Monday, February 28, 2011

What I Learned In 98 Miles in The Saddle

Holland, the brown Shackleford shown above, took me 48 miles in one day and Ta Sunka Witco, my SMR who is the grandson of Choctaw Sundance, took me fifty miles the next day. It made for a full weekend. Along the way I learned a few things.

1. The best conditioning for riding is riding. But for saddle sores inside my knees, I could have done another fifty miles the third day. Appearances to the contrary, I am in spectacular condition, primarily as a result of spending every hour possible in the saddle year round.

2. A fifty mile ride requires more energy than one might anticipate. On the second day I consumed more calories than I have in one day for many years. I needed everyone of them.

3. Corollas and Shacklefords are even tougher than I imagined. Holland is 13 hands. I weigh 232 pounds and he took me 48 miles in very bad conditions. Wind gusts exceeded 40 mph. We experienced bouts of heavy rain and the resulting muddy surface made it much more difficult for the horses to move. The next morning he approached me in the pasture. He was ready to go again, but he had the day off and Sunka carried me the next fifty miles.

4. Conditioned horses recover their strength quickly when given the opportunity to completely rest for 20 minutes to an hour.

5. Cantering is ok. Generally we trot and gait for about 85-90% of a long ride. However, on the second day we went back to the pattern of riding that I used as a teenager. We cantered anywhere from 1/2 a mile to more than a mile and then walked for perhaps a hundred yards. We made very good time doing so and reduced rider fatigue. The horses took it great. At mile forty seven Sunka was pouring it on and I found myself holding him back.

6. A heavy coat, rolled tightly and tied to the saddle between the horn and the rider makes it possible to be truly comfortable in the saddle for a full day of riding.

7. Pete Ramey style trimming can work miracles. Trade Wind, a Corolla stallion who was completely crippled with founder in the wild cruised along through the ride with out any sign of discomfort, much less lameness. Of course, every one of the horses was barefoot.

8. Nothing is healthier than natural horse care for horses. Three of the horses had had their diet supplemented with horse feed for the two weeks before the ride. All other horses lived entirely on hay, stayed outside 24/7, had the emotional security of living in a herd, and had room to constantly move on varied terrain. They drank from water holes and never wore pasture blankets. In short, they were allowed to live like horses.

9. My little riders are tough. Lydia joined me for the entire 98 miles. Ashley rode fifty miles in one day as did Rylee. Emma, Amanda, Jordan and Emily W. rode 36 miles. Samantha, only 7 years old, did her first five miles of trotting.

10. My grown riders are tough. Terry did fifty miles in a day and Emily M. did seventy miles in two days.

Friday, February 25, 2011


In about an hour I will mount up Holland, my 13 hand Banker horse from Shackleford Island and will ride him fifty miles. We have done this before but not in quite these conditions. Today will be damp and rainy with wind gusts of over 40 mph.

During the month of April we will host an introduction to Natural Horsemanship series which will feature the training of Edward Teach, a wild Corolla stallion. Edward was captured because he received a wound during a stud fight that would have killed him.
We have done these series before, but not in quite these conditions. Our operation is such that it would easily keep a full time staff of two very busy. There is still a great deal of work to get done on fencing and construction and April would be full just getting that done and continuing our riding program.

In short, the timing is not perfect for either of these projects. But I do not have time to be perfect. Today Holland will carry me 50 miles in unpleasant conditions to demonstrate how tough these horses are. In April, Edward the wild stallion, will be trained to saddle with the assistance of a handful of children to demonstrate how gentle and teachable these horses are.

Some where out there is a person who, if exposed to these horses and sees what it is that they can do, will put their life into preventing the extinction of the wild horses of Corolla. For that one person, there are thousands of people that will care, but not care enough to help out. For those thousands of people there are hundreds of thousands of people who simply will not care.

For those hundreds of thousands of people there is only a small, but powerful, handful of people that would actively work to end over 500 hundred years of wild and free herds of Colonial Spanish mustangs living on the Outer Banks.

But there is no one for the wild stallion of Corolla pictured above. About a year after this picture was taken he was killed by a shotgun blast from only a few feet away. No one was ever convicted in his death.

So Holland will blaze long trails and Edward will teach little children and, for those two horses, someone will always be there.

Time to go saddle up. It is pitch black outside and the wind is howling.

Looking for a reason to be optimistic about the future of the wild horses of Corolla? Consider the fact that the small handful of people who would love to see the Corollas erased are all still in bed right now.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Shacklefords of Cedar Island

Many people would like to be part of the effort to preserve the wild horses of the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Unfortunately many feel that they cannot handle a stallion and cannot afford to raise colts from one of the mares every other year. A spectacular opportunity is about to fall into the hands of those people.

There is a small herd of pure Shacklefords on Cedar Island which is off of the southern coast of North Carolina. They are managed by people that care greatly about them. This is no BLM "round'em up and lock 'em up story." The briefest conversation with Woody Hancock is all that it takes to see where his heart is. He wants only the best for these horses.

Herd size is managed on Cedar Island by gelding excess males. The horses shown above are all young geldings. There are a few others that are younger that have also been gelded that will be available for adoption. Woody will be rounding these horses up in at the end of March.

We need to place these geldings in homes where they will be trained and used to promote awareness of these horses. I hope that each will end up with owners that understand and practice natural horse care.Though they are geldings, they can still help protect the future of these Colonial Spanish mustangs by simply being ridden publicly. One who adopts one of these horses will face a lot of questions from their horse owning friends, such as:

How can that little pony carry an adult 40 miles without wearing out?
Why is it that he never seems to need to see the vet?
Why is it that Shackleford never needs shoes and is always sound?
How can he always be in such great condition when he does not eat much more than a billy goat?
Why is this wild horse gentler than any of the domestic horses that I have ever had?
What is that incredibly smooth gait that he uses called?

And now and then one will hear the most important of questions, "What can I do to help preserve these historic horses?"

More will be coming on contact information and the details of getting one of these great horses.

I know how great they are. In two days Holland, my Shackleford gelding will take me on a fifty mile in one day ride. (Don't worry, it won't be the first time that he has done so)

Monday, February 21, 2011


I love it when my little riders who have become nearly grown come back and ride. I did not teach Ashley to ride. She was a competitive star before we ever met. I did teach her how to understand horses better.

Saturday she was back out to ride. She had an English saddle on Joseph. We went up to a ditch that was not very deep but had briers on each side. Most of the horses had at least some degree of difficulty with the obstacle. I looked behind me just in time to see Ashley lean forward on Joseph's neck as he jumped the ditch, briers and all.

It was one of those many "wish that I had a camera with me" moments that Ashley created riding with us over the years.

Here is a shot of Ashley riding Tradewind in his first parade in Duck, North Carolina, a few years ago.

Automotive Improvements

Soon we will be putting out our first edition of bumper stickers. This one will commemorate our next 50 mile ride which is scheduled for this Saturday. All of the horses on the ride will be horses that my little riders and I have trained. Nearly all of them were born in the wild. My youngest rider will be nine years old.

The overwhelming majority of the riders will be too young to have a driver's license. They will ride on Saturday and return to school on Monday where they will sit in class rooms filled with kids who spent their weekend texting and playing video games.

The Swamp is,indeed,up!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Loner No More

Spicer, my rare San Clemente Island Spanish goat was joined Friday night by two other Spanish heritage goats that are also from an endangered strain of historic goats. Four year old War Admiral and Sea Biscuit, a weanling, took up residence with us through Wendy's efforts. War Admiral is bigger than I expected. I had intended to use 60 gallon barrels for housing. This is great for Sea Biscuit, but War Admiral could wear a barrel as an ear ring.

These goats are the next step in our efforts to preserve and promote the Corollas within the framework of a reconstructed 17th century small farm to be known as the Gwaltney Frontier Farm.

(Oh yea, if things go as planned I will ride 100 miles this weekend. No, not on a goat, on Colonial Spanish Horses).

Do You Want to Be a Part of History?

I intend to put a lot of work into the further training of Edward Teach this week. He is available for adoption through the Corolla Wild Horse Fund. However, he will only go to a home that will maintain him as a stallion and make him part of the off-site breeding program.

He is impressive and I will learn much more about him over the next week.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

From Whence They Cometh

We are developing a rather large herd of Corollas that were born in the wild. Those who have not been following the story of the Corollas closely might not understand why horses are removed from a herd that teeters on the brink of extinction.

The first point to understand is that after one of these horses has potentially been exposed to normal equine diseases it cannot return to the wild. The Corollas have grown up in isolation for so long that they likely do not have immunities to run of the mill equine illnesses. Though the risk is small, we cannot risk introducing what could be a sickness that erases every horse left in the wild.

Secondly, one of the greatest threats that face the wild Corollas is to be hit by a car after swimming out of the 4-WD area and into Virginia Beach or the town of Corolla. Horses that learn to do so quickly become repeat offenders. If such horses are lead mares or breeding stallions, others will likely follow them.

Lastly, horses that become either too "friendly" or hostile because they have been fed by tourists have to be removed for their own safety.

Of all of the Corollas at my place only, Skyco, Emily's little Corolla, was adopted as part of the old herd management program.

In short, each of these horses were stones that the builders rejected yet they make up the strongest of corner stones for the off site breeding program.

Croatoan, Red Feather, and Swimmer were all removed because they were escape artists. Croatoan was also in very poor health.

Valor was discovered nearly dead and was so weak when she came to our place that she could not fully raise her head. Porter and Samson had serious flesh wounds as colts and had to be removed for treatment. Manteo had to have surgery for a stifle lock. Trade Wind was absolutely crippled from founder. Secotan gave birth to a foal that required immediate medical attention. And, of course, Edward Teach had received what surely would have been a life ending injury to his neck.

All of those horses are now quite healthy. Trade Wind shows not a hint of lameness. Valor lived. Secotans foal is fine. Porter and Samson healed completely and Edward Teach is alive and well.

Baton Rouge, shown above, was removed because she was a threat to humans, with a strong propensity to bite. The foal with her is Mokete, the first pure Corolla produced in the offsite breeding program. This spring I expect that have three more foals born of this program.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Calm Down!.

Now put the bagel down and pay attention! This is a wild Corolla stallion being saddled for the first time. Stallion--wild--first time--Do you get the point? How can you not want to preserve these horses? Here is what you can do to help.

1. Go to the web site of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund and become a member.
2. Support legislation currently pending in Congress to preserve and protect the wild herd of Corolla.
3. Ask everyone on your email contact list to do the same.
4. Consider becoming part of the off site breeding program.

The Cosmonaut

The Soviets sent dogs into space on several missions before sending a human into space. Yesterday Edward Teach has his first blanket, his first saddle, and his first coon hound/boxer cross on his back. He took each without complaint.

Out ultimate goal is to have him trained to be poodle safe in the event that Mrs. Drysdale ever decides to come and ride with us.

Keeping Predators at Bay

This picture was taken about 45 minutes after Edward took his first saddle. He is comfortable both with Lydia(person) and Lydia(dog).

Learning to Walk on a Loose Lead

This is one of the first steps toward developing what Dorrance called "feel." If a horse does not follow on a loose lead there is a problem in his training and a problem with the relationship that he has with people.

This is a wild Corolla stallion that was in about his third or fourth hour of halter training.

Edward Teach is Healing Well

Yesterday he learned to be completely halter trained. He took his first blanket and first saddle with no resistance. He never bucked. He never bolted.

Keep in mind that this is a wild Corolla stallion that has had less than 12 hours of training.

Even if they were not spectacular in so many other regards, their temperament alone would be enough of a reason to work to prevent their extinction.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Blow To Progress

Ha! Fixed it! The computer has a feature called "new editor." (I did not know what that is but it does not sound good.) I clicked back to "old editor" and now the thing works pretty well again.

I do hate progress! Yesterday is likely better than tomorrow and both surely must be better than now.

In any event, I have this thing working now.(All of this mess likely started when guitars were first made electric.)


For a very long time blogger had a wonderful system set up that allowed the production of this and thousands of other blogs. Someone decided that it was not good enough so it is now improved. It is improved  to the degree that I cannot use it.

If I can ever determine how to put pictures back on each post I will begin to post again. 

In an unrelated development, a local gas station that has made the best pork chop sandwiches to be found on this earth is converting to a 7-11.  7-11's do not make pork chop sandwiches.

And therein lies the future of our world. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

OK, So Maybe Not Every Picture Is Worth 1000 Words

This is a lighthearted picture of a wonderful story. I do not understand camera angles and the effect that they have on the final product but I know that this is an extreme example of that effect. Riggs is a beautiful northern type SMR. He does not have large ears. In fact, he is about as perfect an example of a northern SMR as will be found. He is also an athlete. Worst of all for me, he is an educated athlete. I do not understand the cues that he has learned over the last 15 years. He has been a polo, dressage and endurance horse. He is not filled with fear, yet his mind is obsessed with his three favorite thoughts---go, go-er, and go-est.

The picture does not say enough about Norm. He is one of the gentlest, kindest, and most compassionate friend of animals that I have ever encountered. Norm rode as a kid and came to ride with us when he was not a kid.

Norm became attached to Riggs. He did not see him as an opponent to be conquered or even as a problem to be solved. He simply saw Riggs as some one who could use a friend. He has put endless hours into becoming Rigg's friend.

Whenever there has been a problem with the horse Norm has taken the correct view of the situation. He never asks, "What is wrong with that crazy horse?" He immediately thinks, "How can I make this better?"

There is more wisdom in Norm's horsemanship than there is knowledge. That is a wonderful lesson in itself. Norm's training strategies are based in concepts that begin with "If I take more time..If I make him enjoy being caught...If I teach him that he can just relax with a saddle on..If I make this fun for him..." He understands that the horse "is" and that it is he who must "become".

I have several adults in our program that are great role models for my little riders. Norm is falling into that category. He works hard. He places his horse's interest above his own and his horsemanship is equal parts courage and compassion.

That is what we want in our program--a relentless drive to become better people.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Balancing the Books

It seems that the more our program gets known the less hate mail I receive about what we do. That makes sense. It is hard for critics to claim now, as they once did, that children can never learn to safely train wild horses, that there was no way that little Spanish mustangs could carry grown men or that allowing our horses to live as naturally as possible would result in unhealthy horses.

Our safety record, distance rides on Corollas and Shacklefords, and the spectacular health of our horses have made it impossible to make that case. That's right, the proof is in the pasture. Now it seems that the criticism comes only in vague, condescending tones about "doing things the proper way."

I received a few such comments recently and for the sake of the spread sheet we will put those in the debit column.

In the credit column I will place other comments that came in this week, like "made me believe that I could do anything," "really made for a special holiday to bring the family out to see the horses", "showed me how to live", and "lit my daughter's face up". Each of those paraphrases came from different people.

That makes up our emotional debit and credit postings for this week.

That seems to keep us in the black for one more week.

And to those of you who are concerned that I do not follow the rules of the established horse world, I have to point out that I adhere rigidly to every rule that I make.

And it Does Not Just Help Fat Old men

Unless you are training for the Olympics, chances are that you are not nearly in as good of a physical condition as Abbie was. Even so, she has lost 6 pounds, gained a great deal of strength, and has improved her ability to ride simply by----riding, and riding, and riding. She has a 25 mile ride coming up that she has been training for and she has been training by-----riding and riding, and riding. Twenty five miles of trotting conditions both horse and rider but it also gives the balance and strength needed to become a first rate rider.

I all seriousness, I am surprised that Abbie got those kinds of results because she already was in top shape. It really shows what riding can do for a couch potato.

Cedar Island

It looks more and more likely that we will be adding a Cedar Island Banker to our off site breeding program. The Cedar Herd is composed of Shacklefords and one remaining pure Cedar Island Banker. The Cedars and the Shacklefords were once all of the same stock and have simply been separated by the ocean for years. Dr. Sponenberg has enthusiastically recommended inclusion of Cedar Island horses in the off site breeding program.

The Cedar mare shown below is the last of the pure Cedars. Her color was lost to the Corollas years ago. It would be a wonderful thing if we could return that color to the domestic Corollas, not by bringing in modern horse breeds (which we will never do) but by simply bringing a lost color home where it belongs.