Goodbye Utah, Hello Colorado

After two years in beautiful Utah, the NickerNews herd has headed to Colorado!

The decision was a tough one, mostly having to do with knowing we didn’t want to live out our lives in the Beehive State. Read more about that here.

IMG_9783Our ties to Utah will remain strong: my partner, Steve Peters, will live there until he retires, several years from now. We picked a place that’s just a half-day’s drive from his work, so he will travel here regularly. I will return often enough, too.

We chose Mancos, a small town in southwestern Colorado, near the Four Corners (where the borders of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah meet). Coming from the small town of Harpswell, Maine, it feels great, like returning to my roots. In towns like these, you get to know people and they get to know you. You feel your involvement might be appreciated and that folks are more accountable for their actions.

Though its population is under 2,000, Mancos has a great bakery, a vibrant library, a brewery, and is home to many artists, artisans, and ranchers. The local package store (A “package store,” I’ve learned, is strictly New England vernacular. When I’ve asked, “where’s the packy?” locals replied, “Huh?”) has a beautiful mural of a cowboy moving cattle.

IMG_9789The riding opportunities are tremendous. Our property borders public land and the San Juan National Forest has scores of trail heads within a short hauling distance.

We moved five of our seven equines, leaving two for Steve to ride and care for.

The five – Comet, Pep, Jolene, Shea, and Wallace – seem to love the new place. For the first time in two years, they have grass to graze and flat space to stretch their legs.

Winters, admittedly, will be tougher and longer (elevation is 7,400 feet, 1,500 higher than our Utah place). Even in the summer, nights routinely dip into the 40s. I’ve dug out my long underwear, scarves, hats and coveralls for the coming winter.

Here’s to putting down new roots, meeting new friends, and learning the lay of the land!

Mural on the Mancos liquor store

Mural on the Mancos liquor store

Ramblers Way suits this rambler’s way

The parcel from Ramblers Way arrived with perfect timing. I was packing for a 20-day, 6,000 mile, truck-camping trip to Ramblers-Way-Farm-logoMaine and back. I might see a washer and dryer at the midway point, but nice-looking, packable, stink-resistant tops would be key. They’d have to be versatile: for city and country, for hiking and reporting stints. They’d have to be warm or cool, depending on weather conditions over three weeks and 20 states.

Read more about Ramblers Way and its founder, Tom Chappell.

Like the perfectly chosen audio book or the most comfortable pair of hiking shoes, these tops were the tops. They helped make the trip easy and enjoyable.

I tried the women’s Henley tank, crew neck and quarter zip polo – all sized medium, in a warm charcoal grey of superfine Rambouillet wool.

“Itchy wool?” you ask.

On the Ramblers Way road

On the Ramblers Way road

No, yummy-next-to-the-skin, lightweight, delectable wool. Not your grandfather’s, scratchy beard wool, I reply.

The three items can be worn together or on their own. I mixed and matched. On a balmy Colorado walk and for a sultry college commencement in New York, the Henley tank served marvelously on its own and under a blazer.

The long-sleeved crew has the perfect neckline for showing off a necklace, but isn’t so scooped to make it inappropriate for active use. I wore it hiking and tucked it into my jeans for a slightly neater look and a dinner engagement.

To be honest, I also wore both as pajama tops, that’s how inseparable I was to these separates.

The quarter zip feels a bit like your favorite flannel shirt, but it’s warmer, classier and exponentially more versatile.

When I buy fabrics like wool or silk, a red flag immediately goes up: What about the dry cleaning or handwashing?

rwwRamblers Way items can be tossed in the washer and dryer. The care instructions say you can also hand wash and line dry them, but they held up well to my regular, no-fuss wash and dry treatment.

The last requirement for an active traveler, of course, is pack-ability. All of the tops were crammed into my pack (they’re made of fine, four and five ounce knit and compact exceedingly well). I even balled up the crew neck and used it to help with my sciatic pain while driving. They retained their shape perfectly and always looked wrinkle-free.

They might cost a bit more, but there’s something to be said for feel, the literal and more thoughtful varieties.

It’s nice on the skin. And, with Ramblers Way’s mission of sustainability and Made in America values, it’s nice on the brain, too.

A real model wears Ramblers Way top

A real model wears Ramblers Way top

Read more about Ramblers Way and its founder, Tom Chappell.

Hello NCPG – See you in Elko!

T-I-neon-cowboys-442x590Cayuse Crest Communications is proud to announce a new sponsorship agreement with Western Folklife, the non-profit organization that each year puts on the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada. This year, it takes over the historical Nevada town (Elko has been called “the last real cowtown in the American West” and has a rich history of Basque immigrants) from January 26-31.

The media sponsorship (which includes coverage by NickerNews and BestHorsePractices as well as UtahOutsider) was sealed after discussions with Western Folklife’s new executive director, David Roche, and communications director, Darcy Minter.

What does it mean for readers?

  • A pair of Deluxe Three-Day Passes for the event, awarded to one lucky Remuda Reader. (A $120 value)
This year highlights the vaqueros of the Baja peninsula in Mexico.

This year highlights the vaqueros of the Baja peninsula in Mexico.

Check out past coverage of the annual event:

Taking in the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering

Randy Rieman at the NCPG

Evidence-Based Horsemanship presents at the NCPG

Read about this year’s event.

Stayed tuned for regular updates.




Road trip with riding on my mind

view around dillon

Dusk outside of Dillon, MT

Last week, we headed north from Utah to Bozeman, Montana, to visit with Unbranded’s creative team and to see bits of the film. The team is busy with last minute details before submitting it to major film festivals.

The trip allowed for some quick detours to favorite places. My folks lived in Montana for a decade and I worked two summers on a Montana ranch. The Big Sky state is dear to me.

Three Forks, population 1,852: The town is named for the nearby confluence of three major Montana rivers, the Jefferson, Gallatin, and Madison. They meet and form the Missouri, the longest river in North threeforksAmerica at 2,341 miles.

Three Forks Saddlery: a working cowboy store, for sure, set along Main Street. There are walls full of ropes, reins, stirrups, and bits. They carry jeans, vests, hats, and wild rags and other essential gear. They make saddles here, too. And when you have a horse gear question, they know the answer. Ask ‘em anything and they are super helpful.

wheatWheat, Montana: a bakery, deli, and farm just of Interstate 90. They were doing non-GMO before it became popular and buzz-worthy. Wheat makes mammoth cinnamon buns, plate-sized cookies, wicked sandwiches, and, of course, 50-pound sacks of flour if you’d rather make it all yourself. Their interstate sign says it all: “Feel Good After You Eat. Stop Here.”

Bozeman has changed enormously since I frequented there years ago. It’s growing at a 20 percent clip and, as Ben Masters told me, “No one living in Bozeman is from Bozeman.” It seemed a bit like Park City, Utah’s richest mountain town. There were lots of Patagonia-clad women meeting for coffee, etc. etc.

But there are still plenty of regular types, working stiffs, and cowboys.

Fabric at Main St. Quilting, Bozeman

Fabric at Main St. Quilting, Bozeman

I found fine cowboy boots at Carter’s Boots on Main Street. Jeff and Lisa Carter have run it for many years, stocking the shelves with custom boots, fine leather purses, and more. I picked up a lovely silk scarf for the upcoming cold months.

The Country Bookshelf, also on Main Street, is a fine place to lose yourself. It’s a big independent bookstore with a rich, diverse stock. I picked up a copy of The Dog Stars by Peter Heller, one of my recent favorites.

Main Street Quilting had dozens of western and horse themed fabrics for my next quilt. Another place to get lost in hundreds, thousands of choices.

On the way home, I took Route 41 through Dillon, home of Randy Rieman and on this night, a pep rally of sorts with a ginormous, house-size bonfire. (see photo below)

The route took me through the Targhee National Forest and Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forests. All told, they encompass more than six million acres. Yes, folks, there is space to ride here.

Stay tuned for more on Unbranded.

Read current Unbranded interviews here.


First Utah Rides

payson copyWe’ve explored about 15 miles of Utah by horseback since landing here last month. It’s a paltry sum, eeked out from the horses’ temporary digs in Payson.
The biggest difference between here and Iowa and Maine?


  • You have room to see.

In every direction, you can see for miles. To the north and east of Payson, lay the mountains of the Wasatch Range. To the south is Utah Valley, a large, flat expanse. To the west are the hills of West Mountain butting up against the southeast edge of Utah Lake.

  • You have room to run.

There are vistas in every direction and if your horse needs running room, she’s got it.

We first traveled along an east/west canal that seems to supply water to the thousands of acres of apple orchards here.

Heading east took us under Interstate 15 and towards the Wasatch Range. A lengthy conversation was necessary to convince the girls to go under the I-15 tunnel. It roars with activity and the traffic sounds reverberate even more within the tunnel.

Heading west took us towards a quarry that makes up part of the nearly treeless hills of West Mountain. It was here we discovered our physical condition. Or lack thereof. We made good time, climbing from about 4,700 feet to 5,200 feet elevation.
But asking the girls to do more, would have been too much, too soon.
If they weren’t snorting to catch their breath, they were snorting to take in the new surroundings. Everything was spooky in these initial runs.










In the name of horse-friendly open space

swisherHorses need space. Riders do, too.

If you look at Swisher, Iowa by satellite, you’ll see lots of open space. When I moved here from Maine, I was excited to explore the 14,000 acres of nearby Hawkeye Wildlife Management Area.
I did.
It was wonderful. Read more. Watch video tribute to Iowa riding.
Until I got a ticket.

I was cited for riding my horse on public land and fined $100.

Turns out the Hawkeye Wildlife Management Area is reserved for hunters and fishers. Despite the negligible environmental impact (hoofprints? The occasional poop?) and acts of good citizenship (calling in poachers, carcass dumpers, litterers, etc), I was labeled persona non grata by the Department of Natural Resources.
The citation left this horsewoman frustrated and curious about the state of horse-friendly public space.

Iowa ranks 49th out of 50 when it comes to the percentage of publicly owned land.  Just one percent of its land consist of parks, forests, and grasslands. Horse riders are unwelcome on most of them.

Maine, as many of you will attest, doesn’t do much better. It ranks 37th. Read more.
Many of us enjoy riding on private land owned by friendly neighbors. But as time marches on, development often turns old trails into subdivisions, fields into fenced and gated backyards.
Increasingly, we must now resort to trailering to open space or riding around and around and around in an arena.

Suburban parking lot near Provo, Utah

Suburban parking lot near Provo, Utah

It’s a drag. For those of us with an open-space craving, it can be downright depressing.

But consider Utah.
The state boasts five national parks and has a greater percentage of public land than every other state except Nevada and Alaska. Combine that with a culture that welcomes, embraces and accommodates horse riders.

If a chance ever came to move there, what trail rider wouldn’t jump at the opportunity?
That chance has arrived and this girl is Utah-bound.

Maine, Iowa, Utah

nicker plateFrom Maine to Iowa and now Utah!

These past few weeks have been nutty, as I traveled home to Maine, then back to Iowa and now, we’re off to Utah.
The time in Maine was too short. I did manage to catch up with a few horse friends and gather material for upcoming features and blog posts. It was great to see folks busy with the riding and haying seasons.

Here in Iowa, we’ve traded flooding for drought conditions. This week didn’t have a single day under 90 degrees and we haven’t had rain in months. The conditions haven’t stopped us from having a summer full of adventures. But with parched pastures, we’re feeding ia2002out hay early again this year.

Heading west has always been on my Bucket List. And NickerNews and BestHorsePractices are mobile by design.
I just didn’t think the opportunity would arise in 2013.

By chance, my significant other, Dr. Steve Peters, heard of a position in Provo, Utah. (He’s a neuropsychologist by day. In his spare time, he co-authored Evidence-Based Horsemanship with Martin Black. This November, the pair will conduct another Evidence-Based Horsemanship seminar. It’ll be held in Pennsylvania. Details coming soon.)

ut_license_plateIn a few months, we will head to mountains and desert terrain with the thoughts:

‘Life is Short’ and ‘You Won’t Know if you Don’t Go.”

I called Elijah Moore yesterday. The popular Maine horseman grew up in Utah and knows much of the country like the back of his hand.

“It’s the prettiest place in the world,” Moore said of the Panguitch area.

I’m looking forward to the wide array of public lands and to acquiring new skills needed for that kind of horsemanship. I’m grabbing my saddle bag and humming the Dixie Chicks’ Wide Open Spaces!


Swamped Trails

Last June, I was in a mild panic, buying hay and feeding it out.

That’s how quickly our 10-acre pasture was eaten up by grazing and burned up by the high temperatures and lack of rain. We loved the sun and warmth, but animals and plants all suffered from the lack of moisture.

Check out this descriptive drought blogpost with images.

Note to those praying for rain: Enough Already.

The Iowa River, just downhill from our place, has been above flood stage for months and at 18 feet in Marengo, IA, it’s just a few feet below the catastrophic, record-setting mark of 2008.

The county road, a long gravel road that runs for six miles from Swisher to Amana, is largely underwater.

The Hawkeye Wildlife Management Area, the 14,000-acre parcel saddling the Iowa, home to fields, meadows, timberland and hundreds of animal species, is largely underwater.
In contrast to last June, I’m asking the horses to graze down the lawn, since mowing every five days is getting to be a bit much. They’re fat and happy and their pasture looks fine.
I suppose I’ll buy hay, but it’ll likely sit in the barn til autumn.
Images from our former riding routes, Left 2012; Right, 2013countycompare floodtwo greencompa:

Absence makes the heart grow Appreciative

loadMay has been full of travel.
It’s involved truck and horse trailer alright. But this time, the rig was filled with bookcases, lamps, clothes, and keepsakes instead of horses.

3,000 miles. From Iowa to Maine (empty), then back to Iowa (full) as we completed the cross-country move initiated last year. For this gal going solo, it was a white-knuckle haul, made only less stressful because the cargo wasn’t precious like last year. (Read more)

Needless to say, I was thrilled to get back to the farm and breathe in the sweet smell of manure, not exhaust.
Of grass, not diesel.

And hear cardinals, sparrows, and mourning doves instead of the constant din of highway traffic.

And get tired from physical farm work, not fatigue from the sheer monotony of interstate miles.

Upon return, I sank my face into the horses’ necks and gave thanks.

It felt some good to leave the highway behind.

Read more about travels with our Mainers Away articles

Horse, Trailer, Bird

The timing for the Trailer Depot’s recent article on trailer safety and servicing couldn’t have been better.

  • Trips are around the corner.
  • Trailer’s been sittin’ for a few months.
  • It’s nesting season.

nestI found this robin nest on top of my gooseneck trailer’s spare tire. Thankfully, Mama Robin hadn’t laid any eggs yet. It’s a shame she’ll have to start over, but at least I won’t have to face the prospect of displacing baby robins three weeks from now. Or worse, driving off with them.

Idle trailers are GREAT targets for potential nest-builders. They offer shelter and have any number of great starter foundations for fine, sturdy, weather-and-predator safe homes.
Save yourself the heartbreak and hazard of nesters. Give your trailers regular clean sweeps before you start using it.

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