Thursday, May 16, 2019

First Responders, Trauma, and Fighting Your Way Back Out

Some things are too important for subtle hints and polite suggestions. This is one of those things. Trauma has always been with us but it is only in the recent past that we have begun to remotely understand the impact that trauma has on human health and happiness.

We are entering our seventh year of providing weekly session for those who are in the inpatient PTSD program at our local Veterans Hospital. We use horses to help participants understand the impact that severe trauma can have on one's reaction to a variety of stimuli.

In short, humans and other large mammal predators share many common body language cues and, more importantly. share a strong drive for autonomy. Severely traumatized people and  prey animals who live in herds often share many common body language cues and, more importantly, share a strong need for security.

While a focal point of the sessions is communication and understanding the extreme need for security a secondary point is nearly as important-- using the horse to learn to regain the ability to trust.

Let me be blunt. For over twenty years I have been prosecuting sexual assault, molestation cases, and crimes against children. I have taken on much of the trauma that the victims relive throughout the process. My parents were among the earliest members of our local volunteer rescue squad.  I understand what first responders often find when they respond to a call. We have a very small office and I work very closely with law enforcement.  I know the toll that some of these cases take on them.

We offer free hands on sessions for first responders who are working their way through the trauma that their jobs bring upon them. Don't worry if you are afraid of large animals--in fact that will make the session even better. Don't worry if you don't know how to ride--there is no riding involved.

Most of all, don't get in your head that this must be some kind of touchy-feely kind of thing where we all get together and learn to cry while holding each other's hand. NO--that is not how this works.

Look at the picture above this post. That is me and my bull. Do I look touchy or feely to you?

We are located in Smithfield Virginia. We are delighted to set up a session for first responders. I have participated in many of these sessions. They matter. They matter so much that we don't charge a penny for them.

To schedule a session send me an email at

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Mill Swamp Indian Horses Spring

Tornado did not touch us, though I hear that one landed down the road. Heavy rain-woods so full of water that much of the first half of a mile on the afternoon ride in the woods was in water, mud and mire.

But the trees were green and the grass was pushing through the soil--Terry's mounted Easter Egg Hunt was the biggest that we have had since its inception several years ago--plastic eggs hanging from trees-candy, horse treats, special surprises in select eggs.

Nick, the oldest animal born here--a donkey whose mother was captured wild in California--the same one ridden countless miles by Lido, who referred to him as his "very fine quine" ,out on his first mounted Easter egg hunt--He and Jenner make a great team--Kate wanted to ride a horse for the hunt--even "reserved" one--Her regular ride, Belle, a white gaited mule, could be a bit head strong--when I looked up she was  bringing Belle up to the tack shed

Kate leading her along-"Uh, you know, she just really wanted to be ridden today." Grown ups hanging eggs from trees--having as much fun as the kids

New riding lesson program began today--Back in the Saddle Program--Jackie teaching skills to adults who may have not ridden for years--learning new skills, relearning old ones--building confidence

New instrument came in mail Friday--took it up to tack shed to figure it out--going to be a great sound to add to our music program--Pasture #3, our music program band, has a big show coming up on Saturday, April 27 at 4:00 at Christ Church, South Church Street Smithfield, Va

Two Spanish goat doelings went to a new home yesterday--no new Marsh Tacky Foal yet--the foal may be the first Marsh Tacky foal bred in Virginia in a century or two--families in the saddle--my wife and I and our granddaughter--all of the Thomas family-Lisa and her three daughters

Lydia brought out four guests toward the of the day--they were interested in the role that horses can play in healing emotional pain--gave rather lengthy demonstration using Joey, a beautiful pinto colored Choctaw.

And every bit of this was done without a single paid staff person. Everyone in our program is a volunteer. Read those two sentences one more time--think about what it means--programs like this bring a lot of light into dark worlds and they can be carried out anywhere there are horses and people.

And in the 13th hour that I had been out to the horse lot yesterday my granddaughter and I planted a chestnut tree.

The roots of our program began nearly 20 years ago----want to be around long enough so that one day people riding Colonial Spanish mustangs will watch that tree die of old age.

For the long haul-we are in for the very long haul.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

These Posts Are Not As Popular As Posts About Cute Foals, But They Are More Important

  • Three or four years ago I placed an old hot tub into the ground so that the top was at ground level to give the area the benefit of the of the ground heat during winter. Initially I put around 1000 pounds of horse manure in the hot tub along with 3,000 red wigglers. We added a bit of coffee grounds and some manure from several other livestock species to increase microbial diversity. Then we left it alone--no other care or feeding considerations.
  •  When the manure is completely transformed into soil we began top dressing areas of the pasture with it. We were adding perhaps another 1000 pounds of manure every eight to ten weeks to the old hot tub. Ninety nine percent of the manure is left alone in the pastures. Eventually the microbes in the soil, dung beetles and escaped, free ranging worms began to convert the manure to soil fast enough. 

  • The worm population has radiated outward from the old hot tub into adjacent paddocks and the soil in those areas is so filled with worms that on many mornings it is impossible to put your hand on the ground without covering several piles of castings. Our stallions stay in smaller pens and leave large stud piles. We have begun experimenting by simply concentrating the stud piles and putting 1000 red wigglers in them in hopes that they will colonize those paddocks. 
  • Lastly, we have begun using old 35 gallon water tanks to grow wild night crawlers which we recover from areas around the chickens and rabbits to consume cow manure. We recently put a large batch of this mixture in a hugelkulture mound. We work to keep the nutrients in the pastures and paddocks instead of removing them or allowing them to be taken away by rainwater. The best side benefit that we get is a radical reduction in mud as the worms help the soil absorb rain water.
We have recently began to use some heavy equipment for the first time in our soil and water conservation projects and have constructed berms and small retention ponds to radically reduce runoff from the new land. Over the weekend we had two very heavy rains. We kept many thousands of gallons of water on the land instead of allowing it to become run off.

If we had a third of the horses that we have our pastures would be optimal. But a breed conservation program that seeks to preserve nearly extinct strains of Corollas, Choctaws, Marsh Tackys along with other breeds of heritage livestock must maintain a sufficiently large breeding herd to make a meaningful impact on that purpose.

So we work with what we have--and we work very hard at it. Conserving soil and water is tremendously rewarding.  I do not think of our livestock as pets, but the soil has become my "pet." 

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Clearing Your Horse Pasture

I want program participants to learn not only from my mistakes, but also from my experience as a whole. The most important team effort that we have ever had at the horse lot is the clearing of the New Land. The picture above shows what the New Land looked like after a year of clearing. A lot of people put tremendous effort into getting the nearly twenty acres cleared.

Knowing what I know now, the job would have been easier, and much faster, if our first step had been to fence in small sections of the brush and put the goats to work clearing the land.

The next step would have been to fence in smaller sections and let the hogs do their job clearing the land.

After that was done it would be time to step in with the chain saw.

But herein lies the beauty of learning. Their is no statue of limitations on applying life's lessons. An ocean of poison ivy had kept me out of a thicket of perhaps two acres on the new land. I had not studied it at all. Last week I walked through and found five volunteer pecan trees in the small grove of primarily ash trees. Our livestock will clear this area for us. I will gradually remove nearly all of the trees in the area and replace them with  nut and fruit producing trees. I will leave the mimosa trees because they are legumes and they work hard to build a powerful network of nitrogen fixing bacteria under the soil.

Our Scottish Highland are great browsers and giving them access to the areas being cleared not only will bring in manure to enrich the soil but will also bring in soil building microbes from their saliva.

The resulting food forest will be a boon to wildlife and will be a spectacular classroom for programs on twenty years into the future.

We are in this for the long haul.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Building Your Own Riding Program: Part Two

The first post in this series dealt with several nuts and bolts, business considerations to keep in mind when working to build a riding program. There are many resources out there that can provide more detailed information on those considerations. This post will deal with matters that are not easy to google.

What I will set out below will be of little use to most people. Some will think it odd. Some might even be offended by it. Some might think it sanctimonious or even self righteous.

It is neither. It is blunt and simply lays out my core beliefs without apology or sugar coating.

Teaching riding and natural horsemanship should not be an occupation. It should be a calling. It should not be a calling to teach spoiled little rich white girls how to win ribbons. It should be a calling to radically improve the quality of the lives of riding students and their horses.

The building of a riding program works best if done as an entirely selfless venture. An ethical system that seeks, as an ultimate goal, the complete abandonment of self interest is completely wrong headed. Disregard of self interest cannot be the goal of an ethical life. It must, instead, be the beginning--the very first step to living an ethical life.

To do so is liberating. It allows one to work very hard , seven days a week, for years on end. Most importantly, it allows one to teach by example. Kids learn best that which they see and experience consistently.

Disregarding self interest is financially liberating.  Doing so frees up a tremendous amount of money that one might otherwise spend on one's self. Eventually one can even reach the point of avoiding the use of the filthiest four letter work in our language--"mine".  (I generally only use that word as an accounting classification so that everyone understands that program funds were not used to acquire certain assets, e.g. the cattle are "mine" in the sense that they were not purchased with program funds.)

Disregarding self interest is physically liberating. It allows one to get work done regardless of whether one is sick or injured. This is particularly important as one gets older. Pain is a near constant companion the closer one gets to the end of the game. Being able to disregard that pain allows one to accomplish as much at age sixty as one could at age forty.

Lastly, and most ironically, disregarding self interest can be the most self rewarding thing that one can do for one's self. Instead of spending  life chasing meaningless frivolities like "happiness" one can obtain a life of meaning and satisfaction.

I did not begin this pilgrimage with this understanding. I started out doing clinics on the taming of wild horses and when people saw Lido working with me they asked if I could teach their child to ride.

The experience of working horses in the round pen and teaching kids that they could do more than they ever thought possible taught me what matters in life. Seeing victims of extraordinary physical and sexual abuse jump out from the dark corner that their mind had always lived in taught me what matters in life. Seeing the impact that the horses have on those who are in the inpatient PTSD program at the local Veterans Hospital taught me what matters in life.

Ashley Edwards taught me what matters in life.

And Lydia Barr's typically profound and simple statement taught me what matters in life.

She said, "The horses are important but the people matter most."

Thursday, April 4, 2019

They Were Not Lying To You: Spring Really Is Coming

It is just that you cannot control when it will come. When I went out to the horse lot yesterday morning I found that my Scottish Highland cow had a little calf standing beside her. I did not know that she was bred.

Three of our adult program members have mares that will foal this year. I understand the excitement and anticiption of the births. Everyone wants to know when the foals will be born.

And they really want to know when this will happen. I understand, perhaps on a much deepr level than the kids do, that the antidote to death is birth.

It is uplifting to have a new foal born.

I know about getation periods for horses. That still does not give me an answer. The only thing that I have learned for certain regarding  dates of birth is that cussing does not speed up the process.

The past year has been the wettest and ugliest of my lifetime. I have been steadily reminding myself that spring was coming. As we rolled into February I started thinking hard about when the pastures would become vibrant and filled with all manner of vegetation. I searched my memory as to when the beech trees leaf out with broad, tender leaves that take on a yellowish tint when the morning sun shines through them.

As best I could remember, the date of the rejuventation of life in the woods and in the horse lot, and in my mind, would be the first week of April, just before turkey season came in.

I was wrong. Dead wrong. Looks like it will be a few more weeks, but it will happen. You can bank on it.

Next year I will be more patient.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Hugelkulture, Ossabaw Hogs, And Wonderfully Hard Work

Yesterday was our first, free demo in our 2019 Mill Swamp Indian Horses series, "Teaching, Learning and Growing." We focused on our soil and water conservation projects including microbial pasture development, use of livestock to preserve land, vermicomposting and run off prevention.

We took a section of the brush windrows that Matt created as we cleared the remaining brushy sections of the New Land and built a hugelkulture mound and a huglekulture water retainer adjacent to it. We used freshly cut living wood, grass clippings, old wood, vermicompost from multi livestock manure sources, old hay, liquid microbial fertilizer that we produced on site, wood chips, night crawlers dug from adjacent land, and forest leaf mold recovered from a site about three hundred yards from the project.

The demo was hands on and participants joined in as the mound and retention area was constructed. Several tonnes of dirt and material was gathered and shoveled into the project.

While the demo was going on Andrew, Chris, Lydia, Jen and Elise moved most of our heritage breed Ossabaw Hogs over to the new wooded pen that we just completed.  Guests got a chance to see some of the rarest historic American horses, nearly extinct Colonial Spanish goats, and a band of happy Ossabaw hogs.

And they also got a chance to see what is possible when a group of dedicated volunteers come together to build something bigger than themselves.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

On Building Your Own Riding Program

Twice in recent weeks I have been asked for advice on how to build a riding instruction program that has meaning. I have been thinking of little else since then.

The answer will not flow easily. It is a field fraught with potential road blocks. It is easy to start a meaningless riding instruction program. All one has to do is look at the established horse world's template.

But building a program that creates better people and better horses is much more difficult. Today I will mention a few nuts and bolts things that matter for all riding programs, both those that seek meaning and those that merely seek the approval of those who view horses as fungible objects whose worth is only shown by their success in competition.

Future posts will focus on what I have learned in the twenty years that has gone into building our breed conservation and natural horsemanship program. For now let's just talk business.

Form a corporation. You can go to an online service to do so, but I would only trust something this important in protecting you from future law suits to a real lawyer that you can sit down and talk to about limiting your liability. The lawyer can advise you about your state's laws concerning releases and signs.

Get insurance. It will be difficult and confusing. Get an agent that you trust and begin the process of  preparing applications.

Get your tack safe and check on its safety often. Require helmets and boots for all riders. Wear them yourself.

Put all contracts for lessons in writing and fully set out in the contract the duties of both student and teacher.

The most important safety practice is one that insurance agents seem to know nothing about.  Knowledge of the horse's mind and understanding of the horse's behavior are the most important safety shields that a student can have. That is why our safety record is so stunning. Even with the extraordinary number of hours that our student's, in total, put on the horses over a year injuries that actually require medical attention are quite rare indeed.

That means that you must teach natural horsemanship every single day that you are with a student.

Future posts will be more specific and will deal with avoiding the perils of falling into the pattern of merely being a place where little rich girls learn to go ride horses in circles.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Trail Riding Lesson Program For Adults Who Have Been Out of The Saddle For a While

We introduce people to riding but over the years we have also reintroduced many people to riding. Jackie is the best example in our program of that reintroduction.  She wants to share that with others and we will have a new instructional class for people who have once ridden but have been out of the saddle for so long that they think that riding is only something that happened in the past.
Steve Edwards

"Over 10 years ago, my daughter asked if she could start riding again. The only thing was she did not want to ride in circles meaning no more lessons in a riding ring. I came across an article in the local paper about Mill Swamp Indian Horses. What caught my eye about this place was that kids were being taught to gentle and train Spanish Colonial Horses. In all of my years of riding, I never learned to train a horse. I was sure this would be a good experience for my daughter so we went to meet Steve Edwards. The place did not look anything like the English riding stables I was use to but something about it seemed very right. There were stallions sharing a pasture and pastures with geldings and mares that Steve could move with just a look.

We signed on that day.

As the years went by, I started to want to ride again. At the time, I was way over the weight most English stables considered over the limit for their horses. I thought I was too big to get on a horse's back. I worried that if I fell off on a trail I could not get back on and I would be too heavy for someone to give me a leg up. One day Steve talked about the differences in the structure of the Spanish Colonial Horses from that of modern horses. These horses were bred to carry riders great distances. Then he said the most important thing, his weight! Being a few pounds less, I no longer could make the excuse I was too big to ride. Therefore, I started riding again.

Riding later in life was not as easy as when I was in my teens. I had little leg and core strength. I was only able to mount a horse using a mounting block. I spent the first couple of years at a walk and trot. Now I lead rides and no longer worry about if I can get back on my horse on the trail. I enjoy riding at 58 years old as much as I did as a teenager. It is a great way to relax and exercise at the same time. I have ridden over 126 miles this year so far.

I want to help others get back into riding so I will be starting up an adult "back in the saddle" ride Saturdays at 1:00 pm and Thursdays at 6:00 pm. The first ride will be April 20. Riders can ride one or both rides. Rides will be at a walk and last an hour. If you have not been in the saddle for a long time or our new to the program please arrive about 30 minutes early. This is not a lesson program for novices, so riders should have some experience. We have other riding lesson program available for those who have never ridden.

Program fees will apply. Contact Steve Edwards at for pricing. Go to for more information on the programs offered at the farm. This ride is open to all adult program participants." 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

And I Really Don't Know Anyone Who Does The Job Better

We have two great young horse professionals in our program. Lydia Barr (the taller one in the picture above) is a first rate horse gentler. She knows how to explain horse behavior to her clients. It really does not matter if a trainer can get a horse to react wonderfully for the trainer. What matters is how it will act for the owner and Lydia understands that every horse with a problem has an owner that will need to be a part of the training process.

Jenn Hill is a farrier. She has both a great deal of practical experience and also has professional training in Oklahoma. Jenn understands natural horsemanship and she knows how to humanely get a horse to relax and respond well to trimming. She is the best barefoot trimmer that I know of. She keeps the horses in our program well trimmed.

When I was five Daddy went off to Tennessee to spend the summer learning to shoe horses. He trimmed area horses for over fifty years. I trimmed horses that were particularly difficult to handle from high school until I was about forty years old. I gentled and trained horses from about age twelve.

I know what good trimming and good training look like.

If you want to see what good trimming and good training look like get in touch with Jenn Hill and Lydia Barr.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

To Mongolia With Love

Over the years we have had horse people come from quite a distance to spend a little time with our program to learn how we do things. Last week was different from all of those visits. Dashka Otgon, who grew up in a nomadic herding family in Mongolia came down to share her culture, and her culture's horsemanship, with my riders.

She is a brilliant young lady. She teaches English in Mongolia. She wants to bring American tourists to Mongolia to experience the lifestyle of one of the few horse cultures that still exists on this planet. The nomadic herdsman of Mongolia must rank among the most accomplished riders in the world. However, such great riders do not require well trained, gentled horses.

Dashka had never seen horses as gentle as ours. She had never seen horses that had such a strong need to be with people.

She had never seen natural horsemanship in action.

She watched as we despooked nervous horses and got in the round pen with Ta Sunka Witco, our great Colonial Spanish horse of Karma Farms breeding who is the grandson of Choctaw Sundance. She is excited to share what she saw with her brother who has about sixty horses.

She stumbled onto something that will make her plans of a tourist experience for Americans easier to achieve. She saw how much safer natural horsemanship training can make horses.

This caught me by complete surprise. When we arranged for Dashka to visit I thought about all of the things that our program participants could learn from her. I never envisioned her bringing something as important as natural horsemanship home to Mongolia.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Feeding the Soil (At No Cost)

As well as red wiggler worms do on a diet of horse manure, they seem to do even better on diet of mixed manures with the majority coming from cattle. Daddy is over eighty years old and he said that this is the wettest stretch of time that he ever recalls. I am nearly 60 and I have no doubt that it is the wettest series of seasons that I have ever seen. For several years microbial pasture development had reduced our mud to a nearly unnotiticable level. That is not true now.

In addition, changes in traffic patterns, as a result of that mud, have given us horrible problems of soil compaction. Of course, the mere existance  of the mud and constant rain has raised the level of soil compaction from horses to an unnacceptable level.

We will likely use a sub soiling plow blade to help with compaction, but the only long term solution to soil compaction, (which leads to large bare spots of soil or a weed covered surface) is to make the soil more porous with earth worms and night crawlers.

Simply adding earth worms to a dead soil is of little value. Creating a soil loaded with microbial life, both fungal and bacterial, give priceless results. The soil will fill with beneficial worms whose tunnels allow water to go into the soil instead of staying on the surface. The fertility of the soil sky rockets. The pastures can then grow a healthy mixture of grasses, forbs and browse. The horses will have their perfect natural diet and hay bills plummet.

The ultimate irony is that manure removal has been the goal of those who thought that they were promoting soil and water conservation for decades. Gradually, we are learning better science.

Let's learn before it is too late.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Coming Out of The Shadows:Using Horses To Fight Anxiety Disorder

Left unchecked, anxiety disorder can become a progressive health problem that leads to withdrawing from aspects of life that might cause stress. Of course, few aspects of healthy living do not cause stress. Anxiety disorder is running epidemic among young people today. There are a host of causes of this boom in suffering but  chief among them is our culture's enabling of behaviors that enhance the control of the disorder over the lives of those who have it.

Parents who allow their children to stay in their rooms and play with their phones instead of going out to face the world are guilty of neglect--plain and simple. Parents who, from the time a toddler can move around, do nothing expand the child's confidence and courage are guilty of neglect--plain and simple.

Too often we hear  excuses made  for those  who lock themselves away from society by mindlessly chiming in that it is ok because  they are "introverts". Those who do so are working to keep that person locked up every bit as much as does a jailer.

I do not suggest the opposite of this approach. It would be equally bad to berate the sufferer. It will only drive them deeper into the darkness. Parents, friends and society at large needs to take the more difficult road. We have to encourage, support, and patiently work to help those we care about fight the darkness. We have to encourage without suggesting that "this is all your fault and if you would just ....blah, blah, blah"

That approach will achieve nothing positive

We have to encourage fighting back instead of hiding. It is that simple. Enabling hiding is poisonous. A child who falls off of a horse and  fears mounting up who has a parent that  allows that child to hide by staying away from horses does no service to that child. Friends who allow others to make decisions based on whether or not an action might cause stress are making it easier for  more pain to enter the person's life.

These are not easy issues. I have no doubt that the worse thing that I can do for young people that I care about is to encourage them to hide from stress instead of fighting anxiety.  And that is the correct term to use. If one is fighting anxiety or depression one is winning. As long as the fight goes on the fighter is a winner--no matter how difficult the challenge.

It is only when one gives up and gives in to depression or anxiety that the fight is lost. It is much easier to give in. It is much easier to allow people that you care about to give in instead of fighting to become an encouraging , supportive, voice of love. If you just leave them alone, just leave them "their space,"  they will be let you know what a good friend you are being.

"Get some rest" will nearly always be better received than, "it's time to get up." It is a horrible thing to allow one that one care's about to miss all that is good in life because they are busy hiding from all that is bad in life.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Huglekulture Program March 23, 2:00 Register Now

No, things are not green like this yet around here, but we will host our first participatory clinic of 2019 on March 23, at 2:00 pm on building huglekulture mounds to conserve soil and water in a pasture setting. Mill Swamp Indian Horses is located at 9299 Moonlight Road Smithfield Virginia 23430.

Participants are urged to bring a shovel and a lawn chair. There is no fee to attend. However, we are a 501 (c) 5  breed conservation non-profit with no paid staff and we will accept contributions from attendees should they so desire.

To register contact Please share this announcement with everyone who is interested in promoting ecologically sound methods of soil and water conservation.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Lean Into It And Pull: Why Tomorrow Night is One of the Biggest Nights in The Program's History

We have sold out for the first concert of our Roots and Americana music program's band, Pasture #3.  A Handful of adults, a lot of young people, more traditional musical instruments then will fit in a homeschooler's van, and a great performance coming up.

So what does learning to play and perform have to do with preserving nearly extinct strains of Colonial Spanish Horses? Every bit of our focus links back to the horses and their preservation. The programs that we have developed over the years have turned us from being a place to go learn to ride to being a full fledged, non-traditional educational institutions.

The only hope for these horses is for children who care about them to become spokesman for the horses when they are adults. Being on stage gives the confidence to speak out. When one learns these ancient songs on ancient instruments they learn to reject the edicts of the shallow pop culture that engulfs young people today. When an eleven year old learns to appreciate and understand time worn songs that have no current commercial value they learn to think for themselves. The future of the preservation of the various heritage livestock cannot depend on the hope that mindless conformists will somehow see the light as adults and begin to support preservation.

Kids that will be on the stage tomorrow night have learned  to work as a team and to put their egos away and work for something bigger than themselves. And they have learned to improvise, to solve problems, and to figure it out for themselves. No stilted learning methods, no hammering on the "right way" to do a song--in short, the way poor and working people have learned to play music since the first man picked up a stick and beat a rhythm on a hollow log.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Tradewind, A Corolla Stallion, And The Fourth Fundmental Virtue

He's likely around twenty years old now. When he was captured his founder was so severe that in addition to long curving toes he walked over on the side of his front right hoof. He moved as best he could on strained tendons and ligaments and displaced coffin bones.

He was not merely lame, He was crippled.

Took a long time using Pete Ramey natural hoof care trimming techniques to get him able to walk normally. Took a bit longer for him to be able to move painlessly. He was not difficult for me to train to ride. At that point he was the smallest horse that I had ridden as an adult. I had learned that Colonial Spanish horses easily carried much more than the ridiculous  twenty percent of body weight rule that some many rule obeyers cling tightly to, yet he was only 12.2 hands, weighed 626 pounds and had once been crippled.

But he carried me fine. Never a hint of discomfort in 206 hours of brisk movement through the woods.  He was likely about ten years old then. I was fifty. He carried me, gaiting and trotting primarily, for so many hours through the woods trails in 2011 that he was named National Pleasure Trail Horse of the Year by the Horse of the Americas Registry.

It has been said that while there are many virtues worthy of seeking, courage, generosity, honesty and perseverance are four fundamental virtues upon which the exercise of all other virtues depend.

Tradewind persevered. Tradewind is resilient. I am often asked how much these horses are worth. It is always sad to hear that question because it means that I am speaking with a person who understands so little of life that they equate sales price with worth.

Tradwind is still ridden and brings particular joy to one family. He still produces spectacular foals for the Corolla off site breeding program.

All of that matters, but none of it goes to what he is truly worth. Tradewind's most important job is to stand there in a pen while I tell people about him and what he has over come--when I tell teenagers who are fighting to stay clear of drugs what he has over come, when I tell young adults who suffered molestation as kids what he has over come, when I tell people whose neurotic parents raised them to hate themselves what he has over come, when I tell people gripped in clinical depression what he has over come--That is when he shows his value-that is when he shows his worth.

Tradewind's worth is precisely equal to the worth of the people that can use him as a beacon of the fourth fundamental virtue--perseverance.

He also teaches a bit about the virtues that our program depends on. He was a crippled wild stallion. The established horse world would have simpley decreed that he should be put down.

But we do not throw away horses. And we do not throw away people.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

We Have Enough VermiCompost To Sell

About three years ago we began raising red wigglers in containers of horse manure. As our knowledge of microbial farming increased we worked hard to increase the diversity of the microbes to be found. We include some of the advantages of multi stock grazing by adding in smaller amounts of goat, turkey, hog, and cattle manure. The only thing else to go into our mix are coffee grounds and filters and two small applications of cane mollasses. Microbes from the base of hardwoods along the stream have been added in as have  fungus from an adjacent pine forest floor.

Over the years the wigglers have colonized much of our old pastures and are a big part of why the land can absorb rainfall so much better. We do not use any chemical fertilizers. We have been sparing in how much of our vermicompost we have applied to the soil and primarily use it in areas of too much soil compaction.

While it is very true that worm castings are loaded with nutrients that plants get tremendous use from, I think that the most important component of vermicompost for overall soil health are the microbes that remain in the mix.  I might be being overly cautious, but I only use vermicompost that is fresh and loaded with microbial life.

That is the only way that I will sell it. When purchasers arrive at the horse lot we will sift and package the product directly from the bin. The price will be fifteen dollars for a five pound bag. If you bring your own five gallon bucket we will fill it for $25.00.

Sales go entirely to support our program. We have no paid staff. Everyone here, who do all of the things that we get done, are volunteers. Sales are made by appointment only.

To schedule a purchase email We are located outside of Smithfield, Virginia.

Just A Pilgrim On This Road

A living mind should never be stagnant. My mind has not been stagnant, but for years it has been a slow moving stream, obstructed by false alarms, smoldering embers, brush fires and full blown conflagrations of flame and smoke.

At my age, perhaps the best way to deal with life is to build an intellectual firebreak and spend time reading and learning, as I did when I was young. For a time in my twenties I sought to read three books a week. I tore through subjects that interested me as if they were a seafood buffet--taking little time to chew in order to be able to swallow more. Between 1979 and 1987 I read everything worth reading about the history of the people of Tsennacomacah, and their relationship with the Jamestown experiment. From 1980 to the early 90's I inhaled books on Biblical critical analysis and scholarship. During the same period of time I read everything worth reading about both John and Bobby Kennedy. During the first decade of this century my focus was on absorbing the written word on natural horsemanship.

In recent years my reading has focused on the characters that contributed to Americana and Roots music. But that reading has not been as satisfying. That reading has come from some books, but mostly does from internet research.

Reading from the internet is not like going to a seafood buffet. It is like stopping by 7-11--sometimes I can find something that tastes good there, but the real reason that I stopped is to find something quickly.

Learning from the internet  allows one to accumulate a vast amount of information but is not conducive to reflection on that information. That matters--knowledge comes from the accumulation of information, but wisdom comes from reflection on that information.

Lately I have found myself drawn back to the road--to look for knowledge and wisdom as hard as I did when I was in my twenties. Perhaps this is merely a result of being nearly sixty years old and wanting to get things straight before I am gone.  More likely, the decline in our nation's morality and decency in recent years has caused more reflection.

At William & Mary my mind was on fire. My closest friend in my college years and best man in our wedding was Jim Comey. Jim was also a double major, mine was Government and Religion. I think that Jim's was Chemistry and Religion.  I was not used to talking to people smarter than me. At age 19 it was something that had very rarely  happened. Jim was smarter than me--not by much, but a touch smarter.

After you get a knife  sharp with a sharpening stone,  a steel hones it to an even sharper edge. Jim and I served as steels for each other's minds.

I want to regain that sharpness. Sanders, Niebur, King, Heschel, Amos, Luke and Malachi are starting to push their way back into the workings of my mind.

So now here I sit. I am on the Sabbath that I have about every 18 months to two years. I have the flu and as always I am enjoying it to no end.  It gives an opportunity for complete rest and reflection. The option of getting some work done does not exist. I am entirely too sick to even go feed up. So I can rest--and think.

 I am not too sick to doze off  as I compare Lincoln's Second Inaugural to Martin Luther King's letter from the Birmingham jail. And it is a wonderful thing to allow my mind to go back to being twenty two years old again.

When I was still young enough to be impressed by brilliance.

(The title of this post is from Steve Earle's great funeral song, "I'm Just a Pilgrim This Road.")

Monday, February 11, 2019

If You Must Anthropomorphize, Anthropomorphize Your Vet

After all, your vet actually is human. Your vet is not a guardian angel. Your vet has no magic power. Your vet is an incredibly hard working human trying their best to diagnose a creature who can no speak. Do not expect miracles.

Your horse can't talk, but your vet can. Did you listen to your vet when told that your horse is dangerously over weight, fed too much sugar and given nearly no exercise?

Do you even allow your vet to tell you those things?

When your laminitic horse, who weighs three hundred more than it should has to be put down, do you tell people that "the vet did not even try to save it!"

Has your failure to train and control your horse created an animal is a true danger to the vet?

 Do you get your horse care information from "people at the barn" or even worse, from social media for  opinions  on things like the effectiveness of diamataceous earth?

Where were you in the second grade when the teacher tried to explain the difference between facts and opinions?

Do you control your emotions while the vet is trying to make a difficult diagnosis or do you expect your vet to also be your grief counselor and emotional support?

I am a horse owner so it is my responsibility to stay up to date on medical issues involving my horses. The reality is, when I am confronted with a horse in serious distress and I am utterly at loss to know what the problem is, I have to recognize that there is a substantial chance that the horse is going to die. Of course, in such situations I immediately have the vet called out.

I hope for the best. I do not expect miracles. If one happens that is wonderful. If not, I would never dare complain that the vet, "did not do something." Over 1 in every twenty foals in a 2015 study died during the first 30 days of their lives.  Do you think that vets should have always been able to "do something" to prevent these deaths.

And keep this in mind--the vast majority of colic cases are idiopathic. (That means no one, not even your vet, can figure out what caused the colic attack).

Our vets are The Oaks in Smithfield, Virginia. They do spectacular wok and have never once disappointed me.

Perhaps that is because I only ask them to be vets, not gods.

Friday, February 8, 2019

The Blog Is Back

Regardless of how hard one tries there are some things that it is impossible to turn one's back on. For over a decade this blog has been the main way that people around the world have learned about the unique learning experiences in our program.  We simply have too much going on to put it all on face book.

Yesterday involved a lengthy conference call whose aim was to facilitate the breeding of more Corollas. I have yet to announce our exciting plans for "Choctaw Summer--2019." Our Ossabaw hog heritage pork program is bursting at the seams. Matt Thomas has turned the clearing of land into beautiful, functional performance art. Significant water retention programs have begun on the New Land. Construction of Native American structures to honor those who bred the little Spanish Horses into perhaps the best family and trial horses available on the planet today have begun. My Highland ox, Seven Leagues, has been promoted to Vice-President in Charge of Keeping My Blood Pressure Down and Reducing the Chance of Me Going Up Side Someone's Head. And a fine job he is doing in that role.

We will begin to offer vermicompost for sale and will be expanding our permaculture and soil and water conservation educational programs. We are looking to raise scores of heritage  turkeys in 2019 and expand our educational programs to include sheep shearing and wool and fiber  use. Our Americana and Roots music educational program, "Pasture #3" will have its first solo show on February 23, 7:00 pm at the Moonlight Hunt Club. We have a bumper crop of December born Colonial Spanish Goats and have had a beautiful pair of lambs born to our pure Hog Island Ram and a modern ewe (She will be replaced this spring with a Hog Island Ewe or two.)

Our most popular program innovation is Jackie Teeter's 8:00 am class on conditioning horse for significant mileage which will get us set quite well for our upcoming 60 Mile Ride. Renovations have begun on the Settlers Farm and countless hours have gone into repair of the path back to the tack shed.

Several tons of wood chips lay waiting  to be used in hugelkulture projects. In March we will have our first public educational program on developing hugelkulture mounds. We have several new, very enthusiastic participants in our program who not only want to learn to ride, they want to learn to do everything that it takes to make our program bigger and better.

We will begin planting trees from individual contributions marked for those purchases. Horse training continues to go well. Sally has become a wonderful trail horse and Long Knife will be in the woods soon. Washani is becoming a student favorite.

Beginning in April we will have a series of special programs every Saturday afternoon, weather permitting.

And we are getting our bills paid. That part is not easy but it is happening. I have been entirely too dilatorias in working on 501 (c) 3 status application. Always seems like too many other thing come up first before I get around to getting that done. However, flu is running rampant in our area and if I get laid out with the flu that will give me time  to get that paper work done.

So, you see, facebook is a wonderful tool for distribution of pictures and very short posts on what is going on at the horse lot. But to fully explain what is going on as we grow, this blog is a necessity.

Oh yea, one other thing, I am beginning to work up a testing instrument to be used to measure program participant's views on the proper role of leadership, control, use of power, horse on horse violence, fear of injury, fear of having a horse not "like" the participant, self assessment as a leader, projection of human traits onto horses and everything else that prevents a horse from feeling secure around humans. The results will be used to focus training on the emotional baggage that makes it very difficult to become a safe rider on a happy horse.

You see, it just won't all fit on facebook.