Saturday, April 28, 2012

Brand Loyalty

Learning natural horsemanship is much easier than teaching it. Teaching natural horsemanship to kids is much easier than it is to teach it to older teens. Teens are predisposed to be dazzled by glitz. I do not care which clinician students follow. The only catch is that it is best to learn from them all. Some clinicians encourage such a search for knowledge. A few do not, claiming to know and to teach the true path, viewing others as heretics at best.

Natural horsemanship is a movement and as such the studies that social scientists have done over the years about the development of mass movements are worthy of understanding. Whether the movement be religious, political, philosophical, literary, or even fashion based certain common features are shared. One of which is the development of a following of devotees that believe that their beliefs are:

1. truth based
2. morally superior to those of others in the movement
3. enlightened and often based on a "secret" knowledge or understanding of that knowledge.

Now we can throw another factor into the mix that strengthens and hastens the development of such sects and schisms--financial incentive to create a well defined base of adherents that spend a tremendous amount of money in order to learn to adhere even closer to the "truth" being taught by the clinician. Here is where problems start. Were such brand loyalty to go no further it would be slightly amusing/irritating. As long as the clinician is presenting accurate information the cause of natural horsemanship is still advanced.

But truth is finite. Imagination is infinite.

Just as a song writer must continue to write new songs to maintain and grow his audience, such clinicians must come up with new "truths" to be learned. Again, as long as this leads to a search for greater knowledge this is a positive development. The problem arises when the product sold is a truth that is not true. The problem is exacerbated when the devotees have accepted the belief that the teacher is the only legitimate source of knowledge.

I prefer a quest for knowledge that knocks down barriers instead of building them up. I encourage my riders to look to every clinician that they can find for accurate, applicable knowledge. The catch is that it takes a few decades of working horses before one can understand what is real and what is entertaining.

The Dorrances were real. Ray Hunt was real. They were all as fancy as a brown paper bag Halloween costume. In today's world of advertising and instant fame it is too easy to confuse what is real and what is glitz.

I do not mind for a clinician to have style. It is glitz that concerns me.

What is the difference? Style comes at no extra charge. Glitz costs a fortune.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Seeing the World Through Lido's Eyes

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Seeing the World Through Lido's Eyes: Today has been drab, dark, and overcast with misty rain. The ground is pure muck. I cannot find the beauty in it. For two people some where...

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Seeing the World Through Lido's Eyes

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Seeing the World Through Lido's Eyes: Today has been drab, dark, and overcast with misty rain. The ground is pure muck. I cannot find the beauty in it. For two people some where...

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: My Little Pony

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: My Little Pony: Here is a great shot of Holland, our new Shackleford, with Anne who adopted and raised him to be the great horse that he is today. In look...

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: My Little Pony

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: My Little Pony: Here is a great shot of Holland, our new Shackleford, with Anne who adopted and raised him to be the great horse that he is today. In look...

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Off Site Breeding Program is Growing

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Off Site Breeding Program is Growing: With only about 100 Corollas left in the wild, these amazing horses are at serious risk of extinction. For that reason, we began the off s...

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Fallen Leaves that Lie Scattered on the Ground

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Fallen Leaves that Lie Scattered on the Ground: A few years ago the Horse of the Americas Registry conducted an inspection tour of the wild horses of Corolla and Shackleford in order to ...

Monday, April 23, 2012

Quick Tip #10 Count Down to Being a New Rider

It is spring. The clover is up. The sun is shining and this is a great time to begin a program to make you into a better rider. do something good for your heart, your horse, and your health.

The best exercise for a rider is riding. However, before one can ride efficiently and comfortably for the horse one must acquire adequate core strength, balance, and a level of cardiovascular fitness.

Do a bit of reading on the Tabata Protocol. I know of no way to develop one's cardiovascular fitness more efficiently than using this technique. A kettle bell workout does wonders for the core and improves balance. Lastly, barefoot running uses the muscles that one rides with much better than running in shoes. Tabata can be incorporated into barefoot running.

Combined trotting and cantering for 1/2, hour five days per week is a very effective way to loose weight.

You will find that your horse enjoys being ridden by a fit rider much more than he enjoys a rider that is out of position because they are out of condition.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Previews of Coming Attractions

Spring done sprung. On Mother's Day Weekend Bonnie Gruenberg, author of "Hoof Prints in the Sand," the best book that I have ever read on the wild horses of the east coast, will be spending the weekend taking pictures, lecturing and riding with my little riders. She will likely have her first night ride on a wild Corolla.

In a few more weeks our friends from Boys Home will be coming down to pick up their Corolla colt and maybe a filly or two for their riding program. This is an important step for the Corolla off site breeding program.

The following weekend a film crew from the TV show "Wild Animal Lovers" will be out to film an episode on our Corolla preservation efforts. The next Saturday after that we begin our series of open house sessions in which the public is invited in to watch my little riders train wild horses and colts.

June 16 I will be speaking at the commemoration of St Luke's Church, the oldest standing Protestant church in America, on transportation in the early colonial years. I have previously taken a Colonial Spanish goat to a Methodist church. In the spirit of ecumenism, this will will be the first time that I have taken a Colonial Spanish Mustang to an Anglican church. July 21 we will be visited by a group from the national Gwaltney Family reunion.

In the meantime we will work on the Gwaltney Frontier Farm and I will take my thumb out of the eye of the established horse world long enough to play some music.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Yeah, But in the Real World....

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: 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...

In the Arena

The perfect is not just an enemy of the good, it can be the worst enemy of the good. Perfectionism is, among its many other deleterious affects, paralyzing. One cannot wait until one is confident that one has every bit of the system down pat before beginning to work a horse. I worry about riders that have only been riding for a few months who are actually concerned that horses respond better to me than they do to the new rider. I have been doing this much longer than most of my riders have been alive. I should get better responses than do the new horseman.

It is by doing that one learns to do. Not only can the horse and the rider/trainer learn together, they must do so or the process simply becomes a stagnant set of rituals carried out without pleasure for either horse or human.

Ta Sunka Witco has not had his confidence boosted by solid retraining for much too long. Even a "perfect" horse needs to take about a week every year to go back through every step of his training, round pen, monsters, amusement park, pressure and release--the entire sequence. My failure to do so with Sunka has lead to him being spooky and fearful in the woods.

Shelly is a serious student of natural horsemanship. She took Sunka into the round pen and began giving him confidence boosting retraining sessions. In less than ten hours of work she has done wonders for him. She would be the first to tell you that she is not an expert, but is learning. She would be the first to tell you that she has more questions than answers. She might not be the first to tell you that she is doing a first rate job with Sunka, but the fact remains the same. If she waited until she felt that she knew all the answers she would never get in the round pen.

Kelly is a serious student of natural horsemanship. She has taken on the task of making Noelle into a relaxed, confident horse. Noelle has one of the most difficult problems that I ever face with horses. She has had to have long term sessions of painful medical treatment to over come a serious injury that she received in the wild. Humans do not represent a theoretical threat to her. Humans represent real pain, administered on a regular basis. She has no way of distinguishing life saving medical care from torture. To her, people are simply conveyors of suffering. Kelly is learning as she is working the little mare. They are growing in trust and confidence together.

Vickie is a serious student of natural horsemanship. Vickie lives a few hours from us. She and her husband Dennis worked with a local rescue league and have taken on the task of gentling several mustangs. They faced this challenge as novices. They studied. They observed. Now they get in the pen and apply. Vickie has brought some of these horses much further than the experts of the established horse world ever could have. All without waiting until they had all of the answers.

All three of these ladies faced the same problem--how to control a horse without showing fear. Allowing one's fear to cause one to yield to the horse is an error fatal to solid training. It is one mistake that, if persistently made, can quickly turn a good natured horse into a dangerous bully. All three have already achieved remarkable success. All three have found tremendous satisfaction in their horse work. All three have learned a lot. All three have a lot to learn. All three are successful.

All three got out of the audience and got into the arena. Horses cannot be trained from the bleachers. The most important lessons that I have learned about horses came from mistakes that I have made with them. Those in the bleachers never get the opportunity to make those mistakes.

Get in the arena. Take the risk of failing. Take the risk of injury. Enjoy the risk of living.

Its worth it.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Like Desperados Waiting For A Train

The baby turns five this fall. She is growing up right well. Likes getting up eggs, feeding hogs, riding horses, (especially night rides), dogs, working on fence, getting me tools and nails, and singing.

She told me that she was not "just a ranch hand" because she was also "ranch foot, ranch leg,... ranch whole body."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Good bye Is A Hard Word To Say, or To Hear

At the end of this month Rebecca and the boys and her husband Mark will be moving to Michigan. Can't be profound or even poignant about this. Our program would not be where it is without Rebecca. I was the second person to hold their first son, Liam and she was the first person to ride my horse Ta Sunka Witco. Rebecca sang at the funeral and she and Mark made Luke's middle name to be in honor of Lido.

Several years ago a committee to administer the Lido Fund was created. I did not want to be on the Board. They put Rebecca on the Board because they said that she would know what I thought without asking me.

They were right.

I do not have to say anything else about what Rebecca has meant to my family and my horses.

She knows what I think without asking me.

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: How Old are Grown Women When They Get Their First ...

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: How Old are Grown Women When They Get Their First ...: Seven. That's right regardless of what their birth certificate says they become seven years old when they realize that the horse at the ot...

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Family Horses

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Family Horses: Mark and Rebecca Stevenson, Lady, their growing family over the years, and Crazy Bear, their growing mustang.

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Christmas Cash

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Christmas Cash: For those of you that receive a bit of cash for Christmas and will be looking to spend it over the next week or two let me make a few sug...

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: So What's In A Name?

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: So What's In A Name?: Sometimes an awful lot. I received an e mail from Rebecca today letting me know that she and Mark have decided to name their baby who will b...

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Happy Mother's Day

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Happy Mother's Day: Friday Rebecca rode Crazy Bear in the woods for the first time. I rode along even though I was rather ill. Sick or not, I did not want to...

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: The Weaker Sex?

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: The Weaker Sex?: Rebecca came to ride with us as a present from her husband on their first anniversary. She quickly became a skilled rider. She was in her ...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Fear

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Fear: We teach small children to train wild horses. We work very hard to prevent the extinction of the Corolla Spanish mustangs. We encourage na...

Monday, April 9, 2012

Quick Tip #9 When Faced With An Equine Medical Emergencycy

Exhale. That is step one. Take a deep breath, exhale and then give a close, thoughtful examination of the horse. Shut up crying and whining. There will be time for that later. For now, determine the answer to every question that the vet is going to ask you when you call in. The correct answer to "How big is the cut?" is never "Its big." The correct answer is "About three inches long, but over an inch deep at its deepest point."

Your horse's life might depend on your ability to maintain your composure in an emergency.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Thank You Diane W.

When faced with a conundrum I prefer the input of women over that of men in nearly every case. Men rather uniformly give the same three part analysis as to how best face a challenge:

1. Determine the most recently developed type of machinery or technology that could possibly be used to fix the problem.
2. Lament the fact that said machinery or technology is so expensive.
3. Plan to either one day be able to afford said machinery or technology or to wait until the price comes down.

Each part of the analysis is repeated, using only slightly different phrases until the original problem is forgotten.

No, if a question needs to be answer I prefer the input of women--smart women that get to the point. (If I am found dead with a blood vessel blown in my head please make sure that the autopsy report reads that my head exploded from listening to a women that could not get to the point. Even better, make sure that my tombstone says something to the effect of "DAMMIT I WOULD STILL BE LIVING IF YOU HAD ONLY GOTTEN TO THE POINT!")

Now, Dianne W. is a smart women that knows how to get to the point. She provided me with an answer to a question that has plagued me since I was about 12 years old. I always wondered how the Great Depression destroyed the ability of Americans to write great songs. One of my fundamental beliefs has been that no song written after about 1936 was worth tuning a guitar up before you played it. Some writers wrote a few songs worth playing, but none were worth actually tuning up for or even reworking them get the kinks out of them.

In simple terms, why can we not even write songs equal to "Faded Coat of Blue", much less touch the quality of the lyrics of real art, like "The Vacant Chair"?

Dianne W. suggested that great songs are still being written, just not recognized. In short, that the truth really is out there.

Candidly, I dismissed that suggestion in less time than it took her to type it. Then I remembered that one of my other fundamental beliefs was that I should never dismiss the thought of a smart women that knows how to get to the point.

I went looking for great writing again. I found it. She was right. First I found Gram Parsons. I find his writing to be inconsistently brilliant, but brilliant none the less. Then Townes Van Vandt showed up on my computer. His lyrics are like reading Dorrence on natural horsemanship. Some of it does not make sense to me, but the fault is mine. The importance of what he wrote is not dependent on my current ability to understand it (But I sure would have written a line differently in "Tecumseh Vally" to read "with all the pain inside her" instead of "with all the lust inside her". I am sure that he is right. I just cannot figure out why.)

Then I stumbled on the apex. Good writers make one confront the truth. Very good writers slap one in the face with the truth. Steve Earle picks the truth up off the floor and beats the hell out of you with it. I hesitate to develop a new fundamental belief at this late stage in my life, but I have a hard time believing that he will ever be bested. He takes realism to a new level. Every time I hear "Billy Austin" I am executed. Every time I hear "Billy Austin" I am also an executioner. Listen to "Taney Town" and feel what it is like to be a "Colored boy" and part of a lynch mob.

And Guy Clark--"Dublin Blues"? We will see. (Incidentally, I have actually seen Doc Watson play "Columbus Stockade Blues" and I would not trade that for having the Mona Lisa hanging in my living room)

If anyone out there has read this far down and wonders what all this has to do with horse training, follow me here. I love Buck Brannamen but I cannot hang with his statement that "everything that we do with a horse is a dance." No it isn't. Working a horse is way too important to compare to dancing. On the other hand, it is obvious to me that everything that we do with a horse should be a song. The truth found in a round pen is the same truth found in a good bass run (either on a Martin guitar or a very old Gibson).

Perhaps the more important lesson is this--I always believed that if a song was worth doing, A.P. Carter would have done it. My eyes have been opened a little wider.

If you think that if a training technique is worth doing Parelli (or Lyons, or Anderson, or ...) would have done it, now is the time to open your eyes a little wider.

Parrots can beautifully recite what ever words they have been taught. Crows can't. Crows figure out things on their own.

Your horse deserves for you to put a little crow into his training.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Quick Tip #9 Hoof Cracks

There is nearly no chance that hoof cracks that your horse has can be cured with supplements. Hoof cracks are most often caused by having too much weight on too little hoof.

Imagine the pressure that it would put on your feet if your weight was supported by something only as wide as an ice skate. Now imagine how many more pounds per square inch of pressures results when a 900 pound horse runs with his weight being supported by the hoof wall instead of the entire sole and frog of the hoof.

The best way to get weight off of that outer wall is to roll the outer wall so that it does not make contact with the ground when the horse stands still. This if often referred to as a "mustang roll."

There are several great writers on natural hoof care out there. I find Pete Ramey's work among the best. For the cost of one worthless jar of hoof supplement you can buy Ramey's book and learn how your horse's hoof should be trimmed.

This is Tradewind, 2011 Horse of the America's National Pleasure Trail Horse of the Year. He was captured in Corolla because he was utterly crippled with founder. Ramey style trimming not only made him sound but allowed him to carry me over 200 hours in the woods in less than a year.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Wanted: Aging Ex-Hippies With Cash And Maybe a Bit of land

This is a personal note to all of you Woodstock attending, aging peaceniks with bulging bank accounts. I have seen how much money you are spending on the internet buying organic vegetables and free range meats. While supporting sustainable farming is a great thing, we both know that all of the chemicals that you put in your body during the third decade of your life makes living healthy during the seventh decade of your life a bit too little, too late.

You just can't eat enough free range chicken to make up for that all of that free range living that you were doing in the '60's.

However, although your body may be worn out and your mind fading rapidly, many of you have healthy investment portfolios. When you were young you believed in causes bigger than yourselves. You tried to make a better world, some of it worked, too much of it got stomped by rich people, but you aren't dead yet.

But let's be candid. You don't have all that much time left to make your mark on an evil, wasteful world that cares little about preservation, tradition, and sustainability. Here's your chance.

The Corollas are teetering on the brink of extinction. A handful of people are working to breed them domestically so that does not happen. A few acres of land, some good fencing and a life of total commitment is all it takes to be part of this effort. This not only is not a get rich quick scheme, I can nearly promise significant financial sacrifice as part of the reward for becoming a Corolla breeder.

So focus here for a minute. When you were a kid you dreamed of giving your grandchildren a world of peace and tranquility. Look around. We blew that one.

But you can at least give your great grandchildren a world with some first rate Colonial Spanish mustangs to ride and cherish.