Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Yeah, But in the Real World....

In darkest night our eyes deceive us.
The Things we see might not be there.
At dawn and dusk the shadows fool us.
But in the brightest of the sunshine
The truth we seek will not be spared.

When it comes to supporting horse slaughter it does not matter to the horse whether one has been fooled by chasing to keep up with the established horse world, confused by the crocodile tears of those who want to kill unwanted horses to keep something bad from happening from them, or feel that it shows "tolerance" to accept the "right" of others to stumble around in darkness.

Regardless of the pitiful excuse that one gives for supporting horse slaughter, the blood on the slaughter house floor is just as red. Foolish horses, if only they understood that we are killing them because we love them so much.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Life's Lessons Learned

Emily, my niece, was about three in this picture of her and Croatoan, a wild Corolla stallion. At that age she could get a rope and go out in the pasture and bring a horse back to the tack shed. People from town would ask things like, "What if a horse steps on her foot?"

Odds are that if that happened it would hurt. If it hurt enough and happened often enough she would learn to be aware of where her feet and the horse's feet were at all times in order to avoid the problem. Eventually she learned how to carry herself in a manner that causes the horses to respect her and avoid uninvited contact with her body.

She is seven now. Yesterday she was riding her young horse, Spotted Fox, a 3/4 blm, 1/4 Chincoteague of great promise. As we rounded a bend in a field another horse bit him and he kicked out and set in for a bucking. She went off high and she landed hard.

She did not turn the reins loose. Laying on her back she maintained control of her horse. To do otherwise would have been irresponsible. Had she not held on he might have spooked other horses. He might even have gone home, leaving her with a four mile hike back to the tack shed.

Instead, she sniffed a bit, got back on and had a good ride for the rest of the ride. Her conduct pleased me, but it also caused me to reflect that what she did only seems outstanding in today's world. Up until about 1970 her behavior was what was exactly expected of a child her age.

Modern parenting seems perfectly designed to create kids that cannot cope with the problems of every day life. Instead we give them the impression that life is simply a series of choices for them to make so that they can have whatever makes them happy at the moment. I wince when I hear kids asked what they would like to eat instead of being told what is for supper.

Adult life does not give us such a series of free choices constrained only by our whims. Adult life does not ask what we would like to eat. It often tells us what we should not eat. But even such simple decisions as facing the choice between what you should eat to extend your life and what you "like" will yield the wrong choice when one has been raised to believe that one can have what one "likes."

The objective reality is that our modern parenting model is producing an epidemic of Type II diabetes and anxiety disorder. We love our kids so much that for the first time in modern history we are teaching them practices that will give them shorter life spans than we have.

We do a fine job of preparing kids for the good things that come our way. Unfortunately, such things require no preparation. To coin a new phrase "Fun Happens!". Sadly, the modern parenting model also does nothing to create a sense of appreciation and thankfulness for those good things.

The simple reality is that life is, at times, good. But life is also cold, nasty and mean. A child that is taught that it is fine to lay on the ground and whine with utterly no expectation that they will responsibly hold onto their horse so that no one is injured is not given any preparation for life as it actually is.

In actual life the reports back from the medical tests are not always fine. In actual life one finds out that family members and others that they love face horrible turns in their lives. In actual life a kid that is taught that life should only deliver him pleasure and comfort and good news will be of no value in helping that family member or loved one.

I did not raise my girls according to the modern parenting model. We had just turned off of the highway when I told Amanda that one of her loved ones had received a discouraging medical report. One tear ran down her left cheek. By the time we reached the first curve on the path she had already begun to develop a plan on what she could do to help out. By the time we reached the tack shed the tear was gone.

I am not a voice crying out in the wilderness on this issue. I know many kids that were not raised with an eye only to keeping them safe, happy, and protected. I know kids that were raised to have faith in God and themselves and to fight back. Rebecca, the Barrs, the Marbles, they were all raised to value other things more than their own temporary comfort.

If today I were to receive terrible medical news (which I will not I am fiercely healthy. This is a hypothetical example)I would go to my wife for comfort, encouragement and a clear assessment of the situation. I have no doubt that I could count on her for anything.

The second person that I might go to could very well be Lydia. She would be a source of strength. She was raised that way.

Lydia is 16 and she has been raised right. She understands that what is best for her is not the deciding factor when choosing a course of action. When Lido died I called Beth and as soon as I got off of the phone with her I called Rebecca, gave her a quick list of instructions and never gave a second thought as to whether I could count on her to get it done. Abby came across the nation to be with us at Momma's funeral. A few year's ago I had a serious health problem with our horses. Emily was in Colorado visiting family for Christmas. She sent a note that she could get a standby flight and be at the tack shed right away if I needed her.

To re-cap, my seven year old niece got bucked off hard and never turned the reins loose. If she had turned loose her spooked horse could have caused problems for other riders.

My sister is raising her right.

Ho, Ho, Ho

The little riders love parades. I love the end of parades. A sense of relief is one of my favorite emotions.

On December 10 we will ride about five miles, through the woods and down the highway into Smithfield for the annual Christmas parade.

T'is the season to be jolly. Ever seen a jollier looking bunch of little riders than in this picture?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: I Do Not Dance

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: I Do Not Dance: I find it to be a wholly undignified endeavor. However, if I did dance I most surely would have been dancing all over the woods yesterday...

The Measure of A Man

I do not mind most of the things about aging that seems to bother other people. I do not care if my hair is brown or gray. It does not bother me that I have only a few more teeth than the average duck. It does not bother me that I cannot run as fast as I once could. Now I simply leave sooner and that works just as well as having run fast to get where ever I am going.

It does bother me that I set goals that I have yet to achieve. I have now, on three occasions set out to ride 100 miles in a day. Each time I got in over 50 miles, but my best day was only 69 miles. About four years ago I was picking up a sick colt (he later recovered fine) when my right bicep tore in two. It was a nasty looking affair but the pain was not that serious. In fact, we went ahead with the ride that was scheduled that afternoon. It never hurt badly but it did not heal correctly and is only about 40% as strong as my other arm. I have even gotten used to that.

But tonight the ravages of time hit hard. I had a sink full of live oysters and an empty house with no distractions. I put three large containers, all filled with oysters, in the oven. I planned to knock off the first 130 some oysters while I was cooking some more. I was looking at a three hundred oyster night.

Before I ate my hundredth roast oyster I began to feel full. My kitchen sink is full of oysters. There is nothing holding me back, but I simply am full. There has not been a time since I was a kid that I could not eat even a hundred roast oysters.

Forget the Mayan calendar and the 2012 apocalypse. This is much bigger. If I cannot easily consume even 100 roast oysters, that must surely be a sign of terrible things to come.

This is a picture of my grandson on Wanchese, a Shackleford stallion. If you ever happen to bump into him, please don't tell him that his Granddaddy could not even throw down 100 roast oysters. He is a sensitive child and might not be able to bear the shame.

Strains, Stains, and Automobiles

Too much time is spent among Spanish mustang preservationist arguing about...,actually every moment spent arguing is time wasted. And with so many strains teetering on the brink of extinction there is no time to waste. Among the worst wastes of time are the efforts to define a particular type of Colonial Spanish conformation as being the only type of true Spanish conformation, with a suggestion that everything that deviates from this Platonic "form" is the result non-Spanish bloodlines. We can all have our preferences of the variations within strains without trying to claim that our individual preference is the only pure strain.

In the report of the inspection tour of the Corollas and Shacklefords (which can be found on the Horse of the America web site) Vickie Ives does a great job of showing the variations of Spanish types that appear even in a genetic grouping as isolated and defined those of Corolla and Shackleford. I find some of these variations more attractive than others, but to say that any variation is proof of purity and any deviation from that variation is proof of foreign blood would be absurd. The DNA of these horses makes it very clear that they have been isolated from outside influence for a very long time.

Every mustang preservationist should love their particular strain. It is fine to even pretend that that strain is a separate breed. It is very poor strategy to attack those who promote other strains. It is even poorer strategy for those who are attacked to respond. Such exchanges simply provide ammunition for those who wish ill toward all of our strains.

Efforts to preserve these horses are already shackled by the existence of multiple registries for Spanish mustangs. The HOA promotes all of the strains without trying to stain the image of any recognized strain. That is a model that all preservationist should follow.

I recently contacted a breed organization that strongly promotes 1/2 breed crosses of their breed. (I am very impressed with the 1/2 Corolla horses that we have produced by breeding to several modern mares. These 1/2 breeds will not be used in the off site breeding program. The purpose is to produce super horses that will get the Corolla name and bloodlines in front of a broad audience. Werowance is already doing that in South Carolina). I explained a great deal about the Corollas with particular emphasis on their calm natures and freakish endurance. I made it very clear that we are offering the breeding services of each of my Corolla stallions at no charge to mares from this organization. I made it very clear that there were no strings attached. I wrote twice with the offer.

That organization did not deem the correspondence worthy of a response, either time. That is what we are up against, an established horse world that sneers at our horses. Every time we refuse to work together, every time we claim that our strain is the purest, and every time that we try to "breed up" our horses by making them taller we give aid and comfort to that established horse world.

This is a picture of a daughter of Red Feather. She is a pure Corolla and is every thing that I would look for in a Colonial Spanish horse. Many of you have horses of strains that developed hundreds of miles from Corolla. You also have horses that are everything that I would look for in a Colonial Spanish horse.

We sink, or we float, together.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Marsh Tacky

This is a shot of my oldest wild stallion, Croatoan, a few months after he was captured. He is a Corolla from the Outer Banks and is a great representation of the state horse of North Carolina, the Banker horse or Colonial Spanish mustang of the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

His long domesticated cousin, the Marsh Tacky,is the state horse of South Carolina. They share many similarities and likely have many common ancestors. Like the Corollas, they are at risk of extinction. They are proving their worth in the woods and swamps of South Carolina not only as first rate trail horses, but also as top hunting horses.

Future posts will cover the efforts to preserve and promote this strain. I hope to have a few pictures of some of them up soon. The more that I learn of the Spanish horses of the east, the Choctaws, the Corollas, the Shacklefords, and the Crackers them more impressed I am with them.

It is possible that for those looking for a trail horse that can do it all, day after day, mile after mile, horse breeding may have reached its zenith in the southern swamps two or three hundred years ago.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

It Makes a Great Christmas Gift

We still have some copies of my book "And a Little Child Shall Lead Them: Learning from Wild Horses and Small Children" available. The book may be ordered by $15.00 check payable to Mill Swamp Indian Horses,LLC and mailed to Steve Edwards, 13644 Bethany Church road, Smithfield, VA 23430. To put matters in proper perspective without sounding too biased--it is, arguably, the best book written in Smithfield in the past decade concerning efforts to teach natural horsemanship to little kids.

We also have some horses in various stages of training available for the most special Christmas gift that a person will ever receive. Among these is Medicine Dog, one of the best trail horses that I have ever trained.

Anyone interested in buying a horse please contact me at .

Friday Feast At the Little House

By noon tomorrow I hope to have the grill full again as we have in the last two years. The day after Thanksgiving the kids come out and we make a wooden cooking grill like those shown in the early settler's drawings of Indian life here on the coast. We cook all day and these town kids taste things that they might not have tasted before--deer, oysters, duck, maybe rabbit and quail.

Learning is done with all of the senses--including the sense of taste. We ride the horses that were ridden here 350 years ago. We dig wells by hand. This winter we will tan some deer skins and raise little pigs. In a few weeks we will have a great archaeological session using artifacts recovered from the horse lot.

Riding is the biggest part of what we do, but no the only part.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: What I Learned In 98 Miles in The Saddle

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: 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 Sundan...

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: What I Learned In 98 Miles in The Saddle

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: 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 Sundan...

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: What I Learned In 98 Miles in The Saddle

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: 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 Sundan...

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: A Kid's Horse

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: A Kid's Horse: When people create arbitrary rules of proper horsemanship it is often the horse that suffers. I came across a great example in an of hand...

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: It Was Too Dark For Me to See the Ice Hanging From...

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: It Was Too Dark For Me to See the Ice Hanging From...: my aged body. In fact it is too cold for me to even write about what the kids and our horses just took me through so I am now turning this...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

When Seized By The Power of Music

Learning powerful, emotional lyrics creates strong feelings in little girls---Shyness, happiness, excitement, intensity, and apparently an uncontrollable need to pick one's nose.

Yes, But Summer White After Labor Day?

Quien Es? is one of the mares that we produced by crossing, Wind in His Hair, a Chincoteague stallion, with several BLM mares. The result has been a series of horses with shocking endurance and unforgettable beauty. Terry recently began competing Quien Es? in competitive trail rides. Always the smallest horse in the events, she leaves the owners of 16 hand horses wondering why their horses cannot perform as bravely as does the little American Indian horse.

On November 20 she gave birth to Peter Maxwell shown above. Though only 1/4 Chincoteague he took 100% of his color from the island at the Virginia/Maryland border.

His father is Edward Teach, a black Corolla stallion. If past experience bears out, he will have the endurance of a marathon runner and the disposition of Grand Pa Walton.

His ancestry comes from the sands of the Nevada basin and the sands of the Atlantic ocean. His extraordinary toughness will come from the grit in his soul.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Soul Of A Horse--Joe Camp

Horses should come with an owner's manual and it should be Joe Camp's great book , "The Soul of a Horse." Joe does not do ground breaking research. He simply puts the ground breaking research that has been done in the last twenty years concerning the importance of natural horse care in a form that can be readily understood.

I am very serious when I write that every horse owner should read this book. Your horse deserves it. Everyone that wants to be a horse owner should read the book several times. Every riding instructor should read it and listen to it on tape. Everyone that boards horses for others should seek to memorize it like scripture.

This spectacular BLM mare is very lucky to be owned by someone that understands every syllable of the book.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Horse Slaughter, A Debate Misdirected

Legislation has been advanced that will make it more likely that horse slaughter houses will return to our nation. The debate over horse slaughter has, to date, been played on a playing field created by the biggest agribusiness and factory farm interests. It is sad that so many people that would otherwise be expected to stand up for horses have been lured away from taking a strong stand against horse slaughter by a savvy media and public relations strategy. This effort, designed to show that horse slaughter is the best thing that could happen to the equine industry and a practice so kind and humane that those who slit the throat of horses should be lauded as humanitarians who only seek to end the suffering of unwanted and abused horses, has found fertile ground.

We must first look at the actual issue here. The factory farms and agribusiness corporations that are funding the return to horse slaughter do not have a financial stake in the slaughter houses. Only a handful of such facilities will exist either way. They are looking down the road and fear that efforts to end horse slaughter could one day lead to efforts to end the factory farm system. Their ultimate concern is that it could lead to the banning of the slaughter of other livestock. That is what underlies this debate.

There is nothing unusual about such a strategy. It has been employed through out our history by institutions both of the right and left, both good and bad. The ACLU supports the right of Nazis and Klansman to parade, not because of support of either group but for fear of what their suppression could lead to. The ACLU is open about its motivations. Other groups are not always so open. The NRA opposes every effort at firearms regulation because of the fear that the passage of one restriction, however minor, could lead to the passage of more restrictions.

Of course, some of the major horse registries that support slaughter have a direct financial interest in the spilling of horse blood. Few of the other entities that are funding the efforts to make the slaughter of horses seems like the work of angels have such a direct financial interest, yet they are spending a fortune on lobbying and public relations.

Make no mistake about it, the concern that such groups have is not for the good of horses today, but instead is aimed at protecting potential threats to their coffers twenty to fifty years down the road.

They have succeeded in causing too many opponents of horse slaughter to play their game and engage their claims. I decline to do so. Of course, they have completely mislead people into believing that the closing of slaughter houses in America has had any impact on horse prices. The simple reality is that the export for slaughter market coupled with the extreme reduction in of breeding over the past decade has resulted in a horse supply much smaller than it was when we still had slaughter houses in America. The truth is that we had very few death houses and they had a minimal impact on horse prices.

The remainder of their policy arguments are equally vapid and I will not engage them because each ignores the only issue that is relevant to the discussion--"Is horse slaughter immoral?"

If slaughter of horses is immoral than none of the other issues matter. Morality does not adjust itself to suit practicality. If a practice is immoral it does not matter how many advantages its acceptance would bring to society. That is why we do not look at the economic advantages of euthanizing "unwanted senior citizens."

If one accepts that the slaughter of other livestock is not immoral one must either accept that horse slaughter is moral or that their is a fundamental difference between eating a horse and eating a cow. In short, one must assert that the life of a horse is of a different value than the life of a sheep.

I believe that it is. In making such a determination I look to several factors, religion, tradition, reason, and the intangible recognition of what is.

It is easy to look at the views of various religions on the issue. The consumption of horse meat is banned by the Torah, the Koran, and has faced condemnation by the Pope dating back several hundred years. I am not a student of Eastern religions but I am not aware of the promotion of equine consumption by humans in any of the larger Eastern systems of belief.

In looking to tradition, western civilization has never placed the consumption of horse meat on the same level as the consumption of other livestock. The French fondness of horse meat is relatively modern and dates back when horse meat was considered a food of the people and not as "elitist" as the consumption of beef and mutton. Eating horses was a political statement, not one based in hundreds of years of tradition.

The most difficult case to make against horse slaughter is to rely on simple reason. Reason tells us that a horse is not a human and there is no logic in distinguishing between the flesh of horses and that of any other beast. Such an argument is compelling and were the issue only examined on that basis it is impossible to argue against horse slaughter. But reason has its limitations. The use of pure reason can lead, and historically has lead, to justification for the most horrific acts of cruelty perpetuated by man.

The ability to use reason is a great part of what makes us human, but it is the ability to go beyond reason that harnesses the brute that is our nature. It is that view beyond reason, the ability to recognize what simply is, which, when coupled with reason, that brings out what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature.

The recognition of what is must lead to the conclusion that the horse is spiritually linked to us as is no other animal. Humanity is not characterized by merely what we build or that which we create. The core of the human experience, that which distinguishes us from the apes, is our system of beliefs, dreams, aspirations, and ideals. The human body rarely lasts over a century but those beliefs, hopes and ideals can continue to last until the last human no longer does.

It is the spread, advancement, refinement, and improvement of those ideals that give us hope for a better future. It is our innate flaws as humans that hamper that spread, that advancement, that refinement and that improvement.

That which is "me" is not only that which I do, but that which I believe. And those ideas, beliefs and ideals were brought to me and to all of us on the backs of horses. Until quite recently in human history the spread of knowledge, culture, and belief could travel no faster than could a horse. For two decades now much of what is known has been communicated via computer. For several millenia much of what was known was communicated via horse back or horse drawn conveyance.

I do not suggest that we should not eat horses because we owe them a debt of gratitude for their service. I believe that it was the horses unique ability to form a bond with humans that made that service possible. It is that bond that distinguishes the horse from the sheep. I do not suggest that there are no other animals to which some people can bond. Nor do I suggest that all people can form such a bond with a horse.

I believe that the slaughter of horses is immoral primarily because of that intangible recognition of what is. The ability to reach into the human spirit and lift it is what makes horses different than other livestock. This is not because of a classification that people make regarding animals. It does not matter if a horse was "raised for slaughter" anymore than it would matter if a child was cloned for spare parts for future organ transplants. We cannot classify. We cannot designate. We can recognize what is. We can deny what is. We cannot designate what is. God has done so already.

The intangible recognition of what is--the recognition of the spiritual connection between humans and horses is what caused Crow chief, Plenty Coups, to express in exasperation, "The white man, who is almost a god, yet still a child, says that the horse has no soul. How can that be? Many times I have looked into my horse's eye and have seen his soul."

Is banning horse slaughter practical? Of course not. However, practicality has no place in considering issues of morality. One must simply do that which is right.

What gives me the right to say that horse slaughter is immoral? I am bound to do so because, like Plenty Coups, I have looked in my horse's eyes.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I do not know if it is true that what you do not know cannot hurt you but I do know that it is true that what you cannot remember cannot help you. I remember with vivid clarity everything from the moment that the phone rang, but I do not remember the previous week. This is not a new development. I recognized while doing the eulogy that I had no memory of the entire previous week. About a year and a half after the funeral I remembered that the night before he died I saw Lido walking down to the Little House. It was getting dark so I slowed down to see who it was. He looked at me and spoke. I spoke back and drove on.

Such matters take control of the calendar. Thanksgiving is no longer coming up. Christmas is no longer coming up. It is the end of December that is coming up. The end of December seems to start coming up around Labor Day and we rush toward the end of December when the clocks fall back an hour. The end of December announces itself loudly to me every time I look out at one of the wild ones that we have not broken yet and allow the thought to quickly flash through my mind that Lido and I need to hurry up and get that horse in the woods. Just as quickly I remember that will not be happening. I remember about the end of December

The Horse of the Americas Registry has set up a fund in Lido's honor that is used to rescue individual Spanish horses who are at risk. On December 29th, send a contribution to that fund. Actually, you just as well go ahead and do it now. The end of December is just around the corner.

Yeah, What he Said!

I am being quoted all over the place according to a computer search. At least I think that I am. Several years ago I thought that I came up with one of my best lines ever. Referring to the Spanish mustang I wrote, "America's first horse is still America's best horse." I really thought that it was an original phrase.

Turns out that I was wrong. Part of the phrase I had inadvertently picked up from HOA texts and the first use of the phrase went back to Vickie Ives.

With that memory firmly in place, I hesitate to claim credit for a slogan that is being used by those who promote ponies as mounts for adults in several corners of the world. But...I think that "I ride ponies because heart is not measured in hands.", is a quotation from my essay, "I Ride Ponies". The essay is an excerpt from my book, "And a Little Child Shall Lead Them: Learning From Wild Horses and Small Children". (The book is now available through the Corolla Wild Horse Fund's on line gift shop.)

In any event, I certainly do not mind anyone else using the line. I strongly support the promotion of the smaller breeds, especially for grown ups, and even old people. Especially old people. Heart is not measure in hands and true age is not measured in years. True age is measured only in what one does,...... or what one gives up doing.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pain's Simple Sounds

In the previous post I discussed the obvious answer to the question as to why people that have suffered tremendous pain in their lives make better horse trainers. That was an easy one.

I cannot answer a deeper question of pain and communication. Why are those who have suffered horrible, long term emotional pain able to master the use of simple words and phrases that create indelible images on our hearts?

Lincoln, Crazy Horse (e.g. "One does not sell the land upon which the People walk.), Hank Williams, Townes Van Zandt, and Gram Parsons to name a few. Only Lincoln among them lived to be older than me. Two assassinated,three killed by drugs and alcohol all geniuses, all simple, all complex, all suffering, and each profound.

And each more popular in death than in life.

Lincoln's second Inaugural Address made sense of the senselessness of the slaughter. Crazy Horse gave meaning to both the fight and the flight of his people. Williams, Van Zandt, and Parsons wrote words of the clearest insight while blind drunk.

I have no hypothesis to explain the tie between their pain, their poetry and their prose. I only recognize what a shame it was that none of them understood their own greatness.

I'd Swim the Seas For To Ease Your Pain

In the great documentary "Buck" it is pointed out that those who are able to communicate best with horses are often "tortured souls." Many of the best trainers suffered horrific childhoods of abuse and incessant trauma. It is no mystery why this is true.

The body language of humans is that of the predator. That does not mean that humans move like blood thirsty beasts. It simply means that all predatory species use many of the same signals, even when not engaged in hunting. The body language of a high school cheer leader and a Jack Russel terrier is indistinguishable.

But when a person lives in a state in which terror is the norm, he reverts to using the prey animal body language that was natural for him as a toddler. When he is a helpless child he actually is a prey animal. If he continues to be the subject of terror throughout his childhood he will continue to respond positively to prey animal body language and negatively to predator body language. (Ever met an abused child that enjoyed shaking hands? Of course not, and this is why.)

For such a person, a round pen is a place of peace, a refuge from a world that still constantly signals to his subconscious that it wants to do him harm. In the round pen he can find comfort by providing peace to a terrified colt. It may be the only place on earth where he finds such peace.

I did not suffer an abusive life, but my parents had over 100 foster children while I was at home. The vast majority of them had been abused and lived lives that were waking nightmares. I was always the oldest child. Often one or both of my parents worked night shifts. I had a much larger role in caring for the little ones than occurred in the average family. Without having any idea that it was happening,or even knowing what it was, I began to become fluent in prey animal body language.

For over a decade I have prosecuted all of the molestation cases and crimes against children and mentally retarded adults in the localities in which I have prosecuted. I have given formal training to other prosecutors on how to use correct body language to gain the trust and respect of a terrified child. (Yes, it is exactly what I use in the round pen with a terrified horse--advance and retreat, avoid eye contact, standing shoulder to shoulder, slow breathing, never walking in a straight line, etc)

I am constantly amazed that my riders are so often surprised by what their horses do. How could you not know that he was going to turn to the left and go around that tree? He had been telling you with his body that that was what he wanted to do for at least four steps and asking if it would be ok to do so for another two steps. Even very experienced riders seem to have deaf eyes. My eyes hear everything that the horse tells me.

It flows both ways. I have come to realize that I incorporate much of a horse's world view in my own. I get nervous and a bit edgy when the wind is blowing, even a fairly gentle breeze. I much prefer boredom to excitement. I even find myself chewing softly when I find the perfect word to put in a sentence. Few things make me mad as quickly as having people not get out of my way when I am walking into a crowd. The only thing worse for me than being alone is to be in a herd of strangers.

I have not sought to adopt these characteristics. I have simply recognized their existence. The ironic truth is that, although I am a prosecutor and try many cases every week, I actually spend more time each week communicating with horses than I do communicating with people.

Granted the equine communication is of a much simpler nature, e.g. "come here and stand by me" spoken with the eyes and a shoulder only. Ironically, "come here and stand by me" is one of the most rewarding and important things that one will see/hear in a lifetime, be it a tortured lifetime or not.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: From Lido's Point of View

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: From Lido's Point of View: You do ride pretty, but not as good as me. My riding is a little bouncy cause only part of my body works. Keep on riding. You'll get bette...

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Year's Worth of Healing

The Corolla Wild Horse Fund just put these photos up on Facebook. The bottom picture is of Edward a year ago, after he had already been treated for two weeks at a vet hospital. That picture is from the day that he was brought to us.

The other picture is from a few weeks ago. That is Edward with Croatoan. Edward's injured neck, now healed, is visible in that picture. That is how well he healed.

Edward has been ridden twice in the woods bareback with only a rope halter. He is a great little stallion and is waiting for someone to adopt him and keep him in the offsite breeding program.

I Am Not That Tough

Anyone that has ever been the subject of a newspaper feature knows that on occasion they get the facts a bit confused. Those of you that read Carolina newspapers may have noticed an example of such confusion in a story about Tradewind. I want to clarify that point.

While it is true that my riders and I have completed several rides of 50 miles in a day, the reporter made a bit of a mistake in stating that I ride 50 miles every day.

If I did so I would have little time left to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

(Here is a working man in the Dominican Republic riding his working Spanish horse with home made tack. I strongly suspect that he and his horse would leave me and my horses in the dust on a fifty mile ride.)

The Blood of Good Blooded Horses

A bit of perspective is needed when looking at the current horses market. I must admit that I was caught off guard a bit when it was suggested that because of the "glut" of horses available today it was wrong to try to stave off the extinction of the Corollas. That may have been the single best example of gnat straining/camel swallowing "logic" that I have encountered.

November's issue of Horse and Rider has some telling statistics. In 2000, 17,089 Appaloosa mares were reported bred. In 2010, the number dropped to 4,768. Among Paint mares, 103,534 were bred in 2000 but by 2010 the number dropped to 24,480. Quarter horse mares bred dropped from 220,785 to 122,177 over the decade.

The off site breeding program contributed to America's "surplus" of horses by producing four foals. (That is four, not four thousand.)

The worst thing about these statistics is the horrible truth that lies behind them. We do not have a surplus of horses. We have a shortage of new riders. The industry should focus on increasing demand. Supply has obviously been cut to the bone.

It can be done, but not by using the model of the established horse world. We can make the cost of horse ownership plummet while increasing the health and happiness of our horses by encouraging natural horse care. Natural horsemanship makes it possible for dedicated novices to train their own horses.

Here are some facts that are not discussed when considering horse ownership. The cost of properly feeding a Colonial Spanish horse for a day is only a bit more than the cost of feeding high quality dog food to a German Shepard for a day. My average vet bill for my horses is less than the average vet bill for our four terriers. (Granted I spend much more on dewormers for the horses than for the dogs.) A great used saddle can be picked up at the local auction for $125.00. The price to shoe a properly shod horse is $0.00. (A properly shod horse wears no shoes). Proper hoof trimming is easily learned and most owners over the age of 12 can learn to do a first rate job of hoof care. A year of horse ownership can cost less than a year of membership in a select league soccer team.

The irony is that the things that make horse care so expensive are the things that hurt horses the most. A life of sugar, stables,and shoes costs a fortune. A healthy lifestyle for a horse costs a fraction of that amount.

Instead of promoting enlightened horse care and working to reduce the cost of ownership, too many breeders and breed associations all fall in line to support big agribusiness' solution to the "glut"--horse slaughter. Instead of working to give a kid a life with meaning through horses they prefer to take the life of a horse.

There is something deeply wrong with an industry that produces pedigrees to show how good blooded their horses are, while, at the same time, advocating spilling that good blood on the slaughter house floor.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Houston, We Have Landed...and, uh, We Ain't Going Nowhere

I do not come from adventurous frontier stock. My white ancestors settled about 8 miles from the Little House in 1635 and since that time I have had a relative within a 15 mile radius of the Little House.

Such a background creates roots that city people do not quite understand. Sunday night there was a dinner at the little country church across the road from my house, just down from the cemetery which was built on land cleared by my grandfather and great uncles, along with others in the church. The cemetery is filled with my relatives, most who farmed, rode,played music, and hunted hard.

Inside the church, Gwaltney, my great uncle was sitting up close to the desserts. Gwaltney is the oldest of his generation. He does not use the ramp to get into the church. It takes too long. With a bit of help he takes the short flight of stairs. I have never heard him speak ill of another person, nor have I ever heard anyone say anything bad about him. Gwaltney turns 100 years old in a bit more than ten days.

Daddy was outside with his guitar by the fire. He is the oldest member of his generation. A few men younger than me had guitars out. On several occasions the younger men would forget the words to some songs. Daddy would pick up the words and keep going. He told that when he counted up he knew over 500 songs. Daddy is about 75 years old.

After all of these years I recently learned that to make a guitar sound like it has spent some time with Maybell Carter you need to tune it down about four frets and put a capo on the fourth or fifth fret and then just play like that is how things are supposed to be. I used to study the ancient songs hard. I used to know the words to many songs, but not lately. I do not know nearly as many songs as Daddy. I am the oldest member of my generation. I am 51 years old.

Ariyanna came over by the fire and helped with a few songs. She has a solid voice but is a bit hard to manage on stage. She keeps trying to sing my parts and is a bit too free with a willingness to adjust the melody to suit her mood. She is my granddaughter. She is 4 years old.

Last night we had our first session for some of my little riders to learn to play and sing some ancient songs. Christian is not in this picture. He was sitting off to the right absolutely eating up the fret board on the dulcimer. I do not know that I have ever heard a dulcimer fit in so well with a guitar. These three girls, Samantha, Ashley, and the baby range from 4 to 11 years old.

We were upstairs in the Little House, above the room where my mother was born and in the room that I slept in when I was about five years old. The Little House is about 120 years old, a generation older than Gwaltney.

In pasture number one, out behind the Little House, the ground is scattered with stone relics of an Archaic Indian village. That village was there about 1,500 years ago, maybe as much as three thousand years ago.

I believe that the song that we were singing in this picture is "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?"

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Ticking Clock

Efforts to stave off the extinction of the Colonial Spanish mustangs of Corolla face obstacles on every front. All are frustrating, but none are as frustrating as the problem of placing stallions that have to be removed from the wild. We need to place them they where will be maintained as stallions. Instead the stallions are too often gelded. The scalpel of the vet ends their lineage as efficiently as does the gun of those who have shot and killed wild Corollas. Whether gelded or killed by a drunk driver, the lineage ends all the same.

The gelding of any of the few Corollas that we have left should never be viewed for anything other than what it is--vandalism. I find no virtue in doing so what so ever. Unfortunately, I have as many stallions as I can effectively use at our horse lot. If no one else comes forward to adopt any of the male colts the Corolla Wild Horse Fund has no choice but to geld them while they await adoption. They certainly cannot be criticized for having to take such a horrible action. They have no choice. Were it not for the Corolla Wild Horse Fund and its selfless staff, these horses would be already gone. The CWHF is not the villain. Ignorance among horse owners is the villain.

What passes for horsemanship in America has come to believe that horses come in three varieties--mares, geldings, and stallions. They do not. Horses come in two types--trained and untrained. If a stallion is poorly trained, kept up in a stable, fed sugar and not given the opportunity to move about, he will become very dangerous. So will a gelding. So will a mare. Of course, maintaining a stallion requires additional steps in training and handling than maintaining most geldings do, but the task is not all that daunting.

My mother's horse was a stallion. She rode him in shows, parades, and rides in the woods with children. Not a week goes by that we do not have several rides with Corolla stallions being ridden along with, and by, children. We train wild stallions with the assistance of elementary school students.

Over the next year I fear that the Wild Horse Fund will have to geld some young stallions that for various reasons must be removed from the wild. To do so is much like having a man lost in the desert with only a bottle of water stop every few miles and pour out some of his only remaining water.

The man lost in the desert has a choice. At this point The Corolla Wild Horse Fund does not have a choice. Without adopters that will take on and gentle a wild stallion they have to geld them.

All horses are potentially dangerous. All horses that are untrained are even more so. The only horse that is completely safe is a dead horse. All horses regardless of sex must be trained and handled by competent, confident handlers. I do not suggest that a novice, without training or assistance should take on the sole responsibility of a stallion--or of a mare or a gelding.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Millions for Trash, Pennies of Knowledge

It is a bad sign for horses when stating what should be obvious is viewed as arrogance. I have had people look at me in the greatest of shock when I respond in the affirmative to the question as to whether I believe that I know more about my horse's health needs than does the vet. I certainly do and if you care about your horse you should also.

A vet likely only only spends a few minutes a year with your horse. You,(hopefully), spend several hours every week with the horse. The horse cannot tell the vet where it hurts but if you have a sound relationship with your horse you can tell the vet where he hurts.

I do not say any of this to disparage vets. I am very impressed with my vets. Yes, they know more about equine medicine than I ever will, but I know more about my horse's behavior, diet, normal practices and normal appearance than they ever can.

I am something else that the vets will never be. I am the first responder. I have a duty to my horse to educate myself as much as possible about equine health issues. That means that I have a duty to stay up with the research. I have a library of medical information under my finger tips right now that vets twenty years ago could never have dreamed of having such quick access to. Do not waste that resource. Get your medical information directly from the studies. Do not rely on what some self appointed expert using a false name writes on some horse forum.

Aside from often simply being based on fairy tale beliefs about horse care, such advice often repeats knowledge that was the state of the art 20 years ago. I do not want that for my horses in an emergency.

When I was 8 years old I began to play antique football. Although it was 1968, my coaches taught us using the same techniques and plays that they were taught when they were in high school in the fifties. Their coaches had taught them everything that they learned when they were playing in the forties. In 1968 we played the game of 1948.

If you think that giving your horse a mash of wheat bran will clear sand from his gut you are not only incorrect, you are doing the equivalent of playing antique football.

There is one starting place. Every horse owner should fully understand all of the precepts of Joe Camp's, "Soul of a Horse." In all seriousness, if one owns a horse or is even thinking about owning a horse this book must be more than read. It must be absorbed. The information in it should be chewed and swallowed so deeply that it leaks from one's pores. Step two is to read 'The Horse' magazine and "Equus" magazine. Neither are perfect, but both are loaded with helpful information. From there go to your computer, not for light entertaining stories about "My First Pony", but for cold, raw, dull information.

There is nothing about managing or training a horse that is common sense. This stuff is not logical to predators whose digestion is not dependant on fermentation of carbohydrates.

It is sad to see how much money people spend on supplements, special pads, tack and training gear, etc that does nothing positive and often much negative for their horses. Such money would be better invested in obtaining knowledge. One day your horse's life might depend on it.

Often what one picks up from people that have been around horses "all their lives" contains a grain of truth. If I have a colt on the ground that seems perfectly healthy, yet cannot stand up, I want more than a grain of truth. I want an entire wheat field full of truth.

The limited knowledge that many horse people passively acquire is a dangerous commodity. Such people could look at this picture of Charlotte in the snow and conclude that it is a picture of frozen sausage.

Do not follow the lead of such people.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

My Favorite Rides Are Like My Coffee

Pitch black. I used to dread the short days of fall and winter because it meant that my opportunities to ride were boiling down to nearly nothing. Now it is my favorite time to ride. I enjoy no riding experience more than gaiting through the woods, relying on my horse to avoid the trees and keep us both safe. We have never had an injury during a night ride and I only recall one rider getting tossed in the dark.

Tonight we will not set out until after it is completely dark. Black powder season is in and I want to give all the hunters a chance to get out of the woods before we go in. Looking forward to things too much generally leads to disappointment, but I am looking forward to hitting the woods tonight.

(Here is a picture of The Black Drink, a five month old stud colt that we bred in the off site breeding program. He is so beautiful that he even looks good in the dark.)