Best Gift Guide for Horse Owners

Free bumper sticker!

Oh, the joys of the holiday season and gift-giving!

At Cayuse Communications, we aim to ease gift-buying challenges by focusing on items of high quality and worthy to your horse work and riding experiences. We focus on what might make your lives with horses better. The horses? Frankly, we think they’ll benefit from more from a happy you, than stuff for them.

Read our op-ed: Horses want fewer gifts, better care.

This year, we’re categorizing our recommendations by price and need. We feature everything from inexpensive stocking stuffers to dream purchases for which you might have to secure a small loan. We have suggestions for travel, education, gear and barn improvements, too.

Enjoy our annual gift guide…

Stocking Stuffers:

Skidmore’s Leather Cream – treat your boots, saddle, headstall, etc. with Skidmore’s to extend life and keep them looking good. Smells great.

Darn Tough socks – warm, yummy, and guaranteed for life.

Hestra Gloves – work gloves from 80-year old Swedish company (review coming in January). Work gloves here. Play gloves (more expensive) here. 

EcoLips lip balm – so good you could eat it!

Nicker More, Buck Less bumperstickers – FREE when you order A Rider’s Reader.

Under the Tree, under $100:

Knotty Girlz halters and leads – lots of top quality choices from this woman-owned, Washington state company.

Outfitters Supply – this Montana company has great saddle bags of canvas, nylon, and leather varieties. Check out their wide selection of pack gear and beautiful Jeremiah Watt spurs, too.

Kimes Ranch jeans – made in America. Look for discount when/if you sign up for their newsletter. Read review.

Kershaw knives – check out the Leek with half-serrated blade. Still our favorite knife for horse folks. Read review. 

Duckworth Vapor T

Duckworth tops – this Montana company walks the walk when it comes to Made in America. They go from Sheep to Shelf. We like their Vapor T (review here) and look forward to checking our their Comet Tunnel Hood (review coming in January.

Under the Tree, over $100:

CR Ranchwear shirts – Can a simple, stylish shirt morph you from slob-to-sophisticate? Yes, yes, it can. Read Maddy’s review here. Read Amy’s review here.

Custom Leggings from Fringe Western Wear and Leatherwork – Kathleen Gerwatoski has been crafting perfect leggings (armitas, chicks, chaps) for years from her ranch in Canada. (Review of chocolate brown, shotgun armitas with Jeremiah Watt buckle and conchos coming in January)

WorkWear by Patagonia

Outerwear for cool, not cold weather:

We love the Patagonia WorkWear Barn Coat, made with hemp (reviewed here) and Tin Shed Jacket (review coming in January) and the Bivy jacket with recycled down (reviewed here).

Outerwear for colder climes:

Check out the LL Bean Baxter State Parka (review coming in January)

Olathe Boots – made in Texas, these boots look great and wear great. Read review here.

Not Under the Tree, well-worth the price tag:

Western Sky Saddlery has renowned customer service and an impressive selection of saddles, most with Wade trees. Check them out here.

Gifts of Knowledge and Exploration:

A Rider’s Reader: Exploring Horse Sense, Science & Sentiment. By Maddy Butcher

Order here and get a free bumper sticker.

Evidence-Based Horsemanship. By Dr. Steve Peters and Martin Black. Order here.

Check out the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, an annual mind-expanding event with so much to offer. Concerts, poetry recitations, workshops, museum and trade events, and lots more for a week in Elko, Nevada.

Mark your calendars! The next Best Horse Practices Summit is October 7-9 in Durango. We will look forward to seeing you there! (Details coming in early 2018).

Read our op-ed: Horses want fewer gifts, better care.

Why Net Neutrality Matters to you and me

Thanks to the folks at On Pasture for reminding us that the recent developments in Washington D.C. impact folks like you.

The prospect of Net Neutrality going away, something the head of the Federal Communications Commission indicated would happen soon, is scary to folks like us at Cayuse Communications, a small business that educates and helps horse owners all around the world.

Writes Kathy and Rachel at On Pasture:

Thanks to Net Neutrality it’s easy to shop and find information on the internet. Net Neutrality is the principle that Internet Service Providers (ISP) must enable equal access to all content and applications regardless of the source, without

NickerNews is a site of Cayuse Communications

favoring or blocking particular products or websites. Without it, Internet Service Providers could charge users more to see certain content and to curb access to some websites, creating a “fast lane” and “slow lane” for the internet. Websites, like On Pasture for example, could be charged for faster connections, and costs like that would either shut down some sites, or be passed on to users, like you, who really can’t afford to pay either. (For more, here’s a Forbes article on what repealing net neutrality could mean to all of us.)

Recent polls show that three-quarters of Americans support net neutrality because they like to control for themselves what they see and read and where they shop on the Internet. It’s even one of those rare issues where we don’t

BestHorsePractices is a site of Cayuse Communications

divide along party lines: 73% of Republicans and 81% of Democrats are in favor of net neutrality. Nevertheless, when the Federal Communications Commissioners meet on December 14, they are expected to vote to end it.

If you’d like to have a say in how they vote on your behalf, here are their email addresses:

Ajit Pai, Chairman. Ajit.Pai@fcc.gov
Mignon Clyburn, Commissioner. Mignon.Clyburn@fcc.gov
Michael O’Rielly, Commissioner. Mike.O’Rielly@fcc.gov
Brendan Carr, Commissioner. Brendan.Carr@fcc.gov
Jessica Rosenworcel, Commissioner. Jessica.Rosenworcel@fcc.gov

So, happy gift giving and pardon our foray into politics. We just want to be sure we can be here for you well into the future.

Thanks for reading!

Kathy and Rachel

A Glamorous Hoodie for Horsewomen

Toad&Co. first caught got my attention with its message, not its clothing. I heard CEO Gordon Seabury speak several times at the Industry Breakfast of the Outdoor Retailer; he was smart, inspiring and made a good argument for outdoor recreation companies uniting to fight for public lands, getting people outside, and sustainability.

Like Patagonia, Toad&Co. (formerly Horny Toad, founded by Jessica Nordhaus in Telluride, Colorado about 25 years ago) commits to being pretty transparent about its production stream and contributes meaningfully to social and environmental progress.

Like Cotopaxi, it’s a company that’s easy to like on just principle alone.

Would a Toad&Co. hoodie also inspire?

Enter the Wildwood Sherpa Hoodie in delicious brown.

Brown?

A friend once insisted it was a dreadful color.

But I’d like to suggest that brown – especially this beautiful blend of three subtle, textured shades in the Sherpa Hoodie – is quite lovely. Let brown be the new black. (For you doubters, it also comes in interesting colorblocks of blue, whites, and greys.)

The zip-up hoodie is a repurposed wool blend, crafted in Italy. The wool is processed “using mechanical, not chemical, means and blended with polyester for softness and nylon for strength” according to the garment details.

Remember those tough, utilitarian, and decidedly unflattering pullover sweaters of a generation ago? They weren’t pretty, but they kept you warm and stood up to work.

The Sherpa Hoodie is warm, tough, and pretty.

Details to appreciate:

  • The zipper is not too big, not too small, and has a Toad tab to make it easy to operate with gloves on.
  • The front opening and pockets are trimmed with fine corduroy which feels good and gives the casual sweater a fine finished look.
  • The wool blend means that it breaths better than polyester fleece equivalents and handles multiple wearings without collecting body odor.

Function and practicality are musts for us horsewomen: this hoodie is a practical piece. Toad&Co.likes to label this priority Trail to Tavern but it could just as easily be Horse to Hoedown or Paddock to Party.

One more nice touch from the company, its guarantee: “If you don’t get a compliment within three wearings or if you find something wrong with your garment, we’ll take it back and make it right.”

Nifty zipper and trim details

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.

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.

Boot Review: O My Olathes!

Editor’s Note: We welcome guest columnist Jim Thomas to our pages. The Best Horse Practices Summit presenter runs Bar T Horsemanship in Pittsboro, North Carolina. He has started scores of BLM wild horses, competed in multiple Extreme Mustang Makeovers and travels and conducts clinics year round.

Jim Thomas reviewed a buckaroo boot by Olathe Boots of Mercedes, Texas.

Thomas writes:

Here at the Bar T Ranch, we’re known for our Sunday Mini-Clinics. It’s a time to meet and greet potential clients in a setting of fellowship, horsemanship and good food.
This is our chance to “put on the shine!” For the small price of a covered dish, we welcome anyone to this teaching and sharing experience. For our first Mini Clinic of the year, we had 22 horses and riders signed up, plus an additional 20 or so auditors. I’d need to be on my best behavior and ran through my host-with-the-most list:

  • The facility was looking great
  • The horses were in top shape
  • The homemade ice cream was prepared

It was just me that needed the spit-and-polish look. I considered my new pair of Olathe boots.

But first, let me explain my boot-wearing program:
Upon purchase, all new boots are designated as Sunday boots. Sunday boots are only for church, nighttime dinners, and sterile environments.

Saturday boots are for the sale barn, trips to town, and clinic presentations.

Weekday boots are work horses that have earned the right to be worn every day in dry, dusty, wet, muddy, slimy, manure-y, and snowy conditions. Yet they still have to clean up well.

To earn a spot in the weekday rotation, the boot must fit well, look fantastic before and after a hard day’s work, and hold up under all the stresses. It must be easy on-and-off, easy in-and-out of the stirrup, and comfortable to boot (pun intended).
That’s a tall order. These boots must also fit sized-14, narrow feet. It’s not an easy task, so my weekday boot roster is short.

My current weekday boots are Anderson Bean, which like Olathe is a brand under the umbrella of Rios of Mercedes out of Mercedes, Texas. I know that right out of the box, I have a quality boot with true fit, good looks, durability, and long wear.

That’s what I was looking for in the Olathe, along with the option of a custom design. I’ve been looking for boots that rise above the rest of the boot world, without going the totally unaffordable, custom-made, $1000 route. The Olathe fit the bill and looked to be a contender.

So, here’s where Olathe and the Mini Clinic meet:

  • I wanted to make the best impression for my first mini-clinic of the year.
  • I was going to bring out my newest boot – my Sunday boot, my church boot, my nighttime boot.

Was I ready?

  • Had this boot passed the comfort test?
  • The “What a Great Looking Boot” test?
  • The “Cleans Up Good” test?

The Mini Clinic was not my first wearing, but I promise you, the boots had not seen anything beyond carpet, wood floors, cement, and asphalt. The chance had to be taken. On they went.

The boots were a hit. Compliments flowed faster than a spring run-off.

Here’s what I liked:

  • Good Comfort for a boot not sized by a mold
  • Summertime has me in light socks. The boot fit well with a little room for thicker socks in the winter.
  • Easy on/off without a bootjack.
  • Spur shelf works well. I just drop my spurs over the top without unbuckling and the ledge is prominent enough to hold a loose spur.
  • Buckaroo heel is not my favorite for walking but it’s very stylish and holds the stirrup well.
  • Oil-tanned finish with its deep distressed appearance really gives it a bold look and repels water better than a duck’s back.
  • Made almost entirely of leather except for a rubber heel cap and a thin layer of rubber above the sole for shock absorption.
  • Leather sole for easy slip in-out of the stirrup and smooth gliding on the dance floor.
  • Uppers are a bright Tennessee Orange that peeks just below the cut of my jeans while riding. That’s statement in itself.

I spent the eight hours on my feet and another four in the saddle with no discomfort.
These new Olathes will be my Sunday boots until my old Anderson Bean’s fall off my feet. But rest assured, I have no reservations about these boots making the cut.

Maine Rider Impressed with Tuff Rider Boots from Adams

Editor’s Note: We welcome guest reviewer Debbie Hight! Hight is on the Best Horse Practices Summit Steering Committee and recently hosted horsewoman Amy Skinner for a weekend of learning. In this post, Hight offers her review of Tuff Rider boots from Adams Horse & Pet Supplies.

She writes:

I stopped at Adams Horse & Pet Supplies in Winthrop, Maine (just outside of Augusta), really wanting a new pair of summer riding boots.  I had tried desperately for years, in fact, to break in my pair of dressage boots. Everything fit. But the leather was just too hard.  Maybe if I had run over them a few times with my truck, they would have gotten softer. After five years and multiple applications of leather conditioner, I’, waving the white flag and setting them aside. I’ll donate them to the local Pony Club.

So, I was trying to prepare myself to pay  $300-400 for a pair and refused to even try on something that cost $600 or more.  I have only a certain tolerance for checkbook pain.

In fact, I’m not easy to fit. I have relatively tall calves, biggish feet (size 8.5-9), but thin, scrawny calves (despite obvious muscling!).

I tried on the Tuff Rider Belmont Dress Boot. Oh, wow. It was like they were made for me. The leather felt like the best Italian leather.

At $180, they were pretty much a bargain compared to the considerably more painful options. Less expensive boots were more literally painful and the more expensive ones hurt my wallet.

I wish that it didn’t have the elastic insert, but frankly, I cannot see it So, I just forgot about it.

I finally rode in them yesterday, in 93-degree heat. They were just wonderful.  Too bad that the magic of the boots didn’t transcend to my riding, but I guess that remains Operator Error.  Oh, well, there’s always room to improve.

Tuff Rider appear to be ethical in the quality and price of their products.  I am so sick to death of anything horse-related being ramped up in price just because we’re horse owners.  I have found Tuff Rider to be relatively reasonable and a breath of fresh air.

These Tuff Riders may not be firm enough for the diehard dressage crazies, but I love them.

Rain Chaps Let You Stay Out Longer

Last fall, I was invited to help gather cattle off the National Forest. It was two excellent days of long hours and many miles in

Wet going in cool autumn rain

the saddle over rugged terrain with fit horses and good company. On the second day, it rained. It did not sprinkle or drizzle. It rained steadily all day as temperatures stayed in the low 50’s. By lunch, I was soaked.

We detoured back to our trailers and I changed out of most of my drenched gear: jeans, socks, boots, top. My leather leggings had gained at least 10 pounds and I left them off. We headed back for another 10 miles of gathering cattle.

By the time we wrapped up, it was close to dinnertime and I was cold. Not a tad chilly. I was cold and soaked to the core. Along the way, I had learned a valuable lesson in preparedness. Rain chaps, I told myself, had just become an absolute necessity.

Muddy Creek, a small company based in Grass Lake, Michigan, has smartly designed rain chaps that’ll fit in any saddle bag. (In fact, they have an entire line of rain gear, including jackets, hats, and waterproof cantle bags. Check them out here.)

What makes them smart?

  • Big zippers with zipper pulls that can be handled easily with cold, fumbling fingers
  • Added Velcro to seal out wetness and allow custom fitting
  • Wide bottom cuffs to accommodate any boot style
  • Elastic band slips under boot heel to keep chaps from creeping up your leg.

Muddy Creek rain chaps are available directly from Muddy Creek here or from our friends at Outfitters Supply here.

I ordered a medium and agreed to share them with my partner, Steve Peters.

The leggings are atypical in that there is no waist to attach both leg sleeves. Count that feature as another smart detail as it allows for better sharing between two folks who aren’t quite the same size and it makes it easier to put them on quickly mid-trail ride.

The chaps fold easily, take little room, and weight just eight ounces or so.

It may rain just 72 days in this part of the country, but it took just one of them to convince me to carry rain chaps.

Summer Horse Work Calls for Long Sleeves

Why review long-sleeved shirts in mid-June?

Even when it’s hot, there are myriad occasions when long sleeve shirts are best for horse work:

  • Working with hay (your daily tosses or putting up 200 bales of first cut)
  • Riding through brush (what fun, adventurous trail ride doesn’t have its share of bushwhacking?)
  • Buggy days and nights at the barn (skeeters and midgies should not impede your precious Barn Time)

LL Bean’s Double Cloth Performance Woven Shirt is breathable and utilitarian. The hem is cut and shaped perfectly to look nice tucked in or worn out.

I tried the Bright Sapphire, a pretty plaid of purple, light blue, black, and khaki green and loved rolling up the sleeves to show off the inside black and purple checked pattern.

Don’t let the ‘Double Cloth’ term deceive you; the shirt is light in weight and feel. It’s made of nylon and is UPF 40+ for sun protection. If it weren’t so rugged, it would have been called a blouse.

Double Cloth Performance Woven Shirt by LL Bean

In horsemanship, we often talk about the cons of comfort. In order to help horses appreciate comfort, they need to know discomfort. That’s the gist of pressure and release and what academics call negative reinforcement.

But when it comes to gear, we hold comfort dear. Discomfort is most unwelcome. Along with function, durability, and attractiveness, comfort forms the basis of whether or not an item is purchased and appreciated. This Bean’s shirt satisfies these requirements in spades.

Want something warmer and equally pretty?

The Quilted Woven Shirt Jacket, also from Beans is the classy, upscaled version of those plaid thermal shirt jackets worn by New England clammers and carpenters for decades. This Shirt Jacket is warmer (lined with Primaloft Active Gold insulation), more attractive, and more feminine. No boring Scotch plaid here! The shirt features a lovely blend of magenta, soft orange, light blue, and olive green.

I do wish the shirt featured snaps in lieu of buttons, but that’s my only complaint.

A word about fit: LL Bean sizes its tops more generously than companies like Patagonia. I’m 5’7”, 135 pounds and enjoyed the Double Cloth shirt in a small. I have the Shirt Jacket in a medium and it’s a bit boxy, but it allows one layer or more underneath.

For those of us living out West, LL Bean has a store near Denver and next year will open its westernmost store and its first in Utah. This one will be on Main Street in Park City, a good fit as LL Bean is an official supplier of the US Ski Team, which is based in the Utah mountain town.

LL Bean Quilted Woven Shirt Jacket

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