Call it what you will – poncho, deel or duster – but a rain jacket is essential for protection against hypothermia this spring.
JUST 3.6 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT – that’s all your core body temperature needs to drop before vital organs malfunction and you risk dying of hypothermia. An average of 689 Americans die from hypothermia-related deaths every year. Not surprisingly, Alaska accounts for the most deaths, while New Mexico holds the number two spot, proving that hypothermia isn’t exclusive to cold and wet climates.
Horsemen the world-over have developed innovative solutions for keeping hypothermia at bay in extreme climactic conditions. Their clothing goes by different names, but share one thing in common: an ability to envelope the body in a layer of dry, warm air to moderate body temperature. Continue reading →
Boundless horseback riding awaits on “rail trails,” a network of recreational pathways following abandoned railroad lines.
Cook yourself a pot of spaghetti noodles. Now, scoop a fork-full and drop them onto a plate. The resulting web of pasta is how a map of the United States would look if it showed only the network of railroads that traverse the landscape.
In the mid-1800s, overzealous railroad companies built thousands of miles of railroad lines to transport people and goods to every nook and cranny of the American West. By 1960s, many lines had become uneconomical and were abandoned. Thanks to the 1983 National Trails System Act, non-profit groups like Rails-to-Trails Conservancy have salvaged those roadbeds and converted them into nearly 20,000 miles of recreational pathways called “rail trails.” Continue reading →
All you need is a horse and a pair of skis to enjoy skijoring, a 100-year old sport.
Skiing and horseback riding. They’re like pickles and peanut butter; don’t knock it until you try it. I was raised on peanut butter and pickle sandwiches, so I never had a choice about that. But last winter in Russia, Montana cowboy Kraig Sweeney told me to hop in a calf sled for a ride.
There are valuable lessons for horsemen in the aftermath of a deadly bear attack in Yellowstone National Park.
In July 2010, Kipp Saile of Rockin’ HK Outfitters lead six riders on the Pebble Creek Trail in the northeastern corner of Yellowstone National Park. The trail scissored through the trees, paralleling the creek, and then entered a clearing where Kipp saw an unusual sight: a grizzly sow with three cubs. Kipp knew that grizzlies often give birth to twins – dual offspring are nature’s way of ensuring the species’ survival. Yet, in 18 years of guiding the Yellowstone backcountry, Kipp had never seen or heard of a grizzly with triplets. He took out his cell phone and snapped a picture just as the bear family scampered into the woods. When the coast was clear, Kipp resumed the ride. Continue reading →
Fact: The temperature of a grassfire can reach upwards of one thousand degrees.
Fact: Smoke inhalation is the greatest threat wildfire poses to equine health.
If these fire facts don’t grab your attention, here’s one that will. 2010 is forcasted to be one of the worst fire season in recent history. Bizarre weather patterns, drought, and forests ravaged by pine beetle infestation will make Smokey a nervous bear this summer.
I spoke with five experts to learn what steps a horseman should take if a wildfire breaks out while he is in the backcountry.
Trail riding and lake fishing go together like, well, fresh-caught trout cooked over a campfire with lemon and butter. So the first time I returned a living trout to a mountain lake, my inner-hunter asked, “What’s the point?” while my stomach grumbled, “There goes dinner.” Fishing regulations allowed me to keep the trout, but I’d noticed over the years that my favorite lake had fewer and fewer fish. So, I released my catch to swim another day.
It turns out, diminishing fish populations are an issue facing mountain lakes across the American West. In the past year, major backcountry areas in California and Washington have cut back their fish stocking programs. Why are they picking a fight with fish?
Horses and the card game poker were a recipe for mayhem in the Wild West. But not today. Horseback poker rides are now charitable events during which trail riders enjoy a day in the backcountry while raising money for a worthy cause. And, as I discovered on a ride last spring in Virginia City, Montana, the events are a good way to bomb-proof a saddle horse under crowded trail conditions.
Look at any 2010 trail riding catalog and one thing becomes apparent: backcountry gear has gone synthetic. But rather than stick your head in the sand, why not learn how synthetics keep your caboose more comfortable, your sack lunch colder, and your pocketbook fatter?