Hauling Ass, Part II

Editor’s Note: This week, we hear the second installment on pack burro racing from Katrin Silva, an accomplished horsewoman as well as an impressive endurance runner. She writes about the burro races at the Leadville Boom Days celebration in the mountains of Colorado.

Read Part I

The starting gun (true to Boom Days, it was an actual gun) went off for the women’s race. Twenty-five of us and our cute asses took off down Harrison Street at breakneck speed.

Bella and Silver Jack were excited. They trotted so fast we could barely keep up. We turned onto a dirt road and headed up into the mountains. Nathalie showed me how to use an energetic burro for more efficient uphill running: loop the lead rope around your waist and allow the donkey to pull you.

Silver Jack is a great racing burro: he likes being in the lead, and he gets competitive with other animals. He was feeling fresh. Bella likes to follow him, so we kept running. We kept passing other runners whose asses showed less enthusiasm.

Burro racing can be frustrating for speedy runners because you will only be as fast as your ass wants to go. If the burro decides to slow down, so will you.

A good donkey-human relationship is crucial for success. Yelling, crying, pulling, dragging, or excessive pushing will do no good. Burros have strong personalities. You might be able to intimidate a horse or a dog into running, but never a donkey. The more pressure you apply, the more resistance you create. I have a similar pattern in responding to authority, which makes me appreciate this character trait.

Horse people have a saying: “You tell a gelding. You ask a stallion. You discuss it with a mare.” As a horse trainer, I have always gotten along with difficult mares as well as mules. They have taught me patience and persistence. These skills became useful in the burro race.

Meanwhile, Nathalie, Silver Jack, Bella, and I were holding our own somewhere in the middle of the pack.

That changed once we could see no burros in front or behind us. Silver Jack lost his drive. He slowed to a walk. We tried to persuade him to trot:

Nathalie hugged him.

I pushed from the back.

We told him what a good boy he was.

We told him there’d be lots of carrots at the finish.

We begged.

We pleaded.

I pleaded with Bella to show some initiative. She did not see the point.

We shuffled for a bit, then walked again. Bella went ahead for about ten feet at a time, then stopped to let her brother pass. He stopped again. We moved in this leapfrog fashion for miles, until a group of runners and burros caught up to us on the narrow trail around Bald Mountain. Silver Jack pricked up his ears. His ambition returned. We stayed ahead of the pack and soon pulled away.

A woman named Kiki and her adorable miniature burro, Jacob, stayed with us. Kiki tried to break away from us but Jacob, like Bella, prefers following other burros. So, we continued on together.

When we came to a wooden bridge across a river, Silver Jack refused to cross. Donkeys are prey animals, of course, and have evolved to be cautious. It’s impossible to blame them for it, but while trying to convince our two scared-y-asses that the bridge was safe and solid, we lost the lead we had built. The group behind us caught up and passed us.

Donkeys are herd animals, too and finally the instinct to follow overrode their fear. When one of the donkeys stepped on the bridge, they others, including Silver Jack and Bella, soon joined him.

After the bridge, Silver Jack and Bella realized they were moving toward home. We started running again, with Jacob and Kiki close behind. On the long downhill stretch back into Leadville, we struggled to keep up with our burro pair. Little Jacob, measuring 38 inches at the withers, followed at an all-out gallop with Kiki in tow. The six of us turned onto Harrison Street, where cheers and cow bells welcomed us across the finish line. Silver Jack, Bella, and Jacob placed 5th, 6th, and 7th respectively.

Not bad, not bad at all in a competitive field of more than 25 pairs Maple and his grandson were beaming. We hugged our donkeys, and each other. What a way to end the summer!

I made it to work the next day, unprepared and very tired, but basking in the burro race afterglow. This experience was worth every minute of the grueling drive home.

As a horsewoman and ultra runner, pack burro racing is my new favorite sport. It allows me to indulge in my two passions simultaneously.

Thank you, Maple, for your generous offer to share your donkeys. Thank you, Nathalie, for the crash course in burro racing etiquette and a fun day out on the trails. Thank you, Bella, for being such a trooper. I feel so very grateful to have met all of you and hope sincerely it wasn’t the last time.

Welcome Back Third Coast Equine and Morton Real Estate!

Dr. Janelle Tirrell

We welcome back Dr. Janelle Tirrell of Third Coast Equine and Morton Real Estate to our fabulous family of advertising partners.

Third Coast Equine, based in Palermo, Maine, offers three tiers of Wellness Plans to give horse owners an opportunity to plan ahead and invest in their horses’ health. Wellness Plans include farm calls, fecal egg counts, vaccinations, dental care, and even Coggins testing, depending on the tier.

Read more and sign up for Wellness Plan here.

Tirrell has been practicing veterinary medicine in Maine since graduating from Michigan State University in 2006.

Welcome back, Janelle!

Morton Real Estate of Brunswick, Maine, has been serving the midcoast community for more than 40 years. It recognizes the area as a very special place. Its realtors have an appreciation for the history and architecture of each property.

Currently, Morton has several horse-friendly properties becoming available. For starters, check out this listing on Westport Island: it’s a beautiful log home on about seven acres with gorgeous views of the Sheepscot River as it wends its way to the ocean. Check out the photo gallery here.


SYAers head to Donkey Symposium

Two board members from Save Your Ass Long-Ear Rescue are headed to the 4th annual Donkey Welfare Symposium next month.

Joan Gemme of Save Your Ass Long Ear Rescue

Joan Gemme of Save Your Ass Long Ear Rescue

Joan Gemme and Anne Firestone head to Ithaca, New York, where the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine and the New York State Veterinary Medical Society will host the event.

Presenters include Ben Hart from the UK Donkey Sanctuary and equine dentist Dr. Joao Rodrigues. There will also be a presentation of “Smoke,” the Iraqi war zone therapy donkey.

According to a press release, the symposium “helps educate people about the unique characteristics of donkeys from the medical, behavioral, nutritional and humanitarian perspective. Most of the world’s donkeys live in developing countries where they are heavily relied upon for essential tasks involving agriculture, transportation, and security of livestock….this symposium focuses on emphasizing donkeys’ health and welfare concerns so that their lives can be improved and the lives of the people who care for and rely on them can be enriched as well.”

Save Your Ass cares for dozens of mules and donkeys at its South Acworth, New Hampshire facility. Read more about them here.


Calendar Highlights

5947b3bd-5b53-481d-bc1d-a971ca5a37a1It’s not yet June and already our horse calendars are filling up. From Maine to Colorado and Canada, there’s a lot happening in our world.

Here’s just a taste:

The U.S. Equestrian Federation and the U.S. Para-Equestrian Federation announced five Centers of Excellence this month. It came as no surprise to us that the most excellent Carlisle Academy Integrative Equine Therapy and Sports was among them. Read more about Carlisle here.

Congratulations, Carlisle!

Later this year, Carlisle will conduct para-equestrian camps for veterans, among its many activities. Check out Carlisle Academy here.

Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 1.52.39 PMHorsewomen Nancy Lowery and Kim Stone will demonstrate their non-horsey skills.

Lowery is presenting at TEDxYYC in Calgary. Her presentation “A Natural Guide in Leadership and Motivation” just might have some references to horses. Click here. Stone has a photo exhibit at 3fish Gallery in Portland, Maine. Read more about that.

Amy Skinner of Essence Horsemanship will run two clinics around Michigan. Check out Events page here.

And in Durango, Colorado, don’t miss the Barn Dance. A stompin’ good time to raise money for youth programs at the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

Meanwhile, if you just happen to be house hunting, check out our new listing: over 30 gorgeous acres and an historical house and barn in Searsport, Maine. Check it out here.


Unbridled movie tackles tough topic

Guest column by NickerNews marketing director, Emily Thomas Luciano:

What horseperson doesn’t love an inspiring movie that involves horses? And if the stories are true? Even better!

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 11.56.52 AMEquine Assisted Therapy and Equine Facilitated Learning have grown exponentially over the past decade. Now, with increasing amounts of research to back up the benefits, EAT and EFL are substantiated treatment methods for behavioral, physical and emotional issues. It’s something that we, as horse owners, have known forever—that horses can help us, heal us, ground us. Horses make and keep us whole. Read the research.

Now, a group of N.C.-based filmmakers will bring the message that horses heal to the big screen to tell the masses. “Unbridled” is feature-length drama based on true stories from Corral, a Cary, N.C.-based healing ranch that pairs rescued horses with troubled girls.

In the film, a therapeutic riding center called Unbridled becomes a healing oasis for Sarah, a teenage victim of prostitution. Though the movie starts out on a bleak tone, the story is one of redemption, triumph, and resilience. It’s a reminder that we can Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 11.56.37 AMall live a fulfilling life in spite of adverse circumstances.

The inspiration for the movie came after Christy McGlothlin, the film’s producer and vice president of Moving Visions Entertainment, visited Corral with her daughter, a Corral volunteer.

“I was pretty much awestruck by what they do,” McGlothlin said “The impact that they have on the girls, the way the girls’ lives had just really changed for the better. When I left, I thought, ‘Wow, if we could capture what they do in a drama, I think it would be extremely inspiring on a couple of fronts.’”

The movie tackles the same difficult issues: abuse, abandonment, sex trafficking, and bulimia, that the real-life staff and mentors at Corral see every day.

Handling such dark issues in a manner suitable for the film’s intended family-based viewing audience presented a challenge, but one that the production team met head-on, motivated by the promise of redemption at the end of the film.

“Unbridled” will have a limited theatrical release nationwide Sept. 9, 2016, followed by a Netflix debut and DVD availability. Click here for more.


Skida hats so very rider-friendly

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 2.03.37 PMJust in time for winter, NickerNews has a new friend. Say hello to Skida, the Vermont headwear and accessories company.

What Darn Tough has done for the drab, itchy sock industry, Skida is doing for the drab, itchy hat world. The colorful, hip hats fit easily under riding helmets and will jazz up any barn outfit.

We’ll be giving away Skida hats and Darn Tough socks at the Equine Affaire. Check out details here.

Skida (Swedish for ‘to ski’) was founded by entrepreneur Corinne Prevot when the cross country skier was still in high school. That was about seven years ago and Prevot was sewing the hats herself and selling them to friends and teammates at Burke Mountain Academy, in East Burke, VT. Since then, the 24-year old has graduated from Middlebury College and her business has boomed. Last year, Skida produced 50,000 pieces and sold to about 300 retail accounts, from resort shops to small country stores. It does a brisk business with web sales, too.

This year, it will make many more. “We’ve definitely grown at lightning speed,” said Prevot.

No ‘made in China’ tags here. The fabrics are cut in New Hampshire and made by contracted seamstresses in northern Vermont. Prevot and her team of four full-timers just opened a storefront in Burlington.

Check out the website here.

Corinne Prevot

Corinne Prevot


I grew up riding in 4H where helmets were required. I stopped wearing them when I started barrel racing where cowboy hats or ball caps were the fashion and were the cool thing to wear. ah-helmet

Just recently I declared my major in Psychology and I knew then that was the time I needed to start wearing a helmet. The job and the future I could have is so bright, and I don’t want to risk any of that by having an accident and not wearing a helmet.

Now it goes with me everywhere!

To vote, please leave comment below!

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.

Winter Warrior Sampler

The Muck Boot Winter Warrior Contest is over. Thanks to all who participated! Check out the slideshow here.

Some of my personal favorite images and comments came from Barbara, Debbie and Doris. Three tough gals, for sure. All will be receiving small consolation gifts from NickerNews and BestHorsePractices.


Debbie's snow bank

Debbie’s snow bank

The winter of 2015 in Maine has been ridiculous:

1.  I had never seen frozen eyelashes on my horse before, but even then, they were hard to see through the 1mm slit between my neck warmer and hat.
2.  Generally, the path to the muck pile is plowed for me, but I’m pretty sure that the pile has subsequently spread into the next county.
3.  The paddock has been plowed three times so my aging horses don’t have to fight the snow; but I still have to shovel the Dutch doors that are so great without snow.
4.  And there are the mornings when I have to snowshoe to the barn, shovel out the sliding door to get in, shovel the stalls, hope that the plow cleans up the path Debbiemuck bucketto the muck pile, shovel the doors to let the horses out, snowshoe home and shovel the walks and path to the woodshed, then to be greeted by my husband, “What have you been up to this morning?”
5.  When I open the door to the barn on those minus ridiculous mornings, the warmth that condenses from my 28-degree barn looks like I just stepped into the local laundromat with all dryers working.
6.  Cleaning the paddock poop is another challenge- I cannot use the wheelbarrow but have a worthy substitute (see photo) and a pulp hook manages to dislodge frozen piles.
7.  The picture of the snow pile says it all, though honestly, I had a loader move some of the snow away from the piles that have fallen off the arena roof.
Debbieboots8.  I love my Muck Boots, but the tread wears off faster than the boot.  After a couple of impressive falls, I tied on some “cleats”…  Yankee frugality (not sure how frugality and horses work together though)
9.  I’ve wondered if my horses get ice cream headaches from the frozen carrots.
10.  I used to laugh that my grandfather wore long underwear inside and outside the house from November through March (ahem….)
11.  My barn clothes and town clothes have become interchangeable, that is, I only wear barn clothes into town and feel no embarrassment.  The benefit of the cold is that if you move fast enough, the clothes don’t smell like the barn, which some people consider offensive. Just don’t stay in a heated shop for too long.

Ridiculous or not, how lucky are we to be able to own horses, to hear their nickers as we deliver more hay, to sit in heated seats (bareback riding), have no mud to groom.4


I am attaching a few photos that I have recently taken. My “camera,” which some people actually call their phones, has had a rough winter, too. I have been handicapped in catching some of those Kodak moments, while dealing with the lens fogging as quickly as I dig it out from my multiple layers of clothes and exposing it to sub zero temps. The battery also finds these temps offensive and goes into sudden death mode! I just love the message that flashes on the screen telling me that my camera has “overheated” and must cool off before use! I am assuming that my phone must have been manufactured or programed somewhere far from a Maine winter

Here are the photos:

Blizzard White Out 012715The Blizzard White Out was taken from the house looking at the arena. It was our first blizzard of the season. There were moments when I thought I might have to run a rope between the house and the barn so I could find my way between them.

Icelandic in His Element is a photo of Megas, one of our three Icelandics. Their general attitude toward cold and snow is very laid back. They tend to plant their rumps into the wind and enjoy the weather.

Am Temperature 022115The photo of my  iPhone with -17  showing on local weather was  a particularly balmy morning. There was no wind chill to factor into the equation, so life was grand!

Sassy at Last Call was taken the evening of a blizzard. It was really The Tail End of a Storm in more ways than one! It is also a reminder of the beauty that exists Sassy at Last Callin the belly of the beast of a Maine winter.

Snow Bank at Back of Barn was my challenge to carve Snow Bank Back of Barnthrough in order to get to the manure bin. Wind driven snow pack found the morning after a big storm just added to my exercise program. No need to count calories in Maine this winter!


When both humans and horses have icicles on their eyelashes, you know it’s cold outside.  I thought they were pretty on the horse, and made sort of pretty light fractures in my eyes, as I chased frozen pieces of poop around.  I particularly like it when I’m prying poop up and it suddenly flies free and hits me in the aforementioned eyes (NOT!).  One day, one went into my mouth (almost.)

doris 6I’m on my second pair of Yak Traks this winter.  They fit nicely over my Muck boots, which keep me quite warm, even after taking 2 + 1/2 hours to clean the run-in shed after the blizzard.  So, navigating the paddock is not so bad.

How high are my snow banks?  Well, they are in competition with my muck pile, to which I now have to throw the muck over my head to reach the top of the pile.  If this snow was not so soft and fluffy, my horses would be stepping over the fence.  My husband plows out an area in the paddock to give the horses some room to move around.  Consequently, the snow banks are as high as the eave of the roof.  Because of the location of the run-in and the northeast winds, after each storm, we have about 4 feet of drift in front of the hay storage.  More shoveling before I can even feed hay!

Bad enough I had to chase down my dogs who stepped over their fence, and then I had to shovel a trench all the way around the inside of the dog fence.  It took me three hours, and I was already sore from falling off my horse (Harley) the day before.  I had watched your video of the woman riding her horse bareback in the deep snow, and it looked like soooo much fun.  So I decided to try it.  When I couldn’t open the door to the tack room in my trailer, you guessed it – crusted with ice – I couldn’t get to my bareback pad.  I thought, well I’ve ridden bareback before.


How high is your muck pile?

I rigged up his rope halter, so I had reins and led him over to the round  metal feeder, climbed up on it, and climbed onto him.  I immediately discovered I had no control over him, as he proceeded to run around the feeder which sits under a tree with low branches.  I clung to his neck for 3 turns.  I managed to get him out into some deep snow, but he spun around and went back around the feeder.  Coming around the other side, we ran into my mare, who acted like a lion was chasing her.  Harley believed her and spun around again, throwing me off – not into deep, soft, powdery snow, but onto icy hard-packed snow.

Just before my head hit the ground, I realized I didn’t have a helmet on.  It was in that iced-in trailer with my bareback pad.

Bryan Neubert on the mend

Bryan Neubert, one of the few people who worked with the men many consider to be the founders of natural horsemanship: Ray Hunt, Bill and Tom Dorrance, is coming to Maine later this year. Click here for events.

bryan nTo hear him tell it, Neubert just lucked out. He happened to find work with Ray Hunt and happened to live next door to Tom Dorrance.
“In hindsight, I was extremely blessed. I could not have been in a better place anywhere,” said Neubert, who travels widely as a clinician but is spending some down time at home in Alturas, CA. In December, he fell from a hay stack and broke his arm.

Since then, he’s had his arm in either a cast or a velcro splint, unable to bridle or saddle his horses. He tried riding in a recent sale with Patti, his wife, lending a hand. “It wasn’t too fun,” he said. So he’s been working with his dogs and tending to non-horse chores at his 425-acre ranch. In a few months, though, he’ll be back on the clinic road.

Hunt and Dorrance both considered clinics an unrewarding occupation, recalled Neubert. It’s a sentiment he sometimes shares.
keeta0068“Occasionally someone takes it and runs with it. If you find one person in the bunch who wants to learn, that’ll be a success,” said Neubert. “People think a clinic is the answer, that it’s going to turn the light on,” continued Neubert. “But it depends on what you do with it.”
Neubert tells his students to assume they’re not going to make progress during the clinic. “It’s going to be at home that it happens, after you start practicing,” he said.
Bryan traveled with Tom Dorrance as he started to offer clinics in the 1970’s. Back then, holding clinics was a brand new idea. “I thought the word ‘clinic’ had something to do with a hospital,” said Neubert with a laugh. And yes, he confirmed, he has never turned on a computer. Ever. He’ll take Intuition over Internet anytime.
Neubert said Dorrance told his students, “Don’t try too hard because it’ll keep you from getting it.”
Neubert sees this in his students, too.
“If I’m asking a second grader, ‘what’s nine plus nine?’ and I tell him ‘I’m going to whack you if you don’t know the answer’…That’s not conducive to learning. If people are calm, they’ll get it…Cool it. Let it happen.”

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