Wednesday, December 5, 2018
Fifty seven years ago I began riding. Forty eight years ago I began playing music. Forty four years ago I began helping little ones perform on stage. Twenty years ago I began taming wild horses. About 15 years ago I began teaching riding and natural horsemanship. About twelve years ago we began our efforts to conserve and preserve the Corolla Spanish mustangs. A little over ten years ago I began writing this blog.
The blog has served its purpose and there are now over a decade of posts on a wide range of subjects that will remain around for anyone to search who might have an interest in doing so. The blog is ending because I have taken on a new, more important writing task-- I am a book with my youngest daughter Ashley Edwards that will focus on child abuse and sexual assault. (If you don't know about my daughter, please go to our website www.millswampindianhorses.com and look under the "news" tab for some great tv news stories and newspaper articles about her).
I am surprised at how little my basic views on preservation of the colonial spanish horse, the importance of using natural horsemanship to produce better people, the need for horses to be raised with natural horse care, the importance of understanding prey animals if one is to deal with severe trauma, that the highest and best use of a horse is to prevent suicide, that the future of our horses depends on our ability to attract novices to them and that efforts to impress the established horse world with the quality of our horses are doomed to fail, that perfectionism, ignorance, and anxiety are the three factors that hold people back from developing a close relationship with horses, that teaching kids to ride is of much less importance than inspiring kids to ride, that in every form of equine competition the real loser is the horse, that conserving soil and water is a sacred act, that being a riding instructor should be a calling , not a job and that, most importantly, whether dealing with people or horses the very first step in seeking to live an ethical life is to utterly ignore self interest.
The extraordinary consistency of those beliefs makes the continued wring of this blog a bit less important. One can look to posts a decade ago and see how I feel now--and how I will feel ten years from now.
Sunday, December 2, 2018
Everything living must trace its existence to the soil. Everything dead returns to that soil. Conserving soil is a moral imperative and the creation of soil is a spiritual endeavor.
Modern farming practices destroy soil. About the only thing more damaging to the soil than modern farming is suburban lawn care.
We are going through one of the wettest years at the horse lot that I have seen in my lifetime. The weather has created a great deal of inconvenience to program participants. A few paddocks have succumbed to the mud. No one likes going into a muddy pen to catch horses. Some people do not understand why we do not move more horses into empty, drier pastures.
I understand the confusion, but the fact that the question exists at all shows that I have been an ineffective teacher. I have too many participants that do not understand that the land must heal. Under these weather conditions moving into a drier pen that has been without horses for months will simply create another muddy pen and erase the healing that is happening in those pens.
It takes a while for program participants to understand the importance of rolling round bales out in the pastures. To an uninformed mind the practice looks wasteful and messy. It took me quite a while to understand that rolling round bales was the best thing that we could do to increase the health and productivity of our pastures.
I suspect that for most humans happiness is dependent on creation--most particularly the creation of art. The art that I create is soft, nearly fluffy, black soil loaded with earthworms, beetles, and millions of microscopic farm hands working to not merely conserve the soil--but to create it.
Saturday, November 24, 2018
At the conclusion of this year I will stop writing this blog. I will also radically reduce any posting on social media and will be posting just enough to advise of events coming up in our program.
My life will be taking a new and important turn over at least the next year. My youngest daughter, Ashley Edwards, and I will be writing a book together. She has already begun writing and the first piece that she sent me was breath taking in the quality of the writing and the horror of what she described.
Ashley is unique--brilliant, multi talented ,filled with insight, and the survivor of the most horrible case that I ever prosecuted. Unfortunately, Ashley's story is not unique. I have been prosecuting crimes against kids and sexual assault cases for over twenty years. Unfortunately, my story is not unique.
But our story together is unique and it can be of unique benefit to survivors of sexual assault, their family members, law enforcement, prosecutors, social workers, and everyone who works with or cares about a person who has been through severe trauma. At the end of this post I will set out links to two news paper and TV news stories about Ashley for anyone who does not know about my amazing young daughter.
My first book was written at break neck speed. I was working furiously to try to have it written so that my mother could read it before she died. This book will not be written at a break neck speed. Ashley has already found that she can write best only small parts at a time. I am going to take my time shaping this work in the hope that it will help bring life to some who may have already felt what it is like to die inside.
Along the way I will have to learn a great deal about presenting our experience in the most effective way to reach the most people. Being an adult is an exercise in setting priorities. What could possibly be a higher priority than using our experiences to help others claw their way out of Hell the way Ashley has?
So I will set many things, like writing of this blog aside.
Here are links to some media stories about my daughter Ashley:
Monday, November 12, 2018
Pictured above are a group of homeschoolers learning about the roles of fungus and bacteria in converting a pine forest to a viable pasture. Saturday a group from the local Women's club came out to spend the morning learning about our soil and water conservation projects and were introduced to microbial farming.
They learned the answer to two of the most important secrets to the ecological benefits of our program--why the soil is so soft and cushiony over so much of our pastures and why our hog pen produces nearly no odor.
Several days earlier I spoke at a meeting of a local Ruritan Club on all aspects of our program. Everyone is amazed at how much our program does but few people are aware of how much our program teaches.
As spring comes around we will be available for educational tours and programs on our soil and water conservation projects and we are alway available to provide speakers on all aspects of our program to area civic, religious, and youth oriented organizations.
Riding is a sport. Sports require some level of conditioning. Specific sports require the conditioning of specific muscles. Riding, particularly riding great distances. requires strong core muscles and a certain degree of aerobic fitness.
Problem #1----Conditioning one's body is time consuming and results come so slowly that progress seems non-existent.
Solution #1-----Use solid sports physiology to achieve your goal. Planking is something that I have found very helpful and most especially the isometrics that are created from wall sitting. Tabata Protocol sessions last only four minutes of intense working out. Progress comes faster than one could ever imagine. In a month one's level of aerobic fitness goes through the roof. (I am not going to take the time to explain Tabata Protocol. The internet is loaded with information on this technique).
Problem#2-----Conditioning is unpleasant.
Solution #2----Find exercises that are riding specific and learn to enjoy them. Pounding a heavy bag is something that I enjoy and the strength and balance that it has given me has kept me in the saddle scores of times when I would otherwise have been on the ground. Barefoot jogging develops the quadriceps in ways that make riding great distances possible. Posting on an inflatable ball strengthens legs and increases the aerobic capacity of these muscles.
Of course, don't do any exercise program without the prior approval of your doctor. The exercise suggestions above are not substitutes for medical advice and should not be attempted without receipt of sound, qualified medical advice.
Sunday, November 4, 2018
I sat down last night. I sat down by the fire last night. I sat down with two of my grandchildren last night. I sat down and played music last night. I sat down and ate barbecue from an Ossabaw boar last night.
Yes, last night I sat down.
Monday was a rather ordinary day at the office--preparation for slews of prosecutions on the horizon--from murder to making annoying phone calls. Monday night we had music practice for those in the music program here at Mill Swamp Indian Horses--a handful of adults and a roomful of kids learning to play and perform Americana, blues, old time, gospel and roots music. Tuesday was office work and then out to work on fences.
The remainder of the week involved a field trip of fifty kids and parents, several visits by families interested in seeing the horses. cutting down trees for poles for the fence around the New Land, riding lessons for two new riders, and group riding lessons for other program participants, feeding mares with foals dailey, getting kids together for a musical performance, having a visit from another group of students on another day, getting things ready for fall barbecue, giving several tours of our soil and water conservation projects, setting up round pen demo, hoof trimming demo, microbial farming demo, and confidence building in horses demo.
We introduced well over 100 visitors to Ossabaw hogs, Hog Island Sheep, Colonial Spanish horses, Syfan, San Clemente and Baylis Spanish Goats, and Bourbon Red and Blue Slate turkeys.
And we did all of this with no paid staff. Everyone who participates in our program is a volunteer.
And here is what I did not do last week. I did not spend time arguing over the proper name for our various strains of Colonial Spanish horses. I did not spend anytime lamenting the fact that we do not do enough to earn the good graces of the established horse world by participating in their silly rituals of equine competition.
None of what I write here is remotely designed to give our program a pat on the back. I write to give an answer to a question that we are constantly asked--"How do you all find time to do all of this?"
A big part of that answer is that we take the time and energy that would be spent arguing about things that do not matter and put that time and energy into building something that matters.
Sunday, September 9, 2018
It's because of all of the things that our riders see and learn while learning to ride.
...like how important fall wild flowers are for the development of strong, healthy, well drained soil.
...like why the partridge pea plant is so important to the birds that remain here throughout the winter.
...like why "touch" is so important in building a relationship with a horse.
...like the sense of accomplishment one feels from saddling up and riding 46 miles.
...like learning the importance of the conservation of nearly extinct strains of heritage livestock.
..like the importance of working hard, as a team, to build something bigger than we are.
We are a 501 (c) 5 non profit breed conservation program. We have no paid staff. We are all volunteers who believe strongly that bringing people back to the soil through horses, permaculture, history, education and even music is the greatest gift that we can provide to others and to ourselves. We teach riding and natural horsemanship to kids, adults, and families. Program fees begin at $160.00 per month. For more information see our web site at www.millswampindianhorses.com and email us at email@example.com.
Sunday, August 12, 2018
Bristol was born August 1. His mother is an HOA mare from Rigoletto. His father is Wanchese, an
HOA stallion of Banker strain captured wild on Shackleford Island. Over the past week his hips have lightened and he has white appaloosa colored hind quarters.
His unique blood line might make him of interest to HOA breeders seeking to preserve the appaloosa color in Colonial Spanish horses.
Meet Maces Spring, born last week to Baton Rouge and Corn Stalk--both formerly wild Corolla horses who are first rate trail horses and a delight to ride. She was born before breakfast and purchased before supper time by an owner who will use her both as a riding horse and as an important part of the effort to prevent the extinction of these historic horses.
There are several stallions in the breed conservation effort that are not loosely related to her and I hope that she will produce at least four little ones over her life time. Both parents are registered with the Horse of the Americas Registry as she will be.
Her father is gaited with very heavy bone. Baton Rouge has a bit of a single foot and I hope that Maces Spring ends up as gaited as her father.
We have had a very active summer here in our program and have fallen behind in blog posts. I plan to remedy that situation. Keep your eyes open for a post on a beautiful little appaloosa colored colt born about ten days ago from Feather, and our Shackleford stallion, Wanchese.
Wednesday, July 4, 2018
On July 21, at 4:00 pm, Kay Kerr's award winning short film on the plight of the wild horses of Corolla will make its local debut at Trinity United Methodist Church on Cedar Street in Smithfield. The film short, "Croatoan's Memoirs" grew from her illustrated children's book of the same name. Kerr, a local artist and writer, shot much of the film at Mill Swamp Indian Horses just outside of Smithfield. Named Best Short Film at the Equus Film Festival in New York, it will soon be seen in Ontario Canada after screenings from New York to Burbank, California. Kerr will be present at the event to discuss both the film and the book from which it came.
Croatoan was a wild stallion from Corolla on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. He was removed from the wild because of his habit of taking his small band of mares from the area enclosed for the wild horses and out into traffic. At the time Mill Swamp Indian Horses was beginning to build a breeding program to prevent the extinction of these Colonial Spanish Horses, whose ancestors likely arrived in the New World over fifty years before the settlement of Jamestown.
Croatoan was gentled and trained and grew to love the attention and affection that he received at Mill Swamp Indian Horses, according to Steve Edwards, Executive Director of Gwaltney Frontier Farm, a 501 (c) 5 breed conservation nonprofit that administers all of the programs at Mill Swamp Indian Horses.
Croatoan lived nearly a decade at Mill Swamp before succumbing to old age. He sired many foals and his daughter and grandson still carry on his bloodline out at the farm.
The screening is part of an annual fundraising event for the programs at Mill Swamp Indian Horses. There will be live music from Joseph Edwards and students in the Mill Swamp music program. Food will be available along with a silent auction. Mill Swamp Indian Horses has no paid staff. All of the programs are administered by volunteers. Tickets are five dollars for adults and one dollar for children.
For further information contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, June 22, 2018
Our roots music educational program is growing steadily. Next to our riding program it is one of the most popular things that we do. Program participants learn to play a range of acoustic instruments and to perform a few modern songs, but our focus is on Carter Family, Old Time, blues, gospel, bluegrass and folk music. Students learn to play by ear--- no written music is used. This performance at a local nursing home does not include everyone in the program and the camera could not even take in all of the participants that were actually performing.
Dale Jett, A.P. and Sara Carter's grandson, said, "We went to bed of the night with the music and we woke up of the morning with the music." The great performer and ethnomusicologist, Mike Seeger believed that the first step to learning to play this music was to listen to it over and over, until your body absorbed the feel of the music.
Just as one can never be an effective practitioner of natural horsemanship without becoming immersed in the herd, one can never play this music the way it deserves to be played without being immersed in it.
In August I am taking an actual vacation and will be joined by everyone in our music program who can do so. My wife, Beth, has put together a great cultural and educational itinerary for the trip. We will journey into southwest Virginia to see performances at Hungry Mother State Park, hope to take a tour of the Henderson School, attend the Carter Fold Festival which commemorates the anniversary of the 1927 Bristol Sessions Recordings by the Carter Family, visit the Heartwood, Southwest Virginia's artisan gallery and we will go into Bristol to see the Museum of the Birthplace of Country music. We will spend several days on this trip.
We will bring our instruments along and anytime there is a break in our schedule we will tune up on work on some songs.
All of this is part of what makes Mill Swamp Indian Horses such a different riding experience. We are a 501 (c) 5 non profit breed conservation program. We teach riding and natural horsemanship. We teach history and permaculture. WE heal and we teach others to heal. We fill voids.
The reality is that we are a cultural and educational facility--all with no paid staff. All with 100% volunteers.
There is no charge to participate in our musical program. No one has ever been turned away for lack of ability to pay program fees for our riding instruction program.
We have a very important fundraiser coming up on July 21. You don't have to be there to contribute. Go to our website www.millswampindianhorses.com to learn more about our program and to make a donation on line. Donations to a 501 (c) 5 non profit are not tax deductible.
Sunday, June 10, 2018
There is room for humor in music. There is room for fun in music. There is, on rare occasions, even room for joy in music. But there is never room for disrespect of music in music.
Drunken audiences, people playing "air guitar", inane chatter interrupted only by orders for one more round show more than lack of respect for musicians. They show lack of respect for music.
For years, Vaugn Deel has put on first rate open mic shows here in Tidewater. At these performances I have watched some very hard working young musicians get better with each performance . Victorian Station in Hampton, provides the best venue for open mics that I have encountered.
There is truth in timeworn lyrics. "Farther Along" says more to many people about the root of good and evil than can all the verses of Job, Ecclesiastes, and Habakkuk combined. Three verses of "Keep on the Sunny Side" boil down three years of counselling on fighting depression. Several Steve Earle songs teach us that what was still is, but that it does not have to be that way in the future.
But the lyrics must be heard to matter and Victorian Station is a place where they can be heard. At the moment Songwriter's night is the first Thursday night of each month and only original songs are performed. I hope that the future will bring back the weekly sessions that made Victorian Station so special.
If you want to play good music, and if you want to hear good music, open mic nights at Victorian station are where you belong.
Sunday, June 3, 2018
As is wont to happen, each year our mature horses get another year older. We are also raising foals. Foals plus older horses create a perpetual parasite factory. Both the very young and many old horses do not have the quality of an immune system that the majority of healthy adult horses have. Hence, they become incubators of parasites.
Of course, it is both a ridiculous and counter productive effort to seek to drug horses so often that they have fecal egg counts of zero. But parasites need to be managed for a variety of health reasons. One of those reasons often escapes the eye of the uninformed horse owner. Simply increasing calories, especially if those calories are primarily simple carbohydrates (as in sweet feeds) will do little to help such ancillary problems associated with a heavy parasite load as anemia.
One must also be concerned with the creation of parasites that are drug resistant. That is why the old idea of rotational dewormer use along the lines of the out dated protocol of the 1990's creates such a threat to the future of equine health.
I have always been leery of using Quest dewormer. I worried about the stories often told of the tremendous danger of overdosing horses with the drug contained in Quest. Even if the risk was small, ivermectin was cheap and within twenty four hours generally produced dead parasites in manure piles.
But I was constantly vexed by the problem of several herd members that have been hard to keep weight regardless of when they were dewormed and what they were fed. In recent years our protocol for such horses has been a thorough deworming and movement into a small pasture where they are fed hay and a highly digestible, low sugar, 12% protein extruded feed that is supplemented by a significant amount of gradually increasing vegetable oil. Most promptly begin to put on weight. Those who have dental problems are floated. In very rare cases, the floating helps. Primarily as a result of their forage based diet, few of our horses develop dental problems and the concept of constantly grinding away perfectly good teeth on a horse with no dental problems what so ever because the horse "is due for a floating" is ridiculous beyond consideration.
Completely unnecessary routine floating to prevent dental problems makes no more sense than putting a cast on an unbroken arm twice yearly to prevent broken arms.
Experience, observation and research matter in developing solid health protocols for your horses. Early this spring I stumbled into something that I wish I had truly understood years ago. I dewormed a three year old mare with fenbendazole. I had never been impressed with the results that I got from fenbenzadole and the results were no different this time. After twenty four hours there was minimal evidence of dead parasites in the manure. I decided to see what a follow up with ivermectin would do. The result was substantial evidence of effectiveness the next day. So I followed up with ivermectin two more days in a row. She continued shedding parasites.
There have been no indications of any side effects. I do not recommend following the experiment that I did. In fact, it is important to keep in mind that I am not a veterinarian. Advice on developing a deworming protocol or any other equine health protocol should only come after discussing the options with an experience veterinarian. I am not offering veterinary advice.
This experience, coupled with a discussion with my vet, cause me to reexamine my views on using Quest. While we might be experiencing some drug resistance to ivermectin I do not think that that has been the primary reason that it has appeared less effective in some of our horses. Ivermectin is a highly effective on parasites that are not encysted (with the major exception of tapeworms which it no effectiveness against). However, it seems that a horse with encysted parasites releases them into the cecum and intestine, allowing them to pass on eggs and complete their life cycle, when their is a significant die off of non-encysted parasites.
The drug in Quest kills both encysted and non-encysted small strongyles. Quest is going to become a major part of our parasite treatment program.
I understand that a double dose of fenbenzadole, for five consecutive days works as well for many horses as a single treatment of Quest. The price and convenience of Quest makes that an attractive option for our horses.
Saturday, June 2, 2018
Beginning Saturday June 16, at 3:00pm, Mill Swamp Indian Horses, in Smithfield Virginia will offer a six session package introducing people of all ages to horseback riding. Unlike many other riding instruction programs, these sessions will begin with an introduction to natural horsemanship, providing participants with an understanding of a horse's physical and emotional needs. Understanding a horse's motivations is an essential step in developing a safe and humane relationship between horse and rider.
The next session, to be held the following Saturday from 3-5, will focus on understanding tack and how to properly saddle and unsaddle a horse. The remaining sessions will move into proper cues for our horses and the last session will include a group trail ride. Participants must be at least eight years old. Adults are encouraged to participate.
The fee for the entire six session program is only $175.00. Mill Swamp Indian Horses is a program of Gwaltney Frontier Farm, a 501 (c) 5 non profit breed conservation program. On site one will find some of the rarest strains of historic colonial horses left in the nation, along with heritage breed goats, hogs, and turkeys. No herbicides or pesticides are used on the grounds and the pastures are developed using principles of permaculture and microbial farming.
See more about our unique program at www.millswampindianhorses.com.
Register for the six session program by email to email@example.com.
Monday, May 28, 2018
In three hours I will set out on a fifty mile ride. I will have eight or ten riders with me who have never done a fifty mile ride. I will have teenagers and young adults riding with me who trained their own horses. There will be at least one stallion on the ride. The majority of the horses that we will ride were either born wild or are one generation from the wild.
If it rains heavily we will not complete the ride. Wet pants lead to saddle sores that can turn a kid away from hard riding.
Throughout history the horses have been the victims, not the beneficiaries, of competition. The established horse world's economic foundation is competition. Shows, races, and riding programs based on learning to conform to whatever fad currently exists to define balanced riding keep those credit cards scanning.
Horses, and humans, benefit from competition that is inner directed. It is the only form of competition that only produces winners. Riders who constantly compete against themselves to see how light they can possibly handle their horse are winners. Riders who constantly compete against themselves to see how well conditioned they and their horses can become are winners. Riders who constantly compete against themselves to see how they can better bring security to their horses by use of control and affection are winners.
The Mrs. Drysdales of the horse world will never understand such simple truths. The Ellie Mae Clampetts of the horse world seem to knw this instinctively
Friday, May 18, 2018
Our program arrived at the hospital on time and is in stable condition. Barring a seriously bad turn of events it will survive. We have fallen off course and the fault is mine. The slew of murder trials that we have and will be having at the office for the next several months has pulled me off course. Before that I put in scores of hours clearing the new land. As a result I was not spending as much time on the newer riders that I normally do and participation in that category plummeted.
To make matters worse a silly health problem has made it difficult for me to ride the miles that I normally put in. Our emphasis on natural horse care has drifted and that will be pulled back on course with as strong a tug boat as is needed.
I learn from my mistakes. I did not plant cover crops that summer and the soil suffered greatly for that error. The seeding is expensive but is a top priority I now realize. The health of the horses is dependent on the health of the soil. Round bales will be rolled out religiously from this point forward. Rotational grazing will mean that not one single horse goes into a pasture not being grazed for one single moment. Wire separating pens will be kept up and kept hot. If a wire is shorted out then we will not go on a ride until it is fixed. Care for soil and pastures is not something that we will take care of if we have time after a ride. It will be top priority. We will ride only after fences are fixed.
Sprinklers will be used in all but damp soil conditions and will be moved into place as necessary. Even if a ride has to be delayed while we get that done.
Negativity should be kept to a minimum.
Everyone is expected to work very hard to keep our program growing and financially stable.
Most importantly, every program participant needs to keep in mind that the purpose of this program is not to make your life better. The purpose is to give you the opportunity to make the lives of other people better.
Sunday, May 13, 2018
We will expand our Friday program over the summer to include two, six session semesters of a unique educational and recreational program for students across Tidewater. Each session will begin at 8:00 and conclude at 12:00. Students will receive an introduction to riding and natural horsemanship, but that is only the beginning of the Mill Swamp Experience.
Participants will be introduced to some of the rarest historic American horses in the nation and take part in the care and training of horses that we raise in our Corolla Breed Conservation Program. They will be introduced to equine genetics and natural horse care. They will learn to understand horses and to take the first steps in building a solid relationship with a horse using gentle, effective, humane training techniques.
Along with our breed conservation program for such historic horses as the Choctaws, Marsh Tackys, Spanish Mustangs, Corollas, Shacklefords, and Grand Canyons, we also raise and conserve nearly extinct strains of heritage breed goats, turkeys and Ossabaw hogs. Participants will assist in the care of these animals and will learn how they fit into the history of Colonial Agriculture.
And speaking of history, participants will be exposed to early colonial gardening and cooking in our replicated 1650's era farm site, with an introduction to the lives of the Powhatan people who farmed, hunted and fished within a few miles of our pastures.
We even take a little time to introduce participants to historic American folk, gospel, and blues music. Participants will get some hands on sessions with instruments that they likely have never seen before including lap dulcimers, autoharps and the wash tub base.
And nothing that we do is more important than introducing participants to permaculture practices to conserve soil and water through construction of swales, hugelkulter mounds, and microbial farming in a completely organic setting
The first session will be held on Friday June 15,22,29 and July 6, 13, and 20. The second session will be held Friday July 27 and August 3, 10, 17,24 and 31. Participants must be at least 8 years old. The cost is $120.00 for a family of up to three participants with an additional $20.00 per child for the entire session for over three participants per session. Participants may be left on site prior to 8:00 am and picked up at 12:00.
Space is limited. Remember we are a 501 (c) 5 Breed Conservation Program with no paid staff, only a small group of hard working volunteers committed to preserving historic horses and livestock while providing solid educational opportunities for program participants. For more information about our program see www.millswampindianhorses.com. For further registration information contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saturday, May 5, 2018
Last year Elijah and his friends from Rivermont school came out to do what we do at the horse lot. Some days that meant riding. Some days that meant clearing land. Some days that meant training horses.
Every day it meant learning, growing, and understanding things about yourself and the world around you that you might not have known before. He was not raised with pastures. He was raised with pavement. He was apprehensive when he first got on Comet. He was apprehensive when he first rode Comet in the woods. He was apprehensive when he first trotted on Comet.
And when it was all done he was proud.
He understood when I told him that the world had so much given up Comet that a veterinarian once called me at the office to tell me that Comet could never be trained--that he was a hopeless rogue and that he should be immediately put down. He understood when I told him how much patience and gentle but very firm leadership it took for Comet to eventually become the loving, trusting horse that he is now.
He understood when I told him that it is wrong to throw away horses and it is worse to throw away people. He understood that Tradewind went from being completely crippled to being National Pleasure Trail Horse of the Year for the Horse of The Americas registry. He understood that learning to trust is as important for people as it is for horses. He learned to take control of his fear by trusting me when I told him that the horse would not hurt him, trusting the horse not to hurt him and, most of all, learning to trust himself to be able to handle the horse in the woods.
Sometime it is what we do not say that is even more important than what we do say. The ancient Hebrews did not have a separate and distinct word for "religion." Instead they generally used the same word as the word that simply meant "living." We need to stop using this term "equine therapy." It implies that one only receives physical and emotional growth from exposure to horses in limited separate and distinct "sessions" with horses.
Every exposure to a horse can give comfort to those in pain, understanding to those in confusion, calm to those in fear, and peace to those in turmoil. Today a fortune will be spent and lost on the sad spectacle of the Kentucky Derby. People will talk about how much those race horses are "worth", foolishly equating sales price with "worth."
How much was it "worth" for Elijah to be able to step off of that world of pavement into a world of pasture while sitting astride Comet? The sins of the established horse world are too numerous to list. The greatest sin that it inflicts on humans is to develop a business model that turns horses into toys for little rich white girls and fungible items of commerce for old white millionaires.
Some people cannot understand why I would love a scraggly old horse like Comet, but everyone who knew Elijah would understand why I could love a warm, smiling, generous kid like Elijah.
This morning at 11:00 Comet will take a kid in the woods--maybe for the first time the kid has ever done so. Elijah's funeral will be happening at the same time. He was murdered last Sunday night in a world of pavement.
The Kentucky Derby happens sometime today, but I really don't care when.
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Sitting here feeling a bit reflective this morning--Jason Isbell, Brittany Howard, Gram Parsons, Townes Van Zandt, A.P. Carter and Ralph Stanley all been sitting here with me for the past few hours--eating Kim Chee and fried chicken for breakfast and thinking about how our program got where it is.
Thinking about how those who see how we do things fall into two camps--those who wonder how we get as much done as we do and those who wonder how much more successful we would be if I would just be more conventional in my outlook.
My favorite flower is the one that people try their best to kill, only to find it sprouting back no matter how much poison they heap on it.
I don't find any beauty in a flower's appearance. Real beauty is in its resilience.
Can't deal with pretending. Things are true or they are not. Can't put something in my mouth called "false teeth" and can't feel a bit better about such dishonesty by calling them "dentures" either. Music is to be judged only by how it sounds instead of how difficult it is to play. The test of whether or not a horse is well designed for endurance is to go ride him for 50 miles. The test is not to look up conformation and breed standards to make sure that you and your horse are appropriately clothed in Moa suits and marching in perfect step with what ever the established horse world has decreed.
Something fundamentally wrong with having a brain and refusing to use it. We must all be born the same and we must all die the same but we do not have to live the same. Speaking clichés inevitably leads to living them.
To lose the respect of a horse in order to gain the respect of a person is strong proof of a fundamental lack of self respect. Gaining the respect of the powerful by failing to place the interest of the powerless above all else is to live a failed life.
Appearances do not matter. Reality does. That is why a blind man often has truest vision.
We have a lot of guests and visitors come out for the first time.. Some people say, "This place looks so beautiful." Others say, "This place is so beautiful."
There is a big difference between those two statements that too few people recognize.
Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Matchcoor will be a yearling this summer. For years now our efforts to prevent the extinction of the Banker strain of Colonial Spanish horses, left in the wild only at Corolla and Shackleford, have centered on developing off site breeding programs to carry on the fight. We will still continue to do so but we will be changing our emphasis from providing breeding stock to new off site breeding programs to raising and training first rate horses that will then be sold as young adults with the hope that they will be bred by their purchasers.
That will mean some major changes in how we do things. We will continue to offer foals for sale under the same terms as we always have to encourage off site breeding. However, our focus will shift to raising fewer foals and keeping them until they are dead broke. This is not my preference. Doing so will make it necessary for us to charge much more for a horse than I want to do. I hope that those who purchase one of these horses will instantly see how well they perform compared to modern horses that they will want to breed them on their own.
As he matures I will turn Matchcoor into a super-horse. Of course, he will remain a stallion. Gelding one of these nearly extinct horses is nothing more than vandalism and theft from future generations of horse owners who will never get to even lay eyes on these historic horses.
Producing several first rate adult horses each year will require our program to continue to develop first rate young horse trainers who practice first rate natural horsemanship.
Take a look at this picture of Audrey and Matchcoor. I bet I will be a able to find some first rate young trainers who will work hard to preserve these horses.
Bet I won't even have to look all that hard before one turns up.
Sunday, April 22, 2018
A brief word of explanation. In recent weeks I have written fewer posts and articles than is normal. I have been taking much longer to respond to emails. Our program is not slowing down. We are continuing to expand and we have been doing a great deal of riding before work and at 6:30 pm during the week.
We have experienced some significant wind damage at the horse lot, had some repair work to do on the mower and the settler's farm, a few horses to pick up and move, and a lot of horse training to do. We have a big spring fund raiser to organize and carry out. There are a lot of trees that need planting. The good news is that it is all getting done thanks to the great volunteer work of several program participants.
And that is great because I am not in a position to give much thought to these projects, much less taking an active role in getting them accomplished. There are four prosecutors in our office. Over the next seven weeks we have motions, preliminary hearings or trials in six murder cases. In twenty years of prosecuting I have never faced such a schedule. The bind is not simply that they are murder cases. The problem is the complexity of some of them. One of the cases has as much documentation to absorb and technical information to present as I would find if I added up all the cases that I have worked on in the last two years.
But, it will all get done and by mid summer life should be back on track. In the mean time, if you are looking for an opportunity to volunteer to help a unique riding/training/breeding/educational program go check out our website www.millswampindianhorses.com and contact us.
There is always plenty of work to go around.
Wednesday, April 11, 2018
Grand Canyon Blood. Her father is a super star. She is beautiful and affectionate. This is her spring. A horse learns much more from being trotted 50 miles in the woods in a week than it learns trotting 100 miles spread out over three months.
Keep in mind our horses never see a stable. They live in bands with opportunity for movement 24/7. Their muscles, bones, and suspension systems are infinitely stronger than those of a horse who is stabled but for his limited time of turn out.
I have ridden her on many occasions but I wanted her to have the chance to mature before I immersed her in riding. This spring will be her immersion. Her gaits are already impeccable, even without the tremendous muscling and conditioning that she will receive. By the fourth of July she and I will flow together the same way Ta Sunka and I do. The same way Joey and I do. The same way Holland and I do.
She is unique in our horse lot. In the last 18 years I have sold a few horses but I have given away many more very special horses to very special young people than I have ever tried to sell.
Janie comes all the way up from Texas. She was raised at Lothlorian Farm. A very special little girl, who is now a very special young women wanted me to have her. I have been impressed with Brooke Simms since I first saw a clip of her training a young Colonial Spanish horses. I let her know that and I have followed what she and her family have done with these historic horses since then.
Janie is one of the most important gifts that I have ever received. And this spring I will teach this mare everything that I know.
Tuesday, April 10, 2018
Beth was surprised when I came in today. I told her that I had taken the horse lot as far as I could and and it was time for someone else take over and for my role to be that of land lord. I thought about several different options ranging from having one person do what I do, to suggesting that my role be divided among several people, to winding the program down with an eye towards its gradual dissolution. The idea of continuing to handle the cases that I am handling in court and throwing nearly all of my remaining time into the horse lot is more than overwhelming. Sunday Lydia and I went riding around Smithfield and I was surprised to see the new construction that has gone up in recent years. I don't see much of the area unless it is on my triangular route from home to the horse lot, to the office and back and it has been that way for several years.
I asked Terry to send me a list of the people that are on a special program development committee so that I could advise them that they needed to come up with a plan to run the horse lot without me. Then facebook messages came up. A nice post from Reba. A wonderful note from Monique. But most importantly, this picture from last night.
The reality is that others could do the work that I do at the horse lot if they were willing to do so. It is not brain surgery but it does require one to totally dedicate one's life to the program.
But on the other hand, please permit me to be more honest than modest, there is not another soul out there who can do what is in this picture. Kids achieve things for me that they think they cannot do. The only reason they even try is because I tell them that they can do it. It has always been that way.
On the positive side I am already fifty eight so I doubt if I will need to hang with this much more than another thirty years.
Tuesday, April 3, 2018
Nothing motivates one like having a goal and achieving it. In 55 Days, on Memorial Day, May 28. We will have a fifty mile ride open to all riders in our program who do the following:
1. Submit a self conditioning exercise program involving both strength and aerobic fitness which the rider must adhere to between the time of submission and the date of the ride. For those who have questions I will assist in developing an age appropriate training program for you.
2. Dedicate at least three hours each week to riding with the majority of that being trotting.
3. Purchase a new saddle pad to donate to the program after its use in the fifty mile ride.
4. Submit to me the horse that you prefer to ride on the ride if you do not own your own horse. For those who wish to ride the same horse the first claimant will have priority although I reserve the right to put people on the horse that I think is most appropriate.
4. Email me a picture of the saddle that you wish to use if you do not own your own tack.
Kids who follow this regimen and complete the fifty mile ride can be assured that what ever challenge they face in life, whether it be getting a scholarship, making a sports team, getting into a college, getting a job, or beating cancer. their competition will not have ridden fifty miles in a day.
Sunday, April 1, 2018
Many great programs for dealing with riding anxiety fail to cover one important point--that, as important as balance is, strength what keeps one on a bucking or severely spooking horse.
Most of our fears of falling are not well grounded in fact. However, the fear that if you are over 35 you stand a great chance of breaking a bone when gravity is applied to speed and mass is very well grounded in fact.
You cannot do anything to make your bones younger, but you can, in about an hour a week, radically strengthen the muscles that you use when riding. There are a lot of great exercises for strengthening the muscles of the body's core but nothing beats the complete riding strength development of a simple exercise called the Farmer's Walk.
Do a bit of research on this simple exercise. Don't try to become a body builder, but carry enough weight in each hand to get results. With correct technique and sufficient weight in each hand you will likely see changes in your body faster than any other exercise that you have ever done.
Those changes will increase your confidence. The increase in strength that you obtain will make that confidence well grounded. The caveat of checking with your doctor before beginning any exercise program applies here. Unless there is a medical reason to refrain from doing this exercise, I only know of one thing that one can do that is even better for building riding strength and that is to trot without resting for many hours each week.
And when the two are put together you will transform your body and your horse's too.
Saturday, March 31, 2018
From the moment of its birth a horse is on a constant search for security. That drive to be safe is what kept them alive for thousands of generations in the wild. The first security that a foal finds is from physical contact with its mother. It will never stop needing that contact and the best way to become close to your horse is to shower him with physical contact.
Horses form alliances with each other through physical contact. Comet, the appaloosa, is the lead horse in his band. Holland, the bay Shackleford Colonial Spanish mustang is his second in command. As other horses rise in status in the band they will copy this behavior. Given enough time and space the band will nearly always work out their conflicts so that the lower ranking horses feel secure in the presence of the lead horses.
Sometime this affection is misread by people. Their skin is very tough. Horses do not like to be tickled by super soft strokes. They seek out the same kind of strong contact that they remember their mothers giving them when they were foals.
The key to natural horsemanship is to adjust one's behavior and body language so that horses can understand it. Your physical contact with your horse is most appreciated when it feels natural to him.
When you rub him as a friendly horse would rub him you give that horse a tremendous sense of peacefulness. Note how the physical contact here with Bell, a wonderful little white mule, is similar to how horses interact with each other. Do not make unnatural contact with them. Horses do not pat each other. They rub each other. Your horse might learn to stand still while you clap your hand against his neck, but he will not instinctively enjoy it. When you are making contact with your horse get very close to him. Do not stand back and stretch your claws out towards his neck like a mountain lion would. People often stand back because they are afraid of having their toes stepped on. The best way to keep your toes from being stepped on is to always be alert. Know where your feet are. Know where your horse's feet are and push him away if he is getting to close to your feet.
Dog's love treats. Treats are a great way to establish a relationship with a dog. The first lesson to learn about building a relationship with a horse is to always understand that your horse is not a dog. Dogs are predators. Predators love excitement. When you hug a dog there is a very good chance that the dog will become rambunctious and playful. Horses are prey animals. They do not like excitement. When you hug a horse there is a very good chance that the horse will relax and even look bored! That is not boredom. That is peacefulness.
There is nothing wrong with occasionally giving your horse treats, but if your entire relationship is based on those treats you have taught your horse that you are simply a food delivery system. Doing so does not teach your horse that he is safe with you. Doing so does not teach your horse that you are a leader. Doing so does not bring him a feeling of peacefulness.
Every time you are in your horse's presence you are training him. You are training him to feel safe in your presence or you are training him that your presence does not make him safe.
When a horse is being brushed he relaxes with the physical stimulation that he receives. Having his mane braided or decorated in other ways does not create that same relaxation. That does not mean that you should not braid manes or do other things to make him look beautiful to you. It does mean that you should not neglect brushing, rubbing and hugging. That is what he needs. He really does not care if his mane is braided.
Horses are tuned in to every sight, sound, and smell around them. That is how they survived in the wilderness. As night begins to fall the wind often dies down. They can hear better without that wind and they can identify and locate the sources of scents better as the humidity rises as night approaches.
Take him outside of his stable as the day ends. That is the very best time to give your horse what he really wants. That is the perfect time to go stand so close to his shoulder that the two of you are touching each other. Completely relax your body. Be still. Notice his breathing. Breath in rhythm with him. Notice that his breathing is slowing. Watch his head lower a bit. Watch his ears relax. Watch him look as if he is so bored that he is about to fall asleep.
Spend at least a half an hour like that with him.
And understand why he is enjoying this experience more than anything else that has happened that day.
Thursday, March 29, 2018
Everyone has the same 24 hours in each day. Every second lost is never recovered.
I am 58 years old and I need more time to Refocus on Things that Matter. I want to get back to hard riding and training horses. I want to get back to reading books. For much of the 70's I tried to read three books each week. In the 80's I often read four newspapers before breakfast.
In the 90's I exercised an hour and a half each morning of the week. In 2016 I rode 1002 miles in six months.
But things have changed and I am going to clean up my schedule. When I turn on my computer around 3:00 am it is not unusual to find over fifty emails waiting for me. The wait is going to have to get much longer. I think that I am going to get rid of the internet connection to my computer at home.
Taking those two hours spent at the computer back each day will improve my life.
I suspect that it will also improve Stitch's life.
Saturday, March 24, 2018
Planning has its place in program development. Depending on one's particular peculiarities it can be a spur for success, a security blanket, or a process that allows one to sit quietly while spinning wheels and going no where, yet still feeling good about one's "progress" in planning. I prefer innovation and creativity over planning in nearly every endeavor. Others may differ and find proceeding without detailed planning to be a terrifying concept. My point being is that one size does not fit all. I am not certain that one style is even better than the other or can even be counted on to produce better results than the other.
I have been told by exasperated people, in a tone that makes it sound like an accusation, that I "just get up in the morning and come up with a new idea and then just do it."
I plead guilty.
And for the last fifteen or so years of developing this program that has worked fine for me. I do not insist that it is how others should build their programs. I only point out that this is how I do things and I have no interest in being enlightened or informed so that I can learn to conform to more acceptable growth and management strategies.
But I am certain of one thing. Regardless of one's style of program development one must be patient, and even more difficult, one must require others to be patient. Today is the first Saturday that I am doing something that I should have been doing for years. I have cancelled riding because of the soil conditions. The ground is too wet and horse and human foot traffic will lead to soil compaction that will damage the pastures for months to come.
In a similar vein, too often I have allowed people to take horses out of a sacrifice paddock to "just let them have a little grass" in pastures that were resting. The result was fleeting enjoyment of pasture for the horse, a feeling of doing something good by the person, and season long damage to the pasture. This year that will stop.
Program participants will learn the importance of microbial development to the soil. They will learn the importance of pasture development for the actual health of the herd and will learn to completely disregard the momentary, false feeling of doing something healthy for a horse by letting it retard the growth of a resting pasture.
Like planning, patience is something that can also be a detriment to program development if abused. We have a very diverse group of program participants. Over the years I have sought to gently encourage and explain why we have certain practices involving natural horse care that are important for the health of the herd. I have been too patient in that approach and that too will end.
As with any program it is necessary to step back and evaluate management practices from time to time and to make corrections as needed. In recent years I have come to understand that the health of the horses is dependent of the health of the soil. Maintaining the health of the soil will be a top priority for the program.
It will take several years of sound soil conservation practices before we reach optimum pasture development. But that is alright. We will become a program in which participants learn the value of patience.
(The picture above is of a round bale rolled out on the New Land. the rolling out of the hay is of tremendous value to the soil and it helps the horses build much stronger top lines than standing and eating from a round bale. It is one of the changes that we are making to enhance the health of our soil and our horses.)
Monday, March 19, 2018
On March 22, 2018 I will be addressing the Virginia Agri-tourism Conference in Williamsburg. In November we presented a day long session at the horse lot for the annual meeting of the Livestock Breeds Conservancy on using entertainment, education, and public service to promote nearly extinct strains of Colonial Spanish horses.
The upcoming presentation will highlight what we do at the horse lot in our unconventional approach to attract novices to riding and horse ownership. I will spend less time on how we do things than I will on why we do things.
Agri-tourism can bring additional revenue to farmers, but even more important is what it can bring to the visitors. It can bring meaning to the lives of the visitors. Our nation has not been as divided as we now are since the Civil War. Too many techno kids live lives trapped inside a smart phone or video games. Too many parents have no idea how to connect with their kids. Too many people struggle with depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
A renaissance of rural culture and cultural education, linked with a strong effort to expose urban and suburban families to the soil can help alleviate the emptiness of the soul felt by too many people. I know how much our program changes lives. I know how few of our participants are from rural families. I know what it does for them to exchange the fleeting pleasure of technology for the time worn satisfaction of hard work, production of livestock and crops, and development of the creativity to produce art and music.
Take a look at what goes on at the Wayne C. Henderson School of Appalachian Arts. Though there is not a horse at that facility, people who truly understand our program will readily see that much of what we provide to our visitors and program participants is the same connectedness that places like the Henderson School provide.
Virginia needs to facilitate the development of more programs that bring people out of the cities and suburbs to learn to apply the best of rural values to their lives.
And the visitors are not the only ones who benefit from these programs. Connecting with urban and suburban kids and families gives country people the opportunity to better understand the common humanity that we all share.