Friday, May 31, 2013

The Times They Are a Changing

And now spring is about to give way to summer. Ground that was nearly bare is lush with vegetation. The only downside to that is that mounted archery must be set aside till the frost comes again.

Arrows that miss their mark will never be recovered in the dense ground cover of the summer. Summer means special programs and projects--archaeology, stone age technology, construction of an Alquonkian long house, soil conservation projects, and intense horse training.

If Robin Hood's Merry Men looked as good as the three archers in the picture above the boy might have amounted to something.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Rider Conditioning

This old post gives solid information on riding and exercise. Werowance is no longer for sale. He went to South Carolina a long time ago. Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Rider Conditioning: Yesterday I completed the easiest four hour ride that I have ever done. I was riding Tradewind on a lengthy exploration of some woods tra...

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Quick Tip #29--Don't Scare Your Kid Into the Hospital

Modern parents, especially those raised away from the soil and without experience with horses, do not realize the threat they present to their children's safety when they encourage their kids, by word or action, to be afraid of horses. Riding is a great way to work through fear and gain confidence. Parents who allow, or even worse, encourage their kids to avoid anything that they are afraid of risk consigning those kids to lives impaired by fear or even serious anxiety disorder.

That is the long term problem. The immediate problem is that there is nothing more dangerous than being afraid in the presence of a horse. That fear transfers to the horse. A horse that is afraid is dangerous. A kid that is afraid uses poor judgement. It is a dangerous combination.

Kids need support and encouragement to work through the fear. They need to be pushed into learning that they are not as helpless as they believe. They need to talk about the fear and will need to be given concrete strategies to over come it. It takes patience on the part of the instructor and the parents.

Things were simpler when was little. If a little boy whined his mother would let him know directly that such behavior was not to his long term benefit. (e.g. "Shut up whining. If you whine like that while you are lying in a ditch in Vietnam the Viet Cong won't have any trouble finding where you are.)

Too few modern parents understand the importance of that kind of love.

(It was twenty two degrees when we set out on the forty mile ride in the picture above. The Viet Cong won't ever find these kids.)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: He Earned It

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: He Earned It: He is over 20 years old. He lost his eye when he was a less than a year old--not lost his sight in one eye--lost his entire eye--just ...

Sometimes You Just Don't Get Noticed...

if you just quietly do your job without a lot of flash and thunder. Baton Rouge is a Corolla mare who is the least gaited of all of our Corollas. However, her canter is as smooth as riding a rabbit. She has ordinary color, is nondescript, one might even say plain. She is also a first rate horse.

Lloyd has been handling her a lot lately. She has always been great to ride just a touch unfriendly and not particularly people oriented. (She had to be captured for being overly familiar with humans e.g. biting tourists). He has brought out the best in her simply by steady, calm repeated handling. He has blended control and affection in just the right combination.

She  produced a beautiful Corolla stallion when bred to Tradewind. That stallion, The Black Drink, is part of the off site breeding program and is owned by Boys Home of Covington, VA

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Where His Spirit Is That Will Be a Good Place To B...

Every time I decide to stop reposting some poignant posts from years ago I run across one like this one. Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Where His Spirit Is That Will Be a Good Place To B...: "Oh yea, Steve, I forgot to tell you. I had a dream about Lido," KC called out in the pitch darkness. We were on a nighttime ride...

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: The Importance of Whoa

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: The Importance of Whoa: Curt Pate is the most likable big name clinician I have met. One of his many points of emphasis is not to take the 'go' out of a...

Saturday, May 18, 2013

New Birth And Rebirth

The mud of winter is now replaced with the moist, fertile soil of spring. Everything is green and growing, including our program.

We have new families that are bringing renewed energy and life to every aspect of what we do. Two Corolla foals to be born this summer, more little pigs on the way, a regal chicken house constructed by one riding family, renovations to the little house coming along slowly but surely, grass planted, weeds mowed, automatic waterers going into place, arrows shot, eggs gathered, wild horses trained....

Things are looking up.

A Safety Net Cannot Have Holes In It

The off site breeding program is not designed to replace the idea of having a herd of Corollas living wild and free. Instead,it serves two other purposes. The first is easily understood, The Corollas dangle on the brink of extinction. Something as banal as sleeping sickness could erase the wild herd. Something as insidious as greed could take away the remaining land upon which they run.

The second reason is more theoretical. I believe that there is only one herd of wild horses in America that is safe from being swept away by bureaucrats or monied interests. That herd lives on Assateague Island. The Chincoteagues are fixed firmly in the imagination of horse lovers and even those who are merely favorably disposed to horses as living beings. The movie "Misty", the annual swim, and equally important, the large number of families that over the years have owned a Chincoteague ensure their survival. Those owners, and all in their circle of acquaintances, serve as an auxiliary support system for those horses.

They are here to stay.

The Corollas do not have such a support system. The Corolla Wild Horse Fund does a remarkable job of tirelessly working to save these horses. Their job would be much easier if Corollas were familiar to horse people across the nation. That is why it is so important for us to get the domesticated Corollas out in front of people in order to let them see what these horses can do. They are the easiest to train of any strain of horse that I have ever worked. They are lightly gaited and ride with tremendous smoothness. There endurance is beyond the imagination of most owners of modern breeds. They are super healthy and very affordable to maintain. They have every advantage of a small pony and have the carrying capacity of much larger horses.

On a different level, they provide tremendous stock for half breeding. The foals that we produced by breeding Corolla stallions to outside mares have grown up to maintain the gentle Corolla disposition and other positive traits of the strain.

Unfortunately, we are past the point of being able to maintain the strain merely by breeding the few domestic Corollas to each other. The result would be genetic collapse at an accelerated rate.

That is why it is so important to breed the horses of Corolla with those of Shackleford. The Shacklefords are the same strain of Colonial Spanish horse as the Corollas but have been isolated from them on an island about 175 miles to the south for hundreds of years. The resulting foals are not half breeds, as happens when one crosses a Corolla with an Arabian. They remain pure.

Wanchese, shown above, is my Shackleford stallion. I am carefully breeding him with my Corolla mares to bring in genetic diversity while remaining true to the strain. I have a Shackleford mare that I breed to Corolla stallions.

Those crosses will continue to bring a substantial degree of diversity to the off site breeding program, but this summer we are looking to bring more such diversity to the program. I hope to obtain two more Shackleford mares for the program by the end of the summer.

If we are able to do so we will then have the core of a "re-Foundation" herd. The unfortunate reality is that the destruction of the horse market has greatly hampered the growth of the off site breeding program. This will not always be the case. And it is very important that we preserve this genetic wealth, work hard to publicize it, remain patient and optimistic and keep on showing what these horses can do.

Most importantly, like all those involved in mustang preservation, we must not give up.

As long as we have the flicker of one candle we have the means to start a fire.

Friday, May 17, 2013

When Great Writers Ride

Bonnie Gruenberg, the premier writer on the topic of the wild horses of the East Coast visited us last spring. Here is what she wrote about her first ride on Corolla.

"One of my pinnacle experiences of this year was a ride through near-total darkness on a once-wild black stallion names Manteo. Manteo lived wild on the Outer Banks of North Carolina until he was removed due to a health issue that required surgery. Mill Swamp Indian Horses, in Smithfield, Va saw him through the ordeal and trained him as an endurance horse. I visited Mill Swamp on a research trip for my upcoming book, 'Wild Horse Enigma', and was mounted on Manteo many miles from the stable when the Tidewater darkness closed in. We needed to return quickly and closed our legs on our mounts. Manteo took flight like an arrow loosed from a bow string.

There I was, galloping through a forest so black so deep, I literally could not see my hand in front of my face--but he could see the way. He took me at speed over a natural obstacle course of exposed roots, rocks,deep sucking mud and pools of water up to his hocks. Deer crashed gracelessly through the swamp as we passed. My serious fall from The Pone in 2011 scarred me emotionally, and fear often creeps in unbidden when I am in the saddle. Yet that night I had no choice to put my faith in this stallion--and he took care of me, unfazed by the sudden noises and bolting deer. It was a profound experience that I will always remember."

Bonnie is a great writer. I loved her work, "Hoof Prints in the Sand." I cannot wait for publication of "Wild Horse Enigma". Most of all I was delighted to give her the chance to ride for the first time some of the horses that she has been studying and writing about for years.

I was so pleased that my riders got a chance to meet her and she even gave a first rate slide show and lecture for them. This is just one expample of what we mean when we explain that our program is not about learning how to sit on a horse. We an educational, cultural, historical, environmental, and conservation program.

This summer I expect to have two foals born of our off site breeding program. Contact me if you want to own one of these spectacular horses and be part of preserving them for years to come.

(The picture above is of Rebecca on Manteo)

One More Shot For The Old Times

Sara Lin has been riding with me since she was four years old. She is growing up to be a very strong, athletic young lady. She is also our best archer.

When it comes to just plain old fun with a horse, I have not found much that I like better than mounted archery. I am not great with it at all, but it is one of those wonderful activities that one can enjoy without being any good at it.

Holland had to learn a bit to be able to be ridden by an archer. I did not anticipate the problem that he would have having a bow shot at a target from his back.

Holland is not usually ridden by the kids. He is one of a few horses that I pretty much keep for myself. I use him to demonstrate proper cues, how to sit, etc. He is partially guided by my focus. I try to be very consistent in staring at where I want to go before giving a pre-cue and then a cue as to direction. The result is that he begins to move in the direction I am looking.

That meant that when I would seek to trot by a target and shoot, he would pick up my focus and trot to the target. It took him several passes before he realized that that was not what we were to do this time.

(Holland was born wild on Shackleford Island.)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: A View From the Outside

I had forgotten about this interview with  Brent Spiechenger. Hit this link and enjoy his perspective. Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: A View From the Outside: This morning we begin the first in our series of interviews with a wide range of experts whose lives have been touched by mustangs. Our fi...

What. Me Worry?

The horse market has absolutely tanked. Drought has increased feed cost so much that everyone is cutting back on colt production. Equine professional and para-professionals from the established horse world are throwing in the towel in big numbers.

And there has never been a better time to be involved with mustang preservation. High cost of ownership, fear of injury and the stigma of being a "novice" hold many back from horse ownership. It is for those people that the Colonial Spanish Horse is best suited. He is the ideal family horse and week end trail horse. Small enough for a child yet big enough to help build a nation. Natural horse care makes horse ownership affordable to the new agriculturist that may hold the key to the future of horsemanship in America, the hobby farmer. Home schoolers are often looking to find ways to get their kids in touch with the land and with our nation's history and there is no better way to do so than to learn to ride. The taller a horse is the greater risk of serious injury from a fall. We do not stress that point often enough.

Most importantly, there is no shame in being a novice nor is there a need to remain a novice. Natural horsemanship is within reach of all who have computers or can read books. Not everyone is doing poorly in this economy. Many women whose youngest child is finally out of college find themselves with an empty home and a healthy bank account.

They are in a perfect position to realize their lifelong dream of having a horse, if only......

If only we connect with them and show them what is possible.

Look at this picture--that is our future.

It is a bright future.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Finding Talents

This link will take you back to an old post that includes the wonderful video that Rebeccca produced. Hit this link  to find it.:Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Finding Talents: Learning to tame wild horses is not a dead end road. It inevitably gives confidence that leads one to take new roads. Rebecca

Quick Tip #24 Parting the Waters

Training horses to be comfortable in water can be very difficult. There are many trainers out there that would be happy to sell videos to teach a multi-step method to make a horse "want" to cross water. I have no interest in trying to convince myself that I am a better person for acquiescing to what the horse "wants" to do. I am only interested in showing a horse that he will not be injured by doing what I asked and helping the horse loose his fear of the unknown by making it known.

Our horses spend a great deal of time in deep mud and heavy water. A horse that has not been shown that water is no threat is a horse with very serious limitations. My best success in dealing  with this problem is to simply lead the young horse through the water while I am on a calm, experienced horse. Sometimes we do this alone, sometimes with a group of riders. It seems to work a bit better with a group of riders, provided that the riders all are experienced enough to remain calm if the young horse show fear.

For much of the year we have a section of woods path that is submerged for nearly half of a mile. At the conclusion of calmly riding through that water with many other horses water ceases to be a problem.

It is that simple--make herd dynamics work for you as a trainer instead of trying to over come them.

Monday, May 13, 2013

I Would Have Killed Ole Yeller

but I would not have bragged about what a great shot I made on him. OleYeller, from the Disney classic movie, was a beloved family dog who had to be shot by his owner because he had contracted rabies. The death was a pure tragedy, but a purely necessary tragedy.

My coat and tie job often requires me to confront Old Yeller.  As a prosecutor I am viewed by much of the public as being the "good guy." That simplistic view always seemed so silly to me. For a decade I was a defense attorney and I am no more virtuous now then I was then. Most of the people that I prosecute have serious mental problems or suffer from alcoholism or drug addiction. MOST--as in more than fifty percent--much more than fifty percent.  On rare occasions I prosecute someone who  seems to be more than that--someone who seems to embody evil. But that is a very rare occasion.

Dementia that leads to physical abuse--"Lock Him Up." Heroin addiction that leads to shop lifting--"Lock Him Up." Extreme child abuse that produces an angry, violent teen--"Lock Him Up."  Worst of all molestation at age five that creates a victim who becomes a molester at age 14--"Lock Him Up."

I do not enjoy that part of  my job. I strongly feel that anyone who does enjoy it  is not morally fit to do the job. Anyone that takes pride in the creation of pain for defendants and everyone that loves them is not morally fit to be a prosecutor.

I can already hear people thinking "but what about the victims of those crimes.?" Can you read?  I said that I would have killed Ole Yeller. I recognize that society must be protected. I would have killed Ole Yeller, but I would not have enjoyed a second of it. I would have killed Ole Yeller, but I would pray to never have to kill another innocent, but sick and deadly dog. I would have killed Ole Yeller, but I would not feel virtuous for doing so.

The reality is that I have to kill Ole Yeller in many different forms on a regular basis. And it sickens me to do so.

There is one aspect of my job in which I do take a bit of pride. For going on fifteen years I have been handling cases in which children and adults with mental retardation are the victims. I get them through it. They tend to trust me, or at least come closer to trusting me than their life experiences have ever allowed them to trust anyone.

If we all really do have a purpose in life then I have no doubt that this is my purpose.

And they do not trust me because I look like a lawyer. They do not trust me because I act like a lawyer. They do not trust me because I dress like a lawyer. In nearly every case they like me better with a beard. (If a case is going to trial with out a guilty plea I always allow the victim to decide if I should shave or not and I let them pick my tie.)

They trust me because I have a three legged goat who I care greatly about. They trust me because  I care about one eyed horses. They trust me because I have never loved a horse because it was pretty. I have only loved horses because they were born.

They trust me because somewhere along the way I have lost the ability to pretend.  Without the ability to pretend, I am a three legged goat, a one eyed horse, and a horse infused with dignity and not mere beauty.

How can I have the kind of job that I have yet spend nearly every other minute working with horses and kids?

 It is because of the courtroom that every other minute is spent in the horse lot.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Daddy, What Did You Do In The Revolution?

We get a bit of negative feed back from those in the established horse world because they perceive that what we do and what we teach is directly contrary to their core beliefs.  This post from a few years back clarifies our position on that issue. In short, I care more about horses than I do about money or colored strips of ribbon. Hit this link to see more Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Daddy, What Did You Do In The Revolution?: Pardon me while I take a moment to wrestle with the most important question facing the future of horsemanship in America--"How can w...