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