Welcome Back Advertising Partners

In interviews and surveys, we’ve learned that our horse-owning readers are smart, loyal, and expect a certain quality from any investment they make. With that in mind, we’re careful with our advertisers and make sure they reflect these high standards. When we find great advertising partners, we enjoy connecting them with our readership and we appreciate when they renew the connection year after year.

We welcome back Lucerne Farms, Western Sky Saddlery, and Hay Pillow for another great year!

Lucerne Farms, based in Fort Fairfield, Maine, produces many kinds of forage. They have traditional and molasses-free blends with varying amounts of timothy, alfalfa, and other blends. Check out this page to read how different Lucerne varieties serve different horses, from performance horses to seniors.

Western Sky Saddles for Canada’s park rangers

Western Sky Saddlery, owned and operated by Elaine and Terry Welland, has supplied scores of McCall saddles to riders from near their Carstairs, Alberta shop as well as from the far reaches of the globe. They supplied handsome McCall saddles to Canada’s park rangers. With more than 20 years in the business, they know saddles and riders. Customers rave about their services, as noted here on their testimonials page.

Research show slow-feeding strategies are effective in horse management and may reduce stress and colic in horses. And customers say Hay Pillow is the best slow-feeder on the market. Owner Monique Warren has done her homework in creating products that are horse-owner friendly and optimal for the horse, too. Check out her website here and read more about the benefits of slow feeding here.

Twice is Nice for Baling Twine

Consider all our horses and the millions of hay bales we toss to them every year.

We’re now collecting it in Mancos. Bring clean, used twine to Mancos Public Library. Read the flyer here.

Consider all that baling twine:

  • Do you toss it?
  • Do you burn it?
  • Do you bury it?

Until recently, there were no good answers to the twine waste problem.

But the Four Corners Backcountry Horsemen club is starting to collect the twine for recycling. As soon as it has enough, the club will ship it off and may earn as much as five thousand dollars for its efforts.

Christopher Smyth is organizing the recycling effort in the Durango, Colorado area. He first heard of it from Emma Van Dyck, who developed it as a 4H project a few years ago. Read more about that here and watch video.

As far as these folks know, just one American plant recycles twine: the I 90 Processing plant in Albert Lea, Minnesota. The company makes new twine from the used product. Currently, only a handful of communities are taking advantage of the program.

Certainly, there are challenges. For starters, you need A LOT of twine to make shipment to Minnesota worthwhile. Smyth says the club is aiming to collect 40,000-45,000 pounds of twine over a few years.

Next, you need a place to store it.

Valley Feed and Ranch Supplies in Bayfield, Colorado, has stepped in to provide space.

Smyth said the club is now looking for a container to place on site in Bayfield. Additional plans will be made to have collections elsewhere in southwestern Colorado.

“You have to be pretty proactive,” said Smyth of the program and its challenges. But it’s a worthwhile endeavor, he said. “Some people burn it. When it’s left outside, some birds can use it for nesting and become tangled in it.”

We all know there is plenty of twine out there. Smyth said his club plans on inviting neighboring Backcountry Horseman clubs to join in the collection. For more information, email Smyth at smyth.christopher@gmail.com

We think it’s a great project. Kudos!

Check out twine recycling opportunities here.

Quick End for Beloved Belle

Since many of us count animals as companions and friends, and since many of us have dogs, please Dear Reader, allow me to remember Belle and recount how she died this week.

Photo by Beau Gaughran

You may recall her in another piece here. The Basset hound mutt with a yard-long body and short legs even made it into A Rider’s Reader. Notable as an independent spirit, Belle was her own dog.

On New Year’s Eve, as the day was fading into evening, Belle joined the rest of us on a walk down the road. The road is gravel, four miles long, and follows a north-south canyon with steep ridges on each side. Only eight homes have full time residents. It’s quiet, beautiful, and bordered by undeveloped public and private lands.

When we turned for home, it didn’t surprise or bother me that Belle wasn’t with us. She has a history of civil disobedience and I have loved her through gritted teeth. After all, she’s a hound and her nose demands far more attention than my calls ever did. In her 12-year old form, she’d also become a dawdler. She’d come home in due course. She’d stand at the door, give me that high-toned woof, and be let in. It happened every day, several times a day.

After an hour, though, we grew concerned. With my son, Cormick (home on college break), and dogs, I headed back out, into the dark and snow. We retraced our steps and took long detours into the juniper and scrub oak, using headlamps and calling her name. We followed the dogs as they picked up scents and dropped them. We listened.

Belle as a younger dog

Over the last week, Belle had been rejuvenated by short-but-sweet visits from my three sons. She loved them and they loved her. Aside from me, she was the only being who’d journeyed these 12 years with them. They shared histories of porcupine and skunk run-ins, humid Maine summers by the ocean, long wilderness treks, and long cross-country road trips. While less than obedient in the field, Belle was an in-house ham. She would sit, stay, lie down, and roll over, often in rapid succession. She would bark loudly or “air bark” depending on the request.

When I’d last seen her, she was bounding like a puppy, big ears flapping. She’d caught a scent and was following it with obvious glee.

As the calendar turned from last year to this year, I tromped through brush and snow with a fading headlamp.

Could she have fallen into a drainage?

Could she have tussled with coyotes?

I checked the shallow ravines and watched for any sign of struggle. (Productively following her tracks was nearly impossible with our other dogs in the mix.) We searched by truck, too, covering the length of the road with high beams, stopping to call and to listen.

In the morning, I got horseback and rode the fields, checking streams and peering into the timber for any signs. The challenge of searching miles of snow-patched ground for a snow-and-dirt colored dog struck hard. I started thinking about closure, the need to know, and how I might never know.

In the early afternoon, I headed out again. The falling snow made it too wet for a saddle, so I fitted Shea with a towel and bareback pad. Checking drainages, ditches, and scrub oak crannies, we worked our way up the ridge from where I’d last seen her.

The search had become something of a mind game. In the face of needle-in-haystack odds, methodologies of reason and intuition blend like chocolate syrup and milk. Doubt and determination ebb and flow.

The dogs, horse, and I continued to climb. Four years ago, a wildfire moved through the canyon. Scads of standing, charred trees remain. My white chinks streaked black.

We paused along the side of the ridge and I looked south across miles of country. Had the dogs not gathered to inspect, I might have missed her body, perfectly inconspicuous 15 feet down the hill. Belle looked asleep and almost unharmed save some blood on her side and her head.

Had she been shot?

Did she hurt herself and then die of exposure?

I took the towel from Shea’s back, wrapped her in it, and with Cormick’s help, carried her home, placed her in the bed of the truck, and studied her body. I called some ranching friends. Belle had rough puncture wounds above one eye and under her jaw. It appeared that her neck had been broken.

From all indications, I learned, this was a mountain lion kill. It had been quick and not motivated by hunger but more likely by aggravation. Belle pursued it and the cat had disposed of her. The image at right was taken by my friend a few miles away, earlier this year.

I’ve trained my dogs not to chase game, especially in the winter. They often wear electronic collars so if necessary they can be reminded with a tone or vibration that they must not bother the wildlife. Belle, I’d figured, didn’t need a collar. She’d grown too old and slow to be a threat. Most recently, she seemed to enjoy watching her buddies do all the running and playing.

A mountain lion after a deer kill, a mile from our home. photo by Cecil Thurman

I don’t harbor any ill will towards the cat. (Though that might change if it gets a taste for domestic dog.) It was doing what cats do. Belle was being Belle. Living here requires a balance of considerations: respectful coexistence whenever possible. Mostly, I think us humans get it wrong. William Kittredge wrote about land ownership and stewardship as he reflected on the unwitting havoc his family wreaked on thousands of acres in southern Oregon. His people never owned the land “not in any significant way,” he wrote in Hole in the Sky: A Memoir. We’re all just passing through.

It took a while to dig through the frozen ground and shovel deep enough to discourage coyotes from rooting out her body. We buried her on a knoll above the house, under a tree. It was a spot Belle often chose to survey the neighborhood. I think the old explorer might have approved.

Photo by Beau Gaughran

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