Sunday, August 9, 2020

A Pale and Poor Substitute

What is your model of what a relationship with a horse should be? Do you refer to, or even think of, your horse as your "baby"? Do you try to treat your horse the way that you would want to be treated? Do you feel the need to provide your horse with more and better things in order to assure his happiness (and affection)? Do you love your horse so much that you find yourself constantly worrying  about his medical, nutritional, or emotional needs?

I hope not.

Thoughts have consequences and words create thoughts. Constantly referring to an adult horse as a baby creates the thought that the horse is a fragile, helpless creature constantly in need of the saving grace that only you can provide. An adult horse is not a helpless infant. Although its digestive system is made of the most fragile crystal, the rest of its body is made of steel. Be careful with his digestive system and polish the steel that he is made of  with regular exercise. The healthiest, happiest horse is the horse that can move in a paddock with other horses and is given the opportunity to tire his muscles and burn the stress from his mind with long hard miles of riding.

Not a baby--a horse.

Do not treat your horse the way that you would like to be treated. The Golden Rule does not apply to horses. Instead treat your horse the way he wants to be treated. As a prey animal his emotional and physical needs are often polar opposites of what we, as predators need. As a prey animal the horse;s primary drive is to find security. As a predator our primary drive is to find autonomy. Until one understands the extraordinary implications of that dichotomy one can only understand the artificial horse that one creates in one's own mind. Without that understanding no real relationship with a horse is possible.

Not a human--a horse.

Your horse does not need your money. He needs your time. In that regard horses are like children. Just as too many parents try to provide their kids with every expensive gadget or fad that comes along in order to make it clear to the world how much they love their children, too many horse owners live in a ridiculous race to purchase whatever the established horse world and advertisements in equine magazines tell them that their horse "needs."

Not a shiny new car---a horse.

Perhaps the saddest relationship to be found between horses and humans is  among those who live in constant "worry" for their horse's health. Worry is a useless substitute for love. In many ways it is the most corrosive substitute for love. It creates a relationship that takes an emotional toll on the owner while doing nothing positive for the horse. Eventually, the horse becomes a prisoner of the owner's projected hypochondria and the horse's physical health does begin to suffer.

Not a patient in ICU--a horse

Each of these models have one thing in common. They do not produce healthy relationships. Each of these configurations of horse/human interactions are nothing but pale and poor substitutes for the extraordinary, live altering  results of having a relationship with a horse that is based on understanding the horse's world and learning how to enter into that world

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Authenticity; The Most Difficult Asset To Preserve

Years ago we had a film crew out for an all day shoot at the horse lot. It was before the TV show, "Wild About Animals" did a feature on our program and the wild horses of Corolla. I loved the spontaneity of the director. He found out what time the sun set and that was about as much planning and scripting went into the shoot. Otherwise, he want to see what it was that made our program different.

We wrapped up a series of shots of unmounted horses and then he decided that he wanted shots of riders in the woods. He told me what he wanted and I told the kids to tack up and be ready to ride out to the swamp. The kids understand that,as always, the unspoken part of any direction that I give is "hurry up." In no time eight or ten horses were saddled and heading out to the swamp. The resulting pictures were among the best ever taken at the horse lot.

A few days later Emily Marble said that the best thing about the day of filming was that when I called for riders to catch horses and tack up everyone simply got their horse, brushed off where the saddle and girth would go, mounted up and headed to the swamp. No one stopped to fix their hair or makeup.

Everyone was there to  ride, not to merely look like riders.

The single most important factor in the success of our program is that we have put all of our emphasis on reality. That is what assures authenticity.

That is a picture of me on my first pony, Tanaka fifty five years ago. That is the well behind the Little House that he is standing on. That is the Little House in the background, the house that my mother was born in, that my family lived in while I was little, and the current home of the big girls who help keep this program together.

Continuity helps ensure authenticity.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

From Muddy Dirt To Soil

Why use microbial pasture development? The top picture is darker but that is mud all around that round bale--likely deep mud. This picture was taken in August of 2013.

The second picture was taken in August of 2020. That is the same pasture. My biggest disappointment for the past year is that I have not put enough time into pasture development. Even without providing the land with the care that it deserved, the improvement is obvious.

No chemical fertilizers, no poisons, no pesticides, no herbicides--worms, compost, mowing, and multi-species grazing moved this pasture from a muddy mess to a beautiful pasture.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Perhaps My Most Radical Thought: How Young Is Too Young To Begin To Learn Wisdom?

I got  my first pony when I was two and he was one. Daddy asked Benny Poole, a local blacksmith who once shoed horses for the New York City Police Department, how much longer he should wait before I began to ride the pony. Benny did not give a dissertation on the age that bones cease growing. Instead he said, "Which one the biggest, Steve or the pony? Less Steve is the biggest of the two go ahead and put him up there."

The following year I rode Tanka in the Christmas parade by myself.

How long should we wait before we begin to teach kids to seek wisdom?  It's likely best to wait until after potty training. And I don't meant teaching manners. I don't mean teaching kids to be quiet.

 I mean teaching kids to seek wisdom.

When one learns to become responsible one takes the first step toward seeking wisdom. When one learns that conformity comes at the highest of prices one takes another step toward seeking wisdom. When one learns to work and solve problems on one's own, whether it is learning to put on one's own boots or how to open a gate latch, one takes another step toward seeking wisdom. When one learns to begin to control one's fears instead of being controlled by one's fears, one takes another step toward seeking wisdom.

Some may think that wisdom can only come with years of age and experience. The unfortunate reality is that regardless of age or experience somehow wisdom never seems to catch up to most people. I want the kids in my program to know every mistake that I made and everything that I learned from those mistakes. I want to to know every success that I ever had, especially the ones that the rest of the world thought could never happen.

I want them to squeeze my life dry--and I want them to start doing that when the rest of the world thinks that they are too little to pay attention to.

Filling Buckets a Drop At A Time: The Choctaw Summer

The bloodline of the horses that carried the natives of the southeast on their forced deportation to Oklahoma has been extended another generation. Last summer we borrowed a stunning Choctaw stallion, Big Muddy Miracle,(seen below) from Mary McConnell to breed to some of our Choctaw and high percentage Choctaw mares.

We still have one Choctaw mare yet to foal, a daughter of Rooster named Mozelle. Here are the results so far:

This colt is from Washani and was born yesterday.

This little boy from Feather is 65% Choctaw.

This great granddaughter of Rooster was born to Monique.

At only one day old this colt from Zippy was already ready for a swim.

Ten years ago I thought it impossible for any strain of Colonial Spanish horse to be better suited to my needs then the powerful, smooth gaited, gentle minded Corollas.  However, I am hard pressed to find them to be better horses than what one gets from crossing Choctaw strains with high percentage Grand Canyons.

If Mozelle's foal is a colt, I hope to spend the rest of my life breeding him to Choctaws, Corollas, Marsh Tackys, Shacklefords, and maybe even a Florida Cracker. The Colonial Spanish horse strains that were developed in the Southeast before the Revolution are spectacular trail horses, endurance horses, family horses, and therapy horses. In short, they are needed.

All will be registered with the Horse of Americas Registry. There bloodlines will not only be preserved, they will be documented.

And they are all so rare as to be nearly extinct. Our program works hard to stave off that extinction, one foal at a time and one family at a time.