Saturday, May 30, 2009

And the Winner Is....

I do not despise every form of equine competition, only that which pits horse against horse. Such competition ultimately leads to only one question--what am I willing to do to win the ribbon, trophy, cash or fame? The unfortunate answer to that question by the established horse world is "just about anything." Competition results in the throw away young horses who "just do not have what it takes." Competition creates a wall between horse and rider. It reduces a horse to an object who only has value if he has "what it takes" to win. It begets a system of values so warped that it tells a 12 year old girl that she must sell her best friend and buy another horse in order to compete at a "higher level".

The only form of competition that benefits the horse and improves the character of the rider is that which pits horse and rider against the status quo. Such competition does not result in ribbons, trophies or fame. Instead it results in a relationship that the seekers of ribbons, trophies, and fame cannot envision.

When the rider competes against the status quo by deciding to improve the lightness in which the horse responds to cues, rider and horse win. When the rider decides to compete against the staus quo by making additional time just to spend with the horse, horse and rider win. When the rider decides to compete against the status quo by putting the time and energy into conditioning the horse to its fullest capacity, horse and rider win.

Most of all, when the rider decides to compete against the status quo by utterly rejecting what passes for the truth in the established horse world, horse and rider win.

(Wendy, who is pictured above riding a former wild Corolla mare and who has recently joined the effort to prevent the extinction of the Corollas by raising pure Corolla foals, understands more about winning with a horse than do any of those who seek ribbons, money or fame.)

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Paradox

I am bone cold,deadly serious when I say that for nearly a decade my horse lot has been functionally unappealing to the eye. The function that my sagging fences and ground covered with baling string served was to keep out the wrong kind of people. It kept Mrs. Drysdale from coming back. She would take one look, sniff disapprovingly, get back in her limousine and leave, never to return. On the other hand all the Ellie Mae's of the world looked at the horse lot and saw nothing but a bunch of beautiful critters.

This is precisely how I wanted things to be. The Mrs. Drysdales of the world do not like me and I find that they give me indigestion. The Ellie Maes of the world are a pure delight to be around.

However, I have recently fallen into a trap of my own making. Over the winter something took hold of me and made me decide to change the appearance of my operation. Oh do not get me wrong. Mrs. Drysdale will still not approve and Ellie Mae will like the place just as much, but my beautification projects have not come without a cost.

Last month I spent less time in the saddle than for any comparable month over the last decade (except for those months spent recovering from broken ribs). It seems like forever since I have had an hour to just stand beside a horse and chew and sigh with him. I have gotten nearly no where on the book that I am writing. My little riders, who used to be drawn to the horse lot like flies, now find it possible to be somewhere else. Perhaps it is merely a coincidence, but I fear that the change is a result of their decision that my hammers, brushes, and hoes just do not properly fit their hands.

To further complicate matters, my place has begun to look too classy for me to appear in it without a significant fashion makeover. This also takes time away from the horses. Wearing clean clothes, daily showers, shaving--where has the rest of the world been finding time to do all of these things?

Every day the place is starting to look better. I am afraid that, at this rate, Mrs. Drysdale might even be attracted to our horse lot by Labor Day. Should that occur, my last line of defense will be to set on the front porch of the little house and play my banjo. (Visions of "Deliverance" have always served as a potent Drysdale repellant.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fallen Leaves that Lie Scattered on the Ground

A few years ago the Horse of the Americas Registry conducted an inspection tour of the wild horses of Corolla and Shackleford in order to determine whether the two herds were of pure enough Spanish lineage to be allowed in the HOA. Of course, the result of that inspection was to find that the horses were, without a doubt,Colonial Spanish Horses.

During that, tour one of the stallions that we encountered was a young stallion of unique color. Vickie Ives was very impressed with both his color and his beautiful conformation. We all looked forward to seeing him produce many offspring in the wild for years to come. He was known as Spec and is the stallion in the picture above.

Over the weekend he was destroyed. In two years that makes three beautiful stallions forever gone from the limited number of wild Spanish mustangs in the wild at Corolla. All taken by the hands of people, one by shotgun, one by automobile, one by ATV--All gone.

I doubt that there is a single tree in Corolla that has been on the island as long as these horses have. It is late fall for the few embattled horses that remain. They are falling like leaves. It is up to us to decide if spring will ever come for the horses of Corolla.

Monday, May 25, 2009

I Want to Meet Your Brother

From 12-29-08 it has been obvious how Lido's death had touched so many people and touched them so deeply. I am just starting to realize how deeply his life touched so many people. Yesterday afternoon we did an informal demonstration of the way my little riders tame and train wild horses for a few dedicated volunteers with USERL. In the last few years over 2,500 visitors have been out either to see the horses or for programs and demonstrations. Yesterday was a first for me in one regard. A visitor who had read my book was very excited about meeting Lido, who is referred to as Patrick in my book. She had no way of knowing of his death and she talked about why she wanted to meet him before I could explain that he was no longer with us.

Simply put, she said that she "liked" him and admired his spirit. It was obvious to me that as an adult with very little horse experience who wanted to become a rider, she viewed Lido as an inspiration in the most literal sense. As the plaque honoring Lido says on the bridge, "If I can do it, why can't you?"

Lido belonged to a very small fraternity--that of mustang trainers with cerebral palsy. From the time that he was ten years old on until I developed my program of little riders he was the first person to get on each colt and wild horse that we started. My book simply laid out his courage and determination and a simple reading of what he accomplished is enough to inspire anyone who wants to take on real challenges with horses. He put everything in perspective. As I once told Ashley, who is the best kid rider that I have ever seen, as much as I love to watch the simple beauty of her riding, it was not as impressive as watching Lido go catch, saddle, mount, and ride a horse using the half of his body that worked.

His life touched the rider who radically changed her lifestyle to improve her health so she could ride as well as he did. His life touched the little girl in Colorado who was about to give up on teaching her horse who was blind in one eye to lounge until she stopped and thought about what Lido would do in that situation. His life touched the adult riders who were having a range of problems with their horses by the simple, gentle way he showed them how to solve the problem. As he told the lady who brought out a stud chain to handle her very difficult horse, "Wait a minute until we get through twimmin you hoss feet and I will teach you how to handle you hoss." He did so without a hint of arrogance, or irony in his voice. He was simply offering to help.

His life touched many people in the Horse of the Americas Registry which now administers a fund to rescue endangered Spanish mustangs that is known as the "Lido Fund."

Perhaps yesterday his life touched me. Since Lido's death I have cancelled every clinic or program that I would have normally done in the spring. While I can still say the words and still move the horses I know that I have lost every bit of my stage presence, and perhaps more than most presenters, I know how important it is to be able to entertain if one is going to educate. Yesterday I did a very small, very informal demonstration. My presentation was flat, rather dull and certainly not what it used to be. But I did feel, for the first time since Lido died, a spark of life as I picked up the rope and touched the horse. Perhaps I can put everything back together. Lido would. If he could, then why can't I?

(The picture above is of Lido riding a beautiful mustang colt, Sand Creek. During the week prior to this clinic we started this colt and he taught him to come to a halt with the only cue being to deeply exhale.)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Riding Helps Make Kids Mature

Many of the parents of my riders comment that working the horses and riding has made them much more mature and responsible. Some have said that it seems that their kids have grown up over night.

Few examples are more telling than these photos of JK. In one picture she is riding her first pony. The other picture was taken a mere 2 hours later,the shocking transformation being the result of just one hard trail ride.

Horse Friends Last Forever

My book, "And a Little Child Shall Lead Them: Learning from Wild Horses and Small Children", includes a lengthy section on the Marble family who obtained their first horse from me. After living in our area for a few years they returned to Alaska. Priscilla was a very small child at the time. That was a few years ago. Recently I got a letter (not an e mail) from her.

Dear Mr. Edwards.
How are you and the ponies? Cricket and I are great. We spend about 2-3 hours a day together working and riding. I took that picture of us myself. It put it on timer, put it on the fence and backed her up! Everyone who sees her says she's the cutest pony they have ever seen!!

Have you gone on any trail rides resently? I have not because I'm not allowed to go alone. We still can do tons without riding or trail riding.

I have to ware a helmet now, not that I do not like them, but they say I gallop across the pasture like a wild women!

Cricket and I have started bare-back jumping using parelli,but Cricket can't jump very high.

I can still remember the day we met and I wanted to put Rusty in the back of the car! I also remeber the day we left {for Alaska}, you said that I should teach a polar bear to neck rein! I think it was hard enough to teach Cricket to stop let alone neck-rein! Well, I could talk all night about Cricket, but, got to go...

P.S. Were you surprised to get a letter from me?

No Priscilla, I was not surprised but I was very pleased. I expect to receive letters about you and your horses and all of the kids that you teach to ride for about the next thirty years.

(The Picture above of is of Priscilla and her little horse Cricket, who is rumored to be very cute.)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Dutch Treat

I may have found the perfect horse for me. Holland is a touch over 13 hands and weighs 757 lbs. He is a heavier type Shackleford than are most of the others on the Island. I rode him in the woods for the first time on Tuesday. I let him select the gaits. Except for the times that I pulled him down into a walk he trotted, gaited, or loped for an hour and a half without me ever asking him to accelerate. All this from a horse who has had no endurance training.

I cannot imagine what he will be able to do after a year of heavy milage.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

On the Road Again

On July 3 several of my little riders and I will be going all the way down to Duck, N.C. to participate in their parade at 9:00 am. The following Wednesday we will be at Corolla doing a clinic on taming and training wild horses. The July 8 clinic will be part of Wild Horse Days in Corolla which has a theme of "Horses Helping Horses." We will be bringing down several types of formerly wild horses. Danielle will be showing off her work with Makoda, her little Virginia Range mustang. It will be a great day for anyone who cares about wild horses and kids.
The picture above is of a wild Corolla mare enjoying the winter cover and vegetation of her natural habitat.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Off Site Breeding Program is Growing

With only about 100 Corollas left in the wild, these amazing horses are at serious risk of extinction. For that reason, we began the off site breeding program more than a year ago. Participants in the program who own Corolla mares or fillies agree to raise foals from pure Corolla stallions whose owners also have them in the program. Those who own stallions should agree to breed to any mares in the program with no stud fee charge.

This program is not a substitute for maintaining a wild and free herd. The program serves as a genetic safety net and also will serve to demonstrate the agility, athleticism, and sweet nature of these Spanish mustangs. In recent months several new participants have acquired Corolla fillies or mares and will be participating in the program.

At Mill Swamp Indian Horses I am adopting a breed to order policy. Because of the importance of producing Corollas in captivity I want to make sure that any potential owners are dedicated to the program. Anyone would like to have a Corolla weanling next summer and would like to participate in this breeding program should contact me now. We have a few open mares but they will not be bred until an owner is lined up for the foal.

We also have a few 1/2 Corolla yearlings left for sale. They will not be used in the breeding program and are well suited for someone who simply wants a super trail or endurance prospect. $100.00 from the sale of those 1/2 Corollas will be donated to the Corolla Wild Horse Fund

(The picture above is of Mokete, the first foal produced from this program when she was a few days old.)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My Little Pony

Here is a great shot of Holland, our new Shackleford, with Anne who adopted and raised him to be the great horse that he is today. In looking at this picture I was struck by the fact that most of the hard work of preserving and protecting wild horses has been done by women. Of course, it is hard to imagine that any wild mustangs would roam the west today were it not for "Mustang Annie." The preservation efforts at Corolla and Shackleford have been lead by women. Today at Corolla the exective director of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund is Karen McCalpin, who is the most effective and hard working director of a non profit organization that I have ever encountered. The ladies who protect the Shacklefords took on the federal bureaucrats and won.
At Wild Horse Days in Corolla on July 8 we will be bringing down a range of different formerly wild horses including a filly from the first herd that Mustang Annie sought to protect, a Chincoteague, a Shackleford, and of course several Corollas.
It is a wonderful thing when a women fulfills her childhood dream of having her own little pony. It is even better when she does so by saving entire herds from extinction. It is best of all when the two come together at the same time.
Keep that in mind as you look over this picture of Anne and her little pony.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


These pictures were taken just a few minutes ago. He is the tallest and heaviest Shackleford that I have encountered. I mounted up last Thursday and on Friday Lydia loped him around beautifully. He seems to prefer a rope halter to a bit and I certainly do not mind that.

He is a gelding. I hope to use him to demonstrate the endurance, athleticism and comfort of the Banker Horses. I am considering various ways to make a big splash with him after we have him fully conditioned for heavy mileage.

I am considering riding the length of the Outer Banks with him wearing only a Speedo bathing suit. Of course, it may be difficult to find a Speedo that will fit him. If we are unable to do so, he will simply wear cut off jeans.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Art that is Wild and Free

Our riding,training,historical, cultural educational,and mustang preservation program has many facets. The Corolla preservation art program is one of the most important. The picture above is of Kay Kerr, a dedicated art instructor, and a group of talented young riders making a presentation to Karen McCalpin, Executive Director of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund.

There will be much more about the program in coming posts. In the mean time, ponder the significance of this point. How did man first capture wild horses? Look at the cave paintings of Europe. Prehistoric man first captured the spirit of wild horses in his paintings. Art was the first lasso. It was the first bridle. It was the first saddle. And my little riders are using art to help save the first horses of America.

The program is entirely the result of Kay's hard work and dedication. I really cannot claim any credit for it, but I can still be very proud of it.


On Monday I will begin to prosecute in my hometown instead of the next county over. For the past week I have been working very hard on various upgrades to our program like planting, fencing, and painting. In short I have been away from the computer more than normal. Life will fall back into order soon and we will have several new E interviews to post, a lot of pictures of the yearlings and the one foal of 2009, some writing and poetry from my riders, news about a summer full of special programs and events, a series on colt starting, and more Corolla horse history.
I have also began writing another book, portions of which are likely to show up on this blog.
The picture above is of Dionysus, a wild stallion of Shackleford. Last Monday I went deep into Carolina to pick up his grandson, Holland who is the newest addition to our Banker herd.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Seeing the World Through Lido's Eyes

Today has been drab, dark, and overcast with misty rain. The ground is pure muck. I cannot find the beauty in it.
For two people some where out there this has been a beautiful day. Minutes ago Daddy told me that the eye bank contacted him to let him know that there were two recipients of Lido's eye's. Each was blind before the transplant but now each can see.
Have you filled out your organ donor card? As I once saw written on a beautiful plaque on a bridge, "If I [Lido] can do it then why can't you?"