A Horse’s No Win Situation

That was the tough, take-away message from Dr. Rebecca Gimenez when asked about how to protect your horses in the event of a tornado.

  • Close them in barns and you run the risk of harming them when the barn collapses. You may also stress them severely in stormtaking away their ability to move and use their flight instinct.
  • Leave them in the pasture, they may get hurt, too.

Those in tornado-prone states (Here in Iowa, we’ve had some tornado watches and warnings.) may be tempted to build fortified structures, she said, but these will cost a lot and compromise light and ventilation. (Think concrete bunkers, eh?)

Preventative measures are key:

  • Consider microchipping your horse.
  • Braid contact information into their mane and/or paint it on your horse.
  • Store or get rid of equipment or other things that may become airborne and harm your horse when it goes flying (Think lawnmowers or that old bed frame around back)
  • Take care of yourself, first and foremost. (If something happens to you, you won’t be there for your horses.)

Read more from Gimenez here.

Check out 30-second storm video.
Horses choose to stay out during hurricane.
Chincoteague ponies fine during hurricane.

Lean, Steady, Agile is what your horse wants of you

jp studys copyWhat??

You failed to read the “Method for estimating maximum permissible load weight for Japanese native horses using accelerometer-based gait analysis” abstract on the National Center for Biotechnology Information website?? (It’s on our NickerNews Links page)

You’re forgiven.

In fact, one of the BestHorsePractices goals is to read that stuff, pull relevant information from it, and translate it to normalspeak.

The study confirmed what we’ve already learned about the impact of Rider Weight but made another point, too. It’s a point well-articulated by Nikaline Iacono and others in the comments of that article.

All other things being equal, balanced and able riders tax horses less than unstable, un-agile riders.

Here’s the complete Japanese study, with some fun and interesting historical notes, study in pdf form. (And, really, it’s not too tough to get through.)

jp study copy


Equine Grief

IMG_3519Barbara King is a member of a small group of articulate scientists discussing and contributing exciting research on non-human emotions.

It’s a fascinating field and one that has, over the generations, weathered challenges of anthropomorphizing and, on the other end of the spectrum, outright dismissal.

  • We know it’s silly to say: “My pony had a grudge on me and dumped me in the puddle.” That would be anthropomorphizing.
  • But we’ve also seen horses act in ways unexplained by simple trained habits or muscle memory. And we certainly recognize they don’t like seeing another horse harmed. Even slaughter advocates would agree there.

Click here for article on compassion.
41dDnKPcnZL._SY346_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_Click here for article on intelligence.
King points out that not all species of animals grieve and even within a species, not all individuals grieve. Or, if they do, they may show it differently.

She writes:

I define grief as some visible response to death that goes beyond curiosity or exploration to include altered daily routines plus signs of emotional distress.

Horses who merely nudge or sniff at the body of a dead companion, for example, can’t be said to be grieving.

Horses who stand vigil in a hushed circle, for many hours, at the fresh grave of a lost friend may well be grieving.

A horse who refuses food and companionship, becomes listless and won’t follow normal routines for days when her friend dies?

Why wouldn’t we see this as grief?

Read more here.
Read an interview with King here.

Order her new book here.


Weighty Matters

Together with the horse, we’re Olympians.
Together, we’re scholarship athletes.
We’re a legendary duo, crossing continents, scaling mountains, swimming rivers, and outsprinting nearly every other species on the planet.

fattrainerBut somewhere along the line it became OK to partner-up with our horses as overweight, out-of-shape humans. Increasingly, the horse community seems to give heavy riders a free pass, an enthusiastic blessing even.

  • We don’t want hurt feelings.
  • It’s more important that we ride well and treat our horses nicely.
  • Who cares if we’re heavy?

Those were some sentiments posted in response to the BestHorsePractices Rider Weight article. It reviewed research by a pair of English scientists looking at the issue as it relates to horse wellness. It found that horse injury and “bad behavior” (rearing, bucking, etc.) were associated with an increase in human weight.
Commenters brought up excellent points.
Namely, that rider weight shouldn’t overshadow the need to have lightness, balance, and a proper fitting saddle. I couldn’t agree large_rocknegcmore. Read a NickerNews guest columnist’s Point of View.

But for the sake of a reasonable discussion on rider weight, let’s assume those variables are controlled.
In other words:
Take two riders with equal balance, lightness of feel, and properly-fitting saddles. Would the horse do better with a 100-pound partner or a 200-pound partner?

Clinicians are worried.

They see more and more riders compromising their ability because they’re overweight and unfit. They worry these riders won’t be handy getting out of a jam. They worry about the horses.

bobbyIt’s time we reconsidered ourselves as athletes and athletic partners.

The only successful heavy athletes I’ve seen lately are golfers, bowlers, and the occasional relief pitcher. Riding requires significantly more effort, agility, and athleticism than swinging at or throwing a ball. And heavy athletes are most certainly rejected from other sports where lifting or carrying them is required (figure skating, ballroom dancing).

All things being equal, let’s think about our weight and how it impacts our horses, say nothing for our own safety, health, and ability to be agile in the saddle.

Admitting the problem can be the first step in remedying it.

Nature is Best Balm





It’s one thing most of us riders have with us all the time. We’re as likely to have it as a cell phone, money, or pocket knife.

Lip balm.

You know I’m not into product pushing. But I started thinking about lip balm after getting a complimentary Eco Lips stick in a running race packet. It was coconut-flavored and organic.



Us Mainers would like to believe Burt’s Bees is organic. But it’s ‘natural’ (which doesn’t mean much anymore). Plus, Burt’s is owned by Clorox, stripping away its original Maine-owned character.

Eco Lips is a cool, little Iowa company. Its president, Steve Shriver, met his wife, Andrea, back when she was cooking up homemade lip balm in her kitchen.
Some years later, Eco Lips is hitting the big time. It’s Mongo Kiss line is perhaps the most affordable item Whole Foods has ever stocked. (A steal at two bucks)
Shriver, 40, calls it a “gateway organic product.”

“You can have organic and fair trade and not pay that much,” said Shriver. “For a lot of people, Eco Lips is their first organic experience.”

Filling Machine

The operation has gotten a bit more sophisticated over the years; they churn out about ten thousand sticks per day in their semi-automated Cedar Rapids plant with flavors like lavender-lemon and kiwi-strawberry. They have lovely tinted lip balms, too.

Want to try it?

Click here to enter. We’ll select a winner at random and send off some Eco Lips Gold on a nifty carabiner that you can clip right to your saddle/belt/handbag.

Since it’s “Nature is Best” principles are so in line with those of NickerNews and BestHorsePractices, we’re partnering with Eco Lips to offer these great give-aways every month.

A Win for the outdoors and a Win for you!

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