Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Just the Facts II

The Distance: 10 miles
The time: 59 minutes
The Horses: Ta Sunka and Holland
The Date: July 29, 2009
The Combined
of the riders: 99 years old

The point: You are not to old to ride.
Your mustang is not too small to carry you.
Challenges are much more fun than competitions

(Here is a picture of Holland and the lady who raised and loved him, Ann)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

On The Seventh Day He Rested

I have been riding too hard. I have been working too hard. It has worn out my body, but I can handle that pretty well. My body has not been feeling all that great for the past thirty years. The more serious problem is a worn out spirit. It is possible to be tired for so long that one forgets how to rest.

This Sunday morning when I went out to feed up I remembered how to rest. It always makes me cringe when a visitor to my pastures addresses the approaching herd with "I am sorry I do not have a treat for you."

My horses are not beggars, solely motivated by food and self interest. Most of them are simply coming over to visit and to be rubbed and scratched. Years ago, I spent at least an hour a day rubbing my wild horses and joining them in the herd. Now I spend nearly all of my time riding, training, and working on fencing, pasture care, etc.

This morning I went out into the herd as I used to. We talked and I rubbed horses down but did not catch or restrain a single one. Little Tree, who has never wanted me to touch her since I had to painfully treat a wound on her neck two years ago, was all over me. Mangus did not want me to leave. Ghost Dance even stood her ground when Standing Holy tried to drive her away from me. My BLM yearling, Makipiya Luta, was as affectionate as an old dog. Kiowa looked pained as I left. Black Shawl came over to reintroduce herself. Medicine Dog and Rattling Blanket Women followed me around with each step as if we were doing a round pen demonstration.

Spotted Elk, (Si Tanka), the son of Young Joseph and Black Shawl, came over to remind me that he is old enough to train to ride in the woods.

I came back home and did something that I have not done in years--went back to sleep.

(Si Tanka, shown above, is started under saddle and is for sale)


Our only chance that tomorrow will be better than today is for us to recognize that old is better than new, simple better than ornate, and small better than large.

Corollas are small, simple, and are among the oldest horses in America.

(This is a shot of Manteo, my great little Corolla stallion and Ashley, a great little Corolla trainer.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


One of my new riders has volunteered to set up a Face Book page for me. I do not understand Face Book but I appreciate the work that has gone into getting the page up and I am gratified by the response that the page has received.

However, I do not like the way that the program cheapens the English language by calling everyone a friend. A friend is more than someone who types your name in the computer. A friend is there when your brother dies. A friend helps with every kind of work that needs to be done. A friend remembers water on the hottest days. A friend helps to lead and inspire the kids in the program. A friend is someone who cares.

My friends are those who put their heart and soul into what we are doing with our program. I am lucky that I have several friends.

Most of all, I am very Lucky that I have Terry as a friend. (She is not posing for this picture. She normally looks this happy.)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Incremental Progress

This morning my Spanish Mustang Stallion, Ta Sunka Witco, grandson of Choctaw Sundance, carried me 10 miles in 63 minutes. He could have done it faster but I was banged up a bit and had to hold him back.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I Will Give Myself An "A"

Yesterday was a great day for me in the round pen. I intended to get a surcingle on Lucy, the pinto hinny, and introduce her to driving. I could not come close to getting the surcingle on her. I was hot, tired, and impatient. I was ready to give up and call it a day.

Amanda went into the round pen and properly, patiently, calmly, desensitized Lucy's girth region, put the surcingle on her and within 1/2 an hour the hinny was responding beautifully to being driven.

Few things make me happier than seeing one of my students succeed at a task at which I have not yet been successful.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Happy Anniversary Beth

As of today I have been married 27 years. So has my wife.

Sea Horses

Wild Banker Horses can, and do, swim into the ocean and can move to explore other nearby islands should the need, or simply the notion, strike them. The Outer Banks are mobile. What is now the Ocean side of parts of the Corolla wild horse area has been on the Sound side withing the last two hundred years, as demonstrated by the large cypress stumps on the ocean beach. (Not drift wood, actual stumps from the ground). Slow land changes are interspersed with dramatic changes during hurricanes when new inlets can appear and small islands disappear.

This picture was just sent to me by Carolyn Mason of the Shackleford Foundation. It depicts Hollands wild sister and a young stallion taking a swim.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I Could Not Have Hit Him With a Shotgun

This morning Holland showed us all something. With a 160 pound rider on him we set out for a five mile run. I was on Ta Sunka Witco, my SMR stallion whose grandfather was Choctaw Sundance. Holland was allowed to choose his own speed and gait. He completed the entire five mile run in 20:54 after waiting over 10 seconds for me to catch up at the 2.5 mile mark. I finished in 21:34. Holland had such a lead on me for most of the run that he was beyond shotgun range. At the 4 mile marker he lead me by 1/2 a mile.

Holland is a Shackleford, the closest relatives to the Corollas. Shacklefords and Corollas make up what is left of the Banker ponies of the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Their beauty is enough reason to save them. Their history is enough reason to save them. For those who do not care about history or beauty, go run your horse five miles. Then you can appreciate the athleticism of these horses who gave rise to many modern American breeds. When one watches Holland pull away it is easy to understand how these horses, crossed with the "spotted race horse", Janus in the 1720's provided much of the foundation of the modern Quarter Horse.

When one watches Manteo, my Corolla stallion pull away from the pack, one can see the root of all of the gaited American breeds in his swishing hips.

They are too good to throw away.

This is Holland when I first met him a few years ago wearing his rough Shackleford winter attire.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I Was Not Raised Like Other People

Over the years my parents adopted ten kids and kept over 120 foster children. My father was one of the founders of the local Rescue Squad and my mother was one of the first female members of the squad. My mother was the president of the Virginia Foster Parents Association and worked for years for legislation and programs to help children. Both were active with the Red Cross and my father still delivers food to families in need every Saturday. Just before Momma died Governor Mark Warner designated a September day as "Nelson and Aileen Edwards Day" in recognition of their many years of public service.

Daddy was a farrier in addition to his regular jobs. We never left a single horse without trimming its feet, regardless of how rough it was or whether or not the owner was willing to risk holding the animal. Momma carried the mail until a few years before her death. Momma could ride and was particularly good with a .22 rifle. They got me my first pony when I was two years old and he was one. By age three I was riding in the local Christmas parade.

Daddy is about 73. He can still ride. In fact, he accompanied my niece on her first ride in the woods. He spends most of his time out at the horse lot. He has more stage presence than anyone his age that I have ever seen. My adult riders, especially the women of all ages, do love to hear his stories.

Those in my family who do not drink or smoke tend to live a very long time. Daddy has never tasted alcohol or a cigarette so he probably has 30 more years to go. The warranty on my body has already run out and I expect him to out live me by a long time. He will probably still be back there at the horse lot telling another generation of adult riders about the time that his four your old niece told his three year old niece that she had "rode Bareback." "How did you catch the bear?", asked the three year old, with an amazed look on her face.

I expect that Daddy was in the middle of a story when this picture was taken last week.

First They Learn to Love the Horses

On July 8 we packed up several horses and took them to North Carolina for taming demonstrations at Wild Horse Days. Emily and Mikhail were standing on the side of the trailer looking in on the stallions that we were taking. Emily is my niece and Mikhail is the brother of Amanda, one of my riders.

Both have spent countless hours in the horse lot. Emily recently had her first independent ride in the woods. I expect that by next summer Mikhail will be riding in the woods too.

Monday, July 13, 2009

My New Herd

Beginning in mid May I began regular five mile sessions that were exclusively trot and canter rides. We alternated horses so that several horses were being trained at least 3 days per week on these five mile runs.

The horses have been allowed to select their gait and in no time at all they were able to canter the entire 5 miles. We have begun to work other horses into the rotation and they are conditioning just as fast as the original horses did.

The transformation in the horses is amazing. Each seems like a different horse than before we began this exercise. Keep in mind that most of these horses were used to being ridden several hours each week before we added in the 5 mile runs. The horses are stronger, faster, and are more responsive to cues.

It is as if we have purchased an entirely new herd. The impact on the riders is equally obvious. I have dropped twelve pounds since we began these runs. My riding muscles are stronger than they have been since I was a teenager.

The horses above are Washikie, a Chincoteague/Appaloosa cross, and Cheyenne, a Chincoteague/Mustang cross.

Fence Pole Fencing

Over the winter we cut a few hundred mimosa poles and used them to strengthen our field fencing. So far the experiment has been a tremendous success. The poled areas have remained strong and no horse has breached them. Of course, we still line the top of our fencing with electric wire.

This winter, when the poison ivy is gone from the woods we will cut several thousand more poles and complete the job. The fencing is affordable and very functional. It is very labor intensive, but it is unique. I know of no other fencing in our area like it, which is very important to me. The only thing worse than looking like everyone else is being like everyone else.

I love my stick fencing much more than the conformist, Mao suit, type fencing that I see on other operations.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

...But Fear Itself

A hinny is the offspring of a female donkey and a male horse. It is the inverse of a mule. Lucy is a beautiful hinny that just joined our program. We picked her up on Friday. She was halter broke but had never had anything on her back. I saddled her within the first hour of getting her home. Ashley stood up in the stirrup as did Amanda. Neither sat in the saddle. There was no need to overload Lucy's mind. She did great with her first hour of training.

Our training process has at its core the promotion of trust and confidence in each animal. We teach the equine that just because something is scary, it is not necessarily painful. A flapping plastic bag is terrifying, but causes no pain. As the horse learns this he develops confidence.Confidence breeds courage.

Wendy is shown mounting Lucy just moments after Jacob had done so. Jacob was the first to set in the saddle yesterday. Jacob is a kid and his body has the resilience and healing power of youth. Wendy is not a kid. Had things gone wrong she was at risk of painful injury. (We seek to minimize that risk with helmets and rib protectors.)

She got on any way. She and I were confident that she had the skills to do so. That confidence bred courage.

No one who knew this hinny would have expected her to take a rider on her back within 24 hours of coming to our place. No one who knew Wendy would have expected her to risk getting on Lucy (except me.)

Confidence breeds courage, and in training wild horses or starting colts, courage is one of the corner stones of competence.

Wendy is quickly developing that competence.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Reasons for Hope

This picture was taken just before yesterday's parade. It includes one wild Corolla stallion, two wild Corolla mares, and three highly skilled horse starters. Ashley, Danielle and Amanda are fully capable of gentling and starting wild horses and colts without my assistance. (Of course, they get my assistance whether they want it or not.)

They are part of the proof that kids can learn and apply natural horsemanship. They can apply it to BLM's, rescue horses, PMU horses, even well bred Quarter Horses. We do not have a surplus of horses in this nation. We have a shortage of riders. The only remedy to the situation is to draw more kids into the training process.

Pride III

Now I am proud of Holland. I have become quite attached to this Shackleford. We have quite a bit in common. We both have inordinately large skulls and are in better shape than we appear. He's looking good in his very first parade.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Pride II

My grandson will turn four in a few days. He will ride in next year's parade. Here he is resting on Holland, my big Shackleford just before the parade began.


People say a lot of nice things about how we do things and the thing that I enjoy hearing the most is that my riders are different from so many kids in the competitive horse world. Have no doubt about it, I am proud of my little riders.

This morning they were out at the horse lot between four and five. We loaded two Shacklefords and seven Corollas to take down to the annual parade in Duck, North Carolina. It is a two hundred mile round trip. Duck is in the county bordering the area where the last wild Corolla Spanish Mustangs live. Of course, the horses were the hit of the parade. The parade gave another opportunity to show the public why it is so important for us to prevent the extinction of these historic horses.

My little riders, who trained these wild horses, who help care for them, who donate art work they have created to the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, who blog about the Corollas, and who attend Wild Horse Fund Board meetings, realize that they are part of something bigger than themselves.

We practice natural horsemanship in order to become better people and it is working. Chance had been working on improving his horse handling abilities in anticipation of the parade. He has improved dramatically. I know that he was really looking forward to the event.

As we were loading up this morning, one of the girls noticed that Porter was favoring his front right leg. We left him at home and I quickly instructed Jordan and Chance to split the parade route with each riding Croatoan for half of the route. Neither whined or pouted about having to split up the ride. Both showed maturity beyond their years.

Rylee turned down a trip to Water Country to be in the parade. Amanda worked hard this week getting her still nervous Corolla mare despooked. Lea and Ashley took leadership roles by helping instruct those who had never been in parades and assisting with tack organization. Danielle and Jacob handled their horses with calm, firm hands.

Perhaps even more meaningful was the hard work and participation that several of my adult riders and parents put into the event. It would have been impossible to have pulled off this event without their help.

I am very tired. And very proud.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I Expect That His Daddy Was Tough Too

The pictures above were sent to me by a former member of the board of the Foundation for the Shackleford Horses. They are of Holland's father in the wild and at a gather.

Handsome is as handsome does.

Just the Facts, Ma'am

The Horse--Holland
The Breed--Wild Banker from Shackleford Island
The Date--July 1, 2009, 7:00 am
The Horse's Size--13 hands plus a little more, weight 745 lbs.
The Rider's Weight--225 lbs
The Distance--5 miles
The Time--24 minutes, 30 seconds
The Point--Never underestimate the athletic ability of a Spanish Colonial Horse.