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Terrain Makes Them Nimbler

Published: 1/30/2014
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By Maddy Butcher Gray

In human terms, they'd be golfers-turned-soccer players.

That's the adjustment and improved athleticism of the NickerNews herd with the move to Utah.

The terrain here is rocky and vertical. Our so-called pasture is anything but pastoral. Sage and juniper dominate. Grass competes with cactus for ground space. (We feed hay year-round.)
Add ice and snow and the horses sometimes have a heckuva time getting around. Lately, moving around the six acres has been a game of Chutes and Ladders; the horses pick and choose their routes or suffer the consequences.

However, there is this huge silver lining: All the horses have become more fit, more agile, more savvy in the process.

Shea, in particular, seems to have benefited from the change. In Maine and Iowa, she was prone to hoof abscesses and lameness. The habitat here has toughened up her feet and forced a sort of physical therapy on her. I believe she’s built strength and muscled her way away from her prior issues.

Effects of terrain on the Horse & Rider partnership:

Carrying riders in this terrain has taught our horses to be more nimble, too. They hunker down hills better and pay more attention to where they’re stepping.

Along sheer ridges especially, it can be tempting to take up the reins and try to tell them where to go.

Big mistake.

They always fair better with no head restriction and with the rider saying to them: "I trust you to steer a true course."

As a rider, I feel I’m on a more fit and balanced horse. And working, riding, and hiking here has made us more fit and balanced, too. Read about an afternoon climb.

As a rider, I’m thankful for leggings and a sturdy hat. Even established trails regularly require us to move through rough brush. My jeans would get shredded if not for armitas. Read about who made them here.

As for low limbs and dense timber, the horses again are in charge of navigation. Just hug their necks and keep your head down ‘til the coast is clear!

Check out this video, captured during some minutes of high spirits in the pasture:

Terrain Begets Agility from Maddy Butcher Gray on Vimeo.

View Reader Comments:

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1/31/2014 Larry
What a great video. Those horses look just great moving through that tough terrain, so agile!
2/13/2014 Robin
How wonderful they have all the area to roam in!

"There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man." - Winston Churchill