LL Bean Packaways are Perfect for Horse Time

Regardless of where you live, this time of year demands layers. That’s especially true when taking our horse work into consideration. Weather is often a crap shoot. Barn calls may come before dawn (and below freezing) or midday (with plenty of sun and mud). It pays to be prepared and comfortable.

This month, we’re focusing on a few impressive products from LL Bean. The Maine company currently is having a Winter Send-Off Sale.

Read Amy Skinner’s review of LL Bean vest here.

When searching for a versatile layer, I gravitated immediately to the PrimaLoft Packaway line. LL Bean offers a jacket, a hooded jacket, and a vest. The three all come in five vibrant colors, offer great insulation, and can all pack down for easy travel and storage.

I tried the PrimaLoft Packaway Hooded Jacket in green with pink trim: think watermelon. And what’s not to like about watermelon this time of year?

The jacket served beautifully as an outermost layer as well as under a heavier jacket. It is tailored for a slim fit which means no extra fabric will encumber or catch during chores. Under another layer, the jacket felt more like a cashmere cardigan.

The shell easily sheds hay and horse hair and, anyway, it’s easy to machine wash and dry. The entire jacket stuffs easily into one of the pockets which has its own ‘stowaway’ zipper for the task. Once stuffed, the 11-ounce package has a handy loop for tying with saddle strings or attaching to backpack, making it easy to store and grab when the weather gets nippier (as it always does).

Like a favorite pair of jeans, the jacket will likely have a quiet, endearing effect on its wearer. It’ll stay on that top hook in the mudroom, all the more easy to grab, day or night. You’ll think of it as a second skin. It will feel good on and it will do its job.

Looking for something different for a trip to town?

Check out the Waxed Cotton and Wool Jacket from LL Bean’s Signature line. It’s warmer, dressier, and bulkier than the PrimaLoft Packaway jacket, with a fun faux-fur hood.

The jacket features a warm, charcoal grey color, brass buttons, two-way pockets, and a zippered breast pocket for your phone. Careful, though, it’s spot clean only. Keep the horses and hay at bay.

LL Bean’s Barn Friendly Vest

Regardless of where you live, this time of year our barn and horse work demands layers. We’re focusing on a few impressive products from LL Bean. The Maine company currently is having a Winter Send-Off Sale.

Read jacket reviews here.

Amy Skinner, owner of Essence Horsemanship and a trainer at Bar T Ranch in Pittsboro, North Carolina. She reviewed LL Bean’s Signature Packable Quilted Vest this month.

She writes:

It’s cold and windy, but barn chores and horses don’t wait for better weather. Trying to keep warm and able to move is a battle of balance, where sometimes you sacrifice mobility for warm layers.

As a woman who rides five days a week in all types of weather, I often find myself feeling and looking like the abominable snow man: bundled up head to toe, straining to lift a leg up into a stirrup and flop into the saddle with about 20 extra pounds of clothing on. An innocent bystander would not only be befuddled, but probably wouldn’t even be able to identify me as a woman under all the heavy, unfeminine layering.

I’m into practicality and ideally, I’d like to look good while doing farm work. This L.L Bean Packable Quilted Vest weighs just ounces and is insulated with Polartec’s Primaloft. When I pair it with a good scarf, it keeps me nice and warm. It is sleek, attractive in mariner blue, and fitted enough to reveal the wearer as a woman, yet still loose enough to layer under comfortably. Gone are my bundled, waddling, genderless days of barn work with this pretty and practical vest.

It has another attractive feature: five brass button snaps in place of a zipper. You not only get the longevity of a snap button where a zipper eventually fails (How annoying is it when the zipper teeth wear out, leaving your poor torso freezing as your vest flaps in the wind?), but you get to hear that satisfying “click” as you suit up for your work day.

It has two medium sized breast pockets, and below there are two larger pockets just above hip level big enough for most cell phones, granola bars, and other necessities. If you get hot throughout the day, this vest folds up about the size of a good paperback, fitting easily in your saddle bags, backpack, or purse. For extra convenience, it folds right into itself, with a sewn in zipper pocket on the inside you can tuck the vest right into.

I feel just as good wearing it out in town as I do at the barn. Going from dirty barn life to normal civilian life is easy with a quick wipe down of the vest’s exterior. It’s water resistant and easy to keep clean. This vest has replaced my old, heavy vests with its practicality, warmth, light weight, awesome pockets that can actually hold things (no wimpy girl pockets on this thing), and attractive look.

Sometimes you do actually get what you pay for, and this vest is worth the price with its quality and durability.

Dressage and Champagne in Mancos

Classical dressage competitor and instructor Petra Beltran will speak and present during an informal free evening presentation at the River Studio in Mancos, Colorado. Reservations are required for “An Evening of Classical Dressage and Champagne,” 5:30 – 7 pm, February 24, at the River Studio, 121 Grand Avenue.

Originally from the Czech Republic, Beltran is currently training and living in Woodside, California where she runs White Horse Dressage Academy. Beltran has traveled extensively and is a USDF bronze medalist. She describes herself as a constant learner and one who is passionate about classical dressage. She is enjoying southwestern Colorado while visiting friend and fellow horse lover, Petra Sullwold.

Check out the White Horse Dressage Academy Facebook page here.

Space is free but limited. RSVP by calling (970) 903 8901.

Petra Beltran





A Valentine’s Giveaway for Horse Lovers

Enter Now!

Horse people are funny. We don’t necessarily give a whit about “stuff.” Unless the stuff has to do with:

  • our horses
  • our horse dreams
  • our horse goals
  • our horse trips
  • our horse accomplishments

So Valentine’s Day might be just another day unless it offered something decidedly horsey to celebrate. Horses, after all, are our tried and true Valentines.

So just for you and your horses, from today through February 23, NickerNews and BestHorsePractices are offering a Valentine’s special giveaway worth $450 dollars. It includes:

  • 5 Star Equine All Around Western pad
  • Unbranded coffee table book and DVD pack of the award-winning documentary
  • Knotty Girlz halter and leadline (previously reviewed)
  • Liberty Bottleworks “Nicker More, Buck Less” bottle

Here’s how to enter:

Join Remuda Readers. All new and current Remuda Readers qualify for the Valentine’s giveaway. Remuda Readers receive exclusive content and a free book (A Rider’s Reader: Exploring Horse Sense, Science & Sentiment, by Maddy Butcher) when they subscribe. Join Remuda Readers.

Double Your Chances on Facebook:

Double your chances when you join Remuda Readers and send us a picture of you and your Valentine horse(s) by tagging us on our Facebook pages, NickerNews and BestHorsePractices. We will feature them throughout the duration of the contest. Like our pages here and here.

America’s own Olathe Boots

We’re always keen on quality gear and we especially love hearing reader testimonials.

Recently, a NickerNews & BestHorsePractices fan turned our attention to Olathe Boots, an impressive Texas boot company, established in 1875.
Our reader writes: I have a pair of tall top, hippo hide boots that I bought in Kalispell, Montana. They are my riding, driving, stomping, dancing, everyday boots for the last five years. I’ve resoled them twice.
I prefer them over other brands because they are made in America and well made in America.

First things first: Hippo hide?

This Montana rider LOVES his Olathes

We talked with Steven Kahla, Olathe Boots brand manager.
The hide comes from certified dealers and is part of population control efforts in Africa, said Kahla. Each hide comes from an authorized tannery and its export and sale are tightly controlled.

Of course, the company makes all variety of boots from cowhide, too. There are packer boots, classic cowboy boots, polo boots, rough stock boots, and tall top boots.

Olathe boots are made in Mercedes, Texas, one of the most southern towns in the state. About 100 boot makers produce 300 pairs per week.
Kahla calls himself a “test dummy.” His family has been in ranching for four generations and he owns and shows cutting horses. He puts each new pair through the rigors of horse work. Kayla reminds me that despite its 140-year heritage, the company is staying current, constantly considering improvements, and listening to customers.

Some recent advances include the full welt and a spur rest that goes nicely wide around to the sides (not just at the back). The full welt increases comfort and durability. The improved spur rest means your spurs will stay put.

“We learn by experience and by testing. We’re not going to get it right every time,” said Kahla, who knows of Nobel Peace Prize winners and men in the Armed Services Special Forces who wear Olathe boots. “We’re open to listening.”

Olathe boots adhere to the unisex principle that is increasing in popularity across many gear and apparel lines. Women’s boots are styled like men’s: just as durable, just as practical, just as tough, said Kahla.
“Some other boot companies make women’s boots that are extremely styled. They might look great, but they don’t last if you actually use them. We don’t make men’s boots or women’s boots. We just make boots.”
Stay tuned for an Olathe boot review coming soon.

NCPG in Elko: Celebrating Storytelling and Life with Horses

For those who’ve not had the pleasure of attending the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, an annual event run by Western Folklife in Elko, Nevada, it may be easier to describe it through metaphor:

A stage backdrop in Elko

If the Gathering were something you ate, it would be tapas, snacks often offered as part of a social agenda, of getting together.

Held over seven days in the historic Nevada town, the Gathering is not one single event where you gorge on the talents of just a few artists. Rather, it is scores of small events, hosted and presented by dozens of talents from the Western states and beyond.

In this way, snacking is a wonderfully fulfilling way to go. The Gathering celebrates not just performance but the reunion of performers with their audiences and with their fellow artists. For one week in the middle of winter, the event turns the town into a sort of rollicking, mobile family reunion. The connections between artists goes waayy back, as does their rapport with fans.

Case in point:

Paul Zarzyski
Photo courtesy of NCPG

Over the years, poet Paul Zarzyski has recited “Making Her Day,” about an only-in-Montana shenanigan involving the delivery of two Pabst Blue Ribbon cans of beer to his favorite drive-thru bank teller by way of the drive-thru bank cylinder.

This time around, one of his fans presented him with his very own drive-thru bank cylinder.

The year’s theme was Storytelling. In typical Gathering fashion, the topic took many tangents in the form of panel discussions, a keynote address by Andy Wilkinson, and several sessions dedicated to specific aspects of storytelling. Wilkinson, a beloved writer, musician, and teacher at Texas Tech University, chastised the current climate of vitriol and antagonism. He offered attendees a way back to civility and a way out of the politically-charged mire:

“…[T]here’s but one way back to glory, o kith and kin, and that’s through story.”

Wilkinson helped capture the Gathering’s mission concisely when he said: “The principal business of art is storytelling. And the principal business of storytelling is to give us an understanding of the world that is distinctly human. The historian sees their view, even though it is ever-changing, to be the objective truth. The artist knows that the ever-changing nature of truth can only be captured in a story.”

Many performers and attendees leave behind present, real-life stories of horses, cattle, ranch hands, and cowdogs to be part of the Gathering. This is true for some of my favorite performers: Gail Steiger, Randy Rieman, Joel Nelson, Ross Knox, Amy Hale Auker (Steiger’s wife), Teresa Jordan, and John Dofflemyer, to name a few. Their year-round occupations and personal histories give ringing authenticity to their presence and purpose here.

Australian poet and stockman, Jack Sammon

Jack Sammon, a talented gem from Murwillumbah, New South Wales, worked for years as a boss drover (stockman) on Australian cattle drives. One ranch he worked on spanned 170 miles from its northern end to its southern end, “with not a single fence line in between,” he said. It’s easy to get lost in that kind of vastness, he told the audience.

It’s easy to get lost and fall in love with that kind of work, too, said many performers.

Joel Nelson elaborated during another session, “we were all young cowboys and like all young cowboys, we were looking for that straight riding job.”

It may be hard, dirty, poor-paying, bone-jarring, occasionally crippling work. But especially in today’s world, where folks are constantly plugged, wired, and stressed, there are some blissful advantages

As Gail Steiger recited: “The hired man on horseback goes laughing to his work.”

Couldn’t we all stand a job like that? And even if we couldn’t – the Gathering lets us take some of that notion home with us. It let’s us embrace the idea and the lifestyle.

Teresa Jordan, who grew up on a Wyoming ranch before attending Yale University, lent a wise, female perspective to a session, titled “Let the Mystery Be” (the title of a brilliant Iris DeMent song). As a girl, she was used to spending plenty of

Trish and Deon Reynolds discuss their photographic murals

time alone and plenty of time with animals, she recalled. She’d often ride out from the ranch with men and boys. But when a girlfriend visited, the two would head out with a different mindset. “We would be the horses. There was this sense of transcendence,” she said.

Judging by the crowd’s response, it was an appreciated attitude.

At a morning session called “Coffee with the Cowboys,” performer Gail Steiger openly addressed the climate of discord which seems to blanket the country of late. He remembered the 1983 invasion of Grenada and said, “I turned off the TV and left all that nonsense behind…We disagree on some things, but we don’t disagree on everything.”

Fellow performer and working cowboy Rod Taylor nodded his head and chimed in with a song from his group, the Rifters, “…I got news for you. Let’s turn it off. Let’s go outside. The world is much more beautiful than the news implies…” Check it out here.

Out there in nature, of course, everybody and everything is just trying to get along.

And like healthy, delicious snacks shared with friends, the Gathering reminds us horse folks of what’s good in our lives.

Video accompanies Joel Nelson’s poem “Equus Caballus”

NCPG’s Moth lineup is here

The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is in full gear this week. The event, which draws performers and fans from around the world, will dominate the mining town of Elko, Nevada.

Read more about it here.

Aside from the spectacular array of day and night performances (I’m keen on seeing poet Paul Zarzyski, Joel Nelson, and Randy Rieman), the Moth Mainstage event stands apart as a new and different NCPG feature.

Saturday night, the Moth storytelling lineup consists mostly of women. (That alone is a departure for a gathering that has historically featured predominantly men. )

Teresa Jordan, the talented writer and public speaker (and also wife of Hal Cannon, the former longtime executive director of Western Folklife) will step on stage as a storyteller and sheep herder from southern Utah.

Amy Hale Auker, a performer and horsewoman from Arizona (and wife of performer Gail Steiger) will tell a story, too. She cowboys for Spider Ranch in Yavapai County, in Arizona.

Otherwise, the event’s director, Maggie Cino, has brought several folks from East of the

Amy Hale Auker


Micaela Blei is a Moth New York City GrandSLAM champion and Dame Wilburn, a Detroit performer with roots in Georgia, will host.

Nestor Gomez, a native of Guatemala and winner of the Moth’s Chicago Grand Slam event, will tell a story.

Artist and spoken word poet, Bobby Wilson, a Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota, will be a storyteller. He was born in Minnesota and is now based in Phoenix, Arizona.

The evening’s attendees will hear music from Brigid Reedy. Reedy first entertained the Elko crowds by yodeling at the Pioneer Saloon at the age of two. She has attended every Gathering since (this is her fourth as an invited performer). Check out her music videos here.

Maine Reader’s Critique and Review

One of the most rewarding elements of publishing NickerNews and BestHorsePractices is getting to know our readers.

I’m extremely fortunate to know reader Debbie Hight, a Mainer who has developed into a dear friend. Hight often emails her comments on articles, letting us know what works and doesn’t work for her and her horses.

This year, Hight became a member of the BestHorsePractices Summit steering committee. On the non-horse level, she is a busy board member of the Maine Grain Alliance, a Skowhegan nonprofit that runs the popular Kneading Conference each summer.

Amber Lambke, President of Maine Grains, Inc., described Hight:

“She is a graceful swan above water, while she paddles like mad underwater. She can routinely pack 36 hours of work and play into a 24-hour day.”

Said Tristan Noyes, the executive director of the Maine Grain Alliance, “Debbie is passionate and pours herself into goals with dogged determination, positivity, and a terrific sense of humor… You want Debbie on your team, but more importantly, you want her in your life because just being around her makes you happy and inspired. “

Around the farm, Hight is equally energetic, despite her trim, petite frame. According to friend, Rob Rowbottom (who with Hight has been featured in several NickerNews guest columns.):

“Debbie studies hard and her energy is off the chart…We share duties for taking care of six or seven horses. With friendships, you don’t think alike all the time. But we get along well.”

Here, Hight provides feedback for several recent articles:

On Warwick Schiller’s comments of so-called “Freak Accidents:”

I really enjoyed the Schiller rant.  When I walk into the barn or out to the pasture, my mantra is always “what stupid thing will they do today?” I guess that it might be better stated as “what stupid thing will I do today,” after all, they are just being horses.  I have avoided a couple of mishaps lately just by keeping tuned to this mantra.

Rob has been busy lately and that has given me time to be more mindful of my riding and to find solutions to questions, other than yelling and swearing at my horse.  I’ve made good progress at very small things, happily.

On our recent Stabil gear promotion and baling twine recycling:

This year’s weather has meant colder than cold and then a thaw and rain, which really means ICE.  The area around my barn has poor runoff, so I get a lot of ice.  When it is really awful, I generally scoot down and slide into the barn.  Of course, one recent morning, I decided to carry two buckets of water out to the heated buckets.

Yup, I slipped and wore the two buckets.  At 40 degrees, I was ok, not to mention the personal steam.   That was when I decided to look for my shoe grippers, but of course, they fit only with certain boots.  I had to modify them.  So, that is what I do with my baling twine!

I had actually saved balls of it for years, thinking that I would crochet them (and I have NO idea how to crochet) into some kind of bag. In the end, I tossed out the big balls that littered my floor with twine and hay.

Of course, the ice extends into my paddock and the bully, Postcard Jack, likes to chase around Mr. Arthritic Sweetheart, Elliot.  I had someone come out and move snow onto the paddock once last week, but it was warm and sunny and the paddock turned to ice again.

So, yesterday, I shoveled snow by hand onto the ice and packed it down for 5 hours, impressed that I could get a glass of wine to my lips last night. (Guess I need to break down and learn how to use the tractor.)  Then I let them out one at a time.  If Elliot goes down, that might be ballgame. So I do like to take care.

On Confessions of a Sugar-holic:

Hope your healthy eating is going along well.  I thought that it would be a good idea to eat better as well, though I like to think that my habits are pretty good, other than the must-have dessert at night.  But the holidays call for more butter, sugar, alcohol, etc.  Big deal.  Guess I’ll go back to my normal eating pattern and not think so much about it.  As for veganism, I cannot understand what the problem is with eggs, pretty much the perfect food. Thank heavens for eggs! Even the cholesterol people are coming back to it.

Thanks for your email, Debbie!

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