Friday, October 29, 2010

Known By Their Fruits

As rare as Colonial Spanish horses are, those who work to preserve and care for them are even rarer. One of those families in another state has faced a recent tragedy and they need our help to assist with their horses.

A future post will give the details so keep your eyes on the blog for next few days. We have each been given the opportunity to help out in this crisis. That opportunity is a gift in itself.

Each tree is known by its fruit. This is our opportunity to be an orchard.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Done Lost My Cookie Cutter

Having never once even whiffed, much less breathed deeply, of the chloroform of conformity, I do not reflexively consider the word "different" to be a criticism. Several years ago a mother told me that she was looking for a "conventional riding lesson program" for her child.

As that great sage from the 1970's, Mr. T, would say, "I pity the fool that would call me conventional!"

The differences between our program and conventional riding programs can best be viewed by comparing a brief summary of the week's activities at a conventional riding program and the last week at Mill Swamp Indian Horses.

Kids in conventional riding programs across this nation spent the week:
1. Riding in a circle in a sandy arena
2. On a nearly lame 32 year old Warm blood cross
3. Around an embittered, middle aged instructor
4. Who on each third lap snapped, "Sit Up Straight!"

Kids in our program spent the week:
1. With the opportunity for a five mile canter before school
2. A two hour night ride through the woods on Monday in total darkness
3. Trimming hooves and worming difficult horses
4. Joining in for portions of a fifty mile ride on Friday,(or completing another fifty mile in a day ride the way Lydia did, on her own horse that she trained herself, from a colt to an experienced trail horse, all by the ripe old age of 15, (Lydia, not the horse)
5. Painting in Kay's great art class in which some of our riders produce beautiful paintings that are sold at the gift shops of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, the proceeds of which go entirely to the Corolla Wild Horse Fund.
6. Mending fences and sowing pastures.
7. Riding through the woods to a Mountain man Rendezvous where they showed the participants the kind of Spanish Colonial and American Indian Horses that mountain men actually rode. (Our youngest rider on that expedition is six years old.)

Except for that, we are just like every other conventional riding instruction program across this nation.

Now sit up straight and ride a circle around me while I yell for you to sit up straight.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Shinin' Times

My little riders and I have demonstrated Corollas, Shacklefords, mustangs, and other Indian Horses in parades, at clinics, at fairs, and festivals, but Saturday will be a first for us. We are going to show living, historic horses to a group of living history enthusiasts.

We will be riding through the woods into a neighboring county for a mountain man Rendezvous put on by the Old Virginia Primitive Riflemen. We will not be in period costume, but we will be riding horses that are in period costume twenty four hours of every day.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I Ride, Therefore I Am

Hannah has learned to ride with her ears--She listens. She seeks direction, follows instructions, and applies what she is taught. She is only one of my new crop of little riders that will become the backbone of our program over the next several years. Jenny, Matthew, Hannah, Samantha, Andrew, Ashley, Emily W., and Emily F. will be teaching new little riders in a few more years. Jessica, who is too old to be a very little rider, is a promising young teen who will become not just a rider, but a trainer and a teacher.

More leaven for the future. And is it a good thing, because, as Hannah pointed out to Emily M, soon I will be too old to keep all of this up.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Following the Crowd Over a Cliff

Training wild horses is easier than raising healthy children. Forty years ago in rural cultures in every corner of America being a good parent meant to work to raise children who developed solid values, a good work ethic, and concern for their neighbors. Kids worked hard and played hard. Scrapes and bruises were signs of an active, healthy life, not evidence of abuse.

In today's parenting ethos, being a good parent means to shelter children from physical challenges and to demonstrate one's love for a child by purchasing the latest expensive electronic gadget at the child's whim. The result is a pandemic of adolescent obesity and panic disorders, particularly among boys.

Ashley was not raised to cower back from physical challenges. Unfortunately she is part of an ever shrinking minority of kids. We recognize what a threat cigarettes are to a kid's health and as a result no parent would buy a carton of Camels for a kid. We pretend not to recognize what a threat the sedentary lifestyle that video games are to a kid's health and as a result parents contribute to the wasting away of their kid's health with computer games and a soft lifestyle.

I have no doubt that there are horse's in Heaven and computer games in Hell.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

For Sale: Meaning, Direction and Peace

I have been down with some flu-like illness and have been in bed nearly the entire day. It was raining a bit this afternoon and I really was not feeling up to feeding up and checking on everyone.

When I got to the horse lot Phil was working on fence work and Ruthann was putting her horse, Medicine Dog, back with the mares in pasture number one. Two months ago Ruthann had no horse nor did Phil's family. Now both of his kids have horses and his entire family rides with us. Ruthann drives over from across the river to ride in the morning and then sometimes comes back for night rides. Rebecca lives over an hour away, last night she drove over to ride her beautiful young mustang for nearly two hours around the fields and through the woods on one of our better night rides yet. Norm lives even further away yet he made the long trek for a Sunday ride and then was back for a Monday night ride on a fiery ex polo mustang named Riggs.

The bitterest piece of hate mail that our program has ever received demanded that I "quit breeding worthless crap that has no marketable value." She has no knowledge of what we breed, but most importantly she has no knowledge of what we sell.

Our program changes lives--both of horses and of people. That is what we sell. And we do so at a generous price.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fifty Two Miles: We Did it Again

Yesterday Emily M. and I set out to get in a fifty mile day. I had ridden a hard 13 miles the day before. Ruthann joined us for the first fifteen miles of the ride before it was time for her to go home. She rode Comet and her great horse Medicine Dog for her stretch of the ride. Emily M. did 37 miles on Young Joseph, a Chincoteague/BLM cross, that seems incapable of exhaustion, and did the remainder on Samson, a Corolla who rode lead through the darkness like an old pro, with one hard five mile ride on Wanchese, my little Shackleford stallion.

I rode my SMR stallion, Ta Sunka Witco, for 30 miles, gave Trade Wind a hard five mile ride. and did the remainder on Holland, my Shacklford shown pictured above.

We were joined for the last seven miles in darkness by Emily W. on my Shackleford, Porter and Norm rode Riggs for his first night ride.

I have done fifty miles in a day on several occasions but this time Emily and I did things differently. We took extended lunch breaks and even went into town for supper. These breaks, and the change of mounts, gave our horses enough time to rest to allow us to really cover ground when we were riding. In fact, the vast majority of Joseph's miles were accomplished at a lope and to a lesser degree so were Ta Sunka's miles. By doing so we finished nearly two hours sooner than on my first fifty mile ride.

Emily sees beauty everywhere she looks. I see challenges everywhere I look. Yesterday, Emily looked around and saw a beautiful day. I looked around and saw a day that I whipped, and whipped badly.

Fifty two miles. Fifty pounds over weight. Fifty years old.

I won.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Road Runner

Yesterday my wife Beth just completed her first 5K run on as hilly a course as could be found in Tidewater. She has been diligently working on barefoot running for several weeks and her hard work paid off yesterday.

That would be a nice accomplishment all by itself,five years ago Beth was recovering from chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. This is a remarkable achievement. She is a great role model for my little riders and my little grand daughter.

She has approached every challenge with courage and perseverance. The older I get the more I realize that to persevere is to win.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Students Rolling In Already

I am gratified by the response to the announcement of our on line training program. For those of you that have contacted me already please do not be concerned if you do not receive a response from me until the early part of the week. For others who would like to enroll please see the post below about our great new program, "The Horse, The Herd, and The Hoof."

This on line series is designed to teach the principles of natural horsemanship, natural horse care and natural hoof care that we use in our program. It is a no-frills, get to the point, form of instruction that is easy to understand and put into practice.

One of our guiding principles at Mill Swamp Indian Horses is that the cost of horse ownership should not be beyond the means of working families. This program, like everything else that we do, is very affordable. In addition, $60.00 from each registrant's fees are divided and donated to the Corolla Wild Horse Fund and the Horse of the Americas 'Lido Fund", which is used to save Spanish mustangs in crisis.

Once again, for those who have already contacted me, do not worry I will be in touch in a few days. For all others, remember that I only plan to accept 15 students in this first session and registration is first come first served.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

To Clarify

Readers of my book and new readers of this blog may be confused about Lido. For those of you who asked about him in the book I understand your confusion. Patrick was his adopted name and that is how I referred to him in my book.

Blog readers who are confused by references to him should go into the blog archives and begin to read a series of posts beginning December 29, 2008

The Horse, The Herd, and the Hoof

We are now ready to offer a very special service that has been years in the making, our on line class, The Horse, The Herd, And the Hoof. Mill Swamp Indian Horses has become a center for teaching Natural Horsemanship, Natural Horse Care and Natural Hoof Care. In the past decade my little riders and I have started over 45 colts and wild horses. Nearly all of those horses have been ridden at least 45 miles in a day. We did this without injuring a horse and the only injury that any of our little riders have had while training was one broken finger. Our on line sessions are designed to cover about 20 weeks with 15 written classes. However, the class is taken entirely at the student's own pace. The next lesson is not sent until the student has completed the previous lesson.

Beginning November 1, 2010, we will be offering an on line class on the techniques that we use to train and keep our horses healthy and happy. The sessions will cover our colt starting and riding methods. It will explain how kids as young as 10 years old have trained their colts under my supervision. The sessions are presented in simple terms without a lot of complicated new vocabulary for students to learn.

Further lessons will show how natural horsemanship ties in so well with natural horse care. Those sessions will cover a horses nutritional needs, and will give a solid understanding of why natural horse care might just be the best gift that you could ever give your horse.

Lastly, we will delve into the mysteries of the hoof and will show how to keep it in great shape for movement and how to use movement to keep the hoof in great shape.

Students will be expected to acquire and closely read Joe Camp's great book, "Soul of a Horse," and Pete Ramey's wonderful book on trimming the natural hoof. The lessons that I send out will not be lengthy and will be written in clear, easy to understand language, the same language, and the same themes, that I have used to teach children to train wild horses.

I expect that most students will enjoy the one on one aspect of the instruction. All students will be strongly encouraged to share their opinions and questions with me via e mail. Students will receive tests to insure that they understand the material being covered. In short, I hope that this on line experience will be as close as one can get to spending the summer with my riders and my horses and learning directly as they do.

Students will be required to obtain Joe Camp and Pete Ramey's book on their own. The only other required material is our training DVD entitled, And a Little Child Shall Lead Them, which can be ordered by mail from Mill Swamp Indian Horses for only $15.00.

The program will only cost $160.00 and of that amount $30.00 will be donated to the Corolla Wild Horse Fund and $30.00 will go to the Horse of the Americas Registry's "Lido Fund" which is used to rescue Colonial Spanish horses.

Those who are interested should contact me right away. Sessions will be ready to sent out in the first week in November. Because I anticipate spending a great deal of time corresponding with students one on one, I have to limit class size to 15 students at a time. I will take on students on a first come first serve basis.

Followers of this blog know that what we do is much more than simply giving horses some trips around the round pen. My little riders learn to understand horses even before they know how to ride them. This course will be a no frills discussion of the insights that we have developed over the years from working our horses and working with my little riders.

The picture taken above is on one of fifty mile rides. Every horse in that picture was trained by me and my riders. If this is the kind of horsemanship that you desire, register for the classes today.

Take Your Shoes Off Moses

Perhaps the best step that one can make to improve comfort in the saddle and to give the ability to ride 50 miles or more in one day, is to simply take off your shoes and jog. Barefoot running is common enough now so that there is a great deal of research and information about it out there on the inter net. Log on and learn.

When running barefoot one engages many of the leg muscles that are used in riding. It also improves balance. Barefoot running, core strengthening exercises and hundreds of hours in the saddle will do great things to change a riders body, ability, and outlook on life. As a rider's fitness improves it becomes much easier for the horse to to carry the rider's weight.

Take your shoes off. It's good for your heart, good for your head, and good for your horse.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Iron Horseman, and Women

Although I am still very far from home at prosecutor training, I am only 86 miles from Boys Home. Yesterday Wendy picked me up and we made the trek out there to help out with the training of Sunka Wasicun, a handsome colt that I gave Boys Home for part of their natural horsemanship program that Bonnie Wheatly is developing for the boys. The other colts that we gave them are doing great and Sunka Wasicun just needed to be regrounded in many of the basics that dealt with confidence and control.

As we approached the gate a young hand went up to wave and Jimmy came running over. Jimmy is one Lido-looking little rascal that I would love to have in my program. Jimmy is doing a good job with his colt, Rain in the Face. Jimmy is solid and has his mind on the horse. In the corral he has focus. Focus is difficult for a lot of kids to develop, but I firmly believe that focus must come before a kid can develop what Dorrence called "feel."

Yesterday was a long day. I was awake for 21 hours. It was cool and windy at Boys Home and darkness fell quickly as we worked the colt from shyness into wearing a saddle in perfect comfort. I did not plan it that way, but it was a good day to be at Boys Home.

My mother adopted 12 kids, some with a range of disabilities. She was president of the Virginia Foster Parent Association and active in the national foster parent movement. Momma and Daddy had over 125 foster kids over the years. In the early fall of 2004 Governor Mark Warner named a day in September to honor my parents as "Nelson and Aileen Edwards Day." She was one of the first women in our volunteer rescue squad and worked hard in the Red Cross and the Christian Outreach Program. She was a rural mail carrier who was her own private social services for families on her mail route in crisis. Most importantly, she was tough.

I see that same combination of compassion and toughness in Donnie Wheatly, Director of Boys Home, and his wife Bonnie. Boys Home is in Covington, Virginia. Look at their website. Look at the solid work that they do. Consider the fact that they are taking on the bold and important step of teaching natural horsemanship to students who want to learn. After you do all of that send them your financial support and encouragement.

As Momma would have gently put it,"Just send them a damn check now before you forget to do it." Momma died six years ago yesterday. Momma was made of iron. She had to be. She would not have had to explain herself to the Wheatly's nor they to her. They would have understood each other with out explanations.

(This is Jimmy, a student at Boys Home sitting bareback on Red Feather. Red Feather is made of iron. If Jimmy keeps working the horses one day so will he.)

Monday, October 4, 2010


I am far from home, attending a very useful and important training session for prosecutors. This is highly out of character for me. My white ancestors came to my part of Tidewater in 1674. We have been there ever since. I do not come from some rich, plantation owning Southern aristocratic family. It is just that we are not an adventurous lot. When the west was being settled by immigrants from all over the east my ancestors were right there--waiving goodbye to the soon to be frontiersman and then going back in to get supper and finish feeding up.

The genes that kept my ancestors in isle of Wight and Surry county seem to have thrived in my chromosomes. This trip will be the longest time that I have been away from my horses since the late nineties. This trip marks the first time in my life that I was going to be gone so long that I had to pack more than one bag of clothes. When I left the recent rains had brought green back to some of the pastures. I hope it will still be that way when I make it back home. I hope that the drought does not return in my absence.

This training session is well put together and very important, but I wonder if Sunka will still recognize me when I get home. I cannot help but wonder if I will have aged too much to mount a rough horse when I next see Persa.

Five days away from my horses! I will not get home until Friday night! Bet I will understand how Rip Van Winkle felt when he got home.

A Bafflement

The recent deluge has reminded me of the continuing need to protect the soil against erosion. Last year I stumbled upon a great ally in that fight--hay twine.

Left over hay twine can serve as more than simple pasture decoration. It can hold your pasture in place.

Large handfuls of hay twine radically reduce erosion and increase deposition of soil. When simply dropped into eroded soil cuts the twisted strands create a series of baffles that slow the water speed enough to cause grains of earth to sink to the bottom. I find it more effective than traditional forms of debris used to fight erosion such as broken brick and cinder block.

( No Swimmer had not thrown me in the picture above. I was simply taking a break and discussing a matter of mutual concern with her.)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Brave in a New World

Jessica has ridden before in a conventional riding lesson program. She knew a bit about horses but nothing in her background prepared her for her second ride with us. On her first session with us she rode Comet, and to my surprise, found him to be "slow." Yesterday was her first ride on a formerly wild horse. She rode Samson on an afternoon long ride with about a half dozen other riders.

On a whim we turned into a stretch of woods that I had not walked into for about 30 years. I thought that there was a trail through it but, if so, only a fragment of that trail still existed.

Ice storms over the past decade have killed many pines in my area. The woods floor is a maze of twenty foot tall trunks scattered like tooth picks. Green brier and fox grape vines lace among the standing trees. A week of torrential rain has softened the deep stump holes hidden on the forest floor.

Of course, none of our horses panicked or showed the least bit of concern. The Corollas seemed to feel at home in the tangles and mire. Jessica did not let fear get in the way of solid horsemanship. She and Samson came through it all with only a few scrapes and scratches. Samson is a first rate horse and Jessica is going to be a first rate rider.

Speaking of New Worlds, the horse in the picture above lives (and works) in the Dominican Republic, which was the site of many of the earliest horse breeding operations in the New World. That is a riding saddle on his back, not a pack saddle. A lot of Dominican country people ride on these homemade saddles which are essentially a huge set of saddle bags.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Good Moooooooorning Vietnam!

My blog now has some statistical analysis to which I have access. Of course, I still have utterly no understanding of either the technology behind such things or of the lingo used by cool young people to discuss computer issues. The possibility has been raised to me that my numbers may be a bit inflated because of bots. This greatly concerns me because I have always had great success treating bots with a tube of Ivermectin just after the first frost.

Unfortunately, I can not find the correct hole in this computer to insert the Ivermectin. I fear another calamity as serious as my first efforts at cutting and pasting.( Luckily the white Elmer's Glue washed off of the screen without too much of a problem).

But, as they say, I digress. The statistics are interesting particularly in regard to how many readers there are from other nations.

But with all good there comes concerns of problems. I do not know why, but it appears that I am loosing my base in Estonia. (Hope that it wasn't something that I said.)

Happy Birth Day

For her third birthday yesterday my granddaughter had her first ride in the woods in which her horse was not ponied by anyone. When we reached the woods Emily dismounted and tied the buck rein into a riding rein and we set out. I was on Croatoan, Ruth Ann was on her newly acquired horse, Medicine Dog, Emily on Joseph, Lydia on her great little horse, Owl Prophet, and the baby was riding Wind in His Hair.

She gave a happy little laugh each time Wind trotted. As we exited the woods we were met by Rebecca and Liam. I hopped off of Croataon and Rebecca mounted up with Liam whose third birthday will be coming up soon.

Wild horses, some of my closest friends, Liam showing his ever present smile that even got bigger as he rode Croatoan around the cotton field,Ruth Ann beaming aboard her first horse, actual rain to sooth our parched soil, and the baby trotting on Wind in his Hair.

There are many ways to spend one's morning worse than this.