Fall Riding Favorites

IMG_6163Autumn is the optimal season for riding. Kids are back in school. Bugs are nearly gone. Foliage is beautiful and falling (which makes visibility better). Riders and horses are likely in the best shape of the year.

It’s also a great time to remind readers of some of our favorite items for the trail.

In the saddlebag:

An Adventure Medical first aid kit. The New Hampshire–based company makes perfect tiny kits that fit anywhere. Also consider their bigger, more comprehensive

Few folks ever regret taking a 1st aid kit.

Few folks ever regret taking a 1st aid kit.

kits. Our favorite? Me and My Workin’ Dog kit.

A Gerber camp saw or folding saw. Both are great for taking care of deadfall and taking care of smaller trees that stand in the way of a good time and clear sailing. We like the Myth folding saw and the Freescape camp saw.

Kate’s Real Food trail snacks. The yummiest in the b22554681c_largestbar category. Kate’s have seeds, nuts, honey, oats, and chocolate. All good. All the time. Our favorite is the Grizzly Bar, with peanut butter, dark chocolate, and nine grams of protein.

EcoLips lip balm. This Iowa company makes organic lip balm with simple and edible ingredients. That’s right: you could eat your EcoLips lip balm if you really wanted to (or had to). Create your own custom lip balms here.

dsc02170Patagonia’s Alpine Houdini will take up less space than a banana and will keep you invaluably dry if you get caught in the rain. Read review here.

On You:

Kimes Ranch Jeans fit great, don’t ride up, and have seams that will not rub you when you’re in the saddle. Read review of the Francesca jean here and Betty jean here.

Darn Tough, a charter sponsor of the BestHorsePractices Summit, makes some of the best socks on the planet. Their Merino wool socks keep you warm on cold days and cool on hot ones. Read this testimonial from a Darn Tough convert.

bengal-back-flaps_30e8c0b3-8398-4d1b-a006-030993a9f8c8_1024x1024Cotopaxi is a new Utah company with some great items for riders. Check out their Barn Coat (a favorite of the NickerNews team), the Kusa jacket (with llama fibers for warmth) and the Altiplano vest. A percentage of every purchase goes to help projects in developing countries.

Fringe leggings. Kathy Threlfall is a pro at crafting beautiful chinks, chaps, and armitas. Each pair is made for your custom fit – from fringe length to special tooling. You can qualify to win a free pair of Fringe leggings. Click here.

leek3Kershaw knives. The Onion series of knives from this Oregon company is hands-down the best line of knives for horse owners. We feel horse owners and riders should always, always, always carry a knife. The Leek and Chive are especially attractive for us ladies; they are strong, easy to handle, and have sleek, unobtrusive styling. Read review.

Readers tells us Ariats are their favs. Read our review of the Vaquera here and the Monaco Zip Paddock Boot here.

On Your Horse:

Knotty Girlz gear. The Washington company knows rope and knows rope halters and lines. Owned by Robyn D , Knotty Girlz

Eye splice is simple & elegant

Eye splice is simple & elegant

has an outstanding selection of halters, ropes, mecate reins, and more. You can outfit your equine in dazzling or conservative colors. Each one feels wonderful in your hands. Read more here.


Kathy Threlfall, Fringe Leatherwork

5 Star Pads. We’ve been using 5 Star pads for many years and our horses have never had a single sore. Heck, Ben Masters and his team traveled from the Mexican to the Canadian border using 5 Star pads and never had any rubs or soring. Hard to beat. All pads are made in Hatfield, Arkansas. Check ’em out.

Outfitters Supply. If you need any item for the trail, chances are this Columbia Falls, Montana company has it. We particularly love the Calvalry saddle bags (handmade in Montana) and the saddle bags for English saddles.

Trailering? Consider these tips from our partner, Bobby Fantarella at Elm City Trailer. He weighs in here, too. And give your horses hay in the best slow-feeder Hay Pillow, on the ground or secured in a trailer.

Best Barn Slip-Ons

fcab85493c1fded7aeabd73732310c2eI’m old enough to remember the old LL Bean store in Freeport. I loved how its wooden floors creaked when you walked through the racks and how it smelled of leather, wool, and wood.

Later on in high school, my friends and I all wore Bean boots. My brother wore the 16” hunting boots with all of its 28 lace holes. Too much trouble! I favored the Lounger, a high pull-on boot. The famous footwear styles with their trademark rubber bottoms and tanned leather uppers remain perfect for Maine weather.

The store and the high school fads are gone, but Bean boots are still going strong. The slip-on Rubber Moccasin version gets our vote as the Best Barn Boot.


  • The rubber moc is the only boot you can put on without your hands. A minor detail perhaps, but when you’re waking up in the dark for horse chores, trying not to disturb others still asleep, or when have your hands full with barn gear, this feature becomes key.
  • The rubber bottoms handle mud season and the routine slop and slog so often part of managing horses. They also beat leather boots when you’re hosing off your horses or washing saddle pads.
  • The trademark tread has just enough grip to be meaningful yet does not let you track manure and mud into the house. They clean up better than hiking boots or work boots.
  • The gentle heel means in a pinch you can even ride in them. No slipping your foot through the stirrup here.

Made in Maine!

dsc02288These boots are made at a Brunswick facility, a few miles from where I was born. A woman named Melissa made my pair, according to the card placed in the boot box. You can check out a video of boot making here.

A word about fit:

Beans makes an extra effort to educate wearers on fit. You should know that these boots are meant to be worn with heavy wool socks, like these Darn Tough socks. The extra room allows for proper circulation and insulation. But if you insist on a snug fit and/or wearing thin socks, it might be best to order down a half size.

A word about appropriateness:

Around New England college campuses, you’ll see students traipsing to class in LL Bean’s Wicked Good shearling slippers. Given their comfort, you might be tempted to do the same when heading to the barn. Bad idea! Keep the pajamas on if you must. But as you layer up to toss hay in the early morning darkness, do your slippers a favor and swap them for footwear that was perfectly crafted for the task.

Bean Boots are made in Brunswick, Maine

Bean Boots are made in Brunswick, Maine

Saddlebag Must-Have: the Patagonia Alpine Houdini

Rain has a way of getting into your bones. When you’re horseback and miles from home, thirty minutes of rain should not ruin your ride. But it can. Once that chill gets into you, it’s hard to shake it off, even if you push your horse into a long trot for a few miles. Your movements stiffen, your hands freeze, and your connection with your horse can go sideways – all because of a little rain.

dsc02170We have a lovely monsoon season here in Colorado. That means it might rain every day for a few months. Most days, though, this happens: clouds gather, skies darken, and rain threatens heartily before moving on.

Given the area’s hit-and-mostly-miss disposition for precipitation, I’ve stopped tying my bulky turnout coat to the top of my saddlebag and have found the perfect substitute: the Patagonia Alpine Houdini.

The Alpine Houdini (not to be confused with the Houdini jacket which is lighter, but a bit less tough and less water-resistant) weighs less than six ounces and stuffs easily into its own pocket or a plastic sandwich bag. It has an adjustable, helmet-friendly hood. It comes in gorgeous colors, like “Arbor Green” and “Concord Purple.” I’ve been wearing a “Sulphur Yellow,” which’ll be downright ideal for hunting season.

Call me me a veteran of many sopping wet outings:

  • I’ve tried the bulky, waxed canvas coats:

aThey’re super heavy. They will eventually leak. And eventually both you and it will start smelling like an unmucked stall.

  • I’ve tried the cheap, disposable plastic ponchos:

They might be okay for sitting in the bleachers or changing a flat tire. But stay dry and move horseback? Please. Use it more than once? No chance.

Comfort and no-fuss reliability are vital when riding.Those features allow you to focus on the trail, the conditions, and your horse’s well being.

The Alpine Houdini is comfy in its simplicity, fit, and design. There are no frills to get in the way. It’s quiet (unlike many rain jackets) and easy, making it the ideal back country saddlebag necessity.

Read about Patagonia founder, Yvon Chouinard.

Martin Black’s only New England clinics

Kim Stone has cowboyed and worked with Martin Black for years in Oregon and Idaho. She now runs Shinantu, a small and busy farm in Brunswick, Maine. She submitted this  guest blog post to tell readers more about Black’s offerings next month:

Stone writes: Martin Black has been coming to Maine to share his knowledge with us for the decade.   This year will be different than the past clinics as it is broken into several “mini-clinics” for customized learning.

20151012-img_9716October 4-5: Private and semi-private sessions. Ride one-on-one with Martin, or in a small group.

October 6-7: Versatility and Horsemanship. We are excited about the opportunities to learn from Martin on our new Mountain Trail Course at Shinantu. We’ll see how he would negotiate different obstacles with all levels of horses and riders. There will be an optional trail ride at the end of this clinic that will encompass many of the Mountain Trail Course obstacles along the beautiful Androscoggin River.

October 8-9: We have teamed up with Old Crow Ranch and will be working their cattle for the stockmanship/horsemanship clinic.   What a great learning opportunity to work in a rare working ranch style format here in Maine.  Martin believes in low-stress stock handling. Working with your horse in a way to keep the cattle quiet and in control with the placement of your horses feet.  It is fascinating!

October 10 is our Annual Popham Beach Clinic. This will be the last year we will be offering Horsemanship on the Beach.

What can you expect to learn?

20151016-img_2198Martin would say, “it depends.”

Are you looking to learn something to help yourself, or something to help your horse, or both?

Martin comes from a long line of talented horseman and he believes one never stops learning. There are traditional formats of learning, and then there is the Martin Black form of learning. He will look where the horse is at, where the rider is at, and do what will benefit both. As you become more in tune with the movements of your horse, things begin to make sense and fall into place.   This is where the Mountain Trail Course, working with cattle, and even practicing riding on the beach can become a beautiful dance.

For more information, email Kim Stone at shinanatu@yahoo.com or CLICK HERE


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