Horseman Peter Campbell Dies

The horsemanship world gave a collective gasp last week as it lost one of its own. Peter Campbell, an accomplished horseman from Alberta, Canada, who sought out Ray Hunt and Tom Dorrance and honed his expertise at several large ranch operations before eventually settling in Wheatland, Wyoming, died suddenly last week. He was 52 and had been traveling from a recent clinic in Kentucky.

Campbell died of a self-inflicted injury along the highway near Vonore, Tennessee, confirmed Vonore Police Chief Randy Kirkland. He leaves behind his wife, horsewoman Trina Campbell.

Thousands of friends and fans remembered him as one who helped riders and horses make enormous strides where others had failed. He was generously and uniformly praised for his excellence and for his advocacy of the vaquero method of training.

Campbell traveled internationally as a clinician, has been featured in numerous horsemanship magazines, competed at the Buck Brannaman Pro Am Roping event, authored the book “Willing Partners,” and had an instructional DVD series. There will be a memorial service for Campbell at the Banff Springs Hotel in Banff, Alberta, on April 15, 2-5 pm in the Van Horn ballroom.

Campbell follower Elizabeth David, of Cheboygan, Michigan, wrote this remembrance:

“Not for me, for him, for the horse.”

Peter could always make a profound change in a horse, but he also made profound changes in people. Using the same feel that made him an artist on horseback, he would set up an idea and let people seek it, find it.

Never did he discourage a try, taking his time where he could, adding some pressure only where it was needed. He taught people to seek, to learn, to feel. To come together and help each other to get the job done. Peter Campbell was a creator of true horsemen and horsewomen. That was his gift to us, to the horse.

Photo by Kent Reeves

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.


  • 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


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.

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.


Martin Black’s only New England clinics

Kim Stone has cowboyed and worked with Martin Black for years in Oregon and Idaho. She now runs Shinantu, a small and busy farm in Brunswick, Maine. She submitted this  guest blog post to tell readers more about Black’s offerings next month:

Stone writes: Martin Black has been coming to Maine to share his knowledge with us for the decade.   This year will be different than the past clinics as it is broken into several “mini-clinics” for customized learning.

20151012-img_9716October 4-5: Private and semi-private sessions. Ride one-on-one with Martin, or in a small group.

October 6-7: Versatility and Horsemanship. We are excited about the opportunities to learn from Martin on our new Mountain Trail Course at Shinantu. We’ll see how he would negotiate different obstacles with all levels of horses and riders. There will be an optional trail ride at the end of this clinic that will encompass many of the Mountain Trail Course obstacles along the beautiful Androscoggin River.

October 8-9: We have teamed up with Old Crow Ranch and will be working their cattle for the stockmanship/horsemanship clinic.   What a great learning opportunity to work in a rare working ranch style format here in Maine.  Martin believes in low-stress stock handling. Working with your horse in a way to keep the cattle quiet and in control with the placement of your horses feet.  It is fascinating!

October 10 is our Annual Popham Beach Clinic. This will be the last year we will be offering Horsemanship on the Beach.

What can you expect to learn?

20151016-img_2198Martin would say, “it depends.”

Are you looking to learn something to help yourself, or something to help your horse, or both?

Martin comes from a long line of talented horseman and he believes one never stops learning. There are traditional formats of learning, and then there is the Martin Black form of learning. He will look where the horse is at, where the rider is at, and do what will benefit both. As you become more in tune with the movements of your horse, things begin to make sense and fall into place.   This is where the Mountain Trail Course, working with cattle, and even practicing riding on the beach can become a beautiful dance.

For more information, email Kim Stone at or CLICK HERE


Solo rider tackles the PCT

We talked with Gillian Larson, who blogs here about her travels on the Pacific Crest Trail.

3f7179_5a03747cd358404ea0f16c438be3f1dcThe 24-year old and her two horses, Shyla and Takoda, are cranking out 25-mile days at high elevation. That’s about what the Unbranded team was doing, but Larson is solo and doesn’t have the budget or support of Ben Masters’ Big Adventure. Her total cost is under $20,000. Larson hopes to write a book on the technical aspects of her trek, with plenty of personal anecdotes woven in.

NickerNews: How does your gear compare to that of Unbranded?

Gillian Larson: All of Unbranded’s gear was too heavy for me. I’m at a higher elevation and usually just riding one horse. No pan. No campfire equipment. No bottle of whiskey. The map planning is different. I have a lot more maps available because I’m on the PCT.

NN: The snow is a big issue? You’re chipping away at it out of order, instead of doing it simply from south to north? It was problematic when you tackled it last year?

3f7179_948b73ab712243329f17ffafab1288bdGL: Yes, two thousand miles of the PCT is under snow until July. Doing it out of order is the only way to do it with no snow being an issue.

Initially, I thought I could go from South to North all in order.. But the trail chooses your route. This second time, I have much more respect for the snow

NN: How have your first weeks been going?

GL: It takes time for the horses to get serious about eating. Unfortunately, I don’t have glutinous horses.

Recently, we did 150 miles in six days. I’m hoping to finish by September.

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 2.03.19 PMNN: You have an ingenious method for tackling it with minimal support and with minimal gear for your pack horse to carry. Can you explain?

GC: Yes, I have two rigs. I am borrowing my mom’s truck and I have my own. It’s a leap-frogging arrangement. On the map, I’m riding north to south. However, I drive the trucks and trailers south to north.

Safe travels and happy trails, Gillian!

Follow her here.

Richardson’s first ride (again) is an inspiration (again)

If you’re dwelling on the downside of your day, your year, your life, I have one name for you to consider: Michael Richardson.

12909511_1152108498155682_3952373975956115282_o Recently, the 49-year old horseman got up in the saddle for the first time in seven years.

I first met and reported on Richardson four years ago at the Alberta Horse Breeder’s and Owner’s Conference in Red Deer. Richardson, who has a deep voice, broad shoulders, and a handsome face, spoke to large audiences and coached riders from his wheelchair.

At Broken R Ranch in Hico, Texas, “Michael’s goal is to build a rapport with the horse and human rather than use aids for domination, control, manipulation, or submission.  He shows us how we succeed through releasing, through observing, and enjoying the journey, rather than being preoccupied by the destination,” according to his website.

Work on the seat design

Work on the seat design

Richardson was paralyzed after a car accident in Montana three decades ago. In 1998, he was bitten on the buttocks by a Brown Recluse Spider, resulting in severe atrophy and skin deterioration, issues that continue to trouble him. In 2006, he was in another car accident that crushed a vertebra.

  • He’s had 12 surgeries after the spider bite.
  • He’s got 28 screws along the length of his spine (from T1 to L3)
  • There’s no sitting in a regular chair for more than 20 minutes without excruciating pain.

With help from a Colorado-based mobility company, Richardson started using a special cushion made with open-cell foam. “It’s very hard and allows heat, water, and air to move through,” said Richardson. “I can still feel the horse, but not compromise the

In the saddle after 7 years

In the saddle after 7 years

seat bones.”

Those first rides (again) felt as close to riding as an able-bodied person in 30 years, he said. “Pure jubilation. I was overwhelmed with emotion. To feel the horse like that again. It was worth all the wait, recovery, time, frustration.”

In a facebook video, we see Richardson move quietly and seemingly effortlessly. The horse is collected and relaxed.

Aside from the special seat, Richardson rides strapped in with elastic and ripcord. If ever he were to have an emergency, he and the saddle would come off the horse. Before the spider bite issues, he’d ridden some 5,000 times in the special saddle. He’s had to self-eject (so to speak), just twice, he said.

Increasingly, Richardson is working with veterans and faith-based initiatives. He hopes the saddle seat development work will help paralyzed veterans get up in the saddle.

His attitude, as I found years ago in Alberta, remains as light and positive as the piaffe he managed with his horse:

“I’m incredibly blessed. I’m starting over the fourth time in my life. How many people have that opportunity?”

Read about Maine’s Carlisle Academy, which offers para-dressage and more.

Save these dates!

If you live in southwest Colorado, this fall will bring you two outstanding educational opportunities.

close-up-copy-300x225If you do not live in southwest Colorado, let those two outstanding educational opportunities be your best excuse to visit the region, where we like to say “The West Still Lives!”

Randy Rieman, a renowned colt starter and clinician, will visit the Durango area on September 24-26. The Dorrance protégé has received high praise for his clinics. His well of knowledge runs deep with expertise in multiple disciplines including horsemanship, stockmanship, and roping. Read clinic feedback here.

Register here for Randy Rieman Clinic.

Consider staying the week as Rieman, also a renowned cowboy poetry reciter, will join fellow performers at the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering, September 29-October 2.

Also in the area, Dr. Steve Peters and Martin Black will give an Evidence-Based Horsemanship seminar, November 18-20.

Register here for Evidence-Based Horsemanship Seminar.

Peters and Black

Peters and Black

In the morning sessions, attendees will learn all about horse brain structure, development, neurochemistry, neuroanatomy, how horse behavior relates to brain function, and how to apply that concept to proper training and management practices.

The afternoon sessions will be spent in a controlled environment (round pen or arena) to reinforce the concepts learned in the morning sessions.

Participants will observe demonstrations and learn directly from Black’s hands-on lessons using evidence-based methods, and will have the opportunity to put the concepts to use themselves (subject to number of participants). Read seminar coverage here.

Save the dates!

We’ll post more information, including registration forms, costs, lodging accommodations, and extracurricular ideas (sight seeing, etc.) soon.

Get Smart. Get Tan!

It’s going to be cold and dark in a few months. These delightful, crisp, and sunny riding days will be a murky memory as you bundle into seven layers to toss hay and rub frosty noses with your equines.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 11.42.30 AMWhy not give your mind and body a break with an escape to Costa Rica? Assuage your guilt by simultaneously improving your horsemanship and the connection with your equine partner.

Get smart. Get tan. Get warm at the Evidence-Based Horsemanship seminar, hosted by Equisol Retreats in Nosara, Costa Rica.

Dr. Steve Peters and Martin Black, co-authors of Evidence-Based Horsemanship, will join a limited number of attendees at the January 17-24 event. Check out one element of EBH here.

“Equisol offers week-long holistic yoga and horsemanship retreats that feature luxury accommodations, delicious and healthy cuisine, yoga classes, relaxing massage offerings, and truly amazing beach and jungle trail riding. Add Martin and Dr. Peters to the mix for daily 1Evidence-Based Horsemanship seminars, horsemanship discussion and roping lessons, and you have the opportunity to relax and learn! Each guest will be paired with one of Equisol’s charismatic Costa Rican horses, so both horse and rider will have a chance to bond and learn together over the course of the week,” said the EBH press release.

A typical day: Roll out of your luxurious bed, enjoy a leisurely brunch, then take in a one-hour presentation on equine brain function, followed by lunch, then an ocean-front trail ride before it’s time to get cleaned up for dinner. Or, you might choose to have a roping lesson with Martin after lunch, try out a little yoga, or catch a nap by the pool. All-included.

Prices range from $2550 – $3300 per person and includes daily seminars scpwith Black and Peters, roping lessons, trail riding, seven nights of accommodations, and all meals. Includes transportation once in Costa Rica, but does not include airfare.

Click here for more information and to register. Limited availability for this tropical seminar.

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