Friday, January 30, 2009

Money is Not Time

The failure of modern horsemanship parallels the failure of modern parenting. Our horses and our children both need the same things from us--our discipline, our affection, and our love. All of these things demand our time. Unfortunately, misplaced priorities lead us to the conclusion that in our hectic lives there simply is not enough time to go around. We do not have time to play ball with our children, talk to our children, or provide them with the most basic of guidance. Instead, we try to make up for the deficit in time by spending incredible amounts of money on our children. There is no time to play ball, work out, jog, or bike with our kids but there is money to buy them the latest computer game to occupy their time. The true pathos is that our advertisement driven culture has convinced so many of us that expending great sums of money on our children is not only proof of our love for them, but even worse, is an adequate substitute for that love.

Our children do not need our money. They need our time.

We are all familiar with horses that appear to be raised only by the Horse Fairy. We never see their owners in the pasture with them. We never see them ridden. We never see them handled.

But we do see the expensive barn in the corner of the lot. We see the fancy halter that the horse wears 24-7. We see that it is at least two hundred lbs over weight, so we know that the Horse Fairy must be giving it really good, expensive feed. When the temperature dips below fifty degrees we see the new expensive blanket that magically appears on the horse.

Our horses do not need our money. They need our time. A horse is never happier than when it can stand near a herd mate, relaxing, breathing slowly, with its head lowered and eyes half closed, knowing that there is no danger, no predator anywhere around. Our horses need us to be that herd mate. One of the reasons that my horses are as close to me as they are is because I enjoy standing near them as the sun goes down, with my head lowered, my gaze averted, breathing slowly, while knowing that there is no danger around. One of the main reasons that my little riders are as successful in starting colts and wild horses is that they learn to love the same things.

There is no spiritual depth acquired by hanging out in a mall, but a kid learns much of life simply hanging out in the pasture.

No, for our horses, and for our kids, time is not money. Time is love.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Leave this Long Haired Country Boy Alone

This is one of the premier wild stallions of Shackleford Island , Dionysus, the father of my Shackleford stallion, Wanchese. Several factors, including a very sparse diet have caused the Shacklefords to evolve into smaller horses than they likely were when imported from Spain, or more likely, Hispaniola in the 1500's.

At least two Shacklefords were accepted into the Spanish Mustang Registry and the Horse of the Americas Registry has accepted the herd in its totality. Though small, they exhibit extraordinary Spanish movement.

Wanchese is available for breeding to all mares registered with the HOA at no cost and with modest rates for non-HOA mares.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Opening the Window

Over the next several weeks we are going to have a new feature in this blog that is very exciting. I will be interviewing some of the authors and thinkers on the cutting edge of the natural horse care and natural hoof care front, along with some of the real heroes who have worked to save endangered herds of Spanish Colonial Horses over the years. I have no doubt that it will be fascinating and I really appreciate the willingness of these authors and experts who have agreed to take the time to answer our questions and probably challenge some of our assumptions and presumptions about horses.

(If your are assuming that the one on the left is Medicine Dog, and presuming that the one on the right is Rebecca, then your assumptions and presumptions about this picture are correct.)

Monday, January 26, 2009

That Their young Men May have Visions and Their Old Men May Dream Dreams

Chance is 13. I am 49. At our training session Saturday afternoon we both took great steps forward. Chance has been riding less than a year. Like most boys, he was a very cautious rider. His confidence grew as he spent the summer turning my wild Corolla stallion, Trade Wind into a solid trail horse. He earned the right to be proud of himself when on September 20, 2008, he rode Trade Wind 46 miles in one day.

Saturday he put that confidence and pride to good use. We have been making solid progress with Red Feather, the most violent horse with whom I have ever worked. Though we were progressing, Red Feather was, and still is a long way from being a gentled trail horse of the type that we routinely produce. My experienced riders were also experienced at seeing just how hard Red Feather could buck and what an athlete he is. They did not volunteer to give him a try in the round pen.

Chance did volunteer. He rode him, first with Brent on the lead, and then freely in the round pen. What he showed was pure guts. It was the same kind of bravery that I had come to routinely expect from Lido and was delighted to see in Chance. I could not have been prouder of him.

I must admit that I was a bit proud of what is left of me also. I mounted Red Feather with Brent on the lead. He carried me beautifully. Very soon he will be my woods horse.

I do not know a lot of 13 year old boys that would have gotten on Red Feather and I do not know of a lot of 49 year old men that would have either.

Unfortunately, I do not have a picture of Chance on Red Feather, but Ashley snapped this one of me, Red Feather and Brent Saturday afternoon.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

You Know You'll Have Hide Your Lying Eyes

At Corolla and Shackleford one finds strong, healthy colts, horses with impeccable hooves, no respiratory problems, and remarkably few health problems over all. Of course the horses are in such great shape, not in spite of the way they live, but because of the way they live.

From the ancient Greeks on, most European theology and philosophy has been based on the idea that nature is only there to be conquered and improved by man. That which is natural is per se inferior. That which is civilized is per se superior. Civilization is characterized by homes, farms, buildings and eventually towns carved out of the wilderness. Humans need homes not only for warmth, but also as proof of our sophistication and superiority to the beasts of the fields.

Therefor we expect, with out any thought or analysis, that our civilized horses need to live like civilized people and not like wild brutes. So we ignore the "vices" (stereotypical behaviors caused by being forced to spend time in an unnatural stable), respiratory problems, and lameness caused by standing on soft bedding instead of walking on firm soil. And if all of that is not bad enough we debilitate a horse's natural ability to regulate its body temperature by putting a blanket on it when it is allowed to ventured, ever so briefly, out in to the pasture. We then pat ourselves on the back for being such good horse owners. After all, we must be good owners because we spend a lot of money giving our horses this pampered, poisonous lifestyle.

One must really care about one's horses to provide them with the kind of natural horse care that they crave. It takes some guts to do so. All of the Mrs. Drysdales of the established horse world will sniff at how your poor horses are treated. Why you only have the vet out 2 or 3 times a year, they say, while they provide their horses with first rate vet care to treat their laminitis, recurring colic, aborted foals, arthritis, and ulcers.

On the other hand, the Ellie Mae Clampits of the world will notice right off the bat how happy and contented our herds are, how healthy they are, and how hard their hooves are.

But of course, we all must realize that Mrs. Drysdale loves her horses so much more than Ellie Mae ever will. I mean, yes, Ellie Mae, does spend every possible moment not only riding but just mingling with the herd, but Mrs. Drysdale proves her love in even more meaningful ways. She pays a fortune for their care. That proves love. Doesn't it?

(Pictured above are a pair of stunningly healthy Corolla colts who have spent their entire life in the wild, and who thank God every day that Mrs. Drysdale is not interested in adopting one of them. I mean, how can they be any good? They do not even cost a fortune)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Wild Corolla Stallion

This picture says so much about the wild Spanish Mustangs of Corolla. Last week we saw this stallion with his band of mares and two coming yearlings. The vegetation that you see him in is among the most lush found at Corolla in the winter, yet look at his spectacular condition. The picture does not reveal his beautiful spanish neck. The angle and the fact that he was raising his tail gives the impression that his tail is set a bit high. It is not. He has a classic spanish mustang tail and beautiful rafter hips. Note his high spine which is another colonial spanish trait. It is a shame that some mustang owners do not realize that a high spine is good and should not be "corrected" by putting on 200 lbs of extra fat. A fat mustang does not show his spanishness. In fact, many beautiful mustangs will become unrecognizable as mustangs if they are allowed to become obese.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ladies and Gentleman, Red Feather is no Longer in the Building

You may recall that last Saturday Red Feather did so well at the Ribbon Cutting we brought him on into the living room for a little quality time. Afterwards Brent rode him freely for about 20 minutes with no real problem.

Sunday Brent rode him in the woods. Red Feather was a bit jumpy but he did it. This was one of my greatest satisfactions ever to come from working a horse. Wish I had pictures but Brent only decided to give him a try around lunch time so I did not have a camera present.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Yesterday and Tomorrow

In hope and in memory--Placed on the bridge at Saturday's dedication. Thank you to Chas, Lyle, Terry, and all my riders.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Now Red Feather Used to be a Bad Horse

I am not going to go into all of Red Feather's history but suffice it to say that he is the reason that I cannot say that all Corollas are gentle and easily trained. He is the most athletic horse ever to enter a round pen with me. Also the most violent. He was removed from the wild because of his penchant for leaving the relative safety of the 4WD area and exploring into Virginia. He and I eventually worked out our differences and he has not badly injured me since December 22 of 2007.

I have a great deal of affection for him and he grudgingly reciprocates. His training has been a slow process filled with too many interruptions, but he will be ready for me to ride in the woods in a few weeks.

Saturday he was the first horse to walk over the new bridge. He did so well that we invited him on in to the living room at the Little House. He found it to be cozy but a bit over crowded. He hung around and socialized a bit and then discreetly slipped on back to the pasture.

Yes, he used to be a bad horse.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Mount Up Virginia

Take the opportunity to check out a new equine publication, Mount Up Virginia. I will be writing a series of articles on natural horsemanship and kids for this magazine.

You can go to their web page and view this month's issue by clicking on to the current issue on the top right corner of the page. Our first article is featured in this edition and can be viewed online now.

(The picture above is of my riders at the HOA annual meeting, all riding Corollas and a Shackleford that they trained under my direction and is the same picture, taken by Christie Craver, that is used in the article.)

Mustangs in the Marsh

On Thursday we had our quarterly meeting of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund. I went down along with Brent, Lisa and Jacob. Jacob is twelve or thirteen, a very bright kid with a lot of leadership potential--in short exactly the type of person that will be well suited to protect mustangs for the next generation. He got a chance to see two great things--beautiful wild Corolla Spanish Mustangs and the mundane workings of a board meeting of the volunteers and staff that make it possible for those few remaining wild Spanish Mustangs to continue to be wild and free.

The wild horses have a range of about 95 acres per horse. This time of year that 95 acres contains absolutely nothing that most people would think of as horse food. We watched a small herd munch happily on twigs, honey suckle vines, and green brier.
The most striking thing about being with those horses was seeing the remarkable condition that they were in. I saw one mare who could use some weight, otherwise the entire herd looked spectacular. The hoof prints left in the sand revealed perfectly balanced heels and large, well functioning frogs.

In fact, they looked healthier than one would expect to find in a herd of domestic horses the same size. Of course, this appearance was not an illusion. Their lifestyle is so superior to that of most domestic horses who are shod, fed sugar, layered in blankets, and isolated in stables that no fair comparison can be made. Looking at the wild herd did give hope that domestic horses may face a brighter future as more and more people learn about the humane advantages of natural horse care.

Now on to the most important point. Swimmer is a Corolla mare about six or seven years old. She is a bit larger than I prefer, and is perhaps over 14 hands. She had to be removed from the wild because she had a penchant for swimming out of the preserve. She spent two or three months with me where my riders trained her to saddle. On September 20 she was ridden 46 miles in one day and on Oct 3, she was featured at the annual meeting of the Horse of the Americas Registry.

She is eligible for adoption now and I certainly hope that she is adopted by someone who loves these horses enough to use her to raise pure Corolla Spanish Mustangs in our off site breeding program. She is gentle, friendly, and has been ridden extensively, albeit over a short period of time.

She currently is residing on a horse facility in North Carolina while awaiting adoption. Please go to the web site of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund to learn more about the adoption program. She is a great horse and deserves to be adopted by a great family.

(The picture above is of a wild Corolla Stallion taken last summer.)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Everyone Needs a Marble Close By

Not long ago I received some correspondence from a self appointed spokesman for the established horse world that was shockingly bitter, hostile, and most of all profoundly incorrect. It is my policy to refrain from responding to such people. However, this communication was so far beyond the realm of civil discourse I was considering answering in strong terms.

In my book I spent several pages talking about the Marble family and how we worked together to train their mustangs. The Marble children were the kindest, smartest, and over all most athletic family that I have ever come across. Some days after after spending the morning in court prosecuting molestation cases or similarly disturbing crimes, I would quickly drive out to the Marble's farm just to cleanse my soul and remind myself that there are good and decent people still left.

Two of the Marble kids came all the way from Colorado for Lido's funeral. While they were here we went on two rides. I described the correspondence that I had received. I expected that the kids would be outraged. Instead, the oldest simply said, "That is so sad--that someone could have a life so unhappy that they write such things. I feel sorry for people like that."

Her response was neither glib nor smug. It was sincere. Her first thought was one of concern for the writer. That had been my last thought.

That is why the world would be a much better place if everyone had a Marble close by.

(This young Corolla is being driven with a surcingle, a step that we use before a horse takes on a rider.)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

How Old are Grown Women When They Get Their First Horse?

Seven. That's right regardless of what their birth certificate says they become seven years old when they realize that the horse at the other end of the rope is actually theirs. Their bodies stay the same but their faces get that same look of dazed satisfaction that every little seven year old girl gets when she touches her first horse.

The best of them maintain that look even after they fall off the first time.

(Here is a shot of Danielle, Rebecca,Emily and Sunka Wasican just after he was born.)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Do Not Look for Water At the Top of a Mountain or for Ethics in a Show Ring

Horse&Rider magazine is primarily for those interested in showing their horses. Few things are more deleterious to having a strong relationship with a horse than participating in equine competitions. I would no more put my horse in a horse show than I would enter my wife in a wife show (were there such things). An article in the January edition of Horse&Rider perfectly illustrates just how pitiful the pursuit of a Blue Ribbon can be.

The article, entitled 'Test Your Ethical IQ' actually has the following scenario "Your trainer has suggested it's time to sell your horse. You've outgrown his abilities, and if you want to be successful, you need to move on. In preparation for the prepurchase exam, he suggests that you have your horse's hocks injected." What should you do?

The shocking part of this example is the way that it assumes that it is ethical to sell one's horse in order to get another one who can bring home a ribbon. No, it is not ethical to do so. It is wrong. It is immoral and it is a practice that financially supports much of the established horse world. Horses are not fungible goods. Competitions reduce horses to being nothing but commodities and such a debased view of horses is detrimental to the happiness of both horse and owner.

And by the way, why does the horse need its hocks injected? Chances are that if the horse had the privilege of being maintained in a natural horse care environment, it would not be crippled. On the other hand, it's coat might not shine as pretty if it was allowed to wallow in the dirt.

Boiled down to its purest form, the ethics of the show ring place a higher value on a shiny tail than it places on healthy legs.

Now explain to me again why I should be concerned that the established horse world does not approve of how I raise my horses?

I sure am glad that I will never outgrow Manteo's abilities.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Will the Circle Be Unbroken

The funeral was Saturday night and the church could not come close to seating the crowd. It was the most people that I had ever seen at a funeral at Bethany Church. Daddy and Joseph played "Old Rugged Cross." Trish did a song as did Amanda and I. Rebecca closed out the music with a moving song in which she accompanied herself on the piano.
I spoke for a while then the floor was opened for others to speak. Many of my little riders spoke and I was proud of everyone of them. Terry and Lisa were behind the idea of getting plaque made in honor of Lido and it is beautiful. Rebecca's mother put together something special to remember Lido by. In fact she made two, one for me and one for the Little House.
On Sunday Lido's ashes were scattered around the woods and farm that he loved. On that same Sunday, my grandson, Aiden, mounted Wind in His Hair and rode deep into the woods with Brent and me. It was Aiden's first ride in the woods. We were out for about an hour. Aiden will turn 4 next summer. He will spend his early years riding over the same trails that Lido rode.
No, of course it will not be the same. But it will be something very important--continuity.

(Here is Aiden on Croatoan at a Clinic when he was about 18 months old)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

And This is How He said Good Bye

Yesterday morning the sun was shining very brightly and the wind was howling. It was exactly the kind of weather that causes deer to get in the tightest cover they can and stay there until the weather changes or night time falls. I was alone in the pasture waiting for my little riders to come and cheer me up. There was a commotion in the pasture beside me. I looked up and saw, coming from the area where Lido died, a very large buck who, along with two does hopped into the pasture and frolicked along in front of the horses.
The herd of mares fell in behind the buck and they trotted down the fence line behind the buck who also just calmly trotted along. He stopped , looked at me and turned in a profile. Then he lowered his head and began to move towards me just like I have seen so many wild horses do in the round pen when they decide to accept you as a herd mate. I was still quite a distance (maybe 50 yards) from him when he stopped and stared at me. We just stood there looking at each other for perhaps thirty seconds. Finally he turned and he and his does hopped effortlessly over the fence.
I walked over to the spot where they disappeared into the cut over to take a look at the big buck's hoof print. It seemed odd, but I could only find one track in the bare, moist, sandy soil. I looked around the area for a few more moments and started to walk to the tack shed. As I picked my head up I noticed the herd. They were standing on full alert, ears up, nostrils open, backs hollow and looking at me in pure terror. Rolling Thunder snorted and the herd bolted, but only for a short distance before turning to look at me again.
For the next moment or two my herd of warm, loving mares stared at me as if I were something that they could not understand. They stood as if to have seen a Thunder Being.
Now I am just a plain old Methodist Sunday school teacher who is not given to any New Age practices or beliefs. If others hold such belief I respect their views, but I do not share those views. I realize that my ability to understand that which needs understanding is limited indeed. I do not understand life. How could I possibly understand death?
But I do know what I saw. I do know what I believe. I did know Lido and I know that he would have done everything possible, or even impossible to tell me good bye.
(The picture above is of Lido riding in the 2006 Christmas Parade on the fourth horse from the lead)