Introducing ‘Not Too Old to Learn Challenge’!

not too old to learn challengeWe’ve been celebrating the NickerNews and BestHorsePractices community with guest columns and photo albums dedicated to our readers and their equines.

Inspiring stuff.

And as often happens in the dark, quiet months of winter, I got to thinking:
Let’s do something with these inspirations. Let’s use them to boost our own horsemanship goals.

Credit goes to Debbie Hight, Rob Rowbottom, Randy Rieman and Joe Wolter. With actions and comments, they’ve motivated me to set real goals and hold myself accountable this year.
Debbie and Rob are working with Postcard Jack, Maine’s most winning harness racer. Read more here.
Clinicians Randy and Joe urge riders to constantly challenge themselves and step outside comfort zones. Read more about Rieman here and Wolter here.

Welcome to the Not Too Old to Learn Challenge!


From top: Wolter, Hight and Rowbottom, Rieman

I have two goals: to horse pack in the backcountry and to compete in the Impact of the Horse, a versatility-type event to benefit mustangs, held annually in Heber City, Utah. I’d like to bring Jolene, who would be the first mule ever to compete.
It’ll be quite a challenge. She’s a tough nut to crack and I’m just your average rider, with next-to-no formal education. Read more about Jolene here.

In other to accomplish the Challenge, I’m breaking down necessary steps.

1.    Agree to the challenge and sharing your initiative with a few friends. Call it an ‘initial commitment.’
2.    Set small, incremental goals. Neither of us feel comfortable in arena settings, for instance, so we’ll visit arenas regularly.
3.    Assess strengths and weaknesses (like the aforementioned nervousness in public settings).
4.    Find support when needed. I expect to ask Steve Peters regularly for insight on training hurdles. My friend, Raechel Nelson, has agreed to the Challenge, too.
5.     When things go sideways, just say it’s OK. To be challenged is to win. I’m fine with things not going as anticipated, as long as I try my best.

Consider hitching your wagon to the Not Too Old to Learn Challenge. Throughout the year, we’ll be staying in touch and profiling readers as they work through their Challenges.
Giddy Up!


United in Love and Equine Dedication

kelQuestion: How many horse owners does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: Name any number. The light bulb won’t get changed because they’re too busy talking about horses, minis, donkeys, and mules.

Say this about our crazy community: we are passionate, enthusiastic, devoted, engaged and opinionated. We help each other in the best and worst of times. Especially during this winter season, we bear burdens with tough commitment, smiles of commiseration, and shakes of the head that say, “What next!?”

Community is one of the most gratifying elements of work here at NickerNews and BestHorsePractices. We love hearing from you. Recently, with our Winter Weigh In’s and Winter Warrior Muck Boot Contest, we’ve been hearing a lot. Here’s some more news from horse gals:

nelKelly from Durham, Maine, cares for eight horses and sent this photo of her Nelson waterer.

“Three inches of ice from drool, but the Nelson is amazing,” she said, adding that with snow banks so high, her minis have finally stopped breaking out of the pasture.

We talked with Tom Dowd, head of customer service at Nelson Manufacturing. The Iowa company has been making the automatic waterers since 1949. They’re in zoos, they supply the Budweiser Clydesdales, and even serve a sheik’s racing thoroughbreds in the United Arab Emirates, he said.

This week, though, Dowd was mostly chatting with customers in cold weather states. He sent a new heating unit to a long-time customer in Palmer, Alaska, who needed to replace it after 12 years of service.
nelsonThe heater might wear out after over a decade of steady use, but it’s much more efficient that livestock tank heaters. It costs about 18 cents a day to maintain the Nelson when the weather is zero degrees, according to Dowd. That’s a stark contrast to many horse owners we’re heard from who say their electricity bill has tripled this winter.

“We like to joke that when you plug in a tank heater, you can see the smoke coming off the electric meter,” said Dowd.
We’ve heard from scores of horse owners from New England, southeast U.S., the Midwest and Western States, Canada, and beyond.

Carole, of Maine and Florida, poses with her pony, during a warmer moment

Carole, of Birds n Bees Farm in Hope, Maine, wrote to us:
“I am in Florida this winter, something I never thought I’d do because I’m not “old,” hate golf and RV parks. But I have discovered it’s a great place for walking and riding…I’m determined to get my ponies down here next winter.

Can you believe what they are going through in Maine? I’ve lived there nearly half a century and I have never seen a winter like this one. I don’t think my poor ponies can even walk around, it’s so deep.

We have testaments to that, Carole!

Check out our Winter Weigh In Series.
Check out our Winter Warrior Muck Boot Contest.

Not on facebook? You can submit your entry by emailing to
We love hearing from you.

Toughest Winter Warrior wins Muck Boots

more-snow-500x281It may be a Worst Ever Winter, but for Muck Boot wearers, it’s a bit less painful: “At least my feet stay warm and dry,” they say.

Who among you has it worst?

In this record-breaking season, we’re rewarding one lucky, tough reader with a new pair of Reign Muck Boots!

To Enter:

Participants must email to or Facebook message us a picture (and comments) of their tough winter. Visit our Facebook page here.mucky

  • How big are your snow banks?
  • How frozen are your and your horses’ eyelashes?
  • How treacherous is your path to the muck pile?
  • How snow-swamped is your barn?

We will accept entries through Friday, February 27.

To Vote:

We’ll post all the entries in a Facebook album and here on NickerNews and BestHorsePractices. Beginning Monday and ending Wednesday (March 2-4), vote for your favorite. Share the contest and encourage your friends to vote, too!  Click here for our facebook page. (Not on facebook? We’ll share it through blog posts, too.)mck

Winner announced Thursday, March 5.

Our own Emily Thomas Luciano, marketing director for Cayuse Crest Communications, talks about her pair of Muck Boot Reign:

I’ve never had a pair of boots that were totally worthy of all-day wear, until now. From slipping them on to feed first thing in the morning to tromp through the Florida mud and muck, to hosing them off later in the day so I can head to the grocery store, they’re the perfect boots!

When I say I put them on first thing in the morning, I mean literally. Here’s my 6:30 a.m. look, complete with PJ’s and my Muck Boots.

While all Muck Boots are waterproof and easily cleaned, the differentiating factor for me is that the Reigns are totally stylish! So stylish, in fact, that I don’t feel limited to wearing them just with my barn/chore/errand clothes. Throw ’em on with a pair of skinny jeans and a sweater and head to the movies!

Heel spur makes kicking off easy.

Heel spur makes kicking off easy.

I have yet to ride in these boots, but I imagine they’d work well in that regard, too. They have a smooth enough sole with a nice, block roper heel.

I’m so excited that one lucky NickerNews & BestHorsePractices reader will get a pair!

I’ll second that and add a note about two other features to admire, especially in cold weather:

  • Pull tab at the top of the boot makes them easy to get on, even with gloves.
  • Heel spur makes them makes them easy to kick off.
Easily grabbable pull tab

Easily grabbable pull tab

Here’s what Muck Boot has to say about the Reign:

Designed as an all-purpose equestrian boot that can be worn seamlessly from mucking out the stalls to a night out with friends. Built for women in mind on a sleek, stylish silhouette, the Reign provides the ultimate fit, comfort, and protection. And, as always with Muck, the boot is 100% waterproof, lightweight, and flexible.
Unique XpressCool lining keeps feet cool in warm weather, perfect for that warm day spent mucking around the barn. Available in sizes 5-11, the Reign comes in black and brown, or with accents of purple or hot pink.

Bryan Neubert on the mend

Bryan Neubert, one of the few people who worked with the men many consider to be the founders of natural horsemanship: Ray Hunt, Bill and Tom Dorrance, is coming to Maine later this year. Click here for events.

bryan nTo hear him tell it, Neubert just lucked out. He happened to find work with Ray Hunt and happened to live next door to Tom Dorrance.
“In hindsight, I was extremely blessed. I could not have been in a better place anywhere,” said Neubert, who travels widely as a clinician but is spending some down time at home in Alturas, CA. In December, he fell from a hay stack and broke his arm.

Since then, he’s had his arm in either a cast or a velcro splint, unable to bridle or saddle his horses. He tried riding in a recent sale with Patti, his wife, lending a hand. “It wasn’t too fun,” he said. So he’s been working with his dogs and tending to non-horse chores at his 425-acre ranch. In a few months, though, he’ll be back on the clinic road.

Hunt and Dorrance both considered clinics an unrewarding occupation, recalled Neubert. It’s a sentiment he sometimes shares.
keeta0068“Occasionally someone takes it and runs with it. If you find one person in the bunch who wants to learn, that’ll be a success,” said Neubert. “People think a clinic is the answer, that it’s going to turn the light on,” continued Neubert. “But it depends on what you do with it.”
Neubert tells his students to assume they’re not going to make progress during the clinic. “It’s going to be at home that it happens, after you start practicing,” he said.
Bryan traveled with Tom Dorrance as he started to offer clinics in the 1970’s. Back then, holding clinics was a brand new idea. “I thought the word ‘clinic’ had something to do with a hospital,” said Neubert with a laugh. And yes, he confirmed, he has never turned on a computer. Ever. He’ll take Intuition over Internet anytime.
Neubert said Dorrance told his students, “Don’t try too hard because it’ll keep you from getting it.”
Neubert sees this in his students, too.
“If I’m asking a second grader, ‘what’s nine plus nine?’ and I tell him ‘I’m going to whack you if you don’t know the answer’…That’s not conducive to learning. If people are calm, they’ll get it…Cool it. Let it happen.”

Welcome HayBalancer & Adventurista Designs!

AdvStu-9-editlores2015 has brought positive changes to Cayuse Crest Communications, our family of sites that includes NickerNews, BestHorsePractices and UtahOutsider.

We’re growing in readership and advertisers are jumping aboard. Please welcome Adventurista Designs and Dr. Thornley’s Hay Balancer.
We met Adventurista Designs founder Meghan Holler at the Outdoor Retailer last year and have since reviewed her fun line of active-friendly jewelry. Read the review here.

Our recommendations?

The Puff Drop silver earrings and the Water Drop necklace. The colorful necklace has a strong magnetic clasp, so when you get snagged by a branch while trail riding, it won’t break and you won’t be choked.

DTHB-A20-2Hay Balancer is a common sense, science-supported product made in Utah.  The product was born from nearly two decades of nutrition research by veterinarian Dr. David Thornley Hill. Studies show most supplements are expensive and have next to no tangible benefits for your equines. Read more here. Hay Balancer is not fairy dust; it’s been developed to plug the nutritional holes left by inferior hay. Turns out most hay doesn’t give our horses all they need. In coming months, you’ll read more about our own little evidence-based trial with Hay Balancer. Stay tuned.



MEA’s Dr. Lila Solomon assesses a mini.

In other news, Maine Equine Associates conducted a successful Winter Seminar last month to benefit three local organizations working with the community to use horses in their therapy programs.  MEA sent $580 each  to Bull Ring Belgians, Healing Through Horses, & Horse N Rider Connections.
This month, Riding To The Top Therapeutic Riding Center is hosting a Cabin Fever series of events at its Windham, Maine, facility.

Send us your events and check out some early offerings here on our Events page!

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