Monday, September 30, 2013

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Making Better Horses

Throughout history the definition of a "quality horse " often had nothing to do with the horses themselves. Check out this post from several years ago 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...

Our American Cousin

One mare is from the wilds of North Carolina, Corolla. The other is from the tames of South Carolina, Lowther Farm. Secotan, the Corolla mare descends from the Spanish horses of the 1520's and her shape remains essentially untouched by human hands. Her pin bones are not considered unstylish by nature so they were allowed to remain. The Marsh Tacky was domesticated and bred by humans since the 1700's. Secotan is a Spanish horse. Hickory Wind is an American and is likely the closest cousin to the wild Bankers of which the Corollas are one herd.

Being Americanized changed the Tacky as surely as being wild and adopting to the wild changed the Corolla. The changes took slightly different paths.

The changes are but surface changes. Each carries all of the wonderful attributes of the Colonial Spanish Horse.

(If you recognized the title of this post as being the play that Lincoln was watching when he was assassinated go tell at least one of your parents that they raised a smart kids.)          

Before They Hatch

By tonight I may have one of the most important announcements to make about our program to occur since its inception.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Health Alert: Help Curb Equine TTFM

An important consideration for breeders ==Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Health Alert: Help Curb Equine TTFM: TTFM (Too Tall For me) is a genetically related disorder that often results from breeding mares over 13.3 hands to stallions of equal siz...

Saturday, September 28, 2013

We Are But One

Mustang preservationist cannot afford to fritter away our energies arguing about breed versus strain and other extraneous arguments that serve only to divide us. In the marsh, on the plains , or in the desert our horses are simply different slices cut from the same cake.

Sometime a picture can be more confusing than a thousand words. Anyone that has spent any time in our horse lot will instantly recognize this location. The picture is obviously shot from the area around the smokehouse toward the runway, about three yards behind the red gate with Melvin's field serving as the back drop.

Except that it isn't. The horse is a mustang, a beautiful stallion from the Baca herd. As hard as it is for my eyes to accept it that really is not my horse lot--though it looks just like it. That picture was taken much further from our horse lot then I have ever ventured.

Funny thing is that I did not notice the similarity until after I got in last night from moving a round pen--to the runway, about three yards behind the red gate, near the corner of Melvin's field.

For those who might be wondering, I am not joking.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Riding With Kids Is Good For Your Body

Playing music with kids is good for your soul.

At the end of our last session my young three stringed banjo vituoso called out."Mr. Steve , before we leave lets play "Sunshine in the Shadows" and "Keep on The Sunny Side" (two great old Carter Family songs)because those songs have sunshine in them and, Mr. Steve you need sunshine."

Cutting To The Chase

This is not my goal. I am not working toward or planning this. But sometimes it is relaxing to sit back and close your eyes and say what if...?

......If  I had 1000 acres of cutover timber that was cut about three years ago and fully fenced and forty Corollas, five shackleford mares, two Tacky stallions, a Cracker mare, and a Choctaw mare, the Banker strain, composed primarily of Corolla blood would be safe from extinction.

Population would be managed by gathering yearlings, getting them well saddled trained late in their second year and auctioning them at a big Corola festival event.

But that is not going to happen. These horses have but one hope, passage of the Corolla Wild Horse Protection Act.

Without that thirty years from now Corollas will only exist in daydreams and fantacies.

A New Day For Mill Swamp Indian Horses

We are at a huge turning point in our program. Mustang conservation programs have taken some hard hits this summer. Some of the oldest and most significant programs have ceased to be. The trends are all downward for Colonial Spanish mustangs. If there was ever a time to give up, this is it.

With that in mind. We have taken stock of the situation and I have sought the opinion of a lot of people. Under the current circumstances it is difficult to imagine continuing our program as it currently exists.

So we have decided to work to radically expand our programs in order to work with more horses and more people. We are going to become much bigger than we are now.

If I am going to sink it is going to be in a ship, not a row boat.

I will be announcing some of the changes over the next few weeks, but for now I want to announce the beginning of a new program that is very important to me. Kay Kerr has been working tirelessly to develop a program for veterans who are coming home from Afghanistan with scars that are not visible. Kay understands how much healing happens when a person gets in a round pen with a horse and uses natural horsemanship to gain the horse's, trust, respect, and love.

This was all Kaye's idea. She has worked hard for this and deserves all of the credit. I am just pleased that we can be a part of it.

Momma and Lido both would be very pleased to see our horse lot being used this way.

(This is a picture of Pasture number 1--even the plants can see that a new day is coming for us.)

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: A View From the Outside

I am so glad I bumped into this old post this morning. Brent Spiechinger ended up in Tidewater via the Navy. He was a young cowboy from Missouri. He was a champion bare back bronc rider and one of the finest people I have known. Brent is back in Missouri now. There aren't many times that I go into the Little House that I do not think about him staying there. Having Brent with us was one of the best things that ever happened to our program. Take a look at what this cowboy thought about our little horses. Hit this link 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...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Creed is a young Corolla gelding who is current available for adoption from the Corolla Wild Horse Fund. He came to us so we could complete his training under saddle. Over the past three months he has been living off of a solid wild pasture with a herd of three other Corollas. A wild pasture is one containing a wide range of forage--many grass varieties, tree roots and browse, many weed varieties, and even a bit of clover here and there. He has been given access to 2-1 mineral but not on a constant basis. (Nothing wrong with having access 24/7, but that has not been the case with him). He has been drinking from a large natural water hole.

And he has been ridden. And ridden. And ridden. In the picture with the other Corolla who arrived at the same time, Rico, he appears as he came to us. Certainly not morbidly obese, in fact not tremendously fat. But he was soft.

The picture of him tied was taken just before last night' night ride. One shows potential athlete. The other shows an athlete.

Now he is chiseled. On does not have to train a horse for endurance work to get him at his peak of health. One need not canter him until he is blowing hard and covered with sweat from head to toe. One only needs to trot.

And trot. And trot. Four hours of trotting a week does miracles for a horses body, and his mind.

It does even more for the rider.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Don't Fool Yourself

Given enough time I will find something to be concerned about. I have gotten very much out of shape and have put on a bit of weight. I used a weight tape to record my horses' weight as we enter winter.

I cannot say for certain what caused such silliness but I looked at their weights and my weight and the ridiculous formulas for calculating a horse's weight carrying capacity began to shoot through my mind. I allowed myself to wonder if I was too heavy for some of my smaller horses.

Over the past year Tradewind has not been ridden as hard as he once was. In 2011 I rode him 206 hours in the woods, the vast majority of time while trotting.

I got on him this morning and we hit the woods. He took off at a brisk trot without me asking him to do so and cantered a bit, again without me asking him to. Within a half a mile I felt foolish for ever letting any formulas or rules of the established horse world cloud my sight of what was real.

Even though he has not been ridden but a few times a month for the past year he carried me as if there was nothing on his back. I had forgotten the pleasure of zipping through the woods with him.

And for everyone who wonders how big their Corolla colt will grow up to be the answer is always the same.

How big will he be?

Big enough.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Failure and Fox Fire

I am not a purveyor of ghost stories and superstitions. However, I have been a participant in three occurances at the horse lot which I can not explain. This is one of them. This is the only one that scared me.  From a post a bit ago hit this link. Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Failure and Fox Fire: I guess the best thing that I can say is that I am surprised that I failed so badly yesterday. I really did not expect failure, but it fo...

Saturday, September 21, 2013

On Those Who Run Away

            The Chronicles of Patrick Gwaltney, My Purely Fictitious Ancestor.

Pocosin--One of many Algonquian words that became part of the settler's lingo was used by the settlers to describe any swamp or meandering water. Patrick knew that about 40 miles to the Southeast there was a pocosin so big that entire people's inhabited it. Slaves and those on indenture or apprenticeship who ran off from their masters often headed into the darkness of that great swamp.

Patrick thought it to be a sad choice to have to choose between being property  or being  victuals, both of the small bugs and the roaring beasts of the night. Though he often thought of running off from his indenture he could not continence the thought of life in the Dismal pocosin.

The stories of the Dismal pocosin were not without interest to him. To the Indians it was a filled with  horrid demons, much like the eternal punishment for the damned, a place of briers and screeching old hags. To the Africans it was a place of potential freedom--a place where one who may never go home could endeavor to create a renewed home.

The only thing that drew him to the Dismal pocosin was the stories of the horses of that dank swamp.  Small, hairy and wild as the deer, they were of the same blood of those brought to King James, His Town, who were purchased by ship's captains from the Spanish Islands hundreds of miles to the south.

Of course his mind was drawn to those horses--wild horses who were free for the taking. While others dreamed only of riches, Patrick dreamed of riding. The shoe print in the dust of the worn paths through Virginia were the trademarks of poverty and low standing. Patrick hated to see his foot prints trail behind him as he trudged through the twisting paths from plantation to port.

Those born of the better sort left no such tracks. They were well mounted. The tracks they left were the width of a beer mug. Though not born of the better sort, Patrick dreamed of riding as they did.

But no man on his indenture, and nearly none who had completed theirs for several years, could afford the cost of a horse. Not far from his scrabble horses sold for five hundred pounds of tobacco, twice the cost of  a young milk cow.

Horses took to the tropical heat of Virginia better than did the settlers who were born in a land of cold winters and damp, dark falls. Nearly twenty years before Patrick arrived in the colony, escaped horses had grown in such number around the Middle Plantation that the planters petitioned the Assembly to take action against these wild bands that destroyed crops with the same rapacity of the hogs that had been released in the marshes around each habitation.

But not here in Warrosquoyake. Even over by Lawne's Town, no horses roamed free. Every horse in Warrosquoyak labored under its indenture as just as Patrick had for nearly  decade.

But over in the Dismal pocosin the horses ran wild. They ran wild, but not alone. As every Ancient settler and planter knew, the Dismal pocosin was  a savage land inhabited by demons and witches.

And not just mere witches, great Witches of such Dark power that some were said to be even greater than the great savage Witch, Nemattenew, who had spilled so much English blood.

But some days as he looked at his foot prints in the dust Patrick thought that for the ownership of a team of spirited Spanish horses he would gladly tangle with the Spirit of even that great Witch.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: To Torture a Horse

Beating a horse into submission does not work. And even if it did it scars the soul of the man that stoops that low. This old post is about a bit that I saw a few years ago. Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: To Torture a Horse: Last night I was in a huge antique mall looking for the kind of tools to use in the Gwaltney Frontier Farm. I saw an old snaffle bit labe...

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

You Are What You Eat

This is my granddaughter sitting on the sweet potatoes that my daughter and son-in-law grew on less than one tenth of an acre. They were just named "Farm Family Of The Year" by the local Chamber of Commerce.

This picture also represents one of the best movements going on in this nation. Educated young people are taking to the soil in ways that we have not before seen. They are growing healthier food, and equally important, healthier families--both physically and emotionally.

We can see in the horse what happens when we force a lifestyle on him that is completely different from that which he evolved. Wrecked health and behavioral vices are the cost we pay for doing so.

Humans come from many millennia of hunting, gathering and, eventually, farming. We have lost a great deal in terms of our emotional and physical health with every step that we take away from the soil. I doubt that this nation has ever faced time in which its middle class, which can afford healthy food, has been in poorer health. We are a people both physically ill and emotionally exhausted. The situation is even worse for kids coming along today.

That baby is sitting on a big part of what we can do to regain what we have lost. The other need, the opportunity to work the soil, must also be met. Over the years I have had a few families bring kids out to the horse lot, not to ride, but to work.

Those kids have wise parents.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Raising Until You Look Ragged

Wild mares can conceive before they are a year old, although they are often approaching their second year before they first conceive. Even at this age they are far from mature and are still growing themselves. Mares come back in heat and often conceive eight days after giving birth.

A wild mare spends nearly every day of her adult life pregnant and/or nursing. A nursing mare at some stages of the foals development need nearly twice the calories of a non nursing mare. Important trace minerals and even protein are routed to milk instead of the mother's body if anything is deficient in their diet. Thin horses sometimes over compensate with winter hair growth which serves to help keep them as warm as their plumper counterparts. The sodium content is high in the diet and water supplies of all of the island horses, contributing to a pot bellied look.

Now throw in the fact that many Colonial Spanish horses are wide at the pin bones and all of them should have narrow chests and we have a recipe for ragged looking, runty mares.

When raised domestically and not allowed to have a foal every year they look very different. In fact, they are as beautiful as the stallions. Look how sleek and well conditioned the two fighting stallions in the picture above appear. Look at the relative smallness of the adolescent mare with her foal beside her.

Those who see only pictures of the wild mares miss out on the beauty that exists in these horses.

Motherhood takes a toll.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

And That is The Way Things Work

I am not much for reminiscing. It seems that for every pleasant memory that bubbles to the surface there are fifty memories that I dread just waiting to hop out. Remembering a good time isn't worth if if it is just a segue to a bad one.

However, I recognize that I am who am I am as a result of that past. Everything good that is in me is linked to that past. I have a bit of an unusual background as a kid and I recognize that I was not raised like most people.

One set of experiences that I had as a young person is so rare as to perhaps be unique. When I was young I was a politician. I was the youngest member elected to a county governing body in Virginia when I first took my seat on the Board of Supervisors. When I was 31 I was the youngest chairman of a county governing body in Virginia. When I was a teenager I met and worked on campaigns with a group of some of the most impressive people that I have met in any walk of life. The were the older black leaders--country people who fought to integrate the schools and for their children to have opportunities to be hired in jobs that required one to wear a tie to work.

I admired these people. Old, tough, cagey, kind, generous and most of all--wise. They were always willing to heap advice on me and I was always happy to listen. From the personal--"Ain't no need to hurry up and get married while you young. You end up with a young wife that don't know what matters. Wait a little while until women get old enough to know that what matters in a man is can he take good care of the children. Now you are like your Momma. You know how to look out for little ones."

Or on self control, "Now Steve I'm not saying that he don't deserve for you to pop him in his mouth but if you do you will look like a fool. And that man is a fool. And only a fool is going to let a fool make him look like a fool. Now Steve, you ain't no fool. Don't smack that man no matter what he says."

On staying out of some political fights that entailed more risk that reward. " Now Steve, I love honey but you don't see me go sticking my hand in a bee hive."

And on the most important question of living an ethical life--"Now you just get up in the morning every day and do that which is right. Now I did not say that if you do that which is right everything is going to work out good for you. Sometime all that doing good is going to reach up and bite you in the hind parts. But that don't matter. You just do that which is right."

And on the ultimate justice of this Earth, "Boy, ain't you read the Bible? Look at Revelations. I tell you right now, in the end the good do win."

Quick Tip #41--Look In Your Own Head First

On occasion I hear people lay out elaborate explanations for what a horse's "problem" is and why the horse feels that way. Sometimes it is shockingly obvious that the person is not describing the horse, but is really describing themself, without realizing it at all. They project the pain that they are feeling onto the horse.

While such projection often causes people to make training errors to "fix" the problem, the greater problem is that the speakers miss an opportunity for insight into their own lives.

A horse is a spectacular mirror. When one looks at a horse one often sees nothing but beauty. Other times one sees nothing but terror, anger, and all encompassing fear.

When that happens the person should first check to see if what they are seeing is a horse..or a reflection of themselves.

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Kids Do Not Always Say Thank You

Within the next few days I expect to annouce a major new program that we will initiate based on the principles set out in this blog post from 2010.  The thinking behind this old post is what is bringing our program to where it is today.  Hit this link to see what I mean. Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Kids Do Not Always Say Thank You: And I really do not mind. Kids live in the moment and express themselves in that same moment. "This is the best fun that I have ever...

Friday, September 13, 2013

Simple, Solid Horsemanship

Pressure and release, control of movement, tremendous amounts of reassurance and affection--these things are simple.

Understanding what motivates horses, learning to communicate with horses using body language that makes sense to the horse,projecting an air of calm confidence in the horse's presence--these things are the core of solid horsemanship.

And there is the result in the picture above. Valor does not have a typical Corolla mind set. In fact, she is much more like some of the more skittish BLM mustangs that we have trained. Without a doubt this is a hard horse to develop a relationship with.

And Samantha has done so in little time, with no flash and thunder, no expensive gadgets.

All she had going for her was simple, solid horsemanship.

Leaving Something That Matters

This Baca strain stallion resides at the Center For America's First Horse in Vermont. This monument is not made of marble. He is a flesh and blood monument that honors the work of Joty Baca and the Baca family.

About to Become a Father Again

Manteo will be a father once more within the next few weeks. The foal will belong to my neice and will not become part of the off site breeding program. The foal will be a half Corolla. The mother shares Manteo's intelligence and gentle nature.

This is an important reason to prevent the extinction of the Corollas. The half Corollas that we have produced are superior horses with an ease of trainability that matches that of the Corolla parent. Wonderful horses can be produced by crossing outside mares with Corolla stallions.

Aside from their gentleness, the Corollas have amazing endurance. One day I would love to put a Corolla mind in an Arabian body. That would be a special cross indeed.

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye

This post from years ago shows wh the off ite breeding program is so important for the future of the Corollas. Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye: Rebecca took this photo during the inspection tour of the Corolla and Shackleford herds. This stallion was sunning himself in an openin...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Rind Is Tough

A horse's digestive system is as fragile as crystal but the power of the skin to heal itself is shocking. Serious skin wounds often remain free of infection, provided they are not bandaged.

These are pictures of the same wild Corolla stallion taken a few months apart. He healed on his own. I suspect that the wound is the bite of a wild sow. I have seen several such wounds from Corolla. There are many wild hogs in the area. I know that my Corollas are aggressive when first exposed to hogs and will chase little pigs.

The best way to get off on the wrong foot with a sow is to chase her little one's.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

"There Is Sunshine In The Shadows"

There is sunshine in the rain
There is sunshine when we're burdened
And our hearts are filled with pain

There is sunshine in the Shadows
There is sunshine when we pray
There is sunshine, Heavenly Sunshine
Blessed sunshine all the way."

A.P. Carter

(Manteo, Corolla stallion, after a good workout in the woods with Tradewind.)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Hoof Placement

One gauge for athleticism that is often over looked is the ability to change directions while having minimal contact with the ground. I think this is especially important for a horse ridden through heavy brush at night.

Even with the best of despooking training we cannot expect a horse to be oblivious to terrifying noise that erupts from the cutover timber only a few feet away. The best that I expect from the horse is to jump hard if he must but then plant his feet and move in the direction that I indicate at the speed that I indicate.

An explosion coupled with a radical change in direction when on unstable footing will put the less athletic horse on the ground--perhaps with the rider under him. Spanish Colonial horses tend to have a great deal of over stride and can be counted on to have a foot not only on the ground but also well positioned for stability and support.

Here is Red Feather on an ordinary inside turn in the round pen. He handles his feet much better than most modern horses.

Looking In An Old Mirror

Several years ago with the help of several young girls, the oldest about 14, we got seven horses and one donkey trained well enough to ride in the woods without having a single one of them buck a single time during the training process. This was all accomplished over one summer.

I never consciously stepped back and said "Now I am going to change our training protocol." In fact, I was not even conscious of having done so. But I gradually made the process more complicated without realizing that I was not getting the quality results that I once did. I had incorporated concepts from the outside into my training program without even noticing that they were not producing horses as happy as I once had.

We have still had a very successful training program, but I had forgotten what was possible. The irony is that the more advanced techniques that I learned the less time that I had to apply the basic nurturing techniques that are the true core of building a relationship with a horse.

And then Lloyd started spending time in the horse lot. At first I would watch him go rub a horse in the lot, talk softly to him, and constantly send signals through body language to the horse that everything was fine and that the horse was safe in his presence. It struck me that that was what I used to do and my first thought was that I missed doing it, not for what it did for the horse, but for what it did for me. Of coure, I did not have time to do that anymore because so much of my time was spent in "training" horses and riders.

It takes forever to bake a cake if you don't turn the oven on. For the past several years I have not had the oven turned all the way on. Seems that I did not have time to do that.

Bottom line is that I was making a tremendous mistake. I was training horses that did not feel perfectly contented to simply be in my presence. You can call it "trust" if you want to. You can call it the "relationship." I recognize it as simple security. When the horse feels safe he learns best.

Which brings me back to the central problem in many training programs. I believe that for a horse to feel that security he needs to be trained with 51% control and 49% affection. I used to refer to it as "sweetening" a horse.

Lloyd sweetens horses exactly as I used to and will begin to do again. A horse can learn, and should learn, many things in the round pen. But first the horse needs to learn to love the trainer. That's right--I said love--for all you behaviorists out there who believe that horses are intellectually incapable of love-- too bad. You are wrong--dead wrong. Love is not an intellectual activity.

In the horse the basis of feeling love is to feel secure. The only way for a horse to feel secure is if it receives a great deal of physical contact (affection) and if it has its movements controlled by another, whether it be by a dominant horse or a human.

Now Lloyd did not show up to show me how far I have drifted from what made our methods of of training horses so successful. He did not have a great deal of horse experience. He handled the horses the way he did because he enjoyed doing so.

That is the same reason I once did so.

So yes, things are going to change in our horse lot. In fact, they are going to change so much that they will be exactly like they used to be.

That's the kind of change that I like.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

But The Coffin Sure Is Decorated Pretty

I never cared for Plato. To this day I do not understand why he was ever considered a great mind. Too much of Platonic philosphy is based on a set of assumptions that should be conclusions instead of being taken as foundational truths, e.g. that perfection can be objectively measured, or that all things that change are imperfect.

However, I am deeply enamored with his parable of the prisoners who were kept chained in a cave. Briefly put, a group of prisoners who were chained in a cave knew nothing of the outside world except for the reflections and shadows of that world which showed up on a nearby body of water. The prisoners, not having a basis to understand otherwise, perceived those shadows and reflections as reality. They did not have knowledge that there was something real that generated those images so they took the images to be real. Their illusions were their version of reality.

Plato's analogy was that the bulk of humanity only sees the illusions. They can only  judge appearances. They do not understand what is real and, there for, take their perceptions to be truth. This has likely always been the case but in today's world of public relations, advertising, and rampant materialism I suspect that the gap between what is perceived and what is real has never been greater.

Starting with the simplest of examples, should not the test of the quality of music be whether or not its sound is pleasing? However, in nearly ever form of music their is a great appreciation of sounds that seem to have little appeal to the ear yet are very difficult to perform. The super complex jazz riff, and lightening fast banjo break have something in common. They both look (and are) very difficult to perform, cacophonious Sometimes "sounds good" and "looks hard" seem to receive equal billing in determining the quality of a performance.

Now consider the issue of equine health. Is it more important to most horse owners that a horse be healthy or that it appear healthy? When one considers how many horses are fed horrible diets of sugar and grains and forced to slog through life two hundred pounds over weight, all so they will "look good", one must wonder. When shampoos and detergents are applied regularly to horses' skins leaving them susceptible to skin irritations and infections, one must wonder. When horses are forced to remain in stables because it is too hot, or too cold, or too wet, or too dry for them to be outside, one must wonder. When horses wear shoes until the hoof's natural suspension system is destroyed, one must wonder. When horses are kept isolated from one another instead of living in groups so that none will end up with bite marks, or even scars, one must wonder.

But pretending that a thing is real does not make it so. Dressing a lie up until it is pretty does not make it true. It just makes the lie more palatable. Whether one be buried in an elaborate sarcophagus or a simple pine box, one is still dead.

Unfortunately the established horse world allows itself to remain chained in the cave while agri-business and equi-business make shadow puppets on the lake for them to observe. The equine press reflects the views of their advertiser's (agri-business and equi-business) and their readers (the established horse world).

And it is the horses that pay the price for such economically beneficial ignorance.

My wife is brilliant. In nearly every case, I take her advice on matters in which we disagree. But not every case.

She has advised me to stop writing things that anger the established horse world. She sees no benefit in doing so. I suspect that she is correct.

However, I think back to when I was in high school. Although his cancer diagnosis did not give even a glimmer of hope, it took a long time for Granddaddy Horace to die. One day we were feeding the hogs and he was moving particularly well.

He said, "If I did not know that I was getting ready to die I'd swear that I am getting better." He paused for only a moment and then he said, "But pretending ain't going to change nothing."

He was right.

Maybe if I wrote positive things about the established horse world it would inure to my  advantage. Maybe I could at least keep quiet. It might be possible for me to even pretend that I think that the establsihed horse world is doing a great job of equine stewardship.

But facts are still facts. Up is still up. Down is still down.

And pretending ain't going to change nothing.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Joty Baca Mattered

and not only to his friends and family but to all the future generations that one day might ride or even own a Baca strain Colonial Spanish horse.

He and his family were dedicated to preserving these rare and historic horses. One does not work to preserve nearly extinct horses for what one might get from doing so. One does this work because of what one might give to the future.

He was the first recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horse of the Americas Registry. He was recently recognized by the Corolla Wild Horse Fund for his life long dedication to America's first horse.

A good man who refused to allow the ember to burn out on his watch died last night, but the good work of that life time is as alive today as it has ever been.

Joty Baca mattered. And when it is all said and done the only thing that matters in life  is to have simply mattered.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Time's Unending Circle

The seasons have always been the same. They have not changed, but I have. My reaction to the change of seasons has changed as I reach different stage in my life. Winter, spring, and summer all just sneak up on me--always have-- but fall is different. It is the dividing point of my existence.

In my early teen age years the dieing of the corn meant only one thing--football season was coming. It surprises people who know me today to learn how much I enjoyed terrorizing opponents on the field. I was as vicious and blood thirsty as a player could be without getting kicked out of the game. (I did often find myself being ejected for being excessively violent.)

But now I am old, gentle and sweet natured. Today, I do not smack people, no matter how much they deserve it.

Now fall means cooler weather, fewer bugs, and more night rides-----and we start playing music again. We took August off. Next Monday we will begin with a study of Carter family songs and there will be even more kids to teach to sing and play a bit.

If Rooster Cogburn Had Been A Horse...


he would have probably been a lot like Red Feather--carrying a lot of baggage, but always surviving,always being tougher than those around him,but only picking the fights that he will win, and win quickly.

He and I understand each other very well.

We both know that scars are the toughest part of one's skin.
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A Picture Is Sometimes Worth A Thousand...

....cuss words. Often pictures simply don't tell the real story. This peculiar pose makes Red Feather appear to have a long, weak back. That could not be further from the truth. He has a short back with real power shown in his topline. Head on picutres can be the very worst--making a horse look bucket headed, long and thin.

I love equine photography but one must see many pictures of a horse to know what the horse really looks like.

Monday, September 2, 2013

War Admiral

I have two Baylis Spanish Goats, Sea Biscuit and War Admiral. They have voracious appetites. Spicer, my San Clemente Spanish Goat, eats a fraction of what the other two consume.

Spicer's ancestors evolved on an island with limited vegetation. The Baylis strain was bred in the south amid lush forage. I am not aware of an animal that converts low quality vegetation (bark, weeds, vines, etc) to protein at a more efficient rate. In addition, the Baylis line can survive in damp, even swampy environments. The Baylis goats could be an important part of the effort to combat world hunger.

But they are not. Instead, they are languishing on the verge of extinction.

Who cares? The Livestock Conservancy, formerly known as the American Livestock Breed Conservancy, cares. . The Conservancy works to assist those seeking preserve heritage lines of livestock. Modern factory farming produces a very fragile line of livestock that often have weak immune systems compared to their historic counter parts. In order to breed the fastest growing animals possible we have not allowed for any type of quasi-natural selection to weed out the weak animals.

The result is a factory farm system that places our food production system at constant risk of epidemics that could devastate the world economy. Imagine how much more of a risk we face in a world racked with terrorism and the threat of biological warfare.

It is the Conservancy that works to keep sound genetics of ancient livestock always within our reach. I believe in conservation for conservation's sake, but I believe even more in conservation for the sake of our own self preservation.

Everyone who cares about these issues should learn more about the Conservancy. Look them up, and become members.

For the good of the animals--and for your own good.

Sunday, September 1, 2013


She was not afraid the first time she rode with me. Her mother's only instruction to her regarding beginning to ride was that she must remount after a fall. She has always been willing to push herself physically. None of my other riders have ever completed as many miles in a day as has she. She takes prudent risks. She has spent more hours working my young or wild horses than any of my other riders without significant injury to herself or to a horse. I trust her judgement on all matters equine more than anyone that I have had at the horse lot. And she is only recently become old enough to vote.

Lydia is about to leave for three months to join her brother at the farm that he works on in Maryland. The operation is physically small but it is part of a movement that gives me hope for the future of this country. Her brother is part of the new farmer movement. His wife is too. He was not raised in a farm family and came to agriculture as a young adult. Lydia is also drawn to the ground-the dirt, the crops, the flowers and the livestock that are the fabric of our existence. They all call to her with the strength a shopping mall calls out to other's her age.

Educated young people who are drawn to the ground produce healthier, safer, and even better tasting food, but they do much more than that. They produce better citizens. They raise healthier and happier children. And they give us a renewed shot at achieving Thomas Jefferson's dream of a citizenry attached to the soil.

Deep in the human soul is the need to plant, to grow, and to harvest. That need drives our urge to have the perfect lawn. But even the most beautiful lawn does not fully meet that need. The gathering of the eggs, the watering of the hogs, the milking of the goats, the breaking of the soil, the planting of the seed, and the harvest of the crop are the only things that completely meet that need.

As much as I love having Lydia in the horse lot, it is worth it for her to be gone for a while to immerse herself in that which we all need, whether we know it or not. (not forever, just a few months.)

Last night my daughter, Amanda and her husband, Jake brought my granddaughter, Lucy over to see us. The three of them were just named the local Chamber of Commerce's "Farm Family of The Year." Amanda is a school teacher and Jake works with USDA in water and soil protection. Aside from their full time jobs, they have an ever growing produce and green house operation  that is built on Jake's knowledge as a former Peace Corp worker and agronomy master at Virginia Tech and on Amanda's ability and willingness to do very hard physical labor.

They are part of a movement that gives me hope for this nation.

In one way or another I suspect that Lydia will end up being a part of that movement. I strongly suspect that she will bring her knowledge of horses and her compassion for people into whatever part of the movement her future holds.

Those of you that saw Lydia's interview on the tv show, "Wild About Animals" understand why I am both so happy to see her taking this opportunity to learn more and why I hope that this time passes very quickly and I have her back in the horse lot soon.