Saturday, March 31, 2012
Look closely at this great photo from optical harmonics. This is a picture of Tommi Grey down in Texas with three Colonial Spanish horses. They come from different backgrounds. Two are of the lines that most people think of when they say "mustang"--western stock--cowboys, Indians, ranches and vaqueros. The sorrel at the right side of the picture is a Corolla. He is also a Colonial Spanish horse but of a history little known, small farmers, fisherman, hurricanes, and crashing ocean waves. There are subtle differences in their builds and I suspect in their gaits.
What holds them together is much stronger than the subtle differences. All trace their lineage back to the early Spanish explorers. All are small, exceedingly sturdy, and have astounding endurance. All are dangerously close to extinction.
Reliable information on the conformation and history of these horses can be found on the web page of the Horse of the Americas Registry. The HOA leadership is made up of people that not only are dedicated to the preservation of these horses, but also know what they are talking about.
There are many different organizations out there that have an interest in Spanish mustangs. The HOA is the only registry of which I am aware that takes an active role in the preservation of the few isolated herds of Colonial Spanish mustangs that remain in the wild. The American Indian Horse Registry has a broader mission but also is supportive of efforts to preserve the Corollas and Shacklefords.
Let me hear from you if you would like to own a horse of the historic type shown in this picture. Learn how you can be a keystone in preventing the extinction of the first horse of America.)
Friday, March 30, 2012
When considering what breed of horse to purchase if one is seeking a healthy, sane, teachable, hard working horse, stay away from breeds that were developed as accessories to stylish upper income fops through out history. Like Ms Drysdale's poodle, they are for looking at, not for riding.
Instead look to breeds and strains that were developed by poor people and working people. They bred for practicality.
Describing a lady's shoes as "practical" may not be considered a compliment but when it comes to horses, few qualities are more important than practicality.
Young Joseph is an incredibly impressive horse whose mother is a BLM mare and whose father is a Chincoteague. Not much of a pedigree is it? Neither was Abraham Lincoln's.
Seek the knowledge of the poor folks that merely ride over that of the rich folks that merely buy.
How much does it cost to plant ten acres of soy beans? How much can be earned from ten acres of soy beans? How weather dependent is that source of income? How much is that source of income dependent on market factors beyond a farmer's control?
How much does it cost to turn ten acres into a natural horse care boarding facility? How much can be earned from a ten acre natural horse care facility? How weather dependent is that source of income? How much is that source of income dependent on market factors beyond a farmer's control?
The cost of maintaining a horse has driven many potential horse owners away from their dream of having their own horse. Conventional stable board is damaging to a horse's health, both physical and emotional. The number of farmers going under each years is a national crisis.
This is an issue that we will be focusing on over the next year. We hope to be able to do our part in educating farmers about this potential both for obtaining a steady source of income and developing tremendous public service for their community.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
I am very troubled by the fact that kids raised in town by women who think that their ultimate jobs as mothers is to keep their children clean are giving us a generation of fragile children that can actually become sick by petting farm animals. This even a bigger threat to kids happiness than it is to their health.
In the future I expect medical science to focus on techniques that fire up our immune systems to prevent injury. "Clean" living impairs that immune system.
It is bad enough that little boys' mental health is being savaged by today's perfect parenting model that calls for the avoidance of risk, pain and fear at all costs. Now we are wrecking their physical health by not allowing their immune systems to develop naturally.
We are developing a culture that loves our kids to death the same way we are loving our horses to death.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
When developing a pasture remember that its purpose is to provide healthy forage for the herd, not to create a uniform landscape. Work for solid nutrition. Cemeteries have uniform foliage. Pastures should not. Eliminate poisonous plants, do a soil test and apply lime as needed. Forget planting whatever would be the most beautiful. Plant what can grow. I would love to have a pasture of bluegrass but it cannot grow in our region.
Plant diversity can create sound nutrition.
I have an unnatural fear of herbicides. I also have a broad leaf weed with a huge fibrous root that does wonderful in heavy rain and drought. It is full of seeds and left alone will take over a pasture. The leaves are easily taken down with a swing blade (or a weed eater if one is inclined in that direction) The leaves can be quickly gathered and make a wonderful addition to the hog's diets.
I have been fighting this weed for years and this week I learned that fighting it has been not only a waste of time, but a waste of good hog forage.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
The tack shed porch is about as large as the entire tack shed itself. This Saturday night we will be getting together to celebrate Daddy's 75th birthday (which was last Sunday) The porch will be full of music. My brother and Daddy's cousins will be joining and the stage will be full of string music.
Monday, March 26, 2012
The hot marketing term for many clinicians today is "relationship". It should be. The goal of training should be to develop an intense bond between horse and rider. I am bothered by efforts to quantify whether or not there is enough of a relationship. I do not mind it at all if people enjoy dancing around a sandy ring with a horse. That is fine and it shows a great deal of synchronicity. I do object when such a display becomes a requirement to prove the reality of a relationship.
I have been married nearly thirty years. I know no one closer to their wife than am I. I have never danced a single step with her and barring a traumatic head injury that would give me a new personalty, I imagine no possibility of such dancing ever occurring.
As always, the biggest problem with the work of big name clinicians is that they have no incentive to market that which makes them no money. There is no cash to be made in telling people to hug their horse. There is no level designation to be made by doing so. It is a shame because it is equal in importance to having control over the horse's movement. A solid relationship with a horse is based on equal parts affection and domination.
It is disconcerting that so many kids today do not seem to understand what actual affection is. Perhaps it says a lot about how we raise kids today. Giving a horse "treats" is not affection. It is nutrition. Braiding a horse's mane is not affection. It is decoration. Affection is close physical contact best directed to the horse's lower neck. Affection takes time. It takes many hours of handling a horse to make the horse want to be handled.
Suppose one had a wild stallion, captured because of a horrific neck wound that experienced months of uncomfortable and sometimes painful treatment for that injury. Suppose the result was a horse all too happy to kick any person that got to close. Suppose one spent over a hundred hours just rubbing his neck and talking softly to him. Suppose one spent scores of hours singing gently to him. Suppose one demonstrated genuine affection to the horse because one genuinely felt that affection.
Why, if one did that one might end up with a wild stallion very happy to have a four year old child sit on his back. Now imagine that.
Sunday, March 25, 2012
It seems that playing video games stimulates the mesocortlicolimbic system which creates feeling of success. The "success" is the result of controlling movement in the game. Control becomes addictive. Addiction requires higher and higher doses and symptoms of withdrawal result when the sensation fades.
Society is now seething with little boys that react to loss of control over movement much the way that a crack addict reacts to loss of control over his supply of crack--pure, raw terror, panic and a feeling that nothing is more important than getting crack/control immediately.
School teachers that have been around for a few decades are beginning to notice crying spells and panic attacks in middle school age boys to a degree never seen twenty years ago. Little video game raised boys cannot cope with situations in which they feel a loss of control. Worst of all, in their world, control is effortlessly gained by pushing a button.
Boys that have this background become petrified when on horseback the instant that they learn that the horse can and will move regardless of the riders direction. The result is that it is much more difficult to teach little boys to ride than it is to teach little girls. Boys are much more likely to panic, freeze, and, yes, burst into tears, than little girls.
For horses decreases in demand result in increases in slaughter house sales. When horse demand is restricted only to little girls a huge potential market is lost. Horses die as a result. The only thing that will significantly reduce the number of horses that go to slaughter is to radically increase the number of new riders.
That cannot happen as long as we allow little boys to spend their time "achieving success" on the video game board.
(Jacob, shown above, has achieved success by controlling his horse. Here he is sitting on Uncle Harley, his HOA colt that he trained himself and later rode on to win the coveted National Pleasure Trail Horse of the Year award from the HOA.)
Saturday, March 24, 2012
Death is predictable. Life is not. Life today was filled with surprises. I got drenched during the morning riding and cancelled the afternoon rides as the rain showed no sign of letting up. I invited the riders to come to the Little Horse to watch riding and training videos. Been a while since I went through the collection there and I did not expect to find what I found.
In 2003 I made a video of the first saddling and riding of Wind In His Hair, a young Chincoteague stallion. It was in the stack. I started to set it aside and then I remembered that there might be something important in it.
The sound quality was poor because of the heavy wind. Wind In His Hair Looked stunning. I looked ridiculous with rib protectors too small and helmet too ugly. (Quite a shock though to notice that I was wearing the same pants in the video that I have on today.)
None of that was what made the video matter. I doubt if I have seen it since about 2005. My memory shot back to that filming and I thought that I remembered something about Lido roping fence posts in the background of the video. After a while we were able to get the video up and playing. It was pleasant to see.
Not only was Lido in the back roping fence posts at about age ten, he appears significantly in the final section when the mounting occurs. At one point I am thinking out loud as to whether Wind was calmed enough for me to hop on him. I could hear Lido off camera saying "I say do it."
It was the first time that I had heard his voice since December 28, 2008, the night before he died.
It sealed a great deal of indecision that I had been going through about our program. I had come to believe that I needed to spend much more time on technical riding instruction and perhaps needed to incorporate more of some of the big name clinician's techniques into how we start colts and wild horses. In short, I was working towards making our program more conventional.
Nope. Over the years we have started around forty colts and wild horses. Our methods have not injured a horse. The number of injuries that my riders have had over the years is miniscule when one considers the number of miles that we ride, that most of them started their own horse under my direction, and that the majority of my riders are young kids.
I taught Lido how to ride and cerebral palsy made it so that only about half of his body was of any great use to him. I taught him to listen to a horse's body and he learned to hear it every bit as well as I can.
There are a plenty of other instructors out there that can follow any teaching model that they want to, but I am sticking to my very simple model.
The best way to learn to ride is to ride--to ride regularly, great distances, to the point of exhaustion until fatigue whips anxiety.
Sunday, March 18, 2012
Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Life's Lessons Learned: Emily, my niece, was about three in this picture of her and Croatoan, a wild Corolla stallion. At that age she could get a rope and go o...
Friday, March 16, 2012
Lydia is now seventeen years old. Today she gave me a chemist's explanation as to why adding soap to vinegar would improve its effectiveness as a weed killer. I have no doubt that she is correct. It would not matter if I had a doubt because we would not be able to discuss the matter on equal footing. I do not believe that I have ever heard most of the words that she used.
Our conversations used to be on a different level. Seems like on yesterday that I was telling a tall little blonde girl, "Now this is the stirrup. This is where your foot goes."
I am not surprised that she has grown up to be a first rate horse trainer but I never envisioned her as a chemist.
Sunday, March 11, 2012
There are all kinds of studies and statistics out there about exercise, calorie burn, health benefits, exertional level, etc. I find them interesting and sometime instructive. However, there are times that simple, singular examples shed more light than complex studies.
Follow me here: I am fifty two years old and by the standards of height/weight charts I am 50 pounds over weight. I am not a jogger. I ride. I feed up. Do some minimal weight training (very minimal).
Repeat: I am not a jogger. But I just jogged two miles with no difficulty.
Those of you that are runners or are high school athletes will not understand the import of what you just read. Fifty two years old, fifty pounds over weight, jogged two miles.
That illustrates the aerobic benefits of hard riding better than any study that I know of.
Go ahead. Eat the doughnut. Then go saddle up.
(This is a shot of Jimmy, a tough young horseman, hopping on Red Feather. Jimmy is coming down from the mountains in a few weeks to ride with us again. I am very pleased about this.)
The key to having a light horse is to release the pressure when the horse begins to think about considering the possibility of perhaps going along with the pressure. In the early stages of training this might require pulling the rope very firmly to get the horse to understand the request. That is no different from the kindergarten teacher beginning class by calling in a loud voice for everyone to be quiet and have a seat.
If she continued to keep up that loud voice with every sound she made she would intimidate some students and terrify others. Some would simply choose to ignore her because she continues to speak in that loud voice regardless of whether they comply or not.
The other side is equally true. If she did not demand the students' attention at the outset she would never receive their attention or respect. She cannot allow a group of five year old kids to decide whether or not they want to be educated. She must show leadership.
So must an effective trainer. Lydia is one of the more effective trainers that I know. This is a great shot of her and her mustang/Chincoteague cross, Owl Prophet.
Horses evolved to survive nature's rhythms. When we force them to live counter to that evolution their health pays for it. Just because we do not see and understand the cause and effect does not mean that it is not there.
Instead of caring properly for horses, the established horse world creates a system of horse care that reduces active life span and radically increases lameness. Consider the picture of ideal horse care that many envision--an obese animal, with shoes nailed to his feet, wearing a blanket, or even worse, imprisoned in a stable, while being pumped full of sugars and unnatural feed.
Horses evolved to thrive in winter, not to avoid winter. A natural horse uses the increased energy of fall forage to store fat for the winter. As spring comes on that same horse begins to loose weight. He does not do so because he is starving. By dropping weight he reduces the likelihood that the high sugar grasses and forage of early spring will lead to insulin resistance on his part. (It is not a perfect preventative. Even thin horses are subject to serious problems from gorging on spring plants. Be careful with spring grazing)
Do we cause problems by reacting to that natural weight loss by increasing feed in the spring instead of waiting for the weight to return naturally in a few months? Quite likely. I suspect that future studies will link the practice to increased risk for insulin resistance.
I am more intrigued by the tendency of many mares to radically drop weight while a foal nurses on them, regardless of the sufficiency of their diet. Some mares drop the weight and do not put it back on until the foal weans unless they are nearly force fed a super high calorie diet.
Note: I am not asking why a mare's calorie needs increase with nursing. That is obvious. My question concerns those mares that become very thin while nursing, colt after, colt, after colt, to quickly return to fine form after weaning. My observation is that the longer backed black mares of Corolla are the most likely to become quite thin while nursing. I have not seen enough of them to state this as a conclusion, it is merely an observation.
Horses rarely evolve traits that are destructive in the long term. That is the nature of evolution. (Stop wondering why your horse always rolls in the dirt after you wash him so clean and pretty. Your detergents are an assault on the delicate balance of bacteria and fungi that assist his immune system in fighting off harmful skin invasions. He is simply trying to defend himself.)
Might it be that the mares that lose significant weight while nursing, regardless of the adequacy of their diet, derive a health benefit from doing so that we have not yet discovered? I am open to that possibility. In the mean time, I feed those mares well and try not to worry about their temporary appearance, but the question vexes me.
Look at this wild stallion from Corolla. Look at the environment around him. He looks great for a young horse, doesn't he? He is not a young horse. He is over 20 years old.
Sometimes truth does not whisper. Sometimes it screams. This horse is screaming about the advantages of natural horse care.
My eyes were opened a bit yesterday as I spent the afternoon on a tour given by a naturalist in False Cape State Park. The park is in Virginia but it is adjacent to the portion of the North Carolina Outer Banks where the wild Corolla herd lives. I have been in the woods at Corolla on several occasions. Each time I was looking for wild horses, not wild horse forage. Yesterday was different. I was in the woods looking at the woods.
I was in a completely different ecosystem than the woods of my horse lot although we were only about fifty miles from home in a straight line. Here in Smithfield we are just beginning to get out of the worst season in the woods. We are leaveing the hungry times of early January through early March. the woods are devoid of most of their plenty and deer, turkey, squirrel and even rabbits have to work hard for what they can find to eat. As they do so they spend more time moving , searching for food and exposing themselves to predators from hawks and foxes all the way up to our burgeoning population of coyotes.
Coyotes moved into my area in the early 1990's. I spend more time in the woods than anyone else that I know and as a result I saw the first wild canine immigrants here years before anyone else that I knew saw them. For years after that the skeptics worked hard to convince themselves that we were only seeing large foxes.
The coyote population skyrocketed in my area. By the late 1990's the coyotes were so heavy in our area that I could find fresh sign on a given day within an hour of entering the woods. Within a few seasons that changed. It certainly did not change as a result of hunting pressure. Coyotes are exceedingly wary and local hunters rarely glimpse them, much less get off a shot at one. Very few are killed by hunters.
Something hard hit them. My guess is that it was a super contagious sickness along the lines of parvo. Their numbers have sprung back. Coyotes can freely inter breed with dogs. The resulting offspring is not sterile. Often that offspring is large. There were two grown coyotes not far from the horse lot that were very obviously half rottweiler. This is not a cross that one will find at the New York Kennel Club Show. However, I suspect that they look a bit like the lap dogs in Hell.
The impact of the coyotes on local fauna has been dramatic. Our most common predator up until about the year 2000 was the feral house cat. He is now nearly completely gone. Coyote food. Gone are the ground hogs. The fox population is down. Musk rats are nearly gone from the marshes. Small game like raccoons, possums, and rabbits used to litter the back roads in a flattened state. Not now. Their populations are reduced to the degree that they do not provide constant targets for fast moving vehicles. This is the first year that I have seen the turkey population take a big hit and now even the deer are actually reducing in numbers in my area.
In short, the coyotes have brought change, big change.
But, as I find myself saying more and more as I get older, I digress. The maritime forest of False Cape was teeming with life yesterday, March 10, at a time when the woods at home are cold, barren, stark and muddy. The difference is the vegetation. The woods was filled with live oaks, bay plants, wax berry, wild blueberry stems, infant pines, and an array of green brier. It was green. Not every plant was potential horse forage, but more of it was than we realize. Live oak acorns have so little acid in them that they can be eaten by humans without going through a lengthy leaching process as with other acorns. The wild horses of Corolla love to eat those acorns.
I do not know how they chew green brier as well as they do, but they love it.
I have never found evidence of significant worm infestation in a wild Corolla and that is one of the reasons that they are so healthy in the wild. The other reason is simply that they thrive on plants that we do not even notice.
Oat's don't grow on trees.
Saturday, March 10, 2012
Some of the Plains tribes shared a common broad view of virtue and ethics that were the underpinning of their society. Among the virtues central to several of these ethical systems were courage, generosity, and perseverance.
These virtues are not central to the belief systems of most Americans today and we are the worst for it. Can a child learn any word that over the course of his life will cause more pain and be more obscene in its application than the simple word "mine"?
I had the advantage of not being raised that way. In the fourth grade we started to play baseball at recess. Some days I would have to bring a bag with me to school to carry the gloves, because there were too many to carry in hand. Momma bought every usable glove that she could find in thrift stores for me to give to the boys whose families could not afford gloves for them. At a very young age I came to believe that the only legitimate reason to acquire possessions was so that one could give them away. I would be absolutely ashamed of myself to die as a wealthy person and would view doing so as sufficient evidence in and of itself to prove that I had failed in my life.
No object exists that is worth loving unless it has first drawn a breath. I work very hard to never love anything that has never had a pulse.
We have replaced the virtue of perseverance with the silly idea of "appearing to be happy." We have lost much in doing so. To get up every morning in the face of adversity is, and should be viewed as, heroic. Townes Van Zandt said that there are only two kinds of music, the blues and "zip-a-dee-do-dah." It does not really take any guts to sing zip-a-dee-do-dah, but it takes guts to sing the blues.
It takes even more guts to live them. Skipping is more fun than plodding. It is great to be able to skip now and then. Everyone deserves a little skipping time, but
society is maintained by those who plod. To plod is to persevere and to persevere is to prevail.
(Here is a picture of Red Feather after he learned to trust me enough to plod over the porch and join me in the living room at the Little House.)
Sunday, March 4, 2012
We are about to begin our step by step process to create our replicated homestead circa 1670. We will start on the Smoke house in the next two weeks. First a bit of back ground on what we are building.
This is not intended to be a new Jamestown. Its primary purpose will be to create a unique picture frame around our Corolla preservation program. It will create a visual historical context for the role of the Spanish horses in early Colonial America. The Smoke house will be used. The other structures are for display purposes. This is not intended to be a tourist attraction. This will just be one more thing that makes our program unique.
Here is our framework--We think of the frontier as being somewhere out west, but in 1670 Isle of Wight was on the frontier of the English world. Yes, there were settlements west of here by that time but we were on the edge of the edge when my first white ancestors moved here in 1668. They settled less than 10 miles from the Little house near the store at Pons.
We are not building some silly Gone with the Wind site. Instead we are building something much more representative of American history--the home site of a very small farmer.
Here is a bit about our fictional farmer, Patrick Gwaltney, in 1670. He came over as an indentured servant and worked as a laborer and carpenter's helper for seven years to pay off the cost of his passage. He is 22 years old. He is unmarried. He does not plan to stay that way but must establish himself a bit before he will be able to compete for the still relatively scarce number of eligible women in Virginia. He got on well with his master and when he left he was given a few tools, some goats, a pregnant sow and some hens. He considers the worst thing about being poor the fact that one must walk and that only the wealthy have horses. He adores horses and won a blind mare that was about to have a foal in a drunken card game when he was 20. That old mare, Abigail, has since had two foals. Though he has no money he owns three horses, which is a rare thing for his day.
He is basically honest but takes advantage of "opportunities". One day the over seer at the plantation where he worked got so drunk that he forgot where he placed his gun, powder and shot. Patrick keeps that gun hidden and it is his greatest source of anxiety. He needs the gun that he stole, but if convicted of its theft he will be taken to Jamestown and hung.
He is driven by the simple desire to survive and his primary goal in life is to get more, of everything. He wants to get rich from tobacco. He wants to win money racing his horses and gambling around the large settlements near Jamestown. He does not understand the Puritans that have clustered around the Bennet family down in Nansemond county and even closer at Basse's Choice, only a few miles down the Pagan Creek. He understands the Indians that he trades with even less. These are not Powhatan Indians. Those were driven from Isle of Wight a generation earlier. He follows the swamp west until it reaches the Blackwater River, turns north on the Nottaway and trades with The Nottaway and Meherrins who speak an Iroquois dialect and were enemies of the Powhatan Empire.
So there he sits. He is poor with no plans to stay that way. He will work hard to get what he wants and will steal and gamble to get what he needs.
His abode is simple--a sleeping rack, more deer skins than cloth, a cooking pot, a root cellar, a loft with a false wall where he hides his gun. The area around his home is littered with oyster and clam shells. Shell fish make up the bulk of his protein consumption. He has a corn crib and a log farrow house to keep bears and wolves from his baby hogs. His brindle plott-bull dog cross that came from the dutch traders is named Mary. He calls her Queen Mary when no one else is around. Her barking is the best hope that the livestock have of surviving the wild cats (cougars) that are still found in the area. Down river some of the gentleman have large plantations, some with over a score of African slaves. Patrick hates slavery but he fears slaves. He does not worry about Indians anymore but were there to be a slave insurrection Queen Mary would not be enough to protect him. He has already planned to ride out fast toward Lawnes town if there was an insurrection but would not use the trade road near his home. He knows a way through the woods that would get him there with out having to get on such a potentially dangerous thorough fare.
We will make him the things that he would have made for himself, wooden spoons, a hide fleshing beam, hide stretching frames, crude baskets, a shallow hand dug well, and whatever else that our research and ingenuity can come up with that would have been historically appropriate for a poor boy living alone on the frontier to have owned.
If you like living history look at this picture of Holland, who was born in the wild on Shackleford Island. His ancestors came to America perhaps as much as 150 years before my ancestors did.
You are part of the generation of Americans that can either preserve these horses or sit by as they go extinct.
Saturday, March 3, 2012
When training we should never cause the simple to become unnecessarily complicated. One of the most important ways to build trust with the horse is to practice forms of affection that the horse understands. The most important is close contact with sufficient strength so that it does not tickle the horse or seem like a signal to move off.
There are three key points to keep in mind: use the palm or a closed hand more than finger tips, keep one's body very close to the horse, preferably touching the horse, and rub firmly but do not pet as you might with a dog.
By allowing your body to completely relax you signal to the horse that he is safe and can completely relax. But too much emphasis on technique can lead to a failure to understand purpose.
The purpose of the contact is not to simulate affection, but to generate affection. In this world the only thing that cannot be faked is sincerity. There is no doubt that the horse will come to feel closer to the person that uses affectionate handling in a manner that the horse can understand. The other side is equally important. The person that allows himself to relax and gently handle the horse will develop sincere affection for the horse. The more one cares for the horse the more time one will spend with him. The more time one spends with him the closer the bond will be between the two.
The closer the bond---period. That's right the, developing the closest bond possible is the goal in itself. Everything else that gets between a horse and a person hampers that goal. Other goals--winning a race, bringing home a blue ribbon, earning the admiration (jealousy) of other horse owners are all hindrances to the only goal that matters for the horse.
Affection is something that the horse is entitled to. It is not something that he earns.
Friday, March 2, 2012
Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Done Lost My Cookie Cutter: Having never once even whiffed, much less breathed deeply, of the chloroform of conformity, I do not reflexively consider the word "diffe...