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.

LL Bean’s Barn Friendly Vest

Regardless of where you live, this time of year our barn and horse work demands layers. We’re focusing on a few impressive products from LL Bean. The Maine company currently is having a Winter Send-Off Sale.

Read jacket reviews here.

Amy Skinner, owner of Essence Horsemanship and a trainer at Bar T Ranch in Pittsboro, North Carolina. She reviewed LL Bean’s Signature Packable Quilted Vest this month.

She writes:

It’s cold and windy, but barn chores and horses don’t wait for better weather. Trying to keep warm and able to move is a battle of balance, where sometimes you sacrifice mobility for warm layers.

As a woman who rides five days a week in all types of weather, I often find myself feeling and looking like the abominable snow man: bundled up head to toe, straining to lift a leg up into a stirrup and flop into the saddle with about 20 extra pounds of clothing on. An innocent bystander would not only be befuddled, but probably wouldn’t even be able to identify me as a woman under all the heavy, unfeminine layering.

I’m into practicality and ideally, I’d like to look good while doing farm work. This L.L Bean Packable Quilted Vest weighs just ounces and is insulated with Polartec’s Primaloft. When I pair it with a good scarf, it keeps me nice and warm. It is sleek, attractive in mariner blue, and fitted enough to reveal the wearer as a woman, yet still loose enough to layer under comfortably. Gone are my bundled, waddling, genderless days of barn work with this pretty and practical vest.

It has another attractive feature: five brass button snaps in place of a zipper. You not only get the longevity of a snap button where a zipper eventually fails (How annoying is it when the zipper teeth wear out, leaving your poor torso freezing as your vest flaps in the wind?), but you get to hear that satisfying “click” as you suit up for your work day.

It has two medium sized breast pockets, and below there are two larger pockets just above hip level big enough for most cell phones, granola bars, and other necessities. If you get hot throughout the day, this vest folds up about the size of a good paperback, fitting easily in your saddle bags, backpack, or purse. For extra convenience, it folds right into itself, with a sewn in zipper pocket on the inside you can tuck the vest right into.

I feel just as good wearing it out in town as I do at the barn. Going from dirty barn life to normal civilian life is easy with a quick wipe down of the vest’s exterior. It’s water resistant and easy to keep clean. This vest has replaced my old, heavy vests with its practicality, warmth, light weight, awesome pockets that can actually hold things (no wimpy girl pockets on this thing), and attractive look.

Sometimes you do actually get what you pay for, and this vest is worth the price with its quality and durability.

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.

English Meets Western in a Jean

Like a lot of you, riding makes up just a fraction of my horse time. There’s all that farm and ranch work that supports the habit – mending fence, hauling hay and water, moving horses, reseeding pasture, repeat. Jeans are what we wear. No other pants can survive our lifestyle. We like them tough, comfortable, and pretty.

As a Western rider, I wear jeans outside my boots. English riders, on the other hand, wear stretchy breeches or jeans. They wear them inside their boots.

— What if a new jean satisfied all these rider and ranch requirements for English and Western riders alike?

— What if this new jean also made you feel good about not neglecting the earth or the folks making the jeans?

This year, Patagonia answered the call with a stretchy, tough, super comfortable jean. It’s the Patagonia Straight Jean, available for men and women in short, regular, and long lengths.

What took the company so long?

The cuff snugs over boots and doesn’t ride up.

If you’re like me, you didn’t realize the denim industry is rife with abuse. From the cotton fields to the garment manufacturing, it’s a business that has historically treated the planet and the people poorly. Up to now, Patagonia chose not to engage with standard denim practices and production. Instead, it took time to research how to make a jeans purchase you could sleep with (and in).

Watch this video.

Next, Patagonia needed to get the word out about their new, standard-busting product. Who best to review the jeans?

Forget about rock climbers, hikers, surfers or sailors. Forget about urbanites or backcountry wannabes. If you really want to test the worthiness of a pair of jeans, give them to horse owners.

This horse owner wore them on and off horses. In rain and snow. Over many miles of back country and front country living. These dark indigo jeans, 71 percent cotton and 29 percent Coolmax polyester, held up marvelously, even with the jean-trashing task of haying.

I thought I didn’t like any stretch in my jeans. All cotton or forget-about-it. But these jeans converted me. With Patagonia jeans there is:

No more hitching up my pants before stepping up into the saddle.

No more wearing a size bigger for riding and a size smaller for going to town.

The deep indigo color means they will look sharp for years. Their comfort will keep them on the top of my jeans pile, ready for the next wearing. Their durability and versatility means they will stay on, from barn to trail to town to night-on-the-town.

When things got muddy, they tucked into rubber boots with no fuss. Otherwise, they wore well outside of my cowboy boots. In fact, their stretch and narrower-than-boot cut line meant that they did not inch up when we rode fast (loping and galloping), but the leg snugness may not suit every one or every pair of boots. They have all the features you’d want in a horsewoman’s jean, except maybe the rhinestone bling.

Rhinestone bling? Ew.

Rhinestone Bling? No, thanks!

NCPG Welcomes The Moth

The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, the granddaddy of gatherings, continues to evolve in its 33rd rendition, taking place in Elko, Nevada, January 30-February 4, 2017.

For the first time, the event will highlight an evening with The Moth, a New York City-based organization and a premier storytelling operation.

What is a storytelling operation?

We’ve come a long way from the campfire, folks.

Storytelling has entered an entirely new domain, where first-person narratives are rehearsed, produced with music, uploaded into podcasts and appreciated by millions of strangers. The Moth was one of the first to give amateur storytellers a broader audience, complete with radio and Internet treatment. Moth parameters are simple: stories must be true, short (usually 10-minutes or less), and told in the first person. While snark and sarcasm are often the most popular sentiments in entertainment nowadays, the Moth offers listeners refreshing options: compassion, sincerity, and vulnerability.

It will be interesting to see how the New York outfit meshes with the cowboy poets of the West. Maggie Cino, Moth director of the Saturday night show, has been researching the NCPG and reviewing storyteller options. She said she was excited to highlight the cowboy way of life and those individuals’ literary and artistic passions.

“Our way of working is to find the common interest among the storytellers, but to also showcase them as individuals,” she said in a phone interview from Los Angeles.

For the Gathering’s executive director, David Roche, the Moth production is another way for the NCPG to flex and grow.

“At the core is cowboy poetry, stringing words together. The next layer is oral literature in general. We’re interested in expanding to incorporate contemporary Western literature and ethnic and occupational diversity.”

In the past, Western Folklife (the non-profit running the NCPG) has invited cowboys from Italy, Mongolia, and the Baja California peninsula of Mexico, for example. This year’s offerings include workshops, open mic sessions, teen poetry, films, and a keynote address by poet and songwriter Andy Wilkinson. It’s an incredible, week-long celebration of cowboy culture, history, humor, and handy work.

Make no mistake, Elko will still celebrate its veteran performers – the likes of Joel Nelson, Randy Rieman, Paul Zarzyski and many others are still on the bill. But other stellar reciters have “aged out,” said Roche.

“Our idea is to refresh and regenerate,” he said. “We’re all about taking risks and trying new things.”

Check out the event here.

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.


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.

Saddles, boots, and leggings love Skidmore’s

In a lot of what we’re finding in horse work, “getting back to nature” is proving to be an effective, even ideal philosophy. That is: if we consider how horses live naturally, it’s often better for the horse than our man-made alternatives (stalls, grains, blankets, etc.).

s202068347927364988_p126_i1_w250In a parallel universe, we’re finding that nature-based products are best for our horse gear. We chatted with Susan and Vincent Skidmore recently. They run Skidmore’s, a Washington-based company which makes products for leather care and conditioning. Many say Skidmore’s is the only thing to use on saddles, bridles, leggings, and boots.

Some 30 years ago, Vincent Skidmore started with a notion and began by mixing beeswax and other natural ingredients in a coffee can. He brought it to saddle-making friends in and around Laramie, Wyoming, where he was living at the time. With a little tweaking, a now tried-and-true product was born. Scores of high-end leather makers swear by it, including Dave Thornbury and Loren Skyhorse, said Skidmore. The leather cream is used on saddles worth tens of thousands of dollars and even on Rolls Royce upholstery, he added.

I know what’s NOT in it: no animal products and nothing synthetic. But other than acknowledging its “piney” smell, neither

Vincent and Susan Skidmore

Vincent and Susan Skidmore

Vincent nor Susan would give any hints on the proprietary blend.

Whatever the products contain, Skidmore’s creams have an increasing fan base. The motorcycle demographic (folks who also have a lot of leather to care for) has discovered them, too.

“We sell to a ton of Mom and Pop saddle shops, to the Amish community, saddle makers, boots and chaps makers,” said Susan from their shop in Port Townsend, Washington. The company has steadily grown through word-of-mouth and the testimonials of its customers.

Skidmore’s is part of our All-American November celebration. When you sign up for the Remuda Reader subscription, you’re automatically qualified to win a prize pack including a Skidmore’s gift box. Read more about that here.


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