English Meets Western in a Jean

Like a lot of you, riding makes up just a fraction of my horse time. There’s all that farm and ranch work that supports the habit – mending fence, hauling hay and water, moving horses, reseeding pasture, repeat. Jeans are what we wear. No other pants can survive our lifestyle. We like them tough, comfortable, and pretty.

As a Western rider, I wear jeans outside my boots. English riders, on the other hand, wear stretchy breeches or jeans. They wear them inside their boots.

— What if a new jean satisfied all these rider and ranch requirements for English and Western riders alike?

— What if this new jean also made you feel good about not neglecting the earth or the folks making the jeans?

This year, Patagonia answered the call with a stretchy, tough, super comfortable jean. It’s the Patagonia Straight Jean, available for men and women in short, regular, and long lengths.

What took the company so long?

The cuff snugs over boots and doesn’t ride up.

If you’re like me, you didn’t realize the denim industry is rife with abuse. From the cotton fields to the garment manufacturing, it’s a business that has historically treated the planet and the people poorly. Up to now, Patagonia chose not to engage with standard denim practices and production. Instead, it took time to research how to make a jeans purchase you could sleep with (and in).

Watch this video.

Next, Patagonia needed to get the word out about their new, standard-busting product. Who best to review the jeans?

Forget about rock climbers, hikers, surfers or sailors. Forget about urbanites or backcountry wannabes. If you really want to test the worthiness of a pair of jeans, give them to horse owners.

This horse owner wore them on and off horses. In rain and snow. Over many miles of back country and front country living. These dark indigo jeans, 71 percent cotton and 29 percent Coolmax polyester, held up marvelously, even with the jean-trashing task of haying.

I thought I didn’t like any stretch in my jeans. All cotton or forget-about-it. But these jeans converted me. With Patagonia jeans there is:

No more hitching up my pants before stepping up into the saddle.

No more wearing a size bigger for riding and a size smaller for going to town.

The deep indigo color means they will look sharp for years. Their comfort will keep them on the top of my jeans pile, ready for the next wearing. Their durability and versatility means they will stay on, from barn to trail to town to night-on-the-town.

When things got muddy, they tucked into rubber boots with no fuss. Otherwise, they wore well outside of my cowboy boots. In fact, their stretch and narrower-than-boot cut line meant that they did not inch up when we rode fast (loping and galloping), but the leg snugness may not suit every one or every pair of boots. They have all the features you’d want in a horsewoman’s jean, except maybe the rhinestone bling.

Rhinestone bling? Ew.

Rhinestone Bling? No, thanks!

Favorite Reads of 2016

We asked a few contributors for their favorite reads of 2016. Here’s what they picked:

Emily Luciano, occasional guest columnist and director of Lucky Dee Communications

Emily Thomas Luciano

Less is More

Feel Defined

Amy Skinner on Self Carriage

Amy Skinner on Guiding

WiseAssWallace on Gear

Amy Skinner, frequent guest columnist and owner of Essence Horsemanship

Wise Ass Wallace videos

Focus on Fitness articles

Amy Skinner

Katrin Silva’s feature on contact

Use Mental not Mechanical Gear

Creating Self Confidence in your Horse

Julie Kenney, Focus on Fitness guest columnist

Amy Skinner on Education versus Learning

Julie Kenney

Katrin Silva’s feature on contact

Wise Ass Wallace videos

Amy Skinner’s Drop Rotten Routines article

Amy Skinner’s Pitfalls of Training article

Dr. Steve Peters, author Evidence-Based Horsemanship and occasional guest columnist:

The Case for Cowboys

Steve Peters

Greed in Full View

Mustang Emergency and How We Got Here

Julie Kenney’s Focus on Fitness

Another Call against Cross Ties

Creating Self Confidence in your Horse

Wise Ass Wallace

Stay in the Flow, by Shelley Appleton

NCPG Welcomes The Moth

The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, the granddaddy of gatherings, continues to evolve in its 33rd rendition, taking place in Elko, Nevada, January 30-February 4, 2017.

For the first time, the event will highlight an evening with The Moth, a New York City-based organization and a premier storytelling operation.

What is a storytelling operation?

We’ve come a long way from the campfire, folks.

Storytelling has entered an entirely new domain, where first-person narratives are rehearsed, produced with music, uploaded into podcasts and appreciated by millions of strangers. The Moth was one of the first to give amateur storytellers a broader audience, complete with radio and Internet treatment. Moth parameters are simple: stories must be true, short (usually 10-minutes or less), and told in the first person. While snark and sarcasm are often the most popular sentiments in entertainment nowadays, the Moth offers listeners refreshing options: compassion, sincerity, and vulnerability.

It will be interesting to see how the New York outfit meshes with the cowboy poets of the West. Maggie Cino, Moth director of the Saturday night show, has been researching the NCPG and reviewing storyteller options. She said she was excited to highlight the cowboy way of life and those individuals’ literary and artistic passions.

“Our way of working is to find the common interest among the storytellers, but to also showcase them as individuals,” she said in a phone interview from Los Angeles.

For the Gathering’s executive director, David Roche, the Moth production is another way for the NCPG to flex and grow.

“At the core is cowboy poetry, stringing words together. The next layer is oral literature in general. We’re interested in expanding to incorporate contemporary Western literature and ethnic and occupational diversity.”

In the past, Western Folklife (the non-profit running the NCPG) has invited cowboys from Italy, Mongolia, and the Baja California peninsula of Mexico, for example. This year’s offerings include workshops, open mic sessions, teen poetry, films, and a keynote address by poet and songwriter Andy Wilkinson. It’s an incredible, week-long celebration of cowboy culture, history, humor, and handy work.

Make no mistake, Elko will still celebrate its veteran performers – the likes of Joel Nelson, Randy Rieman, Paul Zarzyski and many others are still on the bill. But other stellar reciters have “aged out,” said Roche.

“Our idea is to refresh and regenerate,” he said. “We’re all about taking risks and trying new things.”

Check out the event here.

Unwrappable Gifts between Horses and Humans

Giving of the most meaningful kind comes in unwrappable packages of time, attention, listening, and guidance. We humans often substitute these gifts with rings and things. But the gifts you can’t box, I’ve learned, are the most valuable and the most empowering. They build on themselves. They are boomerangs of energy, looping back to the giver. They are ripples of good will.

This is a story of gifts and gift-giving.

Peppermint Patty was meant to be a grandchild’s pony. She was meant to stand passively as kids banged their legs against her flanks and yanked on her mouth. Like many poor ponies profiled by size alone, she was meant to tolerate that innocent kind of cruelty. When she bolted with one grandchild and sent another into the fence rails, the grandmother was hell-bent on teaching Peppermint Patty some lessons.

I learned of this unfortunate arrangement while working one day at the barn where the pony lived through her unfortunate days.

At the time, I had a little Shetland pony that I’d inherited from a neighbor when the neighbor went into a nursing home. I got to thinking: while thankfully too small to ride, the Shetland still could be that lovable, lead-around pony that the family desired. With a swap, Peppermint could get out of her doomed-to-fail predicament.

And so it was arranged. The stout, black and white mare came to my farm, joining two horses from similarly unlucky backgrounds.

We had a rough start. I came off Pep twice in the first two rides, showing the same kind of imprudence she’d experienced for years: She’s just a pony. I’ll just jump on.

No ground work.

No preparation.

No connection.

No saddle.

The change of barn and handler (For starters, I could catch her in the field while the former owner had had to lure her with grain into a stall.) made her life better. But the bigger fix wouldn’t be so simple.

I studied her. A fireball in a little package. A smart, sassy equine whose athleticism and intelligence h

Steve Peters
Photo by Beau Gaughran

ad been squelched at every turn. An animal whose distaste for humans ran deep, stewing below a perky surface. Amazingly, she still wanted to connect; I could see guarded willingness and curiosity behind her antics.

With a bruised ego and bruised back, I took a new approach She’d get out as a ponied pony. We went for miles in Maine’s backwoods. We went on road trips. We hiked. She got lots of new experiences, on a lead line with my big PMU mare. She got to sweat, run, swim, roll, and hang out.

It was progress and I felt I’d helped her. But I lacked the skills and confidence to do more.

Then came another gift.

I’d met Steve Peters a few months prior. He visited us in Maine, bringing his saddle, his horsemanship, and his interest in helping. He taught me to embrace Pep’s need to move. He taught me to direct her instead of trying to stop her.

In practice, this looked like many, many big circles of trotting and loping. It was fast rides in fields and on the beach. I learned to sit deep and stay off the reins.

Internally, it was just as exciting. I was facing fears, tamping them down, facing more fears, and replacing them with new skills and confidence.

Over many months, thanks to Steve’s guidance, we experienced positive change. The pony no longer bolted at the smallest miscue. We moved from snaffle bit to bosal. I became a lighter, smarter, more confident rider (a benefit that paid dividends with other horses, too).

Pep now stepped to the gate when she saw me setting out tack. Over six years, we’ve ridden thousands of miles in Maine, Iowa, Utah, and Colorado. She’s a Go-To girl.

This summer, I noticed another development. When I bring her out of the pasture and start saddling her, Pep enters a brief, intense period of relaxation. Her eyes nearly close and her lower lip goes flappy. She lowers her head and cocks a back leg. I like to think she knows she is safe and that good times are ahead.

How do you bundle confidence? How do you bow tie that buoyant feeling of being okay with oneself and with each other?

Witnessing her change over the years has been a tremendous gift, a boomerang that has looped back to warm my heart. In a similar fashion, Steve’s gift of knowledge and support has reverberated well beyond that simple riding lesson years ago.

So as I mull over shopping lists and stocking stuffers, I’m taking a moment to consider and appreciate gifts we can’t fit under the tree.

Happy Trails and Happy Holidays


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