Tuesday, January 30, 2018
As the warm season grasses begin to go dormant their carbohydrate content drops and horses lose weight. In short order cool season grasses take off and often have a great deal of simple carbohydrates that can be dangerous, particularly after a mild frost.
Such grasses are more dangerous to an obese horse. It is never good for a horse to be obese but fall and spring are the worse times for a fat horse to be taking in high calorie forage.
Laminitis flourishes in these conditions.
In the dead of winter horses kept under natural conditions loose weight. That puts them in a better position to enjoy the spring grasses without taking on a crippling bout of painful founder.
We do not do our horses a favor by trying to buck ages of environmental adaptation by keeping them fat in the winter. I have never seen research on the matter, but one day I expect to see studies that show that horses who are never allowed to loose weight, as they naturally should, as the summer ends and in the peak of winter are most susceptible to developing insulin intolerance.
It is sad to know that even if this link is proven many horse owners will simply smile and say that they like for their horses to look "healthy" so they keep them fat.
...so why's he all dressed up like them old men?
Time flies by and it is time to catch up.
Manteo is the first wild Corolla stallion that we obtained. Over the years we have bred prudently and slowly--perhaps too slowly. I never want to produce more foals in the Corolla offsite breeding program than we can place.
Saving the Corollas from extinction will require much more than simply producing foals.
This summer we will break out and breed more mares than we ever have. We will breed several mares in the spring and several more in the fall. It is against my cautious nature to breed as many horses as we plan to, but time is passing by. Some of our foundation mares are in their teens. Our program is larger than it ever has been and is growing steadily. Development of a separate 501 (c) 3 non profit to fund our ever expanding educational programs will provide even more exposure for the remnant of these Colonial Spanish horses.
Next summer one of the colts born last summer will be going to Colorado. I hope that this will lead to the eventual development of some breeding programs out west.
There has never been a more exciting time to become part of what we do. Check out the Mill Swamp Indian Horse group facebook page. See our website at www.millswampindianhorses.com
This is your invitation to become part of a completely unique equine program.
Monday, January 29, 2018
Ignorance of the horse's mind, one's personal emotional baggage, and the misconceptions that result from the two are major impediments to developing a meaningful, safe relationship with horses. The horse's primary social goal is to achieve a state security. Same is true of all prey animals who live in herds. The human's primary social goal is to achieve autonomy. Same is true of all mammalian predators.
When we interpret a horse's behavior as a result of the desire to be autonomous we are making the first huge step towards completely misunderstanding the horse. The cliché, "That horse is just testing you", is generally meant to mean that he is testing you to see if he can get away with bad behavior.
No, that is not what he is testing. He is testing you to see if you have the power to provide him with security. That is why he resists being lead. That is why he resists being caught. That is why he "just won't listen."
He is "herd bound" or "barn sour" because he feels secure with the herd and not with you. Trust is more than the horse feeling secure that you will not abuse him. Trust requires the horse to feel that if a crisis breaks out you will protect him.
If you attribute his "misbehavior" to being stubborn it is time for you to go back to the drawing board. In a herd or small band situation the lead horse, (male or female the distinction is irrelevant) controls the direction and speed of movement over the other horses in their grouping. Those other horses may, at first, "test" that leadership by disobeying. The lead horses will promptly respond with a rebuke, often a bite or a kick. When the horse who is not the leader decides that it is safer complying with the leader than acting autonomously, it begins to relax.
It has found security in the presence of that leader. Leadership in the herd or band is not only shown by control. There are strong bounds of affection that strengthen that feeling of security. A close relationship with a horse is best created when one interacts with the horse using 51% control and 49% affection. Indeed, no horse will ever feel completely secure with any human that refuses to control that horse, nor will the horse feel completely secure with any human that refuses to demonstrate effusive affection in a manner that a horse understands.
If you refuse to take control of your horse it is not because you "just love him too much and do not want to be mean to him." It is because of the personal emotional baggage that you are bringing to the relationship. You either feel that you are not capable of being a leader or your relationships with others have caused you to equate leadership with abuse.
The irony is that an unwillingness to assume leadership of the horse is abuse of that horse. Not only are you letting him down in the short run by failing to provide him with a feeling of security you are failing him in the long run by producing an insecure horse that is not safe around people.
There is a fortune to be made writing books and doing clinics teaching the exact opposite to gullible audiences who love hearing that they are actually succeeding by failing their horses. That they are proving their virtue by letting the horse decide everything for itself--that indulging your horse as if it were a human infant shows the "partnership" that you have created.
Your horse is not a human. Your horse is not a dog. Your horse is not your child and your horse is not your first husband. Your horse is a horse.
Give him the dignity treating him as a horse.
Sunday, January 21, 2018
We spent the weekend in Maryland at a stop in the Equus Film Festival's tour. It is the first time that I have seen Kay Kerr's award winning short film "Croatoan's Memoirs" on a big screen. I was floored. It is one of the most powerful short films that I have ever seen--perfect narration, incredible photography and very deep meaning. The picture above is from the question and answer session that I gave after the film aired.
The day's are getting longer. It is a time to plan and a time to get things done. Next week our Board of Directors will get together for a planning session with an eye towards not only keeping our program going, but having it grow at an explosive rate.
We have much that must be accomplished over the next 45 days in order to grow our soil, so that it can grow our forage, so it can feed our livestock, so we can raise enough Corolla Colonial Spanish Mustangs to prevent their extinction.
That means turning the New Land into Eden for rare, historic horses, goats, hogs, and poultry. It means converting the New Land into the region's largest living classroom to teach permaculture, biological farming, and poison free forage production. That means obtaining examples of early colonial trees to plant around the Settler's Farm. That means repairing and enhancing buildings that compose the Settler's Farm. That means developing our Living History/drama program.
That means becoming a 501(c)3 in addition to our 501(c)5 status.
Last year I spent less time in the saddle than I have in any of the past fifteen years. That is very unhealthy for my mind and my body. I spent less time in the round pen training horses than I have in any of the last fifteen years.
And for the next six months our office faces the most intense stretch of murder and sexual assault trials that the county has ever experienced over a similar time period. Last week marked my twentieth year of prosecuting crimes against children.
And the sun is close enough to rising for me to head out to the New Land two put in a few hours of brush clearing before today's rides begin.
Friday, January 19, 2018
We have smatterings of rural cultural and educational programs all across rural Virginia. They provide unique opportunities for young people and families to get in touch with the soil--to find a meaning in life that the plastic, digital age does not give them.
We need to develop a coordinated effort using public and private partnerships to strengthen those programs. It will mean economic development for rural areas. It will help bridge the divide between urban, suburban, and rural families.
And it will transform lives.
I do not have a detailed, 21 Point Action Plan formulated to get this done. I have an idea and a willingness to work with others to get this job started. There are always problems in getting initiatives like this going. For this initiative there is the special problem of being able to put into words why it is so important for young people to get in touch with dirt, livestock, music, history, and art.
It would be profoundly immoral for those of us who have seen the transition that can be made by providing these opportunities to keep our light under a bushel.
There will be more on this to follow.
Thursday, January 18, 2018
Went out in the snow to meet two gentlemen at the horse lot who understand what young people need. They are putting together the Isle of Wight County Public School Farm. They are introducing high school students to the soil. It is an important task. They are opening the door to authentic, meaningful lives for kids who live in a plastic, digital world.
They will be using three of our San Clemente/Syfan cross goats in the program. The goats will aid in learning about heritage breeds, breed conservation, and niche farming. For years our programs have introduced kids to much more than horses. They are learning, and will learn more, about permaculture and livestock conservation in our program.
I am delighted that public school students in Isle of Wight will have this opportunity as part of their regular school day.
Sunday, January 14, 2018
On January 19 and Jan 20 I will b traveling up to Timonium Maryland to speak on Kay Kerr's short film based on her award winning illustrated children's book, "Croataoan's Memoirs". The book is great. The film is great...and Croatoan was great. http://marylandhorse.com/index.php/events/equus-film-festival-maryland-tour-jan-19-20-2018
He was the first wild Corolla stallion that I ever rode. He carried many many smooth miles over very rough terrain. He was the first horse that I ever rode in the woods at night. He died a few years but his daughter and granddaughter are here in our horse lot.
Stop by on Saturday for family day and see some of the films at no cost.
I was also happy to learn that Krista Rutherford film, "America's Forgotten Horse" will also air at the event. Portions of that film were made at our horse lot.
This link is to Vickie Ives' Report of the HOA inspection tour of the Corolla and Shackleford wild herds. When read along with Bonnie Gruenberg's great book, "Wild Horse Dilemma" it gives a great understanding of the indisputable Spanish origins of these horses.
Saturday, January 13, 2018
Our nation is divided. The number of farmers continues to slide. The gap in understanding between rural people, suburban people and city dwellers has never been wider. We understand each other less and less. Social media, which could have been a tremendous tool for building bridges, is more likely to be a means of solidifying hatred, fear and ignorance.
We cannot change this overnight. We do not have perfect solutions. We do know that things will not get better without had work, dedication, and coordination of the efforts of those who understand the problem and are willing to throw themselves into alleviating it.
Virginia should take the national lead in developing cultural programs that give young people and families a chance to step outside of their isolated, digital world and connect with the soil, livestock, music, art, and traditions outside of their sterile, lifeless worlds. There is no single model for the kids of programs that we need, nor should there be.
You will see much more on this to come.
Sunday, January 7, 2018
Now I am the oldest son, of the oldest son, of the oldest son, of an only son. That lineup carries several things with it. First of all, I expect people to get out of my way when I come walking through. Secondly, it carries with it a great deal of a sense of responsibility. The fact that there are a world of people out there that I need to be looking out for is not some huge burden to carry. It is simply a recognition of that which is.
Lydia believes that we seek out in horses that which we are. Lydia said that Holland is one of my favorite horses because he just shuts up and gets the job done. I think that she has a solid point. There are certain traits in people that are paramount to me--integrity, altruism, responsibility and dependability. I find those traits in several of my riders who have been around a while.
I am not slighting any of them when I say that I have found all of those things in Tam. What you read below is from a note that she just sent me.
"Last year, a homeschool link came up on my mom’s computer. It was about a place in Smithfield, stating that there were Colonial Spanish mustangs, along with a homeschool program. It seemed like a really nice place to visit, and it would be the first time we saw horses in a long time. Moving 800 miles to a different state was full of stress, long nights, and uncertainty, so my mom figured that being around horses would help.
The farm looked nothing like I had imagined. No painted white fence, no golf course grass, and no stables. Instead, there was the unfinished log fencing on the new land, diverse grass, and pastures. It was simple, and laid back. So were the people I met.
Week after week, we worked on the hugelkultur, made cinches or Stone Age tools, worked on the new land, or worked with horses. The homeschool program gave me a lot of important information that came in handy while riding. About 2 months later, we started the actual riding part, then joined the music program. It was interesting to learn about instruments that I had never seen before, and learning about the Carter family.
It’s been about a year, and I’ve learned so much about natural horsemanship, history, psychology, science, history, and music. I play instruments that I never thought I could play. I ride horses that I used to not know about.
And the farm is now a second home"
We found out about Mill Swamp when a homeschool group had told us about it. When we went the first time the people there were very nice, and the man that ran the place, Steve, was also nice. I had noticed that there were kids around my age and younger saddling up horses, I thought that was really cool!!! The next Friday we went back, there were more children, there was one family we now know very well, and they come out on Fridays. We call it Homeschool Friday because everyone that comes out, is homeschooled.
When we’re training in the round pen that’s one of my other favorite parts about the farm, he teaches us about control and affection, 51% control and 49% affection. He also talks about how much we are like predators,and shows us how to change our body movements so the horse knows you’re not going to hurt them. I love going into the round pen to train horses it’s really fun. It teaches the horse who the boss is, and that things can be scary, but don’t have to hurt. We also use these things called monsters,for instance, we have the bag monster, which is a paper bag tied to a crop and a rock monster which is an old gatorade bottle filled with rocks and sand. Monsters help train horses to learn that they don’t need to be afraid of that thing, and that they can drive away that scary thing.
Overall I think that Mill Swamp is the best place to be because I learn about the horses and myself.
Saturday, January 6, 2018
(This is why we work so hard to introduce our horses to those who are not part of the established horse world. Another Corolla offsite breeding program was the result of this family's immersion in what we do. They now own Swimmer (black Corolla mare) who is bred to Tradewind (bay Corolla Stallion, 2011 HOA National Pleasure Trail Horse of The Year, who remains with us and is a vital part of our breeding program and Matchcoor (bay Shackleford mother and bay Corolla father) Matchcoor will provide nearly extinct genetics to be used for Corolla preservation for the rest of his life. Swimmer can be bred to him in the future and her unborn foal can be bred to him if she has a filly and if she has a colt it can be bred to many of the mares in our breeding program. The Banker Colonial Spanish mustang is the state horse of North Carolina. Their ancestors came to America nearly 100 years before the English landed at Jamestown. If we can establish a breeding site, even ones with only one mare, each year for the next twenty years they will continue to survive. If we fail to do so the future of this historic strain of Colonial Spanish horses is quite bleak. To learn more see our website at www.millswampindianhorses.com. We are a 501 (c) 5 non profit breed conservation program with no paid staff. We are all volunteers who work hard to raise yesterday's horses for tomorrow's riders.) The post below says it all:
"My daughter and I talked and decided to start bringing 2 of my homeschooled granddaughters to the ranch at the beginning of the year for the homeschool program. We were sweaty, cold, dirty, exhilarated, educated beyond belief, and surrounded by camaraderie , friends and fun is what we all experienced.
The girls absorbed so much passion and knowledge that my husband and I bought a 20 acre farm and have graciously entered into the Mill Swamp Indian Horse Farm breeding program to help save these amazing horses. We adopted Swimmer (now pregnant) and Matchcoor (7 month old foal). They are AMAZING and we have all bonded quickly. We still respect their upbringing, but with Matchcoor’s personality, you cannot help but treat him like a pet. He is loving, curious, craves constant attention, and plays with our dogs every morning.
Steve’s program is priceless! His knowledge is SO huge that we absorb a great deal of information about land preservation, training horses, riding practice, and respect for wild horses and other animals. We learn about all of the heritage endangered breeds and what it takes to care for them. Even though the program is mainly based on horses, Steve makes sure that all students are introduced to all breeds of animals and agriculture throughout the farm weekly.
Kierstyn (9 yo old): “I recommend Mr. Steve’s horse ranch because it is an amazing experience. You learn a lot and make lots of friends with a common interest. We have adopted 2 horses and are raising them the way Steve has taught us. I think everyone should visit Mill Swamp Indian Horses ranch and Steve.”
Janee (11 yo old): “This is an experience I will never forget. I had so much fun making friends and meeting new people. I love the bonding time with all of the animals, especially the horses. I loved training the horses and gaining their confidence and being able to know the horses have gained trust and I am an important part of their lives. I love Matchcoor and Swimmer with all of my heart and would not give them up for all of the world!”
Friday, January 5, 2018
This is a guest post from Lauren Glover. She and Gracie are a big part of our Home School Program and Music Program
"Since we started attending Mill Swamp Indian Horses earlier this year, we have gained so much from this program! We have found a new love for horses, esp. rare and amazing Spanish Colonial horses, as well as other Colonial strains of goats, pigs and even people (lol!).
I have enjoyed watching my 8-year old daughter experience the following: how to train and ride wild horses, agriculture, biology, ecology, chemistry, animal husbandry, learning and playing old songs on older instruments (a dulcimer, graciously loaned to us by the executive director of horse farm/program, Steve Edwards), enjoying teamwork and doing hard work (learning good work ethic)...and most of which all occurs before noon on Fridays!
Then, in the afternoon, she can learn some additional skills (weaving, gardening, etc.) which would have occurred during the Colonial times. We have both made wonderful friendships and have learned a lot! Can't wait to see what the new year brings! Thank you Steve, and the all-volunteer staff at Mill Swamp Indian Horses for all you do all year 'round!"
(Mill Swamp Indian Horses is the program name for Gwaltney Frontier Farm, Inc. We are a 501 (c) 5 nonprofit breed conservation program outside of Smithfield Virginia. We have no paid staff. All of the programs are conducted by experienced volunteers. For more information, see our web site www.millswampindianhorses.com or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Wednesday, January 3, 2018
The round pen teaches you that you are not in control--that you must work with the horse and understand the horse. That is the nature of "nature." Just as the beginning of ethical living is to learn to ignore one's own self interest and to look to the interest of others, the beginning of wisdom is to learn that we are not able to force our will on the rest of Creation.
This little cold snap that we are going through perfectly illustrates the consequences of this unnatural belief that we are, or should be, in control of nature. The cycle of the seasons are immutable. The cycle of all other living being's response to those seasons is also immutable. When we fail to recognize this basic fact we display the incredible hubris of believing that all of creation must be as weak and broken as humans have become.
We unnaturally project our weaknesses onto other species. We treat obesity in pets as something that we should just lovingly laugh off. In reality obesity and lack of exercise account for more suffering and early deaths in horses than any other cause. We unnaturally stuff supplements into horses to improve their hooves, pay to have their feet trimmed at ridiculously short intervals and fail to give the horse the degree of exercise that is absolutely essential for a healthy hoof. We become apoplectic at the hint of the outline of a rib while laughing off the deadly threat to the health of the horse that maintaining a gutter back carries.
We fail to recognize the element of exploitation that exists in a relationship with a horse that consists of nothing but brushing, treats, and specialty feed while completely ignoring the need that the horse has for movement and exercise.
In short, we seek to control not only the horse's behavior but how that horse responds to nature.
This is only one step away from trying to make nature conform to our ideals instead of working with those natural cycles. That desire for control comes out in other, more subtle, aspects of the relationship that we have with nature.
I am always struck by the attitudes that those who were not raised in the woods have toward construction for horse lots. The desire to control nature causes us to believe that we can, and should, create structures that will out live the pyramids of Egypt. We want to use the most expensive materials so that things "will last." We are so certain of our ability to build impregnable defenses against nature that every year we are genuinely surprised to see entire towns destroyed by hurricanes. The empathy and compassion that is shown towards the victims of these natural disasters shows one of the best sides of the human character. The fact that each disaster, occurring year after year, is treated as a new and surprising event shows how far we have gotten from recognizing the immutable power of nature.
When I build a fence, instead of trying to design one to last for the ages I recognize the fact that when a 900 pound horse running 30 miles an hour hits a fence something is going to break. I want it to be fence that breaks instead of having a broken horse.
How can we make fences that will last forever? We can't. How can we make sure that we lose no animals to predators? We can't. How can we make sure that no horse will ever have an injury? We can't. How can we make sure that no horse will ever get sick? We can't.
How can we make sure that no horse will ever die? We can't.
No amount of hand wringing produces a healthier horse. Nothing that goes against the nature of the horse will be of long term benefit to the health of that horse.
Want to do everything that you can to give your horse a happy, healthy life? Give him grass, forbs, hay, sunlight, water, equine companionship and exercise. If you do all of those things you will enhance the horses chance of having a healthier, happier, longer life.
But even then you are not in control. Take a moment to understand that--could make you and your horse happier
Tuesday, January 2, 2018
The Ossabaw hogs differ from modern factory farmed hogs in ways that I did not expect. Of course, they taste better than modern hogs. They are smaller than modern hogs. They seem to be much better mothers of their little ones than are modern hogs.Their babies seem much stronger at 24 hours old than modern hogs.
These heritage breed hogs are from Georgia. Their ancestors likely came from the Canary Islands and were brought here by early Spanish explorers and settlers. They are part of our breed conservation/educational mission. We not only preserve and demonstrate the horses that one would have found here in 1650 we also have the hogs and the goats that would have been found here, all living in and around our replicated 1650's era farm site.
I am surprised at their appetites. They do not get excited over corn or peanuts. They love sweet potatoes (and really grow well off of them)
The thing that surprises me is how much they like hay. This fall I want to buy up as much peanut vine hay as I can. I think that they will love it.
When horses eat from round bales they rarely lift up their heads. Grazing horses constantly lift their very heavy heads. A day of grazing produces hundreds of "reps" of this exercise. The result is a strong neck and more powerful back.
Nothing is better for a horse who is not insulin resistant than grazing in a pasture. Rolling round bales entirely out so that they are in a long, flat layer, a soon as the round bale arrives causes the horse to eat with his head down and walk. It mimics grazing and does a lot to strengthen the back and neck.
On the other hand, simply placing a round bale in a pen and leaving it stationary has none of these benefits. The common practice wastes more hay, concentrates manure, often leaves an anaerobic mulch layer of manure and wet hay residue that does nothing to build the soil, and frequently causes the horse to stand in wet areas while eating from the round bale.
After taking a great on-line class from Simple Soil Solutions we began rolling out our hay. No single step that we have taken in the last fifteen years has done as much for our soil and our horses than simply rolling out the round bales.
Monday, January 1, 2018
I do not mind at all saying that at the moment I have grave trepidations for the up coming year. The next six months will be the most intense that I have had in 20 years of prosecuting criminal cases. Our small office will be handling several murder trials along with our normal case load. (One case that I am prosecuting grew out of a lengthy film production by the Discovery Channel that will begin to air this week, Jan 4 https://press.discovery.com/us/dsc/programs/killing-fields-murder-isle/ ).
But I have a lot of reasons to be very optimistic about the continued growth and success of our breed conservation, riding and natural horsemanship, music, history, drama, permaculture and other educational programs. 2017 has laid the path for a great 2018.
2017 saw an explosion in the number of participants in our program. Our Friday program for Home Schooled students has been a huge success. We have set up another off site Corolla breeding program. We have raised and placed all three foals that we produced in our Corolla breeding program. We have had our first litter of ossabaw hogs born. We made extraordinary progress on clearing the New Land, nearly doubling the land available for the horses and other livestock. We obtained a pair of Bourbon Red heritage breed turkeys. We hosted a day long series of clinics and demonstrations for The Livestock Breeds Conservancy and our first training session for school teachers on using the body language of prey animals to more effectively communicate with kids who have been severely traumatized. Once again Jackie developed a beautiful Colonial garden for the settler's farm. Kay Kerr's film "Croatoan's Memoirs" won "Best Short Film" and "Best Student Film" at the Equus Film Festival in New York. Krista Rutherford produced a great documentary "America's Forgotten Horse". Sherry Leonard's photography won awards at the Isle of Wight Fair as did Pam's beautiful and highly functional mohair girths. The music program put on a tremendous show at the regional Farm Bureau Annual meeting. The blog exceeded 355,000 total views. I completed Simple Soil Solutions on line class on natural pasture development and learned how to radically increase the amount of forage produced on our land. Our first pure San Clemente goat was born. We received incredibly generous donations including a tractor donated by Danny Stogsdill, a wood chipper by the Cavin family, $1000.00 from the Spanish Mustang Foundation, along with many other gifts too numerous to list. Jackie has become super efficient at repairing saddles and tack and has donated not only her time but a lot of tack to our program. Wendell and Andrew have cut and mowed. Pam has handled the computer sales and computer promotions. Ann Marie has taught. Jen, Lydia and Elise have fed and fixed. Sherry photographed. Chris, Abigail, and Tam have taken responsibility. Audrey has helped give me hope that in fifteen years this program will still have the leaders that it needs to keep on running. Ming, Rebecca's boys, Gracie and several other young ones have made me smile (and that is a big deal)--I have to stop this! In order to list everyone whose efforts have contributed to our program I would have to list nearly every participant in our program.
And that is how we are able to get everything done with no paid staff, all volunteers.
The second best reason to be optimistic about 2018 is that I am absolutely certain that I have failed to mention a slew of successes, contributions, and achievements that we have had in the past year.
The most important reason to be optimistic about 2018 is knowing how much dedicated help and hard work that so many of you put into this program. I did not plan to mention anyone by name because I was certain that I would fail to list everyone who has made such a difference in the program. I am going to break that plan and mention one name. Without Terry O'boyle I do not know how I could keep this program running. I am not going to list everything that she does for us. That would require a separate post or two. But I am going to mention one contribution that she makes. Terry pulls people together. She works to make the program work for everyone. Her happiness is infectious.
In twenty days our Board of Directors will meet for a lengthy planning and thinking session. Our Board is made up of great people who understand what we do, why we do it, and where we need to go. I really look forward to letting you know what plans are made in that meeting.