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.

Monday, May 29, 2017

And There Were Once Two Twelve Year Old Girls

Each had gotten a three year old thirteen hand, green broke pony for their tenth birthdays. Both girls were athletes and neither had any fear of their young horses. Experienced horse people urged their parents against getting such young horses for such young children, but for reasons of their own, the parents ignored that advice.

Each child showed incredible skill at riding and relating to their horse. Each girl  rushed home from school every day, dropped their books on the kitchen table, changed clothes, and hustled out to see their horse.

One of the girls received first rate riding instruction that built on her natural skill as a rider. At age 11 she was winning at every local horse show she entered. By age twelve she was mopping up the competition at regional shows. She was alone in the ring, focused, confident, silent---and so very alone.

He future as a competitive rider could not be brighter.

The other girl was not drawn to competition. She sought out long, slow rides in the woods peppered with hard sprints around the edge of the field. She often rode alone, sometimes with other children, but most often with her parents as they joined in on the old horses that they had had for years. The solitary rides were silent, but for her occasional soliloquies to her horse regarding the challenges and successes of junior high school. Her rides with her parents were filled with long discussions about every facet of her life and how they faced challenges at her age.

After winning her first statewide competition one of the girls was told by her trainer, "You have outgrown this little pony. If you are going to be a serious competitor you will need a much bigger horse.--Time to leave him behind."

She remained stoic and did not cry until the trainer left. When no one else was around she threw her arms around her pony's neck and cried harder than she ever had, harder even than when she learned that her Grandmother died.

Exhaustion was the only thing that stopped the tears.

She tried to let her parents know that she did not want to sell her pony, but they were hard to talk to. She knew how happy her riding made them. They beamed with each trophy she won. Her mother recounted every step of the most recent shows to every one that she met that week. Her father let everyone know how much money the horse show life was costing him. Every penny spent was further proof of what a great father he must be.

He could not wait to tell his golfing buddies  about the  $25,000.00 check that he had just written. He and the trainer decided to surprise his daughter by simply putting the new acquisition in the old pony's paddock late one Friday night. Even better, they had found a wonderful, "forever" home for the little pony and while the daughter was at school that day the new owners came and picked the pony up.

When she got home she saw the stranger standing in her pony's paddock. She immediately understood. If she was going to be a serious competitor she needed a bigger horse. The night before when she went out to the paddock her pony ambled over to her and put his head on her shoulder.

That was the last time she ever saw him.

When the other girl was reaching her thirteenth year she started getting tall and gangling. Her friends wanted to know when she was going to get a big, beautiful, super expensive horse as her competitive friend had.

She was confused. She already had a horse. Why would she want another one?

When she was about seventeen she stopped getting taller. As she came closer to her adult weight more and more she found herself confronted by experienced horse people who told that she looked silly on a 13 hand pony and she needed a bigger horse.

She never argued with them. She knew that there was no use. Those people thought with a different part of their hearts than did she.

The hardest part about college was missing her pony. By her senior year she found a farm where he could stay only a few miles from her dorm. Her life was complete again.

And it was not long after college that she got married. Her husband loved her pony, and it was good for him that he did. She taught him how to ride. As their careers progressed they could afford a horse for her husband.

They took long, slow rides in the woods peppered with sprints around the fields. The rides were filled with long conversations about every aspect of their lives and how they were dealing with the challenges they faced.

She had to lay off of riding for a while. The doctor was not keen on the idea of a young women with her first pregnancy sprinting around the fields. A few months after her daughter was born she mounted back up. By the time her daughter was four the child could catch the old pony and saddle him herself. Her mother purchased another pony and the family of three set out on long slow rides in the woods, peppered with sprints around the fields. They talked about every aspect of their lives and how they were dealing with the challenges they faced.

And when the little girl was in the second grade her mother got a call to come to the school right away. It seems that the second grader had had an anger control episode. She not only smacked a larger boy, she pushed him down and kicked him over and over until she was pulled off of  the cringing little mass of tears curled up on the pavement.

When her mother entered the principal's office the child was still angry. " I hit him , Momma, because he was teasing Carlton for riding the special bus and being in the special class. Momma, he called Carleton a 'retard.'"

She stood up and took her child by the hand, thanked the principal for handling the situation and assured her that she would take further action.

When they got in the car instead of going home, they drove straight over to Carleton's house. She introduced herself to Carlton' mother and sat down in the living room and had a long talk with her about their children.

She explained to Carlton's mother that she could only think of one thing to do. Carlton needed to come over to visit about two or three times every week. She told her that her daughter had an old thirteen hand pony that would be the perfect horse for Carlton to learn to ride on.

And Carlton learned. And Carlton rode. And Carlton laughed. An her daughter laughed with him. And Carlton joined them for long slow rides in the woods, peppered with sprints around the field. They talked about every aspect of their lives and how they were dealing with the challenges that they faced.

And when the pony was thirty four years old he laid down and did not get up. Carlton was grown now and worked over at the sheltered work shop. His mother picked him up from the job and took him over to the paddock.

The pony put his head in Carlton's lap, closed his eyes and died.

And that was the last time she ever saw him.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

A Point of Personal Privilege

"In parliamentary procedure, a motion to raise a question of privilege is a privileged motion that permits a request related to the rights and privileges of the assembly or any of its members to be brought up."

It is technical, often misused, and rarely understood, but there is a very good reason that in matters of parliamentary procedure a point of personal privilege takes precedence over  nearly other motion that could be placed on the floor.

It is true in life also.

This morning I realized that it is time for me to rise to make a point of personal privilege regarding our program and my role in it.

I hit bottom around 5:30 yesterday.  We have made some tremendous improvements in our program in recent months. The most significant is bringing our irrigation system on line while clearing nearly twenty acres of new pasture. We have worked hard to build a very special fence around much of the new land. We have developed significant soil and water conservation projects at the horse lot  and formalized a home school program that is a unique educational opportunity for young people.

We will continue to grow and improve what we do, but for the first time we have reached the point of being instead of the point of becoming. We no longer will be, now we, finally, are. 

And over the last seven months getting here has worn me out.

Clearing land, doing so much of the feeding and fence repair, writing for fundraising, and developing new programs and special events, with a pesky couple of broken ribs complicating matters, have caused me to spend less time in the saddle in the last half a year than any other such time period for the last fifteen years.

The result is predictable. My weight has skyrocketed. Movements that use to be mildly uncomfortable have become intensely painful. Two weeks ago I trotted for about nine miles and was absolutely worn out.

I did not expect for that to be the case until I was at least seventy.

I am only fifty seven.

As I left the horse lot yesterday I found a severed fitting on a hose that was causing water to spew through the woods. I need to walk back and turn the water off.

I could not do it. Had to go home, eat and rest for an hour before I could take care of that simple task.

This morning when I could not get all the way awake after drinking nearly a pot of coffee, I decided that it was time for me to rise to make a point of personal privilege.

And in accordance with said motion it is hereby resolved, in the strongest terms possible, that effective this date, I shall ride.

I will ride in the morning. I will ride on many nights,
I will ride in the heat of August. I will ride in the cold of February.

I will ride young, half broken horses. I will ride old, trail worn horses.
I will ride when the dust is heavy. I will ride when the mud is deep.

I will ride with small children. I will ride with adults.
I will ride when there is work to do. I will ride  when all of the work is done. 

I will ride when I have time to. I will ride when I do not have time to. 

And be it further resolved that when I am not riding I will be playing music. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Does This Horse Make My Butt Look Fat?

On occasion on Facebook I fall into reading posts on various "horse chat" sites. The experience is invariably painful. The persistent ignorance, arrogance, sycophancy, and the desperate clawing to discover whatever it is with which all good horse people should agree, has certainly taken years off of my life expectancy.

Facts are real. They do not change. They are not subject to referendum. They have no need to be supported by consensus. They do not need cheerleading by the loudest and most obnoxious voices in the crowd.

Facts are not, to use one of the most obnoxious terms of this century, "snarky."

Think how often one has seen a question on these boards along this line, "I am thinking of changing the de-wormer that I use--any thoughts on which brand is best?"

Now think how rare it is to ever see a question on these boards along this line, "I am thinking of changing the de-wormer that I use--any lists of peer reviewed research articles on the effectiveness of the various classes of drugs currently available to kill internal parasites?"

The opinions of ten thousand posters that the rotational worming schedule hyped in the late 1990's is the only way to go do not trump even one factual, unbiased, well researched study on the efficacy of various strategies for controlling worms.

And those who do not even know who these "experts" are  place their horse's health in the hands  of these self appointed arbiters of all things equine.

What does it say about the self esteem and over all mental health of those who post pictures of themselves or their horses and ask for a verdict from the internet jury on how well they ride, their horse's conformation, and whether or not they are too big for their horse? Why do these masochists invite the derision of equ-fascist commentators whose only skill and knowledge that can be proven from their comments is the skill to type on a keyboard and the knowledge to press the "enter" key?

The internet is a tremendous tool for spreading knowledge and solid information.  It is an even stronger tool for spreading ignorance and falsehoods.

Everyone out there who puts a saddle on a horse owes to that horse the responsibility of acquiring every bit of solid knowledge about all things equine that one can possibly garner.

And the quest for knowledge should never end. No teacher should ever stop being a student.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Old Post On Holland

I Could Not Have Hit Him With a Shotgun

This morning Holland showed us all something. With a 160 pound rider on him we set out for a five mile run. I was on Ta Sunka Witco, my SMR stallion whose grandfather was Choctaw Sundance. Holland was allowed to choose his own speed and gait. He completed the entire five mile run in 20:54 after waiting over 10 seconds for me to catch up at the 2.5 mile mark. I finished in 21:34. Holland had such a lead on me for most of the run that he was beyond shotgun range. At the 4 mile marker he lead me by 1/2 a mile.

Holland is a Shackleford, the closest relatives to the Corollas. Shacklefords and Corollas make up what is left of the Banker ponies of the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Their beauty is enough reason to save them. Their history is enough reason to save them. For those who do not care about history or beauty, go run your horse five miles. Then you can appreciate the athleticism of these horses who gave rise to many modern American breeds. When one watches Holland pull away it is easy to understand how these horses, crossed with the "spotted race horse", Janus in the 1720's provided much of the foundation of the modern Quarter Horse.

When one watches Manteo, my Corolla stallion pull away from the pack, one can see the root of all of the gaited American breeds in his swishing hips.

They are too good to throw away.

This is Holland when I first met him a few years ago wearing his rough Shackleford winter attire.

Marking Time

When one of you reads this particular post it will be the 300,000th view of our blog. I intended to write a deep reflective post on how the subtle changes in the tone of the blog over the years have reflected the change and growth in our program.

And perhaps one day I shall do so. But for now I am satisfied to celebrate the 300000th view by simply presenting my favorite picture from the horse lot.

Yeah, She's Grown

It's raining and the rain is getting worse as the minutes pass. I just left Lydia, Jen, Abigail and Wendell at the horse lot. They are loading Manny and Holland to go to Biltmore in Ashville, North Carolina for an endurance race.

Jen won't be racing in this one. And I am proud of her for that.

I have little good to say about nearly all forms of equine competition. All too often the interest of the horse falls in way behind the interest, or even the whims, of the rider.

Jen is not letting that happen.

Her horse is the great granddaughter of Choctaw Sundance. Looks Up, the daughter of my horse, Ta Sunka Witco, and Star Dust, a BLM stock mare belongs to Jen. Looks Up is a super athlete. Jen has brought her into peak cardio vascular conditioning. Last spring we did a little "in house" 25 mile race. Looks up was in such solid shape that when it came time for the vet check her heart rate had dropped to sufficient levels with no break but for being walked the last 200 yards in.

But a few weeks ago she got a very minor strain or muscle pull. She is a ball of energy and often zips around the pasture for no reason that the human eye can see.

Her very minor injury remained very minor but was not all the way healed as of two weeks ago. Jen made the decision to pull her from the race. We have several other horses that she could have ridden in this race. All were conditioned enough to have made the run safely, but none were in peak condition. Holland, a Shackleford, and Manny, a Choctaw, are in perfect shape. Jen knows why we enter such events--to promote the talent of these nearly extinct horses in the hopes that more people will breed them.

If Jen had ridden another one of our horses who was not in top cardiovascular shape the likely result is that it would have lead to slower times for Manny and Holland.

So Jen made the painful, and very mature decision, to be the horse hauler and to be part of the pit crew for Manny and Holland.

Lydia has worked very hard to get Manny's mind and body ready for this event. She would not have been able to do that without Jen.

You see, Manny was not quite green broke when he came to us. It was Jen who gave him his earliest training. That is her on board Manny in those early days. Her skills put him on the rode to being refined by Lydia.

Yes, Jen made a hard, mature choice, keeping only the interest of the horses in mind.

I am not be surprised.

Yes, she is one of my big girls, but on days like this I am reminded that she is also a grown women.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

North Carolina's State Horse To Run IN Endurance Race At Biltmore

North Carolina's state horse is the Colonial Spanish Mustang of the Outer Banks. Holland, shown above as I began to set out on a big ride at 3:00 am, is from Shackleford Island. He was born wild and born tough. The biggest surprise about this blocky little horse has both explosive short distance speed and endless endurance..

He has been carrying me at around 220 pounds for several years now. When we went to our only other endurance race the mass of riders on their Arabs and Anglo-Arabs were confused as to why we had a shaggy little pony entered in the race. We carried five horses to that race, three Choctaws, a high percentage Choctaw/BLM cross, and Holland--13.2 hands of barrel, heavy bone, and muscle. We won four of the top ten spots in that race. Jen rode Holland on that ride and I was on Joey,one of my Choctaws.

Holland could have won the entire 30 mile race but for his resistance to having a vet take his pulse.

On May 6 Abigail will be aboard Holland and Lydia will join her on Manny, a Choctaw. That is Abigail above doing a little jumping on my wife's horses.

The desire to compete against anyone but myself left me years ago. I am not predicting that our team will win this thirty mile race. I am not predicting that these two young ladies will swamp all of the experienced riders in this race. I am not predicting that they will bring home trophies and laurels.

As he prepared to enter the ring surrounded by a despondent group of trainers and corner men before the "Rumble in The Jungle" with George Foreman, Muhammad Ali brought life to his entourage by simply repeating "We gone dance. We gone dance. Oh yeah, we gone dance."

I am predicting with a great deal of certainty that when this race begins Lydia, Abigail, Manny and Holland well...they gone dance. They gone dance. Oh yeah, they gone dance..

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Unique Training Clinic-May 13, 9--?


Over the past decade we have hosted many training clinics but this one might be our most important session to date. Sunshine, the Corolla mare shown above, was removed from the wild because she was suffering from the enormous abscess shown in the bottom picture. The Corolla Wild Horse Fund saved her. After healing she was adopted and lives in Lexington, Va. She has been well handled by her owner and the young trainer who has opened the door to trust for this stunning mare.

On Saturday May 13, beginning at 9:00 Sunshine will enter the round pen at Mill Swamp Indian Horses, 9299 Moonlight Road, Smithfield Va 23430. After a bit of conventional round pen work Lydia Barr, who works as a professional trainer with horses who have complications, will come into the ring and work the mare through a series of training techniques based on a gentle and humane training regimen rooted in the practices of South American India tribes.

Oscar and Christobal Scarpati brought these techniques to America in a training program that they named Doma India. Though in no way affiliated with the Scarpati's, Lydia has begun to incorporate some of the relationship building fundamentals of their work into her training repertoire.

We will begin at 9:00 am and will continue until the horse gains as much from the day as is possible. That could mean that we will wrap up at noon, or we could still be going at 4:00.

Don't count on that--come on out at 9:00.

Bring a lawn chair. The charge for non-program participants is only $10.00. There is no charge for those who participate in either the Mill Samp riding progrm or the Friday home school program. Also included in the day's events will be a tour of the sight and an introduction to the many strains of nearly extinct Colonial Spanish horses, heritage breed livestock, and replicated 1650's era farm. Take a look at our Website for more information on our programs.

We are a 501 (c) 5 breed conservation program with no paid staff. We are all volunteers.

To register for this clinic send an email to

Share this invitation with anyone that you know who cares about horses.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Got To Run To Keep From Hiding

It is a cost of success. Our program is growing in leaps and bounds. My time and talents are not growing an iota. During the first six months of 2016 I rode 1002 miles. I have not kept track this year but since January 1 of 2017 I cannot imagine that I have ridden a total of 100 miles. I have been very busy clearing land, writing and working on new programs like our Home School program. A complex murder and a string of abuse cases have kept things hopping at the office.

( I try to stay away from too much negativity and heightened aggressiveness so fill in this missing paragraph with whatever phrases you would use to describe that special feeling that one gets just before biting a chunk out of a laptop.)

For much of the past two weeks I had hoped to complete the electric fencing around the new 20 acres that we have been  clearing as soon as I got in from the office. Day after day I have been too worn out to get that done. The delay in utilizing that land has cost us about $1,500.00 in hay.

Yesterday I rode in the rain for about 45 minutes. This morning I was to start getting back into heavy riding. I was quite excited to pull up to the tack shed, grab a saddle and go and lope on Ta Sunka Witco for about an hour.

Instead I found about an hour and a half of things that needed to be taken care of. I did not saddle up.

I am beginning to realize that I can get everything done that needs to be done and ride heavy and play music or I can sleep all night, but both cannot happen.

On the bright side, I have been very conscious of the fact that over the past year or two my memory seems to be significantly fading. So it is quite likely that by tomorrow I will have forgotten about it all.

Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone? A Life With Meaning

He seems like such a humble old guy. He works around the clock for little, if any, financial reward. His life is dedicated to saving something precious for people that he will never meet--for people yet to be born. Odds are you have never heard of him.

Even better odds that you have never seen the horses that he preserves.

But Bryant Rickman matters. Look at this incredible little film about saving the Choctaws--  

Feel the past when  you look at the film. Feel the present when you look at the film and feel what the future will be if we simply let these horses disappear.

Take a look at the picture above. That is Lydia on Manny, a pure Choctaw and the fruit of the work of Bryant Rickman and a handful of others who keep the candle from being blown out.

On May 6 Lydia and Manny will be down at Biltmore in North Carolina for Manny's second official endurance race. His first race was up in New Jersey. it was the first endurance race that we had ever seen.

We carried five horses to the event, three Choctaws, a Shackleford, and a very high percentage Choctaw/BLM cross.

We won four of the top ten spots in the thirty mile race--in the first race that we had ever seen. Other racers went from sniffing at our unshorn ponies and our western saddles and boots, and our "pit crew" composed of only one person for all five horses to asking, at the end of the race, "What are these little ponies, they look as if they are related to one another?" And my favorite question, "Where does one acquire one of these ponies?"

I rode, Joey, also a Choctaw with a touch of Cherokee lineage. As I recall the weight of our tack and his rider was 256 pounds. Needless to say that was much more than any other horse there carried.

Joey came in ninth. (I forget how many contestants there were but there were between 35 and 55, I think.)

Super athletes, beautiful, rich history, incredibly smooth to ride--but those are not my favorite things about the Choctaws. I have reached an age where I am no longer impressed with a horse's speed. Long ago I realized that it is easier to get where you are going first by simply starting before everyone else does instead of trying to break the sound barrier.

What draws me to the Choctaws the most is a bit of unhorseness in their temperament. They need to be with people. They want contact. They want to follow you around.

In some ways they act more like milk goats than like horses. Horses generally are asking scores of questions every time a person approaches. My Choctaws only seem to have one question--"So, where are we going today?"

Of course, the Banker horses, such as those of Corolla and Shackleford, have strong historic and genetic ties to the Choctaws.

And I would not be privileged to know all of this first hand were it not for Bryant Rickman's  decision to find meaning by dedicating his life to preserving these horses.

Make sure that you take time to look at this video--especially if you have not yet figured out how to give your own life meaning.

It's not too late.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

So Much Left To Learn

And we are working hard to learn...and teach it. The world of permaculture stands in strict opposition to the edicts of big agribusiness every bit as much as natural horsemanship, natural hoof care, and natural horse care stand in strict opposition to the edicts of the established horse world.

Our application of permaculture techniques to conserve soil and water and to produce more healthy living forage for our horses is still in its beginning stages. The changes have been remarkable. Where there was only mud or dust a few years ago we now have lush vegetation. Our soil is alive and we are working to strengthen it every day.

We just had forty high school agriculture students come out on a field trip to see what we are doing. They loved it, even if it meant standing in misty rain for an hour while learning about fungi and bacteria that are more important to plant growth than modern chemicals.

Education is a fundamental aspect of our program. Although I have not been riding or exercising enough in the past six months, I am averaging at least an hour every single day reading and learning about how to make dead dirt live. is a great site worth checking out right away. I look forward to going out to her operation and learning everything that she is doing that we can apply.

I have always found learning to be tremendously exciting and what I am learning here is making me giddy.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Not Just For The Kids

One of the keys to the success of our unique program is our multi generational cross section of participants and volunteers. The adults in our program both give and receive.

The more they give, the more that they receive.

I don't think that we have had a participant/volunteer that has shaped and changed our program as much as Wendell has. He began riding with us when he was 63 years old. From the beginning he was a fixture at the horse lot and when he retired he put even more of himself into what we do. A widely read man with a first rate mind, Wendell was the first person that showed me how we could use soil and water conservation techniques to radically improve the quality of our program. He sent me a lengthy memo a few years ago with a simple message, "You have a mud problem."

Wendell used his considerable expertise in organic gardening to point our program in the right direction. I constantly refer to to the Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening that he gave me for ideas and information. The mud is gone, the run off is radically reduced and the grass is green. That is a huge change.

And now we use our soil and water conservation and permaculture projects as part of our educational program. We went from having a mud problem to being able to teach solutions for future generations in just a few years.

But it was his idea that we raise funds for a deep well and irrigation system that will have the greatest long term impact on our program. Rolling a component of artificial watering into a program of modified rotational grazing will do more to bring quality natural forage to our horses than anything that I ever planned.

And...Wendell is taking a very important roll in Corolla preservation. He is shown above with his young Corolla stallion, Pancho. This fall or next spring Pancho will become part of the foundation stallions in the Corolla offsite breeding program. Wendell has spent countless hours handling and teaching the young horse. I have not mentioned this to Wendell yet but there is a rare breeds Expo coming up in Lexington this fall and I think that the two of them will make a fine representation for this strain of Colonial Spanish horse.

As we entered this fundraising effort I asked Wendell to send me  information for use in a blog post about the roll of adult participants in our program.

What he sent me was powerful--intensely personal and filled with meaning......and the entire thrust of the post was about what the program meant to him and how more families need to participate along side their children. I will use that post at another time. It was typical of Wendell that the post was not a laundry list of things that he has done for the program.

And it becomes typical of all of those who throw their heart into the horse lot. No one looks for an award or even recognition. The distinction between what is given and what is received blurs. The thing given becomes the thing received.

 You can be part of this effort. Go to our website and make a contribution today. We are a 501 (c) 5 non-profit breed conservation program and as such contributions are not tax deductible. We are in our first month long social media fundraising effort. Feel free to share this with everyone that you know who cares about horses and people

Friday, April 14, 2017

And We Work Hard To Preserve The Choctaws Too

It all started with our efforts to prevent the extinction of the Corolla Colonial Spanish mustang and our efforts have now extended into the preservation and promotion of several strands of Colonial Spanish horses. Everyone has their own favorites, but it is the Choctaws that I find myself drawn to.

The native tribes of the southeast were among the best horse breeders the world has seen. They began with the same Colonial Spanish horse that was found across the region and bred horses with extraordinary endurance, smooth gaits, and a fierce need to bond with people.

When Andrew Jackson tried to purge the southeast of all native people it was these horses that carried them to Oklahoma. They are but a remnant now, only a few hundred left in the world. For years they roamed free on Black Jack mountain. They were threatened with slaughter when the ownership of the mountain transferred hands. they were saved and disbursed into what were hoped to become breeding bands across the country.

Bryant Rickman has dedicated his life to saving these horses. He is to Colonial Spanish horse preservation what A.P. Carter was to American folk songs and ballads. Monique Henry introduced me to these historic horses and gave us our first three of them.

We have since obtained three more.

They are a vital part of our program. In less than a month Lydia will be racing Manny in a 30 mile endurance race at Biltmore in North Carolina. She will turn some heads when the other competitors watch this colorful pinto trot by them.

You can be part of this effort. Go to our website and make a contribution today. We are a 501 (c) 5 non-profit breed conservation program and as such contributions are not tax deductible. We are in our first month long social media fundraising effort. Feel free to share this with everyone that you know who cares about horses and people.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

We Preserved His Life and His Corolla Bloodline

This summer we will have several foals born. One of the best is likely to be the offspring of Edward Teach, shown above, and Monique, a Choctaw mare and granddaughter of Rooster, a stunning wild stallion from Black Jack mountain.

Bonnie Gruenberg's spectacular research uncovered written references to American Indian tribal horses, specifically the Chickasaws, being bred into the the Banker horses such as those remaining in Corolla in the 17th Century. By using straight Choctaw mares in the Corolla Off site breeding program we are not crossing modern blood into these horses. We are restoring what has been lost. While at the same time producing the perfect family horse--gentle, sweet natured, extraordinary endurance, and smooth , easy gaits.

Edward had already been in a veterinary hospital for two weeks when he arrived at Mill Swamp Indian Horses. As the picture shows, even after two weeks of treatment, the wound that he received in the wild, (likely from a wild hog)was horrific.

Treating his injury was difficult. We treated him twice every day for many weeks. He was a wild stallion and he was in pain. Weeks of hydrotherapy, topicals, and antibiotics pulled him through.

 He healed wonderfully. He belongs to two of my adult riders. We healed him, tamed him and trained him. He is a beautiful stallion. You may have seen a segment on Wild About Animals in which he was prominently featured.

Edward has produced one foal, Ashley Edwards' great horse, Peter Maxwell, who is often used in Road To Repair programs. Peter has Edward's sharp mind and gentle spirit.

 Often in order to prevent the extinction of these horse we have to first prevent the death of  some very sick or injured horses from the wild. It is hard work but it matters.

You can be part of this effort. Go to our website and make a contribution today. We are a 501 (c) 5 non-profit breed conservation program and as such contributions are not tax deductible. We are in our first month long social media fundraising effort. Feel free to share this with everyone that you know who cares about horses and people.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Race To Survive--Saving Sunshine

Yes it is graphic, but suffering often is graphic. Sunshine was a wild mare of the Corolla herd. She was sighted absolutely emaciated with the largest abscess that I have ever seen. The picture above shows what that wound looked like. That is not a joint --That is the lower quarter of the hip.  The cause of the wound and resulting abscess are unknown.

The picture below is her moving effortlessly at her new home in Lexington Virginia. She is one of the few remaining  Colonial Spanish Banker horses of the Outer Banks of North Carolina. That band is among the rarest, and perhaps oldest, distinct genetic grouping of American horses.

The Corolla Wild Horse Fund rescued her and she received first rate medical care from Dominion Equine and was adopted by Becki Wells. Becky had the foresight to understand that Sunshine deserves more than to be put out in a pasture. She needs physical contact and the security that only comes from being part of a band of horses or developing a close relationship with a person.

Becki is working to give her both. When she arrived in Lexington Alexis Cash began the process of gaining the mare's trust. A by product of gaining trust is to reduce levels of stress--something very important for continued physical and emotional healing.

We have three wonderful Corolla stallions that were rescued from the wild that we rehabilitated, trained and use in our breeding program. They ranged from being crippled with founder, one  in need of stifle surgery, and Edward even had a gaping hole in his neck, likely put there by a wild hog.  All fully rehabilitated and happy and producing Corolla foals for the off site breeding program.

And now we will move on to the next step--and you are all invited to come and watch. On Saturday, May 13, beginning at 9:00 am. at Mill Swamp Indian Horses, 9299 Moonlight Road, Smithfield Va 23430. Sunshine will move into her next level of gentle humane training. I will begin with a bit of conventional round pen work and then will quickly turn the horse over to Lydia Barr.

Lydia is a professional horse trainer who began riding with me when she was eleven years old. She is a first rate practitioner of natural horsemanship. Her focus with this horse will be using a technique of gentle handling known as  "Doma India."  I have little exposure to the technique but I have never seen anything that relaxes a horse as fast as these unusual exercises.

And, to make for an even happier ending, Sunshine will be staying with us for a while to breed to one of our Corolla stallions. Our Corolla off site breeding program might one day be these horse's last chance to stave of extinction.

Save a spot by emailing me at Bring a lawn chair and pack a lunch. There is no fee charged but we strongly urge all participants to make a contribution to Gwaltney Frontier Farm, Inc to allow us to continue to wok to save these horses.

Speaking of Contributions:   You can be part of this effort. Go to our website and make a contribution today. We are a 501 (c) 5 non-profit breed conservation program and as such contributions are not tax deductible. We are in our first month long social media fundraising effort. Feel free to share this with everyone that you know who cares about horses and people.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Volunteers Who Put Their Hearts Into Our Program

People often wonder how we can run all of the programs that we do, for all of the people that we do and care for as many horses as we do---all with no paid staff. It is because we have many volunteers who are as enthusiastic about this program as the participants are. Lydia was eleven years old when she learned to ride in our program. That was over a decade ago. Now she is an integral part of everything we do

"My name is Lydia Barr. I ride,volunteer, and train horses, as well as keep my horse out at Mill Swamp Indian Horses.

I started riding and working with horses out there when I was 11yrs old. I was home schooled and my parents were looking for a way to include outdoor work and activities into my schooling as well as an outlet for my delight and curiosity about animals. The freedom to have a whole day of being challenged in an outdoor class room is a rare opportunity and Mill Swamp Indian Horses was the perfect match for me. I am the 5th out of 7 children so it was always a tricky thing for my Mom to work out the schedule for all of us each year. But Mill Swamp was the perfect fit. I was able to count my involvement as extra credits in physical education, community service, and leadership skills. While also gaining confidence, self control and emotional awareness that comes from learning to communicate with horses, other animals, and all the other people who ride and work out there. 

I am now 22 yrs old and my job is professionally training horses several days a week. Because of the rare and incredible opportunity to learn and gain experience training wild horses with Steve, I was able to push myself and develop my natural talent with animals. But through all the different programs at the horselot that focus on using horses for healing and better relationships with people, I have learned and grown up with a deep desire to use my skills and strengths to meet and build up everyone I come in contact with. 

The power of the horse lot comes from it's simplicity and honesty. It doesn't have straight fences and rolling green pastures. There is mud and baling twine fixes. But there is no pretense. We offer what we have to anyone who can come. People from all different backgrounds and stories are able to come and find community because the horses offer comfort and peace.Through the horses I have learned patience, gentleness, courage, compassion, and how to reach out and connect with other people. But it has also been through the people who have opened themselves up to the revealing vulnerability of working with the horses that have taught me some of the most important things about what I want to be, who I want to look like, and where I want to go. 

Steve Edwards, Mill Swamp Indian Horses, and the Gwaltney Frontier Farm have changed my life. Not from something damaged into something healed, or from darkness into light, but simply a deeper understanding, a wider perspective, a more gracious standard, and solid self awareness."

 And you can be part of this effort. Go to our website and make a contribution today. We are a 501 (c) 5 non-profit breed conservation program and as such contributions are not tax deductible. We are in our first month long social media fundraising effort. Feel free to share this with everyone that you know who cares about horses and people.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Our Homeschool Program: Bringing Kids To The Horses

We recently began a formal program that is bringing a lot of families out to the horse lot. There they learn about our nearly extinct Corollas, Shacklefords, Choctaws, Galiceno, and Marsh Tackys. We are a breed conservation program and for years our focus in conservation has been simple--The best way to save Colonial Spanish Horses is to teach a kid to ride one.

In order to place our horses in their proper historical perspective we also raise types of goats, hogs, and chickens that would have been found herein 1650. (Our turkeys are warm and friendly, and are a big hit with visotrs but they were developed in the 19th century.)

Permaculture,, soil and water conservation, history, and even music are used both to fulfill our mission as an educational and cultural facility and to draw families to the horse lot in order to promote and preserve these horses.

Here is what one mother had to say about our weekly program for home schoolers:

"At the farm, we learn so much and Steve Edwards takes us on a rabbit trail of learning. His volunteer staff has been groomed by him throughout the years and they bring special talents and personalities to the mix, making them extraordinary mentors and examples to the children. Our kids learn about the logistics of a farm, anything from agriculture, to soil health, colonial era animal breeds, breeding, history, feedings, how to train a wild horse, to horse whispering, cultivating the land, to building a horse fence and participating in everything and anything the land offers. There are many projects on the land that families can do together to create a sense of ownership on the farm. Oh! and you learn to tack, ride a horse, bond with a horse, care for a horse and converse with a horse. The horses provide therapy to anyone that steps foot on Moonlight Dr. They are the friendliest horses on earth. A life changing experience for all skill levels, to include ground zero. Come on out and get a farm education, the experience will last forever. A horse is waiting to change your life."  --Kelly Lindquist

Contact us at for more information.

And you can be part of this effort. Go to our website and make a contribution today. We are a 501 (c) 5 non-profit breed conservation program and as such contributions are not tax deductible. We are in our first month long social media fundraising effort. Feel free to share this with everyone that you know who cares about horses and people.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Another Great Corolla Foal Coming This Summer

Tradewind, a formerly wild Corolla Stallion and 2011 Horse of the America's Registry National Pleasure Trail Horse of the Year, shown at the top, is bred to Baton Rouge, a formerly wild Corolla mare whose father was Cyclops, the famed, one-eyed lead stallion at Corolla.

It is difficult to imagine the foal being anything but spectacular. This cross has has been made once before, resulting in The Black Drink, a stunning young stallion who is at Boy's Home in Covington, Virginia.

Like all of the foals produced in the offsite breeding program this one will be available for purchase to someone who agrees to use the foal to produce more of these nearly extinct, historic horses.

We are a 501 (c) 5 non-profit breed conservation program. We have no paid staff. Everyone that works in our program is a volunteer. Our program is unique and multifaceted.

See our web site and learn about the breadth of our program.

Our horses consume over 10,000 pounds of hay each week. This is our first month long social media fundraising effort.

After you take a look at the website it would be great if you would share this post around to everyone that you know who cares about horses or people.

You can make a contribution directly on the web site.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Conserving Banker Horses One Foal At A Time

Our primary goal is to prevent the extinction of the Banker horses, particularly those from Corolla. Immediately before the Great Depression there were over five thousand wild Banker horses on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Today only two small bands exists,the Corollas and the Shackelfords. Located at opposite ends of the Outer Banks, each of these bands consists of less than 120 horses, likely very much less.

There are four lines of maternal DNA at Shackleford and only one at Corolla. The Corolla band is starting to experience genetic collapse with fewer live foals being born to Corolla/Corolla breedings. The Shackelford band is one of the groupings that we use to bring in sufficient genetic diversity to prevent the extinction of these horses. This spring and summer we hope to have enough foals born here to increase the number of existing Corollas by from 2-5%.

This foal to be's father has such a gentle and kind nature that he took a saddle two days after coming to our program and took a rider on the third day. The foal should be extraordinary. This mare has a daughter from another Corolla stallion in the band of horses that we donated to Boy's Home in Covington Virginia.

We have a special responsibility to preserve and promote these horses. The very unfortunate reality is that it is  likely that I have ridden these horses more miles than anyone left on this planet. I know their incredible endurance. I know how closely they bond with people. I know how gentle and easy to train they are. I know that they can easily carry adults all day long.

And I know that we do not have the right to allow them to go exinct.

We are a 501 (c) 5 non-profit breed conservation program. We have no paid staff. Everyone that works in our program is a volunteer. Our program is unique and multifaceted. 

See our web site and learn about the breadth of our program. 

Our horses consume over 10,000 pounds of hay each week. This is our first month long social media fundraising effort.

After you take a look at the website it would be great if you would share this post around to everyone that you know who cares about horses or people.

You can make a contribution directly on the web site.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Making Colonial Spanish Horse Preservation Work

The brunt of the work of breed conservation that we have done over the years is embodied in the Corolla offsite breeding program that we began. This effort, which seeks to place Corollas in the hands of families that will agree to breed a small number of foals and seek to place them in the hands of other breeders who will do the same, has been successful on a small scale.

Of course, we are a 501 (c) 5 non profit breed conservation program so strategic decisions may be made with a focus on effectiveness instead of profit. At the same time, funds are limited so strategies for preventing the extinction of the Corollas cannot be made without considering our long term viability as an organization.

In looking at the future of our  program I have several factors to consider. I have to look at our assets:

The diversity of our Colonial Spanish horse strains that we seek to preserve and promote. Although our primary emphasis is on the Corollas, we also work to preserve and promote Choctaws, Grand Canyons, Marsh Tacky's, and Galicenos, 

Our unique physical environment.  We demonstrate the effectiveness of natural horse care. We demonstrate proper use of the round pen. Our obstacle course that we use to build horse and rider confidence, the Amusement Park, is a tremendous asset. The colonial livestock that wander around the horse lot put our horses in their proper historical setting. All of this  sits alongside our replica 1650's era settler's farm.

Our capacity to provide entertaining educational programs. Our round pen demos are first rate and often have large segments of them presented by people who not only are too young to drive, but only recently became too old to order off of the children's menu. We have done living history programs and have had many speakers come in and present extraordinary programs for our riders. As we get more into use of permaculture techniques we have an interesting environmental story to tell. Lastly, our unique music program that teaches ancient songs being played on ancient, and often homemade, instruments allows us to do programs that not only are tremendous fun, but provide significant cultural education.

Our capacity to produce foals for Corolla preservation is unique in the nation. We have assembled a sufficient foundation herd of Corollas along with closely related strains for strain crossing which will provide genetic diversity to breed for many generations to come.  The result will be larger Corollas--not tall and without type--but taller than they are in the wild. Doing so will reduce a significant part of the resistance to these horses--the belief that they are too small to be ridden by adult.

 Go to our website and make a contribution today. We are a 501 (c) 5 non-profit breed conservation program and as such contributions are not tax deductible. We are in our ninth  day of our month long social media fundraising effort. Feel free to share this with everyone that you know who cares about horses and people.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Croatoan: My First Ride On A Corolla In The Woods

Croatoan had to be removed from the wild because he was consistently leaving the safer areas of Corova and heading out into the paved road area of Corolla where he stood a great chance of getting killed by an automobile. He was an older horse when he came to us, likely well over ten years old. When captured he was a bit thin and his prominent pin bones made him look even thinner.

Although he was an older stallion, he gentled quickly. He came to us when the weather was cold and by fall he was being ridden by intermediate riders. He was 13.2 (tall for a wild Corolla)and peaked out around 800 pounds.

He was gaited.

I had been around horses all of my life, but I do not believe that I had ever been on a gaited horse. I had watched Tennessee Walkers glide and I had watched Paso Finos smoothly tap dance their way across arenas. The gaitedness of the Corollas and Shacklefords is not as obvious to the eye as are the gaits of modern gaited horses. Instead of trotting with a motion that keeps two feet on the ground at all times, the Corollas will delay, often only by a fraction of a second, the lifting of a hind leg. This "single footing" means that one hoof is on the ground at all times. Being Colonial Spanish horses, they have tremendous reach with the back legs, often over striding the front.

After he was completely responsive to his bosal and strong and healthy I took him out for his first long ride in the woods. I planned to keep it very slow to give him a chance to learn to balance a rider while being distracted, and stimulated by all the sights and sounds around him.

Of course, he was an older horse, and while he was in good shape he had not been conditioned by the many miles of being ridden in the woods that the other horses along on the ride had enjoyed. In addition, he was carrying a significant load on his back as I eased into the saddle.

We set out on a sunny Saturday morning. I had about ten riders behind me, all but one riding horses that we had trained here ourselves. We walked for about the first mile and three quarters. Then I asked him to trot.

I was not prepared for what I felt. He moved out from under me with such power and grace that I seemed to be floating through the woods. The faster he moved, the smoother he became.  As I settled in and relaxed I realized that we were not cantering. Nor were we trotting. We were like a sail boat on still waters with a good breeze.

I had never felt like that in a saddle. I felt like I could do this for a hundred miles. More importantly, he seemed like he could do this for a hundred miles. Further and faster--never asking him to speed up after the initial request to trot--he chose the speed. And the speed he chose was quite fast.

And then the biggest shock occurred. I looked behind me to see all of the other horses cantering to keep up.

And they were failing to do so. We were pulling away from the younger, well trained and often ridden horses that followed us.

How could I hope for anything more in a horse? How could I possibly let these horses go extinct? Their future in the wild seems quite bleak--little more than a hundred left with only one line of matrimonial dna and signs of genetic collapse already appearing.

And we bred him to Baton Rouge a formerly wild Corolla mare. Mokete, their foal, was the first foal produced in what became our offsite breeding program.  He lived a long and happy life with us and passed on a few years ago. Today his lines still run through our program. His last daughter, Bloody Knife, is nearly two years old and loving her life in North Carolina.

I believe that today is his grandson, Ponchos, second birthday.

He lives on in Kay Kerr's award winning children's book, "Corolla's Sand Horse Beach: Croatoan's Memoirs."

And every day that I go out to the horse lot I am reminded of that feeling that first came to me as I sailed along on Croaotan--a sense of responsibility--I can't let these horses go extinct.

And neither can you.

Go to our website and make a contribution today. We are a 501 (c) 5 non-profit breed conservation program and as such contributions are not tax deductible. We are in our eighth day of our month long social media fundraising effort. Feel free to share this with everyone that you know who cares about horses and people.