Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Quick Tip #23--Your Pasture Should Be At Least As Crabby As Your Third Grade Teacher

Horse Christmas just started out in the horse lot this morning. The crab grass is coming up and is mingling with the clover, rye, and other grasses and weeds. Nothing makes horses happier than a mouthful of crab grass.

Recent research has given proof that there are few things better for a horse than crab grass growing from nitrogen rich soil. (The clover in my pastures helps fix the nitrogen in the soil.) I will be planting much more crab grass in future years. It is perhaps the most resilient warm season grass that we have. Seed is hard to come by, but turning up and transplanting strong root and shoot systems seems to be an effective, though very labor intensive method of getting a stand going.

Crab grass dies off at the first frost. However, it seems to stockpile well if allowed to grow tall enough. Stock piling allows "dead" post frost grasses to be grazed as if they were alive. Though not as nutritious as living grass, stock piled forage is a nice, early winter feed for horses.

A more efficient use of smaller pastures is to allow the crab grass to be grazed down in late summer and then drill in rye or oats (in our part of the country). Doing so provides a bit of pasture over the winter and insures a solid early spring crop.

Add to this mixture safe tree bark and roots for winter and good quality hay and free access to 2/1 mineral and it is hard to imagine a better diet for a horse who is not insulin resistant.

(Insulin resistant horses should not be afforded green forage. The risk of laminitis is too high).

Monday, April 29, 2013

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Motivation--(a 2011 Perspective)

Here is how things were looking here in February of 2011. To see this vintage post hit this link: 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, April 28, 2013

Austin's Unlimited New City

This is Emily, one of my most dedicated little riders and perhaps my best singer among those riders. We are playing at the Victorian Station Tea Room in Hampton  in this picture. Yesterday was a big day for her brother Austin. It was his first day of learning to ride. He learned how to work a rope halter, saddle up, mount up, and he learned the set of cues that we teach our horses. Austin is taciturn but has a quick easy smile.

 It is refreshing sometimes to find a kid that does not say anything when he has nothing to say.

Tonight will be a big night for Austin. It will be his first time on stage as he joins his sister, his brother Colton, Kayla, my bodhrun player, me, and Gerald on the fiddle at Bethany Church for a Relay for Life Event. Austin has just started playing an autoharp. He has impeccable timing and, who knows, in a few months I might even find out if he can sing.

I like seeing the sense of satisfaction and achievement that he gets from playing. He comes from a wonderful, supportive family. We get together over at their house on Monday nights and work up songs along with Daddy, my niece and a handful of other kids.

I love the sound of an autoharp, whether in Sara Carter's simple strumming or Maybelle's complex lead picking. I can hear in my head what Austin will sound like in a few years and it sounds very good. With his sister on dulcimer and his brother on every other stringed instrument within his reach they will have the simple, front porch sound that rests somewhere just inside my right ear, a sound that became softer when A.P. Carter died, but a sound that can never go out completely.

As a caveat, sometimes we do kids a great disservice by giving them too few instructions and too many decisions to make, decisions that have consequences that they can not be expected to understand. Had I asked Austin if he would like to learn to perform like his brother and sister and told him that if he would like to do so, I could teach him to play an autoharp and if it was what he really wanted to do, I could help him learn to play on stage. I suspect that the prospect might have seemed too daunting and he likely would have declined. Maybe he would have taken me up on it. But I thought it much better for him if I showed him what was possible first and then let him decide.

My invitation to learn to play was much simpler. "Boy, can you count to four? Can you learn that when your brother holds his hand a certain way you press down the D chord and when it changes to something else you are going to be either moving to A7 or G, to start with?"

He said that he thought that he maybe could. I set him where he could see Colton's hands. We played "Will The Circle Be Unbroken?" and moved on over to "Hobo's Lullaby"?

His timing was perfect.

And if I might say so, so was mine.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Qucik Tip #24 Look Out For Broom Straw

The weed that we call 'broomstraw" grows in acidic soils. When one sees it in a pasture it means that it is way past time to lime the soil.

My horses have never consumed the amount of 2/1 mineral that they are eating now. In the past male horses consumed very little and mares a bit more. Now even the stallions are eating the mineral down.

Over the winter my hay has had a significant amount of broom straw in it. That is not a problem by itself but the broom straw was evidence of a lack of calcium in the hay. I am increasing every ones access to 2/1 mineral now.

It helps them all to have stronger immune systems and helps the little ones to grow, just like Wanchese, my favorite Shackleford stallion, and Aiden, my favorite grandson.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Coat of Many Colors

This post from 2011 came up not long ago. It is about Lido's closest friend ever, Noah. To see this post hit this link. 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...

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Quick Tip #23 Make a Mountain Out of A Mole Hill

Four of my stallions live together in a pen that is entirely on a slope. Hay is generally near the top of the slope and the water is always near the bottom. Merely walking and frolicking on that slope has done wonders to keep them in solid muscle. The other horses have identical lifestyles except that they are on flat pastures. In the winter those on the flat pastures that are not being constantly ridden loose a great deal of muscle tone.

Creating a slope in one's pasture will give one's horse a great system of passive exercise. If you make the slope your self, with a shovel, it will give you a great system of active exercise.

That way both of you will end up with rock solid muscles.

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: When A Butter Fly Becomes A Caterpillar

This post from more than a year ago deals with using the steadiness of horses to smooth out  the bumps in an unsteady world . To view it hit this link Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: When A Butter Fly Becomes A Caterpillar: We have complex reactions to aging in my family. My relatives that do not smoke or drink tend to live a very long time. My great uncle on...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Background Post From a Few Years Ago

I came on this old post that tells a bit about me. You can read it by hitting this link.Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: To Answer Some of Your Questions: Though I cannot imagine why, several of you have asked me questions about my background and what it was that brought me to develop a prog...

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Picture From Our Second Stab At A Big Ride 2009

Hit this link to go to a few pictures from 2009 the first time we went for fifty miles in a day: Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Pictures From the Big Ride: These are a few shots from Saturday. For an explanation see the previous post.

Four Foundation Stallions

These are four of our stallions that are at the core of Corolla offsite breeding program. Wanchese, who is ridden by my little granddaughter in the picture above, is from Shackleford Island. The other three are from Corolla.

Our interest is in staving off the extinction of the Corollas. Because there are so few of them I do not discourage breeding Corolla stallions to mares of other breeds. HOWEVER, those offspring do not become part of the off site breeding program. They merely become spectacular horses. So far the 1/2 Corollas have developed into the same super trainable, easy handling horses that is characteristic of the strain. I have often thought that a Corolla/Arabian cross would make a great horse. Corollas have endurance that is at least equal to Arabians and they have calm gentle natures.

This summer we will be breeding a few more Corolla mares for the off site breeding program. Thee stallions are available for breeding this spring and summer. They are registered with the Horse of the Americas Registry and the American Indian Horse Registry.

Friday, April 12, 2013

It's Not Bad To Think Little Spanish Horses Can Only Carry Children...

....what is bad is refusing to learn to the contrary when the facts are presented. Ten years ago I did not know that the Corollas and Shacklefords could carry adults. I fell for the same outmoded cliches, "twenty percent of body weight, etc" that everyone "knew" to be the case.

These cliche's may be appropriate for some breeds. I will let advocates of those breeds speak to that issue. They are inappropriate for Spanish Colonial horses. I do not base this assertion on theories or old Cavalry standards. I base them on what I have seen and what I have felt riding these horses in rough, wet terrain for much of the past decade. Tradewind, shown above, was captured because he was severely foundered. We used Pete Ramey trimming techniques and made him perfectly sound.

In 2011 he carried me 206 hours in the woods, the vast majority of that, trotting or cantering. That is well over 1000 miles in just one year. It does not include the miles that other riders put on him.

It struck me that I have probably ridden Corollas more and Shacklefords more miles than anyone else alive. (I hope not, because I would love to hear from someone who has done even more miles on these horses).

I am the proof, all 220 plus pounds of me, of what these horses can do.

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Houston, We Have Landed...and, uh, We Ain't Going ...

Hit this link to see an old posts about acquiring roots.Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Houston, We Have Landed...and, uh, We Ain't Going ...: I do not come from adventurous frontier stock. My white ancestors settled about 8 miles from the Little House in 1678 and since that ti...

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: I'd Swim the Seas For To Ease Your Pain

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: I'd Swim the Seas For To Ease Your Pain: In the great documentary "Buck" it is pointed out that those who are able to communicate best with horses are often "tortu...

Thursday, April 11, 2013

An Old Road

This is a portion of an old wagon road that went from the interior of the county out to the James river. It was used in the 20th Century for farmers to take goods down to the steam boats. Farm familis here rode on those steam boats as they hopped from one place in Tidewater to the next. My Grandmother told me that the trip from this path to Norfolk (about 35 miles directly) would begin before the sun came up and one would be home well after dark. The steam boats went from Smithfield, to the Peninsula, to Norfolk and back.

This might be a portion of the same route used by my great grandfather when he would drive a team of three trained farm horses toward Portsmouth where he would purchase a wild mustang (known then as "Texas Broncs") off of the rail road cars and hook it into the fourth position in the harness and drive them home. The long trip did an awful lot to get the wild horse started in his training.

The white settler's roads often followed the same trek that the Indians had used for centuries. It is very likely that this road, then but a foot trail, had been in use for many years before John Smith first landed in Isle of Wight in 1608.

Now there is only a small section of this trail recognizable to the eye. Just a small trace of history left. That's all.

I am riding Holland, a Spanish Colonial Mustang from Shackleford Island in this picture. When my ancestors rode along this trail in the late 1600's they would have been riding Spanish colonial horses just like Holland. Back then that was the only kind of horse in this part of Virginia.

Now they are nearly extinct.

Just a small trace of history left. That's all.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Unwanted Horses

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Unwanted Horses: Annie is a USERL mustang. Vickie is a retired school teacher. Annie was an unwanted horse. Vickie always wanted a horse. Annie needed a hom...

Quick Tip #22--Be Careful of Early Spring Founder

Be very careful abut letting horses eat all they want of spring plants that are just coming to life in this part of the country. All of the plants are higher than normal in the sugar that can lead to founder and colic during this time of the year.

I let my horses graze only about twenty minutes a day for the next few weeks until their bodies acclimate to the new foliage and until the sugar level goes down.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

I Am Very Proud Of Kayla

I said that I was proud, didn't say that I was sure about how she spells her name. She is small, young, and very shy. She has become a good rider. However, performing on stage comes abut as naturally to her as hosting a wine tasting would be for me. She is becoming my bodhran player. A bodhran is an ancient Irish drum that has never become tremendously popular in American music. I love it because it serves much the same purpose as a bass guitar in keeping the kids together while playing.

Of course, if the bodhran is off time everything is off time. In that degree it is the most important instrument on stage. It is ironic that when it is perfectly played it might not be noticed by the audience but when played off time a song about a train wreck will simply become a train wreck.

And I must admit that I like a bodhran because it is unusual. I am not drawn to the bland and the ordinary. Nor am I drawn to those who have it easy. I am impressed by those, human and animal, that over come things, instead of having everything fall sweetly into their hands. I do not resent those who achieve without struggle. It is just that I reserve my deepest admiration for those that work and fight for what they get.

War Admiral, my three legged Baylis Spanish goat jumps fences and can jump into my truck. He does not have my pity. He has my admiration. One eyed horses that run off coyotes who menace foals, horses crippled with founder who come back to be ridden further than the distance from Norfolk to Dallas in a year,and, of course, a boy with cerebral palsy who was the first rider for many of my wild mustangs--these are my heroes.

Kayla is my hero too. Those who do not understand stage fright cannot fathom the courage she shows when she plays and smiles.

I am becoming very proud of her.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Our Newest Addition

This Spanish Mustang mare will turn five in a few weeks. She has had some training and is easy to handle.She arrived here Friday morning. We saddled her and did a bit of round pen work and I suspect that sh wil see the woods before long.

Her grandfather is the famous mustang from the Cayuse Ranch, Sundowner. Look up the photo of him entitled "Fierce Grace". He was beautiful.

Eventually I will breed her to Corolla and Shackleford stallions to produce what Tom Norush calls "East West Crosses." These foals will be pure Spanish colonial horses from two different strains, both of which trace all of their roots back to the Spanish invasion of America. They will be registered with both the American Indian horse Registry and the Horse of The Americas Registry.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Quick Tip #21--Why We Ride With Our Hands Down

There are a few adaptions of the riding style that I teach that vary from what is often taught as proper riding. I am always open to learning better ways but the adaptations that I use all come back to two thing, comfort for the horse and safety for the rider.

Later posts will deal with developing extreme lightness in the horse's response to cues. This post is only on the why we do it rather than the how.

We ride with two hands, palms to the ground, limp rein unless cueing a horse. Turns are three part maneuvers. A left turn is accomplished by looking hard left, pushing the horse's hips to the right with the left foot, and then moving the horse's nose to the direction of the left knee. That's right the hand goes to the knee, not the belt, and certainly not the chest. With a light enough horse and an experienced rider the turn is usually accomplished before the rein is ever full engaged. Of course, the pressure is released as soon as the horse begins to think about considering the possibility of perhaps turning in the manner desired. One should not keep up the pressure until the maneuver is complete. The quickness of the release is more important than the pressure itself.

A right turn is completed the same way on the opposite side.

This riding style is developed with rider safety in mind. The reason that I do not want my riders to raise their hand upward while turning is because I can flip a horse over doing that. More importantly I saw an adrenaline filled 12 year old girl on a spooked big horse who was already moving backwards flip the horse over with that move.

I never want to see that happen again. This style makes it easier for a kid to execute an emergency stop. By holding the hands low, palms down, a child engages her triceps and back muscles and has a great deal of potential range of backward movement with her hand. The triceps and back are stronger than the biceps and pectoral muscles on nearly all people. A seventy pound kid needs all the strength she can muster in an emergency situation.

I recognize that this is not how most people are taught to cue horses. I am often greeted by shocked statements that this is not the "right way" to do it. Again, I am always open to learning a better way, I think that our track record shows a lot about the validity of these cues.

I have kids riding formerly wild horses though cut overs and swamps that most people would not take a horse through and our rate of injury to either horse or rider is infintisimal.

I am not afraid to make adaptations to suit the needs of my riders. Sometimes you even need to stand in a chair to reach the microphone.

Self Defense?

From its inception our program has incurred the wrath of some who consider themselves spokesman for the established horse world. We promote natural horse care, natural horsemanship and natural hoof care. We teach little children to tame and ride wild horses. We promote affordable horsemanship that absolutely rejects the values of the established horse world and the big equibusiness money that it generates. We promote the preservation of rare historic horses.

Every single aspect of what we do is a threat to those who view horses as vehicles to make money. So it is no surprise that our program generates hate mail.

I do not respond to these attacks for several reasons.

1. To do so is utterly undignified. I do not engage in debates with such people.
2. To do so is a tacit acceptance of the legitimacy of the established horse world.
3. To do so would be nothing but an effort to gain the respect of the established horse world. I have absolutely no interest in seeking any common ground with that world.
4. To do so would be to fail to recognize the value that such attacks have for the promotion of our goals. It seems that the permanent numbers of readership of our blog increases with each attack.

But the most important reasons to refuse to engage or even recognize such attacks are sitting before me as I type this morning--the clock and the calendar. The clock reminds me that there are only 24 hours in each day and I do not have time to waste on petty squabbling. I have animals to care for, kids to teach and lives to work to improve.

The calendar reminds me that as each day passes the Corollas could be moving closer to extinction. It would be wrong for me to take even a moment out of one of those days to defend our program.

There are not enough days left for such a luxury.

"They tell me to be discreet for all intended purposes.
They tell me revenge is sweet. From where they stand I'm sure it is
But I have no use for their game. Where beauty goes unrecognized.
And all I feel is heat and flame. And all I see are Dark Eyes."

 --Bob Dylan,"All I See Are Dark Eyes"

Training With Raw Power and Domination--A previous post

This post from a while ago deals with balancing control and affection when training.Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: 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 bec...

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Revamping and Restoring

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Revamping and Restoring: This is the time of the year to look back over a program and assess ways to improve. Some of the strengths of my program have been slowly ...

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: I Would Just As Soon Not Die Like A.P. Carter.

This post from a few years ago about sums it all up. It has been one of the most read posts on the blog over the years.

Hit this link to see why. Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: I Would Just As Soon Not Die Like A.P. Carter.: For most of my life I have had two heroes, Abraham Lincoln and A.P. Carter. I have all of Lincoln's frailties but that is where the c...

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Bankers in the Spanish Mustang Registry

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Bankers in the Spanish Mustang Registry: Dale Burrus was a resident of the Outer Banks, an inspector for the Spanish Mustang Registry, and a tireless advocate of the Bankers. He w...

Quick Tip #19: Cantering to Build Human Muscle

There is a great deal about human exercise physiology that I do not understand. New discoveries seem to come out every month. With that in mind I cannot explain why this works but I can only say that for me it does.

I find no exercise that firms the muscles of my chest, back and arms more than cantering on a loose rein. With each movement of the horse these muscles contract, albeit a small amount. This contraction and relaxation continued for forty five minutes to an hour five days a week builds more upper body muscle for me than lifting weight did when I was younger.

It is also great for the calves and quadriceps.

Of course, genetics plays a very important part in this puzzle. My granddaughter, shown above gets her exercise the same way President Coolidge said he got his:

"By having my picture taken."