Saturday, March 29, 2014

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Having A Fever Clears the Mind For Serious Thinkin...

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Having A Fever Clears the Mind For Serious Thinkin...: Hate to see any horse described as a "prospect." Horses are not "will be." Horses are not "was". Horses mer...

Quick Tip #91 Lightness Is Taught With Quickness

Even today most horse people respond to a horse that is hard to handle by using a more severe bit. This is a tremendous mistake. If a horse is hard to stop one needs to go lighter instead of heavier.

Get back in the round pen with a rope halter on the horse. Work him from the ground and teach him that if he responds to the slightest degree of pressure you will remove that pressure instantly. And if he does not respond you will escalate the pressure.

What matters is not the amount of pressure used but how quickly the pressure is released when the horse responds. Don't wait until the horse has completed the action to release. When the horse begins to think about considering the possibility of yielding to the pressure, that is the time to release. If the horse fails to follow through immediately resume the pressure. When one is consistent with this 100% of the time one will eventually get a very responsive, light horse.

That is why little children who are not strong enough to man handle a horse can control the horse. The key is not how much pressure is applied. It is how quickly that pressure is released.

Quick Tip # 89 Dealing With The Pain

Seems sort of silly to point this out but I suspect that I am not the only person with this problem. Your shoes/boots must be perfectly comfortable if you are going to work horses twelve hours a day.

We all understand that having even a bit of discomfort in the horse's hooves transfers to problems with the entire horse. The same is true of the trainer. If your feet hurt the rest of your body will quickly give those feet company in their pain.

Chronic foot discomfort can wreck other parts of the body. Go look up the great pitcher Dizzy Dean on the computer. His incredible pitching arm was destroyed when he broke his toe.

We are rained out from riding today and I am going to take the oportunity to go get some footware that will make it possible to move in comfort.

Perhaps The Best Result Yet

Margret Matry's incredible story about our program in the Virginian Pilot went viral. The result is that we are being contacted from people across the country who are interested in building a program like ours.

Nothing could be more important to me. The key point for people to take away from what we do is that it is easy. It is doable. It is affordable.

It does require that the program be the absolute focus of one's life. A life has to focus on something so why not something that really matters in the lives of other people.

Friday, March 28, 2014


Here is a shot at the conclusion of the 109 mile ride Terry and I did last Saturday. We began at 3:00 am and finshed at 8:00 pm.

 On Sunday I rested.

Every morning since then I have ridden before going into the office and am going to go do a fast ride of 6 or 7 miles before beginning a full day of work today.

I am 54 years old.

All things considered I find this to be a better way of dealing with being 54 than buying a sports car.

The Only Thing Worse Than a Tack Shed Without a Porch

.....would be a riding program without music.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

When Being Completely Irrational Is Good For You

Yesterday Terry and I rode 109 miles beginning at 3:00 am and ending around 8:00 pm. Terry decided that we should do this because in December I turned fifty four and she turned fifty five, hence the total of 109 miles. There were many good reasons to try to do this--showing what older riders can do--showing what Corollas and Shackleford and Choctaws and and other mustangs could do-- showing my little riders how to stick with a goal even when it becomes difficult--to promote and pubicize our program--and many other rational reasons.

But the irrational reason is the most important to me. All of life involves struggle. Second only to integrity, the character trait most important to me is resilience. Resilience is simply the refusal to give up. It does not mean that one always wins. It means that one always shows up to play---and plays hard. The resilient always achieve more than the nonresilient if for no other reason than math--the more games one plays in, the more times one shows up to fight, the more opportunities to accomplish things that matter.

My greatest fear is not death. My greatest fear is to die without having mattered.

And that is where the irrational meaning of this ride matters for me. With every challenge comes a voice in the head that says "Don't do it. You can't do it."

And a much louder voice answers it back, "Hell I can't! At age 54 I rode 109 miles in a day-- the vast majority of those miles being at a trot or canter."

Successes like this breed resilience. The last 44 miles were excruciating. We never considered ending the ride early.

The most personally signifiant part of the ride is that I did not quit. I did not ride today.

Weather permitting, before the sun comes up in the morning I will run a horse 6-8 miles before going to court. My body will have bounced back by then.

There is no rational connection between riding 109 miles and believing that you can handle whatever comes at you.

It is not rational. It is just real.

Shackelford Island Banker Ponies

Yesterday Terry and I rode 109 miles on a string of five different horses each. I started the morning before 3:00 am on Holland. We rode through the woods on lumber paths for 22 miles in the darkness. To my surprise it was the fastest leg of the ride.

On the second leg Terry was on Wanchese, a Shackelford stallion. There are only two herds of wild Colonial Spanish mustangs left on the east coast--Corolla and Shackelford. Had you been here yesterday to see what these historic horses are capable of doing you would never question why we work so hard to keep the Corollas from going extinct.

I was perfectly comfortable trusting myself to Holland as he gaited and cantered 22 miles (actually 23--we got an insurance mile in since he and Comet were doing so well) in the darkness. He could have carried me another thirty miles at that pace with little difficulty.

These are very special horses.

We Did It

Yesterday Terry and I finished riding 109 miles. We left at 3:00 am and finished up at 8:00 pm.  This is a great picture of her on Wanchese, a formerly wild Shackleford stallion, as we completed the second leg of the ride. Go to the Mill Swamp Indian Horses Group page on Face Book to see a lot of wonderful pictures from the day.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Everyone Needs Some Big Girls

Ok, technically they are adults and not merely big girls. My age definitions are functional and, I will admit, entirely self centered. When girls are young enough so that I have to look out for them and make sure they are ok all the time--they are little girls.

When they get old enough to help me on things that I need to get done and do so cheerfully--they are becoming big girls

When they do things to help me out that I did not even realize needed doing --those are the big girls. Lydia, Samantha, and Jen went to Chuck's and picked up Ghost Dance for me. She came in the round pen with me and reminded me that I have never had a horse that loved me like she does.

My big girl's are going to ride her until Lydia certifies her as safe for my neck. And then I am going to ride her in the woods, alone for hours like I did years ago. I don't think it will take long to get her neck safe.

Samantha was riding her around the ring bareback within minutes of going in the round pen with her. Only a rope halter on her and responding as light as a trick pony. This is a very big deal. This was a great day to bring her home.

And now I go off for my next clebration. Jake and Amanda had a little boy, Henry Clay Browder this morning and now I am off to the hospital to see him.

And on Monday my daughter Trish and Maurice will have a little girl. Two new grandchildren. Ghost Dance back with me, and riding 109 miles in 24 hours with Terry.

Life is full.

This Cross Has Already Been Made

Tradewind, 2011 National Pleasure Trail Horse of the Year for the Horse of the Americas Registry, being ridden by Karen McCalpin, Executive Director of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, at the World Horse Expo and Baton Rouge have already produced a super colt.

Their son, The Black Drink,is the herd sire at Boys Home of Covington Virginia along with two young mares in their satellite Corolla off site breeding program.

This year I will likely breed Baton Rouge to Wanchese. Contact me now if you want to begin a satellite breeding program to help prevent the extinction of these incredible horses.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Crossing

It is spring time. I like for my foals to be born when the sun is warm and the grass is green. That means that May is the earliest that I like to have the mares bred for the Corolla off site breeding program. The two horses pictured above will figure prominently in this years breeding. The mare is a Marsh Tacky, a very close relative of the Bankers. The stallion is a Shackleford, a Banker from an island about one hundred and seventy five miles to the south of Corolla.

They are part of the effort to bring genetic diversity to the few remaining Corollas. This close breeding will not be a matter of changing the Corollas from what they once were, but instead will help restore lost genetic material.

The offspring will be available to those who wish to join the effort to prevent the extinction of one of the nations oldest and rarest distinct genetic grouping of American horses. If you are one of those people now is the time to contact us to learn how to have a Corolla of your own and help to preserve and promote these horses domestically.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: More Right Hands Than An Octopus

Our program has grown a lot in the last four years but what I said in the old post is still true.Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: More Right Hands Than An Octopus: I never was much for saying please. I find calling someone Mr or Ms to be profoundly obsequious. If I do not know someone well enough to ...

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Quick Tip #83 A Strong Horse Is More Comfortable To Ride

Horses build strength a bit different than human athletes. Long distance trotting for a few months followed by working up to lopes of six miles when done several days a week can completely transform the quality of ride your horse gives. Red Feather was always powerful and that is a big part of why his movement is so smooth.

I have been conditioning several horses for an upcoming big ride and everyone of them moves smoother than they did a few months ago, and keep in mind that most of thee horses were already getting more exercise than most horses.

Of course, while doing this regimen you will become a better rider,become much more physically fit, likely loose a bit of weight and gain significant core strength. All of which will allow you to enjoy your improved horse.


Suppose you knew a secret that could improve the lives of more people than you can ever meet in a lifetime? Suppose you had a treasure that increased every time you gave some of it away?  Suppose you had the keys to a time machine that could bring history forward to us today?

If you had these things  you would yell this secret from the roof tops. You would give away the treasure as fast as it could come into your hands. You would reach back into time and pull the best of the past forward for those around you.

I have a secret. I have a treasure that increases every time I give some of it away. The key to my time machine opens the gate to the wild herd in Corolla and to my horse lot.

The secret is not that natural horsemanship improves the lives both of people and horses. Everyone who has been around natural horsemanship knows that. The secret is that by practicing natural horse care, natural hoof care, and natural horsemanship it is possible for anyone who cares about kids and horses to build a riding program that shines a bright light into pitch dark lives. What we do is not magic. It just get magical results.

 The treasure is the off site breeding program for the Corollas. The Corollas are so close to extinction that there is no word for their precarious state--past threatened, past endangered--what to call their existence?--biological life support? The best hope to prevent the extinction of these horses is to breed enough of them domestically so people can see why they are so special--so they can see their endurance, experience their smooth gate, participate in the easy training of the gentlest horses that I have ever trained, and who are large enough for adults and small enough for children--so their families can have the perfect family horse.That is why we work so hard to encourage others to develop Corolla breeding programs.

The time machine allows me to reach back into history to care for, raise, train and ride the same horses that my white ancestors who came here in the mid 1600's rode. These are the horses that carried us to church. These are the horses that brought the old women over to help a young wife with a troubled child birth. These are the horses that pulled in our nets. These are the horses that plowed our fields. These are the horses that carried us where ever our imagination could take us.

And these are the horses that pulled our wagon to the grave yard when it was all said and done.

So that is why.

That is why I put my life into the horse lot. That is why  I spend so much time rehabilitating and training sick and injured Corollas. That is why I ride them so far. That is why I rub them into the noses of the established horse world that foolishly believes that the value of a horse is even remotely connected to its sales price. That is why patients from the Veterans hospital come out weekly to work horses in the round pen and to gently brush them down. That is why I give horses to young people who need horses to step out of a bad world and get into a good world, or, in the best cases, to step out of a good world and step into a better world.

And that is why we do huge challenges to show what these horses can do. That is why five year olds set out on a forty mile ride with them at 22 degrees. That is why I worked to restore the hooves of Tradewind, a formerly wild Corolla stallion who was so absolutely crippled with founder when captured that he could not walk with out pain, and got him so healthy of hoof that he has never taken a lame step since. That is why I rode him so many hours, trotting and gaiting in the woods that he became National Pleasure Trail Horse of the Year in the Horse of the Americas Registry in 2011. That is why I have little children who can ride stallions on trail rides. That is why I breed 1/2 Corollas so people can see what tremendous horses they make when crossed with modern breeds. That is why we ride in the swamp. That is why we ride in the dark.

And that is why Terry and I will set out at 3:00 Saturday morning to complete a 109 mile ride in less than twenty four hours. Each of us has a string of five horses. I will be riding a Shackleford, two Corolla stallions, A Spanish Mustang, and a Choctaw Colonial Spanish horse.

Terry will ride a Shackleford stallion, two Corollas, a blm/Chincoteague cross, and Comet, a 3/4 Appaloosa 1/4 Arabian horse. We will ride woods paths forty of these miles will likely be ridden n the dark.

Two of these horses might reach 14.3. The Shackleford stallion is just over 12 hands. One of my Corolla stallions is 12.2.

All of these horses have been highly conditioned. We are not going to be pushing speed. This is not a race.

Terry came up with the idea because in December she turned 55 and I turned 54. She thought that combining our ages to create a distance ride was a good idea.

The training has showed us something interesting. The fastest twenty two mile leg of the ride will like be accomplished with her riding Wanchese the little Shackleford stallion and while I ride Manteo, one of my Corolla stallions.

Both are of a size that the established horse world has decreed are too small for adults. But that world does not know history, nor do they know horses. The good news is that they can't hurt anything unless one pays the slightest degree of attention to the tenets of their commercialized version of make believe horsemanship.

(This is  shot of Mokete, the first foal produced in the Corolla off site breeding program.)

Monday, March 17, 2014

On The Horizon

Ghost Dance is special to me for many reasons. The catch is that she is not completely trained. To further complicate matters, the surgeon explained that riding, per se, is not dangerous to my neck. The incidental bouncing involved poses no threat to me. However, he explained that I am much more likely to become paralyzed than would be expected from a serious blow to the region.

He agreed that riding was fine but that I should no longer get on horses that are not trained.

That's ok. I have big girls for that. I can count on them. Samantha just finished taking the most difficult Corolla that I have ever worked with and turned her into a solid trail horse. Lydia (and I suspect Jen) are going to make Ghost Dance safe for me to ride.

I will add her to the small group of horses that I regularly ride.

And the I will breed her to El Rosio, our Baca stallion. And I will produce a foal that can run all the way to the horizon.

And I will turn him over to my big girls who just might ride him past the horizon.

(Ghost Dance, a blm mare shown above)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Thaw

The blog has not had as many posts as usual lately. Sometimes that is the result of having little going on. More often it is the result of having so much news that there is not time to post it all.

We are in the latter category. News abounds--books,a documentary, new programs, new horses, new historic replications--I will catch up.

Bottom line is that we have been too busy to tell you how busy we have been.

And springtime arrives this week!

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Objectively Speaking--The American Indian Horse Ha...

Healthy, happy horses who are given steady exercise, a grass and hay based diet, kept out of stables and given first rate natural hoof care can accomplish much more than the established horse world imagines possible. Think of the implications of that for a moment.  When one is so alienate from one's horse that one does not even know what the horse could do if given a chance, one does not have a poor relationship with the horse. one has no relationship with the horse.Hit this link to see what is easily attainable for the natural horse.Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Objectively Speaking--The American Indian Horse Ha...: What we do is unconventional. Put simply, we teach little children to tame, train and ride wild horses and colts and then we ride them v...

Thursday, March 13, 2014

"Cause You're Crazy Daddy. That's Why! You're Just Crazy!"

That's what my daughter, Amanda, would say when she was "assisting" me in training some of the rougher BLM mustangs. Her job was to sit outside the round pen, cell phone in hand, waiting to call 911 in case things went bad. She was always ready to get both of us out of there as soon as I achieved any success with the horse. She hated for me to move on to another step and always wanted me to come home before any of my bones were broken.

She is grown now and does not object to my latest endeavor, though others will think Terry and me to be crazy.

In December Terry turned 55 and I turned 54. To celebrate our longevity she proposed that we complete a 109 mile ride in a day (54 plus 55 equals 109). We could not do it in December because hunting season was in. We set a date for late March. We have been getting a string of horses in shape and getting our bodies as ready for the challenge as they can be.

So in a few days, if the woods are dry enough, we will set out at 3:00 am for the first 22 mile leg of the ride. I hope to knock those off before the sun comes up. At 22 mile intervals we will take on a fresh horse and head off again. We are riding the horses the relatively short distance of 22 miles because we will be doing some form of running the entire way (trotting, gaiting,loping)

Barring an injury, I expect that we will finish around midnight,leaving four hours to spare.

Our string includes a Choctaw,Corollas, Shacklefords,a Karma Farms line Spanish Mustang, three stallions, a Chincoteague/blm cross and one modern horse, Comet

Were this the 19th century a 109 mile ride in 24 hours would not be even worth mentioning. But this is not the 19th century. I have done 98 miles in 48 hours, but that seems passe now.

No, this is not the 19th Century and 109 in less than 24 hours is worth mentioning, especially when completed by people who have reached the age Terry and I have.

(Here is a shot of Ta Sunka when he was about three or four years old.

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: And They Run Through Places That A Rabbit Couldn't...

Hit this link for one of the best pictures ever taken  at the horse lot--Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: And They Run Through Places That A Rabbit Couldn't...: Even the best of amateurs are still amateurs. Photography is my favorite visual art and I love to see great pictures of horses and people...

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Build A Program Of Your Own

Margaret Matray's excellent article, "Healing Ground" in the February 23 edition of the Virginian Pilot went, as the phrase goes, "viral". I am delighted that it did. It gave America a chance to read the work of one of the best young journalist that I have ever met and it gave everyone a chance to meet Ashley and Peter. Ashley is one of the brighter spots in my life and her horse Peter is well matched with an owner who loves him and who learns with him and from him.

I am even more pleased that we have been contacted by people who want to learn how to build a program like ours. That is what I want more than anything else.

I would love to have people come down and spend a few days with us and see how we do things in order to learn to build a program like ours, or one even better than ours.

What we do is important, but it is also attainable. Anyone who cares about kids and horses and will work to teach natural horsemanship to kids for horses can do what we do.

The first thing to do is to get rid of that nagging voice in your head that says, "It can't be done." It is that same nagging voice that says things like, "Four formerly wild stallions could never be gentled and trained and even if they could they could never be ridden together."

(The picture above is of four formerly wild stallions that we gentled and trained about to go off on a ride together.)

A New Reality

Sometimes it takes getting hit pretty hard by reality for one to get the assumptions knocked out of them. As our program develops and expands the tension between looking "nice" and being authentic has never been stronger. I am willing to spend what I must and work as hard as I can for projects that increase our educational capability or for those that are functional in protecting and providing for the animals.

I will not spend a penny or lift a finger for "improvements" that would make us look like a petting zoo. It is even more important for our operation to be real, honest, and authentic than it would be for others. We routinely do things that are not viewed as possible. Children tame and train wild horses, crippled horses are healed and ridden thousands of miles without further problems, a fifteen year old stallion is trained to saddle and takes to the woods as if he had been doing it all of his life, a ten year old boy with cerebral palsy becomes the first person to mount a small string of wild horses, formerly wild mustangs approach visitors to be handled, and ridden, some of the oldest and rarest distinct genetic grouping of American horses, rare colonial goats and chickens walk around visitors' feet, hams and smoked meat hang from a real smokehouse where they were cured---yes that is real. That is what we do.

That is why we can never take a single step to make our facility look like a Bush Gardens exhibit.

This weekend a family of city people spent much of the afternoon at the horse lot. They were mesmerized by the sights, smells, and sounds of a real agricultural operation--an operation as real as the horses that I ride, the eggs that I eat and the hogs that I raise, slaughter and eat.

Dan has built a beautiful kiosk that will advance our educational efforts immeasurably. It will be impossible to look at the structure and not walk over to see what is posted on it. One cannot look at the smokehouse without asking about it.

Education does not begin with answers. Real education begins with questions. I want all of our visitors to be filled with questions that they can't keep to themselves. I want them to feel like they are going to explode if someone does not answer their question, "What's that?"

I bet if you pulled into our horse lot and saw the structure in the picture above you would ask the first person that you saw at the horse lot, "What's that?"

On the other hand if you pulled into the horse lot and saw an beautiful, modern visitors center you question would just as likely be , "Where are the soda machines?"

(Don't worry we won't be having any soda machines.)

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Spanish Mustang Foundation...

...has a brand new website Go check it out. Look at their photo gallery. Check out the great pictures of Sundowner, the grandfather of our mare, Snow On Her. Take a look at Son of Sailor, whose father was born in Corolla and who spent years as a herd stallion at the Cayuse.

Study what is going on out there at the Spanish Mustang Foundation.

And support them--in every way you can. Send them a check--become part of the great work that they are doing.

(This is a shot of Daddy and the little half Corolla colt, Red Fox.)