Welcome Valley Feed & Ranch Supply

We welcome Valley Feed and Ranch Supply of Bayfield, Colorado, to our family of advertisers.

The feed store, run and owned by Tracy McCracken, is a full service feed and ranch supply store and generously participating in the baling twine recycling efforts offered by the Four Corners Backcountry Horsemen. Read more about that here.

Valley Feed carries Purina, Ranchway and Blue Bonnet products and they have a great selection of pet food and supplies, including farrier supplies, ropes, and tack. They are located at 39987 US Highway 160.

We’re checking out their EquiLix, an all-in-one, all-season vitamin, mineral, and digestive aid supplement for horses made by SweetPro. EquiLix comes in a 125-pound tub (other sizes are available as well as bags for top dressing feed). It has diatomaceous earth, flax, prebiotics, probiotics, and best of all: NO molasses. The horses seem to love it.

Welcome Valley Feed!

Boulet Boots dedicated to serving riders

Recently, we spoke with Louis Boulet, vice president of the Boulet Boot Company. The 84-year old company is still based in the small town where it was founded, Saint-Tite, northeast of Montreal, Canada.

Boulet is not your typical cowboy boot company.

Typical:

  • Start making boots for real cowboys, then expand to appeal to urban cowboys or other wearers who value fashion over function.
  • Start by making boots locally, then outsource to China.

At their Quebec facility, the quality of manpower is high. The staff turnover is low. Of its 200 employees, all but 25 are dedicated to bootmaking. Many Boulet bootmakers have been with the company for decades. That dedication shows in the quality of the boot, said Louis Boulet. In this video, Boulet describes how the company distinguishes itself, with a focus on the manufacturing process.

G.A. Boulet founded the company in 1933. During World War II, Canada commissioned Boulet to make its Armed Forces boots. It also excelled at industrial footwear and dress shoes.

Grandsons Louis and his brother, company president Pierre Boulet, run the company now and a fourth generation is coming up. Younger family members, Jenny and Francois, are involved in marketing and accounting, said Boulet.

With its focus on footwear for real horsemen and women, with styles from buckaroo and rough stock, to packer and roper, Boulet workers produce 850 boots daily.

Louis Boulet said his family and his company are dedicated to preserving the cowboy boot traditions, crafting safe, comfortable boots with soles that slip out of the stirrups easily. Boulet leathers come from Canada and the U.S. and are tanned in Mexico. Aside from exotic leathers and cowhide, the company recently added North American bison hide to its inventory.

“We want people to wear the product, to abuse the product, to appreciate the quality. We make a good boot and we target horse people, not fashionistas,” said Boulet.

In our telephone conversation, Mr. Boulet said his family decided years ago to choose quality over quantity and to rely on customer feedback and reward loyalty. It’s not unlike the back-and-forth of horse work, said Boulet, who rides often. “You might ask for something. The horse gives it to you and you let go. You have to listen. It might take 15 minutes or an hour and a half. The horse will tell you. “

About 50 years ago, the company helped develop what would eventually become Festival Western, one of the biggest rodeos in North America. The multi-day event brings hundreds of thousands of attendees to Saint-Tite annually. Check it out here.

Stay tuned. We’ll review men’s and women’s Boulet boots soon.

Festival Western in St-Tite

 

Saddle Fit with Letitia Glenn

Letitia Glenn video-records Steve Peters with Jolene.

This week, we visited with Letitia Glenn, owner of Natural Horseman Saddles. The Colorado-based horsewoman showed us how much more comfortable Jolene the mule was able to move when properly fit. For years, Glenn has helped riders understand saddle fit and helped dismiss some common myths. Her clients include clinician Dave Ellis and all members of the Police Department Mounted Patrol of Austin, Texas.

Glenn writes:

If you’ve ever been told to avoid putting your saddle back where your horse would have to carry some weight behind the 18th rib, we suggest you challenge that advice by asking your horse.

In the images at right, Dino is a Paso Fino with a typically short back and we tried to follow that very rule when I first rode him. Even a small saddle restricted his shoulders because it had to be shifted quite far forward to stay in front of his lumbar vertebrae. When we rode in the mountains, I noticed that he managed to shift the saddle back further when we climbed hills and I could feel his strides instantly became more powerful and smooth.

Dino experienced more comfort when the saddle was set further back than standard fitting.

I started leaving the saddle back there, paying close attention to his movement and checking carefully for tenderness in his back when we got home. We’ve been riding that way for years now, and Dino clearly prefers it. He doesn’t get sore back there and he’s 18 years old.

I would imagine that most traditionally-trained horse people looking at Dino’s sweat pattern (see right) might think we’ve been cruel to him.  But I always check his back when returning from a ride and again when I saddle him the next time.  No flinching, so I know he’s happy.

I make sure that the front of my saddle is behind his shoulder blade’s back edge when I tack up English or when riding Western, that the front concho is behind his shoulder blade’s back edge. We have a wonderfully rhythmic rides.

When the saddle’s posterior edge eclipses the last thoracic vertebra (see image below), it’s not as if it is restrictive back there. The slight “pivot point” between the 18th rib and the lumbar group will be accommodated because the saddle does not clamp down there.

Instead, we know that lumbar pain comes from:
  • head carriage being too high
  • midsection sunk too low
  • abdominal muscles unable to contract and push the back up
  • inability of back muscles to flex in the proper direction because they’re tense and contracted
  • hips rotated forward with hind legs strung out too far behind instead of underneath
All of which is going to happen if shoulders are restricted due to the saddle being too far forward or pinching to block the scapula swing. We know that the horse will also experience pain if the rider is driving the saddle forward, bracing in stirrups, or hanging onto the reins (which may very well be too short).

Letitia shows shoulder blade, saddle and shim placement

If you’re interested in experimenting with saddle fit, try this experiment:

  • Saddle up with your saddle forward so that the girth is right up in the armpit of your horse and you feel pressure when you reach under the saddle up along the bars where the shoulders need to bulge in full stride. Ride around a bit and ask for a canter.
  • Saddle up with the front of the English saddle behind the back edge of the scapula or the front concho of your Western saddle behind this back edge of the scapula while your horse is standing still and you have at least one shim (preferably a tapered foam one) set back so the “nose” of the shim is at the scapula’s maximum back-swing point.  Ride around a bit and ask for a canter.

Please let us know what you felt and noticed. Email us by scrolling down on this page. We’re always thrilled to collect more empirical data!

Don’t fret if the end of the saddle extends beyond the 18th rib

Welcome Back Third Coast Equine and Morton Real Estate!

Dr. Janelle Tirrell

We welcome back Dr. Janelle Tirrell of Third Coast Equine and Morton Real Estate to our fabulous family of advertising partners.

Third Coast Equine, based in Palermo, Maine, offers three tiers of Wellness Plans to give horse owners an opportunity to plan ahead and invest in their horses’ health. Wellness Plans include farm calls, fecal egg counts, vaccinations, dental care, and even Coggins testing, depending on the tier.

Read more and sign up for Wellness Plan here.

Tirrell has been practicing veterinary medicine in Maine since graduating from Michigan State University in 2006.

Welcome back, Janelle!

Morton Real Estate of Brunswick, Maine, has been serving the midcoast community for more than 40 years. It recognizes the area as a very special place. Its realtors have an appreciation for the history and architecture of each property.

Currently, Morton has several horse-friendly properties becoming available. For starters, check out this listing on Westport Island: it’s a beautiful log home on about seven acres with gorgeous views of the Sheepscot River as it wends its way to the ocean. Check out the photo gallery here.

 

Linda Mannix: Sounds of Silence


One of my favorite gals around these parts is Linda Mannix. The director of the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering, Mannix is a walking, talking fireball. She has more energy, ideas, and initiative than I could ever hope for. Technically, she is a senior citizen. But practically, she’s more a 30-year old overachiever. Yet her drive and productivity do not preclude her from appreciating quiet times.

Here, Mannix shares a moment of downtime with her beloved equines:

It is late winter in southwestern Colorado, a time when icy cold storms are followed by brilliant blue-sky days bearing a hint of spring.  My husband and I live on an old ranch where we raised cattle to sell all-natural beef at the local Farmer’s Market.  Now we just raise hay.  Weather, livestock, and wildlife are a constant in our lives.

Linda and Tio

On the ranch, we used horses to work cattle. Several years ago, we bought a nice six-month old colt from another ranch.  I named him “Tio” after a dear friend.  Tio and I have had our ups and downs (Literally: I was bucked off while rounding up bulls in a rainstorm. That incident led me in search of newer and better ways of training a young horse, strategies better than just riding the buck out of them.)

Tio and I are older and wiser now, with a balanced sense of trust and respect between us.  Two other horses and three donkeys fill out the remains of our string.  Our ranch does not have a barn, so the horses and donks are turned out in a large, dry trap all winter.  I feed them three times a day, keeping hay in their bellies to fend off the cold.

Last week, I went out on a moonless night to do late feeding about 11 pm.  These journeys always afford me a vigorous walk after dinner, some excellent star gazing, and quality nose time breathing cold air next to frosty whiskers on the horse’s muzzles.

When I got to the feed ground, there were no horses or donkeys to be seen.  They hang out in the trees at night, so I went ahead and spread the hay out.  The longer I stood there, the more I realized I could hear nothing.  The sound of silence. No braying, no crunching hooves on snow and ice.  Nothing.

As I headed back towards the house I had second thoughts about leaving them unaccounted for.  Our property backs up to a canyon which is home to mountain lion and coyote.  I began searching with headlamp to find my tiny herd.

Finally, a beam caught the glint of reflection in eyes.  Still, not a sound.  I looked closer and they were all there.  Horses and donkeys standing ankle deep in half frozen mud in our old branding pen.

Tio gave a concerned nicker and moved towards the walk-through gate.  I looked at the footing and realized there was no way I could go in there.  It was suck-yer-boots-off mud.   So I circled around the outside of the pen and walked past an open stock panel where the horses could get out.

My big red horse looked at me. I looked at him, and kept on walking.  He slogged his way out of the pen and followed me.  No halter, no lead rope.  He trusted me and I trusted him.  He did not panic nor barge past me.  Just walked steadily behind.  It was an invisible bond between us which we have worked for years to build.

As we walked back around to where the feed was, the others followed.  When they were all there, I clicked off my headlamp and sat down on a log.  All the bustle, noise, and news of the day meant nothing compared to the simple joy of listening to those animals chew their feed on a cold, starry night.  I realized once again how much these large, flighty animals touch our souls.  The depth of their being reminds us to savor every moment in our lives.

Thanks, Linda!

The Horse is NOT a Mirror

Guest columnist Tim Jobe runs NaturalLifemanship and is a leader in equine-assisted therapy. The Texan, who is also an accomplished cowboy poet and horseman, shared this point of view with us:

Tim Jobe

The horse is not a mirror. Before you start shooting, give me a chance to explain:

Would you say your spouse is a mirror? I don’t think I could get away with that. My spouse will react or respond to my emotions, thoughts, or feelings, but definitely doesn’t mirror them back to me. This also happens in a relationship with a horse. The horse responds or reacts to whatever is going on with me and hopefully I do the same thing for the horse. The horse doesn’t mirror my actions. In fact, horse training would be much easier if only this was the case.

If I am too aggressive, the horse may become passive and try to appease me. This often shows up as lowering his head and licking his lips. Some people see this as a good sign. I don’t think that it is. I don’t want my horse to try to appease or submit to me. I want him to make an intelligent, informed decision about the right thing to do.

Appeasing turns into resentment which turns into aggression. If I am too aggressive, the horse may become aggressive which could be mistaken for mirroring but is really just a reaction to my aggression. On the other hand, if I am passive, the horse doesn’t become passive. It will eventually become aggressive.

Have you ever seen passive parents produce passive kids? I think that is pretty rare. It has been my experience that passive parents have overbearing, aggressive kids. I have worked with lots of people who have horses that bully them all the time. These people are usually too passive with their horses and it ends up causing aggression in the horse. That is in no way a mirroring effect.

It is true that when I am calm my horse has a tendency to become calm. Again, this is merely a response to me, not mirroring. If my energy goes up, so does that of the horse.

Sometimes the horse recognizes some of my needs and tries to provide for them, just like my spouse does or anyone else with whom I have a functional relationship. Yawning is a great example of this: when a horse repeatedly yawns she is trying to release tension, either in herself or in the person working with her.

During sessions, frequently, the horse seems to magically do things to meet the client’s needs. We see this in our other relationships but it doesn’t seem as magical because it is what we expect from good relationships. It is a response to our emotions, thoughts, or feelings – not mirroring.

When we categorize it as mirroring, we take away the most valuable element of therapeutic work with horses. That is, the ability to build a relationship in which the emotions, thoughts, and feelings of each are important to both and responded to by both. A relationship with a mirror is called Narcissism. A mirror has a passive role in that relationship, and we believe a horse is more valuable when he/she has an active role.

Horses can only have that role when we understand that they are responding or reacting to us. If we assign the role of mirror to horses we are robbing them of an active status in the relationship. If we want the client to move to a place where they have an understanding of the patterns they create relationships, then the horse must have an active role in that relationship.

The horse is not a mirror. It is a living, breathing being capable of either a functional or dysfunctional relationship depending on what the human wants to build.

What’s a nice shirt got to do with riding?

In many parts of our world, it’s mud season. Our horses don’t necessarily care if they’re covered in mud.

But we do.

Take shirts, for example. When a shirt fits well and looks good, it impacts our wellbeing. We feel better about ourselves. That positivity trickles down to the horse through our horse-human connection.

So, that good-looking shirt? It might just make you a better rider.

That’s what Rhea Scott Follett had in mind when she founded CR RanchWear nine years ago. Based in Dallas, Texas, the company has focused on producing unique and stunning tops for performers and recreationalists. The shirts, many made with Italian cotton, are all sewn in Dallas by a group of seamstresses.

Follett started the company in 2008 by introducing shirts (and, truth be told, pajamas!) at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Initially, CR RanchWear worked with the cutting horse crowd and has since expanded by attending cowhorse, reining, and Arabian shows.

Each community has slightly different tastes and requests, said the owner. Some prefer French cuffs. Some adore the Swarovski crystal details on the front yoke. Some love added bling. Some lean toward the traditional. All appreciate the degree of couture.

CR RanchWear shirts, said Follett, are tailored specifically to athletic women. With seven sizes from XXS to XXL, they fit a body more accurately than typical Western riding shirts.

Not surprisingly, the horse community engenders some “persnickety” customers, said Follett. “And that’s good. I like it like that. It gives me a challenge. We have grown very organically by listening to our customers.”

The Texan has a lifelong passion for riding, getting horseback for the first time at age 5. “CR” stands for her daughter’s name, Chandler Rhea, who’s also an equestrian.

CR RanchWear asked fans to choose between these fun Dia de los Muertos style prints

The company often crowd sources fabric and design decisions by polling their followers on social media. On a recent fabric selection visit to Los Angeles, the company asked its fans to help decide between many brilliant prints.

“We’ve found those in rodeo really embrace fun prints.”

It may be a niche audience, but the company has enjoyed impressive growth. At first, only Follett and one other woman were sewing. Now, a dedicated group of nine seamstresses creates more than 100 shirts per week.

“I’m committed to production here. I will never, ever, ever manufacture overseas,” she said.

Stay tuned. We will be reviewing CR RanchWear shirts soon.

Juni Fisher in a CR RanchWear shirt

Horse-related Spring To-Do’s

Regular deliveries of fly predators will help fly control immensely

In some parts of our horsey world, spring has sprung. Trail riding season is coming and it pays to formulate a spring To Do list and tackle it before the season is upon us. Here are some preliminary suggestions:

  • Consider flies before they show up.

I’ve been using Spalding Labs’ predator flies for the past several years. Their strategy is simple: introduce tiny flies that prey on what us horses and humans consider pesky and irritating flies. It has been incredibly effective; I bought just one bottle of fly repellant last year and didn’t even use all of it.

But here’s the thing: you’ve got to plan ahead. Order now and you will receive your first shipment in May (or earlier, depending on where you live). The proof is in the flies. These little guys will make your summer days exponentially more enjoyable.

Before you load up your equine partner for a fun outing, make sure the carrier of your precious cargo is safe. Ignoring routine maintenance has been known to end tragically. Don’t think that you can just pull it out, hook it up, and take off on your merry way. Read more here.

For years, Bobby Fantarella, owner of Elm City Trailers, has provided us with not just trailers but excellent trailer safety tips. Check them out here.

  • Check and reboot your first aid kit.

Many first aid kit ingredients can go bad over time, especially if they have been frozen or subjected to a wide range of ambient temperatures. You can make up your own or order them.

Here is our check list for what to have for your horses.

Check out Adventure Medical for some excellent human and Me and My Dog kits.

  • Consider Wellness Plans

Invest now, benefit throughout the year. Third Coast Equine has Wellness Plans that can help with planning and optimizing your wallet and your horses’ health.

Horsewoman Amy Skinner is coming to Maine

Amy Skinner of Essence Horsemanship and Bar T Ranch will visit Maine for a weekend of private and semi-private lessons next month.

The accomplished horsewoman teaches English and Western. Skinner has studied at the Andalusian School of Equestrian Art in Spain, with Buck Brannaman, Leslie Desmond, Brent Graef, and many others. Additionally, she is an accomplished guest columnist for NickerNews and BestHorsePractices. Read her articles here.

Currently living in Pittsboro, North Carolina, Skinner is working with Bar T’s Jim Thomas in starting colts, working with mustangs, and helping clients.

Skinner will travel north for two full days of lessons on April 29-30 at Goldenwinds Farm in Norridgewock, Maine. Lessons start at 8 am and go until 6 pm. Each lesson lasts 90 minutes and costs $90. Semi-private lessons last 90 minutes and cost $100 or $50 for each rider (maximum of two riders in each session). Auditors are welcome at $25 per day.

The weekend event will take place in Goldenwinds’ indoor arena, a 60’ x 120’ space.

There are no overnight facilities and attendees are asked to bring their own horse supplies as well as people food.

Stay tuned for registration details and sign-up forms coming next week.

 

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