Tuesday, December 30, 2008

From Lido's Point of View

You do ride pretty, but not as good as me.
My riding is a little bouncy cause only part of my body works.
Keep on riding. You'll get better.
But not as good as me.

You run fast with two strong legs, but not as good as me.
I run far and fast on bare feet.
Keep on running. You'll get better.
But not as good as me.

You get on a wild horse that Steve holds tight.
I busted five, in one day, that had never been ridden.
You keep on being tough. You'll get better.
But not as good as me.

You learn to judge people, and horses for what they can become.
I learned to judge people for the good that they have done.
You go try to learn to not judge people at all. You'll get better.
But not as good as me.

You will ride through the woods all round the horse lot.
After a while you will get sore but I will not.
Now my body doesn't tire, my ankle doesn't hurt.
Here in Heaven everybody talks just like me,
Well, actually not quite as good as me.

My youngest brother Lido, who died yesterday at age 17, is shown above riding a mustang in a clinic that we put on. He was about 14 then and had been working Sand Creek for about a week. During the week he taught this barely started colt to come to a stop with his sole cue being to exhale deeply. I will never forget the look of relief on his young owner's face when she came to realize that her young mustang really could be trained. Lido was born with cerebral palsy. He still had it when he died in a hunting accident yesterday, but between the time he was born and when he died he kicked cerebral palsy's ass.

Monday, December 29, 2008

My Brother's Keeper

For several years the first person to get on the wild horses that I had was my little brother Patrick (Lido). One day when he was about 10 he mounted five horses that had never been mounted and only got bucked off of one of them. During one of my clinics with a particularly rough BLM mare who gave me great difficulty in saddling, I heard a voice coming out of the audience as I explained that I would not be mounting her for the clinic. "Um ah bolunteer," Lido called out.

Lido's speech was as labored as much of his movement. He was born with cerebral palsy and his speech was severely impacted by the malady. It was not as impacted as his body. His right arm was nearly worthless to him. He ran, ran hard, trained hard and worked hard. He built a rock hard, lean body with more strength in his left side that most teens had in their entire bodies.

He struggled, he worked, and this morning he died. He died in a hunting accident and did not suffer for a moment. He died doing what he loved best.

My house has been full today. It has been filled with grief and my riders and their families. No happy ending to this story. I am so glad that I can count on my friends and my riders and my wonderful wife.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Quick Thought

All of my riders are quite bright and perceptive and that is certainly true of Amanda. Yesterday she told me that she had gotten Joe Camp's great book on natural horsemanship and natural horse care, The Soul of A Horse, for Christmas.
She said, "I think that anyone who has a horse and keeps it stabled would feel very guilty after they read a few chapters of that book."
Oh, would that that were true. Books like this will drive the the revolution in horse care the same way Thomas Paine's pamphlet, Common Sense, drove the American Revolution. It is impossible to over estimate the potential good that books like Camp's can do for horses.

Its a Wonderful Life--A Mill Swamp Christmas

I do not especially like Christmas. In fact, that is an understatement. I dislike Christmas as it has become in America--a festival designed around commercialism and greed. With that said, my family and my riders have really made this a wonderful holiday. The best part of Christmas came early when I got to tell a very hard working and dedicated young rider that the horse that she was training was her Christmas present. Two other horses went out to a county to the west of us and made for a very special Christmas for a family in Nelson county. Two new little riders had their first rides with us and Katie went on her first hard ride.
The next night the parents of my riders put together a spectacular Christmas party at the Little House which was attended by one of my daughters, her husband and my grand daughter. I was touched at the wonderful gifts that I received. The holiday just kept getting better. Katelynn decided to create a web site designed to inform young people about the threats that the Corollas face to their continued existence. She is a gifted writer and I have no doubt that her web site will be tremendous. On Christmas Day my three year old grandson came over, opened his presents, looked around the room and said, "I want to go ride a horse."
Friday Rebecca's father was visiting from Detroit. He got a chance to ride with us and to see what a spectacular trainer Rebecca has become. My wife has become a very strong person and is in great health. She plans to start riding hard again this year.
Yesterday I began to work Red Feather again. He took Jacob and Ashley on his back while I lead him for over an hour without serious incident.
Thanks to my family, my riders, and my horses this has been a very Merry Christmas.

This is a picture of Terry on Quien Es? from the 2007 Christmas Parade.

Friday, December 26, 2008


We teach small children to train wild horses. We work very hard to prevent the extinction of the Corolla Spanish mustangs. We encourage natural horse care and natural hoof care. And we refuse to walk lock step behind the dictates of the established horse world.
That means that our program, to say the least, is not universally loved. In fact, we receive the occasional note filled with raging hostility and pure vitriol. It is not surprising that we receive such hostility. Programs such as ours are a threat to an elitist horse world which has created a system of 'horsemanship' that puts horse ownership beyond the means of working families, all to the detriment of horses and kids.
What the critics have in common is fear. They fear that their deeply held belief in the legitimacy of the pronouncements of the established horse world will be proven to be misplaced. They fear that their perception as being equine experts will be destroyed if more people learn how to develop the kind of relationships with horses that they are incapable of establishing.
They are like the young horses running in this herd behind Medicine Dog. They are followers. They do not know where they are going. They do not know why they are running.
We know where we are going. We know why we are running. And most importantly, we do not fear being in the front of the herd.

Monday, December 22, 2008

I'm Ready For My Close Up Mr. DeMill

We are looking at taking on several new projects in 2009 such as hide tanning, stone tool making, introduction to mounted archery and we may even make a small log cabin. Of course we will also be breaking several colts this summer.
The training DVD that we made a few years ago has proven quite popular and we are now looking into the feasibility of producing a documentary on the Corollas that we will be training over the summer.
As much make up as some of these girls wear just to ride I am sure that they will be putting it on by the handful to get ready to be filmed. I just hope that they do not put on so much that it effects their balance in the saddle.


We are often asked where Chincoteagues fit in with Corollas and Shacklefords. I suspect that around the year 1700 they would have been pretty much indistinquishable. But in the 20th Century many other breedes were introduced into the Assateague herd where the Chincoteagues have lived wild for hundreds of years. These other breeds changed the Assateague Spanish horse of colonial times into an Americanized mixture of various breeds. The good news is that becuase of Margarite Henry's book and the subsequent movie, Misty of Chincoteague, these horses will be on the Virginia side of Assateague Island for decades to come. The only down side of this great publicity is that many people have come to think of the Chincoteague as simply a child's pony.

In reality they are nearly as tough as the Bankers of Corolla and Shackleford. All but the smallest make fine mounts for adults. Their gaits are not as comfortable as pure Colonial Spanish Horses as a result of the infusion of other breeds but they maintain the easy trainability and endurance of the Corollas.

For two seasons I crossed a Chincoteague stallion with a few BLM mares. The result has been a string of easy handling, beautiful horses that develop very tight bonds with their owners. At least two of these horses, Young Joseph and Washikie, may very well end up breaking point records in the AIHR over the next few years.

It certainly is ironic that the offspring of wild horses that we are producing have calm gentle temperments not often found in doimestic breeds. If for no other reason, that is why I cringe when I read about people who plan to 'improve' the Spanish Mustang through their breeding programs.

This is Standing Rock, from Wind in His Hair (Chincoteague) and Standing Holy (BLM).

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Against the Wind

The hot topic on many equine message boards today is what is called responsible breeding. Certainly no one can be against the concept of responsibility but we reject the ultimate implications of this silly rush to "responsible breeding" as it is defined by some of its advocates. Instead we advocate a very simple principle of equine stewardship which is that breeders should breed no more horses than they can care for and sell. Three factors underlie that determination---the overall economy, the breeder's skill in training and handling horses, and the demand for the specific type of horse being bred.
In the long run horses may benefit from the extreme downturn in the economy that this nation faces. Conventional horse care is as economically inefficient as it is misguided. Natural horse care cost only a fraction of what is spent for "full stable board". It is ironic that some owners may be driven to natural horse care out of economic necessity only to discover just how happy, healthy, and responsive their horse can be when it is allowed to live a natural existence. The same is true of natural hoof care. The cost of continued mistreatment of the horse's balance, comfort, and over all health by unnecessary shoeing may cause more owners to learn the benefits of maintaining a barefoot horse. (We recognize that some horses need corrective shoeing and those few horses that would benefit from such therapy should continue to be shod. However, those horses are few and far between).
Unfortunately, many of the proponents of breeding restrictions under the rubric of their Orwellian term "responsible breeding" would seek to direct the horse industry in the exact opposite direction. They seek to increase the cost of horse ownership by restricting supply and the perpetuation of the myth that the competition horse is somehow superior to the family horse.
Breeders of rare and endangered horses must resist this hand wringing and look closely at the factors that have lead to this hysteria about unwanted horses. This belief grew out of the campaign to support horse slaughter. Proponents of horse slaughter predicted such dire consequences for the industry. They spent so much money to protect the practice that a belief has developed that because we no longer send 1% of the equine population to slaughter in America we somehow have a huge surplus of unwanted, neglected horses. (Of course, they ignore the fact that those horses are still being exported for slaughter to other countries).
There is, however, a problem with a poor market for horses as those horses are now produced in America. The mainline breeds, with their emphasis on competition have produced too many horses with costs that are beyond the means of working people. The irony is rich when such breeders complain that breeds as rare as the Spanish Mustang, or even worse, the Banker strain of Spanish Mustangs, are responsible for the market glut. Such misguided people are but strainers of gnats and swallowers of camels.
I hope that enough mustang breeders and true preservationist of rare breeds can ignore the siren song of those who advocate equine genocide under their self congratulatory claim of being "responsible breeders." Many are drawn to the mantra that responsible breeding means to only breed horses that have 'proven' themselves (in competitions, of course) so that the resulting offspring 'improves' the breed. In short, their solution is to follow the lead of those who are responsible for the 'improvement' of today's Arabians, Quarter Horses, and Thoroughbreds. Quarter Horses have been improved all the way to the slaughter houses. I have no interest in having Corolla Spanish Mustangs follow them there.
Unfortunately, the solution to the problem of excess horses requires more work than simply tinkering with the status quo by loading up the slaughter houses and shutting down breeders of rare and endangered horses. We support responsibility in breeding and what we call for is much more rigorous and much more radical than the smug claims of big money breeders who find a responsible solution to only be the solution that is best in keeping with their greed.
The responsible breeding that we support is as follows:
1. The demarcation between those who breed and those who train must end. Breeders must be able to train so that they produce either started riding age colts or well trained weanlings for sale.
2. Breeders must adjust their breeding plans annually according to the market and their own financial capabilities. In short do not raise more colts than can be sold or used in one's own operation after breaking to saddle.
3. Breeders should promote natural horsemanship, natural horse care and natural hoof care in order to decrease the cost of horse ownership and increase the pool of potential owners.
This prescription for responsible breeding would revolutionize the horse industry and solve the problem of surplus horses. The horse of today faces one major problem--an entrenched established horse world. The horse of today has only one hope--that a new horse world can be developed that focuses on how to best raise horses instead of how to squeeze the most money out of them.
Mokete, pictured above, is the first foal born of our off site breeding program designed prevent the possible extinction of the Corolla Spanish Mustangs. After having given due consideration to the proponent of the status quo who demanded that we end our breeding program, I decline to do so.

Friday, December 19, 2008

With All Due Modesty

We pause now from our discussion of natural horse care to reflect a bit on the last year at the horse lot. I am a very poor keeper of records. By January 1 we will have all eligible horses registered with the Horse of the Americas Registry and the American Indian Horse Registry so that my little riders (and the grown ones) can receive credit for their accomplishments with their horses. For now I will search my memory and list some of those accomplishments for the year 2008.

Brenna, Riley, Jacob, JK, Amanda and Lea all got horses broke and in the woods this summer. In addition,we broke Persa and Wanchese, (Shacklefords)and two other Corollas. Danielle greatly improved her knowledge and skill in training over the year.

Rider Accomplishments:

Sarah Lin, Theresa, Chance, Kay, Jacob, Jordan, Lea,Rylee and Amanda each advanced to the Hard Riders who ride longer, faster and through rougher conditions than those new to riding.

Robert and Katie, and another Katie, Wendy, and Loretta canter confidently.

Liz rode a Corolla mare forty six miles in one day, less than thirty days after the horse was captured. The Forty Six Mile ride is detailed in a previous post entitled "On Glory Road."

Five of my riders acquired new HOA or AIHR horses.


One TV interview regarding my book and the Corollas.
Feature article in Virginia Sportsman.
Articles in several papers concerning the birth of the first pure Corolla from the offsite breeding program.

Promotions and Events

We took several Corollas to the Dare County July 4 Parade and rode the wild horses quite well.
We did clinics and demonstrations at the Delaware Horse Expo and the annual meeting of the Horse of the Americas Registry.
We took Corollas out to events at two tack shops.
Kay Kerr developed a great program in which she has taught several riders to produce beautiful art works whose sale proceeds will go to the Corolla Wild Horse Fund.
Some of my riders were in the local Christmas parade and most of my riders rode on the September 20 Forty Six Mile Ride.
Of course, we continued our policy of holding open house colt starting sessions on Saturday afternoons in which the general public gets an opportunity to see natural horsemanship at work.
Chas is getting his Eagle Scout recognition for construction work that he is doing to assist in our efforts to keep the Corollas in front of the public.
Katelynn continues to use her tremendous writing skills to promote the Corollas.
Rebecca put a great deal of work into designing our horse training enclosure that Sarah Lin named the Amusement Park. (I hope that you will be seeing great pictures of the Amusement Park in use this Spring)

Awards and Honors

For our work to protect and promote the wild horses of Corolla we received the Keeper of the Flame Award from the American Indian Horse Registry and Brent received a miles ridden recognition from the AIHR.

Team Work

The kids love the horses and riding. I do too, but what touches me the most is the amount of enthusiastic support and hard work that we get from the families of my little riders. They are the answer to the question, "How do you run all this by yourself?" I do not. And that means an awful lot to me.

I am absolutely certain that I have forgotten to mention many significant accomplishments of a lot of my riders and their families. For every one in our program, if I left you out, please set the record straight with a comment.

Remember, according to that wii machine, I am too old to be expected to remember any of this stuff.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

On This We Stand

The New Horsemanship Movement stands on three pillars, natural horsemanship, natural hoof care, and natural horse care. The goal of New Horsemanship is to increase the number of new horse owners and to insure that those new owners understand how to properly care for their horses. New Horseman believe that artificial barriers to horse ownership must be removed.
Chief among these barriers is the artificially high cost to purchase, train, and maintain horses that the established horse world has created as the appropriate model for horsemanship.
Inflated purchase prices are a direct result of the dominance of competitors in various equine events, who have been successful in convincing too many members of the non horse owning public that a horse's value is somehow tied to its purchase price. Competitors make up a rather small portion of the horse owning public, but because of the tremendous amount that they spend on assorted equibusiness products, their power in the industry is disproportionate to their numbers.
The lynch pin of New Horsemanship is its reliance on natural horsemanship as the only appropriate technique to properly develop an optimum relationship between horses and humans and is the only system of training techniques currently known that optimizes the horse's potential for happiness. Most significantly, New Horseman view success with natural horsemanship as being fully with in the reach of both young people and those with no prior equine experience, provided that they obtain proper assistance and instruction.
Natural Hoof Care and Natural Horse Care go hand in hand in that both significantly reduce the cost of horse ownership and both provide horses with greatly improved health and performance. Neither Natural Hoof Care nor Natural Horse Care focus on savings by determining "what frill a horse can do without," but instead focus on how to produce the healthiest and happiest horses possible.
New Horsemanship recognizes that it is, in fact, the oldest of horsemanship, and hearkens back to a time when young people were respected enough to allow them to start healthy colts who lived bare footed on grass, shrubs, and, yes, weeds.
New Horseman recognize that the answers to the problems of the future can often be found by studying what has worked in the past.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Emperor is Naked as a Jaybird

I do not agree with some of the advocates of the New Horsemanship who claim that we can learn nothing from the established horse world in our efforts to improve the quality of both horse/human relationships and the health and happiness of horses. In fact, I think that the effectiveness of the New Horsemanship movement is absolutely dependant on our ability to understand and avoid the most significant mistakes of the established horse world. If New Horsemanship is to achieve its goal of making natural horsemanship, natural horse care and natural hoof care the norm for the next generation of horse owners we must be willing to make the commitment to reform not just an industry but an entire horse culture.
Such reforms will not be accepted with open arms. In fact, to hope for more than blind hostility is unrealistic. I have no interest in seeking the approval or acceptance of the established horse world of breeders and competitors. Their power is based primarily on the blind willingness of others to accept them as experts in the field. The economic power of the equibusinesses that make feeds, supplements, blankets, bedding, etc has no incentive to encourage New Horsemanship.
In the next series we will lay out the core beliefs of New Horsemanship with its emphasis on creating a new generation of horse owners who have the knowledge to understand and properly care for horses.
Those core beliefs stand in stark contrast to the elitism that permeates the established horse world. We certainly will not stoop to the base language and crude insults of those who seek to preserve the status quo,but neither will we pretend that the pronouncements of any spokesman for the established horse world have any validity whatsoever simply because that spokesman is recognized as an 'expert' by those who share, or mimic, his beliefs.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Just a Little Room Please

The real test of natural horsemanship is two fold. Does it make for happier, better controlled horses? And equally important, does it make us better people? The 'established horse world' has a one pronged test for success. Does it make money for us?
When properly taught natural horsemanship passes both test. What it does for the horses is beyond question. More telling is what it does for the people that apply natural horsemanship. On more than one occasion my riders have been compared to students in traditional lesson programs. It is often pointed out that my riders, even the young teenage girls, lack the arrogance and snobbery, so often exhibited by other riders there age. Most of all my riders are happy. They love their horses and they love teaching them. Better grades, more patience, more demonstrations of responsibility, generosity, and maturity are the hall marks of kids who have mastered natural horsemanship. They learn that kindness is natural.
Traditional riding instruction, especially if it emphasizes competition, often does not bring out the best in people, especially kids. It is sad to see the base and crude level of discourse being generated by anyone who claims to love horses. Of course, there are many great teachers who love kids and horses who teach in a traditional style but still do so in a manner that build character in their students. But somewhere along the way the importance of developing a relationship with horses all too often falls to the side.
My riders are better people because of the achievements they have made with their horses. I do not expect the established horse world to be able to solve the problem of not attracting more kids to riding. I cannot even say, if you will not be part of the solution than stop being part of the problem, because there are too many good people involved in the established horse world. But I can say this. If you will not lead,or follow or get out of the way, than just give us enough room to develop programs that will draw kids to riding.
Lastly, please do not waste your time telling me that "real horsemen","true professionals", or "established breeders" do not approve of our program. I do not seek such approval and would be very concerned if I had it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Color of Time

What color is time?
For my little riders time is green,
Time is the color of spring,
Time is the color of life to be.
Time is the color of 'will be.'

What color is time?
Today time is gray.
Time is the color of a December sky.
Time is the color of Ta Sunka in the mud.
Time is the color of 'was.'

The Natural Foot

There are a lot of good bare foot horse specialist out there and I do not disparage any of them by saying I follow Pete Ramey 100%. I wasted so much time and effort dealing with hoof cracks over the years all because I did not understand the form and function of the natural hoof.
His methods work wonders on hooves that most would have given up on and they improve even a very healthy hoof, provided that the horse gets to live as naturally as possible. Get his book, buy his videos, and go to his clinics. Might be the best thing that you ever do for your horse.
Tim Ware makes the great point that there is no one single model for a natural hoof. In fact the hoof develops to suit the terrain. Shacklefords and Corollas have very different hooves than mustangs from the western ranges. However, in my experience, the best hoof model for a horse to be heavily ridden over varied terrain is the western model that Ramey uses.
Take a close look at the feet of Croatoan's three year old handler in the picture above. She prefers the natural foot for herself too.

Wild and Free

I do not ever want anyone to mistakenly assume that the training and breeding program that we have developed for the Corollas will be an adequate substitute for maintaining a wild herd on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. All we are creating is a safety net, and a tenuous one at best.
Before cars, before the Civil War, before Nat Turner and Dred Scott, before the Constitution, before the Revolution, and yes, even before the settlers landed at Jamestown, Spanish Colonial horses roamed free in the southeast. Now they only reside wild and free and purely Spanish at Corolla and Shackleford.
They survived the wars. They survived the hurricanes. What ever the threat, they survived. If your ancestors, be they black, northern European, Indian, or Spanish, lived in the triangle drawn from Richmond to New Orleans to Key West; between the early 1500's and the American Revolution, they rode and worked these little Spanish horses. These horses carried my ancestors to their weddings, their wars, and their funerals.
Why should they be preserved? Because we do not have the right to extinguish history.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Going to the Principal's Office

Last week I wormed Cynthia Parker and Ghost Dance. I trimmed the feet of each. I know that that does not sound like much of an accomplishment, but Cynthia has taken to striking out with intensity and vigor that can be entirely unsettling for the person trying to worm her. Even Ghost Dance has taken to rearing and striking (though in a much more half-hearted effort) when I sought to worm her in the pasture.
Both started to give me trouble in the pasture last week. I took both of these mature mares in the round pen and worked them for about 15 minutes each. Neither offered the slightest resistance to worming or trimming.
They behaved entirely differently in the round pen. They were on their best behavior. Just like a bad girls waiting to see the Principal.


Over the last month I have had two of my former riders, who learned to ride excellently quite a while ago, come back and ride in the woods with us, just for fun. I do not know how much fun it was for them, but it sure made my weekend complete.
Shelby and Emily each have horses of their own that they keep at their homes. Shelby has the first mustang colt that I sold, Sand Creek, (named for the location of Chivington's slaughter of Black Kettle's band of Cheyenne) Emily has a beautiful mare from Wind in His Hair and Standing Holy, named Holy Door (named for the mother of Sitting Bull). These kids came into my life just as my daughters were growing up and moving on.
Shelby is 14 now, but in the picture above she was about 7. This was the second riding lesson that I ever gave. Her mother took this picture and I chose it for the cover of my book.
Emily has adopted a young Corolla, who is Manteo's little brother. I look forward to taking him out on a long, long ride soon.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Danielle and Lydia

Yesterday was a very special day for Danielle, and it was a pretty good day for Lydia too. Yesterday Danielle gave Bird Women her first independent ride. She has done the work on this filly nearly all by herself. She took her in hand through all of the obstacles that we created in pasture number one until Bird Women gained enough confidence to take a rider. I lead her with Danielle aboard for a bit. Then, at Danielle's request. I tied off the buck rein and she rode her effortlessly around the pasture. The pony was as relaxed as could be. She had come to completely trust Danielle because Danielle had taken the time to earn her trust.
Last night she took on a very serious tone as we sat in the Little House. Reflecting back over the day she said with the utmost seriousness, "I am proud of myself, Steve, and I am proud of Bird Women." I was prouder than she was.
It is great to see a kid proud of something they have done instead of something they have purchased.
Lydia did great too. She is one step away from giving Owl Prophet his first independent ride. Lydia, like Danielle, has developed a remarkable ability to relax a scared horse and make it feel comfortable. She has contagious confidence. She is going to do more with that little stallion than she even realizes, like ride him for a hundred miles over a weekend in a few months.
The picture taken above is about three years old. Danielle and Lydia flank me in the picture. Danielle is the one wearing rib protectors. Lydia is at my immediate left hand.
Riders like this will trick a man into thinking that he is a good teacher.

Good Morning America

On December 9 keep your eyes open as you watch all of Good Morning America on ABC. Terry, her sister, and her mother will be attending in the audience. They will have an eye catching sign and hope for a little camera time to mention the Corollas and our program. Though there are no guarantees, I strongly suspect that they will get a bit of camera time. I am concerned about the safety of anyone who gets between Terry and the camera that morning. The poor, unsuspecting person might end up getting trampled.
If they are on, it will only be for a brief time so you will need to stay focused and alert to see them. You know, like Sarah Lin is in the picture above

Thursday, December 4, 2008

If They Try Hard Enough They Could Learn to Like Me

I have been called an opinionated, know-it-all. Could be right, but I do not know enough about whether I am or not to form an opinion.

Here is a young Corolla who once had a reputation for being difficult being despooked with a tarp. Training a horse to accept a full body tarp cover can be useful both for those with truly ugly horses and for those who plan to slip their horse into the house without their parents noticing.

Jacob and his East/West Cross, Uncle Harley

Here is the beautiful young horse, Uncle Harley, that was donated by Tom Norush for the HOA essay contest. When we got him home we worked him for a while. He took a saddle and Jacob on his back with no resistance.
The picture below, of Sailor, is a picture from the records of the Spanish Mustang Registry.

Bankers in the Spanish Mustang Registry

Dale Burrus was a resident of the Outer Banks, an inspector for the Spanish Mustang Registry, and a tireless advocate of the Bankers. He worked to get several
Bankers registered in the Spanish Mustang Registry. In the picture above one will see Sailor, a great SMR stallion from the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
Tom Norush, president of the Horse of the Americas Registry, recognized years ago that crosses between the eastern mustangs of the Outer Banks and the mustangs of the western ranges produced great horses. For years his breeding program has been based on the East/West cross.
This year Tom donated a beautiful colt from his breeding program to the winner of an essay contest sponsored by the HOA. Jacob, one of my riders won the beautiful colt and brought it to our pastures where it now lives with it's Corolla relatives.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Cowboy Way

The Navy sure does have a way of moving people around. Luckily for me, it brought Brent to our area a few years ago. Brent is a former Missouri Bareback Bronc riding champion. He may be the best over-all athlete that I have ever seen. He knows how to stay on the few truly rough horses that we run into now and then. Best of all, he is a great teacher and really loves the kids.
Here he is six days ago giving Spotted Elk his first independent ride. I had lead him in the round pen with two other riders but this was the first time he was given a chance to really learn to be ridden. Spotted Elk is 1/4 Chincoteague and 3/4BLM mustang. He belongs to Loretta, one of my adult riders, and he will make her a great horse.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

On Her Own

Danielle has been riding and training with me for a long time. She is only 13 but I have turned one three year old over to her to start on her own. Bird Women will be her first horse to take on with little assistance from me. She will do fine. Last Friday while I was working with one colt she went off to the next pen with a colt that would not allow human contact. Without saying a word she did a great job of advance and retreat until she touched the scared young horse.
She spends more time in the horse lot than any of my riders. Here she is with her current favorite ride, Comet. For those of you who have read my book--yes that Comet. The one that was so hard to start. The one that was just crazy. Now he is sane.

On Naming Horses

Don't the mainstream registries do enough damage to the horse world without encouraging the perpetuation of ridiculous, undignified names for horses? Poor high dollar, "quality" horses with names like , "Boy My Name is Stupid", out of "Please Give me a Humiliating Name, " sired by, "Yeah and My Daddy's Name Was Even Worse."
Visitors are perplexed by my horse's names. I give them dignified, appropriate names that are designed to lead kids to ask questions that would cause them to actually learn something. Questions like, "What does "Quien Es?" signify?" (She was named for the last words of Billy the Kid.) Who was "Spotted Elk"? (The formal name of Big Foot) What was "Wounded Knee"? (Where Big Foot and his people were slaughtered by the Army). What was a "Ghost Dance"? (Part of the ritual of the apocalyptic religion practiced by Big Foot and so many others who hoped for a newer world by bringing back the old ways) Who was "They are Afraid of Her"?(Crazy Horse's beloved daughter who died at about age five)

I warn my little riders that when they grow up they should always avoid marrying someone who would name a brown horse "Brownie", a white horse, "Snow Flake," or a black horse "Beauty." To do so would guarantee a life of bland, predictable, conformist, unimaginative boredom. And after spending a few years riding my horses, that kind of life will never suit them.

Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Horse Feed

Oh how I hate to do it, but sometimes I have to feed the herd horse feed. It is usually done to stretch out hay and is done for economic reasons. Sweet, loving horses need only about three days of eating sweet feed to begin to act as visciously as bargain hunters shopping the day after Thanksgiving.
If there is any way to raise your horse just on grass and hay, do it. That is what they were made to eat. I know that the slick advertising in the horse magazines would have one believe that horses simply must have expensive feed and one finds no flashy ads for grass or hay, but that is only because God does not advertise in those magazines.
Feeding my herds sweet feed is more dangerous than starting colts or gentling wld horses. In fact, odds are that my eventual cause of death will be to get trampled by a herd on a cold, pitch dark winter morning while feeding horse feed to them. Probably on a Tuesday.
If at all possible, please put no more sugar in your horse than you would put in the gas tank of your car.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Conformation Critique

I have been criticized for placing too much emphasis on temperament and not enough on conformation in our program. It has even been suggested that I am unable to recognize correct conformation.

Au contraire, take for example the photo above. Not a bad specimen, a bit light in bone, particularly on the lower extremities, some what showing a lack of balance, and definitely in need of much more flesh and over all bulk.

The horse, on the other hand, is spectacular looking. And quite an athlete too.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Change in Tone

There is another horse blog known for its tone and that tone is not one that I want to project. Today, for the third time in my life I looked at portions of that blog. I thought about the tone of my comments about conventional horse care in my last post. They were too harsh. There is no education in an insult and I hope to educate. I will work to keep my comments more positive.

By the way, this is my Corolla stallion, Trade Wind. He is a great trail horse and Secotan may have his little one this summer, making that foal the second pure Corolla born in the off site breeding program.

Being Loved to Death

Ignorance on the part of owners is at the root of most of the problems that horses face today. Too many well meaning horse owners think that obesity is a trait to be desired in horses. The horrible phrase used of halter competition horses the "Fat is the best color" embodies this ignorance. It is sad how many people think that it is cruel to refrain from feeding a fat horse "just a little can of grain."
Nearly as sad is the sight of so many horses who wear shoes "to protect their hooves" when the reality is that their hooves need to be protected from shoes. But surely nothing can be worse than the warm, comfortable stall. We punish humans by confining them in 8x12 prison cells, yet many, if not most, think that a stable is not only good for a horse, but is an absolute necessity. Every time I hear that horrible phrase, "turnout", I know that I am about to hear about a horse who is being abused by being kept confined in a stall for at least a portion of the day and allowed to be turned out to a more normal existence only for a portion of that day. For horses we call this horrid environment, full stable board. For humans we call it maximum security prison.
If you think that your horse loves his stable, just open the door and step back and see what decision he makes.
Lastly, and granted this is the hardest choice to make, but the decision to kill a horse is all too often spun into an act of love. I am not talking about horse slaughter, though it does sicken me to hear supposed horse lovers endorsing horse slaughter as a way to prevent neglect and abuse. I refer to those who demonstrate their love for horses by insisting that every horse going through a rough time should be put down to put it out of its misery. UNDERSTAND, I AM NOT REFERRING TO A PERSON WHO LOVES A HORSE THAT IS TRULY SUFFERING FROM AN INCURABLE HEALTH PROBLEM. I know of such a person who has been going through that horrible situation recently. I feel for her and there is no aspect of the horse-human relationship as painful as what she has been going through.
Instead, I refer to those who view horses as disposable and seek to prove how much they love horses, or all animals in general, by insisting that those who are infirm to the point that their infirmity is obvious be quickly, humanely killed.
Valor is a Corolla mare who was in such horrible condition that she had to be removed from the wild this spring. I do not know what her original health problem was, though I suspect that she had developed an infection from giving birth. Nursing her foal pulled her down even more. She had a heavy worm infestation which certainly resulted from the debilitation of her immune system by what ever brought her into this downward spiral. She was covered by engorged ticks as I had never seen any horse so infested. She was the most emaciated living creature that I had ever seen. She hobbled about with a hip so devoid of flesh and connective tissue that the hip did not support her. When I first saw her she did not seem to have the power to raise her head.
But she had the power to graze and if she wanted to fight to live I was not going to get in her way. Good hay, a range of wormers, minerals, and metamucil with several months of patience restored her. I have not seen her in a few months. After she regained her health she returned to the Corolla Wild Horse Fund to await adoption. Some lucky adopter will get a Corolla mare that is halter broke and tough as raw hide. I admire survivors and few horses have survived greater tests than Valor.
I knew of another Corolla whose health was not the best. He had to be removed from the wild, mainly because of his propensity to escape the sanctuary and get in the highway. A "horse lover" who saw him vehemently insisted that he be euthanized because he was "old and hungry."
That is him in the picture above, four months later. If any of you ever find me old and hungry, do not have me put down. Go get me a hot dog and some Geritol and I will be just fine.
Again, I know that there are times that the horrible decision to end equine suffering must be made and I am not criticizing those who have made that decision. I only wish that there were fewer people out there who "love" horses to death.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Horses Only Die

Confused folks. They say that I do not get to do anything else because I have to spend all my time with the horses. The reality is that I do not have to do anything else because I get to spend all of my time with the horses. I feel sorry for people who have never learned to enter a horse's world and spend time there. It is a wonderful place characterized by immutable closeness. Being part of the herd far surpasses being part of any club. My horses sometimes bite me and kick me, but the pain is so mild as to be best called discomfort. I certainly cannot be considered suffering and never approaches agony. The only pain, the only suffering, and the only agony occurs when they die. That is the only way they hurt me. Horses only die.

A Work to Be Done

Kids need horses. "Surplus" horses need homes. When we train kids in natural horsemanship we put the two together. The need for a national steering committee to promote the teaching of natural horsemanship to kids could not be clearer.
Registries, trainers, writers, and equine organizations need to set aside their perceived individual self interests to work together to promote a program that is in the interest of all horses and kids.
The sky is the limit. The kids in the photograph above worked with me during the summer of 2007 to start several colts, wild horse, and even a donkey. Through their work we trained eight equines to the degree that each was ridden on trails through the woods by the end of the summer. This was accomplished without a single buck with a rider on board. Not only was no one bucked off, no horse bucked with a rider.
Now for the point that the horse industry needs to understand. Only one of these kids came from a horse owning family. However, of the kids pictured seven are now horse owners.
Kids need horses. "Surplus" horses need homes. THE HORSE INDUSTRY NEEDS TO SELL HORSES. Teaching natural horsemanship to kids solves all three problems and continuing with business as usual insures that not one of these problems will be solved.

Friday, November 28, 2008

If I Could Write a Book...

Oh yeah, I did. Last weekend I prepared to take a Corolla stallion to show off at a horse expo and do a book signing. To my surprise, I discovered that I had sold all but one of the ones that I had at home. The book, entitled, "And a Little Child Shall Lead Them: Learning from Wild Horses and Small Children", has been very well received by readers. I plan to order another printing tonight, but one can order a copy now by hitting the link on our web site,
I guess that all books have a story behind them, but this one came into being in a bit of an unusual way. For years I have been asked at my clinics if I had a book available. I never found the time to write a book, but I did have some essays and articles that I had not yet published that could form the core of a book. Though instructional, those essays tended to be lighted hearted and humorous. I slowly pecked along at building a book around those writings.
Then I found out my mother was dieing. I began to write at a furious pace. I wanted to have the manuscript together for her to read. I finished the draft just before she died. She was too weak to read any of it. My wife offered to read some of it to her but by then the pain medicine made it too difficult for her to concentrate enough to have it read to her.
She never got to hear a word of it. After the funeral I looked over my short manuscript and realized how little it said about what was special about the relationship that I try to teach my little riders to have with their horses. I wrote much more. I expected to weave the new portions seamlessly into the manuscript, but it did not flow as I expected.
Before the final copy went off to the publisher I realized the problem. Nothing that I wrote after my mother died was light hearted or humorous. Nor was it depressing. It simply said what I felt about--about kids, about horses, and about the elusive pursuit of happiness that my life had been. It is more honest than men usually are with themselves and, like my mustangs,it was just what I wanted, whether anyone else liked it or not.
If I wrote it today there are a few things that I would change. Some felt that I was too hard on the "established horse world." I was not hard enough, particularly on horse snobs. Another flaw was my insistence that stallions should not be gelded. I now recognize the value of geldings. At the time I wrote the book my bias in favor of stallions was misplaced.
Though it may sound a bit brash, I have always considered false modesty but be just another form of dishonesty. With that said, this is a good book.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Kid Stuff

There is only one answer to the supply problem facing the horse world. We must create more riders who will increase the demand for 'surplus" horses. We believe that the best way to create more riders is to teach natural horsemanship to children. When I began teaching elementary school students the importance of advance and retreat, intense visual focus and desensitization, many people thought that the effort was bound to fail and likely to result only in injuries. Even worse, others thought that our successes could only be explained because I "had a special way with horses and children." I am not being modest when I insist that what we do is not brain surgery and anyone who knows natural horsemanship and understands kids can easily replicate our successes.
Now we will be spreading the word a little bit wider. We are working with others who care about kids and horses to develop a national steering committee to promote the teaching of natural horsemanship to young people. It can be done. It can be done safely. It can be done successfully. It IS being done in the picture above this post.
Ashley, age 13 at the time, demonstrating desensitization on a wild Corolla stallion at a clinic we did in October of 2007.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


In February of 2007 Rebecca and I joined with inspectors from the Horse of the Americas Registry and the American Livestock Breeds Conservancey, to study the Corolla and Shackleford herds in order to determine whether they were of straight Spanish heritage to the degree that they could be accepted into the HOA. (Please see the HOA home page for the great report of that inspection that was written by Vickie Ives)
While slipping through the wooded area among the Corollas Rebecca spotted a pair of young wild pigs. We followed close by hoping to get a good photo. I have been around hogs all of my life and I knew that the sow would not be far away. My senses were about as tuned in as they get. I expected to see an angry old sow at any moment.
We did not see a sow. Instead we walked up on this young bachelor stallion. It was cold and windy and he was sunning himself in an opening in the live oaks. The wind was so strong that he neither heard nor smelled us until we were right up on him. He snorted,, tossed his mane and trotted off. He was the best looking young stallion that we saw in the wild. I would have loved to have had him in the breeding program, but I was glad that he was there in the wild. Perhaps by the spring he would pick up a few mares. Surely within a year or two he would have his own band of mares and would leave his genetic imprint all over the herd. My hopes were misplaced.
A year ago today he was shot to death. Though there is a substantial reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer, the death remains unsolved.
I will never understand why anyone would choose to extinguish this magnificent creature, but I hope this picture helps others understand why we are working so hard to save them, both in the wild and under saddle.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Among the first complete sentences that my grandson spoke was , "I want to wide a hoss." Here he is on Wind in His Hair, the Chincoteague patriarch of my first two seasons of breeding. Two weeks ago a slight illness kept him from going on his first ride in the woods with me. It will happen soon. I started riding at his age and, when just a few months older than he is here I rode my first pony, Tonka, in the local Christmas parade. I was three and Tonka was two.


Kristi Craver took this great picture of another one of my wild stallions, Manteo, at the annual meeting of the Horse of the Americas Registry. His young rider, Leah, has become a solid horsewomen. She put a lot of effort into training her colt, Washikie, a Chincoteague/Appaloosa cross and he is becoming a fine young trail horse. If memory serves, Leah has only been riding a little over a year.
Manteo is my best built stallion, though smaller than Croatoan. At times he demonstrates a paso-like gait, but even when simply trotting he is smooth as glass. So far his foals seem more animated and curious than those from Croatoan. He struts. If one could breed a fighting rooster to a good mustang mare, one would get another Manteo.


Here is Ashley with Croatoan, a 13.2 Corolla stallion who is the father of Mokete, and a few 1/2 Corolla colts. He is half of the answer to the question, "But aren't they too small for adults to ride?" My 232 pound frame is the other half of the answer. I trotted on Croatoan for over 20 miles one morning. He was not the worse for wear, only experiencing some irritation from the girth.
He is available for breeding on the same conditions as my other Banker stallions.


Bet you figured out that I just found out how to put pictures on this thing. This is Wanchese, a young Shackleford stallion being held by Ashley, the best kid rider that I have ever seen. We have a pair of Shacklefords, Wanchese and a little bay mare, Persa. Some of the most beautiful Banker horses of the 20th century resulted from crosses between Shacklefords and Corollas. One of the most prolific lines in the Spanish Mustang Registry goes back to such breeding.
Even by my standards, Wanchese is small, about 12.2 or maybe 12.3. Like the Corollas, he was super willing and his training has consisted of simply pointing him in the right direction. Within minutes of delivering him to my place, Ashley was on his back and in short order he was being ridden in the woods. Those who have ridden him rank him as an even smoother ride than Sampson, JK's great young Corolla.
My stallions are available for breeding free to any HOA registered horse and for a fee to mares outside the HOA Registry.

On Learning Levels

When she was five, Sarah Lin and I were riding down the drive at a slow walk.

"Your horses' ancestors came from Spain and my ancestors came from China. They are very far apart, on different continents," she told me as we ambled along.

"That's right Sarah Lin. Now let's make a right turn with our right rein and our right leg," I responded.

"oh no. I can't do that. I only know my continents. I do not know my rights and lefts," she quickly explained

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

On Courage

Sarah Lin began to canter when she was either 5 or 6. I cannot remember which. She never showed any fear during our short bursts of cantering, even when she came perilously close to hitting the ground. None of my other very little riders had her confidence. I finally asked her why she was not afraid to canter.

She told me that she had begun to watch Scooby Doo on TV alone, with no adults in the room and it made her brave.

I am not sure that this technique would work for others, but I cannot argue with success.

A great new book

For the past several years when asked to recommend a first book for someone just beginning to learn natural horsemanship I have never hesitated to recommend "The Revolution in Horsemanship." It still is a great book and should be required reading for those who are just learning to practice natural horsemanship. However, for the new horse owner and for the long time horse owner who is seeking to be freed from the bounds of "common knowledge", I cannot think of anything better than Joe Camp's "Soul of a Horse: Life's Lessons from the Herd."
Joe's book intertwines two important themes, natural horsemanship and natural horse care. Best of all, he shows how he learned both as a beginning horseman. In fact, this is the first mainstream book that I have come across that endorses natural horse care in such clear terms.
Woven into the narrative of his personal experiences in seeking to understand the horse's mind, is a series of fictional vignettes about wild horses. In those sections he gives a brief discussion of the Shacklefords, a wild herd of mustangs on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. While his historical information may be a bit suspect, the enduring truths about the nature of the horse and the possibility of developing a real relationship with a horse are not.
Put this book very high on your Christmas list.

Time Management

I am often asked how I find time to be a prosecutor, horse trainer, riding instructor, and occasional writer. Toward that end I offer the following tips to horse people who feel the need to find more time in the day.

1. Wherever you live, last night "shots rang out...a gruesome discovery was made and... the winds were variable with a big change in the weather on the way." With that knowledge in hand, you will never have to spend time watching the local news on TV.

2. Whenever possible combine childrearing and horse training. Teenager break curfew? Run him in the round pen with the colt that you are working. (Remember that a teen's bones may not be fully developed so do not force him into hard roll backs.)

3. Do not waste time waiting on the microwave. Gnaw that frozen burrito! You can do it. Beavers gnaw down trees and they only have four teeth!

4. Do not waste time putting on makeup. Grow a beard instead of wasting time shaving. Ladies, I know that some of you may not want to grow a beard but remember that it will hide the fact that you are no longer wearing makeup.

5. If you find yourself stolling through a park in a big city and encounter a disheveled man sitting on a park bench carrying on a spirited conversation with Napoleon and both Karl and Groucho Marx, do not join in on the conversation. Simply move on.
Employ the same strategy when you meet someone who owns a 17 hand horse.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mind Games

Nothing builds the strength of a young horse and the confidense of a young rider as much as hours of trotting through varied terrain. The Forty Six mile ride really bore this out as every rider who had spent the summer training that way finished the ride with no difficulty.

Now we are moving more into training the minds of both the young horses and their riders with a winter of training in a training course that we have developed in a 4 acre pasture. Like everything else that I do with my horses, we are designing this course in as economical a manner as possible.

The course will include the following: an L shaped alley through which horses must be backed, logs to cross over, a tarp to ride through, a trailer to enter, a huge tractor tire to ride through, a gate to open, ride through and close with out dismounting, a sand pit for sliding stops, a wooden bridge to navigate, a car tire to drag with a rope,a string of poles to bend, and sand moguls and mud holes to traverse.

This training will require horsemanship skills that none of my riders have..yet. By summer they all will have mastered these skills.

By that time my riders will be bomb proof. They will be able to handle a variety of horses in less than ideal circumstances. I wish that just some of the time and effort that parents put into finding the mythical "bomb proof" horse would be spent in teaching skills to kids that make them more capable of safely handling horses.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Half Breeds

Brent has been a rodeo cowboy and a working cowboy. He understands what makes some horses more athletic than others. Brent owns Young Joseph, an American Indian Horse award winner for 2007. Joseph is a Chincoteague/BLM cross. At the time I was breeding these crosses I was only interested in creating spectacular horses. I had no interest in any particular type of mustang and certainly had no interest in any particular mustang registry. This was a few years before I was able to adopt the first Corolla stallion from the wild from the Corolla Wild Horse Fund. Of course, Joseph's breeding well predated our efforts to set up off site breeding centers for the Corollas.
The Chincoteague/BLM crosses have turned out to be super horses. They are strong, have great stamina, and most importantly, they are gentle, intelligent and affectionate.
Last week Brent suggested that I breed Young Joseph's mother to Ta Sunka Witco, my Spanish Mustang stallion who is the grand son of the famous Choctaw Sundance. My knee jerk reaction to the suggestion was to reject it. After all, the colt would not be a pure bred and would not be HOA eligible. However, the colt would be eligible for the American Indian Horse Registry.
My final consideration was that the colt would still be viewed by many as simply a "grade" horse. The reality is that all he could ever be is...a spectacular horse, perhaps even greater than Young Joseph. But of course we are talking about horse breeding and reality is irrelevant to the established horse world, perception is all that matters.
I am more interested in reality than perception and I expect that down the road I will make that cross and I have no doubt that the resulting colt will be the perfect horse for the family, competitive trail riding, and perhaps endurance.
I have bred two of my Corolla stallions to a few mustang mares and one Appaloosa. It is ironic that the Appaloosa colt will look more like the original Nez Perce horses than do modern Appaloosas, who too often look like well dressed Quarter Horses or Thoroughbreds. These few half breeds will never be used in the off site breeding program no matter how spectacular they become, but they will serve as stepping stones to help the public understand what a rare treasure a Corolla Spanish Mustang is.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Devil Made Stables

The Devil made stables because he could not get horses to smoke cigarettes. My wild horses are much more comfortable out in the open than they are couped up in a stable that allows no escape from their enemies, both real and imagined. In that regard my wild horses feel exactly.... the same way your domestic horses do. Horses learn to tolerate being closed up in a stable just as we learn to drive through hours of heavy traffic each day. My herd is proof of the advantages of natural horse care. We have over 50 horses in our herds with total vet bills being less than that of many people who own only a pair of horses.

The irony is that the very things that make them so healthy and happy are the things that too many owners think constitute near abuse. My horses do not go lame because they never wear shoes and they are allowed to move in spacious pastures. My horses rarely colic because they live nearly exclusively on grass hay and grass. They digest the long stems of the hay so well because they drink from water holes in the ground which are loaded with the same bacteria and micro flora that exists in their cecum. Those that are under saddle receive several hours of hard riding a week. As a result, the worst enemy to the health of a horse, obesity, is rarely seen in my herd. There are no respiratory problems in my horses because few of them have ever stepped in a stable in their lives. Skin infections are rare because my horses are never washed with detergent products or any type of soap that kills the flora that naturally protects their skins.

No stables, no shoes, no supplements but for mineral blocks, no sparkling "clean" water, no expensive grains or "concentrate" feeds, and no part of the horse business makes big money from my herd.

If those businesses could figure out a way to charge big money for natural horse care stables and shoes would be recognized for the abusive things that they can become. Of course, until natural horse care becomes more widely accepted it will be the horses who continue to suffer. Nearly as bad, the young potential riders who can not afford conventional horse care will remain forever shut out of the horse world.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Importance of Wheee!

Last Sunday was a very special day for both my littlest little rider and my oldest little rider. Sarah Lin has turned seven and she went on the Sunday ride with the Hard Riders. The Hard Riders cover a great deal of ground and go on rides as long as four hours on Sunday afternoons. All of the Hard Riders have demonstrated skill in both riding and understanding horses. We ride over ditches, through swamps, and deep into the woods.

This was Sarah Lin's first time out with the Hard Riders. I knew that she could comfortably ride a trot for miles at a time but I worried about her ability to canter for long distances. She rode Croatoan, my Corolla stallion, with absolutely no problem. She will now be a regular Hard Rider and may even do the Mill Swamp 100 Miles-in-a-Long-Weekend ride this spring.

She experienced no fear, only pure joy. My hearing has slipped badly over the years and I was afraid that I heard her scream out in fear at one point. I quickly turned around to see a delighted face squealing "Wheee!" as we cantered through the woods.

Sunday was a big day for Lea too. Her horse, Washikie, named for the Shoshone chief, had his first ride in the woods. At about two and a half years old, this stunning Chincoteague/Appaloosa cross might have the best potential for endurance and Competitive Trail Riding of any of the colts that I have raised off of Wind In His Hair. He is tall and lean. Like his father, he knows how to conserve his energy. Lea is tall, thin and athletic. She has done a great job helping to get him trained to this point. Last Sunday Brent rode him. This weekend, now that we have all of the kinks out of him, I suspect that Lea will ride him.

I bet when he canters she will cut loose with a loud "Wheee!", even if she does not want to.

Some things just cannot be helped.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Time to Reap, A Time to Sow

As darkness approached last night three of my little riders joined with three of my grown riders and we hand sowed a winter pasture across a few acres of our horse lots. One of the adults had mentioned her plans to come out and hand sow the pasture and was informed that that was not possible, that we would need tractors and equipment to get the job done.
We could have used tractors and equipment but it would have taken longer than it took for us, working together, to get the job done. It not only was not impossible, it was fun.
There are those out there who believe that it will never be possible to preserve the wild mustangs of North Carolina. They believe that we do not have the power to take on the tractors and equipment of the big developers and faceless bureaucrats.
This week those critics were proven wrong. The Corolla Spanish Mustangs received a new lease on life thanks to the hard work, done by hand, of Karen McCalpin, Director of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund. Last Saturday my little riders showed participants at the national meeting of the Horse of the Americas Registry just how good our little horses can be.
My riders were all hand sowed, with no heavy promotions or big money behind their efforts to learn to tame and train wild horses. I am proud of the crop that they are becoming. If you wonder who will be out there looking out for these horses 40 years from now, go over to the Spanish Mustang Focus message Board and look at the post of Lifetime Rider, under the Strains thread. Lifetime Rider is Katelyn, a Corolla owner and one of my riders. I am so glad that she mentioned that she is 13 years old because the quality of her writing and the maturity of her thoughts could lead one to believe that she is an adult. Forty years from now, she will not be working by herself. Sarah Lin, Chance, Emily, Amanda, Jacob, Lydia, and all of my other riders who either own or love to ride a special Corolla will be there too.
All precious seeds. All sown by hand.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

HOA Annual Meeting

The annual meeting of the Horse of the Americas Registry lived up to everything that I hoped. Vickie Ives, of Karma Farms in Texas, brought up two beautiful grandsons of the famous Choctaw Sundance. One of my stallions, Ta Sunka Witco, is also a grandson Choctaw Sundance and it was great to watch his relatives move.

The best part of the meeting was the announcement of the winners of the HOA horses that had been donated as prizes in the essay contest. One of my little riders, Jacob Anderson, is now the owner of a beautiful little East-West four year old. Tom Norush, HOA President, donated this colt. I am sure that Jacob will have him under saddle in short order. Jacob will be a first rate horse trainer and this colt will certainly be a first rate horse.

We carried seven Corolla Spanish Mustangs and Wanchese, my Shackleford stallion, over for the day. We did a training demonstration with Swimmer, a Corolla mare, captured in late August. Some of my riders have been learning drawing and painting from Kay Kerr, an experienced art teacher, and they had some of their work available for sale with all funds to go to the Corolla Wild Horse Fund. My riders rode the Bankers around the ring to demonstrate their beautiful Spanish movement. Steve Rogers, herd manager for the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, was on hand with information about the wild herd. The American Livestock Breed Conservancy had a wonderful program on the various strains of Colonial Spanish Horses. Tom Norush and Vickie Ives discussed the conformation of the Spanish Colonial Horse.

There is an organization out there dedicated to getting children on mustangs. There is an organization out there dedicated to educating the public about the amazing talents of these little horses. Most importantly, there is an organization out there dedicated to preserving all of the strains of these historic horses. That organization is the HOA. I am glad that my little riders have a chance to be part of it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Little House

I do not own as many houses as John McCain. My wife and I only have two. We have our residence where I eat and sleep and the Little House, the base of our operation and educational programs. My residence is about 40 years old and the Little House is about 140 years old. My mother was born in the Little House and she died in my residence. Mill Swamp Indian Horses is a Century Farm which means that it has been in our family for more than 100 years. I own a portion of the farm which belonged to my mother's parents and my wife and I bought the Little House about 2 years ago. It adjoins the horse lots. The Little House is old but my family is older. If one would stand on the porch of the Little House and draw a circle 20 miles all around, one would be circling land upon which a relative or two of mine could be found since the 1600's.
I lived in the Little House until I was about 5 years old. In the yard of the Little House Daddy taught Tonka, my first pony, to lay down so I could mount up. I started riding him when I was nearly three and could not mount from the ground.
The edges of the land are covered with Mimosa trees. Grandaddy Horace planted one beside his hound pen to shade the hounds over fifty years ago. From that one tree has grown hundreds of Mimosas. I hope that from my little riders will grow hundreds of future riders.
The Little House has air conditioning, TV and a VCR, a significant library of books on Indian history and natural horsemanship, and a refrigerator that will hold gallons of ice water. In short, it is everything that we need for our educational programs in the heat of the summer. Kaye Kerr, a talented art teacher, is teaching several of my riders how to paint horses. They are creating beautiful art that will be sold to benefit the Corolla Wild Horse Fund.
After the the 46 mile ride on September 20, parents and friends of my riders prepared more than a cook out. It was a feast. The yard and the Little House were both filled with worn out, hungry riders who were very proud of themselves. My mother would have been proud of them too.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

On Glory Road

On Saturday, Sept 20, 16 of my riders, a guest rider and a parent of a rider rode the horses that we have trained on a 46 mile trail ride. My youngest rider was 10 and the oldest were near fifty. One of the Corollas, Swimmer was captured less than 30 days before the ride. Another, Trade Wind, was captured because of his debilitating lameness from founder and hoof abcesses. There were several stallions on the ride, a few geldings, and four mares. In addition to the Corollas, we also had our two Shacklefords in on the ride.

Most of us had been training our bodies and conditioning our horses all summer. The ride was a tremendous accomplishment for the little riders and several of the adult riders ranked it as one of the best days of their lives.

Rebecca will post some pictures of the day on this blog shortly. Keep an eye out in future editions of the Trail Rider Magazine for a story on the ride.

The current issue of Virginia Sportsman has a great article on the Corollas and our riding program. The magazine's web site list sites in various parts of the country where the magazine may be purchased.

The ride was several days ago and I am still tired, but I am very proud of my riders and our horses. The real point was the ability of the Banker horses. I do not suffer from an overdose of modesty and I think that it is important to keep in mind that, while our program is first rate, I am not a top tier trainer. I would give myself a good solid B in that regard. However, these horses allowed themselves to be tamed and trained principally by kids, rode safely and responsively whether stallion, mare or gelding, and demonstrated amazing endurance and trust worthiness.

They are worth every effort to prevent their extinction.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A quiet Horseman

Manteo was the first wild Corolla stallion that I had ever seen and Jordan was the first person who ever sat on his back. As soon as she got the fundamentals of riding down pat I realized that she could take most of my horses in the woods. When she was about nine I got a call concerning a young Paint mare for sale. The mare once had a reputation as a bad one, quick with a hoof or a bite.
She soon became Jordan's horse and she and I broke her to saddle last summer. They make a striking contrast to the rest of my operation. Jordan, one of my smallest riders rides her horse Mia, one of our largest horses, at over 14 hands.
People that do not understand what beauty really is should spend time watching a skilled young rider handle a horse. Watching Jordan and Mia canter up the path is one of the most beautiful things that one will ever see.
Tomorrow my riders and I will take on an especially difficult challenge. Jordan has trained hard all summer for this very special day. On our last big training ride she received an injury that will keep her out of the saddle in the morning. She will not ride in the morning but she will ride hard for many years to come. And one day, after she becomes too old to order from the children's menu, if your find yourself with a horse with a bad reputation, who is quick with a hoof or a bite, call Jordan. She will be able to fix your horse.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


My riders, both little and grown, are becoming giddy with excitement over the experiment that we are going to try this Saturday. One of my grown riders just told me that she is afraid that she will not be able to sleep Friday night. Parents of my riders are assisting in every way imaginable. It is possible to have team work without competition. My little riders and I train horses as a team. We do so year round but most of our focus is on the long days of summer.
This summer we trained Persa and Wanchese, our Shackleford mare and stallion, well enough so they ae now regularly ridden in the woods. Amanda did a great job on her wild Corolla mare, Secotan and she is now a completely reliable trail horse. Swimmer has learned faster than any horse that we have ever handled and will soon be ready for beginning riders to start out on. Chance has put many miles on our most beautiful Corolla stallion, Trade Wind this summer. Lea's horse, Washikie, is coming along well and I expect him to be in the woods soon.
Conventional wisdom is that young riders should own ancient horses who are "bomb proof." I will agree that a child may be a bit safer on an old horse, but the old horses are more likely to die. Broken arms do not hurt as much as watching one's first horse be buried.
Kids can learn natural horsemanship and they can learn to handle young horses. My riders who purchased colts and broke them with my help develop very strong bonds with their horses.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Swimmer was a wild Corolla mare captured twenty days ago. The vet believes she is 7 years old. She is the biggest Corolla mare that I have seen (perhaps 14.1). She is a fast learner. Today I trimmed her hooves and she went on a two hour trail ride. Yesterday afternoon several of my little riders rode her in the round pen working on stops and turns. This is not a joke.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Kids, Horses, and Competition

I am not impressed with the competitive aspect of horse shows for any age group, but especially for kids. Horse shows, and other forms of equine competition,lead to the false belief that winning ribbons increases a horse's worth. Ribbons do not affect the worth of a horse because all horses, just like all people are equal in worth. Sales price has no relation to worth. By virtue of drawing its first breath, each horse has achieved its worth. The worth of a horse's life is innate and is not something to be set by human whim.
I would not hold my horse to be of less worth because it won a yellow ribbon instead of a blue ribbon anymore than I would hold my child to be of less worth because he struck out instead of hitting a home run.
Worthier competition is that which pits a horse and rider against themselves in a solitary effort for self improvement. All summer my little riders have been conditioning themselves and the horses in exactly that quest. They will take the wild Corolla Spanish Mustangs that we have trained to saddle and, weather permitting, will seek to do something that those outside of our program might consider impossible. They will not be competing against each other. Instead they have been working together as a team all summer to take on this challenge.
They have taken wild horses and made them part of our team. Our team of riders range in age from 10-nearly 50. All of the horses have been captured within the last two years and some within the past several months.
Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

I Ride a Radiator

I often assume too much. My life revolves around mustangs and natural horsemanship and I often forget that my riders do not come to the pasture with the same background that I do. Recently I was surprised to hear one of my older teen riders express regret that our horses did not have the round, bulbous hips of a halter quarter horse. I still have not gotten used to horse people looking at a perfectly conditioned mustang and wondering why the horse does not show muscle definition or a flat back. I expect people to consider a well trained mustang to look too light in his hind quarters. Of course, their hindquarters are light,... compared to a Percheron. A mustang is no more supposed to look like a quarter horse than a beagle is supposed to look like a basset hound.
Mustangs were once bred for a purpose and those who lived a few hundred years in the wild evolved for a purpose. And that purpose was to produce efficient movement across great distances in often hostile terrain.
They are the tri-athletes of the horse world, designed to endure, and endure, and endure. They are built to be strong with very heavy bone, and iron hooves. Most importantly, they are built to cool off. Their slab sides, super narrow chest, high backbones, and rafter hips all allow for rapid heat dissipation. Slow metabolism not only makes for an easy keeper, but for a a horse of unusual endurance.
Most importantly, their conformation allows mustangs to have a deep hind stride with an over stride that keeps a leg in a perfect position to support a rider of much more weight than would be expected for their size.
Modern horses have been bred for different purposes than that for which mustangs evolved. Mustangs were not developed to jump, sprint, or pull wagons and it makes no more sense to judge them by the conformational standards of horses that were so developed than it does to judge them according to the conformational standards of Black Angus beef cattle.
My 730 pound Corolla mustang stallion, with a chest not much wider than my thigh, a high backbone that joins into two rapidly sloping, poorly muscled hind quarters and a low set tail is built to do only one thing--carry my 230 pound body through mud, forest and gravel all day long, and then wake up in the morning and do it again. In short, mustangs look the way they do because it makes it possible for them to do the things that they do.
Function before form, and for me, mustangs before everything else

Friday, August 29, 2008

Grown Ups Mount Up Too

Originally I did not plan to teach kids to ride and I certainly never intended to teach riding to adults. It has been said that I do not teach kids to ride, I simply teach them to have the confidence to ride and I do not disagree. Perhaps more importantly, I teach kids to have the confidence to fall off and get back on. Motivating kids is one of the easiest tasks that I ever taken on. I knew that the same methods that I used to motivate my little riders could never work with adults.

The only thing that has saved me in this regard is that many adults do not need to be given motivation to ride as much as they need to simply be given an opportunity to ride. My first adult rider was barely an adult. At age 21, Rebbecca looked younger than some of my teen riders. She had ridden a bit as a kid, but more importantly, she had years of experience as a gymnast. She was fearless and resolute about learning natural horsemanship. At first she only rode on the regular schedule, but soon began to take a strong interest in training colts and wild horses. Within a few months this young newly wed was coming out to the horse lot before sunrise to break colts before I had to head into the office. As her understanding of horses increased, so did her riding skills. She now is an integral part of every thing we do and has been described as my right hand. I cannot disagree.

One Saturday afternoon I was working a colt in the round pen when a a lady about my age pulled up and asked about riding. Debbie was a soft spoken women who exuded kindness. She began riding with a group of intermediate riders who were all children and pretty quickly moved into the group of more experienced "Hard Riders" who take much more challenging rides on Sunday afternoons. She was working toward a goal that fascinated me. She was planning to take a fall vacation on a working ranch out west where she would really be doing some hard riding. She achieved that goal and continues to impress me with her soft touch with the horses.

Terry was a pleasant surprise. She also is about my age. Terry is a serious athlete and has remained in top physical condition. During her very first session she demonstrated as much skill in the saddle as I expect to find after a rider has been with us for a few months. Terry was my first adult rider to purchase one of my colts. Quien Es? was a bit of a nervous BLM/Chincoteague filly. My little riders and I got her started and Terry quickly put so many miles on the little mare that she became a reliable trail horse. After Terry had been riding for many months her young son became a rider and has done a great job of putting miles on Trade Wind. Her friend Theresa has recently began riding and, like Terry, she is picking it up as if she had been around horses all of her life.

Wendy had an unusual goal when she came to our horse lot. She did not want to ride but she wanted to understand horses. She and I worked with colts and wild horses for several months. Though she had made it clear that she would never want to mount up, within a short while she took her first ride on Nick, our incredibly athletic BLM stock donkey. She now serves on the county equine advisory board which works to promote our local horse industry, owns two donkeys, a haflinger, a Gypsy mare and foal, and a beautiful little mare that she got from me. She has taken to driving more than riding and horses are now a major part of her life.

My adult riders each love horses every bit as much as do my little riders. Nearly all of them have had some exposure to horses at some point in their lives and most had a childhood love of horses, whether or not they owned a horse. JK is unique in that regard. I doubt if she had ever given horses a second thought in all of her young life. JK comes from a different world than I have ever known. She is poised, elegant, and well, glamorous. Her sun glasses cost more than some of my horses did. She is an athlete and had the same wide eyed look that many of the little girls show when they approach my horses. She was drawn to horses from the first time she mounted up. She actually gets giddy on the days we are able to ride. She owns an amazing young Corolla named Sampson. She loves her horse the same way that a ten year old girl loves her horse. A few nights ago we rode even though we were experiencing our first rain in quite a while in this drought stricken area. She has about an hour and a half drive to get home from the horse lot. Still, after the ride she sat in the lot watching the foals eat as darkness fell. JK travels around the world, often spends weekends socializing in New York, yet finds supreme beauty in a dusty pasture filled with mustangs. How can anyone believe that there is not something magical about how horses give our lives meaning?

Several of my riders' parents have become either regular riders or participants on many rides. Liz, Ann, Bill,and Kaye regularly ride with their kids and have each become a vital part of what we do. Soon Lisa will join her children on the trails and I suspect that Judy will be doing the same. The adults in our program are more than just riders. Each understands that we are trying to do something important, both for the kids and for the horses. There is no way that I could hold this operation together without their help. It is a wonderful thing to know that I can count on each of them for assistance any time that it is needed. My coat and tie world is not a pretty world. There is nothing pretty about prosecuting violent criminals, drug dealers and child molesters. Without a doubt, it is a world of pain.
Fortunately, it is not my only world. My adult riders help make the horse lot the place of special refuge that it has become.