Friday, November 29, 2013

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: A Peculiar Post--Perhaps Helpful

This was one of the more important posts that I have written.  It wasn't intended for a blog post but was an e-mail to the families of my riders. Hit this link. Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: A Peculiar Post--Perhaps Helpful: (What is set out below is not a normal blog post. It is from a note that I sent out to the parents of my riders last week. In the note I ...

Quick Tip # 51--Don't Shoot Your Horse

We all have limited time--24 hours each day for every single one of us. If one develops an exercise routine designed to improve one's riding ability and comfort in the saddle, it is important that the exercise schedule not unnecessarily take time away from riding. Every exercise should be designed with riding in mind.

That means working to increase flexibility and strength in one's hamstrings, quadriceps, obliques, back and abdominal muscles. Bulging triceps and pectoral muscles won't help keep you in the saddle

Neither do huge biceps. No need to build big guns.

Leave your guns at home and work on your riding muscles.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Some Traditions Are Just Too Much Work

For several years I made a wooden cooking frame and we cooked a great volume of fish, deer, fowl, beef and pork on the day after Thanksgiving.

Good food, great education for the kids, but way too much work.

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: To Answer Some of Your Questions

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: To Answer Some of Your Questions: Though I cannot imagine why, several of you have asked me questions about my background and what it was that brought me to develop a prog...

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Baby Steps

I found this old post from about three years ago. It seems that taking baby steps gets one whre one needs to be.Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Baby Steps: If everything could go exactly as I wanted it we would be a center for the preservation of nearly extinct colonial livestock and a center...

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: The Importance of a Good Set of Wheels

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: The Importance of a Good Set of Wheels: When Lido was about 12 or 13 he and I were watching RFD-TV when a commercial for a manure spreader came on. 'Dat's what Ah want,...

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Perhaps I Have Been Too Subtle

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Perhaps I Have Been Too Subtle: This picture was from a ride yesterday. The rider is seven years old. Manteo, the wild Corollla stallion that she is riding, is much younger...

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Bit Confused And Even Humbled

My Shackleford Holland is in shape. He is rock hard. He is gaited and moves out in his gait with considerable speed and ease. Joey, our new Choctaw, has not been ridden for a while and is not rock hard. Last Sunday we took Joey out for his first woods ride.

Christina rode Joey and I set out on Holland. The gaitedness of the Shackleford is not nearly as pronounced as is Joey's. I set out on Holland and held him back a bit so Joey could keep up. After a while Joey tired of the second position and took the lead.

I do not know if Joey was gaiting at top speed. I do know that Holland was....and I know that Holland and I were loosing ground fast. It never entered my mind that Joey would gait with such speed. I even wondered if Holland was holding back for some reason.

He was not. He gaited as fast as he could without cantering and Joey was pulling away from us.

I cannot imagine what Joey will be able to accomplish after reaching peak condition.

Every strain of Colonial Spanish Horse is endangered--some more than others. The unfortunate and obvious fact is that these horses are only allowed to go extinct by those who have never ridden them, or even seen them.

A horse person who had never ridden one of these horses sniffed to me,"You seem to think that these are some kind of super horses."

Yep. That is what happens when you spend a bit of time with these horses. You learn that they are not just 'ok'. You learn that these are super horses.

When skeptics ride Colonial Spanish horses they often find themselves feeling like I did as I was watching Joey leave Holland--confused and even a bit humbled.

(Joey is the pinto. His half brother, Twister is the bay.)

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Fighting Nature is Rarely Good Strategy

Are we turning the corner? Practitioners of natural horse care are less likely to be wrongfully considered neglectful owners than they were a decade ago. Veterinarians who really trust their clients are letting them in on the truth of the advantages of letting a horse live as a horse instead of being forced into a crippling life of sugar, stables and shoes. People are starting to learn that the most prevalent form of neglect is to force a horse to become obese. I think that Joe Camp deserves much of the credit, but the real credit goes to the horse owners who care enough about their horses to risk the wrath of the established horse world by treating their horses humanely. It takes guts to do so. Owners who refuse to compromise their horse's health by keeping them bloated fat will be criticized for "starving" their horses.

This is the second revolution in horsemanship, to use Dr. Miller's term. The first is the widening acceptance of natural horsemanship, which allows for the humane training of horses, and, most importantly, allows owners and trainers to respect each individual horse for who that horse is. Natural horsemanship makes it much harder to  view a horse as a fungible good whose "value" is somehow related to its sales price. Natural horse care allows that horse, with its innate, God given value, to live as healthy and happy as possible.

I am much more optimistic about the acceptance of natural horse care than I was when I wrote is post a few years ago. Hit this link to see more. Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Fighting Nature is Rarely Good Strategy: Horses evolved to survive nature's rhythms. When we force them to live counter to that evolution their health pays for it. Just becau...

Monday, November 25, 2013

Brooke Sims--First Rate Natural Horseman

Brooke Sims shows us all what can be accomplished by young trainers. She is down in Texas, but her sucess came to my attention a year or two ago. Listen to her implicity--no mantras, no levels, no strict adherence to any one horse guru--and most of all, a constantly open mind. Confident, yet humble--when natural horsemanship is properly practiced it produces first rate horses and confident, humble trainers.

Here is a interview I conducted with Ms Simms last month

Q. Do you use a round pen to start horses in training?

No, when I get on a horse for its very first time I typically get on it out in the pasture....

Q. Describe the kind of ground work that you do with the horses.

 I get them to walk and trot in hand. Then I teach them to walk, trot, extended trot, and lope on the lunge line. Also to face and reverse. After that I work on backing and side passing. Then I spend the rest of the time desensitizing them to anything that could ever possible scare them. I have found tons of horses to be scared of water, tarps, rain slickers, and Wal-Mart bags.  When they are good with everything I can think of I put a saddle on them and flap the stirrups, beat on the seat, and then I lunge them with it on.

Q. What about head gear for use in early training?

I like to start them using a bosal, because it is normally easy for them to understand due to the fact that pressure from the bosal when turning under saddle is applied to the same place as pressure from a halter when turning on the ground. So it basically uses the commands they are already used to, just from a different angle.  

Q. When you get on a horse for the first time do you prefer someone to hold it or do you work alone 

 When I get on a horse for the first time I do typically prefer for it to be more of a group effort. I normally have my mom or dad lead the horse while I ride it. I get her to first lead us but then I get her to lunge us just so the horse is used to the extra weight before I ride it alone. That helps the horse understand the transition of commands I believe.

Q. How do you get a horse to relax for training?

 ... begin with simple walking and backing exercises. Then I stop and groom them for a little while so they are nice and calm for the training session ahead of them.

Q. After a horse is comfortable with walking with a rider on his back, how do you prepare him for cantering?

After they are ok with trotting under saddle I go back to the lunge line where I have someone else help me get them used to the cue for the lope. I get the person to give the cue for a lope from the ground while I give the cue for the lope from the saddle. After that the horse normally picks up on the similarities. Then I go around on the lunge line only using the command for lope from the saddle. After they pick up I get off the line and go and try it in the pasture.

Q. What is special about the Colonial Spanish Horse?

When I trained horses for the rescue I worked with many different breeds of horses and the only other horse I have found that matches the intelligence but not the level headedness of the Colonial Spanish Mustang was an Arabian. I love Colonial Spanish Mustangs because they are not only incredibly smart, but they are also calm, and have extreme endurance. They can go from the horse winning all the races to the horse that you use to train the green kids. Overall I haven’t ever found a horse that could measure up to the greatness of the Colonial Spanish Horses.

Q.  Do you have any particular bloodline that you prefer?

 I do prefer the Locomotion bloodline, our stallion Blazing Gun and my horse Dance Inside the Sun are both out of the locomotion bloodline and I have found them to both learn very quickly and that even their trots are very smooth. I have also been working with a grandson of locomotion and he is also very responsive and seems to pick things up very quickly. All of the descendents of Loco I have ever worked with have proven to be incredibly smart and smooth.

Q. Do you prefer to train the gaited or the non gaited mustangs?

Every horse I have put under saddle has been gaited so far. I love working with gaited horses but I have found that when putting them under saddle they seem to have a very hard time at first understanding how to gait. Honestly though being gaited doesn’t really matter, it just tells me that I will need to spend a little more time helping it understand its gaits. I’ve been working with a couple horses lately that aren’t gaited I still like working them but I do like that you can gait on a gaited horse instead of bouncing around at a trot all the time.

Q. That trainers and writers influence your training techniques?

Throughout my life I have gotten advice from many people. I try to intertwine all of it into my own style of training. My mom, Mrs. Vickie,(Ives) Tommie Grey, and my old 4-H leader taught me the most though. I also watch ...“Down Under Horsemanship” a lot too. And I have read lots of books including yours.  My advice is to always apply what people tell you if it works it works and if it doesn’t then doesn’t. I love trying new things because sometimes you will find a better way you never would have thought of.

  Q. If you could only ride or train which would you do?

 I don’t really know how to answer this question because even horses that have been under saddle a long time are still training when I ride them. Still to this day I have found things that Blaze and Sid have problems with and I have had to train them every day to overcome fears and to learn new things. I believe to keep your horse involved you should act as though every day is a training session where you and your horse can learn new things. There is always something that a horse and rider can better themselves at.

Q. Do you train your horses to do any tricks?

 I have taught my horse some tricks. For example I taught my personal horse Sid how to play soccer and kick the ball while I’m on him and to kick it where I want it. I also taught him to coup stick fight and to play tag. Let’s just say some times riding around the pasture gets boring. I have also been working on getting him to lay down and bow.

Q. What would you like to be doing in ten or twenty years?

10 years from now I will be 24 I hope I will have graduated college and be a certified veterinarian. I also hope to still have my pride and joy Sid. I want to still have horses to train and horse shows to go to. 20 years from now I will be 34 and I hope to have my own large animal veterinary clinic so I can set my own hours and still be able to train Spanish Mustangs in my free time. I hope to own my own ranch where I can train horses and go on trail rides. I want to still be showing with tejas horse club at this time to.

Q. What advice would you give a novice with a young or green horse that they want to train?

My advice is to be patient, listen to what adults have to tell you, and as hard as it is try not to ever get frustrated. If you do please do your horse and yourself a favor and take and minute to just breathe. No good training has ever been done with an angry human and a scared horse. Take time to gain the horses trust and don’t just rush into things. Also just for when you do get on, when I was very young my 4-H leader taught me that if you keep your heels down your butt will stay down to, and so far its worked for me so you should give it a try sometime.  Remember every ride is a chance to learn for both you and your horse.


Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Reasons To Ride

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Reasons To Ride: Paul Revere rode 12-20 miles (exact route is unknown) primarily to prevent the arrest of Samuel Adams and John Hancock. Jack Jouett ro...

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Keeping The Older Rider In The Saddle

As a matter of logic I should be spending more time on the ground and in the hospital. I am 53 years old. By any measure I am very much over weight. I spend more hours in the saddle than anyone that I know. I ride over rough terrain. I was never a great athlete.

I started riding when I was very young. I got my first pony when I was two and he was one. When I was three I rode him in the local Christmas parade and by that age I cantered him as hard as he could run. That was not all that much of a big deal back then. In the early 1960's sissified parenting had not gripped rural America and kids were expected to have a bit of a hard shell. We would need it if were drafted had to go fight the Viet Cong.

That experience with early riding helps keep me in the saddle. However, at age fifty one can not go back and get that expereince if one does not have it. But there is something that one can do that I think is more important.

Often in tense situations with the horse the final factor that kept me in the saddle was not balance or even riding skill. It was simply strength. The power in one's core muscles is the thing that can keep a rider glued to the saddle. Aerobics training is wonderful and has its place. But one needs to build power and strength.

Can your legs hold you on? Are your oblique and abdominal muscles strong enough to keep you upright? Are your arms strong enough to bring a terrified horse to a stop? If so, you are much less likely to shatter your aging bones with a hard fall.

The science of power and strength (they are not the same thing) is a fast growing field with new, significant studies contantly surfacing. Get with your doctor and develop a solid plan to increase both strength and power.

Years ago I wrote that time in the weight room reduces time spent in the hospital room.

With every day a rider ages the more true that becomes.

Friday, November 22, 2013

What Factory Farming Costs Us

It produces unhealthy meat with no flavor. It teaches us to accept incredibly inhumane practices as long as they are kept out of our sight and produce huge corporate profits. It seperates us even further from the production of our food.

It destroyed family farming.

Pause and consider this. I live in Smithfield, Virginia--SMITHFIELD VIRGINIA--yet nearly none of my young riders have ever touched a hog before coming to the horse lot and many have never seen a living hog.

I have heard it suggested that it does not matter how a hog is going to live if it is just going to be slauhtered any way. How ignorant--how purely ridiculous!

My hogs provide meat--they also teach. They teach my riders about birth, life, death, and the cycle of existence. Many of my little riders assist in the slaughtering of the hogs when it is time to do so. Cute, sweet, kind hearted, animal loving children and teens join in on the work just as cute, sweet, kind hearted, animal loving children and teens have from the time hogs were domesticated. Only a fool would think that these children are being taught cruelty. They are taught the exact opposite.

I despise killing. I dread the slaughter for weeks before it is done. I work very hard to make it a painless ending for the hogs. Winter pigs roam free across my horse lot as they grow. During the spring and summer pigs must be contained to keep them from destroying neighboring fields. The winter pigs have the best life, running and frolicing as little kids do on a playground. Even the summer pigs seem to enjoy playing in their pens.

The killing is done by firing a .22 squarely into the brain from an a few inches away. The hog's muscles cause movement but the hog is obviously not suffering. He is brain dead when the trigger is pulled.

Still, I hate doing it.

I do it because it must be done, because it has been done for thousands of years, and because I have no right to ask another to take to on task, but most of all, I do it so I can make sure that the end is painless.

We lose a great deal when we get so far from the earth that we can eat without thinking about where our food comes from. Or even worse, if we loose our appetite when we do think about where our food comes from. We lose even more when we eat yet refuse to participate in any way in the production of that food.

We lose connection to that which is most real--birth, life, and death. We pick and choose which aspects of each we will endorse and which we pretend do not exist. When we turn away from any of the three we forfeit our chance at gaining wisdom.

I am afraid that it is that aspect of our culture that causes so many adult suburbanites to be so vacuous, frivolous, and permanently immature.

Turning back to the earth will help restore our ability to become wise.

Dirt and blood on the hands fertilize the soul.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Future of Conservation Of The Colonial Spanish Horse

The future most rare strains of Colonial Spanish horses looks bleak--not Vally Forge bleak, but bleak still. I have no ability to predict the future so I do the best I can to understand the past and apply the lessons that I can discern from them. I do believe that these horses can be saved and that the model that so many of us have used, which is to essentially try to copy other productive strategies used by the established horse world will likely not be the best route to achieve that preservation.

At Mill Swamp Indian Horses we are taking a bold and dramatic turn in our program. The path we take might also fail but it seems that other paths would nearly assuredly fail in the very long term. Our reasoning behind our approach is based on what appears to me to be recognition of several significant facts which I will set forth below:

1. I am going to die. Maybe not for fifty years or maybe before lunch. As we have been structured for years, my death would terminate our program and would be a huge blow to efforts to conserve the Corollas and even some other strains that we have taken an interest in. My vague idea that some of my riders would keep things going was not realistic. Those young enough to do the physical work that I do on my own to keep costs down do not have the financial resources to support the effort during times that it fails to pay for itself. I have no doubt that several of my riders will end up running a program like mine on whatever scale their future allows but none of them are in a position to take over tomorrow. I realized that last winter when I was pondering giving the entire business to one of the more impressive 18 year old kids I have ever known and had to come to the realization that, as dedicated and impressive as she is, she is not in a position to hold this thing together.

We are converting to a non profit corporation that will allow a structure to exist when I am dead. That structure, depending on the volunteers that are involved, might be strong enough to keep things going on the right track. It is no assurance of permanency, but it gives a realistic hope of permanency.

2. Restricting supply by ceasing to breed horses that on the verge of extinction in response to the established horse world's model of annual over production to producing winning competitive horses while seeking a slaughter market for their culls, is very short sighted. Colonial Spanish Horses do not contribute to the false crisis of the "unwanted horse". There simply are not enough of our horses to do so. If every Colonial Spanish horse in the world were neutered tomorrow it would have no impact on horse slaughter or excess supply. To do so would not even be to put a finger in the crack in the dike. In fact, it would have no more impact than putting an eyelash in the crack in the dike.

3. Long term efforts to impress the established horse world have not lead to success for our horses. With the exception of endurance competition and competitive trail riding there is no chance that competitors will want to switch to our horses in sufficient numbers to impact their existence. Even worse, were such a model to succeed our horses would still become extinct de facto.  Their pedigrees might show their lineage but the established horse world would seek to "improve" them by making them bigger and breeding for the fad or fashion of the moment that they would lose everything that distinguishes them from a modern horse.

4. The most important market is that of the family horse market. There is no breed better suited in size and temperament to be ridden by by experienced adults and their children who are just beginning to ride. That is the market that should be reached.

5. Untrained horses are difficult to sell.

6. Instead of merely terminating supply, we must expand demand by creating an entirely new class of horse owners--complete novices who are looking for meaningful experiences with horses. One may call them new homesteaders, hobby farmers, back yard ranchers--the title does not matter. What matters is that there are a significant number of people leaving the cities and suburbs seeking a connection to the soil. First they will plant tomatoes. Then they will raise chickens. Next a goat or two will appear. These people are the hope of our horses. Often they are homeschoolers. Their children have more time to put into learning natural horsemanship and riding.

7. We need to do more than just supply horses. We need to help supply a way of life to these people by providing them with trained horses, teaching them to ride, teaching them to train horses and the germ will spread among their network of friends who share their desire to raise children with dirty hands, smiling faces, and kind hearts. Not everyone can build a riding program, but everyone can encourage those who do not ride to give their dream a try. We need to promote natural horse care, natural horsemanship and natural hoof care. All three are of vital importance to health and happiness of the horse but all three also make horse ownership affordable and the knowledge of natural horsemanship gives that new owner the chance to move from novice to solid horseman in a very short time.

8. If I wanted to win the Kentucky Derby I would get a race horse. If my beer truck needed pulling I would seek out a Clydesdale. If I wanted a horse that would be perfect for programs to connect horses with people in emotional pain I would want a Colonial Spanish horse. Our horses are perfect for programs for young people with complicated backgrounds, victims of abuse, and those suffering with ptsd. It is their highest and best use. Their is no more service that a horse can give than to help cause an abused child to stop crying or too allow a veteran with wounds the eyes cannot see to let themselves go and cry for a moment as they hold tightly to the horse's neck. We are surrounded with people whose existence is merely a living space for suffering and if God has allowed you to have a Colonial Spanish Horse he has given you a safe,effective pain killer. It is wrong not to share that pain killer.  Deeply, deeply wrong.

I have considered other models. I have thought about simply trying to acquire enough land to allow a sufficient number of Corollas to live, breed, and keep the hope alive as we wait for someone to come on the scene to popularize these horses. That model does not give me any comfort. It still leaves a program that dies when I do. The model of constantly trying to get these horses in shows and competitions while begging the established horse world to bless our efforts to save what, at best, they will view as quaint little ponies for eccentric people who refuse to get "real horse" is not for me. We invited them to the banquet but they did not come. We piped but they have not danced.

Our model is to build a non profit that spreads the work around to a revolving group of people and exposes more people to the horses. We will continue to encourage the off site breeding of the Corollas and will do everything in our power to help people obtain stock and technical assistance to set up  breeding programs. We will teach riding and more importantly teach training of horses. And yes, we will teach little children to tame and train horses. (In every horse culture of the past the early handling and training of horses was the work of kids. It is only our sissy society that says it is too risky to do so and that kids need to do something safe and healthy like playing computer games, laying on the sofa, texting and developing type II diabetes). We will show how affordable it is to raise horses as they should be raised, using natural horse care and natural hoof care. We will not take any steps to reach out to the established horse world. Our door is always open to Ellie Mae, but Mrs. Drysdale had just as well stay away from the horse lot. And we will do it one horse at a time, one person at a time.

The best way to promote Colonial Spanish horses is to teach a kid to ride one.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Quick Tip #47 Winter Weight

Stay current on research concerning diet, weight, insulin resistance and founder. We may discover in future years that founder is not merely related to obesity, but is specifically tied to not allowing a horse to loose weight in the winter time as it has evolved to do over the ages.

Horses naturally fatten in the spring and fall. They do not naturally fatten in the winter.

Forced fat can be fatal.

The Mind of The Spanish Horse--Horses Without Borders

Several years ago there was a bit of a flap over an article concerning the tractability of the Curly Horse. (The American Curly is sometimes called a Bashkir but they are not related to the Bashkir horse of Russia. They are Spanish Colonial horses. Some of them have been produced from Karma Farms mustangs.) Some critics were skeptical about the claims of how gentle and how quick to learn these horses are.

Had I only exposure to the modern horse I would be skeptical also, but the simple reality is that the Spanish Colonial Horse tends to have a much lower flight response and a much higher need to bond than do modern horses. Those attributes make them particularly well suited to learn at lightening speed using natural horsemanship.

Yes there are exceptions, Valor and Red Feather are two Corollas that  require the highest skill in training. I am not going to go through all of the things that I have seen Spanish horses do with the most minimal of handling. Those that know the Spanish horse don't need to hear and those who have only known modern horses will have to see it to believe it. Check with David Grant to see what he thinks about the trainablity of the Marsh Tackys that he trains for hunting wild hogs. Ask Stephanie Lockhart about how easy it is to achieve real communication with Baca horses. Look to Croatoan, a wild teenage Corolla stallion when he was captured who was ridden by small children with in a few months of that capture.

And now I see the Choctaws. The picture above is of Joey and Twister, two Choctaws that just came in from Monique Shaeffer in Pennsylvania yesterday. They act in the same relaxed manner that I am used to seeing from Colonial Spanish horses. I will write more about them later, but they have caused me to examine why these horses are so easy to teach.

Of course it is genetic, but what factors enhanced that genetic predisposition to be calm, fast learning horses. Surely there are many dna explanations that I will never understand but I think that their "fencing" is a factor.

Frontier horses lived in an environment of flimsy or nonexistent fencing. The wild Corolla who had the greatest fear of humans retreated into the brush and it was those with a lower flight response that were most likely to interact with and be domesticated by humans. Those captured who were filled with terror of humans were quite likely to bust free from whatever fencing existed. The same is true of the Spanish ranching lines. The crazy and violent horse got out and ran off and it was those who bonded with people who had less fear that were maintained to breed for two centuries. Tribal horses could leave humans nearly at will for much of the year.

It was that docile horse who would come across several hundred yards of brush or marsh merely in response to a whistle that made up a large core of the Spanish horses that came into domestication whether by native, anglo, or Hispanic owners. The humans had little choice but to breed for gentle temperament because so many of the horses that consented to remaining in their control had such temperament.

How much of a factor that is in producing such super intelligent, gentle, affectionate horses is beyond my scope of knowledge? However, I will likely have more time to ponder such things.

Yesterday afternoon the Choctaws learned how to type and they will be taking over many of the administrative functions of running this place. They will join my Corollas who handle the book keeping and Nick, our blm donkey, who responds to the love letters that we receive from the established horse world, in helping me keep up with our correspondence. (In their spare time they read books to Quarter horses who did not do as well in school.)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: And This is How He said Good Bye

It's been several years now and things sting less than they did even last year. This is the first time I can look at the comments to this post and feel proud instead of just feeling erased by the horror of it all.

 Terry's comment was right--it was a great funeral service. Rebecca sang beautifully and several of the rest of the family did a few songs. We did "Will You Miss Me" a great Carter Family song. I remember that when he was about 12 or 13 he would pack up everything we needed to go hunting, knives, gun shells, food, and a stack of Carter Family cassettes to play in the truck. He loved going to the Carter Fold and he caught the interest of the great old time banjo player Leroy Troy at a festival there.  For all of that weekend if I did not see him it was because he was "off helpin' Lewoy get weddy for the show."

It's just a fact that our funerals are better entertainment then most funerals. This post came from something that happened just after the funeral. No literary license is taken here. Hit this link if you have not read it before.

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

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Living on The Road My Friend Was Going to Make You...

If you do not know who Townes Van Zandt was, use this clip as an excuse to research and listen to the greatest lyricist of the 20th century,Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Living on The Road My Friend Was Going to Make You...: A rare photo of Lefty enroute to Ohio on the precise day that they laid Poncho low.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Horse Market

Nothing of actual value can be associated with a price tag. Anyone who hopes to make money off of preserving mustangs will be sorely disappointed.

Those who ask me about the "market value" of my horses are so alien to me that I cannot have a meaningful conversation with them. What is the market value of sunshine? Where can one go to get a good deal on having a life with meaning?

I have sold some horses and will continue to do so, but the horses that have the greatest value to me are the ones that I have given away. When I choose a person to receive one of the horses that I have raised that means that I value that person a great deal.

Crack cocaine sells for $20.00 per rock. Are my horses only worth as much as 1000 rocks of crack cocaine?

The spackling that fills in the cracks in shattered lives cannot be purchased.

That is the value of my horses.

Clover In The Horse Pasture--Be Careful

Super high in protein, resilient, increases nitrogen in the soil, grows prolifically in areas with concentrated horse manure (provided the horses that produced that manure have been primarily, if not exclusively forage fed), such as former sacrifice, dry lots--but....

for the horse prone to laminitis it can be a mine field instead of merely a beautiful pasture. Clover is high in the sugar than seems to create the most problem in insulin resistant horses. The clover that I use is a cool season plant with rapid growth in early spring and late fall. That is when it is the most dangerous.

I introduce the horses to the clover gradually, allowing access to the clover rich pastures for only about 15 minutes daily for the early growing seasons. Tradewind, with his fast history of severe founder in the wild dos not even get that limited exposure.

To date I have not had a problem with promoting the growth of clover in my pastures. However, we are learning more every day about laminitis, founder, insulin resistance and its causes. Stay up to date on the research concerning dietary links to equine health problems.

And keep this in mind--founder has now risen to be the number two reason that horses are euthanized.

I support clover. I plant it and it serves me well.

But I keep my eye on it.

It is a loaded gun.

(This picture is from early November. I will not give the horses access tothis clover patch for a few more weeks and then for very short stretches of time.)

Monday, November 11, 2013

My Favorite Kids

I am right picky in what I admire in kids. I love keen intellect and enthusiasm. Luckily for me, I find a lot of such kids. But there is something that impresses me more than that.

Though there are very few of them, I admire young people who show actual wisdom. It is very difficult to accumulate wisdom and solid judgement in a short lifetime. It is very difficult to find a bright kid whose wisdom exceeds their intelligence. Lydia, of course--I rely on her judgement and often go with her point of view over mine. I do not know Samantha Patterson as well as I know Lydia, but I suspect that her wisdom exceeds her intelligence. This is a big deal because both of these girls are highly intelligent.

Wisdom is a key component of becoming a first rate horse trainer. I have been looking over an e interview that will be published here soon of a young Texas trainer. Brooke Sims is younger than Lydia but I see the same kind of insight in her understanding of a horse that I see in Lydia and Samantha.

Most people can learn how to recite a cook book on horse training, but few learn to improvise and deal with the situation at hand. I see that in Brooke's approach. She works the horse as the individual horse needs it. She improvises.

This kid will one day do a lot of good for a lot of horses.

I am looking forward to getting her interview in print.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Quick Tip #44 Wormer Rotation

The best way to insure that one's pastures have a constant supply of parasites is to raise foals and have many old horses. Both are the perfect environments for worm development. All foals, and many old horses, do not have immune systems strong enough to help keep worms in check.

The second best way to raise a lot of parasites is to follow the old ideas of rotating different wormers on a bimonthly schedule. This practice can lead to the development of strong, healthy worms that are at least partially resistant to all current dewormers.

For years I have stayed away from Quest, which is effective against encysted strongyles. Most of my horses had never had Quest. Over the past month I have received great results by giving Quest to some of the horses that were not responding to ivermectin.

I will continue to use Quest rarely on an as needed basis and I expect to get continued great results if the horses and their parasites are not over exposed to the drug.

Before using Quest read and follow the directions. This is not ivermectin that you are playing with. You cannot just pop a tube in a horse regardless of its weight as one may do with ivermectin.

Of course, the best treatment strategy begins with a fecal egg count and that is highly recommended for those who have a small enough herd to make that practical.

(This half Corolla colt, Red Fox, is about three weeks old and is owned by my niece.)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Whoever Said it Had a Good Point

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Whoever Said it Had a Good Point: My memory has dulled a bit. I cannot remember if it was Lincoln or Fredrick Douglas that said, "I hear many that speak of the virtue...

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: "God Is God.....

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: "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 in...

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Quick Tip # 41 Balance Your Strength By Strengthening Your Balance

Rebecca learned to become a good rider faster than any student I have ever had. Her success rested largely on her years as a gymnast. That experience gave her strength and balance.

An idea that I read in this month's Men's Health brought this idea along. Instead of merely lifting weights in a gym, use the bags of minerals or feed that you have access to to get stronger and gain balance. Carry the bag of feed on either shoulder and do deep knee bends. Cradle the bag like a baby and twist your truck as fast as you can. Run while holding the bag under one arm (short distances fifty yards, etc). Be creative.

As always ask your doctor before try any of this.

Many more novices fall from a horse than are thrown from a horse. Strength, balance, technique and confidence will prevent most of those falls.

This form of exercise builds strength and balance.

Wind Row Composting

I was so happy that it would have made me turn handsprings (if I had ever been able to do so). Pulled up to the horse lot last night, looked over to the sacrifice area where the round bales are to see that Dan had brought his tractor over and pushed the manure and wasted hay fragments into a long line of composting material. The line of compost is perhaps 70 yards long and creates a berm on  the lower side of the dry lot/sacrifice area. The berm will radically reduce runoff and will quickly break down into near powdery compost.

By pushing manure into such a line and keeping the height no more than knee high an enormous portion of the composting material is oxygenated. I hope to add substantial numbers of earth worms to the composting material to create an even more potent fertilizer.

However, one will only receive limited benefits regarding nitrogen supplementation using horse manure from horses that eat grass hay. Such a diet produces much less nitrogen that would be found in chicken manure, or even pig manure. Although nitrogen supplementation is limited, the organic material will build soil in every other way that compost benefits the earth.

We employ filter strips of living vegetation along the lowest side of the pastures. They are most effective in the summer.

It is a beautiful, living system that protects the water and replenishes the soil. When city people look at it all they see are weeds and stacks of what they call "poop." This is another way that our horse lots serve as classrooms.

The horse lot is an institution of learning. I want to keep it that way and build on it.

Those who do not know any better can look at its drab winter colors and muddy, shaggy ponies and only see something that they think needs to be polished. Those interested in reality instead of appearances see a place of healing and learning.

After all, there are hundreds of manicured parcels of acreage with perfectly uniform, monocultures of well trimmed grass found in every locality.

These beautiful places are known as cemeteries, but not a lot of teaching goes on in them.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

I Despise Straight Lines

Any concern that the development of our non profit will hinder our programs or cause us to look like a more conventional operation are entirely misplaced. No one who knows me should have that concern.

I do not expect others to see things the way that I do. I do not mind that they do not. I do not expect others to share my views on ethics and morals. I do not mind if they do not understand those views. I only draw the line when I am urged to violate my own views of right and wrong.

In high school our history class went across the river to Williamsburg and we visited the restored Governor's Mansion. The weather was beautiful. We were outside in the gardens where trees had been manipulated into a maze and vines were cultivated so that they did not tangle. A tourist mentioned to her husband how beautiful and natural everything looked.

I did not say anything to her, but I was horrified at the comment. I could see nothing beautiful in the concept of buildings made with slave labor. Such mansions were often owned by men who molested their young slaves and then either sold the resulting off spring,--their own children,-- or kept them on the plantation site as slaves. In discussions with the other kids in the class I was viewed as sort of a spoil sport who would not go along with the idea of "this sure looks neat." Finally one girl said, "Well even if they are not beautiful, you have to admit that they appear beautiful."

That is not where my loathing of the idea of making things appear "nice" originated. I cannot really put my finger on a starting point but I recall hating wearing anything new to school when I was in the second grade. I could not be comfortable in new clothes when other kids my age (the farm workers' kids) were in rags. Probably goes further back then that.

As I got older the idea of submitting myself to the judgement of others to let them decide if my hair, my clothes,my accent, or my music was appropriate seemed patently absurd. I have never understood why anyone would do such a thing.

But on a deeper level "beautification" does not just make me feel selfish, it makes me feel dishonest. Appearances are masks. They hide the truth. Appearances lie.

I try very hard not to lie. A few years before Momma died she lost some of her teeth. It would have been easy enough to get false teeth. Though we never discussed it, I know that she simply thought it to be an improper waste of money that could be better used elsewhere. She expected to die in a few more years anyway and I don't think that she thought it right to use money for something that would only be around for such a short while.

She died without false teeth. She also died with a refrigerator and freezer on the front porch so people in the community that needed food could come by and pick up food to hold their family over until times got a little better.

I used to wear my dentures for jury trials--had to look good to impress the jurors with my appearance. The last time I started to put those things in my mouth it occurred to me that there was a reason that they are called "false" teeth. They lie to create the nice appearance of having teeth. I put them back on the counter.

I don't even know where they are now.

So no, I will not be doing things to make the horse lot appear beautiful. I am delighted with things that actually are beautiful. Near the tack shed I have the most beautiful Chicken Castle that I have ever seen. It's beauty is from the hours of work that Shannon put into designing it and the days that she and Michael put into building it and the many hours that Charlie and Ashley played in the mud and chased chickens while their parents and their big sister created such beauty.

In pasture #2 one can find the most beautiful smoke house that I have ever seen. The beauty came from the lumber that Daddy hauled out there, the plans Joseph made for it, the work that he did, and all of the work that the other families did in building it.

Jackie's painting in the little house walls and ceiling does not merely appear beautiful. The work is beautiful. The beauty is in the countless hours that she has put into the hard work of getting the ceilings right so they could be painted. The rooms are beautiful when she finishes them but there is even more beauty in seeing her repairing and painting them.

So if our non profit were magically offered a busload of money to pave the path and create brick walk ways all around the pastures and our very own show ring, I would very politely turn them down.

If another busload of money came to buy 1000 acres of swamp and cut over and fence to create a real refuge for the Corollas I would jump at it in a minute and go dig all the fence posts myself.

I do not judge others in accordance with the rules that I make for myself. There are over 7 billion people on this planet and I do not have time make rules for everyone. I do not ask others to agree with me or to approve of my point of view. I have no interest in ruling others. I only make rules for myself.

And I follow those rules.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Not All Change Is Bad, Although Nearly All Of It Is

I am in the process of donating the horse operation to our new nonprofit, Gwaltney Frontier Farm, Inc. Such legal paper work changes rightfully cause concern among people who care about our program. For the last twenty years big companies have been swallowing up smaller companies and nothing good has come of it except to line the pockets of a handful of rich people. With that as a back drop it is easy to understand why people that do not understand the need for the conversion to a nonprofit are concerned.

Do not worry. The integrity of our program will remain intact. We will continue to do what we do. We will not be taking any steps to attract Mrs. Drysdale to the horse lot. Ellie Mae and Jed will still be happy with us.

Compromise--one of the most significant and dangerous words in our language. Some compromise is necessary to get anything done yet every step of every compromise is a threat to one's integrity. It is a question that I have wrestled with since I was a little child. I realized early on that if I wore a coat simply because some adult thought that I should, whether I was cold or not, I was taking a huge leap into following the dictates of an irrational, absurd culture.

Not all slopes are slippery, but many are. Hubert Humphrey said that the problem with politics is that one had to constantly compromise on the small issues in order to eventually win issues that mattered. The catch, he said, was to always be able to recognize which issues were big and which were small.

Steve Earle gets a bit passionate when he speaks of Townes Van Zandt "shooting himself in the foot" every time he had a chance for real commercial success. He feels that Townes let people down by pursuing a course that did not get his music out in front of more people.

It is hard to argue with that point. But would it have been better to have become part of the glitzy nothingness of the Nashville sound than to simply be drunk (and ultimately dead)? I cannot say which choice I would have made with any degree of certainly. However, it is much easier for me to imagine being drunk and dead (though I do not drink at all) than to sing painfully frivolous songs whose meaningless lyrics would be adored by screaming fans with meaningless lives.

I have nearly nothing in common with the man that I understand Woody Guthrie to have been. However, given the choice of money and a degree of fame in exchange for having people tell me which songs I was allowed to perform, or walking away from it all; I suspect that I would have been on train getting out of New York as fast as he did.

I have never been under any illusion that I am always right, but I have clearly understood that I am always me.

If I take any step that causes the established horse world to feel better about mustangs then I would have let the horses down. If I take any step in my riding program to garner the approval of the established horse world then I would have let my riders down.

So those of you that are worried that changes will come about that will make us into anything more conventional than we are now. Stop worrying.

All of my life I have had no fear of being tested. That is because the only tests that I have ever cared about have been self graded.

(That is not a picture of Mrs. Drysdale riding Young Joseph.)