Saturday, August 31, 2013

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Say What You Mean !

An old post--Back when my grandson was little...Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Say What You Mean !: This is a photo of my grandson last October on Croatoan at a clinic. He is obsessed with dinosaurs and riding horses. He likes to ride in ...

"This Show Is Morally Good."

That is what A.P. Carter often had printed on the bottom of ads for upcoming performances of the Carter Family. Every clinic, demonstration, program, article, or post that promotes a particular school of natural horsemanship should be able to honestly say the same thing.

Those that promote the teaching of how a horse communicates through body language and work to give a true understanding of both the workings of a horse's mind and the potential for a close horse/human relationship can do that. Those that find a niche market that they can drain by telling their customers what they want to hear, while constantly coming up with a new stunt or trick to teach a horse cannot do so.

The first test of whether a particular school of training has merit is whether it makes the student a better person. It is impossible to properly practice natural horsemanship without becoming a gentler,braver, kinder, more compassionate and empathetic person. When properly practiced natural horsemanship provides confidence,not arrogance. When properly practiced the emphasis is on communication with the horse, not the purchase of a series of magic devices that the clinician has to market. When properly practiced natural horsemanship creates a mature sense of satisfaction in the trainer instead of the constant insecurity of needing to "progress" to the next step.

I have also come to realize that there is a second test of the merit of a particular school of training--cost. There is absolutely no reason for it to be expensive to learn how to effectively train, learn with, and, yes, even become a part of one's horse's world.

The simple reality is that this is not complicated. It is basic. It is simple. (Simple and easy are not the same thing). Natural horsemanship depends on  the recognition that horses are not  humans, do not have the same motivations as humans, do not communicates as humans and are incapable of learning to do so. Instead, it is up to the trainer to learn what motivates a horse, how a horse communicates and to become capable of thinking as a horse does.

Few people get past the first point--that a horse is not human. Humans long for autonomy. Horses long for security. A horse feel secure when he is in the presence of a leader, his physical and emotional needs are met, and he receives a great deal of physical contact.

It is that basic. It is that simple.

Samantha is a first rate young trainer because she has both the intelligence and the empathy to see a horse as a horse. She is shown here mounting a young formerly wild Corolla who was removed from the wild because of a crippling hoof condition. (He is now fully recovered.) Yesterday I watched her with another horse. A very nervous formerly wild Corolla mare who was removed from the wild because of a vicious internal infection had driven her to the brink of death.

There was no fanfare. There was no showmanship. I never once heard her utter the lingo of any particular clinician that would give away which one she "follows." That is because she "follows" none of them. Instead she  "follows" every horse that she touches.

It was a beautiful session to watch. At the conclusion the ball of nerves that had once been the mare had become a relaxed, happy horse trotting around the round pen with a relaxed happy rider.

Samantha did not have to seek the approval of a training guru. She did not have to have a high paid mentor tell her that she was doing great and now needed to purchase the following equipment....

She only needed the approval of that mare. She got it. She earned it. She earned that approval by giving the horse the control that it needed and the affection that it deserved.

She gave the horse security. From security comes trust. From trust comes a relationship that for many people is better than any of their human relationships.

It is that basic. It is that simple.

Samantha was training a horse yesterday. She was not putting on a show. But if she had been doing so the play bill could have honestly been stamped with A.P. Carter's assurance.

This show was, indeed, "morally good."

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Mistakes Are Being Made

by anyone looking for a spectacular trail horse who has not yet contacted the Corolla Wild Horse Fund adopt this spectacular young Corolla gelding.

Creed has come to us for us to complete his training. We have been putting a lot of miles on him in the woods. I am impressed by his temperment--typical Corolla, calm, responsive, affectionate. I expected him to be athletic, but this morning he showed me more than I dreamed of.

Heavy rain last night--path soft and spongy. I rode Ta Sunka. Terry rode Creed. After a couple of miles Terry put Creed in front. Ta Sunka had to canter harder than usual to keep up with Creed's trot. Finally Ta Sunka started falling behind. Neither horse was going especially fast, but both had been going at that speed for several miles in soft, wet sand.

Please understand that Creed has done a lot of woods miles but is certainly not at Ta Sunka's level of fitness, yet he still pulled away from us.

The most important thing is that he remained entirely under Terry's control and sped up and slowed down as she asked.

I have to admit that I was not overly impressed with this horse when I first met him. He is bigger than I like, perhaps as tall as 14 hands. At first he did not look like there was a hard body hiding within him.

There is. Rock hard.

He can be registered with the HOA and with the American Indian Horse Registry as an 'o" (original). Were he a stallion I would have adopted him a long time ago.

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Our Fastest Horse?

Here is an early post about our horse that has come the farthest--from absoute cripple to national pleasure Trail horse of the year in the Horse of The Americas Registry.Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Our Fastest Horse?:   Hard to believe but for a 50 mile ride I think that it would be Tradewind, the wild Corolla stallion that was captured because he had found...

Rebuilt Sub Compact Model

Here is Edward Teach today. Search his name on this blog to see how badly he was injured when he came to us. That little gray bald spot is all that is left of the gaping hole that was in his neck.

He has sired Ashely's beautiful colt, Peter Maxwell,lives in the stallion pen with two other Corolla stallions, is gentle enough to allow a five year old to be lead around on him bareback and confident enough to have freely taken the lead on an all stallion trail ride last weekend.

And, he has brought Josh, into the world of horses.

Not bad for a mangled little stallion.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Why Ride? Why Blog?

Not exactly, In The Beginning, but still this post is from a long time ago.Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Why Ride? Why Blog?: Every morning I am up well before sun rise. I spend about twenty hours in the saddle each week and care for over fifty horses. My students...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Truer Words Never Spoken

I have always told my riders that if they consistently find their feet being stepped on by horses it is because they are not focused enough on their horse to read his cues that hoof movement is eminent

I also told them that Red Feather's main danger lies in the fact that he strikes without giving signals that I can read.

In the past four days Red Feather has stepped on my foot more than all other horses combined for the past four years.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Deja Vu

Ta Sunka, my Colonial Spanish horse, wading far out into the James river. That is  likely the same river that the first Colonial Spanish horses waded in from to the English settlements that grew from Jamestown in the early 1600's.

"God Is God.....

and He ain't us". So writes Steve Earle and so should understand all who seek to preserve mustangs. The Spanish horse was an incredibly impressive creature when he came to the New World. It only took one thing to make him rise above all other breeds--removing humans from the breeding decisions. A century or two in the wild accomplished that. Modern breeds are not inherently inferior to mustangs. Were they allowed to live wild for a few centuries they would squeeze from their dna all the baggage that horse breeders have put in them. The problem is not in the breed. It is in the breeders.

Of all displays of human hubris none is more ridiculous than the conceit that we can "improve" the mustang. Nothing in human experience suggests that we are capable of doing so.

If "improvement" means to produce livestock that has a particular trait that we desire over all others--we can do that. We can improve hogs by making them longer, larger in the hams, and faster growing. We can do so only because it does not matter to us if hogs that produce these traits also carry traits conducive to arthritis or other crippling diseases, shortened lifespans, and poor temperaments.

We can breed for a better pork chop but we cannot breed for a better mustang. The mustang is a complete package and surely as we tinker with that package we will lose more than we gain. We can improve them by making them bigger. Of course, the taller they get the more they lose their Spanish type. We can improve them by changing their head shape. The catch is whether bigger, smaller, or straighter would be an improvement.

We can muddy up the genetic waters and call it improvement. We can prove that it is improvement by arbitrarily coming up with standards for "exemplars" of the breed. The more horses that we produce that meet those arbitrary standards the more we can declare that we have improved the breed.

One of the best things going for the Spanish horse is that it is consistently rejected by the established horse world. The experts that produced such a surplus of stunningly beautiful and patently crazy Arabians and the experts that continue to breed horses that carry the trait for hypp do not like out horses.

As long as their smug disdain for our horses continues, mustangs can continue to face each day unburdened by the genetic propensity to poor physical and emotional health that human experts have created in ome modern horses.

When we start working to produce horses that look like they can do a fifty mile in a day ride we most assuredly will cease to produce horses that actually can do a fifty mile in a day ride. The established horse world has always had a greater interest in appearance than in ability.

This little pony walking behind me here does not look like the exemplar of his breed. Obviously he is not big enough to be ridden by anything but small children. His neck is too short, as are his legs. Such a horse could never be a powerful, smooth gaited, ground covering horse, with speed and agility, able to carry an adult weighing over 220 pounds.

Except for the fact that he is a powerful, smooth gaited, ground covering horse, with speed and agility, able to carry an adult weighing over 220 pounds.  In fact, he is the most athletic horse with whom I have ever shared a round pen.

I have no interest in trying to get the established horse world interested in our horses.

The hope of these horses lies entirely in bringing children and novices into the world of mustangs. The established horse world had its chance but could not see a way to make money off of these horses so they were declared unfit for "real Horse people." They were invited to the banquet but did not come. They had the pipes played for them but did not dance.

And now the invitation has gone out to others--to those who will come to the table and simply accept with grace the gift of the Spanish mustang.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Strength For The Journey

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Strength For The Journey: Last January my niece,a third grader, did her first 40 mile in a day ride. This January she will do a two day 100 Hundred mile ride on...

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...

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ready To Go

Creed is a Corolla gelding that we are training for the Corolla Wild Horse Fund. Lloyd has put everal hours in the woods on him. This morning Terry and I went out on a five mile trot. She rode Creed. I rode Holland, my spectacular horse from Shackelford.

We trotted at a brisk clip for five miles. Creed is light and smooth already. With another fifty hours of riding he will be much smoother and even lighter.

But you do not have to wait that long. He is available now. Contact the Corolla Wild Horse Fund in order to adopt this horse that is
already a solid trail horse. Loads, stands for hoof care, goes through water, handles mud and heavy brush well, long, ground covering strides, easy to catch and handle, affectionate and curious.

Cause To Smile

The message block on face book  brings me the good and the bad. Recently it has brought news of the revival of horse slaughter, and the difficulties facing the flag ship mustang preservation ranch in America.  But it also brought me a wonderful note out of the blue from one of my favorite mustang trainers,  Brooke Sims. She is doing a great job with her horse Sidney, who is a budding soccer star. Those two will be carrying the flag at the grand entry during the HOA/AIHR National Show.

It is easy to be pessimistic about the future of mustang preservation. Getting a note from Brooke and watching some of my dedicated riders is cause for hope---

And a good cause for a smile.

(For anyone concerned that Sidney might look too young for a rider, don't worry. Some mustang strains tend to look much younger than they are. I have a mare entering her fourth year that people with no mustang experience often think looks like a yearling.)

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Wild and Free

As true today as it was then,Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Wild and Free: I do not ever want anyone to mistakenly assume that the training and breeding program that we have developed for the Corollas will be an a...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I Guess You Could Be Right......

We teach children to tame and ride wild horses. We promote natural horsemanship,natural horse care,and natural hoof care. We do so in a very affordable manner.

So, of course, we attract a lot of critics. Their notes are often thoughtful and well written, some rivaling Shakespeare's sonnets. I try to give every suggestion every bit of the consideration that it deserves.

It is always good to keep an open mind.

However, the suggestion that I should be shot seems a bit excessive to me. In complaining about the fact that I was riding Tradewind, a Corolla stallion who is about 12.3 hands, tremendous attention was given to the amount of fat existing on various parts of my body. One should keep in mind that all of that fat is well served by a great deal of blood. Were I to be shot I most assuredly would leave a huge mess for some unfortunate soul to have to clean up.

I hate to put that imposition on anyone. However, I am willing to meet half way. Now that I see the error of my ways I feel that shooting would be too good for me.

The only fair thing to do is to force me to ride myself to death. Since I have already won HOA National Pleasure Trail Horse of the Year riding Tradewind, and since he has trotted with me on his back well over 1000 miles over the past few years I think it best that he be the instrument of my death. I should be forced to ride Tradewind fifty miles in the woods in a single day. Such a ride would surely kill an old obese idiot like me.

Of course, I recognize that in my old age I have become untrustworthy. I am the kind of person that might only ride 49.5 miles. I will need proper attendants to make sure that I meet my maker and atone for my horrible sin of riding ponies. The only thing to do is for a group of Warm blood riders to accompany me to make sure that I go at least fifty miles before I expire.

In the incredibly unlikely event that my idiotic, fat body somehow survives the fifty mile ride, I still deserve death. I suggest that my executioners put me under a shade tree and force me to eat every raw oyster they can shuck. Not just those little ones either. I deserve to be forced to eat the large, sea side oysters, one after another, (with cocktail sauce), until my last mortal breath is drawn.

Get me a case of O'Dhouls too. I would hate to face St. Peter with a dry throat.

"Swing Low sweet Chariot" (provided of course that said chariot is pulled only by huge horses)

Quick Tip #41 Another Toxic Plant

The Box Elder Tree has now been implicated in the poisoning death of some horses. A few years ago it was only the wilted leaves of Red Maples of which that we had to be concerned. Now I read of a tree that the English refer to as a Sycamore also being deadly.

The common link is that they are all in the maple family. Some maples may be safe, but I don't think that they are worth the risk.

I am not a botanist, but if the latin name for the plant contains the word acer I do not want it around my horses. Unforthunately, the Red Maple is one of the most common trees of the Southeast. After every storm we have to check the pastures to make sure that none has fallen.

Only the wilted leaves of the Red Maple kill. Living leaves and those that fall to the ground in the fall do not seem to be a problem.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Wrong Turn Taken

I am a teacher. Nothing makes me happier than to be with dedicated, curious, driven kids. Absolute exhaustion gets completely wiped away when Emily's eye's light up and she says, "Can we do 'Tanney Town' now?" I love watching Samantha and Lydia start colts so much better than most owners could afford to pay to have it done.

And I love teaching my granddaughter to sing the song impressivly. Any little kid can look cute--I want it done on time, on key, and with some feeling. She has learned to do that everytime she reaches the microphone. No telling how good she will be after she turns six years old!

Christina has come down from Rutgers twice to do internships on how we train and raise horses. She will be a great veterinarian before long and she will be one that understands the importantance of natural hoof care, natural horsemanship and natural horse care.

I should have been a high school history teacher or a college professor.

Life would have been much better


Red Feather, the most athletic, and once the most violent, wild horse with whom I ever shared a round pen came home yesterday. He has spent the summer at a large pasture where I keep several horses that are not currently in the riding program.

What do you do for a horse that already has his own post card as he appeared wild and already has a great children's book based on the the exploits of his father and him? Only a handful of people have ever ridden him. All were amazed at his smooth gait, endurance, and raw power.

He is the best illustration of what the carrying power of Colonial Spanish mustangs is. He is about 12.2 and carries a two hundred twenty pound rider as if he had nothing on his back.

We have a long term encore planned for Red Feather.

And do not be surprised if you see another book come out of it.

(Here he is as I caught him yesterday to bring him home.)

Oh Have You Seen My Dear Companion? He Was All This Earth To Me.

The government's war on wild horses is not new. Its war on Indian Horses is not new. The army worked hard to destroy the herds belonging to the Indians, just as the Department of the Interior worked so hard to destroy the little Spanish horse on the reservations and replace him with draft stock,  just as hard as the BLM is working to erase the wild herds from the public lands of our nation,  just as hard as the National Park Service once sought to destroy the wild horses of Shackelford,  just as hard as the bureaucrats and big money lobbyists are fighting to destroy any hope of maintaining the Corolla herd, The government once hired young men to go into the wild herds and shoot down all the small (Spanish) stallions. This is not ancient history. One of our neighbors who only died a few years ago had as his first adult job the paid role of sniper of wild Spanish stallions.

The stallions were replaced with Thoroughbred,and occasionally Morgan, stallions. The purpose was to insure that we would have a ready supply of cavalry horses in the event of war. The program was known as the Remount program. Like most people that have never ridden a Spanish mustang, the government assumed that making them bigger would make them better.

Ghost Dance, shown above, was captured in an area where Remount horses were bred. She carries the looks of her Anglo lineage. There is just about nothing in her appearance that hints of her Spanish heritage.

However, her movement under saddle is is smooth gaited ground covering shuffle with exceptionally long strides.  I bred Ghost Dance to Croatoan, an old Corolla stallion. The result is a horse designed take on very long distance rides. He carries nearly no fat, is narrow chested, rafter hips, spine high, and deep bodied. Croaton has large pin bones. Though this picture does not show it well, so does Ghost Dance. By the time this colt is seven years old he will likely fill out enough so that the bones only appear a bit prominent.

Like every other half Corolla we have produced he is taller than either of his parents.

Fat Is The Wrong Color

There are likely very few horses in America with less non Spanish blood than this little Corolla filly. She was born in captivity, but bred in the wild. Her mother is Noelle. She is a bit over two years old and a bit over 50 pounds over weight. Right now she does not have raw mustang beauty.

If a white horse was dyed black he would no longer look like a white horse. If a Spanish mustang is bloated fat it no longer looks like a Spanish mustang. I have noted this on many mustangs. Bob Brislawn has been quoted as saying that a Spanish mustang allowed to fatten until it has a gutter along its spine looks like an English cob.

This filly will be a stouter built, Red Feather type Corolla. I personally find that that type of Corolla is even more comfortable to ride than the taller, leaner Samson type Corolla.

This mare is eligible for adoption from the Corolla Wild Horse Fund. She is incredibly gentle and affectionate. Not quite old enough to saddle train yet. If she has not been adopted by the summer we will start her in the woods.

Horses like her only acquire their true mustang beauty after about 50 hours of trotting in the woods. The fat comes off, the muscles grow lean, the gait extends, and the endurance never ceases to amaze.

Let me note one more time, she is eligible for adoption from the Corolla Wild Horse Fund now.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Building Rider Confidence

She is 10 years old, and weighs little more than my left leg. Her horse,Kiowa, is a young mustang out of Virgina City Range stock. Being young and green, the horse spooked a bit in the woods and her rider came off--the kind of thing that can unnerve a rider. Terry rode Kiowa hard for several days. Last week her little owner, who had been riding other horses while we put some miles on Kiowa, mounted up on her horse and joined in on a early morning week day ride.

Yesterday was the first day she took Kiowa out with a large group of riders. The horse did great. The rider did great. The horse achieved. The rider achieved.

Both gained confidence.

 Both matured.

Consider how it could have gone the other way. Children today live in a society that encourages them to give into fear. Parents today live in a society that encourages them to believe that the role of a parent is to buy the child everything that suits the latest whims of society and to "protect" their child by making sure that the child is never challenged, physically or emotionally. Some children give up riding because of a second of fear and three minutes of pain.

That is a step towards living a lifetime shackled with fear and self doubt.

Some parents would encourage the child to give up riding so long as it is what the child "really wants to do."
Other parents might go in for a compromise of selling the horse and getting one that is "bomb proof" and old.

 The message to the child is simple. "You are not capable of overcoming this challenge." The child comes to believe that she can overcome no challenges and must always take the safe way out.

Another rider is very bright and willing to push herself a bit. She has decided that she would like to take on the lead role in the training of a wild Corolla. Yesterday, she put the horse into the round pen and , as I sat outside the round pen, she took the horse through round pen work, lunging, despooking, and then saddled him. I got in and held the horse as she prepared him for mounting. Within 20 minutes the horse was calmly walking around on the lead, which I held safely, while carrying her young trainer on her back.

The horse's fear melted like snow on a warm winter day. The trainer was afraid when she mounted up. That is the key point. She did not loose all fear and then hopped on. That does not take any courage. She got on although she was afraid.

That is what takes courage. That is what gives confidence.

Parents who teach children that the world will bend to their wishes do them the greatest of disservices. The world is often cold, mean, and dark. The doctor sometimes comes in and says that the test results look very bad. The job that one wants often does not fall into one's hands. Those close to you suffer and die. Friends disappear.

It is one of the primary duties of a parent to prepare a child to live in that world. It is also the job of the little league coach, the scout leader, the Sunday school teacher, the guidance counselor, and the riding instructor.

Solid parenting demands that one create confident children. And to make them strong--strong like grown horses.

(Kay painted this on the Red Barn behind the little house. It sums up beautifully why my little riders tame wild horses and ride 30, 40, and for many of them, 50 miles in a day.)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Quick Tip# 39--Train Healthy Horses!

A healthy horse  learns much faster than one who is encumbered by slabs of fat, completely deconditioned by spending time in stables, and loaded up with sugar,grain and other things that horses did not evolve to eat.

It is hard to teach a horse to move if simple movement is hard for the horse. A lean horse, living on forage, (grass and hay) who is outside 24/7 is much easier and safer to train than this stable-potato cousin who spends his life high on sugar and wracked with chemical induced stress.

Natural horse care produce healthier horses. That is obvious. But it also creates happier horses.

A happy horse, like a happy kid, learns with ease.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Quick Tip #37 Pressure And Release Means to Actually Release The Pressure

To teach a horse to respond to light cues requires the rider/trainer to be 100% consistent in releasing the pressure as soon as the horse begins to think abut considering the possibility to yielding to the pressure. Do not wait until the horse completes the maneuver and then merely reduce the pressure.

The deal that you make with the horse must be complied with 100% of the time by you. The horse will do his end if you do. If you comply 80% of the time the horse will not learn the key.

The horses that I ride that are not ridden by others are very good at turning wherever I place my visual focus. That is not a magical trick. I look where I want to go, next comes a leg cue, next comes a gently rein pull and lastly comes a firm combination of leg and rein pressure.

By doing this 100% of the time and releasing soon enough, the horse quickly learns that if he goes where I direct my focus he will receive no further pressure and he is assured that if he does not he will receive that pressure.

And it only takes about 10 hours of being ridden by someone  who is not consistent to completely set the horse back so far that  he must be retrained by reassuring him that I keep my end of the deal. Jennifer is a consistent rider and Ta Sunka appreciates it when she rides him.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Great Time To Think About Saving Individual Mustangs

This post from a while ago points to doing somehing that we all can do to help a mustang in need of a hand. Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Unfinished: I do not know if it is true that what you do not know cannot hurt you but I do know that it is true that what you cannot remember cannot...

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Horse Slaughter, A Debate Misdirected

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Horse Slaughter, A Debate Misdirected: Legislation has been advanced that will make it more likely that horse slaughter houses will return to our nation. The debate over horse ...

Calling Me Home, Hickory Wind

Spent two days in a car. I do not like travel. Could live the remainder of my life fine never going further than fromm pasture 1 to pasture 5.

But this was important. I located a mare that will be an important part of the Corolla off site breeding program. Beth and I went down to South Carolina to see her. Most time I spent with my wife in a very long time--that part was great.

The mare will be a very important part of the breeding program, impeccible Colonial Spanish credentials from one the few remaining horses that can trace all their roots back to the Spanish horses of the southeast.

(It just struck me that vast majority of the non family related long trips that I have taken since I was a young teen either involved music or horses.)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Wild and Free

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Wild and Free: I do not ever want anyone to mistakenly assume that the training and breeding program that we have developed for the Corollas will be an a...

Friday, August 9, 2013

Got Your Recruits In Their Green Mohair Suits

I have never ridden a camel. As a result I do not feel qualified to express an opinion on their endurance, carrying capacity, or comfort of ride. That is why I do not offer opinions as to such matters.

I certainly would not offer opinions and couch them as facts.

Seems bizarre to me that people who have never sat astride a Corolla feel justified in throwing out their opinions on such matters. The very unfortunate reality is that these horses are so rare that I am afraid that I have ridden more miles on Corollas than anyone alive today. In 2011 alone, I rode one Corolla in the woods, mostly at a trot for more miles than there are between Norfolk and Texas.

That gives me a better handle on such matters than someone who may have seen a picture of one at some point in time.

Townes Van Zandt had it right, "You cannot count the miles until you feel them."

Or, one can inhale deeply of the cloroform of conformity and look to those that Gram Parsons would have seen well in their green mohair suits and seek their guidance.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Making Better Horses

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Making Better Horses: It seems that horses throughout history have been given the same social status that is accorded to their owner's class. When small Sp...

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Why Don't I About Know This?

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Why Don't I About Know This?: That is what a very bright, educated young women asked me after viewing a documentary on life at the Pine Ridge Reservation in the 1970&#3...

On Wooden Banjos

I make for a very poor focus group of one. I recognize that many things that I am drawn to carry absolutely no interest to the market as a whole. I prefer a wild horse over a tame horse, a small horse over a big horse, a stallion over a gelding, and every obscure breed over every common breed of horse.

I prefer clutter over order, education over entertainment, and the satisfaction of working hard over the fun of playing hard. I prefer the runt of the litter over the pick of the litter, acoustic over electric, the simple over the complex, the plain over the ornate, Grand Pa Jones over Earl Scruggs, and old wood over new wood.  I prefer giving away a horse over selling it, respect over riches, and raw oysters over just about everything else.

I always keep these things in mind when I am looking to make a major change to my program. I am profoundly aware that the fact that I would enjoy, or be impressed by, a thing does not even suggest, much less prove that others would enjoy, or be impressed by, such a thing.

 I have been interested in the making of mountain banjos since I first saw a Fox Fire book as a teenager. In the 80's I saw my first all wooden banjo. It fascinated me. I could not understand why they were not marketed. The sound was amazing and they were so beautiful to my eye.

In the 90's I made several wooden banjos. They attracted attention for the audiences where we played and I made several for sale. I set the price quite low. To my surprise the interest that people showed in hearing these banjos did not translate into an interest in buying one. I did not sell a single one. The one that I am playing in this picture is the prettiest one that I made and I still play it today.

We are about to take some huge steps with the development of the Gwaltney Frontier Farm. We will be developing new programs and building new structures. I am looking to the advice of those whose experience makes them worth more than the best focus group money could buy. I will be taking that advice.

But I expect that I will also be making some wooden banjo decisions. There will be parts of what we do that may only bring pleasure to an audience of one, (me). However, the focus will be on defining what we want to teach and finding the best way to get that message out. And, if we can do this the right way we will build a program that will be imitated in many other places. When I began teaching I was repeatedly told that it could never work, that there was no way that kids could be safely taught to train and ride wild horses and colts. At least in the mustang world what we have done is well known and other programs are building on what we are doing. Part of what lies before us is to get that message out beyond the mustang world.

The model for riding lessons today is a little girl riding in circles in a sandy ring while an instructor tells her to sit up straight. This goes on for 45 minutes and then the girl's mother writes a large check to cover the 45 minutes of "horsemanship."  Our model is better than that in every way. Sophisticated fundraising and publicity will be necessary to get our model more exposure. Such things go against my grain but I will do what we need to do to get the job done. I am sure that I will make a few stubborn mistakes and insist on doing some things just the way I like, regardless of the market.

That's alright. I deserve a little pleasure too. Take a look at that picture up there. That is what a man looks like when he is enjoying playing his wooden banjo.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

And Of Those Who Own Slaves

                                 Another Chronicle Of My Purely Fictitious But Perfectly Typical Ancestor

" Thump-ugh" all in a beat and a half. The sound of his bull-dog , Queen Mary, getting kicked for harassing little pigs. She might have squalled a bit more but it could not be told over the squeal of the pigs and the roar of the old sow.

But it was the 'thump-ugh" that stuck in his mind. Patrick was mesmerized when he first saw African slaves playing the dried gourd with a long wooden neck, that they called their banios. The music was completely unlike any thing he had heard on sea or land. "Thump-Ugh", the sound of a plucked string unfettered by fingers, left to ring free for half a beat until a finger slammed down onto it. The slaves called it a "hammer".

Before he saw Africans with their banios he had never seen an instrument "hammered" nor had he ever seen a string struck only with the back of a finger nail. Certainly he never saw a white balladeer hold his hand stiffly as the back of the nail struck strings soon to be "hammered" into the correct note.

No, nothing like it on sea or land, not as a Welsh child, nor as an indentured servant at his masters plantation. Such music was not even found at the center of this new land, King James, His Town. James, His Town was only about 11 miles away across King James, His River.

But it could not be farther from England. He looked around at his scrabble shack home, his hogs and their pigs, and considered his own clothing, part well spun, part of skins as the savages wore. The only thing English in all of his scrabble was Queen Mary, a pure of blood English bull dog.

Even the hogs were not as those of home. Small, squat, with long noses and rarely weighing over 100 pounds on their own account. Even their flesh was of a foreign nature. It was marbled with fat, like the fat of a stabled calf given its heart's desire of barley corn. These were not the hogs of home.

These hogs came from islands off the coast of Africa and  who were taken to the Spanish isle's to the south. There they were purchased by ship's captains and brought north to the English settlements that grew from nothing all around the Bay of the Chesopioc and the rivers that flowed into to it, particularly the biggest river, King James, His River.

He kept a few sows up in  a heavy log enclosure--strong enough to keep them in and strong enough to keep the bears out. Those sows were trapped. Their pigs would be released to the swamps around his scrabble after he notched their ears to show his claim to the. When the notion struck him, he and Queen Mary would slip off to the swamp, he with his knife in a long scabbard and Mary slinking  quietly through the mire.

First he would hear a growl, then a series of piercing screams. At that sound Patrick would break into a dead run, knife in hand. In short order he would find Mary with a young shoat, maybe fifty pounds, held tightly in her grip.  A left hand grabbed the hog's ear, a right hand drove the long knife deep, from the throat to the heart. Blood would spatter Patrick and Mary. At times he wondered which of them loved the blood the most. He would eat more good pork in two weeks in his scrabble than he could have afforded over two years in England.

Patrick understood those hogs in the swamp. They were like him--working hard to find the day's provender and knowing full well that they might have to fight for their lives with no notice at all.

He could not understand the sows in the enclosure. They were secured tightly, protected from the wood's beasts, and having everything they wanted--but to be free of the enclosure.

He did not fancy that a hog could see all that well, but he knew that he saw hate in the eyes of each sow that was in his servitude. Hate--never seen that in the eye's of any other animals. When it came time to muse of such things he wondered which the sows would love more, the satisfaction of tearing out of their pen, or the satisfaction of tearing his entrails out.

Some times he was awakened by horrid dreams of being torn by the tushes of the old sows, leg bones crushed, and his heart rooted from his body as the swamp hogs would root out an acorn.

Surely, he thought, the dreams of those who held men as livestock and called them their property, must bring even more terror.

Because It's What We Do

Yesterday two Corolla geldings were delivered to us to complete their saddle training. The Corolla Wild Horse Fund will find it easier to find solid adoptive placements for them after they are completely gentled and know how to ride miles through the woods and swamp.

The smaller horse, was captured because of a lameness in his hoof. The diagnosis was not good. His coffin bone was fractured. Instead of casting him aside, the CWHF provided him with treatment and time to allow the injury to heal in a non stressful environment. I do not believe that he has taken a lame step in the last six months. Ironically, he is the most stylish mover of any Corolla that I have seen. I want to work with him until he makes a great horse for some lucky family.

Creed is larger. His advanced training has already began. Today he had some round pen work and was introduced to the monsters. So far visitors seem to like him best simply because he is bigger.

I can't fault them for that. I prefer the dark horse, mainly because he is smaller.

Monday, August 5, 2013

No Animals Were Harmed In The Filming Of This Production

After spending the morning riding a formerly wild Shackleford stallion and the afternoon riding a Virginia Range mustang mare, interspersed with a frenzied clean up job at the Little House and gathering the week's trash from the tack shed area, it seems that kissing a baby pig while its mother loudly threatened serious bodily harm was the only logical thing to do.

Only a handful of my riders know how much Terry does to keep our program running. But I know.

 And I know that we would be in sad shape without her.

The Cost of Inaction--Pass The Corolla Wild Horse Protection Act Now

The foal in this picture is not a wobbly colt trying to stand. It is a colt born with deformed legs that were so painful that it had to be put down. The same week that this foal was found another was found at Corolla abandoned by its mother. Genetic collapse is characterized by increases in birth defects, loss of instincts (such as maternal instincts) and eventually, sterility. There is no question that maintaining a herd at a limit of sixty will horses hasten complete genetic collapse and lead to the extinction of what is among the oldest and rarest distinct genetic grouping of American horse.

They do not just go gently in the night. Genetic collapse due to to much in breeding first brings on the agony of foals such as the two described above. That is not a matter of natural selection or letting nature take its course. It is suffering that humans create by artifically limiting herd size to numbers that absolutely insure their destruction.

The Corolla Wild Horse Protection Act is the only hope that these horses have of survival. The bill is simple. It sets a herd limit above 120 horses and it allows the introduction of two Shackleford mares into the herd. Any costs associated with the bill are not born by the taxpayer or any goverernmental bureacracy.

The bill sailed through the House and is awaiting assignment to a commitee in the Senate. The coalition of bureacrats and log rolling "conservation" groups that are seeking to erase the wild horse from the west have every incentive to fight this bill.

In life one is rarely confronted with such a simple decision. Which do you prefer, being part of a nation that works to produce more crippled foals like the one show above until the last breath of the last wild horse in Corolla is spent, or being part of a nation that through such simple steps continues to allow these horses to produce superstars like Tradewind who is shown in the picture above?

Each of you have two Senators. Contact them today and urge them to work to swiftly get the The Corolla Wild Horse Protetion Act approved.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Just A Little Ride

Noelle has had a rough life. This little Corolla mare is full grown. She had two foals by the time she was a little over three years old. When she was captured she was already bred and had one foal nursing her. On top of that, she had had a fracture in her hip and an abscess that took over a year to treat and completely heal.

The result is that she would be a very hard young horse for which to find an appropriate owner. She has healed but it would take an experience, very confident small rider to train her to saddle. The other complicating factor is that the treatment for the abscess was often painful. She grew to fear humans because of the pain, instead of merely instinct.

For her future to be brighter we are taking her training to a different level. We are training her to carry a rider while being lead. I hope that she will have a future either in a therapeutic riding program or as a family pony in a family that has a child with a disability that would turn their home into a one horse therapeutic program.

The established horse world has perverted the concept of a horse's value to equate value either with the horse's sales price or earnings capacity. It is that equation that is responsible for most of the suffering that horses endure.

No horse has a greater value than a horse that brings joy to a child with a disability. No ribbon won signifies greater success than the smile on the face of a child with a disability as that child takes its first steps while in the saddle.

I cringe when I see horse salesman describe their horse as a "quality" horse. All horses are "quality" horses. Some people are quality people.

Noelle can be adopted by contacting the Corolla Wild Horse Fund. Tough little horses like her help create quality people.

(My granddaughter, age five is preparing to mount up for Noelle's second ride in the picture above. Yesterday's training session went even better as Noelle allowed children to mount up from a mounting bloc showing no fear or resistance.)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

One Could Not Ask For More

Cowboy singer John Westbrook approached me about doing a fundraiser for our program. As planning progressed, he decided to recruit Jim Masters to also perform. I intended to purchase additional breeding stock for the Corolla offsite breeding program this summer, money permitting.

John got the money's permission. Frankly, we raised three times what I hoped for. John and Jim were spectacular. Shelly and Laura had the event organized like a military operation. Everyone had a job and everyone had a schedule and everyone did great. Riders and families created quilts, artists donated paintings, the food was spectacular, and the slide show that Tom put together did more to show what we do in our program than words ever could.

We brought Tradewind out and showed people how we train wild Corollas. Tradewind showed everyone how well behaved a Corolla stallion can be.

I loved the music--from Joseph's fiddle to John's western yodels, to Jim's piercing lyrics.

This was a very big night. It was the first event for the Gwaltney Frontier Farm, Inc which is the non profit corporation that we formed to coordinate several of our educational programs and the offsite breeding program.

And it all got started because John Westbrook said "I want to do a show for you."

The Most Viewed Post Of All Time

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