Saturday, September 21, 2019

Granddaddy, It's Race Day!

In two hours the first group of our riders will set out on a 25 mile Limited Distance Endurance Race. Riders range in age from 11 to 60. Every horse will be pure Colonial Spanish Horses, except for three American Indian Horses who are 1/2 Corolla.

Several of the riders have been riding a fairly short time. They have worked hard conditioning the horses and themselves over the last several months. They have learned to be flexible. I am having to be very flexible. I will be riding Peter Maxwell. Janie got a minor girth rub so she will have the day off. She will be ready to go in next month's official Swamp Stomp race.

Ariyana woke up ready to go. "It's race day", she said. She then made me three bratwursts served with a nice little mound of kimchee.

It is a breakfast of champions.

Today several riders are going to achieve something that a year ago they would have never thought possible. Best of all, a few will achieve something that at this very moment they are not sure is possible.

No one will be competing against other riders. Everyone will be competing against their other selves, the other self that doubts, criticizes, tells us that we can't do it, that we are not good enough, that we are not strong enough...that we are simply not enough.

And today my riders will be winners and their other selves will have just a bit less power over them than before running their first 25 mile run.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Will The Littlest Horse Win Our In House 25 Mile Race?

I think that he might. Wanchese is a formerly wild Shacklford Island stallion. Terry has been putting heavy mileage on him over the summer. He is ready to go.

On Saturday September 21 he will set out at 7:00 am with Holland, another Shackleford, Little Hawk, a Corolla,  Feather, a high percentage Choctaw mare from Texas, and Red Fox, a half Corolla. At 7:30 Joey, a Choctaw, Midnight, a Colonial Spanish horse from Texas, and Manteo, a formerly wild Corolla stallion will leave the tack shed.

And at 8:00 Janie, Grand Canyon and Choctaw lineage, Baton Rouge, a Corolla, Long Knife, a Corolla Ta Sunka Witco, a Karma Farms lineage Colonial Spanish horse, Parahunt, a half Corolla, Trouble, a Colonial Spanish horse from Texas will head out for the first fifteen mile leg of the event.

After fifteen miles the horses come in, have pulses taken, are checked out for any injuries and then rested for forty five minutes before running to complete the last ten miles.

My strong hunch is that little Wanchese will have the quickest time of the bunch.

In October these same horses will run in an official LD race in Ivor.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Our Educational Foundation Is Now Approved By The IRS

You cannot imagine how long I have been looking forward to being able to make this announcement. The Gwaltney Frontier Farm Educational Foundation is now approved as a 501 (c) 3 non-profit corporation. This is a separate entity from the Gwaltney Frontier Farm, Inc, which is a 501 (c) 5 breed conservation non-profit.

Here is what that means. Contributions to the Educational Foundation are now tax deductible. Of much more importance is the fact that we will now be able to apply for grants from charitable foundations to fund our educational programs.

We have never turned anyone away for lack of ability to pay program fees. We have never charged for our veterans program conducted weekly in conjunction with the local Veterans Hospital. We have never had paid staff. Every thing that is done is done by volunteers. Our horses eat 10-14 tonnes of hay a week. For all of these years we have made do with program fees, contributions, fundraisers, and now,  contributions of the money earned by performances of Pasture #3 (our music program).

Each month we wait until we have enough money to pay our bills and then we write the checks. When there is a shortfall, contributions and loans from program participants keep us a float. And it is a formula that has worked. We pay no rent for our pastures and structures on the land. That has saved a fortune over the years.

The Foundation will be able to accept contributions that will allow us to pay program fees for families that cannot afford to pay full fees. We have always simply absorbed those costs. Now we can accept funding to provide scholarships for our programs.

The Foundation will be able to accept contributions and grants to help cover the cost of our educational programs, both for riding and natural horsemanship programming and also for our other programming, such as teaching microbial farming, teaching trauma related topics and using horses to understand PTSD, teaching heritage livestock preservation, teaching soil and water conservation projects----in short helping to actually pay for what we teach.

It will provide funding to obtain filming equipment to film and distribute our educational programs. That is a very high priority for me. It will allow people thousands of miles from the horse lot to benefit from our educational programs.

And, eventually, I hope that it will provide funding for a paid Educational Director to develop and conduct current and new educational programs. Few people really understand why I so often stress that , at our core, we are an educational institution.  We are a place of learning.

Lastly, this move comes at a good time for us. Though it might seem hard to understand, one of the biggest potential threats that our program faced in years past was to be flush with cash. For example, there was a time, many years ago, when the idea was floated  of us having an indoor arena and a show ring. Such additions would have destroyed our program.

Our 501 (c) 3 status will help us expand and enhance our programs. And I have waited along time to be able to announce this .

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Mammoth Donkeys Come to MSIH

Sean and Jerry, Mammoth Donkeys soon to reach their fifth year, arrived here recently. Jenner Thomas has a strong interest in donkeys. It started with Nick, our large standard donkey, born to a BLM jenny that Momma and Daddy adopted years ago.

I will work with Jenner to get these donkeys saddle trained when they are a bit older. We have already begun Sean's training to drive. It is going to be great for he and Jenner to roll our our bales of hay each week as they are delivered to the pastures.

They might be even more affectionate than Choctaw horses. They are smart and learn fast. This is a great addition to our other Heritage breed livestock.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Why Your Child Needs To Learn Natural Horsemanship

The practice of natural horsemanship requires young people to learn empathy on the deepest of levels.

Natural horsemanship is simply the art of communicating with a horse in a manner that the horse instinctively understands. Instead of trying to teach a horse to learn English, natural horsemanship requires the human to learn to speak "horse." But learning those lessons only scratch the surface. Students learn what motivates horses, and why they act as they do.  In short, it teaches one to understand  horses. A child who learns to understand a creature as different from humans as are horses will find it much easier to understand the feelings of the other people around him.

The practice of natural horsemanship requires young people to learn to be leaders and to accept their role as leaders. 

Natural horsemanship teaches the difference between providing security and direction to horses and trying to bully  horses into compliance. It teaches them that it is ok to be the leader--that it is ok to be the boss.

The practice of natural horsemanship requires young people to learn the importance of showing affection and approval to a horse.

Natural horsemanship works best when it is based on 51% control and 49% affection.  Natural horsemanship teaches young people that the horse needs your time, your affection and your leadership more than it needs the treats that you might give him.

The practice of natural horsemanship gives young people greater confidence and a well deserved feeling of accomplishment.  

When a shy, timid or traumatized child learns to control the movement of a 700 pound horse in a round pen using only gestures and visual focus the child changes. I have seen it happen too often  to ever be convinced otherwise. That confidence can be a strong protection against developing anxiety disorders and it can be a tremendous tool in over coming anxiety and depression.

The practice of natural horsemanship will allow children to grow up to be better parents.

The wisdom gained in the round pen carries over into every other relationship the child will have .  We do not practice natural horsemanship merely because it makes better horses. We practice natural horsemanship because it makes better people

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Corollas on Our Endurance Team

Over the summer several of our riders have been working to get themselves and our horses in shape for the development of a Colonial Spanish horse endurance team. We are just beginning and are not trying to break any speed records. We are working to show what can be accomplished by these horses and their riders, whether the riders are 11 years old or 60 years old.

We have been conditioning Colonial Spanish horses of the Banker Strain (Corolla and Shackleford), Choctaw Strain, horses of Choctaw and Grand Canyon lineage, two 1/2 Corollas, Karma Farms lineage, and some whose lineage goes back to the Cayuse Ranch.

Generally trotting and cantering on rides of at least five miles, the horses have been brought along slowly in their conditioning. But each horse began with a step up over most modern horses. Living as naturally as possible, living primarily off of hay, grass and forbs, no shoes, and most importantly, no stables gives them a great baseline of health and fitness before they ever begin conditioning.

For now the kids are leaning to ride distances. If we like it, perhaps next summer we will make it a much more serious part of our program.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Mandy: Songs to Sing and Tales to Tell

Do you have any idea what you are looking at in this picture? Unless you spend time at the horse lot I strongly suspect that you are seeing much more than you realize.

...You are seeing learning, but even more importantly, you are seeing teaching. Mandy has become one of my best teachers. She is a good rider, is rapidly becoming a great horse trainer, and when we are on stage her voice is the anchor that holds the songs together.

Our program is diverse. No one gets paid. Everyone is a volunteer. I hate to single out individuals for recognition because for everyone that I mention there are another 8 or 10 doing vital things to keep our program growing.

But our program could not exist without the hard work of several brilliant and dedicated young people. Were I pressed to name a single aspect of our program that gives me the most pleasure it would be watching young people like Mandy become leaders.

Yesterday I rode behind a bit and I watched three kids, ages 11, 12, and 13 ride ahead of me. A Corolla mare, a Corolla stallion, and a Shackleford gelding moving beautifully in the woods with talented riders in the saddle--loping through the woods, laughing and handling their horses well.

And I get to watch these kids become caring, compassionate, hardworking, and tough as nails.

And it makes it possible for me to imagine this program still growing in thirty years

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Mill Swamp Indian Horses: This is What "Different" Looks Like

Every one agrees that learning to ride at Mill Swamp Indian Horses is "different" than learning to ride at other barns.  It can be hard to understand exactly what that means. Here are some pictures from yesterday that help explain."Different" might mean spending a little quality time rare heritage breed turkeys like this little Blue Slate hen.

It might mean watching a training session for two rare heritage breed Mammoth Donkeys that just arrived on Friday.
It might mean having your third riding lesson on the grandson of Choctaw Sundance.

It might mean coming in from a trail riding lesson sitting astride a formerly wild Shackleford Island horse while your instructor gaits along sweetly on a high percentage Choctaw mare.

It might mean using the skills that you have developed from years of practicing natural horsemanship to to help those who will follow in your path.

It might mean learning about heritage breed conservation by looking across the pasture to see Big Muddy, a Choctaw stallion out with several Choctaw mares.

It might mean wrapping up the day learning the ancient ballad "Katy Dear" on the tack shed porch with a guitar, bodhrun, Weissenborn style lap guitar, and ukulele.

And it definitely means riding. Our advanced riders have put in a total of 1,716.63 miles over the last 8 months.

 And every bit of this was done with no paid staff. We are a non-profit breed conservation program run completely by volunteers. Our safety record is extraordinary because riders begin to learn natural horsemanship the first day they are at the horse lot. By understanding the horse's mind they learn to protect there own bodies.

Fees are set to make the learning experience affordable. Riding lesson fees are only $160.00 per month, per family.

Yep, very different.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Marsh Tacky: Appearance and Reality

Age has many consequences, I am so very glad that getting older has not cost me either my curiosity to learn knew things and my ability to be surprised. I got several pleasant surprises this morning.

I pride myself on an ability to teach and explain complicated concepts so that they can be understood by people from all walks of life. That makes it especially frustrating when I seek to explain to others what is going on inside my head. Lately the inside of my head is not a place that anyone would like to take a vacation in.

Weeks ago I finished the sentencing in a very complex case involving the beating death of a five year old boy. I finished it in the court room but it is not finished in my head. Presenting such cases with the emotion and extraordinary power that they deserve requires me to get down in it. Someone once told me that the description that I gave of the torment of a victim in one case was so vivid that it sounded like I could actually see what had happened.

Of course I can see what happened! The problem is that sometime you can't stop seeing what happened.

I am only throwing this out so you can understand the over all picture as I went out to meet Tanney Town this morning. She is a pure Marsh Tacky. The picture of her above is as a yearling in July of 2016, shortly after we obtained her from the Lowther herd in South Carolina. She had not been handled at that point. It is my preference to have every yearling well halter trained and accepting of a saddle before they begin further training in a little over a year. I saddled her shortly after she joined our program but then set her aside to grow up.

Tanney Town has spent over a year on pasture with a handful of other horses at a farm not far from the horse lot. I had not seen her up close for a very long time. Lydia brought her home yesterday. Lydia told me that she was "huge".

I feared that. Andrew's Marsh Tacky pair that he picked up the same time that we obtained Tanney Town were significantly taller than our Corollas. So I headed out to the horse lot with a preconceived notion of what to expect.

I went to the pasture and put a rope halter on her. She seemed loathsomely tall. She also seemed more nervous than I hoped. As I began to mover her around the round pen her mind was much more on getting out of the pen than in responding to me. She softened up a bit but was slower to learn the head down cue than I had come to expect horses to do.

She did not want my hands touching most of her body and where she allowed touching she did not seem to enjoy the contact.

So...I continued handling her--advance and retreat, teaching that just because something is scary does not mean that it will cause pain. Then she learned to lunge rather well. Her terror of a saddle blanket lasted only moments before she was comfortable with it on her.

In less than fifty minutes she was lunging around with full tack on. She never resisted the saddle or the girth. She never bucked. She never bolted. She showed great presence of mind when turning in the round pen and a great deal of athleticism during the session.

She did everything that I asked of her. She will be able to take a rider soon, but she will have mastered ground work before that happens. She will likely become a super horse bringing everything to the table that all of the Colonial Spanish horses of the Southeast show--agility, endurance, smooth gaits, strong bonding with humans, great hooves and a powerful immune system.

So... I had to measure her. I had to know exactly how much she was too tall. I expected over 15 hands. She appeared that way to me. I braced myself for the bad news.

Appearances don't matter--with horses or with anything else worth caring about. Only reality matters and the reality is that she is barely over  14.2 hands tall--still  taller than I prefer but within the range of being tolerable.

But the state of mind that I brought to the training session and the information that I had received concerning her size had set me up to expect disappointment.

What the horse brings into the round pen in its earliest sessions matter.

What the trainer brings with him in those earliest sessions matter more.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Why The Horse Understands What Most People Do Not

Yesterday Ashley Edwards came down from Richmond to do a session on the use of horses to teach both effective communication and to assist in dealing with severe trauma and PTSD. (Any reader who is unfamiliar with Ashley's work please stop reading and go to our website and hit the tab entitled "News" You will see a few TV clips and newspaper articles about her)

The body language used by herd prey animals is precisely the same as that unknowingly used by people who have been severely traumatized. The horse is instinctively repelled by the body language of predators. Humans who have not experienced severe trauma instinctively use the body language of predators.

As significant as understanding that vital lesson in communication is, another lesson is even more important.

Predators seek autonomy. Prey animals seek security.

Our culture teaches us that the solution to problems is to increase one's autonomy--to achieve--to obtain the things that give us more control over our lives. That instinctive drive for autonomy provides a wonderful spur on to happiness for most people.

But autonomy cannot bring satisfaction to a severely traumatized person until that person first finds security. This is the gift that natural horsemanship can bring to those whose daily existence is shaped by depression, anxiety, self loathing, and fear.

One can find security for oneself by learning to provide security to a horse. When one finds that security one can then move on to enjoy the fruits of autonomy.

For nearly seven years we have been using these principles in weekly sessions with PTSD patients at the local Veteran's Hospital.

 This is real.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Lilly and the Saddle

She got in from Texas early Thursday. Lilly is a two year old Colonial Spanish horses with a lot of Choctaw and Grand Canyon lineage. All ready I can see that she has the mind that I like more and more in horses as I get older and busier.

She had been at the horse lot for a bit over 24 hours when I began my first training session with her. I don't know if she ever had a saddle on her before, but I know that she has now.

Calm and confident--the result of great genetics but also the result of not having negative  experiences with people. Too many people do not understand the impact of negative experiences with people early on in a horses development. Even worse, too many people do not understand what experiences are negative.

One of the most dangerous early experiences that horses can have with people is for people to allow colts to push them around and ignore human direction and leadership. I find it much harder to rehabilitate such a colt than to restore confidence in one who has been beaten or otherwise mistreated.

One of the reasons that we repeat certain phrases so often in our clinics and in our routine horse training sessions is that certain phrases contain principles as important as libraries full of training books.

Two of these are perhaps the most important: "Train with 51% control and 49% affection". Both are vital to the horses happiness.  Unlike people, dogs, and other large mammalian  predators, horses do not seek autonomy. Their  primary goal is security. Being subject to direction and control is a prerequisite to feeling secure. Those who seek silly, romanticized relationships based on trite phrases like "equal partnership", "letting the horse make the decisions"... etc are merely projecting their pain over their own failed human relationships onto the horse.

However, the entire phrase must be applied. Horses need and deserve affection. The horse who is trained only with control and no affection does not feel secure. The horse trained only with affection and no control is every bit as insecure.  In both cases the result is a horse that is unhappy, unpredictable and dangerous

The other phrase that we hammer is that every interaction with the horse must be done with body language and communication techniques that tell the horse three things:

"I am not afraid of you."
"I am not going to hurt you."
"I will stay here for as long as it takes for you to learn this next step."

It is also important to remember the two things that are most likely to cause injury to horse and trainer--a watch and a calendar. I am often asked how long it takes to finish training a horse. I have no idea. I have never finished training a horse.

Every time I ride I learn something. Every time I ride I teach something. The process never ends.

Knowing every training technique without understanding the basic concepts behind those techniques will never allow one to be an effective trainer. On the other hand, understanding the concepts will allow one to innovate and adapt the techniques to fit a given horse and a given problem.

In order to learn those techniques one must first begin with two points that the majority of horse owners never fully learn:

1. Your horse is not a dog.
2. Your horse is not a person.

So why did Lilly stand so wonderfully to take a saddle and learn everything that I sought to teach her in little more than an hour?  Not because of any cookbook of of training recipes, but because of the concepts set out above.

...not a dog...not a person.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Time Travel: Conserving the Choctaw Horses

I regularly experience something that only a handful of people in this century ever experience. I ride through the woods on Colonial Spanish horses--the same breed of horse that my ancestors rode through these same woods nearly four hundred years ago.

We work to conserve several strains of Colonial Spanish horses--Bankers (Corollas and Shacklefords), Choctaws, Marsh Tackys--and we work to keep the lineage of the Grand Canyon horses going.

This summer is special--"Choctaw Summer 2019." We have borrowed a stunning Choctaw stallion to breed to our Choctaw mares. Next summer I hope to have a string of Choctaws and very high percentage Choctaw foals born.

The older one gets the more one begins to appreciate the concept of time. If one is lucky enough one can experience the connectedness  of doing what was done before, where it was done, and the way it was done.

At such times, one realizes that the concept of "then" does not require one to be resigned to the concept of "was".  There are rare moments when "then" and "was" can become "is."

And if we work hard enough, we can create a future in which "is" can become "will be."

Preserving history can become more than an intellectual diversion. It can be a vital tool to connecting us to who we are by understanding who we used to be.

Riding a Choctaw horse anywhere is a wonderful experience.  Riding a Choctaw horse in the woods is even better. Riding a Choctaw horse in the woods at night in pitch darkness is a transcendent experience. Riding a Choctaw horse in the woods at night on the remnant of an old Colonial trail allows one to experience then/now and was/is at the same moment.

If you want to become part of preserving yesterday's horses for tomorrow's riders contact me at to learn how you can obtain one of these horses and start your own conservation breeding program.

Janie's Incredible Weight Loss Plan

No, not some internet huckster with some pill to change your body forever--I'll be the first to admit that the results are temporary.

But they are still extraordinary.

Over the last two and a half months I have been riding Janie steadily harder in five mile stretches of trotting and cantering. She has gotten into tremendous shape and has developed the power to canter with maximum efficiency.

She has given me much more than I expected from her--or from any horse. Riding her became a different experience as she got stronger.

I realized last week that I could get on her weighing 225 pounds, trot her for a mile and a half--move into a soft lope....and I lost weight. A lot of weight.

In fact, I drop about 225 pounds during those loping sessions.

While I am riding her at her soft canter I feel weightless. The only time that I have ever experienced a similar sensation is when I have first awakened in a dentist chair as the anesthesia wore off.

Like the anesthesia, Janie makes me float--weightless and perfectly peaceful.

Weight loss of 225 pounds--it feels great while it is happening.

It is a shame that so few people ever get to experience such a ride. Unless we buckle down and work hard to prevent the extinction of these super horses there will be a time when no one will experience such rides.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Big Announcement: Choctaw Summer 2019--Big Muddy Comes to MSIH

He embodies the spirit of Mill Swamp Indian Horses. He is lean with the high spine and sloping, rafter hips that help give the Colonial Spanish horse not only its unprecedented endurance, but also its smooth gaits and long strides. He is resilient and his story is so remarkable that he deserves his registered name of Big Muddy Miracle. He has overcome tremendous odds and he will be passing that grit, that refusal to give up, on to generations of Choctaw and other Colonial Spanish horses for years to come.

He is as resilient as the people that his ancestors carried on the Trail of Tears. In the 1830's Choctaw, Cherokee, Creeks, Seminoles, Chickasaws, Muskogees and other natives of the southeast were detained and deported to what is now Oklahoma. Only a few hundred of the horses, perhaps the finest riding horses in the nation at the time, remain today.

According to Dr. Phillip Sponenberg in "North American Colonial Spanish Horse July 2011 Update",

"The major families that preserved the Choctaw horses until recently were the Brame, Crisp, Locke, Self, Helms, Thurman, and Carter families. Horses were run on the open range in areas where other types of horses were not kept. These families had hundreds of horses of consistent Spanish type and widely varying colors including the "Spanish roan" sabino type, leopard and blanketed, and  others such as overo paints. The Choctaw horses are occasionally gaited." 

He went on to say that by 1985 the number of these horses was likely as few as fifty.

Big Muddy is not just a survivor. He is a stunning example of the Colonial Spanish horses that were bred by the natives of the southeast. He is predominately of Choctaw lineage but also carries the genes of Cherokee tribal horses. His elegant gait would have fit in well among the tribal horses of the early nineteenth century.

While stuck in the mud very early in his life in Oklahoma he was viciously torn by coyotes. The scars that remain today speak of wounds that would have seemed impossible to heal. Mary McConnell, who maintains one of the largest herds of Choctaw horses in the nation at her home in Rappahannock county Virginia, loaned this beautiful stallion to Mill Swamp Indian Horses for the fall breeding season.

He runs now in a band of three Choctaw mares and several other Colonial Spanish mares who carry a high percentage of Choctaw lineage. His offspring will increase the number of these nearly extinct horses and will also be used to reintroduce the lineage to the Corolla horses that are also bred, trained and promoted at the non-profit breed conservation program in Smithfield, Virginia. The Corollas and Shacklefords are Banker strain Colonial Spanish horses who hail from the Outer Banks of North Carolina. During the nineteenth century strains of native horses of the Southeast were introduced into the breeding population of Banker horses.

Big Muddy's presence at Mill Swamp Indian Horses will allow for an increase in genetic diversity of the Corolla offsite breeding program without bringing in any non-Colonial Spanish blood into the program.  Foals that are born next summer will be available for those who are willing  to continue the work of breeding, raising and training these smooth gaited horses whose endurance exceeds that of most modern horse horse breeds.

See for further information on the breeding program at Mill Swamp Indian Horses. To discuss becoming a part of the breed conservation programs at Mill Swamp Indian Horses send an email to

Friday, August 9, 2019

Saving The Colonial Spanish Horse: Waiting For The Day That Never Arrives

Of all of the different strains of Colonial Spanish Horse how many are left? Perhaps 2,500--more likely closer to 2,000. How many breeding stallions are left? 200-250 is my guess.

Here is the scarier question to ponder--what is the average age of the few preservationists that are left--and what is their average household income?

Their income is nearly as important as their age. One does not get rich preserving these horses. I will never forget the phrase that a breeder casually used years ago when describing the preservationists as people who "are willing to impoverish their families" for the horses.

Cold economic analysis would yield the verdict of death to these horses. In monetary terms, if the horses cannot be marketed for a profit sufficient to attract potential preservationists then their extinction is a fact waiting to happen.

The same could  be said of art, music, and folk culture. But we still have the songs of the mountains of southern Appalachia, the paintings of the great masters, and regional celebrations of folk culture because preservationist looked to enrich the lives of unborn generations instead of worrying about enriching their wallets.

We have the tools to preserve the horses that built this nation. We have the resources in strong registries like the Horse of The Americas Registry and the Spanish Mustang Registry. We have the technical support and networking opportunities that the Livestock Breeds Conservancy provides. Social media gives us a potential to collaborate and communicate in ways that Robert Brislawn could have never imagined when he began the effort to preserve these horses nearly ninety years ago.

But we have to act now. We can't continue to wait until our family circumstances and finances are perfect before making the leap into promoting and preserving these horses. For most of us that day will never come. The pool of breeders and the pool of breeding horses is on the downswing.

Of course, it would be outrageously irresponsible to seek to solve this crisis by merely increasing the supply of these horses. We have to increase the demand for them. For many decades promoters and preservationists have sought to build demand among the loudest demographic of horse owners--those who compete. A casual observer of the horse world might believe that competitors and horse show participants make up the majority of horse owners.

They do not. Most studies show that this demographic makes up less than a third of horse owners.

The established horse world is filled with those who have chosen a breed of horse and turned that breed into a brand of horse. They are  satisfied with the world that they have created for themselves and consider our horses too small, too narrow of chest and sloping of hip...etc...etc.

In short they have evaluated our horses and have come to the conclusion that they are not Quarter horses, Warm Bloods, Arabians, or Thoroughbreds and as such they are without "value."

Entirely too much energy has been wasted on seeking the approval of such people. We have piped for them and they did not dance. We have invited them to the feast and they did not come to eat. I see nothing in such people that gives me any reason to think that that will change.

However, the novice can appreciate the smooth gaits, warm affection, easy keeping, super healthy, strong hooved nature of our horses. It is the novice that we must reach out to. It is the family that has moved from the city or suburb out to the country to try to find meaning in their lives and to give that meaning to their children that we must reach out to. It is the PTSD survivor whose pain can be wiped nearly all the way away from having a relationship with a horse that we must reach out to. It is the survivor of sexual assault who has lost the ability to feel secure and safe, and worst of all has lost the ability to trust, that we must reach out to.

But most of all, it is the child who does not know how to ride that we must reach out to. Nothing helps preserve the Colonial Spanish horse as much as teaching a child to ride one.

And we must have horses to offer them. And...those horses must be trained to a level that fits each purchaser.

At the moment we have a wonderful stallion who has just turned two years old who is available to someone who will use him to keep his breed going. His mother was a wild Banker horse from Shackleford Island and his father was a wild Banker horse from Corolla. His ancestors came here nearly 100 years before the English arrived at Jamestown.

Yes , but he is s STALLION , and everyone knows that a STALLION can never be made safe!

Turns out, that like so many other horses, his father is also a stallion. His name is Corn Stalk. He was captured at Corolla because of a tendency to get into automobile traffic. He arrived at our horse lot on a Wednesday. On Friday he took a saddle without incident. On Saturday he took his first rider. He has never bucked nor reared. He is often ridden in groups deep in the woods with several mares and there has never been a problem with them.

Our horses bring so much to the table--history, endurance smooth gaits, strong desires to bond with people--but for the rider of the 21st century perhaps the most important thing that they bring is their temperament. I will never forget the offhand comment, made with no hint of irony, that one family got into raising Colonial Spanish horses because they "were going to be having children and got out of the Arabian breed because {they} needed something safe, like a Spanish mustang."

Those of us who raise Colonial Spanish horses understand exactly what she meant.

Here is a picture of Corn Stalk. Mingo, his paddock mate in the back ground, is a Marsh Tacky stallion.  If you want to be part of enriching the lives of generations to be born after you are gone, contact ms as to discuss becoming a breeder of these historic horses.


Tuesday, July 23, 2019

No Need To Stay A Novice

And Brooke proves that. In a variety of fields, and for a variety of reasons, (none of them good), instructors make the subject matter seem harder than it really is.

Intellectually, riding is simple. Instinctively riding is hard. The same instincts that draw us into a fetal position to protect our internal organs help put us on the ground when fear joins us in the saddle.

People , especially riding instructors, don't like to hear it, but the best way to learn to ride is to ride, and ride, and ride, and ride. Heavy mileage in the saddle creates strength, balance and muscle memory.

Over the last several months Brooke has progressed from complete beginner to an endurance conditioning rider. And she is a strong student of natural horsemanship.

And that matters too. Being able to effectively understand horses does nearly as much to keep one out of the hospital as being able to effectively ride horses.

Learn what you need to learn. Believe what you have learned. Apply what you have learned.

Then ride, and ride, and ride....and then start riding really hard.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

How to Use This Blog

Those of you who have read every post in this blog, from beginning to end, know as much about our program and its development as do those who participate every week. That makes for a lot of reading. Will take a while to get it done, but if you are interested in these horses, or any horses, or any kids it is time well spent.

A more efficient way to dig into the blog is to use the search box on the lower right corner and search topics of interests.

Let me suggest some search terms that might be useful:

Natural horsemanship
Natural horse care
Heritage breeds
round pen
Marsh Tacky
Grand Canyon
Horse of The Americas
Spanish mustang
Hog Island
Spanish goats

What we do is big and broad. Breed conservation is our focus and we have built a many programs that draw people in to see these rare, nearly extinct breeds of heritage horses and livestock.

Not a lot of places out there that use dulcimers to help prevent the extinction of Banker horses.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

The Rebound

You spend much of the week preparing for a sentencing in the brutal beating death of a five year old boy..

                                            and then you see this picture

You spend more of that week preparing for a hearing on the slaughter of an 82 year old women and her fifty four year old son....

                                              and then you see this picture.

You teach a session that includes the mention of an abused child  kept at times in a cage only to come home and see hundreds of children in  cages in America....

                                              and then you see this picture.

You are wrapping up final preparation for a meeting with a defense attorney in a double homicide and there is a phone call that someone forgot to close  a gate and some horses are out...

                                              and then you see this picture.

You realize that the discussion that you had that morning with your wife about taking a trip to Yellowstone can never happen  because there are too many fires to be put out at the horse lot on a near daily basis...

                                              and then you see this picture.

You set down to play music and no matter what you do it does not sound right....

                                              and then you see this picture.

You stand your schedule on its nose and twist it around as if it were doing yoga to accommodate the schedules of  others.... 
                                               and then you see this picture.

You find out that you forgot your 34th wedding anniversary because the only  dates that fill your head are the dates that you have to be at conferences, arrange to get horses, goats and hogs transported from here to there and back, make sure that the sales tax is paid on time, make sure that the corporate organizational meeting happens on time, make sure that the horse trailer gets inspected on time, make sure that you have completed research for a presentation that does not involve horses on time, make sure that you complete the book review and magazine article that you are working on on time, and make sure that you remember to have Terry reschedule your eye doctor appointment to another time....

                                                 and then you see this picture.

And you look at the picture for a while and then you go get every thing done that must be done.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Where I Belong

Today I spoke at the "Intersections of Violence: Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Child Abuse Conference." I described how we use horses and prey animal body language to help those with PTSD and to help victims work though the legal system.

It has been about 15 years since I presented my first such session. Training law enforcement, prosecutors, social workers, and all people who communicate with severely traumatized people would be a wonderful way to wrap up my career as a prosecutor.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Look Closely at the "Pasture" Behind This Horse

This picture is about a decade old, well before we began using microbial pasture generation and sprinkling system. High run off, soil erosion, mud, dust, and prolific weed production characterized the land.

Eventually the benefits that the soil on the old land have received will show up on the new land.

All of this change is without the use of chemical fertilizers and poisons.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Going Down That Long Road Again

For over fifteen years I have been putting kids on Colonial Spanish horses and teaching them the pure joy of hard riding-- hours on end, deep in the woods, in cut over, swamps, and hardwood forests.

 For nearly that long I have been putting old fashioned stringed instruments in kids' hands and teaching them the pure joy of playing music hard--hours on end, in churches, on porches, on stage, and around fire pits.

We even teach a little history. This shot is from the construction of our Choctaw chickee .  We are tying cat tails that the kids planted and cut to the roof of the that my daughter and grand children worked to assemble.

Knowing that I will likely be doing this for another fifteen or twenty years is one of the best reasons to stay healthy that I can think of.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Fighting for Your Health

The older one gets the harder it is to make time to ride hard and to care for one's self nutritionally. Little aches and pains don't go away as quickly as they once did.

But, resilience can come with age. And health benefits come with pushing yourself. For the past several years I have been putting more time into soil and water conservation and teaching and less time in the saddle. The result was that I was becoming a poor rider and riding was becoming very uncomfortable to me. In fact, it was causing enough pain so that I considered the possibility that age had caught up to me. (In six months I will be sixty.)

I feared that I was at the point that many riders slow down (give up) and settle into a life of surrendering to arthritis and obesity.

In June I jumped back into riding longer distances at a trot and canter. I put a lot of time on a particular mare, Janie, primarily of Grand Canyon and Choctaw lineage. Morning rides before work, several after work rides during the week and heavier mileage on the weekends are turning her into the super horse that I know that she can be.

Heavy mileage and a ketogenic based diet have done wonders for my mind and my body. Heavy miles, carrying a heavy rider, while eating a lot of vegetable oil has transformed Janie too. She has put on 85 pounds of muscle since we began to ride hard.

Don't give in just because riding makes you sore. Check with your Dr. first. I hope that you have a Dr. who understands riding and just what a horse can do for a person's metal state. If the Dr. gives the go ahead set a big goal. Keep records. Achieve your goal. Ride when it is hot. Ride when it is cold. Ride when it is raining. Ride when it is dry. Ride in the morning. Ride at dusk.

Everything changes when you ride hard enough.


Saturday, July 6, 2019

Mill Swamp Indian Horses Summer Program: Environmental Protection and Pasture Enhancement

Yesterday's summer program focused on the application and creation of non-chemical microbial fertilizer. The resulting product provides forage for millions of earthworms, each of which work hard to increase water absorption, decrease runoff, and increase pasture production.

Koreans have used these techniques and have mastered the fine points of microbial farming. We have not done so. However, even our crude efforts to enhance microbial development have yielded tremendous benefit to the soil.

A week ago we fenced in a small section of pasture that was a bit over grown with weeds. Our Scottish Highland cattle made short work of the weeds. While in the small enclosur,e they seeded the soil with bacteria, fungi, and enzymes from their manure, hooves and saliva. The chickens and turkeys were attracted to the area and they brought with them additional species of microbes.

We then applied liquid fertilizer that we made last summer.  We put sprinklers over the area to insure that the fertilizer reached into the soil (We are going through a hot, dry spell. Otherwise I would have skipped this step.)

We then began to make additional microbial fertilizer. We pulled up hundreds of cockle bur weeds that had not yet gone to seed. We gathered leaf mold, loaded with beneficial fungi, from beneath pine trees and supplemented that with leaf mold from beneath hard wood trees to provide additional bacterial growth. Next we sealed in cooked rice and spoiling fruit rinds with vermicompost and the plant molds to grow for a while.

The weeds sit in a covered barrel waiting to be covered this morning with water, a handful of cattle mineral, and a handful or two of corn. I will then add in the rice, leaf mold, vermicompost and fruit rind mixture. The barrel will be sealed and in less than a week intense fomentation will begin.

At that point we will mix the brew with water in a ratio of about 5-1 water to fertilizer and we will be able to apply it directly to the pastures. If past experience holds, I will see little change in the pastures for several months, but by the time the cool season grasses start coming in strong in early fall the increase in microbes in the soil will be significant.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Learning at Mill Swamp Indian Horses Is More Than Just Horsemanship

It's understanding the complex role that microbial enhancement plays in building healthy soils and livestock.

It's understanding  livestock instead of ridiculously anthropomorphizing them.

It's hands-on learning. Here Lydia is both teaching and learning as she demonstrates how to shear her first sheep, a rare Hog Island ram. Participants have been cleaning, carding,and making the wool into yarn since then.

It's learning to work together to solve problems and achieve goals.

It's inter generational learning. Cannon is learning about native planting practices and early colonial farming. Moments before doing so participants listened in as Daddy, age 82, one of the last men alive in our area who worked horses in the field in an actual farm operation talked, about how those horses were worked and cared for.

It is a chance to learn to play and perform Americana and Roots music on a variety of instruments.

It's learning the role of affection and communication in building real relationships with animals.

But most importantly, it's learning truths that are not otherwise self evident in the shallow, empty existence that this century presents to us. It's learning that putting the interests of others above the interests of oneself  is the first step to living an ethical life. It's learning that reality always matters and that appearance never does.

It's learning that the most obscene of all  four letter words is the word "mine."

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Our First 46 Mile Ride

It was probably 2008. I am not sure. Lido was still living. I do not remember a lot of the details. I remember that Swimmer had been under saddle for twenty days when she took this ride.

It was an all day affair. We rode at a very casual pace. It was not a race and we were not keeping time.

We were exploring, not the geography, but ourselves and our horses. We were finding out what we could do and what our horses could do. We found out that one 46 mile ride did wonders to teach horses to become safe and steady trail mounts.

Looking back over the history of our program, it might have been the most important ride that we ever took. We learned that our horses could go forever and little riders could go further than they thought, than their parents thought, and than the established horse world thought.

Modern, hover parenting steals something very important from children. It steals the opportunity to rack up successes from them. Our program constantly seeks to give opportunities for success to kids (and grown ups too). Real challenges, real successes where the reward is more than a strip of cloth.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Containing Pasture Runoff

America spends so much of its time licking the boots of the oil industry that our vision gets distorted when it comes to environmental-agricultural policies. The runoff that is lethal to our waterways comes primarily from the use of chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Oil and chemical interests have been very successful at distracting us from what should be our goal, the radical decrease in the use of poisons in agriculture, and focusing on the removal of manure from pastures.

It has been an easy target for them. Manure is visible to the eye and obvious to the nose. Chemical fertilizers and herbicides that destroy microbial life under the ground carry on there carnage in complete darkness. We cannot see the beneficial microbes when they are alive so we cannot directly see when they are destroyed.

But we can see the results.

Modern chemical farming reduces dirt to simply being the equivalent of plant holders. Our field's only purpose is to hold, for a very brief period of time, the fertilizers and poisons that we put on the soil each spring. The microbial life, and the earthworms that can generate plant growth perpetually, without the addition of chemicals and poison, are destroyed.

That leaves us with  a barren desert beneath the surface.

Permaculture principles can reverse this carnage in less than a decade. By simply ceasing to use any chemicals on a pasture we can increase microbial life to the point that manure is quickly absorbed in to the soil and transformed into the nutrients that pastures require. Simply pushing up slight berms around the low spots in pastures, coupled with the judicious use of swales and water retention areas, along with keeping residue of ivermectin from pastures can nearly eliminate rain water runoff in pastures that are on flat land.

Those passive steps will yield tremendous benefits. When they are coupled with a more active approach to regenerative agriculture, the benefits multiply beyond what I ever imagined possible. Multi species grazing (including poultry), application of microbial fertilizer, application of vermicompost and colonization of composting worms along with management practices that reduce soil compaction will create super soil. Soil so biologically active it will quickly breakdown horse manure and convert it to useful plant nutrients is a gift that keeps on giving. With each growing season the pastures become stronger and more alive.

And near by water ways become cleaner. And manure breaks down in pastures so fast that it is often barely visible. And your horses will be healthier. And you will be taking carbon out of the atmosphere and putting it in the soil.

And you will become a steward of the land instead of continuing on as its primary enemy.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

So Stop Being A Novice

We do horses and people a tremendous disservice by pretending that natural horsemanship and riding are complex topics that take years to learn. Instructors in every field, from theology to fiddle playing.  often advance the myth that the subject matter is so complex that only the chosen few can understand.

The reality is that riding is simple. A person in good physical health can learn to ride in short order after they master the natural anxiety that riding brings on. One learns to ride by riding, and riding, and riding, and then riding more.

Natural horsemanship requires one to learn several counter intuitive concepts to understand a horse's thoughts and motivations. It is the concepts that matter, not the individual techniques. One could spend the rest of one's life  learning specific techniques and not remotely master natural horsemanship without the understanding of those basic concepts. On the other hand, one who understands the concepts can improvise and develop techniques.

Pressure and release, prey animal and predator, the need for security versus the need for autonomy--these simple concepts hold the key to having a relationship with a horse that is based on something other than fear and fairy tales

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Preserving and Promoting the Marsh Tacky

Our primary focus is on preserving the Bankers, a strain of Colonial Spanish Horse from the Outer Banks of North Carolina. However, we also work to preserve and promote the Marsh Tacky, the State Horse of South Carolina. Our program owns two Marsh Tacky mares and Andrew, pictured above with his colt, Pagan, owns a mare, a stallion, and this foal.

The Marsh Tacky is a horse of tremendous historical significance. Southern patriot militia and regular forces during the Revolution used these horses, among others, to slow down Cornwallis' march north and contributed to his ultimate surrender at Yorktown.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The First 1000 Miles

I once thought that it was the first one hundred miles that a horse is ridden that would essentially determine how great a trail horse he could be. I no longer think so.

Training a horse with perfect consistency for the first hundred miles is a great step, but continued perfect consistency in riding cues and reactions to the horse's behavior, whether that behavior be positive or negative, over the first 1000 miles in the saddle is more important. By then, a horse that has been both consistently ridden and ridden with consistency will be locked in as a perfect trail partner.

Janie is moving toward her first 1000 miles of being ridden and with each ride I am riding a stronger, more confident horse.

Half Arabian?

No, he is not. He is Half Corolla, one quarter BLM mustang and one quarter Chincoteague. In the 20th Century some Arabian blood went into the wild herd at Chincoteague. In fact, he can only be a very small fraction Arabian.

But look how much that small percentage came through!

He is a spectacular horse, one of the best that I have ever ridden. However, he illustrates why we have to be very careful in our breeding in the Corolla offsite breeding program. In order to maintain true Colonial Spanish type no horse outside of that breed is included in our breeding program. There are so few Corollas left that they face genetic collapse if other, non-Corolla, genetics are not carefully introduced into the breeding program. We breed Corollas to a small, select group of strains of Colonial Spanish horses that are historically, genetically, or phenotypcally in line with the Corollas and those offspring are bred back to straight Corollas or Shackelfords.

Among the Chincoteagues one can find some beautiful examples of what a Spanish horse should look like. But those beautiful horses are likely to produce foals that do not carry  any of these Colonial Spanish traits.

I continue to believe that Chincoteagues are the most under rated horses in the nation. It is not that they are not "good" enough to be part of the off site breeding program. It simply is that they include the blood of modern horses.