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

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

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.

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.

Gift Buying Ideas for your Horses and Horse Friends

At NickerNews and BestHorsePractices, we feel exceedingly fortunate to have a herd of outstanding advertising partners.

All American Giveaway

All American Giveaway

Together, we think you could accomplish ALL your holiday gift buying for the horses and horse friends in your life:

For your horse:

Lucerne Forage is a great way to add calories and convenience to your horse feed during the energy-burning winter months. Check out their forage options here.

Concerned about your horse’s nutrition? Check out Hay Balancer offers!

Renegade Hoof Boots are tough and easy to use. Plus, their customer service is fabulous, personal, thoughtful. Get started here.

Research shows slow-feeding is one of the best options for horses’ health. Check out Hay Pillows and Harmany muzzles.

It’s not too early to consider fly predators for next year! Visit Spalding Labs and sign up for your first delivery.

Nelson Waterers take the buckets and thankless hauling out of the equation. Check them out here.

Invest in self-improvement for your horses’ sake: clinicians Libby Lyman and Elijah Moore are here to help.

darn toughHorse losing weight? Looking not quite right? It might be bad teeth or a sore back. Check out equine dentist Steve Akeley and chiropractor Petra Sullwold.

For you and your horse friends

Little purchases:

Wear your heart on your sleeve and your horse on your wrist. Turn mane and tail hair into a precious piece of jewelry. Check out Braids by Britt.

Socks are easy to buy and sooo fabulous to receive. Start here with Darn Tough.

EcoLips makes all variety of lip balm. Straight from Iowa. You can event design your own. Learn more.

Knotty Girlz halters and lead lines feel so good in your hands. Made in America with an extraordinary number of options to choose from. We love their innovative eye-splice lead line! Visit Knotty Girlz.

247-thickbox_defaultOther ideas: a great Kershaw pocket knife and a Me and My Dog (and horse) Adventure Medical Kit.

Join Remuda Readers and get Maddy Butcher’s A Rider’s Reader: Exploring Horse Sense, Science & Sentiment FREE.

Big purchases:

5 Star equine pads and cinches are the best around. Made in U.S.A. Click here.

Leggings from Fringe Leatherwork. Treat yourself or a horsey loved one to beautiful, custom chinks, chaps, or armitas. Click here.

IMG_0270The best selection and prices for Wade saddles are at Western Sky Saddlery.

Saddle bags are a must for those long trail rides. Outfitters Supply has a huge selection for English and Western riders. Check them out here.

Recent reviews:

Patagonia Bivy Jacket

Justin Bay Apache Boots

For more reviews, start here and scroll down for links to reviews of:

Nocona Cozy Cow Boots

Ariat Midtown English Boots

Ariat Monoco Paddock Boots

Patagonia Baselayer

Cotopaxi Barn Coat

Cotopaxi Altiplano Vest

Cotopaxi Kusa Jacket

Skidmore’s Leather Creams

LL Bean Slip-on Boots

Kimes Ranch Jeans

 

Ariat’s Midtown English boot dazzles

We invited clinician and guest columnist Amy Skinner to review a pair of Ariat English boots. She writes:

10018456Most of my riding career, if I’m in a dressage saddle, then I’m in tall black boots.  It’s tradition. The high black cavalier boot dates back hundreds of years to military ranks and the army age of the horse and musket. The boots were practical, stylish and standard issue. And they still are.

Since dressage evolved from military movements, it makes sense that we brought some of the garb with us. But why do we all settle for standard issue?  Why not stand out in the crowd with a pair of exceptional boots from Ariat?

Go boldly into the arena with colors your fellow riders don’t see too often. Think outside of the box. That’s the idea I followed when I chose these Midtown boots in caramel.

img_5435I was excited just opening the packaging. The beautiful, deep honey colored leather was soft with the delicious smell of quality leather. They were beautiful in the box, but I wondered how they would hold up to the real world.

The soft leather comfortable immediately, requiring no break-in time.  I wore them up to the barn without any discomfort, then I changed into my muck boots to catch my horse. I didn’t want to taint the nice leather in the late fall mud.

The leather is flexible enough that my calves and heels didn’t get the usual chafing from new English boots.  The heel and toe both work nicely in a stirrup, and the sole has good grip, a real plus.

The zipper feature is nice, saving me from the normal strain of trying to wriggle in and out of pull-on boots.  They have a nice tight clasp at the top of the zipper, along with a contoured top to fit under your knee and not pinch behind the knee.  The Midtowns are double stitched for durability and lined for comfort. They also have nice pull straps tucked inside the boot for a clean look without losing the practicality of the pull straps.

These tall boots don’t just look great over breeches.  They look fantastic with a pair of skinny jeans out to dinner and are comfortable enough for wearing out (In fact, I don’t believe in wearing uncomfortable boots wherever I’m headed).  My friends all complimented me on the choice and most didn’t realize they were riding boots.

The Midtowns are a great value. They are versatile, comfortable, and good looking, like a good riding horse.  I originally thought they would be too beautiful to ride in. But Ariat has made a quality boot that is not just nice to admire, it stands up to the task.

15170913_906589579478297_8231608691574252107_n

Justin’s Bay Apache Boots

This month, we asked Dr. Steve Peters, co-author of Evidence-Based Horsemanship, to review a pair of Made in America Justin Boots. He chose the Bay Apache, a classic Western boot. Dr. Peters writes:

dsc02906My images of cowboys developed over five decades ago with John Wayne, the Marlboro man, and Clint Eastwood. They wore and used tough, functional gear with little bling. My first boots were Justin’s because the Texas company made cowboy boots the way they were suppose to be: made in America with high shafts, angled underslung heels, and spur ridges. Each feature had a purpose. They became part of you and better with every wear as they molded to the way you moved, rode, and walked.
Nowadays, I see that the rugged, independent spirit of ranchers and cowboys – those who spend their days horseback moving cows, checking fence, and riding big circles – is still reflected in their well-worn, comfortable, no-nonsense gear. Tobacco, coffee, and wheat are the colors of the range and colors of their boots. No neon blue or lime green. No rhinestone rodeo or gathering cattle on ATV’s.
dsc02965When I opened the box containing my Justin Bay Apache boots, it was a tactile confirmation of those real, organic, and down-to-earth images. I recalled childhood memories: these deep tan boots with narrow, rounded toes could easily accompany John Wayne’s leather vest or Clint Eastwood’s olive poncho.
Like my saddle with leather conchas and my horse hair mecate reins, these boots are as natural looking and authentic.
Even right out of the box and their narrow profile notwithstanding, they were as easy to slip on as well-worn jeans. The stylish stitching on the shaft is nicely earth-toned with subtle oranges and beige.
dsc02923These boots feel just as comfortable walking around town or driving a car as they do horseback and accommodating a pair of spurs.
I may not be a working cowboy. Nor am I any spaghetti western star. But the Bay Apaches take me there. They’re ideal for us 21st century riders.

Recycled Down? Yes! Patagonia’s Bivy Jacket

Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and I were both born within a mile from the Androscoggin River; he in Lewiston and yvon-150x150myself in Brunswick, 20 miles downstream. Back in those days, Maine’s third largest river foamed with pollution from paper and textile mills. Before Chouinard and his family moved to California, the young boy must have smelled the stink of its unfortunate brown water.

It took lots of effort (most notably, the Clean Water Act of 1972), but now the river is clear, clean, and

Androscoggin River in Brunswick, circa 1970, polluted and stinky.

Androscoggin River in Brunswick, circa 1970, polluted and stinky.

swimmable. I think Chouinard, known as much for his environmentalism as for the clothing and gear company he established, would be pleased.

The 77-year old Maine native is the “philosopher-king” of a growing band of companies making “eco-conscious” gear for us riders and outdoor recreationalists. He’s helped push sustainability and environmental impact to the top of the priority pile when many consumers consider purchases.

  • Did animals die?
  • Did forests disappear?
  • Did rivers get poisoned?
  • Did workers suffer?

dsc02902That we might possibly contemplate the answers is due in large part to the Patagonia influence.

This month, we review two new sleep-well-at-night purchases: the Bivy Jacket and Denim Straight Jeans.

The Bivy Jacket

Recycled cans. Recycled bottles. Recycled goose down? Yes. The tough, warm Bivy is made from reclaimed down from used down products. Same lightness and incredible insulation without killing geese.

The Bivy is horse- and barn-friendly. Its outer material effortlessly sheds hay, shavings, horse hair, rain, and snow.

Love the draft-deterring hemline!

Love the draft-deterring hemline!

The tough nylon canvas won’t rip when you move past barbed wire or ride through brush.

The zipper is easy to handle with gloves and never gets caught in fabric of the jacket placket or liner.

The hem sits below the waist with an extra, flattering few inches on the backside to ward off drafts.

The western yoke styling and the colorful print lining make this hard-working jacket fun to wear. It’s pretty without being foofy.

By visiting this page, you can read where the Bivy was made and follow the supply chain for the jacket. Stay warm during winter days and sleep well at night.

Pretty, not foofy.

Pretty, not foofy.

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