Sunday, October 14, 2012
If you watched our latest video, you might have noticed Kyla. Dressed in turnout coat and cowboy hat, she’s the woman leading a pack line of five horses in a beautiful wilderness setting.
I met Kyla at a clinic a few years ago. Right away, she came across as smart, kind, curious, and a heckuva rider. She was the one asking the most questions and taking the most notes.
After meeting her, I learned she was from British Columbia where she teaches horsemanship, starts colts, and runs an eco-tourism, outdoor adventure company with her husband, Carl. They lead hiking and fishing trips as well as guided tours on horseback.
Can we say ‘multi-talented’?
What’s even more interesting – she’s almost a Mainer. She grew up and went to school in New Brunswick before swapping coasts for the beautiful, remote panoramas of Fort St. James in B.C.
Her latest gig?
Last month, she took a bush plane to work for Golden Bear Outfitting, a remote, elite outfitting company in northwest B.C. Suffice to say there’s not a lot of computer work or cell phone chats up thar. They had a good chuckle when Kyla told them she didn’t own a gun or know how to fire one. It being bear country and all, she picked up that skill, too.
Stay tuned. We’ll write more about this woman soon.
When I took my Wilderness First Responder course last year, one of my classmates was a Thacher School graduate. So it went without saying that he knew something about horses, of course.
Thatcher is a prep school in Ojai, California. As freshmen, all students enroll in horsemanship classes. They learn the basics. They muck. They feed. They ride. The program stresses the partnership between student and horse. Most are starting from scratch, with no horse experience.
How cool is that?
When the school was founded over a hundred years ago, the horse program was founded in practicality – students needed transportation for the seven-mile trip to town.
“Today, the school continues a tradition born of necessity and sustained by its many applications: Horses can get you up into the mountains, move you across the ground at lightning speed, and be great teachers, reliable partners, and true friends.”
I can’t think of a better way to broaden a young person’s mind, especially in this age of computer-centered learning.
Maine has laptops for every middle school student. Can you imagine giving every student the gift of horsemanship? How much more aware would they be of things that really matter yet are increasingly elusive in this tech-crazed world?
Sunday, October 07, 2012
Many thanks to all those commenting on our “Choose Our Next Tag Line” article. There are lots of good ones. The overall theme was undoubtedly community and positive reflections of cherished time with horses.
Congrats to Val Rich, randomly chosen as tote-bag winner!
In particular, I’m loving the proposed tag line “Relax to Learn.” It could sum up my summer.
For the first time in years, I devoted good chunks of time to riding, exploring new terrain, and pushing myself through those mental walls of hesitation and fear.
With a few added skllls (thanks to friend and superior rider, Steve Peters), I got more confidence and worked with my horse in a bosal instead of a snaffle. With the change in equipment came greater awareness and greater softness.
Read article on Riding with Confidence.
The horses, of course, taught me the most. Pep and Comet are different characters, both sensitive in their own ways.
But neither likes to stand still. Neither has a lot of tolerance for the nearby firing range. And Pep, in particular, shows a strong distaste for bikes of all kinds.
By summer's end, it was not so much that they'd become desensitized to these things. More that I’d gotten better at working with them, predicting reactions, making things better for them.
Read additional article on how Relax to Learn moment.
Saturday, October 06, 2012
In less than two weeks, Virginia riders will compete in their inaugural TREC championship.
TREC originated in Europe and stands for Techniques de Randonnée Équestre de Compétition. Translated from French it means roughly 'Techniques of Competitive Train Riding."
According to RIDE TREC's American site, the competition tests the partnership between horse and rider over varied terrain and natural obstacles.
Read more about it.
Or watch this excellent informational video here.
Congratulations to TREC's Virginia organizers and good luck on the 20th!
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
NickerNews readers may have noticed newsletters delivered less frequently lately.
Please accept my sincere apologies. Here are several reasons for the lapses:
- We’re working on a new website. It’ll be a sister site to NickerNews and will focus on helping horse owners sort through the academic-speak of science as well as the hype of horsemanship. We’re hoping to ‘go live’ in another month. Check out the logo at right. It’s those familiar Nickernews horse heads reformed in a yin-yang type graphic.
As in “There’s an App for that!”
- We’re working on an application.
Like the pending website, the application has been in the Idea Stage for some time. Moving from dream to product is quite a process.
Thanks to my readers and advertisers for your ongoing support, patience, and encouragement. You're the best!
- Constant Contact has misidentified some newsletter subscribers as "bounces" or "non-existent." If you're one of them, you can subscribe again by contacting me here.
Are you getting spacey?
When you finally sit down at night, are you 100 percent sure you closed that gate or stall door?
Did you take off that halter?
Did you hang it up in the right spot, so you can grab it again tomorrow morning when it’s still dark?
Did you prep for feed and turnout?
Did you latch the latch?
Did you leave the lights on and water running?
The list goes on! With horse care, it seems we’re always performing several tiny chores and safety checks each time we visit our girls and boys. And we tend to do it all while simultaneously performing three other tasks. (Um, research shows multi-tasking increases errors!)
Lately, I’ve been focusing on minimizing my room for error, especially when it comes to loose horses. Click for Summer Escape 101 video
Resident Escape Geniuses have compelled me to make some crucial paddock designs:
The slip-through – this is a passage through which no horse can pass. It measures the exact wide of a five-gallon stall bucket, but no wider.
The divot – this is a dip in the ground on which rests the wheel of the main gate. Should the gate but left unchained, it will still be very difficult to simply push open. With the divot, one has to lift and push simultaneously. So far, the Houdinis have not figured out these mechanics.
As for lights and halter hooks? I know my hooks and handles well enough to use them in the dark. If I never turn on the light, I don’t have to worry about leaving it on!
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Bryan Neubert is coming to Maine later this month. Click here for events.
Neubert is one of the few people who worked with the three men many consider to be the founders of natural horsemanship: Ray Hunt, Bill and Tom Dorrance.
To 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 now travels widely as a clinician and who participated (with his sons, Luke and Jim Neubert) in the Horsemen’s Re-Union last April.
Hunt and Dorrance both considered clinics an unrewarding occupation, recalled Neubert. It’s a sentiment he sometimes shares.
“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.”
Sounds great. I want to go!
It’s fun working with a new horse. But it’s a constant challenge. Each time we hit a roadblock, I ask myself if I’m doing right by her. My mind casts back to those thoughtful, patient and effective horsemen and women I’ve had the privilege of watching. I try to channel them.
My latest pet project is trailer loading.
It’s become a snap for Jodi.
Turn around in the trailer.
But what if I ask her to back off?
We tried it last weekend. I asked her gently and then a little more strongly. No luck. The most I got from her was one foot on the driveway, but then she’d chicken out and step forward.
I had to laugh at the irony. Last month, she was teetering with all four hooves together outside the trailer, not wanting to step in. Now, she was teetering with all four hooves together inside the trailer, not wanting to step off.
[Apologies, again, to artists everywhere.]
We walked away from the problem and regrouped.
I thought it’d be helpful to build her confidence by backing up everywhere else. I backed her onto this platform and backed her off.
Next time, we’ll see if she can understand the connection. We’ll see if she trusts me enough to say, “Ok, I’ll back because I have faith in you.”
Friday, August 31, 2012
Got back pain?
So, do I.
And at first glance, one might think riding would make things worse.
Ain’t necessarily so.
According to a Swedish study, patients’ back pain actually improved with an Equine Assisted Therapy program which included riding.
Granted, those folks were only riding at a walk.
It’s when you’re going faster that the impact on the spine becomes a sticking point.
“The motion of riding is potentially a really good thing,” said Dr. Maria Conley of Conley Chiropractic in Iowa City, Iowa. “It’s just that impact is a big problem. But the stronger the core, the less issues you’re going to have.”
If you already have a back injury, it’s important to pay attention to it and correct core stability issues, said Conley.
Discs, the sponge-like cushions between your vertebrae, can degenerate as you get older and more riding won’t help if you've already injured your back. In fact, the pounding on your spine might just increase that degeneration in a back with a past injury or present pain.
Your body is designed to keep going, no matter what.
Unless you correct your core stability, your body will compensate in a way that is "dysfunctional” said Conley, who cited a rehabilitation article stating:
"People who are in pain or are recovering from pain have poor motor control and dysfunctional movement patterns. Their nervous systems are unable to coordinate movement patterns correctly due to underlying compensation mechanisms."
Essentially, that means you might need a physical therapist, chiropractor, or other exercise specialist to help you strengthen your core (back, abdomen, and butt) and get movement back to normal instead of compensatory.
“When the core is functioning properly, the spine is better protected from impact activities such as riding,” said Conley.
Might be something as simple as sit-ups and yoga stretches. Might be more involved. Either way, your back will thank you.
The bottom may have fallen out of the horse market and equine rescues may be perpetually overburdened, but good people are stepping up to make those rescued horses more adoptable.
At PepperCreek Farm, Michelle Hirshberg is working with Honey Rose, a buckskin mare fostered from the Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals.
“She is a really sweet mare,” said Hirshberg from her Gray, Maine farm. “I think she will be ready to be considered for adoption in a month of so…we’re taking it slow.”
Another Society horse is getting a month of training at Photo Finish Farm in Buxton.
“Orla” is working with trainer Robyn Cuffey. She’s a 15 hand Saddlebred with unusual and attractive coloring. Cuffey calls her a gray palamino. Photo at right shows Orla en route to Cuffey’s farm.
“Each day she is more focused and is starting to look for me instead of other horses,” said Cuffey.
Hats off to you, ladies!
Thursday, August 23, 2012
This week, scores of horsemen and women woke up to hear the devastating news. Paul Galipeau's death in a motorcycle crash. He was 62 years young.
Writes Melanie Langmeyer of Warren, Maine:
"We lost a powerhouse of a man, a true friend, and an icon. A man with the highest level of integrity, work ethic and sense of fairness. Truly there is nobody I can compare him to.
Paul Galipeau was known by many people in the many facets of his life. From outdoors man and nature lover, farrier and horseman, musher and bird lover, hiker and biker, scout leader and trainer, to husband and father, Paul lived his life like not too many do. Paul touched the lives of hundreds, maybe even thousands of others over his life, so I will not presume to you that I was one of his best friends.....it was a pretty large pool of competition!!
He was a confidant, a mentor, and a fellow horse lover. The hours he spent at my barn over the last nine years will remain in my heart and memory for the rest of my life as some of my most inspirational and personally fulfilling times. I teased Paul that when he got ready to retire he was going to have to teach me how to trim my horses hooves because I didn't trust them to just anyone. He said not to worry, he promised to keep on doing this for quite some time to come. I suspect this is one of the very few times in his life that Paul was unable to keep his word.
It's taken me a couple days to compose myself enough to sit down and write these words, and even now the tears won't stop. Paul, I will miss you more than any other friend who has left their mark on my life. If it hurts this much for me, I cannot begin to imagine the pain his family must be enduring at this time."
Click here for Kennebec Journal article.
We've been hearing a lot about the West Nile virus this month. Here are some helpful links and tips from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and Maine Equine Associates.
Anne Lichtenwalner from UMaine says:
"The horse-owning public should really focus on mosquito control and avoidance, and also checking on their vaccine status for their horses.
If horses are being hauled out of our area (to shows, for breeding or
for any reason), owners should be aware of the WNV status in the area
to which they are going."
For more info CLICK HERE
From Maine Equine Associates:
August is the month that the encephalitis diseases seem to hit. As of August 19, there have been over 700 human cases and about 26 deaths from West Nile Virus in the US. About half of those cases are in Texas, but it is also showing up throughout the country, including New England. Both people and horses in Massachusetts have been affected, and last week, a mosquito carrying the virus was found in Lebanon, Maine.
Because of the warm weather and above average rain we anticipate equine encephalitis cases in Maine this month. If you haven't already vaccinated for Eastern, Western, and West Nile viruses, call us to arrange for your horse to be protected.
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
It’s been entertaining to follow the horse community’s reaction to Stephen Colbert’s rip on dressage. Call it the Trail of the Red Foam Finger.
Colbert dubbed dressage the Official Summer Sport and seized on Ann Romney’s ownership of Olympic dressage horse, Rafalka, as running a wee bit counter to her husband’s "I'm Just Like You" campaign pledge to blue collar workers. Click for video in which Colbert debuts the red foam finger and bottle of American beer.
At the Olympic qualifying rounds in New Jersey, producers brought in red foam fingers and matching bottles of Budweiser to stage a response of sorts. Click for video. It’s funny as a retort, even if no one looked like they knew what to do with a bottle of Bud. Still. As they say in horse circles, the Try should be rewarded.
SmartPak seized on the moment and offered Red Foam “Dressage is No. 1!” fingers free with all orders. To date, they’ve sent fingers to 1,500 customers.
Photo at right, Rafalca with rider Jan Ebeling.
Ralfalca and Ebeling didn't win. But the foam-finger makers sure did!
One of the biggest horses at my barn is also one of the least assertive. Comet gets pushed around regularly by the littlest, Peppermint. Pep ranks roughly fourth out of five. She does her best to put and keep Comet at her low rank.
[Check out herd dynamics article and video.]
But Comet got a little “How-ya-like-me-now?” payback recently. I’ve been letting her out to free-graze on the lawn. She’s the thinnest of the bunch and benefits most from the extra calories. Pep needs it the least and rarely gets the same lawn treat. This time, Pep seemed particularly perturbed by the arrangement as Comet seemed to rub it in hard, grazing on lush grass, just inches from her bully.
I think I even heard Comet say, ‘Stinks to be you, doesn’t it?’
I get bored with food. I’m much more interested in getting out and doing things. But doing things gets me hungry. So, back to the food thing.
Active horse folks need a good combination of protein, roughage and Whatnot.
In the chilly weather, the Whatnot leans heavily toward fat as I mentioned with this Cold Autumn blog post and a lovely bagel with bacon and cream cheese combination.
In the summer, the Whatnot has more to do with having something fresh and just picked. I took advantage of local summer berries for another semi-nutritious combo:
Smeared with peanut butter.
Heavily topped with blueberries.
Now, back to the barn.
Thursday, August 16, 2012
All farm hosts for visiting clinicians hope and pray for full clinics and plenty of auditors, but the Buck Brannaman clinic next month at Piper Ridge Farm in Limerick, Maine, is giving owner Frannie Burridge more than she bargained for.
Burridge reports that even seats for auditor spots have sold out.
Looking for an alternative?
Craig Cameron is coming to Maine.
Martin Black in coming to New Hampshire.
There's always versatility events or heading out on a trail ride.
Click for events.
Or, you can buy the new DVD set of Brannaman's clinics and curl up on the couch. Click here
There is a psychological difference between hauling stuff and hauling horses. I found that out with a second drive from Maine to Iowa. This time, though, there were no 1,000-pound loved ones relying on my safe driving. Instead, there was just stuff: couch, books, pots and pans.
Click for horse-hauling articles.
I rented the truck and car-carrier sight unseen. Together with two sons, we chugged a gigantic 26-foot International diesel and trailer through Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and beyond.
For the record, I had no business driving this rig. It was big and unmanageable compared to what I’m used to. The driver’s seat was six feet off the ground. No looking over your shoulder. Total reliance on mirrors. And the rental place gave me no instruction whatsoever. Just handed me the keys. I was a tad nervous about maneuvering it through heavy traffic and tight situations.
Still, when it got hot, I didn’t worry about horses getting overheated.
When we got stuck in traffic, I didn’t feel the horses shifting and getting restless.
When we broke down on a highway on-ramp, I didn’t panic about putting horses in harm’s way.
And when we finally got to our destination, we tumbled out after the second 14-hour day and left everything in the driveway for the night.
It’s all just cargo. Not precious cargo. And therefore no white knuckles.
Monday, August 06, 2012
Sometimes an idea translates well into practice. Sometimes not.
Today, the idea translated perfectly.
When we picked up the new horse, Jodi, from her Wisconsin farm, we had a bit of a trailer loading issue. As in, she wanted nothing to do with it. More than an hour later, we had her loaded alright. But it was a multi-person struggle and not a lot of fun for anyone, including Jodi.
So one of the first things on my New Horse To Do list was trailer loading. I was determined to have it be not just trailer loading, but happy trailer loading.
Last week, I set the scene. My idea: Try to make the trailer as fun a place to be as possible.
-- First, I put hay down for Peppermint in the front half of the trailer and closed the center wall.
-- Then I put hay and grain down at the very front of the back section (seven feet from the step).
I brought Jodi from the paddock and let her check out the options. There was hay, grain, and a friend. OR she could hang out on a hot gravel driveway. She was interested. I placed one hoof on the trailer floor. She thought about it. At one point, with little bit of pressure, she teetered at the step. She brought her hind feet close and appeared ready to tip, fall, step, or leap into the trailer.
[see sketch above…apologies to artists everywhere.]
It was hot and continuing would have been a struggle for all of us. So we stopped before it became a battle or a stressed situation.
During the session, I realized she needed more work on responding to pressure-and-release cues and worked on them without involving the trailer.
Today, I reset the scene:
-- Pep in the front section with hay.
-- Hay and grain in the trailer, just out of reach.
I asked Jodi to step up.
I asked her to come off.
She seemed to say, I’m just fine here. Thanks.
Feeling pretty good about this progress!
Now we just have to make it routine, so when we really need to load up, it won’t be an issue.
Sunday, August 05, 2012
Young, skinny, wiry fellows.
Not over 18.
Must be expert riders.
Willing to risk death daily.
That’s from a Pony Express advertisement, posted around 1860 when the operation ran from St. Joseph, Missouri to San Francisco, California. It was a 1,900 mile trek made in about 10 days.
Riders rode up to 75 miles per stint and changed horses eight to 10 times.
Morgans and thoroughbreds were used in the eastern sections. Paints and mustangs were preferred for the more rugged, western sections.
Buffalo Bill (William Cody) worked for the Pony Express. Jesse James lived up the street from the first station.
Check out the Missouri museum by clicking here.
Thursday, August 02, 2012
We’re coming up to one month with Jodi, the new addition. She is the four-year old mare we acquired from a lovely Wisconsin couple.
What a month!
Over these few weeks, Jodi has used her size and attitude to significantly reshape the herd dynamics. She stayed at the bottom for about one minute and in the process has helped me to learn that herd rank works more like an algorithm than a simple linear, ladder-like formula.
In other words, it depends.
On any given day, you might be able to determine herd rank, but only after plugging in certain variables, like food availability, available space, and friendship trends.
She’s also reminded me that young’uns are young’uns are young’uns. How many times do parents say:
“Look with your eyes, not with your hands!”
”Keep your hands to yourself!”
Jodi is the toddler in a gift shop.
Setting the saddle on the fence? She will suss it out with her lips. Then, she’ll probably grab it with her teeth and pull it off the fence.
Setting those granola bars out for the trail ride? She’ll pick them up with her teeth. When she can’t open them, she’ll try stomping them open with her front hooves.
Click here for short mouthy video.
Needless to say, there are lessons to learn. For both of us.