Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Only The Rocks Live Forever

Or at least so goes the old war cry and death song of the Plains. A meaningful life. A meaningless death. But through it all--perseverance.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Ghost of Christmas Future

In 2010 we will be back on track. Most importantly, the Corolla Off Site breeding program will be in full swing. This spring I plan to breed at least three pure Corolla mares to various pure Corolla stallions. The foals will be born in the spring of 2011.

If you are new to this blog and do not know about the program please get in touch with me at The Corollas are teetering on the brink of extinction. Less than 110 remain free in the wild and there are probably less than 50 pure Corollas that have been domesticated. The foals that we produce are the safety net to prevent the extinction of the best strain of horse that I have encountered.

The foals that I produce are priceless. For that reason they have no price. They are placed at no charge to those who are serious about participating in the breeding program over the long haul. With horses placed in Texas, North Carolina, Virginia, and Maine we are off to a good start.

If you are interested in participating in this preservation effort I will be happy to discuss placing one of the upcoming foals with you. If you want to assist the Corollas in other ways, please become a member of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund. (Memberships make perfect Christmas gifts for the horse lover who has everything. For more information visit the Corolla Wild Horse Funds web site.)

We have three Corolla stallions and one Shackleford stallion available for breeding at no cost to any mare that is registered with the Horse of the Americas Registry.

The picture shown above is of Mokete, the first foal produced by the Off Site breeding program. Her owner is dedicated to the preservation of the Corolla Spanish mustangs and in a few years Mokete will be producing beautiful Corolla foals.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Lights, Camera, Action

On Tuesday, December 29, at 11:00, am a news crew from a local station,(Fox 43), will be coming out to film a light piece on our horses and, indirectly, our program. Rebecca, on her own initiative, made the contact to set up this filming. It was also her idea to do it on December 29 in order to give me both a distraction and something to look forward to on that day.

Some old men have to stumble through life without having a Rebecca to look out for them. That must be rough.

(Here is a picture of Rebecca, Croatoan, and the second neatest little boy on the planet, Liam)

Higher Calling?

I cannot really claim that it is a higher calling, but as I have gotten older I realize that I have a different calling. When I was young I was a politician and I loved every moment of it. Under no circumstances would I go back to that life now. I have been a prosecutor for over a decade but the only real satisfaction that I derive from my job is when I help a victim of molestation or child abuse through a trial. But for that, I have come to realize that there is very little that I do outside of the horse lot that will have a deep impact on anyone for the better.

Recently it became apparent that we will soon have a vacancy in a judgeship. As had happened before, within minutes of the word leaking out I was asked if I would be interested in seeking appointment to the bench. I must admit that I seriously considered doing so for at least 15 seconds.

I cannot accept any position that would take me away from my horses and my little riders for even an additional moment. There are others who would make a great judges, but I really do not think that I could find anyone better suited to take care of my horses and my little riders than me.

It is particularly ironic that when a previous judgeship came open a senior member of the bar was concerned about my courtroom attire and whether it presented the proper image for a judge (I guess he disapproved of boots and rodeo shirts in the court room.) Since that time I have made significant changes in my courtroom wardrobe as show above in this picture of my special suit that I wear to argue cases on appeal.

Monday, December 14, 2009


I got a pleasant surprise when I got back from court today. I learned that the First Place Trophy for Horses in the Christmas Parade went to Mill Swamp Indian Horses

Sunday, December 13, 2009


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Corollas on Parade

It was a bit nippy yesterday at the Smithfield Christmas Parade. I think that it got up to about forty degrees. Judging from several of the pictures it seems that my belly, like water, expands when it gets cold.

We rode six Corollas, one Shackleford,one Chincoteague, a Paint,an HOA East/West cross,and several Chinco-stangs. Wendy lead her young filly, Mokete,the first pure Corolla foal born of the off site breeding program. My wife Beth lead our four year old grandson, Aiden, on Wind in His Hair and my five year old niece rode her mustang stallion, Spotted Fox, with my father walking along side. (We had four stallions in yesterday's group) Rebecca rode Manteo, our cold black Corolla stallion. It was her first ride since having Luke on Sept 11. KC, Carly, Rylee, Sarah Lin, Aiden, Emily, and Thomas all rode in their first parade yesterday. Several parents and my two newest riders walked along side of the rest of us.

Everyone did great but I think that Rylee, Lydia, Jacob,and Brenna were probably the proudest in our group, and for good reason. Each was riding their own horse, who they had trained, in its first parade.

Our Indian Horses, most of whom were born wild, and all of whom were trained by my little riders and me, took the noise and the fanfare wonderfully. They were great mustang ambassadors.

I was proud of several things yesterday, but what I liked best was the commute to and from the parade. We rode there through the woods and along side the road.

Our horses are tough and smart. So are my riders.

Spring Planting

Of course my little riders can do more than just train wild horses! This picture is from a benefit for the local homeless shelter program that we played 12-11-09. KC is playing the guitar on stage for the first time. Carley gave her first performance on my old autoharp. I cannot claim any credit for the compliment of girls singing. They were all great singers before they ever met me. Lydia, Jemma, and Sarah Barr are joined in this picture by Emily Marble. That is Daddy on the guitar. (The instrument in my hand is a wooden three stringed banjo.)

I started playing on stage with some of my little siblings about 35 years ago. Like my own daughters, they are all grown now. Perhaps I have stumbled onto a new group of kids and young people to step up to the microphone now and then.

I enjoy teaching kids ancient mountain songs that have real meaning. I love watching them learn and grow.

Its like watching a garden grow.

Perhaps this will make a new crop of young musicians for me.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What's Your Momma's Name Child? What's Your Momma's Name?

A previous comment has me thinking about some other bits and pieces of information that I have picked up over the years. However, make no mistake, my musings will not result in any 1/2 Corollas being used in the Off Site Breeding Program which is designed to be a safety net to help prevent the extinction of these amazing little horses.

The comment pointed out that a cross between my Spanish Mustang stallion, Ta Sunka Witco and Amanda's Corolla mare, Secotan, would likely produce a great horse. I cannot disagree, but there are so few Corolla mares out there to breed that I do not want to waste a breeding of those mares to anything but a Corolla stallion. But on the other hand, Ta Sunka is everything that I could want in a horse, but for a trot that is a bit slower than I would like and at a little over 14 hands, he is taller than I prefer a horse to be. He is amazing. The grand son of the famous Choctaw Sun dance on his fathers side, and descended from Yellow Fox on his mother's side, he still is a great horse for anyone who would want to still be able to walk after riding a fifty mile day. He is smooth, comfortable, and provided there are no mares around, can be handled by a kindergartener. His father had heavy appaloosa coloring and Ta Sunka is a blood sweat with all of the other features associated with the LP gene.

I also am aware that some of the finest horses in the Spanish Mustang Registry trace their lineage back to Sailor, a Corolla/Shackleford, who ran with a herd of mares on the Cayuse Ranch for many years. Of course, Tom Norush, president of the Horse of the Americas Registry, developed an entire breeding program based on crossing western mustangs and those who lines went back to the beaches of North Carolina. I know that that program produced great horses. Jacob's great young horse, Uncle Harley, HOA Pleasure Trail Horse of the Year, is a result of that breeding program.

Lastly, I am rattled by a comment that Dianne W. made to me at the HOA annual meeting. She is a particularly keen thinker whose posts on the various mustang message boards are always worth reading. She opined that breeding SMR horses to Corollas would not be bringing in outside blood but would simply be replacing blood that has been lost. Without a doubt there has been a great deal of loss of genetic material in the Corolla herd. They have fewer alleles in their DNA than hardly any other group of horse that has been tested. In the past fifty years pinto coloring of any form has been all but lost on the Outer Banks. Would it be wrong to put that back in? She makes a very good point.

I am afraid to play with fire. As long as possible I want only pure Corollas in the off site breeding program. I am not even willing to take the very short leap to include any Shacklefords in the program.

That does not mean that I oppose out crossing to other Colonial Spanish Horses. I simply do not want any of the mares in our program to be bred to outsiders. We have several stallions that we will happily breed free of charge to any HOA registered mare.

I have a few 1/2 Corollas left that I bred from my non Corolla mares for sale. There are only three left. In the future I hope to breed Ta Sunka to a Shackleford mare. Should an SMR mare come into my hands I will only breed her to my Corollas and my one Shackleford stallion.

Vickie Ives of Karma Farms in Texas has a few Corollas and I expect that she will breed her Corolla stallion to other strains of Colonial Spanish Horses and I am very curious to see the result. I can already picture product of such a cross in my mind--small, tough, endless endurance, and friendlier than a milk goat.

(Here is a quick snap shot of Ta Sunka. The picture does not do him justice. For some reason I do not have hardly any shots of him on this computer. Perhaps it is because my little photographers only like to take pictures of the horses that they ride.)

Collateral Benefits II

Here are three key facts to understand:

1. By most measures I am 50-70 pounds over weight. My diet is composed largely of cheese, pork chops, sausage, steak, hamburger,vitamins and sushi.

2. I ride long hours and regularly do 5 mile cantering conditioning rides. My pastures are deep and narrow. By the time I have caught and saddled a few horses I have walked over a mile. Over the past six months or so I have begun adding Tabata Protocol exercises to my weekly schedule.

3. Yesterday the doctor reviewed all of the extensive lab work that was done during a recent physical. The numbers in each category were not just OK for an old, fat man, they would have been spectacular for a 22 year old trained athlete. The only exception was blood pressure which is kept in check by medication.

Here is the point. A lifestyle that is centered around horses is obviously an extremely healthy lifestyle. The blood work only shows what it is doing for my physical health. It cannot measure mental health, but I can say with absolute certainty that the closest that I ever come to happiness is when I am with the horses.

Of course, there is a down side to everything. Simply looking in a mirror and seeing what a wreck I have become over the last thirty years has put a damper on any truly long range planning. I figured that I would probably make it until about age 52 so I hadn't made plans that went much beyond that.

Now I have to figure out something to do for the next 30-40 years.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Great Trail Horse

"Great Trail Horse" is a term that gets thrown around a lot without much of a definition. To a great extent NATRAC competitions seek to define the term with the variety of tests that contestants are subjected to. I can't argue with anything that is done in those events.

My test is cruder, simpler, and granted, probably not as good of an assessment tool as a NATRAC course.

Good trail horses do great on the trail, but to be great a trail horse must be able to handle the challenge of proceeding where there is no trail at all. Often I take my riders through stretches of woods that I have not been through in thirty years. Yesterday I took them through a stretch that I had never been into in my life. We are in the wettest season that I have seen in my life time. Each step that the horses took in the woods sunk them into a mire, some deeper than others, but each draining the horse's energy and at times leaving them staggering as they sought firmer footing.

For the last couple of weeks I have been putting a lot of time into Persa, my little Shackleford mare. She is smaller than Holland, and so far is not as tough as he is. However, she has not had the hundreds of miles of conditioning riding that Holland has had since last spring.

She whipped the muck. She whipped the briers. She whipped her flight instinct when we jumped a herd of deer. On higher ground she trotted on in a beautiful Spanish gait that makes other breeds seem to be missing a wheel. She took the lead the entire ride and went every where that I asked her to. And her thirteen hand frame carried my 200 lbs plus body with ease and grace. She already is a great trail horse with probably less than 250 miles under her.

I put her in with Tradewind, my bay Corolla stallion. I hope that she conceived.

Easy to handle, comfortable gaits, able to carry children and adults, small enough to require about 60% of the feed necessary to maintain a large quarter horse, stylish,historic, beautiful, unbelievable endurance--yet the wild horses of Corolla stand on the brink of extinction.

Get involved with our off site breeding program. Next spring I will be breeding a few Corolla mares that are in captivity to several Corolla stallions. I do not sell these rare foals. I give them to breeders who are serious about carrying on this work.

Even if that is not in the cards for your family, if you would like to have a half Corolla foal I currently have Three Corolla and one Shackleford stallion available for breeding to outside mares. HOWEVER, those 1/2 Corollas will never be part of the breeding program. They will simply be super horses.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

On To Richmond

As plans further progress we will keep you posted, but at this point we can announce that my little riders and I will be doing a training clinic and other presentations regarding the training and preservation of the Corollas at the 2010 Virginia Equine Exposition in Richmond, VA in October. We promote these horses in every forum possible including parades, museum presentations, clinics, a documentary, magazine articles, television and the Internet.

Swimmer, the Corolla mare pictured above, has been adopted and will be part of the off site breeding program. She is pictured here at a clinic at Wild Horse Days in North Carolina last July. A quick glance at Swimmer reveals why the Corollas have been called the Horse of Kings.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Crying Oh The Dreadful Wind and Rain

I think that I am living through the wettest season in my adult life and it is beginning to tell and others around me. I hate muck and deep mud. I have a visceral feeling of frustration and resentment every time I slip in the mud and every time my boots are held in place by the suction of a pasture turned to bog.

I trace my feelings back to several years ago when it was too wet to get close to the horse lot even in a 4 wheel drive pick up. I had to carry each bale of hay, morning and night about 1/4 of a mile. Each time my foot would slip even the slightest bit pretty heavy pain shot through me because I was recovering from several broken ribs at the time. If I had not had a bit of help carrying those bales I am not sure that I could have accomplished a task as simple as feeding the horses.

My mind is my most insidious enemy. It is now December and moving ever closer to December 29. With the help of my wife, my riders and their families, and most of all my horses I have been plodding toward the end of this horrible month in at least a satisfactory manner.

However, earlier this week I was about to feed up in the darkness, in ankle deep mud and driving rain. For a fleeting moment it flashed through my mind that I needed to pick up Lido to help me feed up like he had done when it was so muddy and my ribs were broken. I had actually positioned my hand on the steering wheel to turn to go pick him up.

Of course, then I remembered that he was dead and had been so since December 29. I do not know why such pain is called heart ache. My heart felt fine but I instantly felt a blow to my midsection and a queasy feeling that has been around for a week now. Maybe because of that queasy feeling I was not paying enough attention to avoiding the holes and ruts and I hit a hole-rut combination too hard and too fast on the way out. My vehicle left the ground and slammed down hard on four wheels. Right beside the spot where Lido died.

Since that time two riders' vehicles have gotten stuck in the path only a few feet from there.

Of course, no repair work can be done on the path until it is dry. Riders will have to park at the Little House and walk up to the tack shed. They do not have to worry about jumping across the swamp to get there.

They can walk across the beautiful bridge constructed by Boy Scouts and my riders as Chaz Hornbaker's Eagle Scout project. As the plaque on the bridge states, the bridge is the Patrick Lido Edwards, "If I Can Do it Then Why Can't You?" bridge.

When the path dries I will begin to repair it. Until then we will all walk across Lido's bridge.

United States Equine Rescue League

I am very happy to announce that a portion of the proceeds of my book "And A Little Child Shall lead Them: Learning From Wild Horses and Small Children," is being directly contributed to USERL. I am very impressed with the work of this organization. Whether one buys a book or not, this is a great organization in which to make a donation.

In order to have a portion of the sales donated to USERL it is necessary to roder the book through USERL or directly from me, at (Books ordered through Barnes and Noble, etc will slip through the cracks with out me knowing of the sale.)

The book is much more than a horse training manual. It makes it clear what having relationships with horses can do for those horses and for the people who handle them.

The horse above is a Virginia Range stock mustang named Annie. I believe that this is a picture of the first mounting of the horse. The rider is a dedicated USERL volunteer who had limited riding experience and who is over the age of 21. She credits the book, especially the sections on my little brother Lido (Patrick), and the time that she has spent watching my little riders ride and train with giving her the information and the confidence to take on the gentling and training of her mustang.

Night Riders

I might have stumbled into an important learning tool. As all users of the wii fit program know, balance can be improved by doing movements with the eyes closed. We have recently expanded our night riding program and I am noticing improvements in leaps and bounds in the riders' ability to ride balanced in the saddle.

The most obvious gains are in intermediate students with limited riding experience. However, I am surprised to see how much my balance has improved since I began night riding. Not long ago the rider behind me told me that she thought something looked wrong with my saddle. This was after we had cantered and trotted about 3/4 mile. We had even jumped a small ditch. I really did not think that there was any problem with the saddle but I stopped just to check and discovered that my billet had worn through and the girth was now only attached on one side.

As I continue these rides I may very well have a new teaching tool that will strengthen our program. I have already discovered that if a novice learns how to control a horse in the round pen and learns all of the proper cues to use in riding, that rider can develop the muscle memory to become an intermediate rider simply by trotting through the woods without a break for about an hour.

Of course, all of these techniques only improve a rider's physical ability and each are dependant on the rider having the confidence to take that next step in learning. Teaching confidence is the hardest part. Year's ago my father made the off hand comment that I did not teach kids how to ride. He said that riding was like swimming, we all are born knowing how to do it. The only thing, he said, that I did with my little riders was to give them enough confidence in themselves to go ahead and allow their bodies to do what they all ready knew how to do.

There is a bit of an oversimplification in that view, but only a bit.

"Heels lower than toes, toes in front of knees, hands lower than belly buttons, sitting on your pockets and ....trot." That is our unabridged instructional manual. The slouched, lackadaisical look that we have in the saddle in despised in the show ring. Seems that the only ones who approve of this posture are the horses and little kids who ride them 50 miles in one day.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Reining In Riders

Taming wild horses is not the most difficult thing that we do. Teaching natural horsemanship to kids is not the most difficult thing that we do. Riding safely in wet and rough terrain is not the most difficult thing that we do.

Motivating and managing kids is the most difficult thing that we do. Teaching kids to deal with fear is a tall wall to climb and cannot be done without supportive parents. If a parent says or does anything to reinforce the child's fear I have no card that can trump that. The horrible reality is if that fear results in a child who wants to ride quitting the ground work is laid for the child to develop or exacerbate one of America's most horrible mental health epidemics, anxiety disorder. (More about this complex issue in future posts).

A more irritating but less severe problem is dealing with the self centeredness and absolute lack of judgement that is a natural part of being a teenager. It is particularly ironic that 15 year olds need closer supervision than 8 year olds. I may have done some of these teens a disservice by being too tolerant of poor behavior and attitudes.

Here is the dilemma. I can make the program more enjoyable for myself and for other participants by simply expelling kids whose attitudes are detrimental to the program. However, I understand the tremendous therapeutic value of horses for those with difficulties in their lives. My pastures are not just play pens for perfect kids. They are places of growing and healing and to a great extent a healthy man is not in need of a doctor.

The bottom line is that I will not toss kids out of the program simply because they create problems but I will require kids, more so than I have ever done, to work on their problems and to use their time in the horse lot to improve themselves. Of course, for this effort to be effective I will have to have 100% support from the parents of my riders.

Our program is going to change significantly for the better in 2010. I hope that all of my little riders want to be part of those improvements.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I Caught a White Whale

I rode Red Feather in the woods. He had been ridden in the woods a handful of times before, but never by me. He was the most athletic and the most violent horse with whom I had ever shared a round pen. He kicked and bit me more than all the other horses in my life time, put together. It had been 11 months since he had hurt me badly and in that eleven months we have become quite close. He prefers my company to that of other horses and I prefer his company to all but a few other humans.

We understand each other. He is me. When he was young he was truly wild and free. He made his own rules, as did I. When I was young I was the youngest head of a municipal government in Virginia. He was strong. When I was 14 I bench pressed 250 pounds. He was the master of his herd and I was the oldest son, of the oldest son, of the oldest son, of an only son. He lost the tip of his ear fighting as a stallion in the wild. I have had several broken bones, leg, pelvis, collar bone, and ribs but I have never worn a cast. He was perfectly willing to run over anything that got in his way. At age twelve I was the slowest member of my baseball team but had the most stolen bases, because if the ball is dropped after the runner is tagged out the runner is safe. (If, at the conclusion of the collision the fielder lies motionless on the ground, chances are he dropped the ball.)

But now we are both gentle and sweet natured. We have both learned to keep our emotions in check and we both have a strong preference for cordiality over confrontation. He has given me his most precious gift--his trust. I am working to return the favor by giving him a lighter payload. Next year when we do fifty miles together I plan for there to be about 25 pounds less of me on him.

I freely admit that at first there were many times that I either thought that I would never be able to ride him or that when I did he would mangle me the same way he did the saddles that he had bucked from his body. (He once attacked a blanket that he had bucked off). Now I have no such concerns. I was him when we were both young and now he is me, calm, peaceful, and absolutely in control because he is perfectly willing to give up control.

Ahab died pursuing his white whale. My white whale and I are set to live happily ever after. Ahab should have learned to relax.

I rode Red Feather in the woods.

(This shot is of one of the first times that Red Feather allowed anything to touch his back.)