Jeanette’s Journey Part II, test drive for Danny

Editor’s Note:  In the second installment of a multi-part series, we hear from Jeanette Hayhurst, a long-time and avid horsewoman from Barstow, California. Like many of us, she has continued to connect with horses, even when her age and physical limitations kept her from doing a lot of riding. Kudos, Jeanette!

She writes of her transition from riding to driving and owning a miniature horse. This month, she will participate in her second Death Valley drive with two miniature horses.

Enjoy this multi-part series.

Read Part I

By Jeanette Hayhurst

Now I started to get serious. Not only did Danny need conditioning, he’d also need to learn to stake out since there wouldn’t be corrals or anything to tie to overnight while in Death Valley.   I bought a tie-out system that includes a metal stake that you drive into the ground with a swivel ring on top. To the ring, you attach an eight-foot line (that is more like thick tubing and doesn’t tangle) and then clip the other end to a web halter.

Check out picketing options here. 

I took a few weeks to get him prepared. First, I got him used to the tubing by using it for his lead. I led him around and lunged him in it several times.

I practiced driving the stake into the ground with a sledge hammer.   I attached him to the stake and moved him around in a circle so he knew where the boundary was. Pretty quickly, he figured out how to step over and around the tube. We did this enough times that I felt confident he wasn’t going to hit the end of the line and break his neck.

Another thing I had to get Danny used to was wearing hoof boots. Everyone told me that the wagon trails in Death Valley were extremely rocky in places and that he would need boots. I have used hoof boots on my saddle horses for years so I am familiar with the different styles and features, but finding boots for minis is a challenge. Since Danny is a large mini I finally settled on some small pony-sized boots for his front feet and bought the largest mini size available for his back feet. I practiced with the front boots first and at first he did a little high-stepping and pawing with his front feet. Later, we added the back boots. He got so he didn’t even notice them.

Without a wagon big enough to sleep in, I’d have to bring a tent and all my camping supplies. This meant I’d have to set up my own tent. I will admit that I usually leave things like this to my husband, but since he wasn’t going I need to learn how to do it.  He conducted practice drills with me for setting up the tent and blowing up the air mattress.   Oh, and then I had to figure out how to take everything down and shove it back into the bag it came in.

My new motto: It’s a lot of work to have fun!

Corral 14 was hosting an overnight Fall Wagon drive in September so I set my sights on going to see if Danny and I were on track for Death Valley. I continued to drive Danny regularly with his two-wheeled cart to work on his conditioning. My goal was to drive twice a week and make sure we practiced going up and down hills, on and off the roads, as well as stopping and standing still. As I’ve said before, Danny is very forward so we did lots of trotting and cantering. The standing still part was the most difficult for him.

Time flies and soon I was I packing up all my camping supplies and driving equipment for the fall drive.   I hoped I had remembered everything but since we were camping out at someone’s house in their horse arena I figured it was a good place to learn. When we got there I staked Danny out and made sure he couldn’t reach any of the other horses or mules. He was interested in everything but wasn’t hyper. I was pleased. My tent set-up drills paid off and I got my ground tarp and tent staked down without too much difficulty. I used the pump to blow up the air mattress, laid out my sleeping bag, and was ready to camp.

The next morning I woke up and fed Danny.   Most of the animals had done this before and all of them were pretty calm.   My friend brought her camp stove, so I got my morning cup of coffee. All was right with the world. After breakfast I tied Danny to the trailer and put on his harness. I didn’t want him standing too long, but I knew I had to be ready when the wagons pulled out at nine.

The view from the back of the pack, behind Danny

As the others started to hitch up their wagons I hooked up Danny’s cart. I got in, went around to the starting point, and moved off to the side. I didn’t want to be in anybody’s way. Soon the wagons came out and we were off!

The day was a blur, but Danny and I both felt good. We brought up the rear and kept up with the group. The lead wagon set a fairly slow pace so although Danny trotted some he could actually walk and keep up. We went on the dirt roads and then traveled along side a two-lane highway. Then all of us in the wagon train crossed the highway and continued on. A few hours later we stopped for lunch. The wagons can’t be left unattended but I was able to tie Danny with the outriders’ horses. I offered him water. He drank a lot. Soon, we were back on the trail and before I knew it, the drive was over.

I was proud of Danny; he’d spent six hours on the trail and was still raring to go. I knew he had plenty of energy left for the next day.

Silva’s Three Sacred Cows of Horsemanship

Katrin Silva grew up riding dressage in Germany before moving to the United States at age 19 to learn to ride Western. She’s been riding both disciplines for the last twenty years.

Silva has competed successfully through fourth level dressage on quarter horses, Morgans, Arabians, Hanoverians, and many other breeds. Based in New Mexico, she enjoys improving horse-rider partnerships of all sorts and firmly believes that good riding is always good riding, no matter which type of tack a horse is wearing. Check out her blog here. 

Katrin Silva writes: 

I’ve done some things I’m not proud of early in my career as a horse trainer. I made mistakes because I wanted quicker results and because I was too young to know better. Two decades on, I’m still human and not immune to making mistakes, but I keep a couple of sacred cows in my training philosophy.

Of my limited understanding of Hinduism, I know that sacred cows are strictly off-limits. A sacred cow can lie down in the middle of a city street and take a nap. Traffic goes around or stops altogether. Disturbing the cow is not an option because that would lead to bad karma.

I know horses a lot better than Hinduism, but I navigate around these Three Sacred Cows:

  1. Three Clear Gaits

There’s a reason why “rhythm and regularity” form the base of the training scale. Without these qualities, the more advanced movements of any riding discipline become just a collection of circus tricks. Unless your horse is gaited, a walk has four beats, a trot two, a canter three. Always.

Disciplines like Western Pleasure are notorious for sacrificing this sacred cow at the altar of Slow.

A four-beat canter, even if it’s almost in place, never deserves to be called “collected.” A jog is still a trot, not a trot with the front legs while the back legs are walking. Most of the time, the remedy for horses who have learned to muddle their clarity of the gaits is simple: ride forward. Don’t worry too much about contact, lateral movements, or collection until your sacred cow is nursed back to health.

Remember that correct training improves the quality of the gaits. A well-trained horse moves with more expression, more elasticity, more cadence. If the horse’s gaits become more rushed, more mechanical, more tense, or more sluggish instead, it’s time to take a look at your program and to figure out what isn’t working.

  1. Calm and Forward

These two, paired sacred cows are inseparable. One can never be without the other. A calm horse without forward energy may be pleasant to be around, but won’t develop into an athlete mentally or physically.

On the other end of the spectrum, a tense, rushing horse won’t develop mentally or physically either. In some cases, it can be dangerous to ride in some cases.

Neither just forward or just calm is what we want, but together, they create magic.

The direction of good riding is always back to front, in a relaxed frame of mind and body. A hurried, scurrying, or fear-based kind of forward is counterproductive. So is a sluggish, lazy kind of calm. Only the combination of both makes horses into happy athletes.

I focus on whichever element is less developed.

  • Larger circles and riding in a larger space like an open field instead of a small arena will improve forward energy; so will many quick transitions between gaits.
  • Smaller circles, lots of leg yielding, work in a smaller arena, and fewer transitions tend to improve relaxation.

Trail rides can work like a miracle drug for both.

A good test: give the reins at the canter. If your horse starts to rush, there wasn’t enough calm. If your horse breaks to the trot, there wasn’t enough forward.

3. The Horse’s Head

When I was eight years old and learning to put a bridle on a huge warmblood who was not too convinced of my authority, I became frustrated and started tapping the horse’s forehead with my hand in a futile attempt to lower his head. My strict German riding instructor’s normally booming voice became slow and quiet. She then said something I have never forgotten: “Treat the horse’s head like a raw egg.”

It’s good advice that has held up well for all those years. Insist on personal space from your horse, by all means. Insist on good ground manners. But don’t try to get it by waving your hand, or worse, a whip, or a lead rope, or a flag, into the horse’s face.

A raw egg is fragile. Once it breaks, it’s almost impossible to put back together. Making a horse head-shy takes can take only seconds. Getting a head-shy horse to tr

ust the human hand again takes a lot longer. Sometimes, the damage is permanent.

Instead, target the horse’s chin or chest to make him back off. Those places can handle an elbow whack, or a tap. But anytime you touch the horse’s head, especially around the eyes and ears, do it slowly and gently.

There are very few absolutes in working with horses. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I agree with the Never Say Never philosophy – there’s an exception to almost every rule. The sacred cows take up the other 1 percent. Ride back to front. Stay calm, especially around the horse’s head. Don’t mess with the clarity of the gaits. No exceptions.

Spoiler Alert: Amy Skinner on pitfalls for horse enablers

The horses we get in training at Bar T Horsemanship undergo considerable changes in their lives while they’re with us.  They leave their normal routine to stay in a strange place with new horses and people.  Not only is their environment different, but their treatment is usually a lot different.

  • Scared horses learn to face and accept the things they’ve run from.
  • Spoiled horses learn to become part of a team and put in effort toward a common goal.

Most horses adjust well to a structured learning environment, but the horses I feel the most sorry for are the spoiled ones.

Photo by Julie Kenney

We don’t always know what a horse has experienced. People can give you an account of what ‘horrendous’ episodes it has suffered through, or how much groundwork it’s already learned. But the horse gives us the truest picture.

Some of these horses are a lot like a spoiled teenagers, laying around on their parents couch:

  • They don’t work jobs.
  • They don’t take out the trash.
  • They sleep in and wake up at noon expecting to be fed.

Their well-meaning parents tip toe around them and cater to their needs, yet feel frustrated. When they need their rude teen to help out around the house, they run into a fight. Maybe the parent wins the fight and manages to get the kid to get up and doing the dishes. But both build up resentment and there is no “money put in the bank” of this relationship to draw on later when it’s really important.

Photo by Julie Kenney

Spoiled horses similarly have owners tip toe around them and cater to them:

  • They won’t move over in their stall, so people go around them.
  • They don’t lower their heads to be haltered.
  • They turn their hind ends toward their owner.

The well-meaning person moves around the horse and reaches up high to secure a halter.

Some additional Spoiled Horse Symptoms & Consequences:

  • The horse bangs on his stall to be fed, so the owner comes running to quiet him down.
  • It paces or gets squirrel-y in the trailer when they arrive to a barn, so it gets immediately let out.
  • It’s restless with hoof trimming, so the owner feed treats in hopes this will keep it quiet.

This horse is not intentionally being bad. It has learned what works and what gets results. When it arrives here, suddenly none of those behaviors work anymore.

Imagine the confusion and frustration this poor horse feels. Sometimes I think they feel everything they do is wrong.

If they’ve been using these behaviors for a long time, it can take a while for them to try something new.

They don’t have a lot of try, because they have not had to try.

They also have very little confidence, because their owners’ tip-toeing has robbed them of new experiences and skill-building. When put in challenging situations, these horses have no foundation to draw on except the one they know: Refuse or Resist.

I know without a doubt that when these horses find a leader, partner, and friend waiting for them, then they are more than willing to drop their old habits.  They feel more secure and confident when things are consistent and expectations are reinforced.  They can become eager to ride, instead of resentful and resistant.  They can find meaning in jobs and confidence in their abilities.

These owners love their horses. They may feel frustrated with some of their behaviors, but they bring them to training because they care about them.  My advice to them is to set their horses ahead in life.

  • Provide good, consistent direction.
  • Teach them to move around you, instead of the other way around.
  • Teach them what’s going to be expected of down the road.
  • Don’t spoil them now and hope for cooperation later.
  • Give them experiences of going different places and doing different things.
  • Create a healthy, mentally balanced horse.

When these horses come for training, they won’t feel beat up by the world. They can transition into their education smoothly and happily.

Jeanette’s Journey Part I – from Riding to Mini Driving

Editor’s Note: In the first installment of a multi-part series, we hear from Jeanette Hayhurst, a long-time and avid horsewoman from Barstow, California. Like many of us, she has continued to connect with horses, even when her age and physical limitations kept her from doing a lot of riding. Kudos, Jeanette!

She writes of her transition from riding to driving and owning a miniature horse. This month, she will participate in her second Death Valley drive with two miniature horses.

Enjoy this multi-part series.

By Jeanette Hayhurst

I live in Barstow, California and have had horses for close to 40 years. I still enjoy taking my mare on horse camping trips with my girlfriends who are all members of ETI (Equestrian Trails, Inc.) Corral 66. But a few years ago when my hips started “complaining” about my long hours in the saddle, I started to look into driving. I asked for advice from a friend of mine who drives both Haflingers and mules. She said if she had it to do all over again that she would have started with a miniature horse that was already broke to drive.

I wasn’t all that attracted to minis because somehow I thought they weren’t “real” horses but boy was I was wrong. They are real horses, just in a small package. Throughout the years I have generally started my own horses but as I have gotten older the idea of buying something already broke sounded good to me.   So I made up my mind that I was going to check out driving a mini horse.

Taking some driving lessons was my first step. I recruited a friend of mine who drives and trains minis to help me out. First she started me out ground driving and learning the harness parts. (Of course, I had already watched lots of videos and read several good beginning driving books.) Then I moved onto driving her slower mini and then onto driving her high-energy gelding.   I realized I really did enjoy driving and decided it was time to buy myself a mini.

I used my trainer friend to help me sort through the internet ads that interested me. She knew I didn’t just want an arena horse and that I wanted to drive out on the trail for several hours at a time. Knowing this she made sure they were strong enough and that they had trail experience not just arena experience. Trust me, there were lots of unbroke little horses that appealed to me but she kept me on track. I finally found one that we both agreed on and she told me she’d go with me and evaluate him. So in August of 2015 I came home with Danny, a 10 year old class B mini (38 inches high and 350 pounds), a two-wheeled easy entry cart and two harnesses.

I took a few more lessons with Danny and started driving him all around my neighborhood and out on the power line roads by my house. I quickly found out he was a very “forward” horse. His favorite gait is canter! He is pretty brave but he can spook. I have a dressage background and realized that I needed to keep contact if I wanted to keep control. I made all the rookie mistakes but I was so grateful to have a trained driving horse to learn from.

Jeanette and Danny

By November, I was ready to take Danny on his first group drive. The group included several carts, a couple of wagons and some outriders. Danny took everything in stride. The drive was only about 6 miles and we did fine. Two of the mules pulling one of the wagons were afraid of him because he’s a mini so we had to let them get used to us.   A few of the outriders’ mounts gave us a suspicious look too but they accepted us pretty quickly.

I learned that there was another wagon drive with ETI Corral 14 coming up in April so we signed up for that one too. Although it was an overnight we just went on Sunday for the short drive.   At this drive most of the wagons were pulled by full sized mules or horses.   I decided that Danny and I should stay in the back of the wagon train. I figured out that if any of the teams decided “run away” they would run right over the top of Danny and me with my little cart. This turned out to be good idea since there was a mammoth jack in training pulling a cart. Early during the drive he decided he was going to run off and leave the group but since we were behind him it wasn’t a problem.

After our successes I started thinking that Danny could do longer drives. I learned that Corral 14 holds an annual drive through Death Valley every November in conjunction with Death Valley 49ers. Some of my friends had done this wagon drive before and said the people were super nice and it was a great experience.   I asked myself, “Could we be ready in 6 months for a week long, 50 plus mile drive through Death Valley?” I decided to go for it. It would be a worthy goal and a great learning experience even if we didn’t make it this time.

Read Part II

A Visit with Western Folklife’s Kristin Windbigler

Kristin Windbigler is the new executive director of the Western Folklife Center and the event it runs, the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. We visited with her via email about the organization and this year’s production, the 34th annual gathering which runs from January 29 to February 3 in Elko, Nevada.

Cayuse Communications, the family of six sites including NickerNews, BestHorsePractices, and HorseHead, are regular sponsors of this wonderful mid-winter event.

This year’s NCPG theme: Basques and Buckaroos: Herding Cultures of Basin, Range, and Beyond.

The weeklong winter event features workshops where visitors can learn about Basque cooking, Dutch oven cooking, two-step dance, cinch making, rawhide braiding, and hat making, to name a few. There are also special events to connect more closely with favorite performers, like poet Paul Zarzyski and musician Dom Flemons.

Kristin Windbigler

Excerpts from our visit with Windbigler:

NickerNews: Why do you think you were chosen to lead Western Folklife and the Gathering?

Kristin Windbigler: I was raised on a little place in a remote community located in the rugged ranching and timber country of Humboldt County, California. I come from gyppo loggers on both sides of the family, but there is a ranching thread in the weave, too. I’ve been around cattle and livestock most of my life.

I have attended the Gathering for nearly 20 years and as a participant since 2005 when I made my first of seven films for the Deep West Video program. I joined the board in 2013 and most recently served as its vice chair. I fell in love with the Gathering that first year I attended because I saw my own culture—the life I grew up in—recognized, examined, celebrated and lauded.

The Western Folklife Center and the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering explore and give voice to the traditional and dynamic cultures of the American West, and I couldn’t be more thrilled and humbled by this opportunity to grow the organization.

NN: What are you interested in having evolve at the Gathering and what you are interested in maintaining as more or less the same?

Performers at the NCPG

KW: I’m not going to mess with the magic, but I would like to make it all more accessible and also to new audiences — that means both people who live the life as well those who have an interest or love for the West and life spent close to the land (and those certainly aren’t mutually exclusive!).

I hope to nurture the deep connections everyone makes at the Gathering as well as foster new ones by using technology to bring the organization’s far-flung community together year round. Read more about that here.

NN: Are there more workshops than in the past and if so, is this an intentional pattern of introducing more ways for members to engage in ranch culture? Are more and more members “from away” (ie, not ranchers but wannabe ranchers)?

KW: Much of the 2018 Gathering planning was already underway when I came onboard in June, so I can’t take any credit for the incredible offering of workshops—that all goes to the Western Folklife Center’s talented programming staff.

It is very much part of our mission, though, to provide a venue for artists to pass on their crafts and skills. The Gathering has a long history of fantastic workshops, and I’m so thrilled you are interested in making people more aware of them.

You are correct in noticing there is an increase in the number we’re offering in 2018, but that’s just because Gathering participants (ranchers/cowboys included) enjoy the hands-on offerings.

Wylie Gustafson will perform at the NCPG

The Gathering isn’t solely about stage performances with featured artists, but also about actively engaging with many Western artforms (including cooking, gearmaking, visual art, poetry writing and recitation, open mics, etc.). We appreciate that there are different ways of doing this, so we like to provide lots of options.

All kinds of people take these workshops, and I would not say they’re intentionally geared toward any particular audience as often as they are designed for both beginners AND skilled, advanced students. I think it’s worth pointing out that I know several highly skilled gearmakers who did not grow up in this life, but came to it later because they were interested or had a passion for it. Anybody who has the desire to learn is welcome.

NN: The Western Folklife staff is almost all women – Serendipity? Strength? Weakness?

KW: I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about that. A person’s gender doesn’t have much to do with what they can accomplish. I don’t have any brothers and my dad got a lot done on our place with the help of my mom and two little girls.

I grew up building fence, bucking hay, and packing fuel and saw oil in the woods when he was falling timber for the neighbors. He told us we shouldn’t ever apologize for being small or not as strong, but we did need to learn to make good decisions and use our brains to work efficiently, especially when we needed to make up the difference on a task that required brawn. That said, this job doesn’t require much lifting.

Duckworth: a Montana Company that Walks the Wool Walk

At Cayuse Communications, we gravitate towards companies that put people and the planet over profit. That’s another way of saying sustainability and environmental concerns impact what we review and don’t review. In addition, we applaud companies that make things in the U.S.

At the Outdoor Retailer, we chatted with Robert ‘Bernie’ Bernthal, founder and president of Duckworth, a Bozeman, Montana company.

Duckworth is the only company to take American wool from the “sheep to shelf.” It shears Montana sheep, sends the wool to be processed in North and South Carolina, where it’s knit, cut, dyed, and sewn into an array of Duckworth garments. The company has doubled its sales over the last few years.

Often chlorine bleach is used to process wool so that it won’t shrink. Duckworth has a patent-pending process that avoids using bleach while still making it machine-washable and maintaining its integrity.

“People are very interested in transparency, especially millennials,” said Bernthal, explaining his company’s interest in providing its backstory and source verification. “I think especially as we as a society become more disconnected, the story of where things come from is interesting.”

Where did Bernthal come from?

He worked in Switzerland (for Swatch watches), Germany (for the ski and board company, K2) and California (for the surf industry) before settling down in Bozeman, where he’s lived since 2010.

Duckworth clothing comes in a variety of blends, from 100 percent merino wool to about 40 percent wool in the Vapor Wool which also has recycled polyester and modal.

I found Vapor V-Tee extremely comfortable and super easy to care for. It’s more breathable than cotton or cotton/polyester blends and feels softer, too. This is a slim-fitting tee that feels divine on your skin. The length is not too long and not too short; it works well tucked in or left out.

I enjoyed the fitted fit of a Vapor small. It seemed flattering; although the (sheep herding) dogs and horses did not communicate their two cents directly, I think they approved.

New Horse Professionals Expo in Maine

Well-known horse trainer Chris Lombard is working with the non-profit Healing Through Horses to direct the inaugural Horse Professional Demonstration Expo at their facility in New Gloucester, Maine. It will take place all day, September 30.

Visit their facebook page here. 

Visit their website here. 

Healing Through Horses is a non-profit counseling service that offers Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) in a private indoor horse facility in New Gloucester, Maine. Horses are known for their unique blend of gentle disposition and compassionate power. EAP is animal assisted therapy that incorporates human interaction with horses as guides. Used for decades, it is a proven form of therapy that effectively employs a horses’s innate ability to connect and bond with people in a non-judgmental manner. Horses are sensitive, compassionate and gentle animals. They are able to perceive the needs of humans and act on those needs with unconditional love which makes them a perfect partner in a therapeutic setting.

Admission is just $20 for the day and children under 8 get in for free. There will also be a food booth and The Village Store is close by for lunch.

There will be three different venues holding demonstrations simultaneously. “Think of it like a mini, one-day Equine Affaire. There will be equine professionals from all types of specialties – dressage, jumping, centered riding, natural horsemanship, driving, farrier/hoof care, dental, veterinarian, holistic medicine, energy work, performances, body work, saddle fit, animal communication and more,” said the Healing Through Horses site.

Chris Lombard

Presenters include:

KRISTENE AUBIN (Equine Dentistry)
SANDRA BEAULIEU (Performance/Trick Training)
JUDY CROSS STREHLKE (Centered Riding)
SAYRE ENGLISH (General Training and Horsemanship)
MICHAEL FRALICH (Equine Assisted Therapy)
ASHLEY HUTCHINSON (Saddle Fit/Massage/General Training and Horsemanship)
NIKALINE IACONO (General Training and Horsemanship)
DR. DAVID JEFFERSON (Equine Veterinarian/Chiropractics)
ADRIEANNE JOHNSON (Holistic/Herbal Horse Care)
RON JOHNSON (General Training and Horsemanship)
DR. TOM JUDD (Equine Veterinarian/Chiropractics)
JAN LAMONTAGNE (Dressage)
DEBBIE LITTLE (Youth Horsemanship/General Training and Horsemanship)

Judy Cross-Strehlke

CHRIS LOMBARD (General Training and Horsemanship)
GWYNETH McPHERSON (Dressage)
LOUISE POPPEMA (Animal Communication)
MICHAEL POULIN (Dressage)
KRISTIN PRETORIUS (Hoof Care)
STACEY SCOTIA (Holistic Horse Care/General Training and Horsemanship)
SUSAN WALKER (Hoof Care)
DAVID WHITAKER (Hoof Care)

Cayuse Communications applauds On Pasture

Cayuse Communications, the family of sites owned by Maddy Butcher and including NickerNews, BestHorsePractices, and HorseHead, is a big fan of On Pasture. It’s a website, run by Kathy Voth and Rachel Gilker, women with a wealth of experience in the ag world, and is dedicated to “translating research and experiences into practices you can use now.”

Sounds great to us. We also like the position they’ve taken to support rural and agricultural communities.

OnPasture wrote in a recent newsletter:

This past week, On Pasture joined the Western Landowners Alliance, Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition, Family Farm Alliance, and Partners for Conservation, along with a host of businesses and organizations working across the West in signing a non-partisan statement of principles to guide lawmakers and communities in creating a healthy working lands and communities. We think these are sound principles, no matter where you live and work, so even if you’re not in the West, you might consider supporting the work of these organizations, or consider ways you can adopt the principles where you work and live.

Here is the statement:

We urge Congress and the Administration to advance the following principles to achieve rural economic health and a productive agricultural sector, provide for our human needs, and protect the landscapes in which we live and work.

The long-term economic health and resiliency of our nation is directly dependent on responsible management of our natural resources – including productive public and private lands, and abundant water supplies.

Across the West, communities and organizations are working together to restore and manage forests and rangelands while creating local and regional jobs. Together we are committed to the care and stewardship of our natural resources and are investing in our country’s future. We believe the rural West can play a vital role in solving some of America’s biggest challenges, including protecting working lands, and maintaining the cultural values of both cooperation and independence.

We believe that:
• Working lands, human communities, and wild places are all important and interdependent. Their health must be protected and advanced together.
• Ecosystem productivity, social equity, and economic well-being go hand in hand. Good public policy builds on and reinforces these linkages.
• Large-scale resource planning that is cross-boundary and inclusive, and science- and place-based, is essential.
• The cooperative management of private and public lands is good for business, public health, and species conservation.
• Voluntary, market- and incentive-based programs are key tools for landowners to participate in conservation, diversify their operations, and help keep landscapes intact.
• Hope for rural America lies in collaboration, common sense and non-partisan solutions that ensure sustainable working lands and diverse new economies.

Keep up the good work, OnPasture.

Wool: The Cool Summer Option

Editor’s Note: We hear from guest columnist Amy Skinner who reviews a top by Ramblers Way Farm.

Ramblers Way, founded by Tom Chappell (of Tom’s of Maine), and run by family members, creates and sells clothing designed and made in America and sourced responsibly through the Global Organic Textile Standard. RW clothes are made of super fine merino wool as well as pima cotton.

Skinner writes:

I live in North Carolina, which means it’s hot. I ride outside all day in the sun, heat and humidity, and sometimes my clothes don’t last through the day before I have to change into less sweaty ones.

Finding the perfect shirt to ride in is hard, as a shirt has many requirements to fill:

  • It needs to help keep me cool.
  • It needs to be comfortable.
  • It needs to be durable.
  • It needs to move with me while I ride.
  • And while it doesn’t need to be fancy, it should be cute and presentable.

I ride in tank tops a lot, but many of them slide around and have straps that slip when I’m riding, a negative feature that drives me crazy.

Lots of tops also don’t last due to poor quality material. All it takes is one snag on a vine when I ride through the brush and that shirt is toast.

I get frustrated with companies that seem to make more inferior clothing for women than for men. As if we all sit around posing for pictures and shopping indoors! I need clothes that stand up to real life and can take a beating.

I wore my Rambler’s Way wool camisole on a trail ride with my boyfriend. It looked cute enough for a date ride, and it was super-comfortable too. It withstood trotting and loping in a field with no slippage. The straps stayed in place, and despite being a black shirt, the wool was breathable and kept me cooler than a cotton tank top. It wicked away the sweat brought on by 90 degrees and 90 percent humidity.

You’d think that wool would be hot to wear, but it breathes better and stays drier than cotton. I stay cooler and don’t end up wearing a wet, sweaty shirt.

Ramblers Way top comes in multiple colors

This wool shirt wasn’t the least bit itchy. Rather, it was super comfortable and soft. The material is really durable, and didn’t snag or tear on trees or vines as I rode through eye-level brush.

The top also looks great under nice blouses or long sleeve shirts. It covers everything it needs to cover, but flatters the form. It looks great with jeans or dressed up with clothes for going out. It’s packable, too.

Rambler’s Way prides itself in making quality clothing in a sustainable way. In fact, some of their manufacturing is right here in North Carolina. The sheep are also raised in America.

This camisole has made it into my regular circulation of riding wear, and washes easily along with my other shirts. I just line dry it instead of putting it in the dryer. Super easy.

Herd Improvements

Dog work is like horse work. The more you learn, the more you realize there is so much to learn. Dogs, horses, and humans all benefit from Dwell Time. Read more here.

Over the past few months, I’ve been working with an accomplished herding dog trainer, Ann Chernoff Allan. She’s had great success with her Australian Shepherds in trials and shows around the country. She also uses her dogs daily to move livestock around her Colorado acreage. I was thrilled to meet her and happy that she agreed to volunteer some time to help me with my dogs, using her sheep.

My dogs are Peeko, Monty, and Kip.

  • Peeko is a healer mix with a crippled front leg. Despite her permanent injury, she’s quick, agile and has done a great job helping me move cows. Ann felt, however, that her injury would be too aggravated by working with sheep. She’d have to sit out these sessions.
  • Monty is a young border collie mix. He’s lightning fast (much faster than speedy Kip and Peeko) and seems to have a keen sense of typical border collie strategies when moving stock: he likes to monitor the perimeter and push cows back to the group. Unlike Peeko, he does not like to heel or push the cattle from the rear.
  • Kip is an Australian Shepherd acquired as a puppy in Iowa. I was told she was 100 percent Aussie. When I sized up Ann’s dogs (all purebred Australian Shepherds), I had my doubts. So did Ann. Her dogs are bigger and stockier.

A simple Wisdom Panel DNA sequence test got to the bottom of it:

Kip was no purebred. According to the test, completed by swabbing the inside of her mouth with special brushes, then sending them off to Mars laboratories, Kip was three-quarters Aussie. The remaining quarter of her lineage had lines from terrier, herding, guard, and sporting breeds.

Read more about the Wisdom Panel tests here.

Read Monty’s Wisdom Panel results here.

Read Peeko’s Wisdom Panel results here.

There was one more helpful result in Kip’s findings: like her buddies, Kip tested negative for the Multidrug Sensitivity gene mutation. The genetic variant, which can cause dogs to fall into comas or die when given certain drugs, is especially common among Aussies. Phew.

Now to get to work!

My dogs are enthusiastic herders. They have all-day energy and love to move cows, people, and each other. So it was a shock when they cowered at the sheep. “No way. Take me home,” they seemed to say as they scuttled between my legs.

These were new creatures. These creatures were making eye contact and emitting new sounds.

Like many horsemen and women I admire, Ann values dwell time and giving animals opportunities to think for themselves. She knows that in the moment and after the moment, the dogs are thinking. “Give them time. They will be different next week. You’ll see,” she said.

We returned the following week.

“Oh, yeah, I got this,” the dogs now seemed to say. In an undisciplined, rookie fashion, they now approached the sheep with vigor. Ann’s job would be to help me and my dogs learn how to nurture instinct, retain spirit, and craft sound brains and bodies into something disciplined and effective. All without the least bit of micromanaging.

The dogs would learn quickly. My challenge was to keep up with them. Ann taught me, for instance, that rewarding my herding dogs by letting them reconnect with sheep was far better than any treat. That’s good to know. I’m not much of a treat advocate, anyway. Check out this slideshow on toxic and dangerous foods for dogs.

Stay tuned for ongoing reports.

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