Let Your Horse-Owning Voice Be Heard

This just in from Best Horse Practices Summit presenter Dr. Sheryl King:

King writes:

As horse lovers you know that our industry is under-recognized both for its size and its economic impact. In the words of Rodney Dangerfield: “We Don’t Get No Respect.”

We can take steps to change that and preserve and protect what we love. The first step is to be counted.  The American Horse Council is conducting a nationwide Horse Industry Economic Impact Survey. My home state, Illinois, has raised significant funds and will participate as a focus state. Any horse owner in any state is asked to participate.
As an industry, we need to verify our size and our strength.  I am asking you to please complete the survey.
Secondly, I am asking you to please forward this link to every horse lover you know and to every person or business that relies on the horse industry.
The survey will only remain active until July 31, so you need to act fast!
Thank you from the bottom of my horse loving heart.

Dr. Sheryl King

Hauling Ass: My first pack burro race

Editor’s Note: This week, we hear from Katrin Silva, an accomplished horsewoman as well as an impressive endurance runner. She writes about the burro races at the Leadville Boom Days celebration in the mountains of Colorado.

Colorado’s State Sport? Pack burro racing, of course!

By Katrin Silva

Pack Burro Racing is, in fact, a sanctioned sport. It involves running with an ass in tow on mountain trails, for distances between 10 and 30 miles. The rules are specific: burros (not mules, not ponies – asses only) must wear a pack saddle with 33 pounds of mining gear, including a pick, shovel, and gold pan.

Runner and burro must work as a team and cross the finish line together. Runners may push, pull, drag, or carry their ass, but they may not ride it.

Katy, a fellow ultra runner I’d met from Sydney, Australia, found this niche phenomenon particularly fascinating. She had heard that burro racing is not a strictly BYOB sport. It might be possible to rent a burro, she said.

Who wouldn’t be tempted by Bella and her cute keeper?

I was curious, too. I’m a cowgirl at heart and I train horses for a living, but had never worked with a donkey.

Intrigued though I was, I had planned to leave by noon at the latest. I would, of course, resist any temptation to run a burro race all day, then drive back to New Mexico really late. No way, I kept telling myself as Katy and I walked to the pack saddle weigh-in. I’d just to check things out. Really.

Downtown Leadville was teeming with burros of all colors and sizes, tied to horse trailers, to trees, and to lampposts. The ratio of cowboy hats to sun visors and cowboy boots to running shoes was 50/50.

The humans were busy with brushes, hoof picks, ropes, and packs. Donkeys were braying, pawing, and circling.

Two silver grey burros caught my eye. They stood like islands in a storm, while a grey-haired man and a young boy fed them hay and brushed their sleek coats.

I complimented the man on the excellent condition of his animals, and their calm demeanor. I patted the donkeys, a nine-year old brother-sister pair named Silver Jack and Bella. They were clearly the pride and joy of their owner, Maple. “Like a tree,” he said.

Maple couldn’t run today because of an injury, but his friend Nathalie was going to race Silver Jack. I mentioned my background with horses and expressed my interest in burro racing. Maple looked at me thoughtfully.

“No one is running with Bella today. Would you like to?”

He didn’t know, couldn’t know, that he had just offered the equivalent of a whiskey shot to a horse-a-holic. I bit back the enthusiastic “Yes!” that wanted to escape my lips. What was I thinking? The race didn’t start until 11 a.m. and would easily go on until late afternoon, depending on the burro’s mood.

I am a responsible woman. I wanted to get home in time to have dinner with my husband and to get ready for work the next morning.

Katrin and company

“I would love to, but I can’t. I have to be at work in the morning.”

Maple and his grandson looked disappointed.

“Well, we’re going to find some breakfast. You think about it,” said Maple.

Tied to a fence post, Bella munched on some grass. I stroked her exquisite ears. I scratched her neck. She nudged me, which I took to mean “Come on, run with me!”

I walked down the block to the cardboard table that served as burro race headquarters. Katy had found a burro and was signing up for the 15-mile women’s race. Her excitement was contagious. Before I knew it, there was a pen in my hand and a registration form in front of me. Forty dollars and a signature later, Bella and I were signed up as team Number 19.

Maple looked pleased and not surprised. He introduced me to Nathalie, and we proceeded to saddle our race partners. Silver Jack and Bella are inseparable, so our strategy was to keep the four of us together and move at a steady pace.

Maple expertly tied our numbers and all our gear securely to the saddle, then it was time to line up for the start.

Part II coming next week: Stop, Go, Gallop!

The Perfect Student is Here!

Horsewoman Amy Skinner knows that learning tends to be directly proportional to how engaged and motivated her students are. She shared her tongue-in-cheek list for optimizing learning here:

Perfect Student Qualities:

  • Dedicated and hard working
  • Willing to stay open-minded and humble enough to take direction.
  • Active and fit, or willing to get fit to better his or her riding
  • Actively involved in reading new material, watching DVDs, going to clinics, and learning through various methods.
  • Punctual to lessons and attends regularly without making excuses or cancelling at the last minute because it’s too hot, it’s too cold, or I have a “thing”).
  • Willing to take my advice before purchasing a three-year old, unstarted mustang as a midlife crisis, new-to-riding, let’s-help-the-world project.

Once I was satisfied with my list of perfect qualities, I dropped everyone who didn’t meet all these standards.  I woke up the next day excited about the possibilities. I wondered how amazing would my students be.  In no time, I said to myself, I’ll have everybody looking great!  Horses will come along faster and my students will be amazing riders.  I sat at the barn twiddling my thumbs, waiting for the first student to arrive.  Crickets chirped.  Hours went by.  Nobody came.

A month went by and the electric company shut off the lights in my barn.  I was eating ramen noodles and my dog and I were soon living out of the truck without money to afford rent.

Waiting for the perfect client nearly caused me to starve to death!

Read West Taylor’s thoughts on teaching challenges.

Maine Rider Impressed with Tuff Rider Boots from Adams

Editor’s Note: We welcome guest reviewer Debbie Hight! Hight is on the Best Horse Practices Summit Steering Committee and recently hosted horsewoman Amy Skinner for a weekend of learning. In this post, Hight offers her review of Tuff Rider boots from Adams Horse & Pet Supplies.

She writes:

I stopped at Adams Horse & Pet Supplies in Winthrop, Maine (just outside of Augusta), really wanting a new pair of summer riding boots.  I had tried desperately for years, in fact, to break in my pair of dressage boots. Everything fit. But the leather was just too hard.  Maybe if I had run over them a few times with my truck, they would have gotten softer. After five years and multiple applications of leather conditioner, I’, waving the white flag and setting them aside. I’ll donate them to the local Pony Club.

So, I was trying to prepare myself to pay  $300-400 for a pair and refused to even try on something that cost $600 or more.  I have only a certain tolerance for checkbook pain.

In fact, I’m not easy to fit. I have relatively tall calves, biggish feet (size 8.5-9), but thin, scrawny calves (despite obvious muscling!).

I tried on the Tuff Rider Belmont Dress Boot. Oh, wow. It was like they were made for me. The leather felt like the best Italian leather.

At $180, they were pretty much a bargain compared to the considerably more painful options. Less expensive boots were more literally painful and the more expensive ones hurt my wallet.

I wish that it didn’t have the elastic insert, but frankly, I cannot see it So, I just forgot about it.

I finally rode in them yesterday, in 93-degree heat. They were just wonderful.  Too bad that the magic of the boots didn’t transcend to my riding, but I guess that remains Operator Error.  Oh, well, there’s always room to improve.

Tuff Rider appear to be ethical in the quality and price of their products.  I am so sick to death of anything horse-related being ramped up in price just because we’re horse owners.  I have found Tuff Rider to be relatively reasonable and a breath of fresh air.

These Tuff Riders may not be firm enough for the diehard dressage crazies, but I love them.

Rain Chaps Let You Stay Out Longer

Last fall, I was invited to help gather cattle off the National Forest. It was two excellent days of long hours and many miles in

Wet going in cool autumn rain

the saddle over rugged terrain with fit horses and good company. On the second day, it rained. It did not sprinkle or drizzle. It rained steadily all day as temperatures stayed in the low 50’s. By lunch, I was soaked.

We detoured back to our trailers and I changed out of most of my drenched gear: jeans, socks, boots, top. My leather leggings had gained at least 10 pounds and I left them off. We headed back for another 10 miles of gathering cattle.

By the time we wrapped up, it was close to dinnertime and I was cold. Not a tad chilly. I was cold and soaked to the core. Along the way, I had learned a valuable lesson in preparedness. Rain chaps, I told myself, had just become an absolute necessity.

Muddy Creek, a small company based in Grass Lake, Michigan, has smartly designed rain chaps that’ll fit in any saddle bag. (In fact, they have an entire line of rain gear, including jackets, hats, and waterproof cantle bags. Check them out here.)

What makes them smart?

  • Big zippers with zipper pulls that can be handled easily with cold, fumbling fingers
  • Added Velcro to seal out wetness and allow custom fitting
  • Wide bottom cuffs to accommodate any boot style
  • Elastic band slips under boot heel to keep chaps from creeping up your leg.

Muddy Creek rain chaps are available directly from Muddy Creek here or from our friends at Outfitters Supply here.

I ordered a medium and agreed to share them with my partner, Steve Peters.

The leggings are atypical in that there is no waist to attach both leg sleeves. Count that feature as another smart detail as it allows for better sharing between two folks who aren’t quite the same size and it makes it easier to put them on quickly mid-trail ride.

The chaps fold easily, take little room, and weight just eight ounces or so.

It may rain just 72 days in this part of the country, but it took just one of them to convince me to carry rain chaps.

Summer Horse Work Calls for Long Sleeves

Why review long-sleeved shirts in mid-June?

Even when it’s hot, there are myriad occasions when long sleeve shirts are best for horse work:

  • Working with hay (your daily tosses or putting up 200 bales of first cut)
  • Riding through brush (what fun, adventurous trail ride doesn’t have its share of bushwhacking?)
  • Buggy days and nights at the barn (skeeters and midgies should not impede your precious Barn Time)

LL Bean’s Double Cloth Performance Woven Shirt is breathable and utilitarian. The hem is cut and shaped perfectly to look nice tucked in or worn out.

I tried the Bright Sapphire, a pretty plaid of purple, light blue, black, and khaki green and loved rolling up the sleeves to show off the inside black and purple checked pattern.

Don’t let the ‘Double Cloth’ term deceive you; the shirt is light in weight and feel. It’s made of nylon and is UPF 40+ for sun protection. If it weren’t so rugged, it would have been called a blouse.

Double Cloth Performance Woven Shirt by LL Bean

In horsemanship, we often talk about the cons of comfort. In order to help horses appreciate comfort, they need to know discomfort. That’s the gist of pressure and release and what academics call negative reinforcement.

But when it comes to gear, we hold comfort dear. Discomfort is most unwelcome. Along with function, durability, and attractiveness, comfort forms the basis of whether or not an item is purchased and appreciated. This Bean’s shirt satisfies these requirements in spades.

Want something warmer and equally pretty?

The Quilted Woven Shirt Jacket, also from Beans is the classy, upscaled version of those plaid thermal shirt jackets worn by New England clammers and carpenters for decades. This Shirt Jacket is warmer (lined with Primaloft Active Gold insulation), more attractive, and more feminine. No boring Scotch plaid here! The shirt features a lovely blend of magenta, soft orange, light blue, and olive green.

I do wish the shirt featured snaps in lieu of buttons, but that’s my only complaint.

A word about fit: LL Bean sizes its tops more generously than companies like Patagonia. I’m 5’7”, 135 pounds and enjoyed the Double Cloth shirt in a small. I have the Shirt Jacket in a medium and it’s a bit boxy, but it allows one layer or more underneath.

For those of us living out West, LL Bean has a store near Denver and next year will open its westernmost store and its first in Utah. This one will be on Main Street in Park City, a good fit as LL Bean is an official supplier of the US Ski Team, which is based in the Utah mountain town.

LL Bean Quilted Woven Shirt Jacket

Another Rider Friendly Sports Bra from Title Nine

Riding Season is in full gear as we continue our Lady Bits & Riding features.

Are you on the big-chested side? Do you struggle to stay comfortable and cool on these summer days?

Guest columnist Emily Luciano reviewed the Trade Up Shock Absorber sports bra. Luciano is on the Steering Committee for the Best Horse Practices Summit.

Luciano writes:

Like I said in my last Title Nine sports bra review, I’m hard to fit. Not only am I hard to fit, but I’m also really doggone picky when it comes to bras. I look for just the right amount of coverage, separation and support.

Now that I’m pregnant— almost 17 weeks— I’ve gone from hard to fit and picky to nearly impossible to fit and ultra-discriminating. I was large chested before pregnancy. Now, it feels like I have cantaloupes that are the verge of rupturing strapped to my chest. Isn’t pregnancy grand?

Because I’m literally toppling out of all my other bras, sports bras have become my everyday support system— literally. I’m happy to say that the Trade-Up Shock Absorber from Title Nine has worked its way into my everyday rotation. From riding to the grocery store, to walking the dogs, to cleaning the house, this bra is perfect and oh-so-comfortable.

The Trade Up Shock Absorber is perfect for riding in the Florida heat because along with providing ample support, it’s oh-so-breathable. And yes, I’m pregnant and riding— my midwife gave me the “okay” as long as I promised not to gallop through the woods and stay on my safest horses. Easy enough!

I’ve walked, trotted and even cantered a few strides in this bra, and my tender melons felt supported the whole time. “Less bounce to the ounce” is the way Title Nine describes this bra and I have to agree.

Let’s talk bra straps: this bra has inch-wide padded straps and they are ah-mazing! Let’s be read: boobs can get heavy. We wouldn’t dream of strapping 10 or so pounds to our backs with narrow, spandex straps. So, why do so many bra companies think it’s okay to strap 10 pounds to our chest with little quarter-inch spandex straps?

The wide, padded straps with this bra form a racer back to provide ultimate support. It’s fantastic! My back literally never hurts while wearing this bra.

And the separation? Thank you, Title Nine! No uni-boob here.

The only thing I might change to make this the perfect bra would be to add just a tiny bit of padding in the cups, as it’s obvious to tell when one has a chill, if you catch my drift. Aside from that, hats off to another spectacular bra from Title Nine!

It’s Active Preggo-Boob Approved.

Title Nine’s Molly Hanks tested this bra, too. She adds: “This bra gives me amazing support without a lot of bulk. By far the best support I’ve found for high impact sports. Wicks away moisture and allows me to stay cool, not clammy.”

Olathe Boot Review

Olathe Rough Stock

If cowboy boots were beverages, a pair of Olathe boots, hand-crafted of premier leather in Mercedes, Texas, would be a smooth glass of single malt scotch. Or, for coffee drinkers, a silky double espresso brévé served in fine china. Read more about the Texas company here.

These boots are decidedly not convenience store bevvies. They are top-shelf priced and well worth the wait if you decide, as many customers do, to order a custom pair.

We received a fine-looking, tangerine-topped pair of traditional Olathe Rough Stock boots for review. Boot number #8007. The orange upper is stitched stylishly with brown, tan and white threads while the vamp or lower part of the boot is deep briar brown with orange and tan stitching.

Beau Gaughran photo

The leather – in its feel, look, and smell – stands out as mightily superior to leathers of other brands we’ve reviewed thus far, including Ariat, Justin, and Boulet.

It’d be tempting to stash this pair in the closet and bring them out only for special occasions. They are that nice.

But since durability and comfort are required elements of any rider footwear, I wore them for dozens of miles on foot and in the saddle. I wore them while camping with horses and while moving cattle. I wore them while riding bareback, ponying horses, and trail riding over gnarly terrain.

No blisters or sore feet. Plenty of satisfying grins (mine) and compliments from others.

Beau Gaughran photo

The boots feature a Cutter toe (also called a wide toe or a modified square toe by other boot makers), and a slungback heel. They are made almost entirely of high quality leather, including the sole and heel stack. Just the heel base is finished with rubber.

Prior to wearing these Olathes, I hadn’t worn boots with leather soles. But as someone who dreams recurrent nightmares of being dragged by my horse while my foot is caught in the stirrup, these boots may foster a sea change. I loved that they slip easily in and out the stirrups.

I also appreciated the full spur shelf, featured where the heel meets the boot upper. It’s considerably more ample and spur-friendly than on most other boots and adds a certain beefiness to the boot.

Olathe and its sister companies, Anderson Bean Boot and Rios of Mercedes boots, employ about three dozen bootmakers in Mercedes, Texas, not far from the Mexico border. Many employees have passed down leatherwork expertise over the generations.

It’s no wonder the boots worked so flawlessly in my tasks (which have involved plenty of cow work lately). Trainor Evans is one of the three co-owners along with J.P. Moody and Ryan Vaughn. Evans’ family has cattle ranched in Texas and New Mexico for five generations. He said, “the people I work with, their other joy and passion are horses and cattle. This is reflected in the boots we make.”

Coming soon, Jim Thomas of the Bar T Ranch reviews a pair of men’s Olathes.

Check out this American Cowboy article on American cowboy bootmakers.

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