Psychology of an Exciting Moment

Scientists try to explain the slow motion phenomenon of a wreck, saying it has something to do with the almighty amygdala.
aaaThey say that cherry-sized bit of brain rules the day when emotions are in play and messes with the laying down of memories.
But what really happens within those three pounds of gelatinous, grey goop as you pitch, crash, fold, and collapse?
For starters, I do not believe it’s Slo-Mo. If they say neuro-connections are electric, then tumbling times become super-charged. They hum and buzz like transformers in the rain. Recollections stay static long after the storm has passed.
If memories of everyday happenings get laid down like thin pads of butter, congealing together over time, then mishap memories start with butter to which we add oats, sugar, olives, beef jerky, and plum preserves.
aaIt’s a mess that won’t coalesce into a loaf of ordinariness.
If an ordinary afternoon is a flat square of blue velvet, an extra ordinary one is a blue velvet pillow, with piping, applique, and swatches of extra color.
If a regular ride is a postcard of a forest, then a ride gone wrong has birds, bugs, smells, and breezes pushing out of the card stock.
That is why – as I shift my weight off the hurt – I remember:
— The fist-sized rocks of the downhill road coming up to meet me
— The cloud of dust settling on lips, legs, and arms
— Blood seeping through that dust, like a commercial’s colored water through a paper towel
— Your hand on my knee and your voice saying, “Don’t get up.”
— How quickly the flies descended.
— How sunny the sun.
With these memories, the jostled, jelly organ has its fun.



We found awesome barn snacks

Here’s the thing with being outside and active: you get hungry.

And the more you tune into your body, the pickier you become about what goes down the gullet. If you listen, your body will tell you what works and what doesn’t.

pickybarsAnd, if research shows that being sedentary and eating fast food can become a destructive, self-fulfilling cycle (It does. Click here.), I’d like to suggest the opposite is also true: eating well and getting outside beget more eating well and getting outside.

So, I was happy to check out the food offerings at the OR. Here are two standouts:

Picky Bars might be the first bar I won’t get sick of. The Bend, Oregon company uses simple ingredients like dates, blueberries, almonds, rice cereal, and apricots. They’re flavorful without being too sweet. They have a balance of complex carbohydrates and protein that tastes good going down and doesn’t wig you out with a rush & crash or the sluggishness that comes from eating too much protein. We tried Blueberry Boomdizzle, Need for Seed (with sunflower butter), and Smooth Caffeinator (with hazelnuts and mocha. Yum.

I love oats. My horses love oats. My genes love oats (I’m fairly fit and trim, yet I still have high cholesterol. Doctors recommend Untitled-1oats.) So, I downright gravitated to the Munk Pack booth which featured single serving packs full of flavored oatmeal. I tried them on rides and hikes; they gave me instant and delayed satisfaction.

The instant element comes from yummy flavors (I tried raspberry coconut and blueberry acai flax.). The delayed satisfaction comes as you feel the nutrients begin to course their way through your system. No rush. No crash. All good.

Skeptics might balk at the packaging and texture. Munk Packs, based in Connecticut, could be mistaken for apple sauce pouches for toddlers. But get over it! It’s what inside that matters. And you can tell kids it’s strictly an adult taste.

Pick either when you’re between meals and still have an hour’s worth of chores or three miles to go until you reach home. Your body will say, “Thanks!”

Read more about what we discovered at the Outdoor Retailer.

Outdoor Retailer is for us riders, too

IMG_8872Attending the Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City is a bit like heading to the mall on Christmas Eve: be prepared for nuttiness and overstimulation. Attend it in cowboy boots and jeans and you’ll spend a good amount of time convincing folks that horse riders – a well-educated, well-resourced, outdoors-y group – are just as much a part of equation as those spandex-wearing cyclists or tech-decked hikers. Arguably more so.

Read about snacks we discovered at the OR.

Read about last year’s OR trek.

Whatever kind of rider you are, the OR presents much cooler stuff than any mall. Outdoor recreationalists who manage to acquire a pass (most of the 27,000 attendees are retail buyers, about 600 of us are media) can be seen drooling at the quantity and quality of goods packed into some 1,500 exhibits.

If you’re interested in the next big thing, you’ll likely find it here in a small budget booth on the outskirts of the Salt Palace. Of course, the heavy hitters are here, too, with mammoth booths and big budgets. The Keen booth, decked with multi-levels of perfectly refashioned, reclaimed wood, must have cost $100,000 and they served complimentary craft beer at their Happy Hours. The Royal Robbins booth hired baristas to serve free lattes around the clock. The Altra running shoe booth featured a 50-foot IMG_8871long, elevated treadmill and hired elite athletes to churn out miles high above the masses.

Here’s a quick review of items and companies that caught our eyes:

Here’s a quick review of items and companies that caught our eyes:

Of the scores of knife companies, Kershaw continues to be a favorite. Why? They understand carrying a knife is something women do, too. Kershaw is virtually the only company with an entire line of knives appealing to women for their sleek design, slim fit, and utility. No testosterone here. Check out the Leek review.

We visited with SPOT exhibitor Jon Butcher (no relation) about the ease and fail-safe elements of SPOT, the satellite rescue service in a simple orange and black device.. The service easily exceeds the capabilities of any cell phone app and makes trail riding, especially solo outings, exponentially safer. Read about this California hiker-turned-wildfire-survivor here.

ELH-40449-7One of the niftiest items that caught our eyes was the new Tread, a bracelet by Leatherman. Yes, you read correctly: a Leatherman bracelet. Call it a mechanical aesthetics. Call it a conversation starter. Call it the Tread. It was developed by Leatherman CEO Ben Rivera, after he was escorted from Disneyland for having a multi-tool in his pocket.

The Tread has a tiny knife hook that’s perfect for cutting baling twine, a flat screwdriver head for those Chicago screws, and a bottle opener, of course. You can design your own, customizing tools and wrist size.

TreadWe met with Caroline Duell of Elemental Herbs. Duell developed Goop (a fabulous blend of olive oil, beeswax, calendula, comfrey, plantain, lavender, and yarrow) while working on an organic farm in California years ago. From there, she’s grown the company and the All Good product line, which includes sunscreens, lip balms, and pain relief spray. Goop was great after the recent wreck.

We visited with the folks at ThermaCELL about their remote-controlled, rechargeable, heated insoles. These thin, orange pads have us looking forward to subzero temps spent mucking stalls and hauling hay. Bring it on, winter! We will review ThermaCELLSs as soon as the temperature drops.

We talked with Davis Smith, the CEO of Cotopaxi. The folks at this Utah company (which sells direct to consumer and gives generously to charities) have agreed to giveaway one of their Perfect Barn Coats to a lucky subscriber at the Equine Affaire.

Additional shout outs go to:

thermacell_foot_warmer_insoles_0Crazy Creek. We’ll be offering one of the Montana company’s camp chairs in an upcoming giveaway.

Adventure Medical Kits – They’ve developed a new line for humans AND their canine companions. It’s a welcome item, since most of us horse owners have dogs. Stay tuned for that giveaway, too.

Zootility – They’ve just moved to a new facility in Maine. The young company makes cool multi-tools that fit flat in your wallet. We have the new Headgehog, a comb, wrench, screwdriver, and bottle opener. It’s the cutest tool on the market, hands down.

Darn Tough. Other sock companies are just playing. Darn Tough socks, made in Vermont, have brilliantly survived rigorous testing through four seasons of hiking and riding. Read our review.

MG_9889We need our feet to stay happy and healthy. Darn Tough’s seamless, merino wool socks make it happen, breathable in the heat, cozy in the cold.


Equine Affaire Update

Plans for NickerNews and BestHorsePractices at the Equine Affaire are heating up. Even as we soak up the last days of summer, bengal-back-flaps_30e8c0b3-8398-4d1b-a006-030993a9f8c8_1024x1024we’re working hard to put together some great booth offerings for the four-day extravaganza.

It will be worth your while to stop by our booth 647 in the Better Living Center. We will feature daily giveaways worth a grand total of about $1,000. Sign up to win at the booth. Here are our partner giveaways thus far:


A Perfect Barn Coat by Cotopaxi ($279)

A top layer from Ramblers Way ($100+)

A pair of Muck Boots ($150)

A pair of ThermaCELL remote-controlled heated insoles ($135)

CHH000A-2A Troxel helmet ($100)

Read more about the jacket here, the top layer here, the boots here, the heated insoles here, and the helmet here.

We’ll also feature great deals on custom designed Liberty bottles, the book, A Rider’s Reader: Exploring Horse Sense, Science & Sentiment, bumper stickers, and much more.

thermacell_foot_warmer_insoles_0Looking forward to visiting with you!


NickerNews guest columnist and her mini win award


Marsha Craig and Lily

A huge congratulations to Marsha Craig and Lily, her miniature horse. The pair will be presented with the inaugural Nemo Award from the Tufts Paws for People organization.

Along with Marsha’s partner, Jack Martin, the team works arduously and brings smiles to scores of patients in several New England facilities.

We’re so fortunate to have several NickerNews pages dedicated to their work. Read more about them here.

This year alone, the trio has worked an incredible 1,000 volunteer hours.

In addition to nursing home and hospital visits, they’ve participated in the comfort visit with the Boston Marathon bombing volunteers and first responders as well as visiting The American Red Cross Headquarters.

“I have to say I’m honored and embarrassed at the same time!” said Craig.

328366_4376253934457_232272012_oCraig recounted some of their recent work:

For years, we’ve done work at the Community Living Center, a rehabilitation, nursing home and hospice facility in Massachusetts. We visit there once a month and visit both floors. Room to room. Bed to bed.

Some of these residents have been disfigured beyond imagination and the fact an animal doesn’t get repelled makes them so grateful. One gentleman had from his cheek to chin missing, talking near impossible. It was more like utterances. He tried to hide from us, but kept watching Lily. You could just tell he wanted to touch her in the worst way…As I walked up to him he started to hide, so I loudly said, “Hi there, this is Lily and she won’t leave unless you at least acknowledge her.” (And there is a great deal of truth to that as she loves to be adored.) He came to the doorway, making eye contact with me to see my reaction now that we were within feet of each other.

I looked at him and said, “Lily would like to shake your hand”. He bent down and shook her hoof. Then I asked if she could give him a kiss and he abruptly stood up and pointed to his face. I said “if you would like she can kiss your forehead, would you like that?”

He nodded and bent down. I asked if I could touch his forehead, he nodded. I touched where I wanted Lily to kiss him and without hesitation she gave him the gentlest kiss. He was overcome with emotion, crying, touched his heart and pointed to 10687061_10205104956453492_8739373670262053038_nLily, Jack then myself to say thank you from his heart. Our supervisor told us that he’d never left the confines of his bed before so this interaction was huge.

She continues:

In 2011, we were asked to visit Tufts Medical Center and try the Adult Behavioral Unit. This trial visit became an every month visit and now also includes Cardiomyopathy and Pediatrics units.

We also visit them every Easter Sunday and every Christmas Day. One year I crocheted 22 small horses for Lily to give to patients. Another year, I made pillowcases. Last year, we commissioned someone to make miniature polymer horses in Lily’s likeness.

Twice, Lily has met catatonic children and we were told there was no point in visiting as they’d not responded to family, nurses or doctors. Well, they reacted to Lily. On the second visit, the doctors were in the room to observe and videotape the meeting. And again, a patient they could not reach, Lily was able to.

Lily instinctively knows what to do and how to interact with little input from me. I drive Lily to work and hold the lead rope, 322469_4376276735027_433715855_oLily does the rest! If a client is afraid and a parent attempts to force an interaction, Lily will back out of the room to relieve the client’s fear.

In our six years we’ve been privileged to see some very amazing things happen during our visits. Someone described our visits as magical and I couldn’t be more proud that someone views our visitations as such.

I’m 69 and for a couple of years my speech has declined and recently found out I have a rare form of ALS. I’ve given up speaking in pubic because the disease damaged the portion of the brain that controls emotions. I no longer speak on the phone. But Lily and her therapy work make me forge ahead. Jack observes that when we’re working I seem to forget that I sound drunk and I’m relaxed and chatty. I often think that Lily is doing reverse pet therapy with me.

I’m blessed to have found her. Blessed to have realized her potential for therapy work. Blessed she’s become my own daily therapy.

Lily, Marsha Craig, and Jack Gorman

Lily, Marsha Craig, and Jack Martin

Grazing Tips from Dr. Joyce Harman

This guest blog post comes from holistic vet, Dr. Joyce Harman, who offers tips to keep your horse healthy during summer grazing. Read more about her here.

Me-at-work-1retSummer brings changing responsibilities for us horse owners. You might change out troughs more often to keep your horse’s water cool and fresh, or you might cold hose him on those brutal August afternoons to bring a bit of relief. What you might not do, though, is think about the hidden dangers of summer grass.

Most horse owners believe their horses are only at risk for grazing-associated laminitis during the spring and early summer when grass growth is most intense. But the truth is, we need to remain vigilant all summer long, as sugar content in the grass changes with the weather.

All horses, but particularly those with metabolic issues, are susceptible to fructans, a type of sugar, in the grass. If these sugars pass into the hind gut before they’re digested, they can kick off a process that will cause laminae to fail, leading to a laminitic attack. Metabolic horses also have a difficult time using glucose, or sugar, as fuel and store excess sugar as fat.

Horses_grazing_east_of_Holly,_CO_IMG_5804The horses who have metabolic, laminitic, or obesity issues will get progressively worse over the course of the summer.

To keep your horse safe and healthy on summer grass, follow these suggestions:

  •  Don’t overgraze. Most horse owners don’t realize that the greatest concentration of sugar in grass lies in the three inches closest to the ground. If you allow your horse to overgraze, he’s getting way more than his fair share of sugar.
  • Tall, course grass is less rich, so your horse can safely eat more. However, with the tall grass, they can get much more in each mouthful, so allowing free access can still give them too much to eat.
  •  Grab a muzzle. Muzzles allow a horse to behave normally in the pasture in terms of exercise and socialization without running the risk of over-grazing.

Harmany Equine’s state-of-the art muzzle that is totally customizable, from molding it to a horse’s head shape to determining how much, or how little, grass is available to a horse. The muzzle is made of a medical grade plastic with Kevlar® fibers, making it much lighter than other available muzzles without sacrificing durability. Learn more here.

  • Watch the weather. Though most bouts of laminitis happen in spring and early summer when grass growth is most intense, the weather plays a large role in the sugar content of the grass.

slide1Keep these things in mind:

–        Typically, your horse is safest with the standard hot, dry weather that’s common in the mid-late summer months.

–        Grass that’s stressed (either overgrazed or in a drought) will be high in sugar.

–        Rain leads to rapid plant growth (and increased sugar content), particularly after a drought.

–        Unseasonably cool temperatures (either a dip in the evening or several days of much below-average temperatures) will increase sugar content in grass.

  • Strategize turnout. On a typical summer day, fructan levels in the grass peak around during the sunniest part of the day, slowly declining throughout the evening, and hitting the lowest point in the late evening/early morning hours. If you want to maximize your horse’s healthy grazing, let him out to graze just before you head to bed, then bring him back in early in the morning.
  • Assess your horse. If you see your horse multiple times daily, you’re much less likely to notice unhealthy changes in his body until it’s too late. Consider using a weight tape every 10 to 14 days to ensure he remains at a healthy weight. If he’s gaining, adjust your grazing plan accordingly.
  • It’s also a good idea to feel his fat pads (neck crest, croup, ribs, tail head, etc.) weekly. If the texture of the fat changes from soft and pliable to hard and lumpy, he needs to lose weight.


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