Thursday, December 30, 2010
Shortly participants in our first session of on line classes will receive their next lesson. They will be 1/3 of the way through what I hope is a great learning experience for each of them.
Enrollment for the spring semester of the classes are now open. Please understand, this is not a higher level class for those who complete the 15 class session. It is the original 15 class session for those that did not get an opportunity to enroll for the fall semester.
The program, "The Horse, The Herd, and The Hoof" is based on our program of natural horsemanship, natural horse care and natural hoof care. There are two required texts, Joe Camp's great work, "The Soul of a Horse," and Pete Ramey's book on natural hoof care.
The cost of the program is only $160.00. For each registration I will donate $30.00 to the Corolla Wild Horse Fund and $30.00 to the HOA's Lido Fund.
There is a distinct lack of formality to the sessions which are written in a tone more akin to what one would find in one of my clinics or seminars instead of a formal text book. Horses are not cakes and these sessions are not cook books. Instead they keep coming back to the basic principles, the underpinnings, of how a horse's mind works and what forms of communication are best understood by the horse.
There are many clinicians better with horses than am I, but I do have the ability to put what it is that I do know in a way that can be clearly understood.
The spring session will begin in mid January. That gives everyone more than two weeks to register and to spread the word around among your friends who care about horses.
Those who want to register should contact me at email@example.com.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
On this December 29 there are many things to feel good about. JK is driving down from Richmond to ride with me this morning. Emily returns from her visit to see her family in Arizona. Edward Teach has gone on another healing binge. Liz and Amanda will be out to ride this afternoon. Yesterday I took an entire tribe of kids into the woods and everyone of them was bubbling with excitement before, during,and after the ride. Lydia dog will go on her second trail ride today. (To help her stave off the cold I have filled her to the brim with turkey sausage. I guess that I owe my wife an apology. I did not think that there was any possible use for turkey sausage.)
Christian, one of my earliest riders, loves horses, music and technology. He told me yesterday that he now has enough recording equipment on hand to record quality cd's. In January we will start the music program again and Christian will be able to put together some good recordings of us playing.
If there is anything that I enjoy more than reading what I have written, it is listening to music that I have played.
At this rate, 2011 could be a year lacking in wretchedness.
This picture was from a ride yesterday. The rider is seven years old. Manteo, the wild Corollla stallion that she is riding, is much younger than she is. Manteo is barely under 13 hands and a bit over 800 pounds. He carries a 220 pound rider as gracefully as he carries a 67 pound rider.
He was trained solely by my little riders and me. Jordan was the first one to get on him. I do not ever recall him bucking or bolting. He has completed several 50 Mile in A Day rides. He has never coliced. But for the normal stifle slippage often found in Spanish horses, he has not been lame a day since I have had him. His colts carry his same gentle disposition and smooth gaits. He remains in good flesh (actually he has gotten too fat this winter) off of hay and 2-1 Cattle mineral. He has never worn a shoe and the only time that he has ever been in a stable was when he was used in demonstrations at the Delaware Horse Expo. His adoption fee was $700.00.
The picture and paragraph above scream out in a manner that even the deaf can hear why we must prevent the extinction of these horses. If a comparative analysis would be helpful please consider the paragraph set out below concerning a fictional, though perfectly typical modern horse.
"He was trained by a series of professional trainers, all of whom said that he was a good mover, with 'real potential'. He did so well with his last trainer that he offered to drop $500.00 from his fee if he was removed from the trainer's facility immediately. None of his previous owners recall him bucking or bolting, though one of them said that he could not recall anything at all for the ten days after he rode him last. He has completed several 50 Laps Around the Arena in a Week Rides. He has never coliced on February 29. He has never been lame unless someone turned him out in the pasture with the other horses. He comes from the finest of bloodlines, so of course he was gelded as a weanling. His vet, boarding, farrier, and dietary supplement monthly fees are less than my house payment! His board is expensive, but I feel good knowing that he is in a nice warm stable, nearly all day long, while those other horses are out there in the damp weather. Best of all, his price was reduced to only $5.500.00 when I bought him. I hope that I can trade him, plus another $2,000.00, to get an even better horse next spring."
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Look at this colt! That is why! Corn Stalk's mother is a roan BLM mare and his father is Croatoan. To stress once again, the only horses that are used in the offsite breeding program are the Corollas and the Shacklefords. However, there is no charge to breed any of our stallions to any mare registered with the HOA or the American Indian Horse Registry. The offspring of either cross is registrable with the mare's parent registry and if the mare is HOA registered the foal is registrable in both registries.
When people see the 1/2 Corollas and learn of their smoothness, gentleness, athleticism, and amazing endurance they can appreciate why we are sworking so hard to preserve this nearly extinct strain of Colonial Spanish Horse.
Monday, December 27, 2010
Christmas--exercised and trained some horses, December 26-Plan to ride hard and deep into the woods by myself--Snowed out--December 27--Plan for a hard ride with some of my riders and horse training with some kids--Snowed Out, December 28--plan to ride, train, write, build , build , build,--But I fear that I will be snowed out--December 29--JK plans to come down and ride with me on December 29,2010.
It was not snowing December 29, 2008. The sun was shining and it was in the high forties. During the holidays we kept a bare bones staff at the office. December 29, 2008 at about 9:30 the phone rang. It was my brother Casey.
"It was a hunting accident," Casey said, "He's gone. Lido's gone."
I called my wife and told her. I called Rebecca and told her to advise the riders' families and explain that I wanted everyone that could to be at the house to be there and that I wanted no one crying in my presence. She handled everything beautifully.
One never knows how one will handle such things. Perhaps it is true that with so many little riders looking up to me I have a duty to only show them a happy face. But that is not how the last two years have been. Though not everyone agrees, I think that I have shown them something that matters. I have not given in. I have not given up. I have kept going. I think that that is a lesson worth learning.
The funeral was as good as funeral's get. My family played some Carter Family songs that I used to play with Lido. Rebecca did a beautiful solo. It is likely true that his eulogy was the last great public statement that I will ever make. I no longer dazzle crowds when I step up to a microphone. In fact, whatever was there is gone. But I still step up to those microphones.
Right after the funeral I threw myself into planning our first 100 Mile in Two Days Ride. It distracted me and gave me something to look forward to.
For the last several days I have been planning our next fifty mile ride. It still distracts me and gives me something to look forward to.
To all of those who, with the best of intentions, would like to see my face locked in a perpetual smile I must point out that they have failed to understand two very important points. Those points may be put simply--things have been tough. I have been tougher.
That is enough.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
My family surprised me with two bound volumes containing all that has been written and depicted in this blog. This was a huge surprise and a great gift. I spent the day reading the volumes and trying to become one with the author.
(This is a shot of me and Red Feather back when I was going through a retro 80's "Miami Vice" fashion phase.)
Edwards Teach is healing well. In the bottom shot he was about to be unloaded at our place after having spent two weeks at Dominion Equine in Suffolk where he received the best of care. That shot was from mid November. The other picture is how he looked after about five weeks with us. We washed his wound daily, medicated it and mixed his antibiotic with his food.
He is a wild Corolla stallion and received this injury in a stallion fight on the island. He will become part of the Corolla offsite breeding program and will be gentled to ride after his wound heals. He shows great signs of being easy to handle but I have not done any training yet. I saw no need to stress him while he is healing.
Two weeks ago Lydia dog was at the edge of death from parvo. Similar intense care healed her. At this time last year we had a horrible outbreak of salmonella that threatened our horses. Around the clock care for nearly a week by my little riders and their families saved every horse that we treated.
I hesitate to join the chorus of those who insist on putting an animal down to "end their suffering" if the animal is still willing to fight. I am often reminded of Croatoan who was thin and weak when he was captured outside of the 4wd area at Corolla. Someone, who I am sure was acting on her sincere beliefs, insisted that we put Croatoan down immediately. Her concern was that he was "old and hungry."
Turns out that he was not old,though he looked it. It has caused me to always stress to my little riders that if they ever see me looking "old and hungry" they should not have me put down. Just get me a hot dog and a bottle of Geritol and I will be fine.
Anyone interested in learning the breed standard and registration requirements of the HOA should do so by contacting the HOA board members and begin by referring to the HOA website. Of course, the same is true for each of the various registries. Those with little knowledge of Colonial Spanish Horses or perhaps those who are entirely new to these horses are at risk of accepting information presented on the message boards as being accurate when the facts may not so warrant. Misunderstandings and incorrect information serve only to create unnecessary obstacles to the cooperation between the various registries that is absolutely essential to the success of efforts at breed preservation.
When four men are stranded in a lifeboat without food, but with oars at hand, it makes much more for sense for each to grab an oar and work together than for them to bicker about the relative value of corn bread as opposed to whole wheat bread.
A posting on any message board is proof only that the poster knows how to use a computer. It is not proof, or even evidence, that the information presented is accurate. The quest for accurate information on these endangered, and in some cases nearly extinct, strains of historic horses is a vitally important endeavor and it is of the greatest importance to all breed preservationist that that quest continue without distraction.
The picture above is from several summers ago. Those kids and I started eight horses and one donkey well enough so that each was ridden on trails in the woods before Labor Day. They are great kids--but they are kids. They worked hard and they worked together.
Perhaps some felt that appointing a committee composed of HOA and SMR representatives to discuss ways to work together to protect and promote our horses was too much, too soon. If that is the case I will propose that we take a step back and proceed a bit slower.
Each organization has a small and dedicated Board of Directors. They can do our horses no greater service than to have a simple conference call to discuss current opportunities to help stave off the extinction of these horses.
I hold office with neither organization and I have discussed this with no officers of either organization, but I will be contacting the members of the Board of Directors of each organization to encourage that this small step be taken. I will suggest a modest agenda for discussion. I will ask each member to respond to my request because we must get a discussion going, even if we begin by discussing why some of you might not want to have discussions.
There has to be a starting place. The alternative is more splintering, more factions, and more horses lost. The little girls pictured above put aside their differences and worked very hard to accomplish something important for that summer.
We can all learn from their example.
Especially if you have a brindle treeing hound cross to trot along the swamp trails with you? These two are both named Lydia. Lydia dog was so named because,like Lydia girl, she has never whined, complained, or done anything to give me indigestion.
Lydia dog is still a puppy but yesterday she went on her first trail ride. She loved it. She is going to be a very large dog. She sleeps with her head on my arm and is in the house with me now,along with my wife's three small dogs. I am looking out of the window at one of the biggest snow storms in my adult life.
We are calmly waiting for the electricity and heat to go of. At such time four dogs and I will share several layers of quilts and blankets and will be warm enough until the power comes back on.
And I really do not mind. Kids live in the moment and express themselves in that same moment. "This is the best fun that I have ever had," "I never thought that I would be able to ride a wild horse!," and even,(from a three year old), "This is my favorite land!" are all heartfelt thank you's.
The situation is different with adults and I am glad that it is. Adults tell me exactly what the experience means to them.
"This horse has healed me."
"My time out here have been the best years of my life"
"This has done so much for my family.",
"If only there was somewhere like this when my kids were coming along."
"Sometimes all that I need to do is sit here in the truck and watch the horses for a while to get feeling better."
These sincere, off the cuff comments illustrate something that I never envisioned for our program. It is obvious to me that learning natural horsemanship does wonders for character building and happiness building for kids. It is obvious to me that teaching natural horsemanship does wonders for me. It helps to make my life more than just a matter of running the clock out and often produces feelings akin to satisfaction to the degree that they produce actual happiness.
But it is becoming equally obvious to me that learning natural horsemanship can improve the lives of happy adults and give quality to the lives of those for whom real happiness is an elusive, ephemeral feeling.
And here is the key point--what we do is not brain surgery. Anyone willing to learn to handle horses and kids can do what we do. I have absolutely no training in psychology, psychiatry, or substance abuse treatment. I wish that I did. The world is filled with those who have such knowledge. That professional knowledge, if applied to programs like ours, could spread a lot of light in some very dark worlds.
Equine related emotional therapy is just beginning to get off of the ground. If that therapy is tied to learning natural horsemanship I have no doubt that it will be more successful.
As we have discussed many times, the reason that we practice natural horsemanship is not to make better horses, but to make better people.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
That is what Terry had to say about riding beside Daddy in the Christmas Parade. She said that it seemed like everyone on the sidewalk knew him and was calling out his name. Forty seven years ago he and I first rode in the Christmas parade together. He rode Flag, a highly charged thoroughbred, I rode Tonka, a welsh-hackney cross, and Momma rode Cracker Jack, a pinto mustang/Arabian.
This year he rode Medicine Dog, a BLM mare that we trained who now belongs to Ruthann. His mare is still a little green for parades but she will be ready for him to ride her in the next five or ten parades.
Friday, December 24, 2010
Years ago was urged to seek the position County Attorney. This is not an elected position. The county attorney advises the county on contracts, hiring practices, and a host of other matters in addition to representing the county in lawsuits. It was not a job for a trial lawyer and in reality I was not well suited for the position. However, I had a great deal of support and was urged to pursue the opportunity.
I did not want the job, but it paid more than double what I made at the time. I really did not care about the other advantages of having a high income, but I was interested in the position so that I could afford to build, of all things, a barn. I had in mind a modern barn design that would include paved floors and two rows of stables.
Of course, with that position I would not have the time to build a riding program and would likely only keep a few horses around for my family. But, I certainly would have a beautiful barn.
I did not get that position. Had I gotten it I would never have built our program, worked to preserve the Corollas, become a writer, clinician, and speaker on mustangs and natural horsemanship. I would not even know my riders and their families. My life would have become a very empty shell if I had gotten that high paying job years ago.
A life devoid of meaning. But I would have had a beautiful barn.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
When Lido was about 12 or 13 he and I were watching RFD-TV when a commercial for a manure spreader came on.
'Dat's what Ah want," he said emphatically.
I asked him what in the world he would do with a shiny, new manure spreader.
"Ah take my guwl friend widen on it," he advised, surprised that I did not realize how impressed a young teen girl would be at a ride on a brand new manure spreader.
Google Edmund Ruffin to learn more about this strange man who was a hundred years ahead of the rest of the south when it came to agricultural innovations and an epoch behind most of the nation when it came to the immorality of slavery. He likely fired the first shot at Fort Sumpter and his last shot was certainly to his own head. He preferred death to living in a reunified America. All in all a pathetic figure who wasted his talents.
In one of his books, which I believe was written in 1856, he wrote a few paragraphs on the Bankers, whose remnant remains wild today at Corolla and Shackleford. He throws out two important points for those who love these horses today.
He said that horses not raised on the Outer Banks were unable to survive its harsh environs. That certainly has been born out by looking at the wild herds of Corolla and Shackleford which show no sign of having modern breeds bred into them. Their adaptability allowed them to live in isolation which allowed them to maintained their Colonial Spanish genetic heritage.
It was the other side of the equation that Ruffin wrote that has puzzled me. He said that Banker horses could not survive long on the mainland. Why could that be? What was it about mainland domestic life that was life threatening to the Bankers?
Take a look at the picture of this wild Corolla taken last week. More importantly take a look at his 'pasture". It is hard to imagine horses living on the sparse vegetation of the Outer Banks. However, the Corollas not only live off of it, most remain in good flesh even in the winter.
The Corollas certainly do graze from the ground but they have to cover some ground to get a belly full. They also, especially in the winter, eat above the ground on honey suckle, green brier, and twigs. Though not particularly calorie dense, such a diet keeps the horses from being exposed to worm eggs. The positive side of this is that the wild herd has a very low parasite load. In fact, I have only seen one wild Corolla that was removed from the herd that showed any signs of worm infestation. The negative side is that many of them, even mature horses, have not developed an immune system that kills most of the parasites that seek to migrate through their bodies. When wild Corollas are placed in an environment flush with parasites they become very hospitable hosts. Heavy strongyle infestations can take away a lot of blood in a matter of hours. Heavy infestations can lead to colic. Couple that threat with being given strange food (i.e. corn) and placed in a stress inducing stable and one has created a life threatening situation for a wild Banker.
I strongly suspect that this accounted for Ruffin's claim that Bankers just could not make it on the mainland.
For those of you that receive a bit of cash for Christmas and will be looking to spend it over the next week or two let me make a few suggestions:
1. Buy Joe Camp's book, "The Soul of a Horse"
2. Buy "And a Little Child Shall Lead Them: Learning from Wild Horses and Small Children" which can be ordered directly from me.
3. Donate to the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, The HOA's Lido Fund, or USERL.
4. Enroll in our on line class "The Horse,, The Herd, and the Hoof."
5. Use the money to become part of something bigger than what you are.
This is a picture of Rebecca giving Annie, a USERL mustang one of her first rides. This picture illustrates just how one can become part of something bigger than one's self. This is a picture not just of a young women and a horse but of a movement. Rebecca is well schooled in natural horsemanship and natural horse care. She is mounted on a mustang, a group of horses feared and loathed by the established horse world. Not only that, Annie is a USERL mustang which means that she has 'no marketable value." To the established horse world, marketable value is the only kind of value that matters. To make matters seem even more ridiculous to the established horse world, Annie's owner is a retired school teacher, a novice who chose an untrained mustang for her first horse.
What could be more obvious than the fact that it would be impossible for a retired, novice to get on a mustang that was not even professionally trained and take her on a trail ride through the woods?
But for the fact that that is exactly what happened a few hours after this picture was taken, it would indeed be impossible, absurd even. But when one becomes part of something bigger than one's self impossibility falls by the wayside.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Well, not exactly. This is Adam a young Corolla gelding. Vickie Ives adopted him as a young stallion and took him back to the famed Karma Farms in Texas. Unfortunately he could not be used as a stallion. She took him back and picked up Sea King, another young stallion. Adam was gelded but not adopted. I am not aware of him receiving any meaningful training during the time he awaited adoption.
This picture says so much about the Corollas. That is no photo shop work. That cowboy really is way over 6 foot tall. Adam carries him with ease and grace the first full day that he was back in Texas. That is power. That is athleticism. He moves out on a smooth Spanish gait. That is comfort. He has completed a ride on the trail just a few hours after his first real training in about two years. That is brains. He will do everything that is asked of him. That is heart.
Unfortunately that is all that the Corollas have to bring to the table--power,athleticism,comfort, brains and heart. If those traits do not appeal to you you will need to seek out another breed.
I hear that some of those other breeds are going quite cheaply now.
Years ago I met a little girl who loved animals and wanted a horse. She knew nothing about horses, but more importantly she knew that she knew nothing about horses. She wanted to work to learn.
One other peculiar tidbit about her, not only could she run at incredible speeds, to this day she remains the only person that I have ever seen run up a wooden fence without touching it with her hands. She can also run and jump up on top of a round bale of hay and comfortably unload feed two bags at a time.
To top it all off, she came from a wonderful, supportive family that instilled in her a firm religious faith , a strong moral fiber, a confidence in her abilities and a solid work ethic.
The athleticism, willingness to work, and desire to learn produced one of the best riders that I will ever know, all by the age of 17. Last summer Red Feather launched into a prolonged bucking episode of the kind that I had never seen him do. I had never seen a long spree because Red Feather always deposited riders during the first series of bucks.
Not this time. He bucked until he gave up and Abby remained in the saddle. Horses can look dazed, and he did. Horses can look confused, and he did. Horses cannot look embarrassed, but he did!
He had no reason to be embarrassed. Just as there is no shame in being bucked off of Red Feather, there is no shame in not being able to buck off Abby.
Her parents should be very proud. They have raised the most impressive family that I have ever encountered. And today their middle daughter turns 18.
She and her sister Emily have become like a part of my family and the lives of my entire family are the better for it.
Happy Birthday little girl.
Monday, December 20, 2010
In the previous post we discussed the importance of breeding horses from the Shackleford herd to those of the Corolla herd. In 2011 we have to tap a resource that has not been exploited to date. There are a handful of Corollas and Shacklefords that have been adopted out over the years. While I fear that there are few intact stallions remaining in this population there certainly are adult mares that could contribute to the offsite breeding program. We need to locate these horse owners and advise them of the opportunity to help the horses by producing a foal.
Keeping track of those foals will be possible because of a farsighted decision of the Horse of the Americas Registry. After a thorough inspection of the wild herds and a review of the history, genetic studies, conformation and skeletal finds these historic horses were recognized as authentically Spanish Colonial and allowed for their registration in the HOA.
The staff of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund and the volunteers of the Fund for the Shackleford Horses are already over worked and I cannot expect them to take on this additional project. For that reason, we will be working on a year long effort to track down the horses that have been adopted out and let their owners know that there are stallions available to breed their mares at no cost and, most importantly we will be letting them know why the effort to produce off spring is so important.
Pictured above is Mokete, the first foal produced in the Corolla offsite breeding program.
Every one of my riders will instantly recognize this picture as one of Porter in the wild. The catch is that it is not Porter at all, though so similar in appearance as to be essentially indistinguishable. That is the result both of a few hundred years of isolation and the effects of having so few horses in the gene pool. The Corollas have among the fewest alleles on their DNA chain that have ever been found in an equine population. Once lost these genes can never be restored.
We are lucky to have the more genetically diverse, but equally authentically Spanish, herd of Shacklefords at the southern end of the Outer Banks to breed back into the Corollas in the off site breeding program. This will allow us both to preserve the strain and maintain its purity. The mares on Corolla are already demonstrating a shockingly low annual birth rate. Even my Corolla mares are showing difficulty carrying a foal from a Corolla stallion to term. Swimmer was bred to Tradewind last spring but she will not be having a foal this spring. I will breed her to a Shackleford stallion and I expect a beautiful foal from the paring.
This spring I will have a a foal born of two Corollas and two foals that have one Corolla and one Shackleford parent. In the future I hope that we continue to produce offspring from the Shackleford/Corolla pairs.
Legislation currently pending in Congress will allow some Shackleford mares to be released in the wild Corolla herd. This is a vital step towards insuring that the horses of Corolla remain wild and free for centuries to come.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Today at 1:00 pm friends and family will gather at the home of Ed Yousey to memorialize one of the founders of the Foothills Indian Horse Club, Jim Hicks. The FHIC is South Carolina based but nationally known. The work that Jim Hicks helped begin in that region will carry on after him.
Our deepest condolences go out to Jamie and family with the hope that though even in such sadness you will take pride. He helped begin something very important and in his efforts to inspire and draw others to care about these horses he created his own living memorial.
Friday, December 17, 2010
Those initials, G.T.T, Gone to Texas, were left on abandoned farms all over Tennessee in the 1830's, letting passers by know that the family had pulled up stakes to start a new life in Texas.
Two Corollas will be G.T.T. today as they are heading out to a new life at Karma Farms in Marshall, Texas. Vickie Ives has been involved in Corolla preservation and off site breeding for several years now. There is no one around that knows how to promote these horses the way that Vickie and her family and friends do.
This is a great development for the future of these horses.
(No, that is not a Corolla pictured above. He is Medicine Iron, a great Chinco-Stang that we bred here.)
The house pictured in the previous post is NOT the 16700's era farm house that I speak of constructing in the previous post. That is the Little House, where my mother was born and is currently the center for our program. It contains our library and the art program is housed upstairs. It is only about 120-140 years old
Thursday, December 16, 2010
If everything could go exactly as I wanted it we would be a center for the preservation of nearly extinct colonial livestock and a center for education. I do not mean this so much in the class room sense, but more a matter of experiential learning, where participants are exposed to history, natural horse care, natural horsemanship, experimental archeology, stone age technology, animal husbandry agriculture, and the host of other topics that should come to mind to my riders and even to visitors making their first trip to the see the horses.
I have had white relatives living within a 20 mile circle of the Little House (shown above)since 1674. My Indian ancestors may have moved into the Tidewater region around 500 A.D.
A small colonial dwelling with a few meager out buildings, a food garden patch, a tobacco patch, and a host of authentic colonial livestock appropriate to the late 1600's exists in a small 4 or 5 acre patch close by. Too close, in fact. At the moment it lives only in my mind. I wish that I could take you all there to see it because it is a fascinating place. It isn't a Colonial mansion or a southern plantation. It is just a little patch of land where an indentured servant, just freed from his bondage on the Peninsula, has moved, hoping to make a better life each year and waiting for Sarah Jane to end her indenture so that they can be married and she can join him on the thing that he holds dear--his home, his land. No one in his family in England had ever owned land, but here he was 22 years old, owning land and having more freedom than life across the Ocean could ever have afforded him.
To move the farm out of my mind and into my pasture will be a difficult process. I will have to take things one step at a time, never biting off more than I can chew. I am starting to think about my first steps. Baby steps.
I am working on obtaining Spanish goats and some very unusual looking pigs now. I do not want to rush things but I do not want to put it off too long. Such things can never be calculated with precision, but if one multiplies my very low triglyceride levels with my very low cholesterol levels and divides that by how poorly I pay attention while driving, I probably have more than a dozen years to get this all done.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
This is a shot of our riders at the Christmas Parade. We received the Second Place Trophy. There were many unusual things about our group. There were four generations of my family riding. The youngest rider was three and the oldest rider was 73. We had riders and rider's families participating, both as riders and walkers. I especially like the fact that some many family members of our riders joined in. Bill and Lea looked great in their Indian attire and each lead the parade riding formerly wild Corolla Spanish mustangs, with Lea riding a stallion. Our group included three formerly wild Corolla stallions and two mares that will produce this some of this spring's new foals for the Corolla off site breeding program. We had the largest group of riders among all of the horse groups and we rode all but four or five of the horses there and home.
We had about 18 riders and every horse in our group was trained by my riders and me. This is how we do things--together as a team.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
When I was fourteen years old I sat on my bed dazed at the realization that there was no way that my knees were going to allow me to play baseball much longer. If I was not a baseball player then who would I be? Not what would I be, but who would I be? My self identity at the time was that I was the person who absolutely spattered anyone who tried to reach home plate. I was a catcher/goalie/gatekeeper/bouncer/mine field. The most exciting moments in my life were when someone would try to run over me in order to score. That was a pleasure that could not last.
Music and horses last. This is a shot from the day after Thanksgiving when we gathered at the Little House and I was teaching some of my little riders a few ancient songs with meaning. Look closely at the back of the head that you see in the picture. That is Daddy. He is about 73 or 74. He started working plow horses in the field before he was old enough to go to school. He started playing guitar a few years later. He still plays guitar, rides, trains, and helps with all of the physical work involved in keeping everything going.
When my little riders are grown they will put aside childish things but they will carry with them a knowledge and love of horses that will last life long.
A few months ago Phil, Sharon and the kids were non riders who were completely new to the horse world. They are now owners of two beautiful horses, Stands With a Fist, shown here, and Bear Coat Miles, a Corolla/BLM colt. This family illustrates what the future of horse ownership can be in this country. First and foremost, they are novices with two untrained young horses. They chose not to remain novices. Phil has absorbed great books like "Soul of a Horse" and they have taken advantage of everything that RFD-TV has had to offer. The mare is now being ridden in the woods and Bear Coat will be there this spring, not because they send him off for "30 days professional training", but because they will be the backbone of his training with solid direction and assistance from those of us who have been doing this for a while.
Unlike far too many modern parents, they have encouraged Emily to work through her natural fear when riding instead of simply surrendering to it. They are teaching her to face life's challenges. They have given Andrew every opportunity to hone his newly found riding skill and he has taken great advantage of it. Phil and Sharon are teaching their children the importance of being part of something important.
They are a great family but they are not unique. The world is full of potential horse owning families like this. It is our duty to find them, teach them, and put a horse under them. The rest will come naturally.
Monday, December 13, 2010
For all you older teens and young women out there. Quit spending your money on expensive beauty aids, shampoos, and cleansers. If you really want to look good--ride a Corolla.
(Lea and Croatoan at the Christmas parade. You will see them both on our Corolla documentary.)
Pardon me while I take a moment to wrestle with the most important question facing the future of horsemanship in America--"How can we best hasten the implosion of the established horse world and replace it with system of enlightened horsemanship based on natural horsemanship, natural horse care, and and natural hoof care?"
The established horse world is fueled by greed and revolves around competitions which lead owners to view horses as fungible goods. The constant need to buy a "better" horse (one that gets a blue colored ribbon instead of a red colored ribbon)has given rise to an industry that supports over production and most sickenliy of all, horse slaughter.
Does not a registry which supports horse slaughter as being a humane solution to the problem of "unwanted horses" indict itself? Just as some rights are self evident, are not some wrongs self evident?
In the long term the current state of the horse market may be in the best interest of horses and real horsemanship because it will help to drive those most motivated by greed into other ventures. Lawd, I sure will miss those people. With them gone who will I have to tell me how wrong I am?
Herein for me lies the dilemma. There is no hope of preserving the Corollas unless more people understand and are given reason to care about their plight. The same is true of every other strain of Colonial Spanish Horse. How can that most effectively be done? I do not believe that involving ourselves in competitions that are the underpinning of the established horse world is the best way to do so.
I believe that getting our horses out in front of the non-horse owning world is vitally important. We must attract new owners that do not bring with them the crippling baggage of being an "experienced" member of the established horse world.
I am a mediator, a conciliator, and a compromiser by nature. I view conflict nearly always as something to avoid. However, in this case conflict is necessary. I cannot pretend that there is any validity what so ever in the preachings of the established horse world and the artificial agribusiness that has grown up to support. That is the case whether we speak of bits, nutrition, shoeing, or proper conformation. For the horse's sake we must refrain from doing anything for the simple reason that that is how the experts say that it should be done.
I do not want to do anything that remotely suggests that I am seeking the approval of these people. I do not want my horses to earn the respect of such people, but I would love for those experts to earn the respect of my horses.
The only effective alternative that I see for myself is to seek to be known by my fruits, to teach by doing. People start to notice.
"Steve's horses do not wear shoes but they are never lame. Steve's horses live outside 24/7 but they do not get respiratory problems. Steve's horses were wild or at least their parents were and they are gentler and friendlier than any horses around. Steve's horses are ponies but they often carry riders weighing over 200 lbs, sometimes for fifty miles in a day. Steve's horses are trained by his little riders but they are safer and more reliable than many horses trained by professionals. Steve's horses only colic in the rarest of circumstances. Maybe I should take a look at how his horses live if these are the results that he gets."
So that is where I draw the line. Parades, such as the one pictured in the shot above, we participate in. Horse shows, except for those of the type that the American Indian Horse Association holds, we do not participate in.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Here is a shot from yesterday's Smithfield Christmas Parade that says a lot about our program. Bill and his daughter Lea were two of the hits of the parade. Both were riding Corolla Spanish mustangs. Both have completed fifty mile in a day rides with us. Both have built on the knowledge that they brought to our program to the degree that both are able to train a colt to face the challenges that our horses face in the woods with each ride. Lea has a beautiful American Indian Horse named Washikie that she trained. Bill has put countless hours into helping with maintenance and construction and now handles all of our tack repair. Take a look at that saddle. He made it and his head dress.
Kids, history, families, hard work,hard riding, natural horsemanship, promotion and protection of Corolla Spanish mustangs--that is Mill Swamp Indian Horses and Bill has been a big part of making it that way.
Friday, December 10, 2010
How different my life would have been if I knew more about horse's when I went to my first BLM mustang auction. They were advertising rare and historic mustangs called Sulphurs that were eligible for adoption. When I saw the Sulphurs that were there I considered them too small, (13 hands maybe) and too old (7 years old) for me to possibly have any use for. How wrong I was!
Sulphurs are also among the rarest and oldest strains of Spanish Colonial Horses left around. They share much history with the horses of the Outer Banks of North Carolina, though they come from the west. I understand that they are not gaited but have particularly smooth gaits. They are beautiful and they are nearly gone.
Those interested in preserving the Corollas can learn from what is happening with the Sulphurs. But for the work of a handful of owners of these horses adopted from the BLM, they would all be lost to history in a few short years. These owners and the network that they have developed are all that staves off the extinction of this strain. The strain will survive only as long as these owners can continue to work together.
These horse's have a special place in the history of California just as the Bankers do for those of us in the coastal southeast. But for this stallion's color, he has much in common with a Corolla's appearance. Note his rafter hips and high spine. That is what a Spanish mustang should look like. Those attributes, coupled with narrow chests, short backs, heavy bone, and round cannon bones are a big part of the package that produces a horse with unparalleled endurance.
Whether one lives on the Pacific coast or Atlantic City, one must recognize that these nearly extinct strains of Colonial Spanish horses are part of all of our history. Those who care about Corollas should support the work of the handful of people who are striving to preserve the Sulphurs. Corolla protection should be vitally important to Sulphur owners. We all have to support the efforts to preserve the Choctaw strains. We are all in this together.
The only thing worse for the future of these horses than having their proponents divided against each other is.....well, actually, nothing is worse.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Though I cannot imagine why, several of you have asked me questions about my background and what it was that brought me to develop a program to teach kids to tame wild horses and to work to preserve the Corollas. I cannot say that I understand your joint urge to be Oprah, but I will set out some things that have made my life unusual. I must throw out the first disclaimer that unusual is not a synonym for interesting.
1. My parents had over 100 foster children in our home while I was growing up. I have a dozen little adopted brothers and sisters.
2. I got my first horse at age 2. He was one. The following year I rode him unassisted in the local Christmas parade.
3.I play seven or eight musical instruments, all self taught. I am great on none of them but good enough to fool audiences into occasionally considering me a real musician.
4. From a very young age I tried to divorce myself from any affection towards material possessions. Perhaps the best decision that I made as a preschooler was to refrain from loving anything that cannot breathe.I once realized that I had never even noticed what kind of truck I had, although I had had it for four years. I asked the man at the feed store to fill up the blue truck with hay. He asked me if the Ford or the Chevrolet was mine and I had to go outside and look because I had never noticed.
5. I was a double major at William and Mary in Government and Religion. I loved college. I despised law school. It was like having death come over for breakfast every morning. When I was nineteen tests indicated that I had Lou Gehrigs's Disease. Turned out that I did not. Guess that I just did not study enough for those tests.
6. When I was young I was a successful politician in my own right and was considered to have a pretty good strategic mind for campaigns. When I was an undergraduate, the President of the United States called me at my dorm to thank me for the assistance that I had given his campaign during the primary. At age 27 I became the youngest member of a governing body of a county in Virgina and at age 31 I became Chairman of the Board of Supervisors. I used to read four newspapers before breakfast every morning and worked to read three books each week. I am now free from all of that. I have absolutely no interest in political office now and would not accept one were it given to me.
7. I have been teaching the high school Sunday school class at my church for over 25 years.
8. I am mega married. I know of no other couple as close as are my wife and I.
9. I have been a prosecutor, primarily in juvenile court for over a decade. The thing at which I am best in my job is the thing that absolutely grinds up my life. I handle all the molestation cases because kids always talk to me and tell me things that they do not tell others.
10. There was a time when I was quite entertaining in court. The court room was my play pen and I had fun trying non-molestation cases. That began to come to an end nearly two years ago when Lido died in a hunting accident. Since then skills in many facets of my life have slipped, but none more so than in a court room.
11. I prefer the old to the new, the simple to the ornate, the reliable to the risky, and the time worn to the new fangled. The only modern technology that I really enjoy is e mail because it reduces the time that I have to spend on the phone.
My Corollas are one of the oldest strains of American horses. They are as simple as pound cake. In darkness, water, mud, heat, tall timber, and cut over scrub, they are perfectly reliable. They have stood the test of time.
Our test is to see if we can help them remain wild and free for 200 more years.
(It is a strange thing to write so much about one's self. For a moment I thought that it was making me feel naked. Then I realized that it is just that I had not gotten dressed to feed up yet)
Several years ago I was attending a planning meeting for our county fair, which was to be held at a brand new site. There were still some pieces of tree roots up to about a foot long and as big around as one's thumb scattered across the grounds here and there. A member of the established horse world pointed out that no one with quality horses would risk injury to their horses by bringing them out into a place of such unsure footing where an injury could result at any moment.
Last night I joined four of my riders for a frozen ride in the woods in pitch darkness. We road though the cut over and cantered down the lumber paths on several Corollas and a Chincoteague/Mustang cross and Comet.
Thank God we own such scraggly horses. If we had been stuck with quality horses we would have never made it home.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Most people are aware that certain precautions must be taken when horses are first exposed to spring pasture, particularly those that are lush with clover. Not enough people realize that they have to take the same precautions in the fall with the cool season grasses and clovers. This is especially true for a horse that shows signs of insulin resistance. In regions that have finally gotten a bit of rain after months of drought the pastures can be particularly dangerous.
Just as in the spring I restrict my horses to brief sessions each day in the pasture until they have acclimated their bodies to the sugars in those plants.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
A.P. Carter died before I was a year old. I was 19 when Maybelle Carter died and it was the first time that I just skipped class at William and Mary sat in my dorm and played a guitar all day. Grand Pa Jones is gone and I just watched a memorial tribute to Charlie Waller. Before Lester Flatt died I saw him perform at a festival when he was not strong enough to stand and played sitting down.
When music had meaning,when music could be heard as clear words telling an important story, they were all there. And now they are all gone. Today's bluegrass instrumentals usually feature jazz influenced riffs and today's country music comes with all the trappings of cheap pop bands from the 1970's. Too often in modern country songs one could insert the line, "I'm sitting here in this trailer court and I can't pay my child support, " and no one would notice because it would fit right in.
Bottom line, so far this has been a sorry excuse for a century.
(Some of my riders and their family members are seen above playing music from a time when music had meaning, in the shot above.)
Sunday, November 28, 2010
I never was much for saying please. I find calling someone Mr or Ms to be profoundly obsequious. If I do not know someone well enough to call them by their first name then I certainly do not know them well enough to converse with them. However, I always try to remember to say thank you because I genuinely appreciate it when others give me a hand, particularly with the kids and the horses. It would be impossible to run this program with out all of the help that I get from riders and their families and it delights me to see people take a sense, not just of pride, but of ownership in the program.
However, I do hesitate to thank all of our great helpers in public because I fear that as much help as I get, I will surely forget to mention someone. Some people have a hard time understanding why I delegate so much authority and responsibility to teens and very young women. Completely aside from the fact that I benefit greatly from their help, I also want to teach them leadership, competence and confidence. I think that this is very important in a world that values teenage girls and young women nearly entirely on their looks. (Such a short sighted focus! By the time a man is forty years old he realizes that nothing looks better on a women than competence.)
But as I am often told, I digress. I especially want to thank Ed Yousey for driving all the way up from South Carolina on Friday to give me a water tank that will make watering the horses in our near permanent drought conditions much easier. That was a long drive and will be a great help to us.
Years ago I heard about a discussion concerning a policy matter that was before one of the mustang registries. I was not present for the discussion. One of the participants in the conversation advised another that if I could not be reached by phone to simply contact Rebecca because she would know what I would think and would be able to speak for me. They were right.
I have helpers who provide me with any assistance that I ask for and I have helpers that provide assistance before I ask and I even have helpers who provide assistance when I did not even know that I needed help.
Being responsible for an important program does not appeal to me, but, being part of a team that runs a very important program is wonderful.
I find it to be a wholly undignified endeavor. However, if I did dance I most surely would have been dancing all over the woods yesterday. Yesterday was Star Fire's first ride in the woods. Star Fire's father is Manteo, one of my most beautiful Corolla stallions. Her mother is a Chincoteague/mustang cross that is one of the prettiest mares that we have raised.
Her owner is Sarah Lin, a long time little rider and one of my favorite distractions in this world. (e.g. When I got home from Lido's funeral I realized that someone had slipped a cherry tomato into my suit pocket. I soon learned that Sarah Lin did it because, as she put it, she "wanted you to have something to smile about.") She is one of the stars of the DVD on mustang training that we produced several years ago.
She made no bones about the fact that she was nervous to be taking Star Fire on her first trail ride. On the other hand, I tried my best to cover the extreme tension that I felt. From the very beginning, when she was only about 4 or 5 years old, Sarah Lin trusted me and did exactly what I told her to do when riding. I feel more responsible for her safety than I do with some of the other kids because of that. Were she to get hurt, chances are that the injury would occur while she was doing something exactly the way that I told her to.
We saddled Star Fire and slipped the hackamore over her head. She took the number two position and fell in behind me. I had not ridden Holland much this week and he was more wide open than usual. He was keyed up and ready to move out. (I suspect that his mood was affected by the enormous hole that was burning through my stomach as we set out.)
We took a short jog--no problem. We rode by some heavy lumbering equipment--no problem. I let Holland gait on out for about a half of a mile. As I looked behind me I could see the filly moving her hips a bit from side to side with her front legs extending as if to reach out as far as each limb could go. She had not inherited Manteo's gait, but instead had one much prettier--the long smooth step of Red Feather. Sarah Lin was grinning and the fire in my stomach had just about burned itself out.
We were on a long straight stretch of the path. I had enough of a lead on her so that if Star Fire bolted I would be able to spin Holland to the left to block her in. I wanted to try everything but I did not want anything to go bad to ruin this perfect start for this wonderful young horse. I gritted my teeth a bit and opened Holland up into a canter. To my surprise, Star Fire gaited faster and faster but did not break into a canter. She looked calm and as relaxed as a ten year old trail horse. Just then I heard Sarah Lin snap in a firm voice, "CANTER!"
And the wonderful little horse did. No crow hop. No hesitation. No fear.
This first ride lasted nearly two hours. Two hours of utterly problem free trail riding for the little horse. If I was the kind of person to do such things, I would probably still be doing one of those Irish River Dances this morning.
(This shot of of Sarah Lin on one of last year's long rides.)