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.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 11.44.19 AM

Durango Gathering Does Authentic


Over the course of four b-e-a-utiful October days in southwest Colorado, the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering entertained several thousand visitors with myriad offerings.

There were poetry readings, music, and art showcased around town, during the day and at nightly, sold out performances at the historic Strater Hotel and elsewhere. Suffice to say: around these parts, the odd man out was the one without cowboy boots and hat.

My favorite elements were the Cowboy Poetry Ride,

L-R, Anne Rapp and Linda Mannix

L-R, Anne Rapp and Linda Mannix

the parade (the largest motor-less parade in the state), and the exhibit of William Matthews’ watercolors at the Durango Arts Center. Matthews, who was in attendance, has a well-earned reputation for exquisitely capturing the modern-day working cowboy. Over the course of several decades, his subjects have included horseman and saddle maker Scott Brown, saddle maker and silversmith Jeremiah Watt, and horseman and poetry reciter Randy Rieman.

The Gathering’s ride got its start over 20 years ago, said Anne Rapp, who runs Rapp Corral and supervised about 40 guests and several wranglers on the splendid, six-mile trek. After an hour through the San Juan National Forest, riders were treated to a catered lunch (chili, salad, wine, coffee, and more), campfire, poetry recitation by Jerry Brooks with music by Mike Beck.

Horses. Fall colors. Mountains. Good company. What’s not to love?

The event annually sells out in June or July, according to Rapp.

“It’s a good day on horseback,” she added.

Linda Mannix, the gathering’s coordinator, said the ride added authenticity to the event. “This is how cowboy poetry started, around the campfire. They talked with each other. There was no social media,” said Mannix.

At the next day’s parade, spectators were a mix of locals and tourists. All seemed to have a keen appreciation of western U.S. culture. Pairs or foursomes of draft horses pulled impressively restored carriages. Drivers and riders dressed in costumes straight out of the 1880’s.

Planning a trip to these parts? Mark your calendar for next year: the Gathering runs September 29-October 2.

At the Durango Cowboy Poetry Parade

At the Durango Cowboy Poetry Parade


Visit Nelson and Skinner at the Equine Affaire

Amy Skinner

Amy Skinner

Our game plan is coming together for the Equine Affaire, the horse extravaganza that’s less than two months away. (November 12-15 in West Springfield, MA)

We’re thrilled to announce that horsewomen Amy Skinner and Raechel Nelson will be at the NickerNews and BestHorsePractices booth in the Better Living Center. They will help Maddy Butcher and Emily Thomas Luciano with spreading the word about our online magazines and offerings.

Skinner is the popular writer of Journals & Journeys, the regular feature on NickerNews. She will travel from Boyne City, Michigan, and be at our booth throughout the four-day event.

Raechel Nelson

Raechel Nelson

Nelson is the gal behind Mustang Miles & Minutes, a BestHorsePractices feature dedicated to documenting her progress with a BLM wild horse and her filly. She travels from Salt Lake City, Utah, and will be at the booth Saturday and Sunday.

Come visit with us and make sure to enter for daily giveaways including a luxurious Ramblers Way garment, a Perfect Barn Coat from Cotopaxi, and a SPOT Gen3 satellite personal tracker.
Sign up to be a Remuda Reader and receive a complimentary bumper sticker.
Mark your calendar, mark your Equine Affaire map, and stay tuned for more updates.

Unbranded Newsflash

Ever since the Unbranded team of four Texans and their cavvy of mustangs wrapped up an incredible 3,000-mile journey nearly two years ago, fans have been chomping at the bit to see how the crew’s 500 hours of footage got whittled down to less 11174682_867151063331329_5751020672287218165_o-300x248than two hours of WOW. Watch the trailer here.

Followers got a bit closer today, as Unbranded team announced the acquisition of the film by Gravitas Ventures. Finally, it will be available through Video On Demand format, September 25. You can prepay for it here.

An Unbranded quartet including executive producer Cindy Meehl, producer Dennis Aig, director Phill Baribeau, and mastermind Ben Masters were in Los Angeles today, working out additional details with Gravitas.

Meehl, who produced the award-winning Buck, a documentary about Buck Brannaman, said she hoped fans would work through Tugg, a platform allowing groups to bring requested feature films to their local cinemas.

2She agreed that the public’s demand and response have both been more enthusiastic than what’s usually seen from typical indie film audiences. It’s similar to what she experienced with Buck, when she learned that horse owners and lovers are some of the more fanatic documentary watchers.

“It’s been shown at just two festivals and it’s won both,” she noted.

“Unbranded is breathtaking in both scope of what’s been accomplished by these four young men and in how incredible the settings are throughout. We know audiences of varied backgrounds — from families to animal lovers to just documentary and film fans — are going to enjoy this remarkable adventure,” said Nolan Gallagher, Founder and CEO of Gravitas Ventures, in a statement.

Viewers will also be able to see it digitally, at home. DVDs will be available before Christmas.

NickerNews and BestHorsePractices have more Unbranded coverage than any other media outlet. Check out all the offerings here.

Welcome Ramblers Way and Introducing Trails to Town contest

ramblers way  Trail to TownWe’re thrilled to announce our new partnership with Ramblers Way Farm, the clothing company founded by Maine’s Tom Chappell and featuring wonderful, American-made, wool garments.

Beginning next month, NickerNews & BestHorsePractices will be giving away one lightweight, luxuriously soft top each month. It’s the Trails to Town contest! Read a review of Ramblers Way tops.

Can your daily outfit take you from horseback to the grocery store, or do you need a Cinderella-like transformation before you can be seen in public?

The right clothes for us horsemen and women move seamlessly from one daily activity to the other. Even dinner afterwards!

That’s what Rambler’s Way wear does for us. It feels great, looks great, and you can feel great, knowing it’s American-made by a company with strong sustainability mission.

In August, we will begin giving away your choice of women’s long-sleeve, scoop or jewel neck top. Or, for men, a long-sleeve Henley. All retail for $90. Visit Ramblers Way website.

Jewel neck

Jewel neck

Ramblers Way garments are made with the moisture-wicking, high-quality wool that doesn’t hold odors and keeps its shape. That means you can tackle barn chores, hit the trail, then head straight to town. Read a review of Ramblers Way tops.

Want to win? Show us how badly you need a versatile piece to take you from one walk of life to the next. Send us a photo or write a few words to illustrate your point. Contact us here. Or, to attach a photo, send email to Or, send us a message on the NickerNews and BestHorsePractices facebook pages.

Entries accepted until August 13. All entries will be posted on NickerNews where readers can vote for their favorites until August 21. Winner announced August 28.


Scoop neck, available in multiple colors

Getting Tossed, Taking Stock

On first read, I thought Libby Lyman’s comment about “gauging appropriate pressure for each individual horse” was a no brainer. See her Ask the Expert post here.

not-too-old-to-learn-challenge-213x300 “Doesn’t everyone know that?”  I thought.

But getting a bloody lip whilst coming off my mule has a way of underscoring Lyman’s point and reminding me of how much there is to learn.

The Teaching Moment

We had taken a solo ride of about six miles. I was inserting lots of stops for flexion and backing up since we needed to improve those elements and I wanted to challenge her. I thought I was giving her lots of positive feedback. I thought she was fine with things. In hindsight, it was clear I was pushing too hard and not giving her enough dwell time or relief.

For the last half mile, I asked her to run up a twisty path. I urged her to trot, then urged her some more with my heels. Either she felt I was unfairly goosing her, or the additional push – after so much flexion and backing work – was just too much. She left the trail, bolted through junipers, and got out from under me. As if IMG_8492to emphasize her discontent, she kept right on running after the dumping.

Thankfully, I cut through our pasture while she had to jog around it. I met her on the other side, reclaimed the reins, and rode back to the scene of our mishap. There, we hung out for a minute while I wiped blood from my face and assessed the damage. We caught our breaths and I thanked my helmet for doing its job.

After letting Jolene graze, we headed back up the trail where she had just unloaded me. We tried to trot casually, but I believe we were both faking it, braced for another disconnect.

It was, as it usually is, Operator Error. When I gave her that extra pressure, I’d misjudged her tautness for sluggishness. She wasn’t being a plug; she was being Jolene, the ever-wary mule. “Why all this pressure? Where’s the relief?” I think she was saying.

Sometimes, progress comes with pitfalls.

Read more Not Too Old to Learn posts here.

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