Thursday, November 23, 2017

Living History at Mill Swamp Indian Horses: Here is Your Chance To Help Out

Education and entertainment can and should happen at the same time. All the way through college and law school I worked at Jamestown. I was "in costume" for those teaching performances. Perhaps that is why I am so drawn to the power of living history presentations. The other reason is that all of my life history has been living all around me. I walk and ride where John Smith walked in 1608, near where Benedict Arnold and Bannister Tarleton rode during the Revolution, and in the county beside where Nat Turner killed and died, in what I believe to be one of the most important events leading up to the Civil War.

Every year on November 22 around lunch time I get a general feeling of unease as my mind wonders back to what I watched on television at the Little House in 1963. Last Sunday I visited Malvern Hill. On July 1, 1862 in a period of only four hours over 8,000 men were casualties in a wide open field of only a few hundred acres. Hard to describe how that made me feel. I was glad to leave that field but I could not help but keep thinking of the thousands of men who wanted to lave that field much more than I did, but never had that chance.

Our 1650's era replicated farm, our colonial livestock, and the sense of history that permeates the air of Tidewater Virginia create the perfect stage for Living history presentations. I would love to add a drama component to our program. We could do sessions on research to develop a historical character, costuming, acting, and writing along with hosting regular performances.

Herein lies both the opportunity and the problem. We have no paid staff. We are all volunteers. Everything that we do,from our riding program, our breeding program, our livestock husbandry, our music program, our PTSD program, our natural horsemanship program and our permaculture program is conducted by skilled and dedicate volunteers.

I need an additional set of skilled and dedicated volunteers in the Tidewater area to develop a living history program that will be able to host regular performances during the summer and fall and to teach the skills set out above to participants, particularly young participants.

So, Contact me now, at , if you would like to help develop this program. Don't put off contacting me until after the holidays. Things that get put off often never come to fruition. Are you active in Little Theater, children's drama, historic reenactment? Contact me now to help us develop one more incredible program.

I want to have a solid program plan in place by February 1, 2018


There is a serious problem with way to many equine discussion pages. The saddest part about it is that horses and the established horse world attract many people who want the power of being arbiters and rule makers/rule enforcers. The ultimate irony is that dedicated practice of natural horsemanship and, specifically, spending many hours in the round pen with wild horses, or unstarted colts, absolutely erase the desire to control the behavior and thoughts of other people.

Building a meaningful relationship with a horse is a liberating experience. It can never be based on accepting a mindless set of rules and the edicts of the loudest, shrillest voices.

Listen to the softer voices of Brannamen, Dorrence, Rashid, and the few other writers like them who understand horses, people and pain. People often speak of the spiritual aspect of horsemanship. I have always had difficulty with that discussion because the term "spiritual" is used so broadly that it is hard to give it any meaningful definition. With that said, I believe that a solid relationship with a horse leads to a deeper understanding of what the author of the Letter of James referred to as a pure religion.

It requires one to give the horse unconditional love. It teaches the concept of service to the horse and to others. It teaches the respect of each horse without regard to its price or lineage. It teaches one to be humble. It teaches that the purpose of acquiring power is to allow one to serve more people, not to control more people.

It teaches one to shut up and listen.

For one who wants to be a better horse person, and a better person--stay away from the negativism of the establishd horse world--read Brannaman, Dorrrence, Rashid--and the Letter of James.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Microbes, Vermiculture, and Old Hay Experiment

We are doing an experiment in our Homeschool program to test some applications for natural pasture enhancement. We use no commercial fertilizer or herbicides. I am learning more every day about compost, permaculture, and regenerative agriculture. I am particularly pleased with what I have learned through online classes with Simple Soil Solutions.

I was always puzzled at the waste layers that built up under round bales. They stayed very moist, were composed of layers of old hay and horse manure. To my very uneducated mind they appeared to be the perfect self creating compost pile. Except that it took forever for them to break down and often after they did they left beautiful, rich looking black soil upon which nothing grew for a couple of years and when it did grow the resulting vegetation looked no stronger than grass grown several feet away from the old piles.

I now understand the effects of compaction and lack of oxygen in those piles. We have a rather large vermiculture operation in which we add only coffee grounds, weed stems, horse manure and the occasional bit of old hay. We keep it in an old hot tub that we buried to ground level. It rarely has any problem with freezing. A year ago I set out 1000 red wigglers in the container. They have been fruitful and multiplied.

About four times a year we add around 500 pounds of manure from the pasture to the container.

I began to experiment with spreading the old layers of hay waste out in the pasture. As soon as some air could get to old hay that I was spreading it broke down super fast and grass took off. However, it is very hard work to rake and pitch fork these areas out. On the new land we had a build up of waste hay that was only a few months old. We used a post hole digger and laid out of grid of twelve postholes about a foot deep. We added compost from the vermicompost system. It was loaded with beneficial microbes. To my surprise the muddy area began to dry up rather quickly and the waste hay began to disappear.

In the pictures above we are doing an experiment. Audrey's pictures show two of these compacted waste hay areas. In one we use post hole diggers and covered the vermicompost in the holes that we set out in the waste area. (The waste areas had broken down so little in their extreme compaction that we found layers of horse manure that were still completely intact even though it had been buried for at least several months.) In the other we used an equal amount of Vermicompost and simply applied to to the surface of that waste pile.

Of course we hope that simply top dressing with our active vermicompost is going to provide results as good as injecting it under ground does. Would have been better to have done this experiment in the summer but we shoud still get results.

It would be a nice benefit to the horse owner with few horses and small acreage to simply drop a few ounces of active vermicompost on dry manure piles and have them break down in place

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Pastures, Trails, and Replicated Farm Site Of Milll Swamp Indian Horses

The farm belonged to my grand father's grand father. It is a Virginia Century Farm, meaning that it has been in our family for over 100 years. Our first white ancestors owned land about seven miles from here around 1650. Since that time I have had family living within a ten mile radius of the horse lot.

The Little House is on Moonlight Road. It is the house that my mother was born in. Beth and I purchased it about ten years ago. The land that it stands on was then added to the long strip of land that ran from the highway to just across an old abandoned railroad bed. The addition of the app. four acres of land that went with the Little House was then added to the app, 38 acres of open land and woods that my mother gave to me before she died.

A year ago Beth and I purchased the nearly 20 acres adjacent to these two strips of land. We purchased it for the use of our program. That is the part of the picture above that bulges out on the left side of the picture.

Around 2001 Daddy and I fenced in eight acres and built a shelter to conform to the standards required by the Bureau of Land Management in order to adopt a pair of mustangs. We built our first round pen. The other half of the open land was planted in oats and we grew oat hay which was bound in small square bales. The farmer who baled the hay got half of the bales, leaving me with over three hundred bales. I could not imagine how long it would take for the horses to eat such a vast amount of hay. (Now that supply would last us less than a month!)

As we got more horses and I started having riding students we fenced in more land and stopped growing our own hay. Soon the pastures were divided into several big pens. using about 1.2 miles of wire. All of the post holes were dug by hand primarily by Daddy and I with occasional help from my brothers. It would take Lido too long to describe which pen he was referring to so he numbered the pens 1-5 and designated each with a number.

While sitting in my wife's family's home and thinking about replica historical farm sites across the nation it occurred to me that our Colonial Spanish Horses of the Southeast could best be understood in their historical perspective if placed in a setting that served as a picture frame around them. I began thinking about building a replicated farm to symbolize the time frame that the Corollas and Shacklefords represented. It was expensive but Beth and I had such a farm site built. First the Smokehouse, then the settlers one room home, Corn Crib and Tobacco barn. We added in Colonial livestock over the years--Spanish goats, Dominique chickens, and now Ossabaw hogs. We developed a limited living history program.

All the while our riding program was growing by leaps and bounds. Other programs were added. For a few years Kay Kerr ran a wonderful art program teaching little riders to paint.Their paintings were sold at the Corolla Wild Horse Fund's museum to benefit the Fund. Linda Hurst wrote two children's books about one of our horses, "Red Feather." Kay Kerr's great book "Sand Horse Beach:Croatoan's Memoirs" was named bet "Illustrated Children's Book" at the Equus Film Festival and tomorrow her film based on the book will have its debut at the Equus Film Festival in New York. At the annual meeting of the Livestock Breeds Conservancy I saw the debut of Krista Rutherford's great documentary "America's Forgotten Horses", which focused on efforts to preserve the Colonial Spanish Horse.

Kay has impacted our program in other ways. She developed our veteran's program. Every week those who are in the in patient treatment program for PTSD at the Hampton VA hospital come out and work horses in the round pen. Ashley Edwards turned my mind more to using these nearly extinct horses to help nearly destroyed humans than it had been before. (There is a search feature to this blog--if you do not know all about Ashley search her name in that little search box and read the posts about her. You will be glad that you did)Our website has a great list of links to tv and newspaper stories about our program--

Richard Blaney donated Nimo, a Galiceno, to our program. Vickie Ives of Karma Farms sent some of the Grand Canyon line here through Scoundrel and Queen Jane along with our colonial Spanish goats of the Syfan strain. Monique Henry asked us to accept our first two Choctaws, Manny and Joey, who are mainstays of our program. And my very special little mare, Janie, came all the way up from Texas from Lothlarien Farms. We purchased several Marsh Tackys. Pam Yahn gave us our first ossabaw hogs. Wendy Dean gave us two Baylis Spanish Goats.

I am quite certain that I have failed to mention the accomplishments of many of our riders, the awards that they have won, the honors that our program has received, and the tremendous amount of work that volunteers have put into our program. I did so on purpose. Were I to list the physical and financial contributions that volunteers and supporters have put into this program the post wold go on for many pages.

And we have no paid staff. And we have never turned anyone away for lack of ability to pay program fees.

The most important contribution that I have made to our program is that I have constantly stuck to one principle --one two word goal--More and Better. We do not get the hate mail that we once did. Early on we did and much of it was vicious. I understood that More and Better would require us to utterly ignore the pronouncements of the established horse world, to do absolutely nothing to compromise our program's values and our horse's health by moving away from natural horse care, natural hoof care and natural horsemanship. I understood that More and Better would require us to push on past well meaning advisors who said that we should just focus on riding and not spread ourselves too thin. I understood that More and Better meant that we would best serve the horses and people by working to become a cultural and educational institution instead of becoming a riding barn. Most importantly, I understood that More and Better required us to absolutely ignore appearances and put 100% of our focus on reality. I understood that we could attract Ellie Mae or Mrs. Drysdale, but not both of them. In a note urging me to "quit breeding worthless crap with no market value" I was further informed that the "entire horse world" was laughing at what we were doing. The note went on to suggest some steps that I could take to learn the error of my ways and how to conform to the expectations of that horse world.

I declined to do so.

The major contribution that I have made to the development of our program is not what I have done. It is what I have refused to do. For nearly two decades we have rejected the siren song that bid us to become just another place for little rich white girls to play with ponies.

Which brings us to where we are today.

That red line is a trial that rims the land that Beth and I own. It is 1.82 miles. It is not completed. I have several more links to cut into this trail. Though I always am leery of citing the contributions of any adults in our program for fear of creating the appearance of slighting the contributions of others, this trail would not be possible but for the hard work that Wendell put into developing it, using the brush buster that he purchased himself for this purpose.

And last Friday members of the Livestock Breed Conservancy got a chance to see how we do things. I think it fair to say that they all left feeling better for the experience.

The sun will be up in an hour. I am going to go fire up my chain saw and work on clearing more of the new land. Kids in the home school program will be arriving in about three hours. We need to separate Matchcoor from his mother so that he and Swimmer can be taken to a farm a few hours north of here to create yet another Corolla offsite breeding program. We have nearly 10,000 pounds of hay in round bales to roll out to help microbe development in our pastures (Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that we practice and teach permaculture practices for soil and water conservation)

And I think that Sally will be having an incredibly well bred Colonial Spanish foal in February. And we will be adding a Colonial era heifer to our program in short order.

Tonight some of us will be playing music at a local church.

More and Better

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Conserving Rural America--Antique Animals

The Livestock Breeds Conservancy's annual meeting in Williamsburg is wrapping up today. Yesterday I had a great time learning about poultry health,  black soldier flies and seeing the debut of Krista Rutherford's informative film on mustang conservation, "America's Forgotten Horse."

Friday we hosted a day long series of clinics and demos that featured our non traditional efforts to expose more people to nearly extinct strains of Colonial
Spanish Horses.  "Education, Entertainment, and Public Service to Promote Heritage Livestock"  focused on our programs progression from being a place to learn to ride to being an educational, cultural institution that teaches natural horsemanship, history,  livestock breed conservation, regenerative agriculture, biological farming, equine based therapeutic and personal growth programs, music, and animal husbandry.

We raise yesterday's horse's for tomorrow's riders. And we use yesterday's horses to shape tomorrow's teachers, tomorrow's healer's, tomorrow's parents, tomorrow's community leaders,

We do not live in the past. We do not worship inflated ideas of  uniformly heroic and virtuous ancestors. We recognize their horrible flaws for what they were.

And without missing a beat we work hard to take everything that was good and beautiful from our past and apply it to today's world.

And one of the best and most beautiful things from our past are the nearly extinct Colonial Spanish Horses, particularly the Bankers, Marsh Tackys and Choctaws. And our horse lot is a  living museum. And our pastures are laboratories. And our trails are classrooms. And our tack shed porch is a music conservatory. And our round pen is a place of healing.

....and our animals are antiques.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Carbon, Compost, and Very Clean Hands

Only those of you who have raised hogs are going to understand the incredible significance of what I am about to write. However, the simple fact is my hands do not stink.

As I put the finishing touches on the horse lot for today's day of clinics and demonstrations for the Livestock Breed Conservancy I spent a great deal of time in the pens of our Ossabaw hogs. I moved some of the hogs from one pen to another and moved several pieces of heavy wood inside the pens. It has been raining for the last several days. I found myself smeared with mud and wet hog manure.

When got home I washed my hands and thought about how futile it was to do so. I come from many generations of hog farmers. As a child and as a teenager I raised hogs of my own. I know how hog manure seems to seep deeply into the pores of your hands leaving an aroma that last a day or two even when hand washing with soap is followed up with a rinse in rubbing alcohol.

And I did not even scrub my hands particularly well. In fact, I am typing with some finger nails that are visibly dirty.

And my hands do not stink.

We tear up cardboard into fairly small pieces and add it to the pens every week. We put moldy round bales not fit for horse consumption into the pens. We also put a lot of scraps of untreated umber in the pens. Makes for a very messy looking pen until we have a few days of rain. When the pens get muddy the cardboard starts to break down fast and the wood chunks work their way down into the soil.

The infusion of carbon into the mixture eradicates the otherwise strong odors of hog production. It also creates super compost that becomes ever more useful after spending a few months in our large vermiculture container.

The end result is a more diverse microbe collection than would be found in vermicompost using only horse manure....

And, my hands stay very clean.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Perhaps The Most Important Day Yet For Our Program

Below you will find parts of a flyer concerning tomorrow's (Nov 10) day of programming for the annual meeting of the Livestock Breeds Conservancy. We have a very different model both for attracting novices to riding a horse ownership and for exposing rare, heritage breeds of livestock to the public. We do not seek to convince the established horse world to accept Colonial Spanish horses as being worth preserving. We do not seek their approval. That approach as been tried for many years with limited success. They were invited to the banquet but did not come. We have piped but they did not dance.

Our focus is on attracting those who have never owned horses and may have never even ridden a horse. We do so by administering a wide range of programs to draw people out to see the horses. The day will focus exactly how we do that.

(Registration for tomorrow's event is now closed)

friday Full-Day Pre-Conference Clinic - Friday Nov 10

Using Entertainment, Education,
and Public Service to Promote Heritage Horses
Steve Edwards at Mill Swamp Indian Horses

Come join Steve Edwards and learn all about Colonial Spanish horses! (and Ossabaw hogs, and San Clemente goats)

No experience needed. Steve feels that hands-on training is the best way to learn, so come prepared for a busy day!

Approximate Program Schedule:

9:00 am: Tour of the farm with information on Ossabaw hogs, San Clemente goats, strains of Colonial Spanish horses

10:00 am: Introduction to Colonial Spanish horses, types, and their conservation

11:00 am: Information and demonstrations on

Use of permaculture in farming
How to draw young people onto the farm
Infrastructure requirements (like liability insurance)
Working with veterans, schoolteachers, and police officers

12:00 pm: lunch (included)

1:00 pm: How to use your farm for entertainment
(living history, kids and music - performance included!)

3:00 pm Questions, discussion time

Speaker: Steve Edwards
Steve Edwards is executive director of Gwaltney Frontier Farm, Inc , a non profit breed conservation program that raises mustangs, including the rare and endangered Corolla Spanish Mustangs. Steve teaches natural horsemanship, has written several articles on natural horsemanship and published his first book, “And A Little Child Shall Lead Them: Learning From Wild Horses and Little Children.” He has received the Keeper of the Flame Award from the American Indian Horse Association, the Carol Stone Ambassador Award from the Horse of the Americas Registry and the Currituck Star Award for his Corolla horse conservation efforts.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Round Pen's Most Important Lesson

We practice natural horsemanship not merely because it creates better horses, but because it creates better people. In order to become a better person one must recognize the most important change that the round pen can make in a person.

Properly conducted natural horsemanship will lead one to absolutely loose all desire to control the behavior of other people. Natural horsemanship allows one to understand that lasting power comes from leadership that does not seek that power. One learns that control is not power.

The older I get the more I pity those who love policy, procedure, rules, order, and straight lines. I recognize each of those things for what they are--tools of coercive control that assure the unhappiness both of those who are controlled and those who seek to control others.

"Just as I would be not a slave, neither would I be a slave owner."--Abraham Lincoln

That does not mean that we teach anarchy. The round pen teaches one that leadership is best demonstrated from the front, not the rear. There is a reason that it is not called "pushership." The round pen teaches one to encourage, support, and inspire others.

The round pen gives one the confidence to teach others to be confident.

And it does so in the simplest of ways. Force does not work in the round pen. The simple reality is that the 200 pound man can only "control" 800 pound horse by letting the horse know that it is safe in his presence.

When it is all said and done the only control that truly creates power is self control. The only confidence that is contagious is self confidence.

Selfishness creates the illusion of power. Selflessness shatters that illusion.

The round pen can a place of spiritual awakening. The round pen, and all of natural horsemanship,is nothing but a teaching ground for unconditional love.

Ad if you are not taking advantage o everything that the round pen has to offer, you are letting your horse down. You are letting yourself down.

And you are letting every person in our life down.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

To Raise Emotionaly Healthy Horses

It is easy to understand that a horse does not have he same nutritional needs as a person. It is equally important to understand that a horse does not have the same emotional needs as a person. As a prey animal a horse's emotional needs are all focused on one goal--a strong sense of security.

To have that sense of security a herd animal requires several things that are not obvious to humans. For example, they evolved to need movement. Safety and security only exists for a horse who knows that he can escape potential danger. That is why being shut up in a stable creates, at best, constant low level stress and, at worst, the development of stereotypical behaviors that are often labeled as "vices"--e.g. weaving, pacing, cribbing, etc.

They evolved to be able to closely read and interpret the behaviors and emotions other herd members. They are always on the look out for signals, no matter how subtle, from other herd members, that tell them if they are safe or in a potentially dangerous spot.

A horse's ability to detect sound and scent dwarf those of humans. A horse's ability to detect stress in those around them also dwarf those of humans.

One of the worst things that some otherwise well meaning horse owners do to their horses is to project their own hypochondria onto the horse. The obsession with the belief that the horse is constantly in need of medical attention and, therefore, is in a state of constant suffering can fill an emotional void for the person. It can fill in their need to be needed. For some owners it papers over their fear of riding by giving them an excuse to avoid mounting up. They can always cite some health problem that the horse has as being the reason that he needs to be rested. Just as alcoholics often find themselves sitting around drinking with other alcoholics and readily agreeing with each other that neither has a problem, these horse owners can find support from other such horse owners who also feel that they alone are the only ones giving proper care for their horses. Instead of recognizing the problem they reinforce it in others.

But the horse does not receive the care that it needs. It does not get the feeling of security that it feels in the presence of a confident,secure leader. Instead, it finds itself constantly exposed to a nervous, fretting human who exudes insecurity and stress. The horse reads and internalizes those signals.

The horrible irony is that there are few relationships that can create more feelings of peace, security, and confidence for a person than to have an emotionally healthy relationship with a horse. That relationship does not develop when one views one's relationship with a horse as a constant effort to heal nonexistent health problems and to keep it safe from nonexistent threats.

The good news is that the horse can serve as a great diagnostician. If your relationship with an otherwise healthy horse is as set out above, you need healing.

Work hard to build a relationship with our horse that is based on the horse's actual needs, instead of the hypochondria that you project on to the horse and you will quickly see how much healthier you and your horse have become.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Heart Under All Of That Hair

He is beautiful, but I climbed out of Plato's cave way too long ago to care about appearances. Can he go forever? Will he go where I ask him to? Will he get me there with with minimal pain on my part and none at all on his?

Will he be glad to see me when I walk by?

Scoundrel is a very high percentage Grand Canyon stallion and is the son of Rowdy Yates.

What am I looking for in a breeding stallion? See paragraphs 1 and 2 above.

I cannot stand to do anything what so ever for the sake of appearances. I read his week about a man who spent $800,00.00 buying clothes. I bet that he thought appearances were of vital importance.

The man who wears a $5,000.00 tailored suit will still be the same man if he is wearing an orange jumpsuit.

But I do not hold beauty against a horse any more than I hold a horse, or a person, in misplaced esteem because of appearance.

So what color horse is my favorite? So which strain of Colonial Spanish horse is my favorite? So what bloodlines are my favorite?

See paragraphs one and two above.

If one finds it too hard to look at a horse's merits the established horse world will happily explain to you what is wrong with your horse and how to best ignore reality and stick with what really matters--owning horse that other adherents to the edicts of the established horse world
have determined to be appropriately beautiful.

And like the prisoners who are chained the cave of Plato's great parable, maybe every now and then you will get to see the reflection of a rider on a horse that can go forever,that goes where his rider asked him to,that will get that rider there with minimal pain to the rider and none at all too the horse.

Might even get to see a horse who is glad to see his owner approach.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

"So They Won't Have To Lie At Your Funeral"

Nearly thirty years ago was the first time that I was ever asked to speak at a high school graduation. I was young then and, at times, prepared my remarks ahead of time, a practice long since abandoned. Quite frankly, if I cannot just stand up and speak off of the top of my head coherently for half an hour or so on a topic then it is likely a topic that I do not know enough about to be speaking on in the first place.

The theme of that commencement address was that one should seek to live one's life in a manner that does not require one's eulogist to lie at the funeral. Simply put, I urged the students to seek to live a life that will leave a tremendous void at one's death--to live a life with meaning.

Our program provides that opportunity. It is natural for one to think of what we do in terms of preserving horses and other livestock. For those on the out side it might not be as easy to see something more important that our program provides--the opportunity to make the lives of other people better.

The opportunity to purchase a brush buster and work tirelessly for hours on end to clear land and create riding trails--the opportunity for an adolescent boy to provide support and encouragement to an older child who has a degree of disability--the opportunity for first rate young women to be role models for little girls--the opportunity to learn from those who know and to teach those who want,and need, to learn...

the opportunity to light a candle.

Monday, October 23, 2017

There Is Something Very Special About Choctaws

We work hard to preserve and promote the Banker strain of Colonial Spanish Horses and they are, without a doubt,spectacular horses, but there is something very special about the Choctaw strain of these horses.

One could begin with their athleticism and were I thirty years younger that would be where my inquiry would. Simply put,they can run forever and that is all many young people need to have in a horse. Were I thirty years younger perhaps I would be taken by their simple natural beauty. The beauty of their pinto patterns are only rivaled in the horse world by the Chincoteagues. Were I thirty years younger, with small children learning to ride, I would be taken by their sweet natures and near perfect temperament.

But I am not thirty years younger. I am becoming old and speed and beauty are of much less significance than they once were. It is the beauty that cannot be seen that draws me to a particular horse.

Joey exemplifies that beauty more than any horse that I have ever had. He shows that beauty to those who need to see it most. I have never seen a horse that reaches out to people who are suffering the way that he does. No horse makes the connection with veterans in the PTSD program the way that he does. It is a beautiful thing to watch.

Seeing Joey in the ring with a child who has suffered severe abuse and trauma is something that I cannot describe, nor will I even try.

He soothes. Imagine seeing that term in a horse advertisement--"Healing prospect--beautiful soother!"

And if you don't know us do not read this with the false idea that I am some kind of touchy-feely, anthropomorphizing sissy. Take a look at Joey below. He has way too much dignity to be hauling someone like that through the mud, water, briars, and heavy, heavy mileage.

On Not Being Alone: Ties That Bind Our Program Together

A place to learn to ride---that description fits our program about as well as describing a Baptismal Font as being a place to hold water. Learning to build relationships with horses strengthens our ability to create relationships with people.

It is not the horses that make our program so powerful. It is the people that do so. By and large our horse lot is not a place where a lot of spectacular people chose to come together. It is a place where a lot of people come together and then become spectacular. It is a place where pain lessens, knowledge grows, strength increases...and loneliness begins to come to an end.

The Harvard study on human happiness looked at many variables. Its findings have been clear and consistent. If you want to understand why so many lives are changed with a herd of shaggy horses, a bumpy path, a flock of free ranging goats, a collection of old songs and young musicians, a confused turkey, an old hot tub filled with compost and red wigglers, where children play in the dirt, where young adults play in the dirt, and where old men get tremendous satisfaction from creating new dirt, new soil and new life--then you should look at this study.

Here is a link to a great informal summary of its meaning:

Thursday, October 5, 2017

October Intro To Natural Horsemanship Sessions

At Mill Swamp Indian Horses, 9299 Moonlight Road, Smithfield, Va 23430, on three successive Saturday afternoons, Oct 14,21 and 28, from three to five pm we will once again host our fall series of Intro to Natural Horsemanship classes. The sessions teach participants how to understand the horse's mind and how to humanely build close relationships with your horse. The sessions demonstrate how we gently and humanely tame and train wild horses and how we start colts.

Participants will have an opportunity to meet some of the rarest strains of historic American horses still in existence along with examples of heritage breed goats,hogs, and poultry Whether you are a complete novice or a life long horseperson, these sessions the sessions will improve your confidence with horses and take your horsemanship to a new level.

There is no charge for the sessions. However, participation is limited. Participants will need to bring a lawn chair. To register contact me at .

See our website at to learn about our unique program

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Horses, History, Education, Permaculture, Conservation..and Music

The time has long since past when our program was simply a place to learn to ride. We teach and practice natural horsemanship,riding,rare and historic livestock conservation, history,soil and water conservation, natural hoof care, natural horse care,public service, permaculture, and music.

We are a non-profit breed conservation program with no paid staff. We are all volunteers. Our program has become a cultural and educational institution. And every aspect of our program serves our central focus of preserving and promoting nearly extinct strains of Colonial Spanish Horses. Each aspect of our program serves to attract more people out to the horses lot to learn about these horses.

On Monday nights many program participants get together to learn ancient songs, often on ancient instruments.

The thread that ties our program together is that every aspect reaches back to bring some of the best aspects of the past to the present.

And that is what we are doing with our horses.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Simple Soil Solutions: No It Is Not a Typo

I want to keep our hay bills down. I want healthy horses with strong backs and necks. I want our soil rich and vibrant. I want resilient, highly productive pastures.

Of course, that means that I will be soil testing, putting down appropriate levels of fertilizers and herbicides, and buying the best horse pasture seed on the market. I then will need to wait about a year before a hoof print appears on that soil.

Except that I will not be doing any of that. Instead I am going to achieve these goals by allowing (encouraging?) my horses to waste hay.

I know. I am still reeling from the concept.

Waste hay to save money and get a better pasture! I have the same feeling about this concept as I first did when I encountered natural horsemanship. It is contrary not only to the way everything has been done here for ages. On the surface it makes no sense.

But neither did natural horsemanship.

I am currently taking an online class, "Grazing Power Training" from Simple Soil Solutions. It is an extraordinary learning experience. I am learning the role that microbes play in building the soil and creating better forage. The picture above is of the 20 acres that my wife and I purchased for the use of our program. It was a pasture about 15 years ago. Since then it has over grown with trees, briars, weeds, and vines. Clearing the land is a slow task for us since we are all volunteers with no paid staff.

Last winter I cut down about 70% of the trees that need to come down. This winter I will take down more trees and remove stumps.

And I will waste a lot of hay. The pasture will be slightly over stocked with horses. The round bales will be rolled out and the horses will trample and manure it as the season moves on. Doing so will put a carbon sheet on the soil to cover it as it heals and all the while residual seeds from the hay will create forage for the future. We likely will use temporary electric fencing to concentrate the horses' activity.

This entire journey began for me when I spread a damp, moldy bag of feed up in a thin layer away from the horses so the birds could eat it. To my surprise, the grass under that layer grew tall, rich and dark of leaf. I could not understand why the waste feed produced better grass than did fertilizer.

Years later I became further confused when doing soil samples on portions of pastures that had been sacrifice areas for many seasons. The areas had been covered with scores of tonnes of horse manure. I expected the land to require a tremendous amount of lime, but the soil test showed these areas to need no lime.

The real spur to my curiosity happened a few years ago when Wendell suggested that I use organic fertilizer instead of regular 10-10-10. He told me that it cost more but I could use less and it would be worth it.

I assumed that this organic fertilizer must be very concentrated if I could use less of it and get better results. Instead it was much less concentrated than 10-10-10 yet I still got much better results with it.

The answer was microbes. The microbes put the nutrients that the plants needed in a chemical form that they cold utilize.

As I am learning from this class and a general study of permaculture, the microbes are the key and a sufficient ratio of carbon to nitrogen is necessary for those microbes to begin the process of healing the soil.

So, beginning today I am going to work diligently to waste hay.

(If you think saying that out loud hurts,imagine how it feels to type those words)

Monday, September 4, 2017


- Start Service Code -->

Just fourteen months ago I finished riding 1002 miles in six months. Yesterday I rode 14.65 miles, likely the most miles that I have ridden in one day in all of 2017.

It was brutal.

Not all that long ago I would never call such a short ride "brutal". I would have likely called it simply "Tuesday". My physical deterioration has been at a lightening pace. In terms of simply my ability to lift weight, I am weaker than I have been at any point since 1990.

Once again, I am working to restore my health. Back to tabata. Back to a bit of barefoot jogging. Back to a bit of kettle bell work. Back to clearing land with the chain saw.

And most importantly--back to riding and writing.

The writing part is very important. When I keep a rigidly accurate log of the number of miles that I ride I find that I ride more--many more--miles than if I fail to do so.

Perhaps there is something out there better for my mind and my body than riding hard. If so, I have gone fifty seven years without finding that thing.

There really is no need to.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Fall Home School Friday Program to Begin in October

Our Friday Home school pilot program has been a tremendous success and we are ready to take it to a higher level beginning the first Friday in October. A herd of nearly extinct Colonial Spanish horses, endangered Colonial Spanish goats and hogs, heritage turkeys and a replicate 1650's era farm site with a settlers home, tobacco barn, corn crib and smoke house is our class room.

The Friday sessions do not focus on riding lessons. Instead they present a wide range of programs that include using natural horsemanship to train horses, rare breed conservation, history, stone age technology (making arrowheads, bow construction, hide tanning, etc, soil and water conservation through the development of permaculture projects, and even music sessions where students old time American folk and roots songs and are given the opportunity to learn to play ancient American folk instruments.

And they learn to work, and work together. Work projects often include fence repair, land clearing, and feeding and care of livestock.

And all of this for only $85.00 per family per month. And if a family participates in our riding program there is no charge at all for the program.

Visit for an introduction to our non profit organization. We are all volunteers, no paid staff.

For more information email us at We are located just outside of Smithfield Virginia. Sessions last from 9-4 each Friday

Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Tractor Revolution

Of course, we would still continue to do a tremendous amount of work by hand as we always have, but a tractor with a good set of implements would revolutionize the setting in which we produce our horses and administer our ever growing programs.

It is not so much that it would make the work easier, it is the fact that it would make things go so much faster. I can dig post holes by hand all day long. I am only fifty seven and I expect to be able to do so for years to come. But the progress that I can make is 6 hours of digging by hand is eclipsed by what can be done with a tractor in an hour.

With a tractor we could:

1. keep the sacrifice pastures scraped clear of manure and create wind row compost lines.
2. dig two small ponds on the new land.
3. complete the clearing of the new land at a much faster pace.
4. ring the lower side of the pastures on the old land in a half mile of hugeleculture mounds.
5. build mounds, trenches, and water coursing obstacles in the training portion of the old land.
6. drill annual winter forage seed into the pastures.
7. keep our nearly 1/2 mile path back to the tack shed in good driving condition.
8. maintain a maze of trails through Jacob's woods for riding during hunting season.

Such a revolution would be expensive. Our deep well and sprinkler system was expensive and it has given us our first summer in which water did not need to be hauled to the horses and, most importantly, it has allowed us to maintain lush pasture though the summer. That has been great for the horses and has reduced our hay bill several thousand dollars.

The tractor and implements that we would need would likely cost between twenty and twenty five thousand dollars. Just a few short years ago that last sentence would have been the end of the analysis. In those years years Beth and I covered monthly program deficits and what equipment was purchased was generally purchased by the two of us.

As our program has attracted more regional, and even national, exposure I have learned that we can raise money.

 That would be a lot of money to raise, but it would be worth it.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Livestock Conservancy: Heritage Breeders Tell Your Story

In November the national annual meeting of the Livestock Conservancy will be held in Williamsburg and on the Friday session of that meeting will be held at our horse lot. We will be presenting sessions on how we bring the horses that we are working to preserve before the eye of the public. The bottom line is that we have a lot of programs that attract a wide array of people to see the horses.

These programs give us a lot of volunteers and active participants, but the publicity about what we do is the first step in bringing those people in. We have a story to tell and we tell it, using social media, using our blog, in presentations to civic organizations and on tv and in print media. Kay Kerr has done tremendous work traveling across the nation promoting her children's book about Croatoan.

I have a link below to Margaret Matry's tremendous article from the Virginian-Pilot from several years go. If you have not read this article make sure you do.

If you have already read it many times, read it again.

And share the article.

It helps us tell our story. At the Livestock Conservancy meeting we hope to be able to tell other preservationists how to tell their story.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Taking the Plunge: A Bold New Programing Step

Growth is not easy when everyone is a volunteer and already hampered with the hassle of normal day to day living. To have reached the point that our program has with out a paid staff is difficult tohave foreseen.

But we have made it

This spring we are taking a bold step in the educational programs that we offer. We are going to be offering very affordable field trips to Tidewater schools in the spring of 2018. We will likely have at least two separate types of field trip programs available, one focuses on the horses and livestock breed conservation. The other will focus on soil and water conservation programs that we incorporate in our permaculture approach to land management. (this topic has proven to be tremendous interest to our home school program participants).

We will make it clear that we are not a petting zoo and this is not a riding opportunity, or merely a trip out in the country to play horsey. We recognize the breadth and diversity of our programs.

Our focus is on breed conservation and preventing the extinction of nearly extinct stains of Colonial Spanish horses. We do that within the context of being an educational and cultural institution with tremendous emphasis on promoting the horses by using them to bring pleasure and healing to people with little or no horse experience.

Second Foal of the Year Born To the Corolla Breeding Program

This little filly, Lefty, was born to Polished Steel this week. Her father is Tradewind, named the 2011 National Pleasure Trail Horse of the Year by the Horse of the Americas Registry. In about six months I hope that she has been purchased by a breeder who will join us in seeking to prevent the extinction of these historic horses from the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

We are a 501(c)5 non-profit breed conservation program. We are all volunteers with no paid staff. If you would like to learn more about these horses, how you can become a breeder  and even come up and ride some of these Banker strain, Colonial Spanish mustangs send me an email at

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Dirt Farmer: Simple Soil Solutions

I am where I was twenty years ago. I had trained horses to saddle from the time I was an adolescent. I knew how we did it. I genuinely believed that the way we "trained" was the same way everyone else did.

We trained a horse by riding him. Period. Of course,the result was that the horses that we all rode were not trained. We were good riders. If one is not to be a good trainer than one had better become a good rider.

Then I heard about natural horsemanship. What I heard did not seem possible. It was alien to everything that had been practiced around here for over 100 years.

I was intrigued and confused. I purchased Parelli's "Natural Horse-Man-Ship". Read it cover to cover--I genuinely believed that the book must be part of a multi volume set and I had simply picked up the first volume. It seemed to me that the entire volume was designed to teach one to teach a horse to be lead. I wanted to find the volume that must be out there that taught how to train a horse to be ridden.

Of course, what I learned led to the opening of my eyes and better lives for hundreds of horses and scores of young people.

I was only the second man in my direct line since coming to America in the 1630's who was not a farmer at some point in his life. I had a basic understanding of agriculture and I studied everything that I could find about pasture management from the publications of the established horse world.

Then I started learning about permaculture. All of that has lead to bumping into a spectacular teaching program found here in Virginia. Vail Dixon's programs though her company, Simple Soil Solutions, particularly the program Grazing Power, are something that I hope to take complete advantage of.

I am impressed with her for several reasons. She actually has horse pasture that she manages. She relies on science but learns from trial and error. But most importantly she is a first rate communicator.

And she believes in what she is doing. She has another session coming up on August 10.

Take a look at her website

Keep your mind open. That is the only way that knowledge can slip in.

( This foal was born nigh before last. She is the second foal born to our Corolla breeding preservation program this summer.)

Friday, July 21, 2017

Run Find Your Hackles and Get Ready to Put Them Upp

For too long I have been holding back in order to try to find a subtle, diplomatic way to impart this very important lesson.

I give up--can't figure out a way to do it.

I despise cliches. They do not pass through my lips or even my mind. When it comes to horsemanship they are the sum total teachings of the established horse world, all filtered down to simple rules that can be followed by the simplest of minds.

They tend to have one thing in common.

These cliches help direct a steady cash flow to the agribusiness industries that depend on the ignorance and inompetence of horse owners. Not all of these agribusiness interests are bad. Many, like veterinarians are essential and filled with dedicated professionals.

But veterinarians have much more important things to do than doing physical exams or tests on perfectly healthy horses who are guilty of being poorly trained or,even worse, simply exhibiting normal, horse behavior.

I constantly read of people with poorly behaved horses being advised to "first have him checked out by the vet to see if there is a physical cause to his problem."

Yes, on the rarest occasion there is a physical problem. Those cases are dwarfed by learned behavioral problems and the consequences of living in stables and eating sugar. Check the horses training and lifestyle first. Train the horse. Allow it to live as naturally as possible.

Then you can check with the vet if the problem persist.

But what does it hurt just to check with the vet first--you know--just to be sure?

What it hurts is that is skyrockets the cost of owning horses. That means more horses go to slaughter. That means fewer kids ever get a chance to have the life altering experience of owning a horse.

I could not be happier with my veterinarians. I strongly suspect that they are very happy with our horses.

They know that they are never going to be called out and asked to give a horse a pill to make it stop biting people

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Time In A Bottle

About twenty years ago I was squirrel hunting near a section of marsh that I had not walked around since I was a small child. Way above the normal high tide mark I found an old bottle. It had a top on it and was clear and easy to see though.

 Inside it was a piece of folded paper. The top was not easy to remove but it came off with some hard twists. The hand writing on the note was beautiful. It was dated before the frst World War. The writer was a young man traveling and working his way though the southeast. He talked a bit about his life and explained that he put this message in the bottle and set it to sea (did not say where)and asked the finder send him a note to his home in Maryland to let him know that it had been recovered.

I put it back in the bottle and headed home. I made a few phone calls concerning my very unusual discovery. About the third time that I removed it from the bottle I noticed that it was much more fragile and brittle.

A few days later I opened the bottle to find the paper so deteriorated that it essentially disintegrated upon touch. It could not be unrolled and none of the words were any longer legible. Of course, it likely never had any value except as a personal curiosity.

But it could have been saved.

It could have been preserved. Had I been willing to do the work to find an expert who could have kept it in the correct environment and who could have taught me how to maintain it, I would still have this little piece of time safely sealed in a bottle.

But I was younger, impatient, and most of all I was busy with what the rest of the world calls, "having a life."

Nothing is more detrimental to  having a life with meaning, a life  that focuses on building something  bigger than one's self, than "having a life."

"Having a life" leads to a trivial existence with meaningless priorities. It leads to simply trying to figure out the easiest way instead of the most  efficient way.

Ultimately it leads to a huge volume of excuses, with endless new editions and reprints, but only a small sticky note sized list of solutions and accomplishments.

For everything there is a season. As every horse culture that has existed in history has shown the taming and training of horses can be, and often was, child's play. It still can, and should, be.

But the actual work of preserving these horses can only be successfully done by those old enough to realize what a worthless pursuit "having a life " is. The hard work of preservation is, with a few rare exceptions, left to those whose only interest in life is that it have meaning.

And that is why one is never to old to begin to work to preserve these nearly extinct horses. That is why one is never too old to begin to work to develop a riding and training program  that serves the needs of those that your community has left behind.

That is why one is never too old to look ahead with hope.

It is an ironic aspect of human existence that as our eyesight fades, our vision can become clearer. Only those who have through past  decades have the vision to see what is possible in future decades.

The seeds of our program were planted about 18 years ago. I once wished that I had begun thirty years ago.

 I no longer have that wish.

That would not have worked well. Thirty years ago I "had a life". It's focus was on meetings, martini's and the accumulation of power.

Now I have a life whose only focus is  meaning.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Temperament of Our Horses--For Sale

Yes, one thing that we are able to sell because of our efforts to preserve the nearly extinct horses of the Outer Banks of North Carolina is their temperament.

Their gaits are smooth and they endurance is beyond the imagination of most owners of modern horses. With strong, healthy hooves and remarkable need to bond with people, they make the perfect family horses.

Matchcoor's mother was born wild on Shackleford Island and his father was born wild in the Corolla herd.

When he is weaning age he will be available for placement with someone who will help carry on the work of the conservation of the Colonial Spanish mustangs of the Outer Banks. His sales price at weaning age will be $1,200.00. Purchaser must agree to maintain him as a stallion and allow him to be bred to mares who are in the conservation program at no cost.

Our program currently has six stallions from Corolla or Shackleford on site. Most of the stallions, even those born wild, are often ridden with groups of mares and geldings. Great genetics gives them a big head start but the gentle, yet firm, early handling that all of our horses receive brings out the sweetness of their nature.

One of the points that I have to constantly stress to riders in our program is that they cannot expect other horses to be as safe, calm, and sweet natured as ours and that they will have to be much more careful around modern horses who are not allowed to live as naturally as our herd does.

Within the next few weeks we expect several more foals to be born and We plan to breed three mares for next year.

If you want to acquire one of these horses and become part of the effort to preserve this nearly extinct strain of Colonial Spanish horses contact me at

Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Permaculture Payoff

The work has been hard. Some of it remains to be done and all of it, in one way or another, is perpetually ongoing.

Substantial soil and water conservation programs, vermicomposting, deep well and intensive irrigation, daily small pasture rotation for about 20% of our horses, clearing off new land and leaving coppage stumps for grazing, better use of forage in the woods lot, organic fertilizer, no artificial  chemicals, encouragement of dung beetle production, adding high carbon materials to compost piles, hugelkulture demonstration plots, swales and soil decompaction techniques, pasture inoculation experiments with helpful bacteria and fungi, mowing weeds in pastures, combining goat and horse grazing, encouraging growth of existing "wild" vegetation and planting several different grass species

......lead to a forty percent reduction in our hay bill for the last month. When one considers that our horses were consuming 10-12 thousand pounds of hay per week, that is a lot of money....and healthier horses, and less mud and less dust.

And perhaps equally important, we have included th teaching of these techniques in our educational programs.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Will You Allow Your Veterinarian To Tell You The Truth?

We use The Oaks Veterinary practice here in Smithfield. I could not imagine having a better team caring for our horses--first rate diagnosticians, completely up to date on research and new findings, and able to handle a horse that is in pain.

One of the reasons that we have as good of a relationship as we do is that they are all completely comfortable in telling me exactly what a horse needs.

For example, if the best treatment for problem is to simply leave it alone and let it get well, they know that I am never going to think that they should instead "do something." If the horse is going to die, they tell me that it is going to die. If there are range of treatments out there they explain each and they know that after I have all of that information I will let them know which way I want to go.

I will never say "do what you think is best." That is  unfair to a vet. When the vet has explained the pluses and minuses of every option and asks you what you want done--take the responsibility to make that informed decision.

Don't just position yourself to be able to set back and say, "I did everything the vet said to do and my horse still died!"

The test of the quality of a horse owner as a client is simple. Would the client seek another vet if their vet looked them in the eye and said, "The problem is that your horse is 300 pounds over weight and the diet and lack of exercise that you are providing him will likely drastically shorten his life and will likely lead to horrific pain from laminitis and then full blown founder."?

Do you care enough about your horse to accept the vet's advice that what your horse needs to be healthier is exercise, good hay, water and companionship or are you going to feel cheated if the vet does not leave you with a string of supplements and prescription drugs for your horse?

Your horse needs a first rate vet. Even more importantly, your horse needs for you to be a first rate client.

(The picture above is of Burns Red, son of El Rosio, and one of the few high percentage Bacca colts in existence.  Lloyd is a veteran, not a veterinarian--but its still a great picture.)

Saturday, July 1, 2017

How to Handle A Stallion

....with 51% control and 49% affection.

That is the best way to handle every horse. I never grew up with mares and was around few geldings. Both of may parents rode stallions.

I did not grow up to be testostrophobic.

When one of our stallions is in the immediate vicinity of a mare in heat we have to take special preparations. Otherwise our experienced riders ride them as they would any of the other horses.

We would not be able to do that if our stallions were kept shut up in stables with limited "turnout." We would not be able to do that if our stallions were fed abusive levels of high sugar feeds. We would not be able to do that if we taught our stallions that they were ticking time bombs. It is simple to do so. All one has to do is treat their stallions as if they were ticking time bombs and they will oblige.

Tam is a highly impressive young lady. She worked Scoundrel Days, our high percentage Grand Canyon stallion in the round pen for several minutes before this picture was taken. He resisted her leadership and she insisted that he move in the direction she indicated and at the speed she indicated.

In short order he felt secure knowing that he was in the presence of a benevolent, powerful leader.

Not control or affection. Not control now affection later. Not affection now and control after we bond.

51% control now. 49% affection now.

Simply the best way to train horses. Simply the best way to raise children.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Why Don't Your Pig Pens Stink? Why Is There Cardboard In Your Pig Pens?

The same answer applies to both questions. The available carbon that is held in the card board binds the ammonia/nitrogen in the manure, virtually eliminating odor while at the same time producing a rapidly decomposing compost.

Permaculture and related natural soil building techniques are fascinating to apply. The results are shocking to those of us who are only learning about this new/old world of agriculture.

On Conserving Super Horses: Saving the Corollas

A person whose experience was limited to modern horses was shocked at hearing that the Corollas could easily do fifty mile rides on one day to be followed with another such ride the next day, carry adult riders with no problems whatsoever, be trained to ride by children, and do it all with incredibly smooth, relaxed gaits, once huffed at me, "You seem to think that they are super horses!"

"Only when compared to modern breeds", I responded.

Here is our most recent colt produced in the Corolla offsite breeding program. Matchcoor is a warm and affectionate little athlete. A life of natural horse care, natural hoof care and being trained with natural horsemanship will bring his full talents into fruition.

Yes, super horses, in a very different category than most modern horses...and nearly extinct.

One cannot abstain from participation in this crisis. Unless one assists in preventing their extinction, one is clearly assisting their extinction.

Contact us at if you want to become part of this breeding effort.

Thursday, June 8, 2017


It was easier to make Lizzie smile than any kid at the horse lot. She liked to smile.

She was an athlete and she became a solid rider and trainer. We can't forget that she was the one who put the early morning hours of riding and training into getting Hickory Wind into the woods. She patiently trained her Colonial Spanish horse, Trouble, on her own. On a wonderful day nearly exactly a year from today's date she rode him flawlessly in the woods for the first time. And a bit over two years ago she was working to give Jasmine the confidence that Emily Heard brought to fruition.

And she was kind. She cared deeply about other people. When all is said and done there is nothing better to be said of a person than that they were kind and cared about other people.

And she was seventeen.

Pain can cloud one's vision. The vision can become so clouded that one will fail to see the myriad of paths and opportunities that are ahead. Pain can cause one to think that the options don't exist, that there is only one way to end the pain.

Everyone needs to be constantly reminded that there are options. No thought increases the pain more than the thought that there is only one choice. No thought helps fight off the pain more than the thought that there are options available.

Pain can cloud one's vision so that one feels a particular false feeling of isolation--a false feeling of being genuinely alone. If one could somehow see how much they are missed when they are gone and just how many people there are out there who cared deeply about them--they would have never felt alone.

It strikes me this morning that I never told Lizzie that I loved her. I talked to her about many things and gave her my best advice when I thought the time was right, but I never told her the one thing that is the most important thing for any human to ever hear.

I am not going around with any feeling of false guilt that if only I had said or done something else things could have turned out differently.

And no one should feel that way. I am not saying that we always have the power to say or do something that can extinguish the pain like some form of emotional Novocain.

But I am saying that every time God grants us the extraordinary privilege of being able to help someone else we should jump at that opportunity.

Lizzy liked to smile.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Two Generations--Family Horses

Colonial Spanish Horses have as strong need to bond with people. These pictures were taken a few years apart--my youngest daughter and my oldest granddaughter.

Things like this are part of the reason that author, Doris Gwaltney, referred to Mill Swamp indian Horses as a "place of love."

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Monday Night Music Program

Recently I was visited by a lady who wanted her grand children to learn about horses. She had researched riding programs across the region and had found that our program seemed "different from all of the others."

She was right. The breadth of what we do without a single paid staff person is shocking. There is nearly no aspect of our program that started with a concept followed by defined goals and objectives. Such thinking leads to conformity and adherence to rules and accepted beliefs that stifle creativity.

I have never been susceptible to such paralyzing beliefs. Our programs develop by polishing ad lib concepts. In every case the successful products end up being much better than my initial vision.

The best example is our music program. Teaching a few little  kids to sing the choruses of old songs has lead to weekly sessions where kids and adults learn to sing and play folk,  bluegrass, gospel and Americana music on a range of instruments.

They learn the meaning, history and cultural context of what they are playing. Most significantly, they learn of the origin and fusion of these songs from African, Scottish, Irish, and English roots. They learn how these songs fit into the development of our nation. They learn the power that music has to shape a culture's view of itself.

The music is taught the same way these ancient songs developed, on a pre-literate level. It is rare for the kids to ever see a written set of lyrics, much less sheet music. Instruments---- fiddle, banjo, dulcimers, dobro, autoharp, mandolin, bouzouki, wash tub bass, are introduced to program participants and they gradually pick up the basics of making beautiful and very simple accompaniments to very simple and deeply meaningful songs.

The picture above is from the Smithfield Concert series last August. It was the biggest performance that this group had ever had. This performance grew from our Monday night learning sessions.

Our last session brought something new to the Monday night music program---a small audience. These sessions are not concerts. They are not performances. We are used to having audiences for performances, but not for Monday nights at the tack shed.

Those are learning sessions and it never occurred to me that such sausage making would ever attract an audience. And as is typical in the development of all of our programs, that small audience creates the opportunity for program development and growth.

So, I will now start posting on the Mill Swamp Indian Horses group face book page an open invitation to the public to bring a lawn chair and come on back to the tack shed from 7-8 pm on Monday nights to watch and enjoy these learning sessions.

Don't come out expecting to hear spectacular performances. Instead come out expecting to watch an incredible group of young people enter the world of music in a relaxed pr,essure free atmosphere.

Check the facebook page each Monday to make sure that we are not rained out or otherwise having to cancel. If it suits your schedule, come on out to Mill Swamp Indian Horses at 9299 Moonlight Road Smithfield, Va 23430 on Monday's for the rest of the summer.