Monday, November 30, 2015
...as long as one is only competing against one's self. In every life a crisis will come that will be more than one feels that one can handle. It is at those times that one needs to be able to reach way down within themselves and pull out the memory of the accomplishment of a hard sought goal and the lessons learned from it.
Many people will have the experience of having a doctor tell them that the "test results are troubling." Even more will have a boss tell them that their job is being eliminated. An even greater number will face the unexpected death of a loved one. It is confidence, optimism and faith that gets one through those times.
Actual achievement creates confidence. Taking on a challenge that others would consider impossible and succeeding gives a sense of security that on can draw back on twenty five years later. It applies across the board.
When I am faced with a tremendously difficult case I do not get much comfort reminding myself that I have been prosecuting cases for over 15 years. There is very little comfort in reminding myself that I am an experienced prosecutor. There are a lot of experienced lawyers out there
But there is a great deal of comfort when I remind myself that I am an experienced prosecutor who at age 54 rode 109 miles in 17 hours.
And that is why I am so strongly encouraging some of my novice riders to work hard to become a good enough rider, horse handler and athlete to participate in our March Mudness 25 Mile Endurance Race.
To participate in it, and finish it.
And to learn something about yourself that you might need to have around one day.
Four Formerly Wild Stallions
Lydia sits on Edward Teach, captured because of a gaping wound in his neck. I am on Tradewind, captured because he was utterly crippled with founder. Christina is riding Manteo, captured for stifle surgery. And Terry is riding the lead stallion at our place, Wanchese, captured as part of the adoption program for herd management at Shackleford.
Please note how much of the wisdom of the established horse world this picture refutes. A teen age girl riding a stallion! Two riders over 50 riding stallions! One rider with limited experience riding a stallion! Four stallions being ridden together! Four adults riding ponies!
Natural horsemanship trained these horses. Natural hoof care saved one of these horses. Natural horse care--hay and grass, never confined in stables, is what made these horses physically and emotionally healthy.
Could this be done by most horse people? I really want to be an optimist and say, yes. We all have to deal with our past experiences. Some people have had horses all of their lives, expensive horses, well bred horses of every fad breed that has come up in the past 20 years. Horses that can often be ridden, but too often can't be because of their current unsoundness of the moment--Horse who live under the very most unhealthy conditions that money can buy.
If you fall into that category do not despair. It is still possible for you to learn something about horses. You can overcome that crippling background. It takes a great deal of character to walk away from the established horse world and to walk into a world of meaningful horsemanship, but it can be done.
Sunday, November 29, 2015
Croatoan is the subject of Kay Kerr's wonderfully illustrated children's book about the Crolla wild horses and our efforts to preserve them Poncho is shown here a few hours after birth. His grandfather, Croatoan, died last fall at an old age after having a great life. (Croatoan is shown in the pictures above).
There was one more gift from the grave that followed shortly after this birth. The last mare that Croatoan bred, Feather, had a beautiful little filly, Bloody Knife. Her mother shares Croatoan's smooth gait and gentle nature. These foals might hold the key to the prevention of the extinction of these historic horses.
If you would like to become part of this effort and raise Corollas of your own simply email for more information.
Ponchos and Serapes
For night riding and for all day riding when the weather is quickly changing I find no garment to be better suited than a poncho or, for very cold weather, a serape.
Ponchos of heavy horse blanket material shed briers and brambles quite well. As soon as we reach a clearing the poncho flips back over the shoulder to allow for riding in comfort in warmer weather. It works especially well for night riding in the woods for the same reason.
Horses need to be desensitized to the garments flapping in the wind before their use. A long serape flapping wildly in the wind can spook horses who have not been trained to them.
Completely aside from their wonderful function, riding in a poncho keeps one from taking the dangerous step of looking like everyone else. Looking like everyone else, as Moa-tse-Tung understood, leads to thinking like everyone else.
Thinking like everyone else leads to not thinking at all.
The Measure of A Man
I do not mind most of the things about aging that seems to bother other people. I do not care if my hair is brown or gray. It does not bother me that I have only a few more teeth than the average duck. It does not bother me that I cannot run as fast as I once could. Now I simply leave sooner and that works just as well as having run fast to get where ever I am going.
.About four years ago I was picking up a sick colt (he later recovered fine) when my right bicep tore in two. It was a nasty looking affair but the pain was not that serious. In fact, we went ahead with the ride that was scheduled that afternoon. It never hurt badly but it did not heal correctly and is only about 40% as strong as my other arm. I have even gotten used to that.
But tonight the ravages of time hit hard. I had a sink full of live oysters and an empty house with no distractions. I put three large containers, all filled with oysters, in the oven. I planned to knock off the first 130 some oysters while I was cooking some more. I was looking at a three hundred oyster night.
Before I ate my hundredth roast oyster I began to feel full. My kitchen sink is full of oysters. There is nothing holding me back, but I simply am full. There has not been a time since I was a kid that I could not eat even a hundred roast oysters.
Forget the Mayan calendar and the 2012 apocalypse. This is much bigger. If I cannot easily consume even 100 roast oysters, that must surely be a sign of terrible things to come.
This is a picture of my grandson on Wanchese, a Shackleford stallion. If you ever happen to bump into him, please don't tell him that his Granddaddy could not even throw down 100 roast oysters. He is a sensitive child and might not be able to bear the shame.
Zee is a cremello Choctaw mare. She came to us gentle and well halter trained but not yet ready for a saddle. her training was slowed a bit because of a touch of laminitis that has been well treated by trimming, movement, and weight loss.
Chris has been riding with me for a while. He is only 14, though from a distance he looks like a grown man. He is beginning to recognize his talents. He sits a horse beautifully. He plays a wash tub bass with impeccable timing.
And he is starting to recognize that he is becoming a solid horse trainer.
Zee is the first horse that he has ever been in charge of training. She has not been super easy to handle. He has done so with patience and skill. Round pen work, despooking with monsters, giving her affection and the sense of security that a horse feels knowing that they are in the control of a leader--he has done it all with the skill of a much more experienced trainer.
And yesterday he rode her in the round pen and she responded perfectly. Over the Christmas break I want him to have her completely safe to be ridden in the woods and in March I want him to ride her in her first 25 mile race.
If that sounds to you like I am putting pressure on him, you are hearing correctly.
Pressure that is relieved by success--that is one of the the building blocks of moving from being a child into being an adult.
And Chris is on the move.
Thursday, November 26, 2015
I got my first pony when I was two and he was one. The next year I rode him in the local Christmas parade. Four months after my 55th birthday I rode 109 miles in 17 hours. Over the years horse injuries have very rarely caused me to be hospitalized.
During that time I have picked up several safety tips that could keep more of you out of the hospital.
Jumping over increasingly high jumps seems to be great fun for teenagers. Not breaking my ribs is great fun for me. I have found that instead of jumping a fence I can progress equally well if I go through the gate and my chances of keeping all of my ribs connected and inside my body are much better in using the gate option. However, for safety sake, one should always open the gate before going through it.
After getting good at training wild horses I find that some of my riders develop a curiosity about riding bulls. By properly planning one's itinerary one can significantly reduce the chances of injury from bull riding. Simply put, never go any where that is so dangerous that you would even consider riding a bull to have to get out of there.
There seems to be something about reaching the age of 13 that causes kids to want to see just how fast a horse can run. Once again,planning is the solution to this problem. Even in competitive situations I can avoid riding at breakneck speed and yet cross the finish line first if I simply arrive and leave about 20 minutes before anyone else starts. I can then progress at a comfortable lope.
Regarding riding bareback--kids seem to really love that. That much fun should be shared instead of keeping it all to one's self. In fact, it is best to share the experience of riding bareback with one's saddle. Let the saddle be the one who is riding bareback. You can accompany your saddle on its bareback jaunt while siting on it with your feet firmly placed in the stirrups.
Lastly some riders seem to enjoy a romanticized fantasy that they and their horses are equal partners--so much so that the ultimate demonstration of that partnership is to ride a horse with out saddle bridle, reins or tack of any kind while galloping down a beach at top speed.
However, if one truly wants to be equal partners with one's horse one must be willing to treat that horse as a complete, equal partner. The safest way to achieve that equal partnership is to have your lawyer draw up papers making your horse responsible for payment of 50% of the hay bill.
Remember safety first!
Cultural preservationists are my heroes. They do not build cultures but they maintain the mystic sinews of memory that hold together the best of what we are, what we were and what we can become. A.P. Carter, the publishers of Foxfire, Bob Brislawn, and all of the brilliant old people who surround themselves with young people brilliant enough to understand that what they are hearing needs to be preserved for the future--these are my heroes.
Cultural preservationists are among the most selfless members of society. They receive no direct benefit of what they do. There is no money to be made in dedicating one's self to teaching the importance of saving the best of the past for unborn generations. In fact one can loose a great deal of money doing so.
Mozelle Dukes Henry was a cultural preservationist. She was a Choctaw lady from Oklahoma who spent most of her life living in Northern, Virgina. She encouraged the preservation of the horses of her people--the horses that she knew and rode as a child--
the horses that she remembered.
Of course, her support of these horses was just a small part of the life of a lady dedicated to her family and making the world around her a better place. But it was an important part and it was all because she wanted future generations to be able to experience anew her memories.
Our Choctaw horse involvement began when I got Joey from her daughter Monique. It has now grown to the point that we have three stunning Choctaw mares that will be very important parts both of our Corolla breeding program and our Choctaw breeding program.
Though they will not realize twenty years from now when a child mounts up on the descendant of some of our Choctaws they will be riding because of the memories of Mozelle Henry.
And they will be riding in memory of Mozelle Henry
A lot of young people depend on me so I have to make sure that I am getting things straight...and I have to do that while keeping in mind that there is much less value in what I say than in what I do...
And what I do must have meaning if it is going to successfully teach anything that matters. What I do must teach them that..
in a world of selfies one must learn to care more for others than for one's self.
in a world of greed one must learn to give.
in a world of hate one must learn to love.
in a world of anger one must learn to always control one's emotions.
in a world of drunkenness and drug abuse one must learn to stay bone cold sober.
in a world of dank ugliness one must learn to find beauty.
in a world of emptiness one must learn to find meaning.
in a world of now one must learn to understand what was and to have hope for what can be.
in a world of whim and fad one must learn to find timeless truth. and;
in a world of pain one must learn to heal others.
However, nothing makes teaching these lessons easier than working with the horses--especially the wild ones, especially those who have had serious injuries and take months of care to heal, especially those who one must come to understand before one can put a saddle on him and...
especially those horses that treat one better than one really deserves.
Sunday, November 22, 2015
This is a subject of great debate, with little scientific support for any particular age, that is hampered by the belief that waiting is always better. It is one of the topics easiest to find opinions on and hardest to find facts on.
I strongly believe that one of the key variables is the quality of the instruction given to the potential trainer. When a child is properly trained in natural horsemanship they can become first rate colt and wild horse trainers by as early an age nine or ten.
Chris is about fourteen. He is shown here with a cremello Choctaw mare, Zee, that he is training and doing spectacular work with. Yesterday Emily put a tremendous amount of time into working with Mozelle, a beautiful Choctaw mare who is the daughter of Rooster. By the end of the day she was riding her down the drive between the pastures. Emily is about 13. ( I cannot go with precise ages--I teach a lot of kids and it turns out that even if I do remember their specific ages the ages are subject to change annually.)
When properly taught, with a constant eye on building the confidence of the child and teaching the child to keep safety paramount, great results can be achieved by kids. Such results are dependent on the trainer of the little trainers completely rejecting all the teaching of the established horse world that deal with how kids should be taught horsemanship. One can no more pick and choose from the teaching of that world than one could carefully remove small parts of a container of spoiled milk in order to use the good parts.
Like the milk turned rancid, there is nothing untainted in its teachings.
Friday, November 20, 2015
Road To Repair--Teaching Effective Communication With Severely Traumatized People Using An Equine Assited Teaching Model
Marrissa Jacek of WTKR news took this photo when she was out to do a story on Ashley Edwards training programs for professionals who deal with severely traumatized people. To date participants in her training sessions have included prosecutors, detectives, road deputies, victim witness coordinators, and CASA staff.
Her sessions are simple, ground breaking and incredibly powerful. And she is uniquely qualified to teach this topic. She explains to participants the difference between the body language used by predatory animals and that used by prey animals. She demonstrates how the horse responds to each type of body language and then has participants come in and work the horse so they can see for themselves how high the wall is that is created when one uses our natural predatory stances, gestures and movements in seeking to communicate with the horse. They also learn how much easier it is to communicate with the horse when one uses the stances, gestures, and movements of prey animals instead of those that we instinctively use as adult human predators.
And then she moves on to the crux of the issue. As small children we were not predators and it is only as we mature that predatory body language becomes the norm for us. Young children respond best to the body language of prey animals.
And so do those who suffer through extreme trauma.
Simply put, predators seek autonomy as one of their highest goals. Prey animals seek security as their highest goal.
One who has been severely traumatized craves the sense of being secure that so often completely eludes them. They find it easier to feel secure when one uses the body language of a horse instead of our natural body language of the wolf, bear, lion,and every other warm blooded predator on this planet.
She is uniquely qualified to teach professionals these techniques. I met Ashley when she was seventeen years old. I have been prosecuting sexual assault and molestation cases for over fifteen years and I have never encountered a person who lived through worse abuse than did Ashley.
And she lived through those years of abuse while maintaining a 4.2 GPA.
And for all of those years the system had failed her. Time after time various professionals had been called in but in every case they failed to communicate in a manner that made it possible for Ashley to feel secure enough to answer their questions.
Brutally abused, articulate and brilliant. Her insight into human communication and its implications exceed that of anything that I have ever read. That is not a coincidence. Her very survival depended on her ability to instantly read and interpret the motives of everyone with whom she dealt.
The links above are to a great newspaper article about her and a wonderfully done clip from WTKR news.
One day what she teaches will become so mainstream that students in police academies will be shocked to learn that there as a time that cops did not know these communication techniques.
That day can't come soon enough.
Thursday, November 19, 2015
Kay Kerr is loading up to leave for the Equus Film Festival in New York City this weekend. She has been invited to come up to sign copies of her wonderful new children's book about Croatoan. It is the best illustrated Children's horse book that I have ever seen.
Kay has long been dedicated to the preservation of the wild horses of Corolla and to the goals of our program. Her daughter has been riding with me longer than any one else in the program.
Her work for these horse's is bringing them to an audience that would never know that they existed. She will have a great time this weekend and so will all of the film festival attendees she meets
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
This is a picture that was taken at the beginning of one of my most memorable rides. That is Monique on Joey, and her mother Mozelle Henry on Porter, a Corolla. It is this family that brought Choctaw horses into our family and we hope to bring them to many more families.
In the morning I am going to Chase City to pick up two Choctaw mares.
No, the Circle is not broken, bye and bye Lord bye and bye.
Sunday, November 8, 2015
Rebecca took this picture as we went in for the vet check at the end of our first endurance race, The Mustang Memorial Race near Trenton, New Jersey. We competed in the 30 mile race. I am confused as to how many contestants were in that race--somewhere between 35 and 39, I think. I rode Joey, a Choctaw. Jen rode Holland,a Shackleford. Lydia was on Manny, a Choctaw, Rebecca was on her horse Crazy Bear blm/ssma cross and Terry also rode a Choctaw, Twister. Terry was the only one of us who had ever seen an endurance race before.
As the trailers unloaded our horses drew a lot of attention. They stood out in the mostly Arabian crowd. As Holland was lead in there were several comments of "What a cute little pony!", most sincere, some condescending. (Holland is about 13 hands). The main reaction was a look of puzzlement--"What is he doing here?" seemed to be the unspoken thought on every face as we passed.
The Choctaws drew a lot of attention. They are as tall as the smallest Arabians. Our western saddles, boots and jeans drew lot of attention.
My attention was only on one thing--keeping the girls relaxed and ready to ride. Manny still gives an occasional buck. Twister will give a little bolt now and then. Crazy Bear had no experience around other horses. I did not want any of my riders to have problems. I intended to start our group at the back of the pack. Did not work out that way-we were near the front and Joey set out to over take the other horses right away.
Within 100 yards our horses were spinning in disarray. Joy wanted to run hard, as did Holland. but the other two were simply confused. We settled down. I let nearly all of the other horses pass us and we went very lowly for the first 3/4 of a mile.
And then each horse remembered who he was and we continued to pass horse after horse for the next fifteen miles. The first vet check was at the 18 mile mark. Only one horse reached that point before us. Holland does not like veterinarians. Taking his pulse is not easy. If he ran the vet off, he would be disqualified.
We spent a great deal of time getting him calm enough to let the stethoscope touch him. We also did not rush to cool horses off and get them to the vet check. Only later did I understand how much time it had cost us. Had I put more emphasis on pouring water over the horses we would have gained nearly 1/2 an hour.
When we set out for the last leg every horse was relaxed and we moved on through the constant heavy sand of the New Jersey pine forest. After about seven very fast miles, with Holland and Crazy Bear cantering hard at the front, Twister began to fade a bit and crossed the finish line after the other four of us.
This time Holland stood fine for the final vet check. We were given our official times. An hour later horses who finished in the top ten were invited out for additional vet checks in order to compete in over all conditioning.
The results were in. Jen had shown everyone why the cute little pony was there by coming in 7th. Lydia and Rebeca came in 8th and 9th and I came in 10th.
In the conditioning competition Lydia and Manny took third place. Rebecca and Crazy Bear took fifth and Joey and I took 6th. (Joey was probably carrying more weight on his back than any horse there--the scales showed over 260 total weight).
The race organizers were friendly and very helpful. They could not have been less like the establishment of the horse show world--first rate people.
Bottom line--in our first race we won four of the top ten positions in speed and three of the top ten positions in Best Conditioned.
While at the same time retaining 100% of our cute ponyness.
(I learned a lot from this and much deeper analysis will come in future posts)
Spearheading the off site breeding program for the Corollas is quite a responsibility. We owe the highest duty not only to the strain, but to the individual horses. If a horse must be removed from the wild everything possible must be done to insure that that horse has a great quality of life. That means that we must work to insure that it has the opportunity to live as natural of a life as possible as a domestic horse. It is a shame for any horse to live a life of stables, shoes and sugar, but it is particularly sad to see a once wild mustang consigned to such an existence.
We have to consider the quality of life of every stallion that has to be removed from the wild. We have to consider whether he can be properly managed and cared for as a stallion by a potential owner. If not we have only one ethical choice, to seek an owner with the necessary skills to manage a stallion safely so that he can remain in the breeding program.
The best hope that we have for the program is that, with proper motivation and instruction, these skills can be learned.
On Saturday the little rider depicted above had her first 25 mile ride. She rode the first 15 miles on Manteo, a Corolla stallion, and the last 10 miles on Trade Wind, another Corolla stallion.
She is only 7 years old. Manteo and Tradewind each represent hope for the Corollas. So does their little seven year old rider.
Thursday, November 5, 2015
My life is changing--radically. Tuesday our team of Sheriff and Commonwealth Attorney (called district or state's attorney in many other states) were returned to office by landslides. Aside from meaning that I am still employed, the end of a campaign brings relief that only those who have been through one can understand. Jen and Elise are moved into the Little House and I will no longer spend hours each day feeding, watering, checking fence etc. Rebecca is back in Virginia and will be as important to our operation as she was years ago.
It is highly likely that the horse lot, as participation continues to grow, will be much less of a financial drain on me than it has been in years past. I have a team of adults that I can absolutely rely on.
We now have, without a doubt, a sufficient number of pure Colonial Spanish horses to be a viable foundation stock for a robust Corolla offsite breeding program. The settler's farm is nearly completed. Our Mill Swamp indian Horses group facebook page is booming.
And, to my intense surprise, I am going to New jersey in the morning and I do not have a deep sense of dread and foreboding. Aside from the fact that I have a visceral hatred of travel, I have never been able to relax that far away from the horse lot--never could be sure that they were all ok.
And I am going to New Jersey with a very special purpose. I am going to be in my first endurance race. I won't be alone. We are carrying two Choctaws, a Banker from Shackleford, and a blm/ssma cross. We will stand out in the crowd--both because we are riding mustangs and because we will not be loaded up with endurance racing accouterments--ponchos, boots, our regular saddles and we shall see how things go.
And we are going to push the limits on every aspect of our program. I will write much more--likely another book.
I will be free to dedicate the rest of my life to something that matters to me, encouraging the development of more programs like ours all over the country. That will mean more clinics, more writing, more videos....and more hate mail from denizens of the established horse world.
(I hope that they go easy on me. After all, I am such a delicate and sensitive little thing.)