Sunday, February 28, 2010

Geriatric Success

Sundance is my only truly old horse. She is probably in her thirties.Every calorie combination that I tried failed to keep weight on her. She was strong and healthy, just rail thin. She could not swallow hay because her back teeth have worn flat. She made no appreciable gains by adding corn oil to her senior diet.

Southern States senior feed has rice oil and bran and she has begun to put on a lot of weight. However, she missed the chewing pleasure that she got from hay. She found a replacement on her own and, oddly enough, she not only can chew it, she swallows and digests it well--tree bark.

Of course, bark and browse are part of a horse's natural diet, especially in the winter. This is another case of how letting a horse do what comes natural is beneficial to the horse even when it flys in the face of modern ideas about horse care.

Home Coming

Valor would be dead but for the care my riders provided her while she convalesced in my mustang pen. She was removed from the wild because she was a physical wreck. She was nursing a foal and had some sort of internal infection. She was the skinniest living creature that I had ever seen. When she came to us she was too weak to hold her head up and was covered with ticks.

Her road to recovery was slow but she is in great shape now. She has spent about a year with the wonderful people at Wrangler Ranch who provide temporary boarding for Corollas that have to be removed from the wild. While there she received great care but no training.

Her body is great but she is a...well, what Barbara Bush said "rhymes with witch." She is cranky and does not like people. While looking in the mirror a few weeks ago I saw a person that Valor could learn to like.

Tuesday she will be the newest wild horse at Mill Swamp Indian Horses. I must admit that I am a bit excited about it.

I Wonder How The Old Folks Are At Home

I woke up this morning to a infomercial about the youth restoring effects of vitamin B-12. I slept pretty soundly last night. Here is a brief rundown of what we did yesterday.

Woke up at 1:50 am, drank a little coffee, went to the horse lot. Emily and I began a series of training rides just after 3:00 am. We trotted, gaited and cantered for 29.4 miles, changing to different horses at two intervals. Finished up the relay sessions by 8:05. Beth fixed us a quick breakfast and at 8:58 we were back at the horse lot to meet Hannah and her brother Caleb, my two newest riders for a riding lesson. We cut brush and stretch a new roll of fence through the woods while the Meyers family along with several other riders carried the logs out of the woods that I cut on Friday and began to assemble the decorative pole fence that we are constructing in front of the little house. At noon we had a meeting of young riders to go over program changes and we returned to the woods to work fence. All the while Kay was meticulously painting a new quote on the barn wall while Lisa shoveled dirt into pot holes. Liz and Ashley worked steadily on the fence. Brenna and Lydia were in the round pen working with a nervous mustang.

At 4:00 three of my riders went home with me for a quick supper. We then returned to the horses lot for a night time ride through the woods that lasted an hour an a half.

I am fifty years old. I do not take vitamin B-12 though it might be helpful. I do take HL at high levels. HL (Horse Lifestyle) is keeping me so young that I am afraid if I added in Vitamin B-12 I might become immature.

(Here is a picture of a twenty year old wild stallion at Corolla. Seems like HL is keeping him young too.)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Where His Spirit Is That Will Be a Good Place To Be

"Oh yea, Steve, I forgot to tell you. I had a dream about Lido," KC called out in the pitch darkness. We were on a nighttime ride. Persa was gaiting smoothly as she cut through the night air like a bullet. I had just looked down to my hands and could not see them in the darkness.

"But KC, you never met Lido. He died before you ever came out here," I pointed out.

"I know but I saw a picture of him. It was a neat dream. It was just me and him talking in my barn. I don't remember everything we talked about, mainly goats, but it was so cool," he excitedly went on.

Black Elk was once asked the location of the grave of Crazy Horse. "Where his body is does not matter. For it is grass. But where his spirit is that will be a good place to be."

I do not know exactly where Lido's ashes are but I know that they are scattered across the farm where we trained Nick, broke wild horses, did clinics and demonstrations,and went on his first trail ride. Where those ashes are does not matter. Where his spirit is, that will be a very good place to be.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Lot of Emilys

I cannot remember all of the kids names, especially when I have 12 of them out there at once. I often call them by the wrong names, even kids who have ridden with me for years. However, I have so many girls named Emily the odds are that if I call someone Emily I will be right. We had Big Emily, Little Emily, and you name it Emilys. We had so many Emilys that my last Emily, Emily Wilda, was "Spare Emily."

Until yesterday. Yesterday she trotted so far and rode so well that Emily Wilda can no longer be Spare Emily. She is now Wilda Beast.

Do As She Says

And as she does. Little girls do not have enough solid role models in the horse world. The competitive horse world produces very few of them and the conventional model of riding lessons is not designed to bring out the best in kids.

I am delighted to have a very strong role model for my little riders in our program. Emily is good with horses, great with kids, and even better at simply living. She is better at moving little girls from fear to first rate horsemanship than I am.

She has helped me see gaps in my teaching model. I have never placed any emphasis on "keeping the horse out of your space" and I could not understand why so many others placed such importance on the concept. I never found a problem with having horses respect me, move for me, get out of my way, and avoid running over me.

As Emily pointed out, "You look different to a horse than Carley does." (Carley is a great young rider who will one day be a great horse trainer, but the preteen weighs about as much as my left leg.) As obvious as it should have been to me, I did not recognize that my life experiences gave me a way of moving, and a natural body language that horses respect. I am the oldest son, of the oldest son, of the oldest son of an only son. Partly as a result of that, from about the time I stopped wearing diapers I thought it only natural for others to do what ever I told them to do. That belief shapes the way I move in a round pen.

Emily helps instill confidence in the youngest riders in a highly effective, yet very different way than do I. Emily's consistent theme is "You can learn to do it. I used to have your problem and now, look at me. I can do it." I have always sought to instill confidence in kids with a consistent theme of "You can do it because I believe in you and I believe that you can do it."

Emily is a good teacher and I am learning a lot from her.

Energy Drain

Things are not the same at the horse lot lately. The mud is beyond belief. In fifty years I have never seen such a prolonged wet spell. Simply walking into the horse lot raises one's heart rate to anaerobic levels. The sky is the color of buckshot and the mud covered horses are the color of soot.

But that is not the biggest problem. We are missing a force of energy that I have come to rely on. Bill has been out for a while recovering from surgery and his absence seems to make everything move slower. Yesterday it took 55 minutes to saddle up for a ride. We had a few new riders and another complication or two, but given the same situation if Bill had been there we would have taken less than 20 minutes before we would have been ready to move out.

Organizations need thinkers, but they also need doers. Bill is both and I sure am looking forward to having him back out there with us.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Frame Overo Deer In Front of My Home Lives

I saw her in her first fall, a frame overo fawn,
Snow white sides and a pie-bald face.
But that cannot be. There is no such thing.
A 10 year old wild stallion, an 8 year old rider
Cantering through the woods with confidence and grace.
But that cannot be. There is no such thing.

The following fall with her first fawn at her side,
a plain brown fawn, she burst by me like a flame.
But that cannot be. There is no such thing.
A two hundred pound rider on a 13 hand horse
50 miles in one day, cruising in comfort, neither in pain.
No, that cannot be. There is no such thing.

Now she is grown and has raised three fawns.
Looking from my window and I saw her stand by my mail box.
But that cannot be. There is no such thing.
Bare footed Spanish mustangs cantering happily through rocks.
Surely, that cannot be. There is no such thing.

When last we met she stood silently by the trail.
white sides glistening before she bolted through the pines.
But that cannot be. There is no such thing.
Little children training wild horses and making fine 'quines.
Impossible! that cannot be. There is no such thing.

Yes,a frame overo deer in front of my house lives.
Each time I see her I am reminded that what some think isn't; really is.
Oh yes,she CAN be. She is such a beautiful thing.
Little children saving Corollas, a soft open hand conquers a developer's fist.
And it WILL be. Wild and Free, such a beautiful thing.

(A frame overo is a pattern of pinto coloration often found in Paint horses. The white pattern is surrounded by a darker color that goes around the horse's top and bottom much like a picture frame. This doe is very very real and carries that same unusual marking.)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Standing On Higher Ground

Riding through the snow covered woods in the darkness gave me one big surprise. The horses maintained their footing and the lead horses trotted along the safest part of the trail even though they could not see the ground. In the recesses of their minds they had memorized where to take a hard left and which side of the path was the safest for jumping. To a human eye the trail all looked the same, just a blanket of snow. The horses could feel their way along the familiar sections of trail.