Sunday, October 30, 2011

Soothing A Savage Beast

When I sing to wild horses in the earliest part of their training one can see them begin to relax. I am not convinced that it is the music that has any direct bearing on the horse. I think that it is more likely that singing reduces the stress signals that I send out. In short the effect is on me but the results show up on the horse.

Rhythmic repetition has a powerful impact on the human mind. It is at the core of the concept of mantra use in meditation. It is the reason that knitting brings peace to so many people. I do not remotely understand the whys and wherefores but the reality of it cannot be denied.

Last night I slept better than I have in many months. Yesterday afternoon I went upstairs to the music room in the Little House, picked up my guitar, tuned it down four entire frets and played two songs. I was alone. I repeated the two songs until I had them like I wanted them. I did not have a watch and there is no clock in the music room. When I got home I realized that I had been playing those two songs for nearly three hours.

Music's impact seems to vary with individuals. Lydia and Emily caused me to have an insight about the role of playing music that, though I have been playing for forty years, had never occurred to me.

As we are preparing to start up the music program with a new round of little riders Emily told me that it was very important to teach the kids some "happy" songs. She further said that most of the ancient songs that I enjoyed made her felel bad when she sang them. The only thing that floored me more than that was the fact that Lydia strongly agreed.

I had never given this issue a great deal of thought. I knew that I divided music into songs with meaning and frivolous ones. I only enjoyed playing songs with meaning and the frivolous ones were just something to be endured because audiences enjoyed having some thrown in.

The girls caused me to realize that every song that I have ever considered to have meaning were songs of tragedy. Love songs that I enjoy focus on couples together for many decades only to be separated by death (e.g. "Gathering Shells By the Seashore") The other type of love song that has meaning are those that involve being driven to suicide by the abandonment of a lover (e.g."I Never Will Marry", "Dear Companion")
For songs of history I find myself drawn to "The Titanic" and "The Cyclone of Rye Cove" (a great song of A.P. Carter's about the tornado that destroyed a public school and killed a dozen people.) For old time gospel songs I like those that seek to give meaning to suffering like "Farther Along" and "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?"

It had never occurred to me before they raised the point, but I cannot think of a single frivolous song that I enjoy. Some I just dislike more than others.

But that was not the biggest surprise for me. I was stunned to hear that performing sad songs made the girls feel bad. I feel so much better after playing or listening to songs with meaning, songs about real suffering. I thought that everyone did.

My feeling is not based on some rational, moral of the story, see things could be worse, etc, kind of reasoning. The feeling is not based on any reasoning rational or irrational. It simply is. Just as getting under a blanket makes one feel warm and standing barefoot in the snow makes one feel cold, listening over and over to "In My Hour of Darkness" makes me feel peaceful.

So, I will teach the little ones some happy songs but I will not change the ones that I listen to or play by myself. I have a handful of things that give me feelings of peace and I am not going to throw any of them away just because it does not work that way for other people.

I See History: Galicenos

Galicenos of Suwannee Horse Ranch, near Live Oak, Florida, is the focal point of an effort to save a beautiful strain of horses that came up out of Mexico about fifty years ago. Check out their web site and if you can do so go check out their beautiful little horses. Just from pictures one can readily see the Colonial Spanish heritage of these horses. The Galicenos are a very rare strain yet odd chance and circumstance lead us to have one when I was very young.

Around 1966 Mrs. Butler moved to our area from the southwest, Arizona perhaps. She was quite the talk of the area. She had an adopted daughter that was in her late teens and that was it as far as family went. She was related to no one here and how she decided to purchase the farm beside my grand parents is a mystery to me. Everything about her was different. I believe that she is the first person with whom I spoke that appeared to have an accent different than the rest of us. She was different in more significant ways.

She was a rancher. None of us ever called ourselves ranchers. We were farmers. She not only was a rancher, she was a sheep rancher. We did not raise sheep. Very few of us even had beef cows. We raised hogs. She had a mare of a breed that no one around here had ever heard of, a Galiceno. When Mrs. Butler moved she left the mare with us.

Daddy quickly trained her to pull what those of us around here called a buggy, but which I later learned was called by the rest of the world, a sulky. She was a bit skittish to to my eye, but she was also the first mare that I had ever handled. (Momma and Daddy rode stallions. This was in the days before America became sissified about stallions.)

I liked her look and I loved the idea that we had a horse of a breed that no one else had ever heard of.

That little search box on the computer showed me the next Galiceno that I would ever see, nearly 45 years later. I love what I saw. The Galicenos that are being preserved and promoted by this non profit bring to mind the lighter built southwestern type of Colonial Spanish Horse, but they also bring to mind the Mongolian horse of today. John Fusco showed some Mongolian riders a Horse of the Americas publication featuring pictures of some Colonial Spanish horses and the Mongolians immediately recognized the similarity between their horses and ours.

If any Mongolian herdsman find themselves near Live Oak, Florida I suspect that they will wonder who stole their horses and brought them to America.

If I live long enough, and if the Galicenos make it long enough, I will add one to my herd and produce a few stunning little Corollicenos.

Genetic Selection by the Horses Themselves

When the opportunity permits, it seems that many horses seek out others similar in type or color to themselves. This is not always the case, but it happens enough to have an effect on the genetics of wild, free roaming horses.

It has been theorized that horses instinctively seek out horses of the color that they associated with warmth and security as foals, the color of their mothers. My light colored males tend to bond with each other as do most of the bays. The Corollas take up with other Corollas within a day of entering my herd. This lead to the logical assumption that they recognized each other from the wild. However, when Shacklefords, who came from an island 175 miles to the south of Corolla, were added to the mix, they bonded just as quickly with them.

In that case it seems that even more so than color and size the common factor was movement, specifically the gaits that made the Banker horses of Corolla and Shackleford different from the other horses in the herd. This is also born out by another unusual pair in our mare herd. My father's Walking Horse is tightly bound with a half Walking horse. They are of completely different colors but both are very spine high, with more pronounced withers than the other mares. Of course, they are the only horses in the herd that have a running walk.

This throws an interesting wrinkle into the idea that wild horses are entirely the result of natural selection. Without a doubt survival of the fittest is the principle force in driving their genetics, but it may also be that a degree of self selection and self imposed genetic isolation may also be part of the story.

Friday, October 28, 2011

To Endure Is To Win

Ecclesiastes, The Letter of James,
A Sermon on the Mount, instrumentals without names
Glues and pastes, warm sunlight, soft rain
Holding things together, giving meaning, soothing pain

Picked softly on the high strings, driving hard on the bass
Steady, even rhythm, a soft and steady pace
A song can be played with meaning yet still have none
Life must have meaning, each day, until that day is done

Horse hair reins and stiff rawhide
Catch 'em, break 'em, mount up, ride.
The world's greed, violence, blood and force
Whipped with a good guitar and a great little horse.

Some Questions Best Not Be Asked

Feel free to brag about how much your saddle costs. Tell the world about all of the money that you spend on lessons. Crow from the highest tree of the ribbons that your horse's great grandfather won. Just make sure that there is a period after each utterance. If there is a question mark after such utterances you could run into a problem when talking to some of my little riders.

Don't ask an 11 year old what she could possibly do with one of those wild horses. Her response might simply be "Fifty miles in a day last spring, but I am trying to work my way up to riding 100 miles in 24 hours."

Responses like that make your horse's great grand father look, well...dead.

A Size Surprise

Here is Pasquenoke at less than five months old. She is only about an inch shorter than her mother, Secotan from Corolla and is taller than her father, Wanchese, from Shackleford. Anecdotal information hinted that crosses between the herds from these two different islands on the Outer Banks often produced offspring larger than the parents seems to be bearing out here.

She is the first foal produced in the offsite breeding program using these two Colonial Spanish mustang herds, (Bankers). Go to the Horse of the Americas website and pull up the Corolla/Shackleford inspection report to see more about these two herds.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

When Only the Worst Is Good Enough

I spoke with someone that was concerned about the expenses that they are incurring with their horse care---full stable board, feed, supplements, turnout blankets, joint injections, shoeing expenses, and steady vet bills. In short, the rider is making a very substantial, non-tax deductible contribution to the established horse world which advocates for the horrific living conditions that most modern horses are required to endure.

If there was real honesty in advertising the established horse world's slogan would be "Show how much you love your horse. Keep him, fat, sick, weak and lame!"

What these poor horses need is for their owners to get a literary supplement. Start with Joe Camp's "Soul of a Horse" and learn how to stop making your horse miserable.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Not That It Would Need Another Verse

But if Gram Parson's spectacular song about the death of three people that touched his life needed a posthumous verse perhaps this would fit:

Only twenty six years old, his life could not be saved.
Like his Daddy and his Momma, a much too early grave.
Now who will sing of the Grievous Angel beneath a Joshua tree?
Or the songs he'd do with Emmylou, and who'll write songs like "She"?

In my Hour of Darkness
In My Time of Need
Oh Lord grant me visions
Oh Lord grant me speed.

Training With Raw Power and Domination

I am not averse to flexing. I believe in being modest and humble unless modesty and humility reach the point of dishonesty. Then they become no more virtuous than any other lie.

I believe that effective training of horses and kids requires the proper exercise of raw power and domination. When I was young I was a politician. Exercising power was very rewarding for me. There are two ways to exercise political power--by getting things done or by preventing things from being done. I never understood the "preventers" who showed their power by staking out turf, being obstacles, waiting for others to show proper obsequiousness to them.

I loved showing my power by getting things done to help people that could use a hand. The reality is that it takes more power to open a door than it takes to shut one, and I never enjoyed shutting doors. I never minded the use of raw power to open doors and I used whatever raw power was necessary without the slightest regret.

The same dichotomy exists among many teachers and trainers. I do not believe that the proper, or most impressive, use of raw power is to beat or humiliate a horse into compliance. I am not impressed by a trainer that is so smart, skilled, and shrewd that he can outsmart a horse that has, at best, the mind of a five year old child. I am not impressed by the use of a "stud chain" across a horse's nose. The stud chain is a perfect symbol of hatred.

I am not impressed by hate.

I am impressed by extreme demonstrations of real power such as that shown by the trainer that has a wild horse following him around the round pen while disparately seeking to comply with the trainer's request. I am impressed when a terrified horse approaches a rushing stream and actually looks back up at its rider and then, after seeing the reassuring look in the rider's eye, gets the courage to ford the stream. That rider shows raw power. That rider shows domination. That horse moves in spite of its fear of the rushing water, not because it is afraid of the rider. That horse moves out of love.

I am impressed by love.

The exercise of raw power and domination out of love is the only force on this earth more powerful than the exercise of raw power and domination out of hate. Love does not require that discipline be ignored. Love does not require the rider or trainer to allow the horse to decide what it wants to do. Love does require that power never be exercised out of anger or frustration and that the amount of force used is no more than that which is necessary to teach the horse to succeed.

The proper exercise of raw power and domination in training requires one to be perfectly comfortable both with having a shot gun in hand, and in never having to use it.

To those who feel that I give horses too much credit for ability to have feelings beyond the instincts that are necessary for survival and insist, "A horse can never be taught to love me." You may be correct. If so the flaw lies in you, not the horse.

This all comes back to the basic reason that one should practice natural horsemanship--to become a better person.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

And Their Worm Shall Never Die

I just got a great question by email concerning the use of wormers. Once again we fall into the problem of definitions and misuse of terms. What most people hate about natural horsemanship is a practice that is not even natural horsemanship at all. Ignoring discipline and control is not natural horsemanship. It is neglectful training. Ignoring health problems in horses is not natural horse care. It is neglectful care.

Worming strategies are complicated by the threat of parasite resistance to the major classes of dewormer drugs. The development of parasites that are completely resistant to these drugs is the greatest threat looming on the horizon for horses in America. We have to come to view deworming drugs the same way that we view antibiotics--as something to be used with care so that they will continue to have any use whatsoever.

The ideal situation is to worm horses after conducting a fecal egg count in order to determine the need for worming. The old practice, still unfortunately advocated by some vets, is a bi monthly rotational system of worming. Such a system encourages the development of super worms that cannot be treated by existing drugs.

I consider such a practice unethical. The eggs of the super worms will reach other horses and the super worms will slowly spread as horses are bought, sold, competed, and transported across the country. Unfortunately, few horse owners are aware of this threat.

The purchase of wormer is my second largest expense after hay. It is absolutely necessary for nearly all young horses, nearly all old horses, and perhaps 25% of adult horses that are still in their prime. The young, the old, and those with poor immune system self protection against parasites serve as breeding farms for worms and make it harder for healthy adult horses to fight off infestation.

My horses have a much lower incidence of infestation as a result of some management changes that I have made in the past two years. I keep foals and weanlings away from the main herd. The foals and weanlings are thus unable to constantly re-infest the larger herds. Nearly all of my hay is now fed in round bale holders and or nets. This reduces potential for contamination of the hay. Unfortunately, we now experience summer droughts as a regular part of our weather cycle. My horses are not receiving as much pasturage as I prefer. The only positive aspect of this is that fewer parasite eggs are consumed because there is less grazing available.

All of this brings us to my most controversial idea concerning proper stewardship of horses. I have been asked, often in a rather hostile tone, "Do you think that you know as much about your horse's health care needs as your vet?"

I most certainly do and if you do not your horse is at risk. This is not because of any fault of the vet. Your vet only sees your horse for a few minutes each year. Your horse cannot tell him where it hurts. If you have the proper relationship with your horse you can tell the vet where he hurts. I like my vets. I admire my vets. They are a great resource, but they are not around my horses several hours each day as am I. I am always the first responder and I owe it to my horses to be a qualified first responder.

To become a qualified first responder takes work and research. The answers are at your finger tips if you are reading this from a computer. Stay away from fake science. Stay on the cutting edge of medical equine research. Focus on digestive maladies because that is what is most likely to kill your horses. Horses can recover from the most horrific injury would that one can imagine with little human intervention yet they can colic and die from a stomach ache of so little severity that if we had the same symptoms we would not even miss a day of work.

Use science. Do not get your information from an established horse world that lauds the cutting edge research of 1986 while desperately trying to sell you something.

Give yourself a quick self test to see where you stand as a first responder.

Answer the following:

Does ivermectin kill tapeworms?
Which clears sand from the digestive tract best wheat bran or psyllium?
One horse has slightly visible ribs. The other has a crested neck and fat deposits at the base of its tale. Which is at the greatest health risk?
Can a horse's mineral needs be met with the use of a trace mineral block in the pasture?
What is best used to put weight on a horse increased fat or increased simple carbohydrates?
Does a coggins test prevent sleeping sickness?
Are stitches the preferred way to treat large surface wounds above the knee?
You have a perfectly healthy acting month old foal that can sit up but not rise. When helped to its feet it happily canters off. This goes on for days. Is his problem nutritional or joint related?
Your horse eats non toxic tree bark and even entire non toxic trees the size of baseball bats. What does he need more of in his diet? Is there a problem that he does so?
Does adding a supplement of psyllium in the amount of a few spoonfuls daily prevent sand accumulation?
Your horse has hoof cracks. Which is most likely the solution--better supplements or changes in hoof trimming strategy?
What is a horse's natural body temperature?
When are the best times of the year to treat for tape worms?
At what time of the day is the sugar level highest in pasture?

This is just a quick list off of the top of my head. Your horse would really appreciate it if you knew the answers to each of these questions.

Monday, October 24, 2011

In Two Weeks We Start Playing Again

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Spring Planting: Of course my little riders can do more than just train wild horses! This picture is from a benefit for the local homeless shelter program t...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Destabilize Your Horse If You Care About Him

Like Joe Camp says, stick with the science of the matter. Another study has come out linking the stabling of horses with increases in incidents of colic. Colic is the leading cause of death of adult horses. The healthier horses in the study were those who remained outside 24/7. The saddest part of this study is that it will not be publicized widely enough. The next saddest part is that it is necessary to do such a study in the first place.

Why doesn't everyone already know this? Because there is no money to be made in telling people that natural horse care works and is the only humane way to care for horses. Stables, supplements, expensive tack and gear--none of these are about horse health. Their sole purpose is to produce income for the hucksters that peddle them.

The Devil invented stables because he could not get horses to smoke cigarettes.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Eqqus Sapiens

We are social animals. Humans cannot be happy without warmth, closeness, and friendship. The perverse irony, and the cruelest aspect of our existence, is that the loss of one who is close hurts much more than the gaining of another with whom one might be close. The result is not merely a zero sum game. That would be bad enough. The result is a game in which we always loose, because the pain of loss trumps the pleasure of gain.

I have no solution, only a strategy. The more people one cares about the more pain one is assured of having. However, the same is not true of horses. The only thing that a horse can do that causes me pain is to die, and that only happens once. The pleasure of becoming close to a horse trumps the pain of loosing one. The result is a game in which we have a chance at winning.

The bottom line is that one must be very careful about inviting anyone into your life that does not eat hay.


Here is a practical note for everyone involved in trying to teach kids to ride. The biggest problem that kids face in learning to ride is fear. Unfortunately modern society and the modern parenting model does nothing to help a kid overcome fear and instead encourages kids, especially boys, to admit fear and give in quickly. I suspect that one day we will find that this is one of the major causes of our epidemic of anxiety disorder among young adults.

Success trumps fear. However, if a kid only rides weekly it takes a long time to ring up enough successful, safe rides to over come that fear. I am in the early stage of a new scheduling system for young riders that is really encouraging so far.

I am working on a new model in which the kids ride as often as possible for a three week period so that the skill and confidence needed to become a safe rider falls into place in a month instead of nearly a year. So far I am seeing dramatic increases in skill level by riding several times a week. I am only in the first week of this experiment and if it continues to pan out I will use it for all new students.

The simple reality is that riding is very easy to learn. Heels lower than toes, toes in front of knees, sitting on your pockets, arms relaxed and not bent, back slouching and sagging, eyes focused on where you want to go, not where you are afraid that you will end up, escalate pressure until the horse responds then immediately release pressure, never pull both reins at the same time, "whoa" is produced by exhaling and gently pulling the left rein toward the left knee.

Visualize the perfect outline of a rider--an exhausted, chain smoking, alcoholic, old cowboy with tuberculosis is the outline that your horse prefers. Sitting up straight and rigid is for horse shows. Riding like we do is how horse show riders would look if the horses wrote the rules.

It is that simple--but nothing can be achieved while the kid is locked in terror. I may be on a path that unlocks the door for modern kids.

The methods used to motivate boys when I was little seem a bit out of place now. I cannot just say, "Shut up whining. If you think this is bad wait until you get bigger and the Viet Cong are pumping bullets at you."

(Raising boys was much simpler in the days before Phil Donahue and soccer).

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Sensible Plan

A pretty young nurse was on her first shift with a nurse that had been around the ER a decade or two. The older nurse immediately gave the young women time worn advice.

"Listen, do not date any of the cops and the paramedics that you meet in here," she warned.

"No need to worry about that. My future husband is a farmer," the young nurse responded.

"That's interesting. Where does he live?," she asked.

The young nurse responded, "Well I have no idea. I have not met him yet."

The best news that I see on the educational front is that more young people are interested in agriculture. They are not interested in being a factory worker that treats livestock as if they were machines. They are interested in being part of a true culture of of growth and life. My daughter and her husband work very hard on their second jobs as horticulturists. She loves her egg operation. Last night they showed me their outlay for their advertising/marketing program for the spring. He was in the Peace Corp. They both have Masters degrees.

When my daughter was young I do not imagine that she ever had a dream to marry a farmer, but it is obvious that she is glad that she did.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I Just Might Have Been Wrong Again

I might have to back off of my belief that there has not been a song composed since 1932 that was worth the trouble of tuning up before you play it. Hank Williams was a poet that came very close but his best work still does not fair well when put up against ancient songs that percolated through the mountains, like Pretty Polly, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, and Angel Band. Bob Dylan put together some nice lyrics on occasion. Townes Van Zandt, Emmylou Harris, even John Denver all wrote songs that were nearly as good as the ancient ones.

But this computer is allowing me to walk back through time to find some lyrics from the late 60's and early 70's that are crisp, clean, laconic, and tell you enough to make you want to know the story behind words. His name was Gram Parsons. Drugs and alcohol silenced him, but not before he wrote "In My Hour of Darkness", a song that I just found that really hits home for anyone old enough to have lost people close to them. I knew who he was, but I did not know the quality of his lyrics. "In My Hour of Darkness" is among the best five songs that I have ever heard.

Which brings us to the topic at hand. Beginning the first Monday night in Novemeber I will be getting together with some of my little riders and showing them how to play a range of acoustic instruments,--- mandolin, banjo, dulcimer, autoharp and maybe a few more. Equally important, they will be learning the lyrics to the ancient songs and the rhythms of old time music. I expect that they will be learning a bit about Gram Parsons too.

The Little House is back now to what I want it to be--a place to relax and a cultural/ educational center. We have a first rate library of works on horsemanship. Art classes are held twice a month upstairs. Music will be going on weekly. Daddy thinks that the little house is about 120 years old. Momma was born in it.

It got a new lease on life. Turns out that it is a great place to listen to recordings of Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons.

The Corolla Wild Horse Fund Does Not Do Hospice Care

The Wild Horse Fund is not an organization whose function is to help the wild horses go gently into that good night. It is not an organization whose only function is to pick up injured and dying horses and wring our hands about them while we watch the entire herd go extinct because of the machinations of bureaucrats.

The horses would be one step away from being gone, but for the work of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund and the strong leadership of its Executive Director. The struggle to save the horse has been long and hard. It will take longer and will get harder. Keep the faith. Support the Wild Horse Fund.

It Is The Relationship That Matters

Let's just pause here for a moment and look at a training story. There are many different ways to approach natural horsemanship, but when done properly they all come back to the same thing--using forms of communication that the horse instinctively understands to tell the horse what you want it to do while developing the kind of relationship with the horse that makes the horse delighted to do what you want it to do. Some systems are simple. Some are layered and complex. Which ever system suits one best is entirely a function of one's personality. For example, many may take comfort in a very specific program that sets out very specific goals to be attained before one seeks to attain the next set of very specific goals. Such a system is not for me. I prefer a comfortable t shirt to a straight jacket in every case.

Danielle has become a first rate trainer using the same free style, play by ear methods that I use. This is her little mustang. Danielle can catch her, saddle her, ride her through whatever terrain or obstacles that are present, and return home safely. The horse had not been handled for quite a long time. Last night Danielle rode her as if the horse had been riding the woods every day for ten years. The last time that someone tried to get on the mare she blew up badly. Danielle could have chosen to focus on what had happened weeks ago and worried about whether the same thing would happen to her. She could have decided that the horse was simply dangerous and untrustworthy and chosen other horses to ride. She could have nervously mounted up, held her breath, squeezed tightly and hoped for the best.

Instead she found a safe place to mount up and did so with cool confidence. The horse responded just as she had when Danielle trained her over a year ago. She rode off with her head down, completely relaxed.

The mare would not have done that for anyone else, unless they conducted themselves exactly as Danielle did. Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 have their place, but the most important level is to have a level head. When she is training horses that is what Danielle has.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Trouble With Treats

Properly done, the use of treats is a great training aid. Used incorrectly treats can train a horse to be so dangerous that it is a threat to all people within its reach.

I have no concern that treats will "teach a horse to bite...become tools to bribe him... cause a horse to be disrespectful." Careful and planned use of treats causes neither disrespect nor biting and the entire concept of "bribery" is a peculiarly warped piece of anthropomorphising. (It is about the same as fearing that giving a horse additional hay will lead to the horse committing tax fraud.)

The first real problem is nutritional and that is simple to fix. If a company is willing to charge an outrageous enough price there will always be gullible horse owners out there who think that the product must be great for horses. No where is this demonstrated better than in the marketing of horse treats. Putting a few vitamins and minerals in a handful of sugar does not change the fact that it is a handful of sugar. Sugar is never a preferred source of calories for a horse and can be lethal to one that is insulin resistant and prone to founder (Founder is now the second leading reason that adult horses are put down by vets--and is making a strong effort to replace colic as the leading reason to end a horse's suffering).

Forget about the candified, junk food treats and simply use black oil sunflower seeds in the shell that are sold as bird feed. They are relatively high in protein, filled with good fat, and also contain some helpful vitamins and minerals. The treat, when given as a reward, need not be any more than five or six seeds at a time. This eliminates the possibility of choke and allows the horse to quickly swallow the treat and return its focus on the trainer instead of spending the next five minutes standing and chewing with a complete loss of focus on the task at hand.

The bigger problem is the effect that treats have on the trainer. The trainer can come to see their role as simply doing doing something that the horse approves of. In short, a completely inverted view of the training process. If I allow the horse to view me simply as a food delivery system, I will eventually begin to see myself in exactly the same light.

I cannot train a horse under those circumstances. I can feed him, but I cannot teach him. The horse, in order to feel secure and to develop a real relationship to me must see me not as a food delivery system but as an affection and discipline delivery system. Parelli is right with his emphasis on love and leadership. Leadership (discipline) can be easily undercut by the improper use of treats. I met a horse whose human interaction for several years consisted entirely of being released from the stable and at night being fed carrots. This was a domestic horse, yet was the most dangerous horse that I ever encountered. It was the only horse that I have ever given up on trimming its hooves. The last time that I was with him I had to walk backwards out of the pasture and fight him off of me with the hoof trimming stand.

That is what a life of all carrots and no correction can produce--a criminal horse.

The last problem with treats is the simple fact that there are 24 hours in each day. Every moment that I spend with the horses must be prioritized to get the most out of that time. Time that is spent shoveling sugar into a horse's mouth is time that is not spent providing the horse with companionship and affection. The horse does not need the treat to be emotionally healthy, but it does need physical contact. It needs time spent with the trainer rubbing its neck, standing very close by, while synchronizing his breathing with the horse

The horse does not need your candy, but it does need your time. I wince when people refer to horses as their children. As a society we do a remarkably bad job of raising children. I certainly do not want that to be the model for a horse/human relationship. Unfortunately, too many people train their horses the same way they raised their children. They demonstrate how much they love both by showing how much money they spend on them. Your child needs your time much more than he needs your money.

So does your horse.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Reality Versus Appearance

Emily made a very telling observation about our program while a film crew was out last spring. We called for the kids to saddle up about six horses and get ready for some pictures of swamp riding. Kids grabbed horses, got out tack, brushed off any mud that might have accumulated where saddle or girth might go, and mounted up.

They did not spend hours (or even seconds) trying to make their horses look sparkly, shiny, and cute. They put their time on what was real, what mattered--getting their horses ready to be comfortably saddled and ridden in some very rough and wet terrain.

I have no problems with trying to make a horse look beautiful as long as it does not take away any time from making that horse actually be beautiful.

(Incidentally, neither Spicer nor Sea Biscuit spent any time in wardrobe or make up before this shot was taken yet they are about as elegantly beautiful as rare Spanish goats will ever be. There is a lesson there for my little riders that might consider putting on gobs of makeup. If you ever want to look as good as Spicer, put that eye liner down and run, don't walk, away from it.)

Proper Spanish Colonial Mustang Conformation in Two Words

As long as those two words are "Rowdy Yates". One can learn all that is needed to be known about how a Colonial Spanish horse should be put together by simply looking at Vickie Ives super stallion, Rowdy Yates. At the Little House I have a Breyer model horse of Rowdy still in the box. Red Feather has a book and post cards, but Rowdy has a Breyer model. In this picture he is 24 years old and still looks regal.

The Horse of the Americas Registry has a great discussion of breed type on their web site. There is no need to repeat it here, but this photograph bears studying. These horses should not be built like tug boats. They are not put together like a race car engine. The hind quarters should not look like a Dually pickup.

Like Rowdy, they should look like radiators. Every inch of their body serves only two functions--to move forward and to cool off. Rafter hips, slab side, narrow chests--these are not conformation flaws they are the reason that at the end of a fifty mile ride a Colonial Spanish mustang looks back at you and says, "OK, what now?"

Rowdy is still around and standing at Karma Farms. I do not know any strain that, purely as a practical matter, would not be improved by having him on the pedigree. One day I would love to breed one of his daughters to a Corolla stallion. Vickie has a great young Corolla stallion, Sea King, and I expect that she will bring those lines together at some point. The resulting foal will be one that would best be viewed with a camera in one hand and a checkbook in the other.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Vickie Ives--The E Interview

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Vickie Ives--The E Interview: What drew you to mustangs? My first was a BLM that we rescued from a horrible starvation case in Pittsburg, TX. I was the first trained l...

Professional Success

Just last Saturday Mark Stevenson joined us for a ride in the woods on Samson, a great Corolla Spanish mustang. This morning when the Virginia Bar Exam results were published we all learned that Mark had indeed passed the Bar Exam. It is remarkable what riding a Corolla can do for the quality of your life!

(Such results cannot be guaranteed by riding a Quarter Horse. I do not know if any of those that passed the Bar had recently ridden a Warm Blood, but I do have my suspicions.)

A New Direction For This Blog

This tree is about to grow another branch. We will continue to advocate for natural horsemanship, natural hoof care, and natural horse care. We will continue to do everything that we can to promote and protect the wild horses of Corolla. We will continue to encourage others to teach natural horsemanship to young children and we will continue to oppose the vacuous,inane drivel that passes for horsemanship among those in the established horse world. We will continue to encourage relationships with horses based on their innate value as horses and we will continue to decry every effort to equate the value of a horse's life with how much money someone would pay for that horse.

However, about once a week we will try to weave in a bit of practical information on horsemanship, training, horse care and equine health issues. I expect that many such posts will be dry and mundane but I hope that they will also be significant. I want to delve into things like preventing hay belly, nutrition for muscle development in young horses, getting full use from a round pen, and getting maximum value from a round bale.

I hope that such posts can be woven seamlessly into our current format. Perhaps even as seamlessly as Emily's hair and Young Joseph's seem joined in this picture.

(Yes look closely. There is a person on that horse.)

Adopted Corolla wild horse is now an award winner « The Outer Banks Voice

Adopted Corolla wild horse is now an award winner « The Outer Banks Voice

Monday, October 10, 2011

Little Big Man

I find few things more heroic than the overcoming of disabilities. Lincoln, both Roosevelts, and Lido lived heroic lives.

Tradewind has too. He was removed from the wild at Corolla because he was absolutely crippled with founder. It took more than a year of Pete Ramey style trimming before he could walk without pain. He is 12.2 and weighs 626 pounds. He has been ridden fifty miles in a day. While my weight varied from 222-212 in just one year he carried me 206 hours in the woods, the vast majority of that being trotting and cantering. That does not include the many hours that he carried other riders in the woods during the same year.

Yesterday the was named Horse of the Americas Registry's National Pleasure Trail Horse of the Year for his accomplishments. Look back over those figures in the paragraph just above us. Those are not typos. Yes, the figures are shocking. As recently as three years ago I did not know that this was possible. Tradewind is smaller than the pony that I rode when I was three years old.

(Please refer back to the previous post which distinguishes between ignorance and arrogant stupidity. One who simply had no idea that a Colonial Spanish horse of such small size could achieve such feats is merely ignorant. One who reads of such accomplishments and scoffs that such feats are impossible or, even worse, that it is cruel to subject a pony to such loads is arrogant and stupid.)

Here is the point that Tradewind's accomplishments should drive home to every one that cares about horses--The Corollas are a genetic treasure trove. The term super horse may very well be appropriate.

We simply cannot allow these horses to become extinct. To do so would be the height of stupid arrogance.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

They Must Really Be Good a Limbo Dancing

Just how low can the established horse world go? I thought that they had bottomed out with their argument that we must encourage horse slaughter to prevent bad things from happening to horses. At the essential core of the belief system that passes for horsemanship in the established horse world is that appearance always trumps reality. A close second to that belief is the belief that a horse's value lies only in what it can be sold for.

Their sordid enthusiasm for horse slaughter demonstrates these twisted beliefs well. Horse slaughter is promoted as a great good because it creates a "floor price" for horses which (now get this part!) increases their "value". In order to make slaughter appear better, kinder, gentler, and, yes, logical--slaughter is to be referred to as "processing."

Who could possibly object to processing, especially if it increases a horse's value?

It has been said that the conservative has no heart and that the liberal has no brain.

Do these horse people have either one?

I Sure Am Going To Miss That Little Girl

Athletes are easier to teach to ride than people who have already had years of riding lessons. Ruthann is an athlete. She learned to ride in the blink of an eye. She rides hard--faster than I prefer and through terrain that I would not choose to go through.

She put hundred of miles on her mustang, Medicine Dog. She turned Medicine Dog from a good trail horse into a great trail horse. Not long ago she rode Medicine Dog down for her first trip to the James river and this photo was from that trip.

Unfortunately, Ruthann is grown. As a result thereof, she has a job and adult responsibilities. Her job as an Air Force nurse is requiring her to move to Alaska. Friday we had our last ride together. She told Medicine Dog good bye and is about to drive off to Alaska.

On the way she will be stopping off in Michigan to get married. That boy is luckier than I expect that he realizes.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

An Undeserved Reputation

I explained that I hold my reins loosely, "no tighter than I hold a fork when I am eating."

"I just cannot picture that!," she said.

"No, really there is no point in squeezing the reins," I pointed out once again.

"I have no problem with that. It is just that I cannot imagine you actually using a fork to eat," she clarified.

(I bet David Niven never had to put up with such comments).

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Off Site Breeding Program

Facts matter. Truth is not a matter of perception and reality is not an opinion. Here are the facts on the off site breeding program:

The program is not designed to produce foals that will be released into the wild at Corolla. No horse that is produced from the program is produced to be released wild--ever.

The program is not a replacement for having a wild herd at Corolla. Its fundamental purpose is to provide a safety net to prevent the extinction of what might be the oldest and rarest distinct genetic strain of American horses still in existence. If the opponents of the horses succeed in erasing them from the wild we hope to have enough horses domestically raised to keep them from going the way of the Narragansett Pacer and the American Hobby.

The program's ancillary purpose is to create additional supporters of the wild herd by demonstrating their amazing athleticism, beauty, and temperament. This is done by exposing them to the public in a variety of venues, from clinics, demonstrations, parades, special events and publications.

The initial breeding stock comes from horses that had to be removed from the wild at Corolla. Other stock comes from the herd at Shackleford. The reblending of the Shackleford Bankers with the Corolla Bankers does not result in a "mixed breed" horse. They are the same breed but have lived on different islands on the Outer Banks for a few hundred years.

All of the formerly wild breeding stock is gentled and regularly ridden or will be gentled and regularly ridden. I do not want to have any of these horses designated as simply "brood mares." The stallions are also gentled and ridden. Currently we have only one mare in the program that has not been ridden in the woods. That will happen as time progresses.

All foals produced will be registered with the Horse of the Americas Registry, the nation's premier registry of Colonial Spanish horses. Stallions in the program do not simply run with a band of mares. Breeding is controlled in order to build on the limited genetic diversity that exists. For example, Pasquenoke, a foal of Secotan (Corolla) and Wanchese (Shackleford) will, when mature and completely trained to saddle, will be bred to Manteo,(Corolla). A resulting colt will eventually be bred to Persa (Shackleford). The succeeding generation could be bred to Mokete (Corolla).

Of course, this will require the continued careful selection and breeding that we have used thus far. I will need to acquire additional Shacklefords for future generations of breeding.

We will likely be leasing an additional fifty acres of pasture to house the breeding program. Of course, the horses will continue to be trained with natural horsemanship, given natural hoof care, and allowed to live under conditions of natural horse care. Those who acquire horses from the breeding program will be strongly encouraged to do the same. It would be a shame for the horses that have been given the opportunity to live healthy and happy lives to end up in the hands of someone that would put them in a stable, feed them sugary feeds, and put shoes on their hooves.

This is a long term and slow growing effort. We could simply release stallions in with various bands of mares and let them reproduce on their own. To do so would merely create a pasture full of horses with even less genetic diversity than exists at present. That would do nothing but produce a domesticated herd that is on the road to genetic collapse at an even faster rate than the wild herd. We also want to make sure that the resulting foals are placed with owners that will continue their training and their use, both for the happiness of the individual horse and to create more awareness of the Banker strain.

The best hope that the program has is that one of the major participants in this effort is Karma Farms of Marshall,Texas. Having Vickie Ives on the side of these horses is a tremendous boost. Their Corolla stallion, Sea King, is making waves among trail riders and American Indian Horse competitors in that drought stricken region. When it ever starts to rain again in Texas I expect that we will be hearing a lot more from their Corollas.

We will continue to emphasize that while these little horses make great mounts for kids, their size does not prevent them from carrying adults. Bankers have been carrying adult riders for hundreds of years. The Conquistadors were not elementary school students. We will continue to build statistics to demonstrate the horses' ability. (e.g. 13 hand horse, 222 pound rider, fifty miles in 10 hours and 21 minutes, 12.2 horse, 215 pound rider ridden on trials primarily trotting and gaiting for 206 hours in 11.5 months).

Many decisions and much planning will have to go into the program in order for it to be a continued success. It will require an extensive knowledge of the horses, horsemanship, and will also require a great deal of good judgement.

Don't worry. I have imparted those traits to several of my little riders and they will do just fine in helping me keep this program going. We will be aided in that effort by the fact that no members of the established horse world will have any input, whatsoever, in any decisions to be made regarding the program.

(Whew, the horses dodged a bullet there.)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Whatever Needs Doing

Whether it is helping kids tack up, cleaning the Little House, feeding up when I am gone, hauling horses, picking up hay, or just encouraging other adult riders, since the first day that Terry rode with us she has thrown herself into doing whatever needed doing. She has worked hard keeping her horse, Quien Es?, a BLM/Chincoteague cross that we bred and raised, in the public eye. First with parades, then large area trail rides, and now she is moving into competitive trail riding.

Terry has ridden fifty miles in a day on more than one occasion and she has fallen or been thrown on many occasions. She has hobbled back up, mounted back up and has been a great role model for the little riders.

She was a better role model in a quieter way this past year. Quien Es? developed an ulcer in her eye. The vet promptly recommended surgery to remove the eye. Instead, twice a day for months Terry went out to the horse lot and cared for her horse. She rubbed medication directly into the mares eyeball day after day. She saved her horse's eye. She showed the little riders what horse care actually entails.

My riders are mostly female--little girls to women my age. Of course that means that a significant portion of them would be at each other's throats if given their choice. Terry anticipates fires and works to put out those that flame up. She always has her eye on what is best for the program.

For the last several years Terry has been what is best in the program.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Momma Was Not Like You Would Have Expected

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: 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 bl...

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Coat of Many Colors

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Coat of Many Colors: Yesterday I found out about this brick that is in a memorial walk of a Smithfield Church. Beginning the night of the funeral I learned th...

The Heart of Darkness

I am not perplexed by conventional memory loss. I understand it for the biological process that it is. I am perplexed by seasonal memory loss. As long as I can remember I have been surprised at how green things become in the spring and how bleak they become in the winter. In fifty one years it would seem that my mind should have been able to pick up a trend here, but that simply has not happened. Last night I got surprised again.

A terrible defect in my personality is that while I remember pain perfectly, I forget pleasure. I had forgotten what it felt like to ride in the darkness in cool weather. I had absolutely forgotten the near euphoria that is experienced while hurtling through pitch darkness as one weaves the trails and trees, relying on the horse's eyes alone.

Last night we had such a ride--my first big group night ride in a long time. Perhaps it is the ultimate irony that a great way to bring light into a series of wretched and very dark days is to experience a wonderful and very dark night.

(This is Emily on Young Joseph, a half Chincoteague sea horse, doesn't have anything to do with the post but do you know how difficult it is to get a good picture of a rider going through the woods in total darkness?)

Monday, October 3, 2011

I Wish That All Alcoholics Were Bad People

That would make it easy to blame them and feel that they are only getting what they deserve. But that is not how it is. The best person that I ever knew was an alcoholic. At my very best I was never as caring and compassionate as was he. He was a better student than am I and was a better teacher than am I.

I would like to be able to scorn and feel superior to the alcoholics and drug addicts that I prosecute in court. It would certainly make my job easier. But I cannot do so. I prosecute good people. I send good people to jail because they do horrible things while they are drunk.

I would give anything to be able to cause alcoholics to trade in their addiction for mine. You cannot run away from your problems on a bar stool, but I have no problems that can keep up with my horses. You cannot make the pain go away with a bottle but if I ride far enough I find that there is no room in the saddle for me and the feelings that make life hurt so badly. You cannot make that good "click" that you feel when the third beer hits last, but the click that comes in after about the fifth mile of cantering on a cool day lasts for days after I unsaddle. You can feel powerful and fearless after you drink about half of a bottle of tequila, but you can actually become powerful and fearless after you start a pen full of half wild colts.

I hate alcohol. I despise it and were it living I would kill it.

I would be justified in doing so. It would be self defense.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Very Little Deal

My little riders spend entirely too much time talking about and thinking about getting thrown. As much as I stress to them that getting tossed is rarely a big deal and that on every single football game that I played in for ten years I got hit harder than even a serious tossing entails, they still talk on and on about the time they "got thrown". "Getting thrown" often means falling off of a horse simply because they were riding without focus.

I am just returning from getting thrown off three times in less than five minutes--most that I have been thrown in one training session in many years. Nothing is broken and I do not even see any bruises yet. I will likely be sore when I get up in the morning, but I am often sore in the morning anyway.

As much as I would like for some of the smallest riders to have seen me get tossed, I am afraid that they would have taken away the wrong lesson from the experience. In stead of learning that getting tossed is no big deal they could just as easily "learn" that that horse is a bad horse to be avoided at all costs.

In fact, I would likely still be working the horse this minute but for the fact that I was working her alone. This is not my preference. It is better to have someone there in the event things really go bad. I remember Lido standing outside the round pen as I mounted a few horses that were not pacifists with the phone in his hand having already dialed a "9" and a "1" and waiting only to dial that last "1."

"Ah,Ah,Ah got to be weddy, 'case you need da helicopta take you to da hospidal," he would explain.

I never needed the helicopter and I was never injured so badly that I could not be driven to the rescue squad to meet the ambulance.

Which all brings me back to my orginal point, even when training untrained horses, getting tossed is rarely a big deal.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Is There a Spiritual Connection? VI

"You ask if I believe that my horse can read my mind?, No I do not but I know that he can read my heart."

They Just Do Not Make Mao Suits In My Size

Got asked a question yesterday that was hard to answer. Worse yet, it appears that the answer is even harder for others to understand. Wayne asked me why I walked my boar hog on a leash. The answer was so clear to me that the question seemed absurd.

"Because no one else has a boar hog that they can walk on a leash," is the obvious answer.

Wayne rejoined that "no one else wants to walk a boar hog on a leash."

I cannot be held responsible for the rest of the world's intense desire to seek out the bland and the banal.

Perhaps I will be respected more in death. I mean, assuming that the taxidermist does a good job on me.

Now there will be a wall mount that will be both a real ice breaker and conversation piece.

Oh, They Tell Me of a Home Where My Friends Are All Gone

Good news normally comes with a, "but..." This one did not. This is pure good news and excitement. We provided some assistance to Boys Home in getting a natural horsemanship program started. Bonnie Wheatley has done a great job of working with the horses and the boys and the program is now well rooted.

They want to come back down soon and spend a weekend working horses and riding again. If there is a better way to spend a weekend I cannot think of it.

The best news of the good news is that Jimmy is doing great with his horse, Rain in The Face. Horses need more people like Jimmy and as Jimmy grows up I suspect that he will be a great teacher and mentor of kids that need a horse but just do not realize it yet.

This is a shot of the students when they visited last year.