Friday, February 28, 2014

First Things First

Margaret Matray's article in last Sunday's Virginian Pilot has been spread via social media all over the internet. I am delighted that this has happened. She is a first rate writer and she put a tremendous amount of work into the story. Ashley is an amazing young women and nothing makes me happier than to have her in our program.

I hope that the central message that is take from the article is that what we do can be replicated anywhere by people who care about horses and kids. For a program to have meaning it must be based in natural horsemanship. For a program to be affordable and for the horses to reach their potential for health and happiness it must also be based in natural horse care.

I doubt if I will ever do anything in my life more important than to work with others to establish either off site Corolla breeding programs to prevent the extinction of the Corolla horses or to establish riding and training programs like ours to give meaning to the lives of all participants, human or equine, teacher or student, young or old.

If you want advice on how to get a program like ours started contact me.

(Here is Ashley and Red Fox, my niece's 1/2 Corolla colt. Don't you want to be able to have pictures like this taken in your pasture, or the pasture you could rent in your area?)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Quick Tip # 81 Know When To Walk And When To Run

When well meaning friends and family try to tell you that your new found love of horses is dangerous and you should go back to yoga class instead, nod politely and walk away.

When self appointed experts from the established horse world who have won slews of ribbons, earned great honors, and know how to pick out worthless horses, (because they have sold scores of horses that "just could not cut it") comes to offer you advice on how to best participate in the equine experience...

Run like your butt is on fire!

"Those Horses Can Never Be Trained..."

I was just standing there at a BLM mustang sale. I was not wearing a shirt that said "Representatives of the Established Horse World Please Come and Engage Me In Conversation!" But the shriveled faced, Ebenezer Scrooge looking old man beside me seemed intent on conversing with me. I did nothing but occasionally grunt and nod. He continued to explain everything that he knew about horses and their "value" and who could be trained. He found all of the mustangs there "worthless" and completely untrainable.

What he lacked in knowledge was greatly exceeded by his firm belief in the infallibility of his doctrine. The women with him felt the need to step in and shore up his credentials.(Maybe she could see that I was not sufficiently impressed with his self reported expertise.)

She said, "You have to understand, he has been raising show horses all of his life." I did not doubt that one bit.

 I continued to nod and grunt planning to wait him out. I have seen many such people and I have always found that if I did not scrape and bow sufficiently to satisfy them they would leave me in my ignorance.

After about the tenth time of hearing him say "You can't train these horses." I let him know that I agreed.

"Your right. You are absolutely right. I have no doubt that you can't train these horses.", I told him as I finally walked off.

He seemed please that I finally agreed with him. He was likely even worse at picking up the subtleties of equine body language as he was in hearing what people were plainly saying to him.

Suppose he were told that we were going to take a fifteen year old stallion who had never been ridden and match him up with a women who had never trained a horse and our plan was for her to train the old stallion and take him out in the woods on his first day of being ridden outside the round pen, (and his second day of ever being ridden)...oh, oh, oh...and lets ride him through deep mud down beside a a long fence line with about fifteen mares, and some of them in heat, inside that fence line...oh, oh,oh...and lets ride him through brush likely to tickle his legs and belly, and lets do it all with a tornado watch on and winds of thirty miles an hour.

Surely the old man would would point out the impossibility of such a course of action.  In fact, he would probably say that this picture of Kelly as she is returning from exactly that ride, on exactly that horse, under exactly those circumstances was faked.

That is why it is so much better to work with people like Kelly than to try to convince the established horse world of anything.

Those people just can't be trained.

(This picture is from yesterday. Kelly returning on El Rosio, a fifteen year old Baca stallion, that she has trained. I am glad that she did not know that this was impossible and could never, ever be done....even by "an experienced, professional  horse trainer with years of experience in the show ring who has earned the respect of the entire established horse world.")

Monday, February 17, 2014

On The Road Again

One of the best things to come from our conversion to a nonprofit is that we are bringing in the insights of others who understand what we do and who can see things from a different perspective than I could. One of those changes is that they want me to make myself available for outside clinics on natural horsemanship.

There is much good in that idea. More people need to understand that kids can learn natural horsemanship at least as well as adults and, in many cases, much better. I do not know of anyone else out there who has been teaching kids to do this as long as I have.

I hate travel. I could be perfectly happy without ever leaving forty miles of the horse lot for the remainder of my life. I do not like vacations. I do not like trips. However, this is important.

My presentations are worth the effort to see. The unvarnished reality is that I know how to make natural horsemanship appear as simple as it actually is and have no desire to impress anyone by making it look more complicated.

And I know how to hold an audience's attention.

O.K., I'll admit it--one on one I can be a bit boring and perhaps eccentric, but when I have an audience in front of me charisma drips off of me like sweat.

So, if you would like to discuss having me come to your area and put on a big session for teachers, 4-H leaders and members, or people who just want to learn how their horse wants to be handled and why the horse feels that way, send us a note. I am not sure how much they plan to charge to ship me around to do clinics, but I strongly suspect that it will be highly affordable. (One proposal involves charging for me by the pound. That could be a great deal because I am training hard right now and dropping pounds pretty quickly) I am making arrangements to have my blood drawn and to get my coggins test done. If I do not have sleeping sickness I will be available after the buds come out on the trees.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Yesterday I Rode a Horse That Was Not Beautiful

I am perplexed with all the emphasis that others put on appearance. I am only interested in reality. I do not want a horse that looks like he is a good horse . I want one that actually is a good horse. I suspect that one could make a stunningly beautiful hammer out of crystal. It would likely be the most beautful hammer in all the region. If they had "hammer shows" I could put my crystal hammer in the halter class and be assured of a blue ribbon.

But I would be in quite a fix if  had to drive a nail. Holland is a super horse. He would probably not only make a good hammer, I suspect that he would be a first rate carpenter.

Hit this link to learn a bit more about him.

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Yesterday I Rode a Horse That Was Not Beautiful: Were I forced to choose I think that I would have to say that Holland is my favorite horse. Ta Sunka Witco is a great horse and he is bea...

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Family Horses

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Family Horses: Mark and Rebecca Stevenson, Lady, their growing family over the years, and Crazy Bear, their growing mustang.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

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

 Take action before it is too late. Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Health Alert: Help Curb Equine TTFM: TTFM (Too Tall For me) is a genetically related disorder that often results from breeding mares over 13.3 hands to stallions of equal siz...

Passive Floating Update

A recent post dealt with passive floating of teeth by simply having a horse eat a few servings of clean, dry, hard corn to break off the thin, sharp hooks that can make eating painful. It certainly is not a replacement for needed medical attention. However, I have to say that after trying this regimen on an aged stallion who had begun dropping food as he ate, it seems to have helped.

A lot.

He no longer drops food and eats much faster. I am not a vet nor a scientist. I have to rely on what I observe. Based on that observation, it worked for this horse.

Of course, observing reality is not sufficient proof for some people. After all, everyone knows that a boar hog doesn't walk on a leash.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Quick Tip #81--Immerse Yourself In The Language

I understand that the quickest way to learn to speak a foreign language is to learn basic structure and vocabulary and then go to a place where that language is spoken and watch, listen and learn.

Immersion in that language is a great teacher.

The same is true of horse body language. Learn the basics of heard communication. Then go sit in a herd with your mouth shut and your eyes open.

The bigger herd the better, but one can learn a great deal from just studying the interaction between two horses.

Ten hours of intense study doing this is worth many hours of watching big money clinicians.

(And it is free).

(Two non Corolla colts I gave to Boys Home of Covington, Virginia for their natural horsemanship program are shown above.)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

But We Do Not Have To Win

Sen. John Stennis of Mississippi was as wrong on civil rights and many other issues the nation faced as were most southern senators of his time. However, he had a strong sense of personal integrity and decency. He faced a potentially strong opponent in one of his last races. Big time campaign consultants were brought in to create attack ads and direct mail pieces.

Time after time he rejected campaign pieces brought to him because they were scurrilous, dishonest, or simply undignified. Finally, an exasperated consultant snapped at the old man, "You do not understand. If we are going to win we have to do this!"

Sen. Stennis replied softly,"No, young man, you do not understand. We do not have to win."

Some things are too important for compromise.

When looking at the preservation of the Colonial Spanish horse/Spanish Mustang we have to look at those things that are too important upon which to compromise.

Have we fallen into the dangerous trap of equating successful preservation with being able to sell colts at a profit? Even if that is not the equation, has it become a key variable in that equation?

It has been said that if we are going to receive big money for our colts we must demand big money by setting and holding out for that sales price. It has been said that if we are to receive big money for our colts we must breed them to be larger. It has been said that if we are to receive big money for our colts we must participate in the shows and competitions of the established horse world. It has been said that if we are to receive big money for our colts we must impress the established horse world.

But, to echo Sen. Stennis, we do not have to get big money for our colts.

I am not aware of anyone who ever got rich by selling Colonial Spanish colts. The success of our preservation efforts hinges on drawing more people into the effort and one of the biggest draws to get people into the effort is the fact that our horses need not be expensive.

They need not be expensive to purchase. Natural hoof care and natural horse care knowledge makes it so they do not need to be expensive to maintain. Adam Edwards, of the Spanish Mustang Foundation, has hit the nail on the head when he writes of the niche that our horses fill.

They are healers.

Preserving these horses is a privilege and it is a calling. If one wants to get rich perhaps one should dabble in stock that does not eat hay. If one wishes to enrich the lives of others, all horses, but especially these horses, are a great way to do so.

No, we do not have to come up with a scheme to turn Colonial Spanish horses into ATM's. But we do have to preserve them and we do have to use them to bring light into very dark worlds.

And that is the endeavor in which we have to win.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

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

I love hearing back from my riders that have moved away. I heard back from KC not long ago. One of the brightest kids that has ever been in the horse lot. One of the better musicians among my younger riders. Here is an old post that ties loose ends up into a pretty bow. Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Where His Spirit Is That Will Be a Good Place To B...: "Oh yea, Steve, I forgot to tell you. I had a dream about Lido," KC called out in the pitch darkness. We were on a nighttime ride...

Quick Tip #77--Passive Floating

Even though one may be paranoid, it is still possible that others seek to do one harm. Similarly, just because a given procedure or drug might be over prescribed does not mean that it is never needed.

Without a doubt floating of teeth is chronically over done in the modern horse world. However, some horses do have dental problems that need correcting. The idea of floating the teeth of horses with no problem on an annual basis is as absurd as it sounds. do not get sucked into that practice. But if one's horse needs treatment do not hesitate to have the teeth floated.

Even horses that need minor floating can often have the problem corrected by simply feeding them a small amount (less than a cup is safest)  of clean, hard, whole corn a few times a year. If the problem is thin, razor sharp hooks in the teeth the corn may very well remove these hooks as effective as floating.

If this solves the problem without resorting to having a horse sedated for floating one avoids the risks inherent in sedation.

Corn is a super calorie dense food. It should not be the basis of a horse's diet without a veterinarian's direction. Too much corn can lead, at best, to obesity and behavioral problems and, at worst, to founder, colic and death.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: To Gauge Your Program

This is still the best test for program efficacy. Hit this link Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: To Gauge Your Program: This year I plan to take a moment or two to answer questions that I get outside of the "comments" section of blogger. Here is my...

Quick Tip # 74--Let The Crab Grass Grow

Horses are not people. Horses are not dogs.

And pastures are not lawns.

Do everything you can to encourage the spread of crab grass in your pasture. It is a great (in some areas the optimum) hot summer forage. High in protein, takes heat and dry weather well and can even be allowed to grow super tall to stockpile for late fall grazing on the "dead" leaves and stems.

Crab grass is great horse forage.

The Most Important Edition

Take a look at the January edition of the Horse of the Americas Registry's newsletter that can be found by going to their website at

This issue deals with the future of the preservation of these horses. It is vitally important to anyone who cares about the Colonial Spanish Horse.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

She Gets The Point

Hailey is one of my younger riders. She is one of my better trainers and one of my hardest workers.

She sent me this note.

She has it about right. One must whip one's first monster in order to have the privelege of having another one to fight.

It is staying in the game that matters.

And never quitting.

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: The AIHR

A great example of the role of the AIHR. Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: The AIHR: The American Indian Horse Registry was formed in 1961 to preserve and promote the horses of the American Indians and to recognize the mode...

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

My Grand Old Man

Croatoan was captured because he was in very bad shape and was consistently getting around the safety barrier and entering the paved highway area--He would not have lasted long with such habits.

He had some age on him when captured. It took many months to get him back into solid weight. He was the smoothest riding Corolla of all that I have ridden. he fathered the first pure Corolla in the off site breeding program and sired some wonderful half Corollas.

I don't take him on the trail anymore. He is retired from riding. I hope to breed him this spring. I hope that he has not taken early retirement from breeding.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Steve, How Old Is...?

On horse ages--Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Steve, How Old Is...?: For my little riders there seems to be a big difference between being only seven years old and being seven and a half years old. My litt...

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Do That Which Is Right....

Hit this link for a very old post about how Mill Swamp Indian Horses got started.  Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Do That Which Is Right....: That was the simple advice that a very wise old man gave me after I was first elected to the county Board of Supervisors at age 27. By th...

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Making Better Horses

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

Boots on the Ground, Feet In The Stirrups

January brought us bad weather and limited riding--it also brought us objective numbers to crunch. To calculate rider hours we add the number of hours that each horse is ridden per month. For example, if A rides Tradewind two hours and B rides Holland five hours, that is seven total riding hours.

We kept rigid, contemporaneous records for January and during that month we rode....drum roll.....332 hours (three hundred thirty two hours)

( If you read that as 332 hours you read it correctly).

Many years ago I knew that Lido knew the person that operated a conventional boarding facility. I told him that he could let the manager of the facility know  that his people were free to bring their horses out and ride with us sometime.

Lido looked puzzled and told me that that would not do.

"Dey don't wide dey hosses. They bwush and wash dem is all."

We ride our horses.

Growing Up In The Shadows

This was not just a matter of the camera getting there at the perfect moment. This picture could be taken any number of times. The colt is Red Fox, my niece's half Corolla colt from Manteo. The mother is Daddy's Tennessee Walking Horse. Daddy handles this colt daily and has since it was born.

From the second or third day the colt would come and lay its head in Daddy's lap if he called it over and sat down in the pasture. The colt has learned from its mother. Daddy handles her every day. He calls out and she crosses the pasture to see him. On occasions she will lie down in the pasture beside him.

The colt is being raised in Daddy's shadow. It is halter trained. Over the weekend my niece began despooking him with monsters. A colt handled this way will not have to be trained to saddle. It will simply need instruction. When the fear goes away the learning comes quickly.

If, and only if, the colt is also taught to follow direction.

Sound training demands that one's efforts be allocated to 51% control and 49% affection. That is how a mare raises her foal. A mare is warm and affectionate but has no qualm in using whatever force is needed to bring a colt into line.