Wild Fed Joins Summit Charter Sponsors

This week, we welcome a new sponsor to our fantastic roster of Best Horse Practices Summit Charter Sponsors.

Wild Fed, a horse feed company founded by Dr. Samantha Johnson, a naturopathic physician, will be featured at the Best Horse Practices Summit.

Johnson started the company around the time she was seeking solutions for her aging horse, Shadow.

She said:

“Just before Shadow’s 30th birthday, his teeth were so worn down that he started choking on hay and was no longer able to hold his weight eating just hay. I needed to add calories with something easily digestible but also with a high nutrient value to support his aging body. The senior feeds on the market contained undesirable industry by-products such as peanut hulls, soybean meal, beet pulp, rice bran as well as sweeteners and synthetic nutrients.”

It’s a challenge many of us face as we see our beloved companions move into their senior years. BHPS attendees will have the opportunity to talk directly with Johnson about Wild Fed offerings.

Wild Fed ingredients include: Non-GMO Orchard Grass, Non-GMO Alfalfa, Non-GMO Timothy Grass, Non-GMO Oats, Sunflower Seeds, Chia Seeds, Organic Dandelion Leaf, Organic Rosehips, Organic Red Clover leaf and blossom, and other ingredients.

The best way to discern how to produce the perfect feed, Johnson said, was in her keen and dedicated observations of horses grazing freely in pastures:

“The key to designing an amazing feed was to pay close attention to what horses eat, when left to there own devices. I spent hours with Shadow and my other horse, Shya, while they grazed in the pasture, and I observed the types of grasses and herbs they sought out.”

Look for Johnson at the Summit. And look for samples of Wild Fed in your swag bag!

Dr. Samantha Johnson and her senior horse, Shadow

Last Minute Summit Notes

We will be excited to visit with Best Horse Practices Summit attendees as they travel from near and far to join us at this inaugural conference!

Having fun at the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering

A few important notes:

It’s mid-fall in southwestern Colorado. That means temperatures may be in the 60’s, but will likely dip into the 20’s-30’s. Bring layers and be prepared for chilly mornings and evenings. Our extended forecast is calling for some scattered thunderstorms, but mostly sunny with highs in the 60’s during the day.

Don’t forget: we’re in the mountains. Events are at about 6,800 feet. If you’re coming from sea level, try to take it easy for the first day, to give your body a chance to adjust. Some folks do fine. Others feel a bit tired and/or nauseous.

In town early?

Check out the Saturday morning Chuck Wagon Breakfast followed by the best motor-less parade ever, the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering parade.

Click here for more information

There’s also a roping competition going on just outside of town.

Click here for more info.

Scratching your head on dining options?

We love:

Cyprus Café

Mediterranean fare, on 2nd Avenue

Nini’s Taquiera

Great burritos and yummy southwestern chowder, on Main

Ore House 

Steaks and whiskeys (a tad pricey), on College Drive

Chimayos Stone Fired Kitchen

Pizza and bistro food, on Main

Carver Brewing Company

Delicious craft beers and local produce, on Main

Steaming Bean & Durango Coffee Company

Who doesn’t need good coffee? Both are on Main

There will be a horse-y display at another Durango favorite on Main: Maria’s Bookshop. Stop in to browse the local selections.

Wherever you go, please let them know you’re here for the Best Horse Practices Summit!

Death of Natural Horsemanship

Natural horsemanship is dead. Long live natural horsemanship.

Natural horsemanship is a trending phrase that got attached to a style of work and a way of connecting with horses that Bill and Tom Dorrance offered up a few generations ago. It involved working with the horse on its behavioral level. Natural horsemanship is defined by the instinctual patterns and social understandings we see in a herd, or even between two horses.

Randy Rieman

Randy Rieman

Most specifically, it embraces the concept of pressure and release.

Pressure and release is defined by the micro-movements and movements between two horses. For example, the head turn or ear pinning of one horse will dictate the movement of a second horse. If the second horse doesn’t understand, the pressure or energy will increase. e.g., the first horse may charge or kick. When the second horse acquiesces, the first horse lets off the pressure or releases.

Furthermore, the work of natural horsemanship can extend to myriad physiological, neurological and anatomical details like:

  • bend (lateral flexion)
  • the hind quarters as engine
  • the flight or fight response of the autonomic nervous system
  • the positive reward cycle involving the neurochemical, dopamine

Natural horsemanship is dead; the term has lost its meaning. But the work is alive and well.

“People now realize that good practitioners don’t label it. It just is,” said Randy Rieman, a Best Horse Practices Summit presenter who sees the phrase more as a clever marketing device than an apt description. “It’s like ‘natural’ potato chips,” said the Dorrance protege.

Just as the public is becoming savvier to food ingredients (Eaters long ago dismissed ‘natural’ as a word with no real meaning.), riders are becoming more knowledgeable about the wider knowledge base of effective, humane horse handling. More and more of us recognize that force and dominance are ineffective training methods. We know punishing equipment and management techniques do not yield gains and can, in fact, foster some seriously negative consequences.

Check out additional articles on:

The Wobble Board of Positive Training

Testing Horse Smarts

Brain & Agility Training 

But more specifically, we are realizing that natural horsemanship is not something to “follow.” As Rieman said, it just is. We are learning to get great results by simply thinking more like a horse.

Natural horsemanship may be dead as marketing jargon, but it’s alive as a foundation for whatever style of horsemanship we practice, be it dressage, Vaquero horsemanship, trail riding, or cow work.

Consider the phrase: “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” It’s not only biblical; it’s a universal maxim found in multiple moral-based texts. So, too, with the overarching message of natural horsemanship.

jim thomasThere’s still plenty of progress to make. Getting owners to swap their age-old presumptions of horse handling for a totally contrary, ‘whisper-y’ alternative is a challenge.

Horseman Jim Thomas, another Best Horse Practices Summit presenter, has a clever technique for introducing the concept to riders:

“At a clinic, I find someone who speaks a foreign language. I ask that person to tell everyone to back up (in French, Spanish, whatever). If they don’t understand, I ask them to say it louder and maybe use their hands. Eventually, people just give up. ‘This is how your horse feels!’ I say. It’s amazing, how few people have a concept of thinking like a horse.”

Rieman would agree. “It’s simple, “ he said. “But it’s not easy.”

Check out additional articles on:

The Wobble Board of Positive Training

Testing Horse Smarts

Brain & Agility Training 

Check out this feature on Animal Intelligence.

Call it the ‘Silver Lining’ Summit

A note from Best Horse Practices Summit Director, Maddy Butcher:

Some two years ago, I returned home from a big horse expo in the Northeast. It had been fun to visit with thousands of horse owners and great to share what I do as a journalist. But something didn’t sit right.

I asked myself: What was in it for the horses?

I started confiding in a small group of individuals who shared my frustration as well as a passion and dedication to serving our equine partners.

I asked them: ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to offer something better?’

From my research and every day experiences, I knew academia and horsemanship could be paired to optimize the educational experience.

Recognizing the cliques and divisions within the horse community, I felt any potential gathering would need to be collaborative and welcome all disciplines.

With tremendous support from a newly developed steering committee and a healthy dose of naïve gusto, the Best Horse Practices Summit was born. Call it the Silver Lining Summit, the positive result of a less than positive experience.

This conference is a non-profit organization, built from scratch and run entirely by volunteers. It brings together the best of research and horsemanship to improve the horse-human connection by providing eye-opening and inspiring academic and arena presentations.

It’s also a work in progress.

We’re relying on our October attendees for feedback on how to make it better. We hope they also spread the word. Thanks to the efforts of video production company, SoulFolle Creative, we’ll be excited to offer all the presentations online in early 2018.

Clearly, horses can’t be helped without first empowering their owners. To all those registered for Best Horse Practices Summit, consider yourself empowered!

BHPS director, Maddy Butcher

Best Horse Practices Summit, No Meals Registration

The Best Horse Practices Summit board today voted to offer single day, no meal options. This offers yet more options for local horse owners and riders to enjoy the incredible offerings of this inaugural equine conference.

Now, you can enjoy our amazing roster of presenters for without the added cost of the Strater Hotel’s meal service.

Space is limited.

For $125, you can now register for Monday or Tuesday, no meals.

For $200, you can register for both days with no meals.

Register for Monday or Tuesday, no meals, $125.

Register for Monday and Tuesday, no meals, $200.

You will receive:

  • All access to early morning electives
  • All access to academic presentations at the Strater Theater
  • All access to arena presentations at the LaPlata Fairgrounds.
  • Complimentary pair of Darn Tough socks


Register here for the entire, 2.5 day Summit

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