Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: At What Age Should One First Swim on a Wild Horse?...: Sooner than other kids if you happen to be my granddaughter.
There is more to be learned from my mistakes than from my successes. It is highly likely that anyone starting a program of riding and natural horsemanship will start small scale--likely with only one person doing all, or nearly all of the work.
That is how I operated for many years. The cost savings made the operation possible. It also caused me to make some poor decisions without even realizing that I was deciding anything.
The key to getting anything of a large scale done is to prioritize needs. There is nothing wrong with setting certain tasks well ahead of other tasks on a to do list. The problem comes in how one views that to do list.
One must look at preservation before growth. However, a program needs to be preserved while growing. The more the program grows the more there is to preserve. However, the number of hours in each day remains twenty four.
I began to see my most important tasks as pasture development to hold down costs, fence maintains to keep horses safe, and maintenance of riders in the program by keeping them interested.
Thee is nothing wrong with those priorities, per se. The problem is that there are many other things that needed attention, horse training, special program development, advertising, safety development, general up keep, publicity outside of advertising and paperwork.
One cannot give all of these tasks the attention they need. The result is that only the most important tasks receive sufficient attention.
That is not the problem. That is inevitable. Every single organization that has any innovation in it at all will have more tasks to do than resources to get them done. It is also inevitable that I would feel pressured to get more of these tasks done.
Again, that pressure was not the problem. The problem was more subtle and sinister. It was my subconscious reaction to that pressure. Without realizing it I came to believe that the top priorities must be done and that the others were not important.
There was never a time that I sat down and decided that developing a detailed safety program was not important. I never made that decision. But my defense mechanism was to come to only recognize the importance of the priorities that I could physically accomplish and to convince myself, without realizing that I was doing so, that the other things that I did not have time to do were not important.
That defense mechanism was the problem. It caused me to fail to accurately evaluate what needed to be done. There is a world of difference between "I cannot accomplish that right now" and "That is not important."
As we are converting to a non profit and the eyes, hands, and talents of others are coming into play I am finally in a position to evaluate priorities better. What I consider my top priorities have not changed. What I consider to be important priorities have radically changed.
As you develop your program don't slip slowly into the trap that I made for myself.
(These are two wonderful Corolla geldings that are eligible for adoption. Creed, the larger of the two has been ridden in the woods on many occasions. Rico is being trained by Abigail and is her first training effort. She is doing great and so is he. He recently had his first ride in the woods. For information about adopting these horses contact the Corolla Wild Horse Fund.)
Monday, December 30, 2013
Perhaps I notice it more because I am outside every single day, but it seems that we are falling into a pattern of dry summers and wet winters. I understand that our wettest month is February. Last summer we had sufficient rain but for most of the last fifteen years our summer rainfall has been a disappointment.
A trail horse really gets a chance to show his metal in a rain drenched woods trail. Yesterday Rachel went on her first trail ride. We rode for about two hours. The rain broke for the ride but the woods was inundated. Movement on saturated ground requires a tremendous amount of energy on the part of the horse. I have no doubt that it takes much more exertion than riding in sand.
The heavy winds bring down small limbs that the horses push themselves through. The branches tangle in their feet but because of the level of training our horses have they are less distracted by these obstacles than they are by the horse flies of summer. When the wind blows hard enough the deer and turkeys cannot hear us coming and they are much more likely to explode from the cover within a few yards of us in foul weather.
The commotion causes our horses to jump a few feet but they quickly come down to a complete stop. That is the result of despooking work with a series of monsters in the round pen.
The bottom line is that our horses are among the few in the region that can safely take on thee conditions, especially for night rides. Their calm Spanish temperaments, their training, and their experience in the woods all come together to make Corollas perfect trail horses.
Even in the Rainy Season.
(Porter and Samson, two experienced Corollas born in the wild are shown here as we prpare to hit the woods.)
Sunday, December 29, 2013
And now it is raining--raining hard. But tomorrow the sun will shine again.
In about twenty minutes it will be five years since Lido died. They have been five years of of watching scars grow. The thing about scars that so many people miss is that they are stronger than the skin around them.
Five years ago today my house was filled with my riders by the time I got home from my office. After I got the call I called first my wife and then Rebecca. Rebecca made all the other calls. Except that I called JK.
And today it is raining. And the house is empty. My grandchildren are heading back up to the mountains. Rebecca's family is headed back to Michigan.
Today was the first December 29 that I did not plan something to do. I had our regular Sunday afternoon ride scheduled for this afternoon. But it will be rained out. I may ride anyway. Ruthann, Emily, Lydia, Abby, and Brent taught me that you do not need good weather to ride, all you need is a good horse to ride.
I have made some mistakes in the last five years. Perhaps the biggest was to try to keep from getting too attached to new people in my life. No more loss from death or even just moving away. One cannot loose what one has never had.
"Lewis said to Delia
That's the sad thing about life
There's always some folks leaving
As other folks arrive" ("Folk Blood Bath" Josh Rither).
So, if I didn't let anyone else arrive in my life there would not be anyone there to be leaving.
It really seemed like a good plan.
But.....then Emily H. told me that she needed to ride her horse behind mine because she only felt safe when she rode close to me. Then Charlie said that riding in the woods was "awsome." Then Rebecca and Mark named their son's middle name after Lido. Then Ashley M. stuck her tongue out at me when I told her that her horse could not recognize her because she changed her hair color so often. Then Ashley N. told me that she was happy. Then Hailey started wearing her watch so she could help make sure that everything stayed on schedule. Then Liam said that the horse lot was his "favorite land." Then Sara lin slipped a cherry tomato into my pocket at the funeral so I would "have something to smile about" when I got home. Then Abigail asked if she could train a wild Corolla on her own. Then Austin got very serious with his autoharp and Jocylin became the second best three string wooden banjo player in eastern Virginia. Then Emily M. told me that she was coming home. Then Sadie decided to muster the energy to stand up when she played the fiddle. The Colten decided after a performance in the far off land of Suffolk, Virginia that we now qualified as "travelling musicians." Then Samantha became better than me at gentling scared horses.
Then Lydia looked over and nodded and said that "Yea, everything is going to work out."
And I probably could have fended them all off until Attila asked me if it would be alright if he came out early to water the hogs before riding.
So now it is raining and Lido died five years and twenty minutes ago.
And I feel better than I have on any December 29 in the past five years.
In fact, I feel pretty good.
All of you that think running this program is an entirely selfless act are quite naive.
As we are working to develop stronger safety rules at the horse lot I cannot help but keep coming back to one central fact. The greatest threat to the safety of riders and horses is parents who refuse to recognize their duty to teach their children to confront and over come fear. This post from earlier in the year deals with that important truth. Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: What They Do Not Know Can Hurt Them..Badly: Parents that were not raised with horses should not be expected to understand horses or horsemanship. They cannot be expected to unders...
Saturday, December 28, 2013
I expect that a lot of little boys shared my love of getting into the attic or in the old kitchen that was set off from my grandparent's house to make all manner of exciting discoveries. After finding such things (like a newspaper from World War II) I felt compelled to tell everyone what I had found. A good discovery would keep me pumped up for several days.
Life was exciting when I was five years old.
I am nearly fifty years older than that now but I am still the same person. The music on you tube is my attic and old kitchen today. When I find something amazing I get just as excited as I did when I was little. I just made such a discovery.
Jubal's Kin is a spectacular set of young people from Florida that I stumbled on. When I was thirteen years old I heard Emmylou Harris the first time. Listening to Gailanne Amundson gave me the same jolt when I first heard Emmylou Harris on the radio while I was riding in a station wagon just out side of the meat plant on highway 10 on a hot August afternoon. I expect that if I live fifty more years I won't forget the way I felt when I first heard Jubal's Kin doing "Clementine."
Completely aside from raw talent, skill and smooth presentation was the respect that the song is given in their version of what is all to often treated as a near nursery rhyme. Her voice transforms the song. There was a time that any meddling with how an ancient song was put together would set me off. I was a rigid preservationist of ancient music.
Now I have come believe that what made these songs so important was the life that is in each of them. I have come to realize that life can be injected back into these songs if they are transformed with the greatest degree of respect. That doesn't mean making an ancient song sound like commercial drivel from the radio. It means preserving the song's heart while perhaps putting a good shine on it's shoes and maybe even putting a new shiny leather belt on it.
Recently I have been giving a lot of thought to how different Woody Guthrie's music would have been had he been walking in the shadow of Steve Earle and Bob Dylan instead of the shadow of A.P. and Sarah and Maybelle Carter. His cutting lyrics in songs like "Pastures of Plenty" would likely have even cut deeper. I have worked up a version of "This Land Is Your Land" that maintains all of his lyrics while changing tempo and using minor chords here and there to emphasize the key lines that are often glazed over today. "As They Stood there hungry. I stood there wondering....."
That is what this group has succeeded in doing with "Clementine"---no condescension--no sappy, sing song silliness--just respect for the song. They interpret the song with the wisdom of the very old, yet these are very young performers.
And they are impressive--highly impressive.
That is how author Doris Gwaltney described our horse lot.
"This place changes lives. It changed our lives."
"When I got here I told Mom, 'You are never going to be able to get me to leave.'
"I would have never made it through school without these horses."
"This is my favorite land."
"We are buying a house to move closer to the horse lot."
"When I feel bad I always go to the horse lot to feel better."
"This summer with the horses has been the best summer of my life."
"Your riders don't act like spoiled little rich brats. They love the horses more."
"The best gift that I will ever receive is my horse."
"Thank you for what I have learned about horses and myself."
"I want to raise my children here in the horse lot."
Perhaps the results are magical but there is nothing magic about the process. Anyone who cares about horses and kids can do what we do. Learning natural horsemanship is within reach of everyone with a computer or even a bookstore nearby. What once took twenty years to learn on one's own can be learned in six months of serious study and effort.
And it can give meaning to lives. Real meaning.
Big barns, expensive horses, competitions are not requirements for the development of a great program, they are hindrances.
Large scale, small scale, side job, full time career--it is all possible with the development of a program of natural horse care, natural horsemanship and riders.
And the kids in your community need for you to do it. And the horses in your community need for you to do it.
And you need to do it for yourself.
And we will help. I will be happy to advise/consult with anyone who wants to develop a program like ours at no cost.
There is no catch to this. There is no cost to this offer. I am going to be hammering this point repeatedly in 2014.
You may get sick of reading it, but the reality is that if God has allowed you to have a horse He has given you the opportunity to heal some of the suffering in your community.
Not long ago a gentleman who is a patient at a local veteran's hospital reached out and firmly squeezed my forearm. He looked at me with the greatest of intensity and asked, "Do you understand how important what you are doing here is for us?"
Don't let self doubt or the fears of others rob you of the opportunity of having moments like this.
Over then next year we will talk about boring things like insurance, incorporation, safety equipment, land leases etc. If I talk about it enough one of you will decide to give it a try. Your success in developing a meaningful life will lead others to follow you.
Horses get saved. People get saved. And you get to have a life that is more than just an extended period of pre-death.
(Another great photo by Tom Crockett of our holiday get together at the horse lot last night. His skill with a camera makes it all look magical.)
Thursday, December 26, 2013
Even if it is possible to sweep the sole of the hoof clean using one's hair, it is best to use the brush on back of the hoof pick.
My riders learn a lot more than how to sit on a horse. They learn natural horsemanship, natural horse care and natural hoof care. Several have turned into good farriers and pick up a bit of cash doing so professionally. Of my home grown farriers Emily is the best. (Jen is great but not homegrown. He went to professional school to learn hoof care and does spectacular work.) Her work is like art.
Always careful, conservative in how much is removed, and always having a solid plan in place before she begins to cut.
I hate mud and pasture mud is often the result of soil compaction. I hate for horses to look weak and ragged and such appearance is often the result of worm infestation. I hate to see horses bloated, lame and fat and such suffering is often caused by diets loaded with sugar and lacking in natural forage. I hate soil erosion and deep ruts and gullies often begin with soil lacking plant cover.
Some peculiar little bugs that are likely already in you pasture to some degree can help with every problem set out above. I currently have a mare and foal, a yearling and two grown mares in a paddock of about two acres. They live off of hay with the mare and foal being supplemented with some horse feed. The soil is light and sandy.
And in recent weeks I have noticed that there is rarely even a hint of more than a eight or ten manure piles at any given moment. It is as if every night the manure fairy comes and magically cleans the pastures. Yesterday I had to go out and look to find any manure.
The manure was not easy to find. The soil is pierced with thousands of holes from the diameter of the little finger to the diameter of the thumb. In many areas the holes are no more than two inches a part. These holes are the work of dung beetles who bury pieces of horse manure in each of these burrows. The manure that is buried carries with it the parasite egg load that it bore. Hence the pasture carries radically fewer parasite eggs than would be the case with out the beetles. The holes serve to aerate the soil and reduce soil compaction and decrease runoff. The manure breaks down under ground and is readily available fertilizer for use by the roots of the plants in the pasture. The result is increased foliage which prevents erosion.
I do not know of any downside to dung beetles. They have one deadly enemy--ivermectin wormers. The recent trend is to encourage reduced usage of all wormers to prevent the development of drug resistance by the parasites. There was a time when I used Ivermectin on a constant basis.
At that time I had nearly no dung beetles. Now I have greatly reduced the use of that drug and horses that are given it are, for the most part, kept in sacrifice areas of the horse lot so their ivermectin loaded manure does not fall on the grass pastures. It is an easy enough thing for all those who have a few horses to keep them off of the pasture for a few days after giving ivemectin.
In one of the greatest perversions of truth that our culture sees, one can expect that the Industrial Food Complex with its reliance on factory farming will push localities to place more and more environmental restrictions on small and organic food operations. This effort to reduce competition on their part will result in increased environmental regulation of horse lots and pastures. Everything that we can do to improve the soil will matter in the fights to come over these efforts to completely close the door on family farming.
Dung beetles, diakon radishes, and composting are great for the soil and eventually serve your horses well. Proper stewardship of the soil should be viewed as a moral and religious responsibility.
Replenishment of the soil is a sacred act and should be viewed as such.
Wednesday, December 25, 2013
This Christmas morning was the coldest yet--twenty two degrees. The horses all had access to thousands of pounds of good quality hay. But by the time I got there this morning no one was touching the hay.
Instead the fences were being stripped bare of honey suckle and the small ends of tree branches were being chewed up as if they were candy. The horses, of course, had no idea why they were eating such tough forage when they had good hay available.
A lot of horse owners do not understand either.
Super fibrous forage breaks down slower in the cecum than does food with less fiber. The slower the process, the more heat is generated. In cold weather it is perfectly natural and healthy for horses to eat bark, roots, and browse. Of course, the plant eaten must not be one of those few that are toxic to horses, but poplar bark on a cold sunny day to a horse is like hot chocolate to a person.
Lewis and Clark noted how Indian ponies that refused to eat grain would happily consume cottonwood bark. Seems like those ponies knew a bit about proper equine nutrition.
(This is Wanchese, my Shackleford stallion.)
Monday, December 23, 2013
The lessons of natural horsemanship go far beyond the round pen. Soft, slow, steady movement, focus on the task, using no more force than necessary, no rushing--all things that are rote for me in the round pen.
These same things just gave me one of the very few bloodless de-beardings that I have had in a long time. I shaved my face like I work a scared horse and I am not bleeding.
This is not a joke. Natural horsemanship is about more than horses.
Use the lessons learned in the round pen on child rearing, playing music, cooking, coaching, teaching in the class room, sewing, and yes, even shaving.
As has been stressed before --we practice natural horsemanship to make better people, not just better horses.
We have begun getting serious about forage production for 2014. We will be using more forest foraging this spring than we ever have. We have nearly 20 acres of mixed forest that will be put in heavy use this spring. Rotational grazing is going to be an important part of our feeding scheme. I have begun putting in permanent fences to make smaller pastures. The electric pasture fencing might work well for everyone else but has done me little good. Deer and foals run through electric fence too often to make it reliable.
We will continue wind row composting in the two main sacrifice lots. At the moment the soil is too wet to make wind rows but as soon as a tractor can easily handle the soil moisture we will get going again. In early spring we will deeply plow the sacrifice areas to combat the soil compaction that occurs over the years. This should result in much better rain water penetration of the soil, reducing run off, and making it easier to develop wind rows in the summer.
I have greatly reduced my use of ivermectin over the past two years. The result is an explosion of dung beetles in the sandier soils in the pasture. Ivermectin kills dung beetles. These beetles bury manure several inches below ground. They leave large holes (thumb sized) in the soil that aid in aeration of the soil. The beetles are currently burying much more than half of the manure produced in the sandy pastures.
We will deal with an erosion problem in pasture one by building a large "pasture pond" to create an artificial wet land about 100 ft by 50 ft. It will be fenced to keep the horses out of it and we will plant wetland plants (cattails, willows, etc) to stabilize the area and to reduce nutrient runoff. Over the past five years I have used piles of old hay twine to create baffles in the erosion ruts as they are forming. The result has been spectacular. The rutting has been over seeded with clover and the erosion has been completely halted.
The most significant difference in our approach will be that the pastures will be mowed after a herd is rotated out of it. Doing so will take care of the weeds without using herbicide. Wild flowers and weeds will be encouraged as filter strips near the ditch and small swamp outside the pastures. Baby hogs will continue to run free in the cold season and will continue to root up weeds and open patches of soil for reseeding.
I hope to be able to plant a great deal of crab grass this year. The seed is expensive and hard to find. It makes the best warm season forage we can grow for horses around here.
We will likely obtain a cow this year and more goats. This will increase the viability of our pastures.
But even if we do everything perfectly, we can't make it rain. Drought renders all of the planting nearly worth less.
But there will be future years and droughts do not last forever.
Sunday, December 22, 2013
In the past two years I have stumbled onto a great musical outlet that I never knew existed. Quality music is often hidden. All over the South there are body shops and barber shops, and even the occasional country store, where once or twice a month the "closed sign" goes up promptly at five o'clock and people of every age pull up and unload worn fiddle, guitar and banjo cases and play music for their favorite three hours of the month.
Those are the places that I knew. I played in those places for much of my life. I knew that there once were coffee houses and tea rooms where people got together and played songs with simple chord progressions and complex, profound meaning.
I thought those places were only somewhere far off, San Francisco, maybe New York. I had no idea that they could be found with fifty miles of the horse lot. These venues give an opportunity to hear extraordinary music.
Unfortunately I have come to realize that while all of the places are good, it is only those who serve no alcohol that are great. The only thing worse than trying to hear good music while drunken laughter explodes from the next table is to try to play good music under those circumstances.
That is why I love the tea houses. There is always a variety of musical styles presented and it is in such an environment that one realizes that apples cannot be compared to oranges. For example, John Westbrook is, hands down, the best western performer that I have ever heard--great musician, clear, clean voice and first rate song writer. And his talent is best appreciated when viewed as a western musician. Tony Mata is a amazing jazz guitarist and his talent is best recognized in that genre. If one asks which of the two is the best, then one is asking the wrong question.
Jared May's voice is the best voice that I have ever encountered. It was only when I heard him in the quiet of a tea house with a sober audience that I had the chance to appreciate his talent. It is a perverse twist of fate that he does not have a much wider audience. More than most of the performers his age, he understands the importance of the lyrics. He does not drown them out with violent assaults on his guitar strings. He plays his guitar. He does not punish his guitar. His guitar notes walk in softly behind the lyrics and politely take a seat where they won't create a disturbance.
I would not exactly say that I am jealous of his voice--but I am as close to jealousy as a grown man should be. I wish that I could write words like Steve Earle. I wish that I could play a guitar like Doc Watson. I wish I could fill a stage with my presence like Levon Helm.
And I wish I could sing like Jared May.
If you see that he is going to do a set anywhere around, drop what you are doing and get over there. (Unless the performance conflicts with the time of a funeral in which you are one of the pall bearers. If so, go on to the funeral, walk real fast with the casket and then hustle on over the catch the last song or two that he does.)
You will be glad you did.
People my age spend a fortune trying to look younger. They would be a lot better off if they spent a fraction of that money trying to feel younger.
Beth surprised me yesterday. She has been a sporadic rider in recent years. Lately she has become serious about getting back in the saddle. She cantered and gaited out on her mare further than she has done in a decade.
Her horse is a mystery to me. She is scared of just about everyone but Beth. I do not let inexperienced riders get on her. Most people cannot catch her.
Yet when Beth mounts up she behaves nearly flawlessly. Beth began running over the past two years and has lost a great deal of weight. Without a doubt she is healthier than she was when she was twenty years ago. She exercises hard and is going to incorporate hard riding into her exercise regimen.
We have been married over thirty years. I do not know of any couple closer than we are. There are several reasons to feel good about how things are going to be in the horse lot in 2014, but knowing that Beth is going to be joining me on long, long rides is the best reason.
The gun season ends in about two weeks. We will be able to ride hard in all of the woods after everyone puts up their shotguns until next year. As things dry up we will start night riding again. With each day for the next six months the hours of sunlight will get a little longer.
I am not a Renaissance man. The older I get the fewer things really draw my attention. I enjoy young people and kids. I enjoy horses. And I enjoy playing music.
I also enjoy efficiency. This week Ashley helped me have a great time with all three things that I love.
She is a very bright kid. I love being around quick minded young people. There are few things better that I can say of a person than that they do not bore me.
This week she got on her horse, Peter Maxwell, and it was the first time he had ever had a person on him. She had calmed him perfectly and the training could not be going better.
Two days later I emailed her the lyrics to a few songs to do with me at Discover Teas. Two of them she had never heard before.
The girl hit a home run with each song.
It was a wonderful week.
Friday, December 20, 2013
Thursday, December 19, 2013
It was twenty two degrees in January of 2011 when we set out on this forty mile ride.
I have a lot of new riders. Right now they are learning to ride. In a few months they will know the intense satisfaction of riding hard.
There is great peace to be found in riding ten hours in adverse conditions.
...March winds going to blow my blues all away." That optimistic line comes from an obscure Carter Family song from the 1930's. This time of the year it is good to live by such optimistic lines. Skys are the color of lead--clouds the color of gun smoke, with the woods dead but for blood colored holly berries.
The only thing that seems absolutely reliable is the mud. In winter it is there for long stretches of time as if to mock the ancient text--to show that it is not always ashes to ashes and dust to dust but that often it is dust to mud. The people who lived here long before the English came to my horse lot did not view Hell as a place of fire. Their concept of Hell was a great swamp flled with obstruction and briars.
December is a great swamp filled with obstruction and briars.
But it will not be December forever. Soon I will be able to ride hard again.
Horses are ok to get you from point A to point B. But their real virtue lies in their ability to get you out of December.
This is my oldest picture of a little girl getting on her horse for its first time to take a rider. The picture is about a decade old.
The horse was a blm mare who had sight only in one eye. She became a great horse, super stamina and very responsive. She is far away now.
She will have Croatoan's baby in about two months. Of all of the great 1/2 Corollas from our stallions this one might have the greatest potential.
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
She looked up at what she thought was the dirtiest grown up she had ever seen. From the brow of his australian hat to the tip of his boots the only part of him that was not covered in dust was covered in mud composed of dust and sweat.
"What's wrong little girl? Don't I look like a lawyer to you?," he growed out in his most Wildfred Grimley like voice.
"No sir, she said, "You look like someone who makes horses be nice for little girls."
Here is a sample of some shots of young people getting on horses that had not yet been ridden.
I suspect that I have a few more of these pictures from over the years.
Imagine being 18 years old and having only been on horses that were trained. Imagine that it is the day that you have been waiting for for months and months and months--your horse is finally old enough to begin his saddle training.
Now imagine that your audience includes a photographer and writer from a major regional newspaper.
I think that a lot of young people out there would have found it impossible to maintain a state of constant focus and relaxation.
But Ashley did.
The kid impressed me tremendously,but she did not surprise me. Ashley is smart, tough and knows how to listen. She handled herself with Lydia-like calmness the entire morning. This was a very big day for her horse, Peter Maxwell. He will be gradually eased into full riding over the next year.
Actually, there was more to it than Lydia-like calmness. She worked the horse with Lido-like trust and patience. Like Lido, she worked the horse with me. I did not have correct her movements or spend time trying to relax her. We were both able to focus on what really mattered, the horse.
Ashley followed each step of the mounting process without hesitation. I cannot explain that which I cannot understand but her relaxed movement through every step of the process kept bringing me back to about ten years ago when Lido would be tightening his helmet to get on a mustang that had never been ridden and simply say "Ah, Ah think she weady to wide now. Ah weady anyways."
Sunday, December 15, 2013
Girls sure do love to say that their "horse chose" them. A lot of people, male and female, are looking for that special horse that will love them. They want the horse to somehow demonstrate that love before they reciprocate.
I do not have time to wait for such magical moments. When I get a horse I love the horse. I continue loving the horse no matter what he does to me, e.g. Red Feather. I always find that if I love a horse hard enough and long enough he will grow to love me.
A young reporter from a large regional paper has been spending a tremendous amount of time watching what we do in our programs. She has spent half a day on Saturdays for about six weeks. Yesterday we sat down and talked for the first time. She was shocked to learn that our program receives hate mail (actually hate email).
At first I was surprised too but now I see that those who attack us fall into several different categories with varying degrees of ill will.
Of course, there are the chronic trolls who attack for reasons that have nothing to do with the subject matter. I cannot help such people and simply disregard them.
There is another category of people that attack us that do so because they lack knowledge of the subject matter. These people are sincere, though misguided. I understand this group and if I did not know anymore about horses than they do I would be upset about our program.
For example, most people, including most experienced horse people have never seen a Colonial Spanish horse. They have utterly no understanding of the carrying capacity of these horses. They are shocked that well conditioned horses under thirteen hands can carry adults, especially for rides of as far as fifty miles with utterly no problem. They believe that the Corollas and other mustangs are in some discomfort or even pain when they do so. I do not blame these people. I had no idea how easily these horses carry adults when I first encountered them. The first time I went to a BLM auction I was shocked that anyone would suggest that these little mustangs who were only about 13.2 could possibly carry adults. My ignorance caused me to fail to obtain the only Sulphur mustangs that I will likely ever have a chance to get. Even more recently, I asked Tom Norush if the smallest Shacklefords could carry me. I was shocked that he told me that that would be no problem.
He was right. When I get on Wanchese I am still surprised at how easily he trots off for miles with me.
So while I do not like their tone, I understand that it is simple lack of knowledge that causes such people to suggest that I "be shot" for riding horses that they consider too small.
There is another group of people with their hearts in the right place that get themselves tied up in knots attacking our program. They do not understand the importance of breeding the Corollas domestically to prevent their extinction. They feel that the horses that we rehabilitate from serious injuries and illness in the wild are doomed to an existence like something out of teenage fiction about horses being abused by cruel trainers and people who over work them to the point of horrible cruelty. They think of these horses in our horse lot yearning in perpetual sadness to return to their life of carefree freedom. Some assume that our program must be somthing like a blm holding pen.
Were our horses incarcerated in stables and fed sugar and forced to wear crippling shoes, their concerns would be better placed. But our horses live outside 24/7, live in herd bands, eat grass and hay, never wear shoes and constantly given positive experiences with people. Yes my horses are stunningly healthy and happy. And no we cannot put them back in the wild because there is only a remnant of these horses in the wild and if one of these horses that has been exposed to modern horses and given medical treatment by vets carried a germ back into the wild for which the isolated wild horses had no immunity all would be lost.
Another category of critics are those that do not understand how unhealthy the modern model of horse care is and do not realize that they are living in a time when the importance of natural horse care is just starting to be known. It is rational for people who know no better to think that our horses should be blanketed, stabled, and kept obese. After all that is what people would want were we horses. Such people have not yet made the fundamental leap to understand that horses are not people and the lifestyle that humans desire is slowly toxic to horses. (Not very good for us either.)
The tide is turning on this point. Joe Camp has taken the lead in teaching both the importance of natural horse care and the cruelty of the modern model of stables, sugar, and shoes.
But I have little regard for the other category of critics that surface now and then--those of the established horse world who are completely stunned by my absolute refusal to accept them as the final arbiters on how horses should be trained and treated, what horses should be ridden and how people should be taught to ride. My utter refusal to pretend for the sake of diplomacy that there is any validity to their model of horse ownership infuriates such people.
I do not want the accolades of such people. If they think that our program stands diametrically opposed to how they would have things done. They are right.
Our program is designed to produce better horses but its main purpose is to produce better people. We teach natural horsemsnhip. We teach kindness. We teach compassion. We teach confidence and we teach courage.
When critics can show me that our program is failing to do so, then I will be concerned about their views.
( Now I am sweet natured, peaceful man. I fear that my granddaughter might not take such attacks with the same calm that I do.)
There has been a great deal of temporary outcry against the case in Texas in which an underage drunk driver who killed four people was sentenced to probation. The sentencing defense was based on the claim that the boy suffered from "affluenza"--essentially being raised in an environment in which his every whim was catered to,in which he saw no consequences for negative behavior, and was never taught empathy for anyone.
I rarely allow myself to indulge in conversations about the appropriateness of sentences in criminal cases. If the case was one that I tried such a discussion could lead to the disclosure of confidential information that is not appropriate for public release. If I did not try the case I know that I do not know the facts well enough from reading a computer news story to have a meaningful opinion.
Regardless of the facts of the case, we should recognize that "affluenza" is not limited to the poor parenting skills of the wealthy. It has permeated our society and is our most common form of child neglect. Children who are not taught the value of hard physical work are neglected. Children who are not forced to get off the couch and exercise vigorously are neglected. Children who are not taught the fundamental principal that our only purpose in life is to improve the lives of others are neglected. Children who are taught to pull back from every challenge and live anxiety filled lives of "being careful" are neglected. Children who see parents relaxing with "a few drinks" are neglected. Children who are not taught that giving is more important than getting are neglected.
There is another way. It does not have to be this way.
Words have meaning. "Spoil" has a telling meaning. When meat spoils it rots. It has a horrible smell. One is repelled from it and will seek to avoid it. It spreads it's decay to all that it touches.
As does a spoiled child. As does a neglectful parent.
Saturday, December 14, 2013
And no where is that more true than in horsemanship. Whether one speaks of breeding, training, hoof care, or riding--the drive for perfection inevitably is damaging to the horse.
Successful horsemen can fall into the trap of feeling like failures because perfection eludes them. Perfectionism is not a virtue. It is a toxic vice. It does not lead to a better product. It only leads perpetual disappointment.
If you are not satisfied with the relationship that you have with your horse look closely at this picture. Notice all of the conformation flaws that even this small shot of the colt's head makes readily apparent? Notice the way that the young lady is holding him incorrectly? Many people go through a check list of potential flaws with every picture of every horse they see. They do the same thing with every horse they meet.
And they do the same thing every time they look in the mirror.
Quite frankly, I do not see any conformation flaws in the colt. Perhaps that shows my ignorance of real horsemanship. I also do not see any flaws in how the young lady is holding her colt.
What I see is a spectacular colt and a highly impressive young lady who have found each other. I see a young lady who does not have a tremendous amount of horse experience yet she already understands more about horse/human relationships than do most people who have had horses all of their life.
What I see is contentment and peace.
Perfect contentment? Perfect peace? I perfectly do not care.
When I was a very young I was disappointed that my collie did not do all the things that Lassie did on TV.
Then I grew up. If you will only be satisfied if your horse handling skills match those of the tv clinicians, you should also grow up.
If you are trapped by walls of perfectionism, work hard to get well. Your horse deserves it. Your family deserves it
And so do you.
The closeness that you see in this picture does not leave room for a wall of perfectionism to separate these two.
Exercise is as important for young horses as it is for young people. The mental model that some people have for their horses as being babies who must be treated in ways analogous to a human infant is dangerous to the horse's long term health. Exercise for horses, like that for children must be age appropriate.
Parelli uses a lunging system that he calls hill therapy that can transform a horse's physique in as little as two months. The exercises need not be strenuous or done with any degree of speed to be effective. I urge readers to do a bit of research to get down his exact prescription for hill therapy.
What we do is derived from his method. I have a round pen that is set on a slight slope. By using a round pen instead of a lunge line I can exercise more than one horses at a time. We use a simple formula of jogging five minutes in each direction everyday for a week and gradually decrease the number of days the exercise is done per week while increasing the length of each session.
The incline very slight. The horse eventually canters for part of the sessions, but speed is not the object of the exercise, especially with a young horse.
This exercise gives the horse nothing more than the kind of exercise it would naturally get in the wild. It increases muscle mass and I would be shocked if it does not also increase bone density to a degree. Although some might adhere to the idea that a yearling is just a baby and should be left alone to enjoy his baby time, there simply is no science to support such misplaced sentimentality. Horses love movement. They are designed to move and it is restriction of that movement that causes physical and emotional problems for the horse.
Katilina is a Corolla yearling and her young owner did a great job of disciplining herself to show up for the exercise sessions. The payoff has been tremendous. Katilina is stronger and has a much stronger bond with her young owner than before the sessions began.
The best thing that my riders could all do for their horses is to put their horses through this gentle exercise program. Exercise physiology for horses differs as much from exercise physiology for humans as equine psychology differs from human psychology. A human who followed this exercise plan would receive little benefit from it, yet a horse can build many pound of muscle from these sessions.
I do not understand it, but I like it.
These pictures are just glimpses of what is possible with solid, consistent exercise. The neck development is most apparent in these pictures.
Friday, December 13, 2013
Some program has leached itself into this blog that seems to advertise items for sale. I have nothing to do with it. I will soon find someone who knows how to get rid of it. In the mean time, here is an old post about a super stallion, Speck. The unnatural death of everyone of these horses is a tragedy, but the loss of Speck's genetics hit hard. None of the offspring that he produced carry his unique color. I do not understand color genetics. Perhaps the color will pop up again. I understand this much--there are fewer variations in color among the Corollas than there were 50 years ago. That lack of diversity goes hand in hand with genetic collapse and the efforts of Federal bureaucrats to seek to reduce the number of the horses in the wild at Corolla to a level that assures, promises, guarentees, and makes a solid bond with nature that these horses will go extinct in short order. Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Fallen Leaves that Lie Scattered on the Ground: A few years ago the Horse of the Americas Registry conducted an inspection tour of the wild horses of Corolla and Shackleford in order to ...
Thursday, December 12, 2013
I did not plan to have a riding program for kids. Thirteen years ago I had a handful of horses and I did several clinic on natural horsemanship. Attendees at this program began To ask if I would teach their kid to ride. Now we have a huge riding program. I should have started with corporate paperwork, insurance and good legal advice.
I am setting out these thoughts for those who are considering beginning their own riding program. Sometimes things seem too daunting when one looks in from the outside. None of the steps that I set out below are as difficult as they might sound.
1. Get a lawyer. Seek out the services of a local lawyer who can tell you about any business licenses or zoning issues that you could possibly face.
2. Incorporate your business. An LLC that is taxed as a Sub-Chapter S corporation will likely be your best best. Discuss your options with your lawyer. Incorporation is easy and inexpensive.
3. Get insurance that will cover you, and the corporation. You might have to dig around a bit to find such companies. Our Farm Bureau agent found a company that suits us well. Insurance is the most important thing that you can do to protect yourself as an instructor. It is no hugely expensive.
4. Ask your lawyer to draw up the waiver form that you will use for all of your students. Get both parents to sign the waiver. Check your state's law on the signs that are to be posted to give the written waiver its full protective effect. Put up the signs, several of them.
5. Make sure that your riders and their parents understand that one who works with horses will go to the hospital. Injuries will occur. Everyone needs to understand that up front.
6. Make your training area as safe as possible. Make sure that all of the tack that you use is in safe working condition. Require helmets and boots every time a horse is mounted. Write out your safety rules and have parent and children read and sign them.
7. Set reasonable fees and insist that you be fully paid unless you have a sliding fee scale. (I encourage you to slide it all the way down to zero as the case needs be. I have never turned away a kid because of inability to pay.)
8. You likely will have little problem with kids that are reckless. The most dangerous kids are those filled with anxiety and who have parents that do nothing to help the kid overcome that anxiety. Teaching riding is not a hobby or a job. It is a calling. Always keep that in mind. Just because the parent will not work to fix the kid does not relieve you of your responsbility to do so. Teach kindness, but also teach courage.
9. Insist that people be on time. Have emergency numbers for all riders. Keep a first aid kit on site. Be careful yourself. Teach prudence, not fear.
Do not get intimidated by the legal costs and insurance. It is the best investment that you will ever make.
As someone who is going to teach people to ride you are about to bring light into very dark lives. You will have clients suffering in ways that you never imagined and you will make their lives better.
Weigh that against the costs.
Sure makes it all seem very cheap to me.
Saturday, December 7, 2013
Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: The Importance of Touch: When training we should never cause the simple to become unnecessarily complicated. One of the most important ways to build trust with th...
Thursday, December 5, 2013
Hit this link to a previous post from a short while ago to understand why the Livestock Breed Conservancy is so important. Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: War Admiral: I have two Baylis Spanish Goats, Sea Biscuit and War Admiral. They have voracious appetites. Spicer, my San Clemente Spanish Goat, eat...
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
For several years I have been working at least 10 hours a day for nearly every day of the week. Of course, much of it is work that I enjoy greatly, but between the office and the horse lot, I have pretty much all of my waking time taken.
Sometimes I feel like I am craving fun as much as a little kid does. Fun is elusive. I can find satisfation, but fun is generally out of my reach.
But last night....
....was just flat out fun.
I did a solo showcase show. Discover Teas in Newport News, Virginia. It is only the second time that I have ever played a full show solo. (O.K. Ashley joined me for one song). I played some instruments that many in the audience had never seen and I took a run through some songs of my favorite song writers--- A.P. Carter, Gram Parsons, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, and me. Did some songs, told some stories, taught some history.
It was fun.
Tom Crockett took the picture of me. He is a great photographer. Check out his work on the Mill Swamp Indian Horses Group Page. The instrument picture was taken by Audrey Parker.
Five string wooden banjo, three string wooden banjo, Auto harp, bouzouki, and guitar.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
In its desperate moves to make every meal taste like overly sweetened oat meal,corporate America has created two generations of Americans who have no idea what a ham, a real ham, tastes like. To help place this crisis in abeyance, or at least to put my finger in the dike, I offer the following primer on real ham or, as it is scientifically known, authenicus hoggus hind leggus.
First one should examine packaging and shape. Does the ham that you are considering eating come in a very small square package? Only eat said "ham" if you come from a region of the nation that raises very small square hogs. Can you squeeze the ham with little effort? Only eat said ham if you are Superman.
Does the wrapper say "sugar cured"? Only eat said ham if your life is so hectic that you must combine your entree and desert into one dish. Does it have pineapple on it? Only eat said ham if one must be polite to one's host who has just placed a garland of flowers around your neck and handed you your grass skirt to wear for the night's festivities.
Real ham comes in a cloth bag. It is dark brown on the outside and coated with a thin layer of pepper. It should have a touch of mold on it if properly cured. The best way to know the quality of a ham without examining it is to punch it with one's fist as hard a possible. A real ham is hard and dry. That is why one soaks it for a day or two before cooking it.
If such a blow causes water to fly every where out of the "ham" feed said ham to a dog that you dislike. If the blow bruises and even bloodies one's hand a bit, the ham is fine for everyday eating. If the blow causes compound and complex fractures to one's hand, one has selected a ham properly aged and cured. Rush it quickly to the checkout counter before the ambulance arrives to take you to the ER. Do not accept the offer of anyone posing as a Good Samaritan to carry your ham to the checkout line for you. Such people often hover around the meat section waiting for someone to properly fist test the ham and then use their two unbroken hands to spirit the ham out of the store.
When the preacher comes to visit you in the hospital and says a prayer for your hand invite him over for dinner after the Sunday service.
Let him know that you will be serving real ham. Everyone will benenfit. He will likely skip the long hymn and will cut his sermon time in half if he knows that thin sliced, real ham, is waiting for him at your house.
If you let him know that you have a bushel of raw oysters that you just picked up from the boats he will likely cancel services that Sunday in order to get there in time to shuck out a few dozen of them for himself.
And let all the people say"Amen."