Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Motivation

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Motivation: In about an hour I will mount up Holland, my 13 hand Banker horse from Shackleford Island and will ride him fifty miles. We have done th...

Sunday, January 27, 2013

What a Difference A Bit of Mud Makes

My very unscientific observation of the speedometer on my wrist showed me that when allowed to trot or gait at a speed they chose, my horses reduce their speed about 20% in soil soft from rain and much more than that if the mud is over 1/2 inch deep and slippery.

That makes a tremendous difference in how long it takes to do a forty or a fifty mile ride. Aside from slowing down the horses tire much faster. On a firm, well packed trail Holland will happily gait at least twenty miles before asking to bring it down to a walk. In mud he wants to walk after less than ten miles.

Imagine how much muck is created by having a few thousand cavalry horses trotting up a dirt road. Such conditions made fighting in the winter infinitely more difficult.

That is why, during the Peninsula Campaign of the mid Civil War, so many combatants put their horses up for the night and went on over to the Victorian Station Tea Room for their open mike sessions.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Friday, January 18, 2013

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Don't Strive After The Wind...Ride It Instead

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Don't Strive After The Wind...Ride It Instead: Horses are without capacity to demonstrate hubris, the destructive pride and arrogance that the ancient Greeks recognized and condemned. ...

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: A Ticking Clock

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: 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 n...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Reflections

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Reflections: Lydia is now seventeen years old. Today she gave me a chemist's explanation as to why adding soap to vinegar would improve its effectiven...

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: KC, Kiowa and the Myth of Conformation

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: KC, Kiowa and the Myth of Conformation: This is KC. He is about 13 years old and has been riding with me for a year. He is also a first rate young trainer. He does not look like ...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

My Riders Often Consider My Songs Too Gloomy

Eugene Parker is a fictional character, but the rural south used to be full of men like him, the kind of man who owned six farms, five that he bought at foreclosures and one that he inherited from his Daddy, who had bought that one at a foreclosure. Because they had land, they had money. Because they had money, they had power. Because they had power, people pretended to believe that they were good. A few were good. Many were not.

Eugene Parker (2012 SWE)

Eugene Parker was a big farmer.
He ran liquor and grew corn.
Beat his wife on Saturday
Headed up the Deacon Board

He had a golden daughter.
Her name was Mary Ann.
He said it would take a rich man
to have his daughter's hand.

Henry Painter was a poor boy
that lived on down the lane.
All he wanted in this life
Was to give Mary Ann his name.

Mary Ann loved Henry
with all her heart and soul
But a heart can't measure silver
A heart can't measure gold.

He's take a run to Carolina
with Mary Ann at his right hand
When he come back to Virginia
He'd be a married man.

Well he pulled on up into Eugene's yard
In a souped up Model A.
Mary Ann slipped out of her window
And they were on their way.

Eugene heard that engine rumble
And he heard his old hound bark
He looked out of his window
and saw tail lights in the dark

He ran on out to his old truck
and he fell in right behind.
He had to get his daughter back
before they crossed that line.

Henry had the car wide open
a rough road was filled with ruts
Every time he looked behind
he could still see Eugene's truck.

A tire blew out on that Model A
And it slipped on off the bridge.
Eugene watched his daughter drown
as he drove cross the ridge.

Well the mash grass is tall
and the river's wide and deep
A resting place for lover's
that have no where to sleep.

The angels looked down and wept
at the awful sight they seen.
The Devil cracked a great big smile.
He's waiting on Eugene.

(All rights reserved. No use without express written permission of me)

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: No Gold In Them Thar Hills, but Enough Copper to K...

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: No Gold In Them Thar Hills, but Enough Copper to K...: I received an inquiry from someone whose view of the horse/human relationship is entirely in line with mine. It was the kind of inquiry t...

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: This Is How You End Horse Slaughter

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: This Is How You End Horse Slaughter: A few weekends ago Mikhail had his first lengthy canter (that was on purpose, there was an involuntary lengthy canter a few months ago bu...

The Most Troubling Question

Several weeks ago I got a bit of correspondence from a very good man who I knew to be about my age. Among other things, he asked me in so many words, if I was worried that I would not get enough good things accomplished before I died. No one ever asked that before.

Worried? Worried? No, I am not "worried", much more than simple worry. I am crushed by the prospect.

Don't misinterpret. I have no reason to think that I have reached the end the of the game. In fact, I am the healthiest fat man that you are likely to encounter. The people in my family that do not smoke and drink tend to live to incredible ages. I expect that I will too.

But I have wasted too much time and squandered too much talent in my life. I want most of all to achieve one thing during my life, or even after it ends. I want our program to grow.

Our program is good. It accomplishes much of what I want it too. It saves horses and changes kids. There is no touchy-feely,goo-goo stuff when I say that. What we do is not perfect but it is real.

And it is not magic. Anyone that cares about horses and kids can do what we do. That is not modesty. That is honesty.

Our model of natural horsemanship, natural horse care, and natural hoof care can be used anywhere a person has access to enough acreage to run the operation. And I can can teach how it is done.

I am looking at putting together a package on how we do things and all the considerations that one should make before building a program like ours. One must look at much more than horsemanship and must consider incorporation, taxation, land use, insurance, budgeting, and a slew of other things that, if ignored, can kill dreams. Those interested in building a program like ours can come down and see everything first hand. Might even let them stay at the Little House.This will take time to develop

And their in lies the absolute crushing prospect. We are going to be jumping into a lot of significant program upgrades in 2013. It will likely be as late as 2014 before we can offer that service. I want very much to get this done.

If you saw the segment on Wild About Animals about our program you can see how simple it is to do what we do.

You can also see why it is worth doing.

I Love My Flu

I know that the flu has a very well deserved bad reputation. I understand that the epidemic just after World War I killed more Americans than did the war, but I love my flu.

It is the perfect vacation without having to go anywhere.

I enjoy being so sick that I really can't be working. Otherwise I feel like there are things to do that I should be working on. Today I could not even feed up.

Beth and Terry and some others that had come out to ride fed up and watered everyone. They even went out and picked up a round bale for the old stallions.

I have slept five hours today and am now doing one of my favorite things, watching a series of serious musicians on the computer. I just found Johnny Cash's last appearance at The Carter Fold. Relaxing--watching A.P. Carter's daughter, Jeanette, introduce Johnny Cash.

Now that is a great way to spend vacation.

Just another one of those times when things get better by getting worse.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: A Distinction to Earn

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: A Distinction to Earn: A good horse is its own reward, but a good horse is the result of first rate horsemanship. I have decided to create one formal awards pro...

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Putting Pain to Sleep

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Putting Pain to Sleep: I am a prosecutor when I am not in the horse lot. I was asked yesterday how I can find time to be with the horses and my riders with a jo...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

They Do Not Prepare You For This In Law School

My wrist is messed up. Current diagnosis is carpal tunnel syndrome. I hope that that is incorrect. Aside from being painful and quite limiting it is also so...ordinary. Nearly cliche.

The pain is really not that big of a deal but the real problem is that it makes it impossible for me to play nearly all stringed instruments and to water my hogs. Now you might not think that that is a big deal but there are few sights on a farm more compelling than a sow with a parched, dry throat. The more polite little pigs simply cough quietly and clear their throats in hopes that I will get them a glass of water.

But ingenuity overcomes all problems. My problem was not water per se. It was water in five gallon buckets. A bit hard to tote several buckets over and then dump them in the water containers. However, there are few sights as heart warming as a pen full of hogs gently sipping through straws. Makes me glad that I went ahead and bought that set of drug store counter stools.

I had hoped to gain from the experience of others. I am sure that there are many prosecutors out there that have had to deal with carpal tunnel syndrome. Yet not a single one has responded to my requests for information on the discussion boards.

All I want to know how other lawyers with carpal tunnel syndrome have watered their hogs and played their bouzoukis. You'd think that someone attorney would offer advise and encouragement.

Continued silence on this issue could cause people to start to have a poor opinion of lawyers.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: The Best Thing To Do For Your Horse

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: The Best Thing To Do For Your Horse: I have always had an interest in strength training as a tool to improve athletic performance. As I have gotten older I am interested in u...

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Frail, Delicate Little Things

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Frail, Delicate Little Things: Trained horses all day yesterday. Worked a young stallion that got aggressive with me in front of the kids. Saddled him up after we worked ...

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: What Color is the Wind?

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: What Color is the Wind?: I am not sure but the best place to find out is Wind Rider Farm in Pennsylvania. That is where Monique Sheaffer is working diligently to ...

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Living on The Road My Friend Was Going to Make You Free And Clean

A rare photo of Lefty enroute to Ohio on the precise day that they laid Poncho low.

To Teach is To Learn

Below you will find the first lesson of our online course on natural horsemanship, natural hoof care, and natural horse care. In a few hours I will begin a new program with a group of teenage girls that will use the online class as a famework for study. It will likely turn out to be the most important program that we have ever had in our horse lot.

The on line class can be taken individually and the cost is only $160.00. It is done at the student's own pace with an opportunity for one on one feed back.

It is not exciting. It is not glamorous or flashy. The program simply explains how we do what we do. Our program works.

 Want to see the proof?

The picture above is from several summers ago at the end of a day that reached nearly 100 degrees. That summer this group of riders and I got seven horses and a donkey trained to the degree that each could be safely ridden in the woods. We did so without a buck. Not without a rider getting bucked off, but without a horse or donkey bucking a single time.

That is not the norm. That was a magical summer of horse training but it does show what is possible.

Subject: Lesson One

Concepts that are the Underpinning    

This is not a cook book and horses are not cookies.  Each horse is an individual, but each horse is a horse, and as a horse they all share certain inherited features that make it possible for humans to understand them and communicate effectively with them. Two of the major mistakes that people make with horses is to treat them as if they were dogs, or much worse, as if they were humans. This leads to problems in training and serious problems in the health of horses. Too many horses are loved to death by well meaning owners who simply have not grasped the concept that horses have radically different physical and emotional needs than either humans or canines.

The next key concept is that of time.  I am constantly asked how long it takes me to get a horse trained well enough to be safely ridden in the woods. When I am feeling especially gracious and polite, I simply say that each horse is different.  When I feel particularly candid I explain that the question is irrelevant and that I do not keep hours. Some training devices are dangerous but none more so than the watch and the calendar. Except for ignorance, the greatest threat to the safety of  horse and riders are  deadlines, self imposed or otherwise. I am fifty years old and have never relied on an alarm clock.  I wake up when I wake up. I am much more punctual than my friends who rely on timing devices to tell them where thy should be. 

Red Feather, a wild Corolla Spanish mustang, was the most athletic and most violent horse with whom I have ever shared a round pen. He has kicked and bitten me more than every other horse that I have known combined through out  my lifetime. He is now well trained enough for an intermediate rider to take into the woods and is on the road to becoming a beginner level trail horse. I am proud to say that I cannot recall off of the top of my head when I first started working with him.  Perhaps it was two years ago.  While I have had Red Feather I have worked with probably a score of other horses and returned to his training off and on. I have no doubt that with intense work he could have been at the same level of training within 90 days.  I also have no doubt that putting him on a timeline would have resulted in injuries to me and perhaps even fatal injuries to this great little horse.

We take our time.  We move at times very slowly. But we move.

Time, next to control, is the most important variable in gaining a horse's trust and affection. Like modern parents, modern horse owners prefer to spend money on their horses instead of spending time with them.  Neither your kids nor your horses need your money, but both are desperate for your time.    Equally important is to spend time doing what the horse enjoys, particularly in the earliest stages of training. We are not genetically wired to understand, or even recognize, conditions that create pure pleasure in horses. As predators we are programmed to enjoy excitement.    As prey animals they are programmed to enjoy peace. (Hunting is tremendously exciting, but being hunted is a serious impediment to happiness.)

Perfect pleasure for a horse is simply to be perfectly free from stress. A horse that is able to lower his head and relax, with a fully belly, and surrounded by other herd mates, free from concerns of threats from the very dangerous world in which his mind exists is perfectly happy.  (Ironically, a happy horse and a sick horse can often look the same, but we will discuss later how to evaluate your horse's health each day.)

This is the perfect time to spend with one's horse, simply mimicking his movement (or lack thereof), his breathing --(that's right synchronize your breathing with his). Stand very close to your horse and occasionally use your fist to  rub in front of his withers  at the same spot that his herd allies chew.  How long should this be done?--Start getting with the program now. Leave the watch at home. Forget measuring time. Stand there and enjoy your horse as he enjoys you while the two of you watch the sunlight fade into total darkness. Day after day, after day.

Unmeasured time is the best time of one's life, be one horse or human.  

Control is the most important concept to understand and is the key variable to gaining a horse's trust and affection.  Unfortunately, this concept is often misunderstood by proponents and opponents of what each side mistakenly views as typical of natural horsemanship. Natural horsemanship is not simply a way to try to train a horse by letting the horse do what ever it wants and it is not a system to relies only on rewards and ignores discipline.    Natural horsemanship is best defined  as a training system that relies on using methods of communication that a horse naturally (instinctively) understands.

Horses are not people.   While we love autonomy and despise control through out our lives, nearly every horse must be controlled, by a human, a herd, or an individual horse, in order to feel safe. The control that we loath is the security that a horse craves. People often lack the self  confidence and self respect to feel that they are justified in controlling a horse. Often people who are more timid and feel powerless in their lives feel that any effort that they make to control and dominate their horse will lead to a break down of their "relationship."    This is even the more ironic because it  is often those same people who allow others to dominate, or even abuse them, without complaint because they fear that standing up for themselves could damage that "relationship."    

Anthropomorphizing is the practice of attributing human traits and emotions to animals. (It differs from animism which is a spiritual belief that animals and even inanimate objects have the traits of humans or assorted spirits). I was once called by a lady who was having a serious problem, so she thought, with a young mare.  The mare was in a pasture with an older gelding.  The gelding ran her off from her food, chased her, and even bit her on occasion. Much to the consternation of the owner, the  mare not only allowed this behavior, she continued to remain close to the gelding.  When separated and placed in an adjacent pasture she fretted, paced the fence line and even jumped out to get back with him.

The horse owner wanted me to do something about the mare because she was "acting like  an abused wife."  The owner was very serious about    the situation and felt as strongly about the injustice of the situation as she would have felt if the horses had been human acquaintances of hers.  When I explained that her horse was not acting like an abused wife but, instead was acting perfectly natural for a horse she was not at all satisfied with my response.

This leads to a discussion about the fundamental controversy between practitioners of  natural horsemanship.     What role, if any, should violence play in the horse-human relationship.    I believe very strongly that it must play the same role that it does in the horse-horse relationship.   The simple fact that bothers many people is that violence is a tool of teaching and communication between horses in a herd.  Horses in a wild herd use violence to teach other horses important concepts that could one day save that horse's life.

The biggest advantage that I have over most horse people is that I have the opportunity to view interactions in groupings of formerly wild herds every day when I go to my horse lots. I observe a great deal of affection between the horses and I also observe a great deal of threatening behavior and violence.  Many people do not  recognize the threats which are often as subtle as a slightly squinted  eye  or a quick turn of the head.  I use those same gestures and my horses recognize them for exactly what they are--warnings of imminent violent behavior should they not bring their behavior into line.

It is the next step in the analysis that is so important to understand. I have never seen any of my horses follow up the threats with beatings with a whip or heavy spurring.  They follow up by kicking, biting, or most often simply charging the offending horse.

It is that violence that I seek to use.  If one of my horses  slams me with their head in an aggressive manner, I immediately respond with a fore arm to the horse's body and then charge the horse making it move its feet away from me.  A horse that gives me an evil look in the pasture can expect to be charged by me and run off, just the same as would happen for giving that same look to one of the herd leaders.

I use violence that horses use naturally with each other, in the manner that they use it with each other, to the degree that it causes the offender to yield and move away from me with all four feet.  There may be something less effective than tying a horse and beating it with a whip but I do not know what it would be.  Such techniques cause pain to the horse's body but are destructive to the human's spirit.

As all of my riders know, we practice natural horsemanship not merely to produce better trained, happier horses, but  to become better people.   

Another important concept that ties into both natural horse care and natural horsemanship is that horses evolved to live and eat in a certain manner and the closer we can allow a horse to live in that manner the happier, healthier, and easier to train it will be.

Before one understands and can apply any of our techniques of training, horse care or hoof care one must understand the concepts that are set out above.

Future lessons will be more specific.  For now get your mind ready to learn.  Do not sip Joe Camp's book.  Go out now and drink 'The Soul of a Horse" in one big swallow.  We will get back to it more with specific details but for now read it, or re- read it, as an over view.  Also, go to my blog, Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views and find the interview that I did with Joe last year.  In fact, you might want to read that post before reading his book.

Assignment-- Consider why dusk to darkness might be the best time to spend simply standing with your horse as set out above, not from the perspective of your schedule but from that of a horse.  Send me your thoughts at your convenience.

I hope that this introduction has started you to think and prepare your self for future more specific lessons

Friday, January 4, 2013

Sweet Chariot

Once again I found myself surrounded by a group of young song writers who gave the outward appearance of happiness, and likely that appearance was both accurate and genuine. Everyone of them was a much better musician than am I. Nearly everyone had a better voice, yet their lyrics could not have been more alien to me had they been in Aztec.

They sing enthusiastically about human relationships. They sing as if relationships were a mystery or a journey into the unknown. The unspoken refrain is an optimistic "what if?"

There is no mystery in human relationships. They are perfectly predictable. Since the beginning of time human relationships have ended in one of three ways: death, desertion or forced separation. I find no meaning in songs about walking in the rain with your girlfriend to your favorite restaurant. I prefer songs that cut directly to the chase and explain whether the end came from death, desertion or forced separation.

As I was playing my set I realized that each dealt with that end. One was optimistic, "Moon Can Still Shine Through the Clouds" about overcoming alcoholism but the other two examined death. I don't know as many songs as Daddy. He knows over 500. I doubt if I even know 250, but last night I could not think of a single song that I really like that did not deal with death, desertion, or forced separation.

Those songs have gravitas, a realness about them. They are like getting up in the morning and putting on your work clothes. The other songs are like playing dress up. They come in varying degrees of frivolity.

Townes Van Zandt said that there are only two kinds of music, "the blues and zip-a-dee-do-da."

I do not know the secret to happiness but I am finding the secret to pain reduction. The fewer close human relationships one has the fewer times one will be exposed to the termination of those relationships. Being alone is infinitely superior to becoming lonely.

Which brings me back to the horse. Every death in my life has brought me back to the horse. Every funeral makes me want to hurry up and get home and saddle up.

Every mile that I ride deep into the woods reminds me that there is still another mile that I can go.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: And This is How He said Good Bye (a post from four years ago)

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: And This is How He said Good Bye: Yesterday morning the sun was shining very brightly and the wind was howling. It was exactly the kind of weather that causes deer to get i...

Therapy Horses

I try not to be too prickly about words. But words do have meaning. I do not like for my horses to be referred to as "therapy horses."

I do not object to the term because it suggests that there are people out there that need horses for therapy. I object because the term suggests that there are people out there that do not need horses for therapy.

Horses are therapy for what ever the problem is--over weight, high blood pressure--go ride hard. Back, knee, joint pain-- ride. Husband left you for another women--ride. Hate your job--ride. Got obnoxious kids--ride. Got obnoxious parents--ride.

Is the problem such that riding is impossible?--brush, lead, handle a horse

Is the problem such that brushing, leading and handling are impossible?--sit and watch them in the pasture.

Few holes exist that horses cannot plug.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: The Most Insidious Threat

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: The Most Insidious Threat: As we work to save the wild horses of Corolla both in the wild and domestically one guiding principle must prevail. We must work diligently...