best Barn Coat by Cotopaxi.

Go directly to Cotopaxi and enter “NickerNews” at check out.

Or –

Click here to read barn coat review.

Click here to read more about Liberty Bottles.

rr-buy-300x231How about a book? Consider A Rider’s Reader: Exploring Horse Sense, Science & Sentiment. You can buy it on line or at Gulf of Maine Books in Brunswick, ME, or The King’s English, in Salt Lake City, UT.

Happy holidays!

PS – Don’t forget to enter our fabulous Muck Boot contest! Send us your boot photos to be entered to win a FREE pair of Ryder Muck Boots. Read more about it here!

cal2PPS – Don’t forget to order a 2015 calendar from Save Your Ass Long Ear Rescue. A great way to spend twenty bucks! (Plus, NickerNews herd member, Jolene, is the December cover girl.)

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