Saturday, April 30, 2011

Failure and Fox Fire

I guess the best thing that I can say is that I am surprised that I failed so badly yesterday. I really did not expect failure, but it found me at around 7:30 last night. I really planned to ride 100 miles in one day. We began riding at at 3:15 in the morning and I gave up after only 65 miles. I may be joining the ranks of the many who have discovered that they not only are not the men they once were, but that they were never the men that they once were.

Failure was perhaps foreseeable, but what happened on the first leg of the effort was not. I often forget to remove my glasses when riding in the dark. (They are tinted and reduce even the small amount of light that exists in the woods at night from reaching my corneas.)As we set out after 3:00 am I remembered to take them off.

Without my glasses I have very poor vision. I have gotten used to not being able to see things that are there but am still entertained by the fact that without my glasses I often see things that are not there. For example, when riding in the darkness I often find myself swerving to avoid trees that are clearly directly in my path and could cause serious injury to me or my horse, but for the fact that they do not exist. The illusions are interesting. I had several such illusions yesterday morning but then I encountered something that was a bit chilling. (This is not a joke).

Lydia was riding Owl Prophet who prefers to hang back a bit from the horse ahead of him, even in the day light. She was far enough behind me so that I could not hear his hooves strike the ground as we cantered along. (Again, no big deal in that, aside from needing glasses and having only a few more teeth than the average rooster, my hearing is beyond impaired.)

On occasion when riding in the darkness I see patches of lighter spaces a head of me. I assume that they are spots where moonbeams reach the forest floor. What I saw ahead of me was not a patch of lightness. About fifty yards ahead of me the trail was glowing. I yelled back to Lydia to ask her what was going on in front of us. I had never seen such a burst of light.

She told me that there was nothing there. She said that she could not see any light in front off us at all. As she is telling me this I continued to see the path ahead of me lit up like the premier screening of a movie in the 1930's.

We changed direction. We got on with the ride. Obviously, what ever I saw was merely an illusion resulting from the darkness and my poor eye sight. Obviously, that must be the case because Lydia saw nothing. I am a grown, and often rational man. Obviously I should never have any concern about riding through there again in the darkness, even by myself.

But I will not do that even though Lydia saw nothing. I was riding Holland. Holland does not rear, ever. When someone turned on the lights in the middle of the woods Holland began rearing. Lydia did not see anything, but Holland and I did.

This is a picture of Holland, my great Shackleford Spanish mustang, a few days after he came to live with me. He is a calm, rational horse.

Like Mark Twain, he does not believe in ghosts at all but he is afraid of them.

Friday, April 29, 2011

If Wishes Were Horses...

The best leaders rally and inspire so many other people to action that it becomes difficult to look back at accomplishments and give credit to the specific people responsible for those successes. However, there is often a single individual that, even though they had the help of others, was truly indispensable. In short, were it not for that one person the accomplishments would not have been made.

Karen McCalpin has been the executive director of the the Corolla Wild Horse Fund for about five years. She did not grow up with these horses. She has no family tie with these horses, yet she has thrown her life into protecting the wild and free herd of Corolla Spanish mustangs.

But for her work:
The Wild Horse Fund would not be a member supported organization with members from across the nation;
The Horse of the Americas Registry would never have been drawn into the effort to save these horses;
The wild horses of the Outer Banks would not be the state horse of North Carolina;
There would be no effort to expand the legal protections to maintain the wild herd of Corolla;
There would be no offsite breeding program for the Corollas;
There would be no tame Corollas prancing in the Duck July 4 parade while their wild relatives pranced on the beach of Corolla;and
There would not be the assemblage of genetic and other evidence to make it crystal clear that the wild horses of Corolla are among the oldest and rarest distinct gentic grouping of horses found in the nation.

Most of all, but for the work of Karen McCalpin there would be no realistic hope of preserving the wild horses of Corolla.

Over the years I have taken many of my young riders down to Corolla for Board meetings and other events. I have brought many girls and young ladies down specifically because I wanted them to meet Karen and see what a difference one women can make. I stress to all of my little riders that want to grow up to have a "horse job" that becoming a veterinarian is just one way to do so. I let them understand that a person will have to be a vet for a very long time before they will save as many horses as Karen has through her efforts to prevent the extinction of the Corollas.

In the next few days Karen has a birthday coming up. I do not know how old she is, but I do know that the struggle that this job has been for her has made her much older than really she is.

But for Karen McCalpin the wild horses of Corolla would have no chance of avoiding extinction.

But for Karen McCalpin there would be no hope.

Happy Birthday Karen.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Lydia Rode Him in The Round Pen.

Edward Teach--the wild Corolla stallion that came to us with life threatening wounds on his neck. He never resisted. That which she asked is that which he did. It was a short ride by my choice. We planned to move him down to the round pen in the sand for her to ride him much more but the film crew had all the footage of wild horse starting that they needed. By 10:30 am she was on him and he was calm.

Another wild horse under her belt. Lydia is 16 and she can train horses as good as I can. Her parents produced a first rate kid. I produced a first rate horseman. I am proud of that.

Edward Teach is going to be a first rate Colonial Spanish mustang stallion and will be a great addition to the Corolla offsite breeding program.

In Deeper Than Hansel and Gretel

We have have fenced in about 20 acres of mixed forest for the horse's dietary pleasure. To my surprise they had not hit it hard after nearly a month of having access to the woods. That all came to an end yesterday.

When I got to the horse lot only one male horse could be seen. Everyone else was deep, deep in the woods. They came out very slowly, bellies full of tender shoots, new leaves and fresh browse. High in long stem fiber, a diverse set of minerals and vitamins compared to hay and uniform pasture,--this is a great addition to the natural environment that we seek to provide for our horses. The investment in wire fence was not significant. If I had fenced this woods in a decade ago it would have saved me at least $40,000.00 in hay costs over that same period of time. The horses would have been even happier and likely healthier than they are now.

But I did not do so because I lacked the business judgement to innovate and invest. My response to every economic challenge that we faced was the same--work harder. It was not a bad strategy, but it was not the best strategy.

From now on every decision that I make regarding the program will be based on a very few criterion:

1. Is it good for the horses?
2. Will ii decrease costs?
3. Will it increase income?
4. Will it give me a sense of satisfaction to have it done?

We will also be looking at long term program management that will narrow our focus and sharpen our goals. My plans for retirement have always been based on a vague notion of getting killed by a horse while in my fifties. While economically sound (death is very affordable) it leaves too much to chance, (e.g. suppose no horse kills me) Considering my family history and the great numbers that my blood work always seems to produce I am likely to live to be a hundred.

Longevity has its place and I want to place my longevity in the middle of a horse lot somewhere. That means that it is time for this horse operation to become a part of our family's financial future.

Step one will be for me to adopt the use of certain business terminology that I have always had great difficulty using--such as saying the word "no".

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Spring Purgative

When every direction looks to be an avenue to a different disappointment, I find a bit of relief by pushing myself harder than would be expected of a typical 51 year old prosecutor. Lately each direction has been more a freeway of disappointment than a mere avenue. It is time to purge myself. It is time to do something out of the ordinary from which I can take a modicum of pride.

I am going to take a hard ride pretty much by myself. I want to ride 100 miles in less than 24 hours. I will use a string of several Corollas and other American Indian horses.

That is Washikie, the Shoshone chief, in the center of the picture above. He was older than I am when this picture was taken. That is not a recliner that he is sitting on.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Best Thing To Do For Your Horse

I have always had an interest in strength training as a tool to improve athletic performance. As I have gotten older I am interested in using strength training to prevent injuries and to speed healing.

Movement on an incline seems to accomplish both goals for horses. Search Parelli's program for an equine exercise routine that he calls "Hill Therapy." I am not going to go into any of the details of this incredibly simple technique because it is set out great in Parelli's article.

I modified the program by setting up a small round pen on the side of a sight slope in one of my pastures. By doing so I can exercise several horses at once. I have the horses moving in the round pen with out a longe line simply for effficiency.

If I went into the changes that I have seen in my horses from using this exercise technique I would sound like a cheap late night infomercial. This thing is real. It works and it works like magic. Parelli specifically discusses using this as 'therapy' for a horse that has a problem. Without a doubt it is great for that.

However, I believe that it is an even better technique when used to make a strong, balanced horse stronger and more balanced. For those of you that live in climates where it is impossible to get in much riding time during the winter, this is a great way to improve your horse's fitness level that can be done in any weather.

I sort of understand why this technique makes a horse stronger, but I am utterly at loss to explain why it improves cardiovascular fitness so well. All of the horses that I have worked in my little sloping round pen have achieved a tremendous boost in their fitness level, even those that were being ridden very steadily for months at a time before ever going into the little pen for their ten minute work out.

I have made one other adjustment from what I understand Parelli's program to be. I begin and end each session by backing the horse up to fifty years at a stretch for several sets.

The picture above has nothing to do with the topic at hand but if your granddaughter was this good looking you would put up her picture too.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

I'm Not Kin To Most of My Family

Yesterday was a great day for our program and I think that it could lead to a great day for the Corolla preservation effort. The day was spent in filming and photographing Edward Teach and taking him through a training routine. The Corolla stallion that was removed from the wild following a severe injury is all healed. Even though he had less than a total of ten hours of even having a human inside the round pen with him since his rescue in November, Lydia was on his back within about an hour and a half of beginning the day's session. If the weather stays good we will have him ready to ride in the woods very soon.

I am not going to go into any of the details of yesterday's filming and photography. Partly because the project has just begun and could go in several different directions--partly because I want to drip this thing out as it comes into being--but quite frankly because I am not up to it this morning.

After the day's filming I celebrated very hard. I do not drink at all. However, I do eat. I have not had any ice cream in a long time. Last night was the first time in a long time that I have eaten nearly a gallon of ice cream in one serious eating session and I find myself in the midst of a severe ice cream hangover. My head is about to explode, and Kris Kristopherson's song,"Sunday Morning Sidewalk", keeps pounding through my mind.

But more to the point--I have one natural brother and many adopted brothers and sisters. I also have a family of riders that I have come to depend on. Thursday I found out that Rebecca might be late coming out for the shoot because her son Liam (who calls me Grandaddy Steve) might have to go to the doctor Friday morning. (Liam's little brother's middle name is Patrick, named after Lido.) Emily found out very late Thursday night that she would have to be in class nearly all day Friday. I pretended to take it all in stride. I kept telling myself that even if everything else went wrong, Lydia, Jacob, Jordan, and Emily W. would be around and I would be able to get through the day ok.

Liam did not have to go to the doctor. Emily made it out by midday. And the day went incredibly well.

At the end of the day we roasted oysters and played music. Look close at this picture. Rebecca took it. The end of my three sting banjo is visible and you can see Daddy playing his guitar. Jacob's in the back ground. My granddaughter who is three is wrapped in a horse blanket and is on Lydia's lap. This was the first time the baby had been old enough to sing with us. That is Emily off to the side. We were sitting on bales of straw in pasture number two on a portion of the farm that Momma's family has owned for many generations.

I believe that the song that we were doing when this shot was taken was A.P. Carter's, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?"

Friday, April 22, 2011

So That Even He Who Runs By May Read It

Wake up this morning--try to figure out what day it is,---do I have court today?--what time is it?--clock not working--storm knocked it out--things start to clear up--thinking of this morning's schedule--now I remember--ordinary day...

Except that I need to get ready to go meet a photographer Strikes me that I am likely the only person in my family that has ever woke up with plans to go out to a pasture and meet a photographer from New York.

Not an ordinary day...big day that could lead to big things for the effort to keep a herd wild and free in Corolla.

Everyone has a particular treasure or talent that can go toward preventing the extinction of these horses. There are many people involved in this effort in many different ways. For some, doing so becomes a raison d'etre. For most others it is simply a part of a life of dedication to caring about things that matters.

Go to the Corolla Wild Horse Fund's website and look at all the ways you can help prevent the extinction of these spectacular horses.

Go do some good and then make some noise about the good you are doing. To do so is not to be immodest. To do so is to educate and attract more good people to this effort.

The picture above is of a wild corolla stallion that is over 20 years old. He has dedicated his adult life to making sure that every spring their are little foals born in the wild at Corolla.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Gift

OK, so the hiatus has been short but I am about to take part in a new project with the Corollas and I have something on my mind.

Just because one intends a statement to be a compliment does not make it so,(e.g. "You don't sweat much for a fat girl.") When people tell me that they could never handle horses like I do, never have the patience with the kids that I do, never find the time to do everything that I do, etc such talk is intended as a compliment.

It is not. It is a way of saying that in the long run everything that we do with our program is all for naught because what we do is only possible because I am so special, so talented, so gifted. Implicit in that message is that others cannot develop a program like ours.

The opposite is true. Anyone that cares about kids and horses and is willing to work and learn can do what we do and nothing would make me happier than to see the program spread like kudzu.

Please do not suggest that I have the "gift" of being a "Horse Whisperer." It gives me indigestion when people do so. I have the gift of being able to work hard at things that I believe in. I have the gift of having no compunction in telling the established horse world that it is wrong and that I view its judgments, rules, and opinions as being no more meaningful than the braying of a donkey.

Before I had a corps of little riders Lido was the first person to mount the wild mustangs that he and I trained. He got on every wild horse before I did. He started doing so when he was about ten years old. He worked. He struggled. He learned.

He did so even though he had the gift of cerebral palsy.

Get out of the chair. Go train a horse. Go find a broken kid. Put her back together. The real gift is the gift that you give the kids and the horses, and yourself when you do so.

Go give yourself a gift like that. You deserve it.

Monday, April 18, 2011


I'm not sick, incapacitated or incarcerated but I have several projects that I need to get taken care of so, for a brief time (I hope no more than 2 weeks) there will be no new posts on the blog with the possible exception of a guest post or two.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

So What Do You Want to Do When You Grow Up?

Friday we donated two small horses that we trained to Tony Hooper of Suffolk, Virginia for use in his great program, Seven Cities Riders. Tony works with at risk kids on a range of life skills. As he says, the horses are the hook that brings the kids in.

Many kids that love horses are drawn to the idea of being a vet when they grow up. More kids, parents, guidance counselors, riding instructors, and 4-H leaders need to learn about jobs like Tony has created for himself. Lydia and Emily came along to deliver the horses to Tony. Emily is in her early twenty's and Lydia is sixteen. It might have seemed like an odd thing to say, but I mentioned to Tony that those two girls could run his program right now, all by themselves.

He understood exactly what I meant. I have younger riders that will be the same way as they mature. Those kids care about horses and people. They know how to work. I expect that some of them will develop the strength of character to have a profound disdain for material possessions.

Of course, running a program like Tony's is filled with difficulty and certainly is no way to get rich. In fact, the only real benefit to these type of positions is that they give one an opportunity to have a life filled with meaning.

A core of my little riders will grow up to understand that real success is measured not in terms of how many priceless cars one owns, but in how many priceless lives one saves.

Friday, April 15, 2011

An Honest Slogan

Slogan--the very word hints of dishonesty, puffery, and exaggeration. The catch about creating an honest business slogan is that it must be honest and good for the business. That has caused me to reject several potential slogans:

1. Mill Swamp Indian Horses--Fighting Mindless Conformity Since 1999!
2. Mill Swamp Indian Horses--Where Even Little  Boys Can Learn to Ride!
3. Mill Swamp Indian Horses--You Got a Problem With That?
4. Mill Swamp Indian Horses--Dedicated to Curing Quarter Horse-ism!
5. Mill Swamp Indian Horses--Where Young Girls Act Like Ladies and Old Women Just Act Up!
6. Mill Swamp Indian Horses--If You Squint Your Eyes Up, We Do Not Look All That Bad!
7. Mill Swamp Indian Horses--Authentic Plains Indian Barns and Stables Circa 1840!
8. Mill Swamp Indian Horses--Where Gravity Still Has Consequences!
9. Mill Swamp Indian Horses--Wild Horses, Tame Riders, and Vice-Versa!
10 Mill Swamp Indian Horses--Where All Critics of Natural Horsemanship, Natural Horse Care, Natural Hoof Care, Mustangs, Old Fat Men Riding 13 Hand Shacklefords 50 Miles In One Day, Novices Training Their Own Horses, Keeping a Herd of Corolla Colonial Spanish mustangs Wild and Free, The American Indian Horse Registry, The Horse of the Americas Registry, Nine Year Old Riders Riding Fifty Miles in 10 Hours and 21 Minutes, and the Breeding of nearly extinct strains of Colonial Spanish horses are urged to promptly leave the property and go home and let their obese, lame, horses out of the stable and actually ride them instead of pretending that grooming them is the same as loving them! (This was my personal choice but the bumper stickers with this slogan were so big that they negatively impacted gas mileage.)

Counting Chickens Before They Hatch

In about three weeks I hope to have three foals produced from the off site breeding program. Wanchese, my Shackleford stallion shown here on his first canter, is bred to Secotan, Amanda's cold black Corolla mare. Persa, my Shackleford mare is bred to Manteo, a fancy gaited Corolla. Baton Rouge will have her second foal for the off site breeding program. She is bred to Trade Wind.

Pictured above with a saddle is Rosa a very young filly. She is the daughter of Red Feather and is not old enough to start raising little ones. I get excited about her potential. People that look at Red Feather today see a fuzzy little teddy bear with sleepy looking eyes. They are surprised when I tell them that he is the most athletic horse with whom I have ever shared a round pen.

You should have seen him last night. He checked his calendar, noticed that it was Spring, surveyed his surroundings and cut loose. Every horse that came to play found themselves left far out of the chase. So many gears--so many gears!

But back to the topic at hand--I expect to soon have three foals available to people with a serious commitment to the offsite breeding program. If you want to be part of something that matters consider participating with your own Corolla Colonial Spanish mustang.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Momma Was Not Like You Would Have Expected

I am not sure whether any of my riders met Momma. They often asked me about her and they make a lot of incorrect assumptions. I cannot blame them because Momma was hard to peg.

She and Daddy took over 120 foster kids into our home. She was the first women in our Rescue Squad. She worked hard in disaster relief with the Red Cross. She carried mail and was her own private Department of Social Services for people with problems on her route. She took in stray animals. She and Daddy adopted a dozen children, including one with cerebral palsy. She kept the freezer outside on the porch so people in the community that needed food could just come and get what they needed. She was an officer in the National Foster Parent Association and was President of the Virginia Foster Parent Association. She befriended many people in the community that polite society had no place for. That is but a small portion of how Momma lived her life. A few weeks before she died Governor Warner designated a day in September as Nelson and Aileen Edwards Day.

People who know little snippets like that about Momma often say, "Oh she must have been such a sweet person." Absolutely not! Momma was not sweet. She was tough. The world is filled with kind, sweet people with good hearts and no guts. Unfortunately, those people accomplish very little because they simply are not tough enough.

When I got to the first grade I was shocked to find out that not only could everyone's mother not ride and shoot, Momma was the only one that could handle a good gun and a bad horse. She was not like modern young parents who seem to see their roles as determining what ever it is there children want and quickly getting it for them.

When I complained about food when I was little Momma simply said, "Shut up and eat it. When you get big and go to Vietnam the food will really taste terrible so you just as well get used to it now."

On more than one occasion when people hear that when I was three years old Daddy used to have me cantering around as hard as Tanka could go, they often comment that that must have really upset Momma.

I recall one time that we cantered by the Little House that did upset her. She saw me go by and yelled out of the window to me, "Get your hands off of that saddle horn and stop riding like a damn sissy!"

Momma found the antics of children to be funny but otherwise she was about as close to humorless as one can imagine. The only humorous thing that I ever heard her say was when I was about 10 years old and we were driving by the campus of William and Mary. In 1970 college girls did not feel the need for as much clothes as do college girls today. The sidewalks were filled with barefooted 20 year olds in cut off blue jeans. Daddy was driving.

Momma snapped at him, "Nelson, are you looking where we are going?" When he said that he was she told those of us in the back seat that we had better hold on because it looked like we were about to drive "into one of those poor girl's a---s."

She was rather hot tempered, especially if she felt that any of her kids had been slighted by anyone. Around 1990 several of my little siblings, me and Daddy were playing music at a fairly large event. Unbeknownst to me the sound man did not have the microphone to my Dobro on. Unfortunately it was beknownst to Momma who was sitting in the audience. I doubt if that poor man ever touched a sound system again.

At my first Indian Horse Festival a well dressed young women turned to the lady beside her and said that she was going to have a facility like mine but that it certainly would be more "upscale". There were nearly 1000 people there and the poor girl selected Momma as the stranger with whom she would share her future plans and her assessment of my horse lot. That was, as they say, a bad move.

But none of those stories really explain Momma. This one does. Momma's social circle was composed to a large extent of other foster parents. One of her friends had an entire family of foster children that she planned to adopt. She called Momma and told her that she had found out that she had cancer and asked Momma to adopt the family. She did not want the kids broken up and sent to different homes.

Momma readily agreed. She did not tell her friend that she also had cancer. And that was the essence of Momma. She understood something that too few others have. Theologians are like Dressage teachers. Both take something simple and beautiful and complicate by a bunch of rules and artificial standards.

Momma lived her life as do only those who truly understand what has been called the Golden Rule. One can only love one's neighbor as one loves oneself if one puts away all self interest. Momma was the least self protective, self interested person that I have ever known. Momma knew that she was dieing for a long time. Though she never did so at home, she was in a wheel chair a national foster care meetings. My home was more comfortable for the special bed and other devices that she needed at the end so she lived, and died in my home. She died with Me and Beth, and Daddy and Shelly in the home. As would have been expected she died in her sleep so their was no death bed vigil. (She would have considered such things ridiculous.)

Beth and I own the Little house where Momma was born and we own our house where she died.

She had the biggest funeral in the church up to that day. It was a very integrated crowd. In 1966 it seemed to me that Momma must be the only white women in the world in favor of integrating schools. She did not mind being out of step with the other white people in our area.

In fact, she decided to stick her thumb in convention's eye one more time, even after death. Momma's body was handled by her friends at a black funeral home. Don't believe that that had ever happened at that little church.

No, Momma was not sweet. She was not soft hearted. Momma was tough. I am very proud of that.

So for all of my little riders that know Daddy so well, that is what Momma was like.

(Daddy's cousin pointed out to me last week that the older I get the more I look like Momma. This picture looks a lot like Momma)

If Woodstock Had Been an Equine Event...

this is about what it would have looked like.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Most Dangerous Decision

Do not miss the main point concerning our program, our horses, and my riders.

This is Red Feather at a clinic that we did at a small local event. Red Feather is the most athletic horse with whom I have ever shared a round pen. He was also once the most dangerous. I mean it very literally when I say that he has kicked and bitten me more than every other horse in my life combined.

He is now puppy dog sweet. He still has problems with fear but there simply is no rage in him. He has more to learn, but we all do. He needs attention, affection and leadership, but we all do. He needed someone that could be patient, see his potential, and work through his problems, just as we all do.

There is no magic in my methods, either with kids or horses, but there is magic in the results. Red Feather is no longer mad at the human world. He and I have many more miles to ride together.

The most dangerous decision one faces is not whether or not to begin. It is whether or not to quit. Red Feather and I did not, and we have not, given up on each other. We have improved the quality of each other's lives. We decided not to quit.

What we do is not brain surgery. Everyone that cares about, and is willing to work to understand kids and horses can do what we do.

That is easy for me to say. I have seen what can be done simply by doing. After all, before I had any little riders I had a 10 year old brother with cerebral palsy that was the first person to get on each wild horse and colt that we started.

When he saw others recoil at the mere thought of mounting a wild horse he would ask, not with arrogance, but with genuine curiosity, "If I can do it then why can't you?"

I feel the same way about our riding program.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Treatable, Perhaps Curable

I hope that I am not being overly optimistic in my belief in rehabilitative education for true horse professionals. Until proven otherwise, I will maintain the position that even if one has been professionally trained and educated and has spent a lifetime in the established horse world, it is still possible to learn as much about a horse's mind, body and soul as an 11 year old girl that has seriously studied natural horse care, natural horsemanship, and natural hoof care for nine months already knows.

As the cliche goes, first one must recognize that one has a problem. Unfortunately, many of those trapped in the established horse world spend their lives with others who are equally afflicted. Like the addict whose social circle is limited to those in whom they share a crack house, they simply reinforce each other's warped beliefs.

Unfortunately, the established horse world cannot be part of the solution to the crisis that horses face in the 21st century. They are, in fact, utterly, 100% responsible for that crisis. However, the brightest and most open minded among them have the ability to break out of the mindset that traps them as securely as a BLM holding pen and become actual horsemen.

I applaud those that reach out to these people and try to show the rewards of true horsemanship to such a crowd. I do not have the strength of character to be able to do so. I take the easy way out and reach out to untainted novices. Were I a better, more patient person I would do otherwise. However, I fear that in that regard I am neither treatable, nor curable.

(This is Croatoan, a wild Corolla stallion in a training clinic with Sarah Lin the fall after his spring capture. Neither Sarah Lin, nor Croatoan need any treatment nor cure.)

Monday, April 4, 2011

On Being More Than A File Cabinet

The proper role of a breed registry depends on the needs of that registry's particular breed. Colonial Spanish horses are nearly extinct as a group with some strains teetering on the cliff's edge. The Horse of The Americas registry recognizes these facts and can be counted on to do the actual work of preserving, protecting and promoting these horses. The HOA is more than a file drawer for dusty registry papers. The HOA is dynamic and alive and on the front line of preservation of these historic horses.

In the previous post I broached the idea of a far reaching program to encourage natural horse care, save family farms, and bring more kids into horse ownership. I will ask the HOA to partner in the development and promotion of such a program. I have no doubt that the leadership of the HOA will do everything in the organization's power to help out.

This is a critical time for our horses whether we call them Colonial Spanish, or mustangs. It is a time for action and leadership.

(This gangly colt has grown into a thing of beauty. He is still growing--just like the HOA)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

On Saving Farms, Horses, Kids and Rural Culture

Family farms are going the way of full service gas stations. Horses are being shipped to slaughter outside of the country. Kids grow up in a vacuous culture of ipods and computer games. Yes, so far this has been one sorry excuse for a century.

With enough vision and dedication we can help turn these connected crisis around. Education and citizen action can help keep farms afloat, increase the number of horse owners and give more kids lives with meaning through horses. We can produce healthier kids, healthier horses, and healthier communities.

The key to doing so is to turn portions of unprofitable farm land into natural horse care boarding facilities. The first step is for everyone that cares about kids, horses, and family farms to read and completely understand two great books, Joe Camp's, Soul of a Horse and Jamie Jackson's, Paddock Paradise. These two books show both how a horse benefits from natural horse care and how to develop a facility that promotes a natural lifestyle for horses.

Family farms, particularly those close to urban or suburban centers, can create affordable boarding opportunities of varying size and can even do so on their most unproductive crop land. In many cases they can produce their own hay and increase their profit margin. The cost of converting open cropland to a natural horse care facility is minimal. There is no need to build a barn, stables or any other form of maximum security incarceration for horses. If shelters are absolutely necessary simple, three sided shelters which do not trap a horse inside an ammonia filled cell provide a healthy alternative to stables.

It is important to understand that every natural horse care facility need not perfectly mimic those set out in Paddock Paradise but that the principles of movement, forage diets, and fresh air are vital to the horse's health and well being.

How many parents out there would love to have their kids on horses but have no space for them and cannot afford the monthly board at a modern equine incarceration facility? The only way that we can find out how many such families exist is to give them access to enlightened natural horse care facilities.

What can keep this from happening? Two things, apathy and the intense opposition of the established horse world. That means that everyone that is willing to take on this crusade has to be prepared to thicken their skin, increase their knowledge, and work to make their communities a better place for horse, kids, and farmers.

Here is the beginning of an action plan for those who do care.

Become absolutely familiar with the literature on natural horse care. Do not be intimidated by "experts" from the established horse world. After one reads Soul of A Horse and Paddock Paradise one will already understand more about a horse's physical and emotional needs than do many of today's "real horse professionals."

Meet with your county extension agent. Educate that agent on the advantages of a natural horse care facility for the local farmer. Speak with a rural insurance agent concerning the cost of insurance for the services that a board provider at a natural horse care facility would actually need. Determine the cost of fencing per acre for a facility.(No barbed wire, electric fencing and suitable wire mesh fencing is entirely appropriate, metal "T" posts would require some form of capping system to make them safe)Research the cost of boarding horses in you area as it currently stands. Determine how many kids are in school in a fifty mile radius of a proposed facility by simply looking up enrollment in local schools.

In short, know the answer to the questions that any farmer is going to ask right off of the bat. How much will this cost me to build? What about insurance costs and liability? How much will it cost me to provide care for each horse and how much will the market bear for a monthly board fee?

Then develop a program that, with the help of your local extension agent, that can be presented to local farmers. Work with your local extension agent to develop a brochure/flyer that can be made available to farmers on natural horse care facilities.

We will provide a short DVD at no cost that can be used at informational meetings with local farmers. (Yes, home made and cheap but you will not be using it at the Cannes Film Festival.)

Get evangelical about this! My weekdays consist of prosecuting children and adults that commit crimes against children. I know how much these kids would benefit from the entire experience of having horses. I look into pastures where obese horses stand around wearing their pasture blankets in 50 degree weather. I drive past land that was farm land for 200 years but is no longer possible to farm at a profit.

Then, I get home to my horse lot where I am met by happy, healthy, dirty horses that eat grass, hay and browse and never enter a stable or wear a shoe. I watch as kids go out to the pasture, catch their horses, saddle their horses, mount up on their horses, ride their horses, and improve their lives.

We can make this happen all over the country. All we have to do is work.

(Editor's note: This message does not apply to hose who have more important things to do than saving farms, kids and horses.)

Friday, April 1, 2011

American Azteca and Foundation Stock Society

The horse pictured above is Holy Toledo, an Azteca owned by Jeff and Katrina Saunders. The picture comes from the web page of a new registry, The American Azteca and Foundation Stock Society. The formation of this registry is another great opportunity for the off site breeding program for the Corollas.

Breeding Corollas to modern stock is a tricky move. The only real danger is if the 1/2 breeds were somehow slipped into the offsite breeding program as pure Corollas or Shacklefords. It will be up to those participating in the program to be diligent to protect its integrity.

That important caveat aside, I know just how wonderful a foal can be produced by such crosses. As it has for the past 50 years, the American Indian Horse Registry provides a great home registry for horses of of 1/2 Colonial Spanish horse descent.

This new registry has an interesting twist. HOA registered horses, of which all Corollas and Shacklefords are eligible to be, may be registered with the American Azteca and Foundation Stock Society as foundation breeding stock. I intend to do so with all of my Corolla and Shackleford stallions.

The founders of this registry are serving a very important purpose in working to develop the American Azteca. Modern breeding fads have allowed modern breeds that were once rooted in Spanish Colonial cow pony stock to create horses that have neither the body nor the temperament to have made solid working stock on the western ranges of the 1800's. The recognition of the historical reality that the root of that working stock was the Colonial Spanish horse is implicit in the use of HOA registered horses as foundation stock.

Like all endangered heritage breeds of American livestock, the Corollas should be preserved for the sake of preservation. They should not have to prove their worth. Time has proven their worth. But for those that want additional reasons to preserve these horses we show their athleticism, endurance, tractability, and inherent soundness every time we saddle up. The existence of the American Azteca and Foundation Stock Society helps illustrate the third reason that these horses should be preserve. Their genes are vitally important in continuing to improve the modern breeds whose roots are in the Spanish Colonial horse.

I will register my stallions with this registry and intend to register every stallion that we produce in the off site breeding program with this far sited registry. Unlike splinter groups of Spanish mustang registries, this registry compliments and does not compete with the HOA.

Tougher Than A Junkyard Dog

Here is Lydia, the person, with her namesake, Lydia, the dog. A week ago we did our most recent fifty mile in a day ride. Lydia dog is now a touch over six months old. She trotted along with us for forty of the fifty miles. (I kept her back for one ten mile circuit because we were going to ride by some bull dogs that might have wanted to establish a no fly zone over her.) The next day she joined my riders for a day of riding in the woods seeming as fresh as the day before.

Lydia dog is 50% boxer, 50% Coon Hound and 100% tough. (Lydia the person recently rode 98 miles in two days. She is no wimp either.)