Thursday, May 14, 2020

"I Had No Idea That All This Goes On At Mill Swamp Indian Horses!"

That is what a visitor who lived locally said when he came out to learn about our program. I was not surprised. Not many people do know, and those that do are shocked when they learn that all of this is done with no paid staff. Everything that is done is done by hardworking, knowledgeable, dedicated volunteers.

In fact, we do so much that we document it so that others can understand what is possible. We record the number of miles each rider rides in a  lesson and record the cumulative figures. In 2019 we rode further than from Norfolk to Oslo, Norway.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Here is what goes in in our program--

Gwaltney Frontier Farm Educational Foundation, Inc is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit that supports educational programs at Mill Swam Indian Horses, the program name of Gwaltney Frontier Farm. As is the rest of the nation, we are in a holding pattern for many of our programs and are looking forward to being able to get fully back into gear soon. Below I will set out a list of some of the services that have been provided until the virus suspended things and that will be resumed the moment that it is safe and legal to do so.

We work to preserve and promote nearly extinct strains of historic heritage livestock, including Colonial Spanish Horses, particularly those whose lineage goes back to the Outer banks of North Carolina, the area around the Grand Canyon, Choctaw horses whose ancestors carried Native Americans on the Trail of Tears into what is now Oklahoma,  Galicenos and Marsh Tackys, the horse of Colonial South Carolina. We also feature rare strains of Spanish goats and early Colonial Sheep and hogs and even raise Scottish Highland Cattle. We have recently begun to feature Mammoth donkeys of the type that George Washington used to develop larger, stronger mules.

We teach children and adults to humanely gentle and train the horses to saddle and we teach riding lessons. We have never turned anyone away for inability to pay program fees. It is important to keep in mind that we have no paid staff. Everything that is done is done by volunteers. The program is on nearly sixty acres of land that the program uses at no charge.

We hope to soon return to having our Friday program in which children are taught soil and water conservation, microbial farming, pasture development, Natural Horsemanship, livestock care and handling, Colonial gardening techniques, composting and vermiculture. Perhaps most importantly, the kids learn to work on the farm and use problem solving skills and team work to take on very large projects, e.g. clearing brush and wood land for pasture conversion and fencing that land in for efficient, environmentally sound use. We have a program fee, but no family is ever turned away for inability to pay the fee. In order to make it easier for entire families to participate in our programs, those for which a fee is charged are charged on a per family basis. This makes it possible for large families to participate and encourages parents to participate right along with the children.

Our educational program includes a free Old Time, folk, blues, gospel and American music lesson program. At no additional charge program participants who wish to do so gather weekly to learn to play and perform on stage. A few adults join in with up to a dozen or more kids and play such instruments as banjos, fiddles, mandolins, dulcimers, harmonicas, wash tub bass, dobro, tenor banjo, tenor guitar, bouzouki, kazoo, autoharp, and even a wash board. The kids have played many professional engagements. All of the performance payments are donated back to the program.

Perhaps the most important aspect of what we do involves healing and helping people who have experienced extreme trauma in their lives. For over seven years, until the virus outbreak, we provided weekly programming to those who are in the in-patient PTSD program at the Hampton Veterans Hospital. We have never charged for this service. We provided monthly programming to Mid-Atlantic Teen Challenge, a substance abuse treatment facility at no charge. Although we are not a therapeutic riding facility, many people who suffered significant abuse as children or adults benefit tremendously from interaction with our horses.

We have provided, and look forward to providing more sessions to first responders, medical professionals, and other professions both in using techniques of natural horsemanship to more effectively communicate with traumatized people and to use the horses to deal with the trauma that they experience on the job.

That is what has been going on at the horse lot for many years and I hope that we will be jumping back in with both feet soon.

If you would like to be part of our program you may email me at Fess for riding lessons are $160.00 per family per month. Families in the riding program can participate in the Friday program at no additional charge. Participants in the Friday program without being riding students have a fee of $120.00 per month per family.

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