Friday, December 9, 2016

Thank You For Keeping The Program Growing

In an off hand comment a mustang preservationist mentioned that the handful of people who dedicate themselves to preserving the nearly extinct strains of historic horses that first came to America in the 1500's can be difficult people to work with. She went on to say that these preservationists "impoverish their families" to preserve the horses.

"Impoverish"? that's a hard hitting term. There have been a few people who get into breeding these horses expecting to make money. That is understandable. After all, for the needs of most horse people today, the Colonial Spanish Horse is a superior product. The are large enough for adults, small enough for kids, sweet natured, easy to train, affectionate, smooth gaited,have great hooves,are athletic, easy keepers, and if you care about such things, beautiful.

But money is rarely made by those who dedicate themselves to preserving beauty for future generations.  In fact, it costs a fortune to do so. Saving yesterday's horses for tomorrow's riders is hard on the bank account of today's breeders.

We started out preserving or promoting the Corolla Colonial Spanish Mustang but our efforts have grown to include Choctaws, Shacklefords, Grand Canyons, Galicenos and Marsh Tackys.

We do all of this while teaching children to tame, train and ride wild horses, teach history in a replica 1650's era farm site, complete with historically appropriate livestock, have programs for veterans with PTSD,and at risk young people, provide a site for Ashley Edwards' "Road To Repair" programs both for survivors of sexual assault and to teach professionals how to better communicate with severely traumatized people,bring in speakers on the history of various strains of these horses, maintain the region's best library on natural horsemanship, teach and demonstrate ecologically sound principles of soil conservation and permaculture practices, have occasional living history programs, and teach young people to play and perform ancient songs on American folk musical instruments.

And we do all of this as a 501(c)5 non profit breed conservation organization, with no paid staff and all of the work done by volunteers.

 My wife and I purchased nearly twenty acres of land adjacent to the horse lot for use by the program--primarily as additional pasture land. This has been an expensive and unanticipated development. We have a shallow well at the Little House that provides water for the horses--except during very dry weather. during those times water has to be hauled back to the horses. Some days the watering process would take my father up to four hours to complete. The dry weather would also wreak havoc on our pastures.

We have nearly completed installation of a deep well and water system that will not only provide sufficient water for the livestock, but will also allow us to water the pastures. This will give us lush, beautiful forage for the horses.

And it is expensive.

The fencing and clearing of the new land would be an extraordinary expense. In fact, more of an expense than we could handle. So we are doing it all ourselves. The land was a pasture as recently as 15 years ago. Since that time it has grown up in trees. We are building wooden fencing around the land from the trees that we are removing. All of this work is being done without any heavy equipment--chainsaws, a brush buster, loppers and a lot of kids and adults working very hard. My original plan was to use commercial fence post and woven wire fencing. That would have been fairly easy.

And it would have been expensive.

And our horses eat a lot of hay--10-14,000 pounds a week. When the pasture dies down the demand for hay increases. Our program fees are designed to cover that cost but we have never turned anyone away for inability to pay those fees. In addition to our regular hay bill, we purchase a big bulk load in the spring and the winter.

And it is expensive.

Big expenses, rapidly growing program that is touching a lot of lives--horses and human-- income not growing to keep pace with that growth.

I put out a fund raising appeal and the response has been gratifying. Very gratifying to me, personally. In order to save money on the fencing of the new land I have been working at a frenetic pace dropping trees, cutting poles and making fence posts. Using a chain saw in near darkness is a bit stressful. Luckily, I can dig post holes in the dark.

But is does make you wonder if this is all worth it--well it does for at least a moment. I am fifty six years old and deputy prosecutor for my county. Those things wear on the body and the mind. When you cap off a day in court by working a few hours in the dark at the horse lot, especially as winter approaches, one cannot help but be plagued by a bit of doubt--ok a lot of doubt.

But then days like yesterday occur. Although contributions to a non profit  (c)5 breed conservation program are not tax deducible we received several contributions--the kind of contributions that make you feel that someone out there thinks that all this work is worth it--Contributions that are big enough to make you feel like putting some extra oil on that chainsaw.

If you want to be part of what we are doing take a look at our web site There is a "donate" button at the end of the "Bio" section. It is a touch after five am. Shortly I am heading out to drop more trees before beginning to work. It would be a great thing to come home tonight and find out that you all have nearly worn that "donate" button out.

Go ahead, make my day.

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