Sunday, May 30, 2010

Upon This Rock

Red Feather's last daughter is in the off site breeding program and currently is a resident of Maine. In a few more years she will be bred to an appropriate stallion and Red Feather's line will continue. This shot is of her last year.

Great New Book

Karen McCalpin, Executive Director of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, has completed her book, "Saving the Horses of Kings". the book is now at the publishers. See the Corolla Wild Horse Fund in order to reserve your copy now. I have read the book in preprint format. The photos and text cannot be beat.

We have a few copies of our book, "And a Little Child Shall Lead Them: Learning From Wild Horses and Small Children," available for direct order. While there are a range of purchasing opportunities available, all copies ordered directly from us allow us to donate a portion of the proceeds to the United States Equine Rescue League's regional branch. To order your own copy simply contact us at They make great Father's Day gifts.

The Crossing

Wanchese, my Shackleford stallion, has been bred to Secotan, a Corolla mare owned by one of my students, Amanda. Wanchese's beauty has jumped out at everyone from the first day that we had him. It has taken a while for Secotan to reach full bloom, at least to my eye.

It struck me as odd that when she first saw them, Vickie Ives told me that she thought that Secotan and Baton Rouge, another of my Corolla mares, were two of the best Spanish horses that I had. Quite frankly, I could not see it. However, in the past two years Baton Rouge has muscled out and Secotan is clearly here rival in simple gracefulness and beauty. Vickie was right.

This will be our first Corolla/Shackleford cross. This summer I hope to breed, Persa, a Shackleford mare to Manteo, an elegant Corolla stallion. By doing so we will be restoring genetic diversity to the horses while still maintaining a pure strain of Banker horses.

I plan for the resulting foals from these two crosses to take a major role in the off site breeding program. We are offering for sale some first rate horses that are not Bankers in order to make room for more Corolla and Shackleford breeding stock. Some are finished trail horses, a few are 1/2 Corolla colts, and others are started horses that we will completely train before they are sold.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Sons of the Sand

This week we have bred Tradewind, shown above, to Baton Rouge and Swimmer. All three were captured wild as adults in Corolla. Their off spring will be part of the Corolla off site breeding program. To date I have been contacted by two people who would like to receive one of the foals to participate in the program. I expect two beautiful foals to hit the ground next April.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

On Point

The criticism of the concept of the registries working together to help save the endangered Spanish Colonial Horse comes in several different directions. Intellectually, the weakest argument is to argue against concepts that are not on the table. Regardless of what one might read on any of the mustang message boards cooperation would not require that all concept of strains be abolished and that all of the horses would be bred into an amalgam of one type. It would not require that any registry be abolished. The registries can and should confederate together for the promotion of the horses. Trivial issues such as what is a stain and what is a breed can be settled after more important issues, such as how many angels can dance on the head of of needle, are settled.

Past personality problems between various parties in the registries are also no reason to refuse to try to work together. This cry of "they done us wrong" helps preserve not one horse.

Lastly, predictions that it can never be are also off point. We can decide if it will ever be.

Let whiners whine. Let dividers divide. Now is the time for leaders to lead.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Old Time Religion

This morning, my father, who is about 73, my niece who is about five, and Terry, who is not about to have her age discussed in this forum, rode to church on horse back. The trip is about 4 miles through the woods. Daddy is riding Croatoan, a wild Corolla stallion. Little Emily is riding Wind-In-His-Hair, a great little Chincoteague, and Terry is on Comet. (That's right the same Comet whose meanness is discussed at length in my book)

Dr. Sponenberg's View on the Matter

Dr. Phil Sponenberg has worked for years helping to preserve heritage breeds of animals. He is without equal on the subject of mustang strain preservation. He recently sent me his thoughts on the importance of mustang registires working together to save and promote these Spanish horses.

"Having a unified registry for Colonial Spanish Horses in the USA (Spanish Mustangs, Spanish Barbs, Barbs, and several local names) has great advantages. This is more true now than at any time in the past, because the current horse market has taken such a beating with the depressed prices for horses. The general depression of horse market is due to many factors, most of which are out of our control, but some of the recent changes are likely to be long-term rather than a consequence of the general economic downturn. In the face of depression of the general horse market, it is all the more important to join ranks around this breed and to effectively promote it. The multiplicity of registries only fragments an already small gene pool into ever-smaller units, each of which has the task of association and registry support, in addition to the all-important task of breed promotion. The American Quarter Horse had several registries in the first half of the 1900s, and only after they all sat down and decided it was all right to respect another breeder’s horse – and not breed to it! – did it become possible to amalgamate these into a single registry that has become the most successful of any horse registry. While the Quarter Horse as a breed has a number of perplexing and troubling issues around it – political and biological – it remains a fact that it is indeed a very successfully produced, promoted, and merchandized horse breed.

I can think of few drawbacks to more unity among breeders and users of this breed. One potential one is that different groups have different definitions of what should be included and what should be omitted. This question has no easy answer. A registry that allows for strain identification could come close to satisfying this potential negative, as breeders could rally around their chosen strain and still function within the larger organization. A second potential drawback is that all strains could be successfully amalgamated into a single composite, and we would then lose the distinctiveness of many of the strains. This, too, could be solved by strong advocacy groups for each strain as an identifiable separate entity.

Advantages are numerous, but included in these is the advantage of not duplicating incredible effort that goes into maintaining registries. Added to that can be that a single registry negates the increased cost and work involved in double, triple, and quadruple registering horses that qualify for multiple registries. The generally small groups involved in each registry, after some sort of unification, would be more able to promote the breed, and hopefully to increase demand for it. Unification would lead to a decrease in confusion in the public’s mind concerning this breed and its identification (all those names!) as well as its abilities."

D. Phillip Sponenberg, DVM, PhD
Professor of Pathology and Genetics
Department of Biomedical Sciences
Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine



That is what members of different mustang registries must have for each other. Phrases like "mongrelized","mix breed", and "mutt" have no place in the conversation of those who want to preserve our Spanish horses. There is a wide enough range of sub-types within the Spanish mustang type to appeal to different people for very different reasons.

Pictured above is my Spanish Mustang Ta Sunka Witco. He is a bit over 14 hands and is the grandson of Choctaw Sundance. I think that he goes back to Yellow Fox on his mother's side. It is exceedingly rare to find a horse of any breed that combines his beauty, brains, and ability as a trail horse.

My other favorite horse is Holland. Holland is barely over 13 hands and was born wild on Shackleford Island. He is gaited, smooth, has unbelievable endurance and carries my 220 pound frame on 40 and 50 mile treks without difficulty. He does not has Ta Sunka's incredible pedigree and certainly does not have his looks.

I love them both, but I have more respect for Holland. Holland works harder for his pay check than does Ta Sunka. If I could only have one of them and no other horse, I think that I might take Holland. I have no doubt that most mustang breeders would not want to breed their mares to a stallion with as rough a look as Holland. I can respect their breeding decisions without having to accept their views as the template for what my breeding program should be.

Yesterday I had an experienced horse person out at the horse lot. She did not have experience with Spanish horses. As we walked past one of my favorite BLM mares I mentioned that even though she was not at all my type, she was a great horse and I would not sell her. She looked puzzled,"Why isn't she your type?" she asked.

I explained that she was way too tall for me at about 14.3 and that she was built like a Thoroughbred. I told her that 13.2 was my preference.

She looked surprised, but she respected my position.

That respect came from a member of the established horse world. Surely we are capable of developing the same degree of respect and civility among ourselves.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Jes' S'pose

If we are serious about teaching the history of the Spanish horse in early Colonial America we need to include not only the western story, but also the story of the Spanish horse in the southeast. Few people consider the fact that there was a time when the frontier of settlement was east of Richmond, Virginia. Even fewer realize that as early as 1621 feral horse bands were causing crop damage in eastern Virginia.

One of the reason that "history" is not relevant to many of us is that "history" has, all too often, been taught as simply the story of how rich folks used to live. Few of us are rich and in the past an infinitesimally smaller percentage were rich.

The story of the common settler (with uncommon courage)and his ordinary Spanish horse (with extraordinary ability) is rarely told.

Jes' S'pose...There was an outdoor living history museum with an accurate depiction of such a settlers' simple plank cabin, tobacco patch, gardens, goat,chicken, and pig pens, and his beautiful little Spanish horse, say from about the time of 1674. Jes' s'pose that that living history museum featured authentic, nearly extinct breeds of early colonial livestock. Jes' s'pose that that living history museum also served as a center to breed and promote all of these endangered heritage breeds of livestock.

Jes' S'pose we built it in pasture number 1.

Practical Science

The passion that drives one to dedicate one's life to preserving ancient horse strains can give rise to other passions that get in the way of that goal. Many of the most dedicated preservationist are hard core individualists. There is a time and place for hard core individualism, but there are also times that call for cooperation and team work.

Dr. Phil Sponenberg has lent his expertise to many organizations dedicated to preserving heritage breeds in general, and Spanish mustangs in particular. His observations on how to best work to preserve our horses are worthy of the strongest consideration.

If you have not read his great papers on the history of the Spanish horse in America today is a great day to get on the computer and do so.

Training to Ride Hard


Barefoot running is one of the newest/oldest exercise trends to come around. It is perhaps the best aroebic exercise to train and strenthen a rider's leg muscles. There are 100 other benefits to the exercise that can best be discovered by doing a bit of research and then hitting the road.

Serious rounds of Tabata Protocol sessions, and barefoot running, coupled with strength training for the core muscles, are the best combination of exercises that I have found to get one's body ready to comfortabley handle a 50 mile ride.

That plus hours upon endless hours in the saddle.

(Here is a shot that Emily took of my littlest little rider, my two year old grand daughter, training hard for her first big ride.)
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Can We Talk?

That old Joan Rivers line is a line that should be on the lips of the leadership of the Spanish Mustang Registry and the Horse of the Americas Registry. Momentum is building for support of a proposal that each registry appoint members of a joint committee to study ways that the two registries can work together to preserve the horses that descend directly from the Spanish explorers. Thoughtful people on both sides have recognized the need to make this one small step come into being. The annual meeting of the Spanish Mustang Registry is coming up soon and I hope that this issue will be on the table for discussion.

At this moment this is the most important issue facing our horses. It is time for all of us to look to the future instead of at past conflicts.

In the future we will all be able to look back at how we handle this opportunity and either say, "We built", or "We tore down."

Let's build.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

With An Eye On the Prize

Stephanie Lockhart is one of the more innovative and caring people involved in the mustang preservation movement. She has begun a new endeavor that is a great example of where we need to go with our horses. Keep your eyes on this blog and you will soon see a feature about the great work that she is doing.

Study Hard

Wake up, clear your mind and pay attention. This is an important announcement. To recap a bit: the primary purpose of this blog is to encourage others to teach natural horsemanship to kids and novices and encourage people to take on the challenge of training wild horses, colts, and "unwanted horses." Our secondary purpose is to work to help prevent the extinction of the wild Corolla Spanish mustangs.

I have looked at many of the "certification" programs that are available today. They have many great features and I criticize no clinician when I express the belief that serve the purpose of making money for the certifiers. They should be profitable. It is the American Way.

Unfortunately the cost of those programs and the associated training devices puts them out of the range of many aspiring horseman.

As has been expressed so often, what we do is not brain surgery. It is not magic. My little riders and I posses no mystical secrets. We simply seek to understand how a horse communicates, what makes a horse healthy, and what makes a horse happy. We then apply that knowledge to teach a horse to be our trusted, and trusting, companion. Everything that we do is done with an eye toward safety both for the horse and the trainer/rider.

We take this information on the road in clinics and we do programs on site. However, the digital age allows us to take this information to places that we will never go and to meet people that we will never see.

We are going to take full advantage of that digital highway by developing an on line program that teaches what we do. The program will be comprehensive. It will cover the following:
Our very dull, unexciting and safe method of starting wild horses and colts to saddle, from round pen to fifty mile in a day trail rides.
The importance of natural horse care.
The miracles that can be achieved with natural hoof care.
How we teach children and novices to not only ride, but to confidently train untouched horses.
And, lastly, how this knowledge can be used to develop and a program that will radically improve the quality of the lives of horses and children.

The program, entitled, "Saving Horses' Lives and Giving Kids a Life" will require a lot of work on the part of students but not a lot of money. There will be a required reading list which will include some of the great works written on natural horsemanship. Students who are using the program to train horses will be able to post videos of their work with those horses and we will suggest techniques to help the horse and trainer improve. There will be tests given with pass/fail grading. The key is to make sure that at the conclusion of the program the student understands and is able to apply the techniques that we use to teach children to teach wild horses and colts to be perfectly reliable trail mounts.

There will not be a complex system of levels and certifications. It will be very affordable. It will not be a theoretical study. It will be based on a proven model. It is designed to increase demand for horses by bringing new people into the horse world. It is a program that works every day in my horse lot.

Some of that proof is seen in the picture above. Those are my little riders on the wild horses that we trained together.

Details will be forth coming.

Pursuing Happiness

At JK's wedding I watched as a group of young people laughed, hugged, told stories and had a wonderful time. It struck me that if they were in pursuit of happiness they had found it. In pursuing happiness they were pursuing fun.

It dawned on me that my pursuit of happiness has changed over the years. Fun no longer produces happiness as it once did. When I was a young politician power produced happiness. Now I suspect that power would merely produce hassles, not happiness.

I have come to realize that my particular pursuit of happiness is simply the pursuit of beauty and peacefulness.

Quannah Parker, shown above, will have that beauty as he matures. Riding his father and others like him deep into the woods with my little riders gives me peace.

For me, the first step in the pursuit of happiness is a step toward the tack shed.

(Quannah Parker is one of the 1/2 Corolla foals that we produced by crossing Corolla stallions with outside mares. The 1/2 Corollas will not be used in the off site breeding program. They were bred for the sole purpose of creating super horses which combine the gentle Corolla gait, extraordinary endurance, and sweet nature with positive traits of a handful of mares. I only have two of the half Corolla colts that are available for sale. A portion of the proceeds of the sale of each 1/2 Corolla is donated to the Corolla Wild Horse Fund. Quannah's mother, Cynthia Parker, is a pure bred modern Appaloosa.)

Down But Not Quite Out

Lately I have been sore, sick, injured, exhausted, old, but mostly asleep. The paradox is that if I get enough sleep to function first rate, I do not have enough time to get everything done, even when the things that I do are done second rate. Lately I have found myself sleeping until 4 or 5 nearly every morning.
That does not leave enough time to write, feed up, exercise and ride in the morning and certainly leaves no time to train colts.
I am making some significant lifestyle changes that I hope will get my body back in gear. I am riding hard again. Hitting Atkins diet, kettle ball work out, barefoot running and a lot of core muscle exercises, which if coupled with waking up as early as I have been for the last twenty years will get me back up to par. I hope.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

Friday Rebecca rode Crazy Bear in the woods for the first time. I rode along even though I was rather ill. Sick or not, I did not want to miss this day. She has done a great job of training her colt while balancing her responsibilities as a wife and mother of two little boys. His behavior in the woods was perfect.

Crazy Bear has a great future in competitive trail riding. His father's lines go back to Yellow Fox and those lines come from Karma Farms in Texas, via Whispering Pines Spanish Mustangs. Rebecca says that he is as smooth a ride as a Corolla.

His father is gaited. His mother is graceful. And his owner is lucky to have such a horse.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Costs of Doing Business

If success is gaged in financial terms, our program is yet to be a proven success. I am proud of our other successes but I make no claim to being a good businessman. We are working on the financial short falls and with some changes that will reduce feed costs the venture can make a profit. I do not like those kinds of costs, but I can live with them.

Some of the other costs are not dealt with so easily. Running this place in addition to my job as a prosecutor is really taking a toll on my body. Tendinitis that seems ceaseless, muscle tears, banged up bones, these are costs that are not so easily handled. The irony is that it takes so much time to repair fence, water the horses, and worm them that I do not have enough time to train horses, or simply ride as much as I need to. To make matters worse, I seems that I have been operating over the past 10 days with a case of strept throat.

A cold blooded analysis of the situation can yield but one result--chronological hyper-extension. That is the real problem. I have stretched my body for about all my age can handle. I am only old chronologically speaking, but it turns out that that is the only kind of age that matters.