Friday, July 15, 2016

A Shift In Emphasis: Changing Our Preservation Program? A Confessioinal

It likely is a character flaw, but I know myself well enough to know so that I have utterly no desire for self improvement. Over seven billion people on this planet--don't like the way I do things then go find somebody else.

So in every endeavor in which I am involved I bring whatever strengths that I might have to the table along with every single weakness. I have a wide range of peculiarities. I have a near fetish about honesty and integrity that goes way beyond the point that others understand. I do not at all mind if others dress nicely, have beautiful hair, and stylish clothes  (not being sarcastic here at all), but for myself I abhor efforts to "improve" my appearance. Wearing dentures to make it look like I have more teeth than the average chicken seems profoundly dishonest to me. I simply cannot do it.

I have never had a new vehicle. I would feel deeply ashamed of myself if I spent that kind of money to impress others. This has nothing to do with frugality. I am not frugal in regard to overall spending. In fact, over the first decade of running our program I lost much more actual cash than our first home cost. I continue to spend a fortune on the program each year.

I only mention these peculiarities because of the impact that they will have on the direction that our program takes. I could never imagine the possibility that I would be involved in a program that would turn a kid away because they cannot afford to participate. (Merely typing that sentence sent a tinge of anger through me.) So that is absolutely out of the question.

But that peculiarity does not hamper our program. What does hamper its development is my discomfort at selling horses at high prices. By "high" I mean more than a working family can afford.

However, part of the tremendous success that those who seek to preserve the Marsh Tackys have had is that they generally charge a pretty high price for them. Americans think that things are worth more if they cost more. The concept of linking sales price to the value of a horse is alien to me.

And that belief hurts our efforts.

And I am going to have to set aside my feelings on the matter and start selling foals for real money. I know that, but I dread it like most people dread a root canal.

To over simplify enormously, I see three viable options for a breed conservation program to preserve the Corollas and some of the other rare strains of Colonial Spanish Horses that we seek to preserve and promote--the cluster method, the viral method, and the shock and awe method.

The cluster method is pure conservation. it requires one to assemble a breeding population, allow them to breed while maintaining them in a safe and appropriate setting. The most successful cluster method of which I know is that which surrounds the Chincoteague pony. I believe that the Chincoteagues are the only population of wild horses whose future is truly secure. They will likely still be on those beaches in 100 years.

But the cluster method requires an enormous tract of land if it is to become anything more than a hoarding disaster waiting to happen. A few years ago I gave serious thought toward a cluster method preservation program. A huge tract of cut over and timber adjacent to my land was for sale. I thought about simply seeking to raise the money to buy the land, create a preserve and allow the horses to live naturally in its enclosure and rounding up foals and yearlings for adoption as a herd management strategy.

The unspoken part of the cluster method option is that it assumes that one day someone will come along and make a major effort to promote and preserve these horses.

I am very uncomfortable with treating the idea of holding on and hoping as a "plan."

The viral method of breed conservation is what we currently practice. We have been successful in a small scale in using that method. Simply put, our effort focuses on creating a unique riding/training/breeding program that can be affordably emulated all over the country. We work to spread off site breeding programs like a virus. We publicize the success of our program in every way that we know how in order to help that virus spread. We create the right conditions for the virus to spread, like low cost and ease of management though natural horse care. We seek to spread the virus to novices and newcomers to the horse world instead of bowing and scraping to the demands of the established horse world.

This method is working, slowly and steadily. It has several drawbacks--the greatest of which is one that cannot be avoided--my death. It is inevitable--might not be for thirty more years, but it will happen, and when it does I will have to be replaced by someone who is willing to make running the program the focus of their life. I work hard to encourage my riders to see the potential of being lifelong horseman by running a program like ours. Several of my big girls could do it--but life has a way of getting in the way. And regardless of their skills they have but little control over their futures.

Perhaps our best hope is to combine the best of what we have with a "Shock and Awe" method of preservation and promotion. That is what I am considering now.

More about that in a future post.

(Want to see how our program is working right now? Look at Lloyd and Burns Red In The Sun, shown in the picture above. He is the first colt born of a Bacca stallion on the east coast.)

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