Friday, May 18, 2018

Time To Reboot

Our program arrived at the hospital on time and is in stable condition. Barring a seriously bad turn of events it will survive. We have fallen off course and the fault is mine. The slew of murder trials that we have and will be having at the office for the next several months has pulled me off course. Before that I put in scores of hours clearing the new land. As a result I was not spending as much time on the newer riders that I normally do and participation in that category plummeted.

To make matters worse a silly health problem  has made it difficult for me to ride the miles that I normally put in. Our emphasis on natural horse care has drifted and that will be pulled back on course with as strong a tug boat as is needed.

I learn from my mistakes. I did not plant cover crops that summer and the soil suffered greatly for that error. The seeding is expensive but is a top priority I now realize. The health of the horses is dependent on the health of the soil. Round bales will be rolled out religiously from this point forward. Rotational grazing will mean that not one single horse goes into a pasture not being grazed for one single moment. Wire separating pens will be kept up and kept hot. If a wire is shorted out then we will not go on a ride until it is fixed.  Care for soil and pastures is not something that we will take care of if we have time after a ride. It will be top priority. We will ride only after fences are fixed.

Sprinklers will be used in all but damp soil conditions and will be moved into place as necessary. Even if a ride has to be delayed while we get that done.

Negativity should be kept to a minimum.

Everyone is expected to work very hard to keep our program growing and financially stable.

Most importantly, every program participant needs to keep in mind that the purpose of this program is not to make your life better. The purpose is to give you the opportunity to make the lives of other people better.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Summer Friday Program for Kids At Mill Swamp Indian Horses

We will expand our Friday program over the summer to include two, six session semesters of a unique educational and recreational program for students across Tidewater. Each session will begin at 8:00 and conclude at 12:00. Students will receive an introduction to riding and natural horsemanship, but that is only the beginning of the Mill Swamp Experience.
Participants will be introduced to some of the rarest historic American horses in the nation and take part in the care and training of horses that we raise in our Corolla Breed Conservation Program. They will be introduced to equine genetics and natural horse care. They will learn to understand horses and to take the first steps in building a solid relationship with a horse using gentle, effective, humane training techniques.

Along with our breed conservation program for such historic horses as the Choctaws, Marsh Tackys, Spanish Mustangs, Corollas, Shacklefords, and Grand Canyons, we also raise and conserve nearly extinct strains of heritage breed goats, turkeys and Ossabaw hogs. Participants will assist in the care of these animals and will learn how they fit into the history of Colonial Agriculture. 

And speaking of history, participants will be exposed to early colonial gardening and cooking in our replicated 1650's era farm site, with an introduction to the lives of the Powhatan people who farmed, hunted and fished within a few miles of our pastures.

We even take a little time to introduce participants to historic American folk, gospel, and blues music. Participants will get some hands on sessions with instruments that they likely have never seen before including lap dulcimers, autoharps and the wash tub base. 

And nothing that we do is more important than introducing participants to permaculture practices to conserve soil and water through construction of swales, hugelkulter mounds, and microbial farming in a completely organic setting

The first session will be held on Friday June 15,22,29 and July 6, 13, and 20. The second session will be held Friday July 27 and August 3, 10, 17,24 and 31. Participants must be at least 8 years old. The cost is $120.00 for a family of up to three participants with an additional $20.00 per child for the entire session for over three participants per session. Participants may be left on site prior to 8:00 am and picked up at 12:00.

Space is limited. Remember we are a 501 (c) 5 Breed Conservation Program with no paid staff, only a small group of hard working volunteers committed to preserving historic horses and livestock while providing solid educational opportunities for program participants.  For more information about our program see For further registration information contact us at

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Elijah's World

Last year Elijah and his friends from Rivermont school came out to do what we do at the horse lot. Some days that meant riding. Some days that meant clearing land. Some days that meant training horses.

Every day it meant learning, growing, and understanding things about yourself and the world around you that you might not have known before. He was not raised with pastures. He was raised with pavement. He was apprehensive when he first got on Comet. He was apprehensive when he first rode Comet in the woods. He was apprehensive when he first trotted on Comet.

And when it was all done he was proud.

He understood when I told him that the world had so much given up Comet that a veterinarian once called me at the office to tell me that Comet could never be trained--that he was a hopeless rogue and that he should be immediately put down. He understood when I told him how much patience and gentle but very firm leadership it took for Comet to eventually become the loving, trusting horse that he is now.

He understood when I told him that it is wrong to throw away horses and it is worse to throw away people. He understood that Tradewind went from being completely crippled to being National Pleasure Trail Horse of the Year for the Horse of The Americas registry. He understood that learning to trust is as important for people as it is for horses. He learned to take control of his fear by trusting me when I told him that the horse would not hurt him, trusting the horse not to hurt him and, most of all, learning to trust himself to be able to handle the horse in the woods.

Sometime it is what we do not say that is even more important than what we do say. The ancient Hebrews did not have a separate and distinct word for "religion." Instead they generally used the same word as the word that simply meant "living." We need to stop using this term "equine therapy." It implies that one only receives physical and emotional growth from exposure to horses in limited separate and distinct "sessions" with horses.

Every exposure to a horse can give comfort to those in pain, understanding to those in confusion, calm to those in fear, and peace to those in turmoil. Today a fortune will be spent and lost on the sad spectacle of the Kentucky Derby. People will talk about how much those race horses are "worth", foolishly equating sales price with "worth."

How much was it "worth" for Elijah to be able to step off of that world of pavement into a world of pasture while sitting astride Comet? The sins of the established horse world are too numerous to list. The greatest sin that it inflicts on humans is to develop a business model that turns horses into toys for little rich white girls and fungible items of commerce for old white millionaires.

Some people cannot understand why I would love a scraggly old horse like Comet, but everyone who knew Elijah would understand why I could love a warm, smiling, generous kid like Elijah.

This morning at 11:00 Comet will take a kid in the woods--maybe for the first time the kid has ever done so. Elijah's funeral will be happening at the same time. He was murdered last Sunday night in a world of pavement.

The Kentucky Derby happens sometime today, but I really don't care when.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Now I Do Despise A Straight Line

Sitting here feeling a bit reflective this morning--Jason Isbell, Brittany Howard, Gram Parsons, Townes Van Zandt, A.P. Carter and Ralph Stanley all been sitting here with me for the past few hours--eating Kim Chee and fried chicken for breakfast and thinking about how our program got where it is.

Thinking about how those who see how we do things fall into two camps--those who wonder how we get as much done as we do and those who wonder how much more successful we would be if I would just be more conventional in my outlook.

My favorite flower is the one that people try their best to kill, only to find it sprouting back no matter how much poison they heap on it.

I don't find any beauty in a flower's appearance. Real beauty is in its resilience.

Can't deal with pretending. Things are true or they are not. Can't put something in my mouth called "false teeth" and can't feel a bit better about such dishonesty by calling them "dentures" either. Music is to be judged only by how it sounds instead of how difficult it is to play. The test of whether or not a horse is well designed for endurance is to go ride him for 50 miles. The test is not to look up conformation and breed standards to make sure that you and your horse are appropriately clothed in Moa suits and marching in perfect step with what ever the established horse world has decreed.

Something fundamentally wrong with having a brain and refusing to use it. We must all be born the same and we must all die the same but we do not have to live the same. Speaking clich├ęs inevitably leads to living them.

To lose the respect of a horse in order to gain the respect of a person is  strong proof of a fundamental lack of self respect. Gaining the respect of the powerful by failing to place the interest of the powerless above all else is to live a failed life.

Appearances do not matter. Reality does. That is why a blind man often has truest vision.
We have a lot of guests and visitors come out for the first time.. Some people say, "This place looks so beautiful."  Others say, "This place is so beautiful."

There is a big difference between those two statements that too few people recognize.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Changes In Our Corolla Conservation Breeding Program

Matchcoor will be a yearling this summer. For years now our efforts to prevent the extinction of the Banker strain of Colonial Spanish horses, left in the wild only at Corolla and Shackleford, have centered on developing off site breeding programs to carry on the fight. We will still continue to do so but we will be changing our emphasis from providing breeding stock to new off site breeding programs to raising and training first rate horses that will then be sold as young adults with the hope that they will be bred by their purchasers.

That will mean some major changes in how we do things. We will continue to offer foals for sale under the same terms as we always have to encourage off site breeding. However, our focus will shift to raising fewer foals and keeping them until they are dead broke. This is not my preference. Doing so will make it necessary for us to charge much more for a horse than I want to do. I hope that those who purchase one of these horses will instantly see how well they perform compared to modern horses that they will want to breed them on their own.

As he matures I will turn Matchcoor into a super-horse. Of course, he will remain a stallion. Gelding one of these nearly extinct horses is nothing more than vandalism and theft from future generations of horse owners who will never get to even lay eyes on these historic horses.

Producing several first rate adult horses each year will require our program to continue to develop first rate young horse trainers who practice first rate natural horsemanship.

Take a look at this picture of Audrey and Matchcoor. I bet I will be a able to find some first rate young trainers who will work hard to preserve these horses.

Bet I won't even have to look all that hard before one turns up.