Wednesday, April 30, 2014

One Foal of 2015 All Ready Claimed

This morning I put one of the mares with Croatoan. I have already been contacted by someone who will be taking one of the foals to be born next year.

Incremental growth of the off site breeding program like this is the best insurance that the Corollas have. Contact me if you want to learn more about the offsite breeding program.

Quick Tip #81--Understand That Your Horse Is Not A Dog

Seems like a silly thing to have to point out but many major problems between horses and people is that people , consciously or unconsciously, expect their horses to act like dogs. Worst of all they interpret a horse's actions as they would a dog's actions.

It took me too long to understand this problem. I got tired of the ridiculous concerns that people express when they see a horse aggressively eating every blade of grass he can reach and pulling the lead rope from the hands of novices to reach better grass.

They ask,"Why is he so hungry? Doesn't he ever get fed?"

It finally dawned on me that such a reaction would be appropriate if a dog spent every moment possible aggressively eating.

We are predators, as are dogs. As such we innately understand much of their motivation and actions in response to that motivation.  We do not have that innate understanding of prey animals.

Predators want warm, confining living spaces. Prey animals fear them as death traps. Predators  like to  frolic and demonstrate what is obviously to us exuberance on a nearly daily basis. Adult prey animals rarely demonstrate this behavior and often when they do it is the result of being in fear. Predators seek excitement. Prey animals seek relaxation. Predators seek autonomy. Prey animals seek security.

The only thing worse for your horse than treating him like  dog is to treat him like a person. Any solid relationship with a horse must begin with an actual understanding that your horse is a horse.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Spring Breeding Season

It is time for decisions to be made. I have to decide how many mares to breed for the Corolla offiste breeding program and to whom they will be bred.

My small Marsh Tacky mare, used to bring in a bit of genetic diversity to the program, might be a good cross with Croatoan. I like his heavy Spanish head. Her face is a bit straight in  profile. Feather might be a great out cross with Edward Teach. If Persa is not pregnant I would likely cross her with Tradewind. Wanchese, a Shackleford, will be a nice cross with Wendy's filly. Secotan and Manteo is a cross hard to beat.

Perhaps---Swimmer and Cyclops.

The resulting foals will be used to fight off the extinction of the Corolla Colonial Spanish Mustang. Now is the time to let me knowif you wuld like to be part of the off site breeding program and would like to start with one of these 2015 foals.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Riding With Kids Is Good For Your Body

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Riding With Kids Is Good For Your Body: Playing music with kids is good for your soul. At the end of our last session my young three stringed banjo vituoso called out.&quo...

The Music He Had In Him So Very Few Possessed

Wanchese brings to mine that line from Gram Parson's great song, (cited above) "In My Hour Of Darkness". The little Shackleford stallion in this picture is being ridden by Terry deep in the woods, coming out of a beautiful swamp where I rarely take riders.

He goes. He does not tire. He does not balk. He only asks to be asked to go. And then he is gone.

He has more heart than my other stallions. That is a lot to say for a horse. The other stallions are incredible in their own right.

But Wanchese has something in him that so very few possess.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

O.K., Even I Thought Him Too Small--And I Was Wrong

Years ago, at an HOA national meeting, I asked Tom Norush, HOA President, if the smallest Shacklefords could carry a person my size. I was surprised when he told me that as long as the horse was grown even the smallest Shacklefords would have no problem with me.

When I was less knowledgeable about these horses I did not see how a horse the size of this beautiful stallion could carry me. I was wrong.  Wanchese carries me as if I weigh no more than saddle blanket.

Wanchese has been carrying adult riders for years now--never a hint of lameness or pain, or even slight discomfort.

Not even once.

There are very few 17 hand Warmbloods who live in stables that can make that claim.

Role Models

I can claim credit for many of the good things about our program but I have had no hand in one of the best things that we have to offer kids--the extraordinary young women who continue to take a leadership role everything that we do.

This shot is from a very busy day that we had yesterday. As busy as things were, Jen Hill found herself with a moment of down time. She asked me if any of the horses needed trimming. I told her that one of the donkeys did.

So she trimmed two of the donkeys. Jen is a first rate farrier. She has both practical experience and formal education in what is one of the most misunderstood aspects of horse care. She understands natural horsemanship and she understands horses. She can ride. She can train. She can trim.

She is a professional farrier and if any of you in Tidewater Virginia have the need of one of the best young farriers that one will find in the region send me a note and Jen will be in touch with you.

Lydia is standing by with sun glasses on in this picture. A great trainer and teacher, Lydia seeks out kids with complicated lives and helps them negotiate the intricacies of learning our program.

If that was all that I could say about these two young ladies that would be enough--but there is something more significant about each of them. In this Miley Cyrus world they show my little girls how to be first rate people. They demonstrate compassion and courage. They are not simply alive--they are living. Both girls show a zeal for being active, being outside, moving around, working hard and laughing hard.

My little girls look to them and seek to emulate them.

It is a very comforting thought to be told by a nine year old, "Don't worry Steve. When they get too old I will help you like they do."

Friday, April 25, 2014

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Some Questions Best Not Be Asked

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Some Questions Best Not Be Asked: Feel free to brag about how much your saddle costs. Tell the world about all of the money that you spend on lessons. Crow from the highes...

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Transfusion

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Transfusion: Our program has succeeded entirely because of the way that the families of so many riders over the years have thrown themselves into ever...

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: An Honest Slogan

Why marketing is just not for me--a post from years ago. Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: An Honest Slogan: Slogan--the very word hints of dishonesty, puffery, and exaggeration. The catch about creating an honest business slogan is that it must ...

Quick Tip #84--Purge Anthropomorphism

Anthropomorphizing--viewing animal behaviors as if they were human behaviors is a hurdle that one must over come if one wants to have a meaningful relationship with one's horse.

What we want, need, enjoy, and dread rarely match what horses want, need, fear, and dread.

Simple test--listen to your words and thoughts. Are you saying things like "Well I would not want to _________ if I were a horse." "My horse doesn't like___________.", "How would you like it if____________."

If you ever allow these poisonous thoughts into your mind you are cheating your horse.

Treat your horse as a horse. Understand what your horse wants, needs, fears and dreads and act accordingly.

Cause and Effect

As more horses are given the benefit of natural horse care and are kept away from the horrible life of stables, shoes and sugar we will start to see that many of the practices that were blamed for equine health problems were not the causes of the maladies.

Consider that with the number of horses that we have and the number of miles that they are ridden in the past decade I have only called the vet out less than five times for colic. Rain rot is very rare in our horses compared to those who are blanketed in the winter. We have had no problems with arthritic conditions in our horses. I have only lost one foal to natural causes (idiopathic pneumonia). As damp as our winters are, fungal problems of the heels have only come up a handful of times in the last decade.

Grass, hay, sunshine, movement, living in herds or bands, barefoot, heavy exercise, never shampooing, obesity fought off like the threat that it is, supplementing only with 2-1 mineral, never entering a stable--this is why our horses are so healthy.

And as plain as it is to see I am still amazed to hear people say, "Yes but these were wild horses. My horse needs his shoes,warm stable, sweet feed, and blankets."

They do not realize that because they foolishly believe that he "needs" such a toxic lifestyle they are causing their horse to truly need the vet.

Can you imagine the indignation that would arise if such an owner was accused of neglect for keeping their horse overweight and forcing it to stay in a stable (except for the occasional turnout) and give it fungal infections by using harsh shampoos and forcing the horse to wear blankets?

No, we fully accept such abuse because there is a lot of money to be made by convincing people that their horse needs to live in a manner entirely contrary to how he evolved.

Even If Your Horse Is Not Afraid of A Deer, It My be Scared of a Scared Deer

The coveys of quail of my youth that used to spook my ponies and put me on the ground are nearly gone. We now have turkeys and a loudly flushing turkey can test a horse's nerves. Few things make the racket of a small band of deer jumping up in a thicket within a few steps of your horses. These things can rattle even an experienced horse.

Do not fall into the trap of thinking that deer will never be a problem because your horses see deer on a regular basis and even graze with them.

The sound of panicking deer scares horses, but many people do not realize that the smell of panicking deer triggers a reaction in many horses, especially those who have lived int the wild.

On scores of occasions I have watched deer calmly cross a path a hundred yards or more in front of me. When I reach the spot where the deer crossed, my horses often to not even alert on the smell. One the other hand, when I have spooked deer as I approached and they flanked the path only to dart across the path, again, hundreds of yards from me, yet still afraid, I have had horses react strongly to crossing the spot where the panicked deer had crossed a few minutes earlier.

Obviously horses can detect and interpret the smell of other prey animals when those animals are terrified.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What I Learned In 109 Miles In The Saddle In 15 Hours

I learned that I could do with the help of many what I had failed to do with the help of few. In the past I had tried and failed to ride 100 miles in a day. Both efforts were low key affairs and I was joined by a few of my best riders. I once rode 98 miles in two days. When I failed it was only in the presence of a few. This time it was a big effort with the help and support of many of my riders. Some of those in the picture above that was taken after 8:00 pm when finished were also present fifteen hours earlier when we set out before 3:00 am.

This ride was not my idea. That helped too. Terry decided that since she turned 55 in December and I turned 54, the only logical way to commemorate our ages was to ride 109 miles in less than 24 hours. Failure would mean letting Terry down too. that was a big part of what kept me in the saddle. (Terry did 66 of her miles bareback).

We used five horses each. We had been conditioning the horses and ourselves by running them for around five miles mornings before work plus hours of weekend riding.  However, we ended up doing the last 22 miles on horses that we had not conditioned. I planned to ride Tradewind, a fast gaiting Corolla stallion, who moves wonderfully while I post. Terry planned to ride Red Feather.

I ended up on Young Joseph, a chincoteague/blm cross who, though a favorite of many other riders, I had ridden less than ten times in my life. My legs were too worn out for a few hours of posting. Terry, on the other hand, needed to ride bareback. Her knee was too worn out for a saddle. She switched over to Baton Rouge, a Corolla mare who canters as oil rides water.

It was very important for our safety that we made another change. I asked Loyd and Lydia to join us for the last 22 miles. I knew that neither Terry or I would be strong enough to help the other if we had a problem on the last leg of the ride. The exhaustion of my body did not surprise me, but the loss of my ability to think clearly concerned me. I could not do the most basic math in my head and became disoriented in woods that I have been going through since I was a very small child.

I ate and drank a plenty. The horses were all fine every step of the way. The two formerly wild stallions that we are rding above should help illustrate the carrying capacity of these horses. Ironically only one of the horses was truly tired when we came in, our largest horse on the ride for our slowest leg, -the problem was not the horse. I wore him out because I was tired enough so that I was sloshing all over his back as we gaited and cantered along.

But here is the most important thing--I could not have done this in the rain or if it had been much hotter--not because of exhaustion but because wet clothing leads to saddle sores.

I learned that we could canter much more than I ever had on a long ride. I had always trotted or gaited nearly exclusively on such rides. The conditioned horses had no problem cantering for miles and then trotting for several hundred yards and going back to a canter. None of these horses came close to being pushed to their limits.  Look at the stallions above.

That picture is from the end of their loop, not the beginning

However, I have no doubt that had these horses lived a lifestyle of sugar, shoes and stables we would have had at least one horse go out on us. The key is that a horse that is raised in a natural horse care environment is so much healthier than his imprisoned cousin in the stable that they needed little conditioning.

And for any of you wondering why we would do something so difficult, one of the main reasons was to show how easy it was for the horses to do it. Look at those little Spanish stallions--never lame, neither has coliced a single time in my care, dietary needs comparable to a large goat, cheaper to feed than a German Shepard, small enough for kids, gentle enough for kids, strong enough for adults, loyal, and affectionate--in short everything one coould want in a family horse--yet they teeter on the brink of extinction.

Someone once said to me , "Well you have to keep in mind they are not super-horses!"

No I do not. I am afraid that I have ridden the Corollas further than any person alive on the planet. I know what they can do.

Do I think that they are super horses?

Why do you think we have banned kryptonite  from the horse lot?

We Could Make Soup But....

I want to make sure that there are great soup ingredients around for the future. No! I am not talking about eating horses. I am talking about our breeding program. Vicke Ives program at Karma Farms, and indeed the running free on the range model that was used at the Cayuse Ranch by the Brislawn family, are the proof that crossing various strains of Colonial Spanish Horses can produce spectacular animals. Tom Norush's program of the East/West cross (Banker and Western Mustang strain crosses) has shown the same thing.

I am a bit envious. I know that a cross between El Rosio (Bacca) and Swimmer (Banker) could produce the horse of one's dreams. Of course, I can breed my stallions to outside mares ad infinitum without hurting the Corolla program. It is the few,the rare, the nearly extinct, mares that I must breed to stallions in the Corolla preservation program.

At least for now. One day we will have enough of these horses preserved so that we will no longer have to be concerned about extinction. We will be able to freely cross the Corollas with other strains and modern horses.

I have seen the result of crossings with other breeds and I am delighted. In fact, the real service that the Corolla offsite breeding program has to offer is not a future of a Corolla in every back yard, it is of being able to offer magic as an ingredient in the breeding mix of other horses.

Want a great hunter jumper who is calm, has fewer digestive problems, great bone, and is smart, warm and affectionate--a Corolla/Thoroughbred could fit the bill. What about a trail horse with great balance and endurance, who is also smart, warm and affectionate--a Corolla/Quarter horse could fit that bill. And think about a spectacularly colored horse that actually looks like something the Nez Perce would have ridden, who is also smart, warm and affectionate--a Corolla/Appaloosa could fit that bill. or what every family needs, a calm, easy handling trial horse with unstoppable endurance, who is warm, smart and affectionate--a Corolla/Arabian could fit that bill.

But we are a long way from being there yet (though I do offer free on site breeding to my stallions to outside mares). I want to see that soup happen.

The men in my family who do not smoke or drink live incredibly long lives. I just might make another fifty years.

If I do, I will see that soup happen.

Everything That You Can't Run Away From You Just Have To Run Over

Inspiration, talent, intellect, wit, grace and charm--are all better than nothing--but they still are not much. The most important thing is resilience and the willingness to take hard blows and get up and get back in the ring. 

If you have a small child and want to be a good parent there are two things that you should read right away. One is a great article in the April issue of the Atlantic magazine that illustrates the tremendous cost we pay for treating "protection from possible harm" as the highest goal of a good parent.

The second is the advice that Theodore Roosevelt's father gave him after the child's doctor advised that he was a frail child who must always remain far from exhausting activities. (Go and do a bit of research and find it for yourself. it's worth it).

I wince a bit when I read the language that is used with today's fragile children when they are taught something as dangerous as riding a horse. It hurts to read about dealing with the child who has gone through the scarring ordeal of having fallen off of a horse.

I am so happy that my mother had a four step, simple, set of instructions to deal with a crying five year old who had been bucked off of his pony.

1. Get Up.
2. Shut Up.
3. Get On.
4. Go On.

I have a strong predisposition toward seeing dark clouds that seem to escape the view of others. If I had parents that taught me that it was proper to deal with challenges, threats, pain, or even real crisis by hiding, I hate to think how I would have ended up.

The picture above is of my oldest granddaughter. She has not been raised to be weak. Yesterday when I watered the hogs I was not alone. My youngest granddaughter insisted on grabbing the handle of every five gallon bucket that I carried over to the hog pen. Of course, she could not actually tote the bucket, but she was learning how to do so and in three more years I am sure that she will be able to water the hogs without assistance. She turns two years old in a few more days and she has already begun to learn a strong work ethic.

I make my living prosecuting bad kids in court. Although they come from all walks of life, they have many things in common.

One of which is that they were never given the opportunity to feel the pride inherent in overcoming what appeared to be an insurmountable challenge.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

What About Using Round Bales?

My mind is open enough to learn but sometimes it takes a lot of force to get that mind wide open. For years I viewed round bales as a perpetual threat to a horse's life. Mold in a round bale was a ticking time bomb for me.

I have come to learn differently. Quality round bales, of a size to be consumed within about a week by those horses eating from it, can be cost effective, labor saving, and safe. Bales must constantly be inspected to make sure that they are not molded, but I have found that my horses simply do not eat any spoiled portions of a bale.

However, I do not promise that yours would be as particular as are mine. My horses eat 10,000 pounds (ten thousand pounds) of hay each week. I have not had a horse colic from eating round bales a single time in the past decade.

Round bales have some serious disadvantages. A horse that can stand still and eat from the top of a round bale for hours on end will loose muscle tone in its back if the horse is not exercised. When the horse cannot be ridden because of weather the exercise can be accomplished by lunging the horse on an incline with a 20 ft rope or placing the round pen on a slight slope and getting the benefit of the same exercise.

The second problem is waste of hay. Round bales standing alone are subject to a great deal of waste. For years I combated that waste with the use of cattle rings around the bales. That helps but is not the best way to go.

I have come upon hay nets that fit round bales that are completely superior to the cattle rings. Hay waste is reduced to nearly nothing and the horses find it much more difficult to soil their hay with the nets.

I will put up some pictures and ordering information for these nets in future posts.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Quick Tip #77--Cultivate Short Term Memory Loss

This morning my highly reliable Shackleford was an emotional mess. He was afraid of everything, spooked constantly, and in forty five minutes of riding never completely settled down.

So what am I going to do different the next time I ride him? Absolutely nothing. I will set it aside from my memory and ride the horse.

Too many people worry about what has "happened" to their horse to cause him to "change." Odds are nothing has "happened" and nothing has "changed."

His behavior this morning is explained by the fact that he is a horse. He was a horse yesterday too. There has not been a change. I could create a change. I could approach him in fear and maybe even be afraid enough that I decide that he needs a few weeks without riding to settle down. I could turn his one bad morning into an anxiety event for myself and it could lead to the loss of one of my most dependable friends.

All because I refused to simply forget about it and move on.

Many readers of this blog are married and have been for some time. Those that have been happily married for a long time learn how to forget their spouses occasional bad days.

Do the same thing with your horse.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

When Internships Work

...they benefit teacher and student. Samantha Patterson is a first rate horse trainer. She was very, very good when she came to me. She is better now. I hope that some of that improvement came from working with us.

She embraces the core of what I believe--that concepts matter more than specific techniques, that each horse is an individual, that control without affection is as worthless as affection without control, that the horse learns best when calm and only learns the really important things when he is dead calm, and that putting kids and horses together is important.

All of the best young trainers that I have seen have one thing in common, total control of their emotions when working a horse. Never have I worked with a person with more self control. If she had fear of any of the horses that she worked with me, I never saw it--and more importantly, the horse never saw it. Part of her confidence comes from the fact that she rides as naturally as does a horse's mane--both are on the horse to stay regardless of what twists and turns the horse might make.

How good is she? She is the only person that I have ever paid to train a horse that I was getting nowhere with (and it took her about three weeks to get the mare completely safe.)

Like several of my big girls, she has been a great role model for my little girls in more ways than how to sit on a horse. She is kind, caring and has a deep and abiding faith that keeps her from floundering around in confusion as happens with so many other young ladies her age.

And I am going to miss her. She is taking the bold step of going to New Mexico along with her family where she hopes to work professionally as a horse trainer (and I hope) riding instructor. As much as I will miss her I am glad to see her taking a step like this--lights should not be hidden under bushel baskets.

And I will be able to get by without her. I am sure that there are many things with horses that I must be better at than her .

Let's see. I can dig post holes faster and....ah....ah...well I am sure that there are other things that modesty must just be keeping from my mind right now.

If you have a bad horse and live in the west--send her the horse--she will fix it.

The girl is as good as you are going to be able to find.

Monday, April 14, 2014

And She Saw Wonderous Things

We had a guest come down over the weekend. She had read about us in the newspaper story about Ashley and Peter that received such wide dispersal over the inter net. With one exception she saw a rather normal weekend at our horse lot. She seemed struck by how much healthier our horses are than are those living in stables and fed sugar. Like everyone else she noted how gentle our horses are.

1. She met some of the rarest American horses in existence--Colonial Spanish Horses of several strains, Bankers from Corolla and Shackleford,-- El Rosio, a Bacca Stallion,-- Joey and Twister, our Choctaws and several Spanish Mustangs mostly of Karma Farms lines.

2. She met three new fillies just arrived from Texas and in a short time she watched as patients from the Veterans Hospital handled the young mustangs and brushed out their winter coats. Then she watched several of those visitors enter the round pen with Twister, a three year old Choctaw, and work him around the round pen until he would hook on and follow.

3. She watched Attila as he had his first day training Twister. She saw him work the monsters and eventually saddle up and ride him in the round pen. In short order, Abigail brought up Rico, a formerly wild Corolla that she has gentled and trained to saddle. She watched as Abigail did a little Jeffry work and then saddled and mounted up.

4. In  the interim she met the hogs, the dogs, the chickens and the goats.

5. The next morning she mounted Porter, a chestnut Corolla and joined me and Ashley as her horse, Peter Maxwell, was ridden outside the round pen for the first time. That is always a very special event and I am delighted that our guest was there to join in.

6. In the afternoon she joined in with us for the long ride. But it was a twisting ride through the woods for a mounted Easter Egg Hunt. Terry put a lot of work and planning in the Easter Egg Hunt. The kids loved splashing through swampy woods riding for Easter Eggs.

7. The next morning opened with Josh riding Edward Teach, a Corolla stallion, me on another Corolla stallion, Manteo and our guest, Emily, on Samson, a wonderful Corolla.  We rode for over two hours. She saw what these horses could do in water, mud, cut over, and woods with no trails at all. She saw the power and energy of these horses,

8.  After lunch the newer adult riders moved on down to the well house pasture and we worked on beginning to canter.

9.  We wrapped up the day with the hard ride, with more emphasis on speed.

She saw how we worked. She saw how we worked together. She saw how well horses respond to natural horsemanship, natural horse care and natural hoof care. She saw why I think the Coroalls are perfect family horses. She saw the ease with which  these little horses carried a 220 pound rider (me, not her). She saw lives being enriched. She saw happy, stress free healthy horses. She saw children learn how to tame wild horses.

But most of all she saw why all the hard work is worth it.

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: But A Stallion?

Here is an old post that I stumbled on. I have one stallion that can only be handled by experienced riders--my other stallions are quite gentle. Hit this link to see more Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Responsible Management: Spearheading the off site breeding program for the Corollas is quite a responsibility. We owe the highest duty not only to the strain, bu...

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Might Just Be My Best Day Yet At The Horse Lot

In February Margaret Matry of the Virginian-Pilot wrote a spectacular story about an incredible young lady getting on her young horse for the first time that the horse had ever been mounted. The quality of the writing was among the best I have ever read. The subject was compelling.

The story caught fire on the Internet. if I understand the statistics that I saw correctly, it was shared over 1,900 times on Face Book. As a result of that story I was contacted by several people that want to come up and visit us for a weekend in order to see how to build a program like ours. This weekend we had our first guest visit for that purpose.

She got to participate in something a bit bigger than she could have expected.

It is one thing to be able to get on the young horse in the round pen and move around. It is the most important step in building a life long relationship with a young horse. But the most exciting day is the day of the first successful ride in the woods.

Yesterday the sun was shining. Wild blue berries were budding. The clover bright green and growing strong--grass breaking the surface so long gray and bare. The wind was up enough for a bit of dust to fly. Momma's cousin was planting corn in the field beside the horse lot where my family has been planting corn since before women could vote.It is much too weak of a phrase to say that spring was in the air.

Yesterday spring was in the soul.

And yesterday, for the first time, Peter was ridden in the woods. Ashley mounted up in the round pen with surreal confidence. She has always been able to relax Peter by simply putting her arms around his neck and drawing his face up close against hers. Before she saddled him she did a bit of Jeffry work, sliding up on the horses back, lying still on top of him--her face in his mane and her feet held tightly together, her body motionless except for warm hands rubbing her horse's neck.

He took the saddle easily. After having a person lay on top of him lengthwise a saddle seemed like nothing. He wore a rope halter with light reins. Our guest mounted up on Porter, a formerly wild Corolla and I rode Holland, my once wild Shackleford. We did not mount up until we had passed my huge boar, Amos', pen.

Like the adolescent he is, Peter loved to explore and was clearly delighted with the new sights. At first, when he felt a bit nervous he would scoot up closely to Holland--reassured of his safety he fell in behind him. The Bad Hole, filled with rain water , was over the depth of the horse's knees, and extended about 30 or 40 yards. Peter wanted to go around it. Ashley calmly directed him into the water. We came in through Jacob's Trails, a series of winding paths cut through 15 acres of woods, often barely wider then a horse and much of it submerged in swampy water. 

He stepped in and plowed through it like he had been doing it all of his life. As we broke into a trot Ashley let out the little giggle that girls seem to always make the first time their horse speeds up with them. She was delighted.

Me, more so.

Over the years there have been a lot great times at the horse lot, but I have not had one that meant this much to me. Last night I sent a note out to several of my long time riders who were not there yesterday and told them how wonderful it went. Before I hit "send" I noticed the names on the list.

It did not seem like all that long ago that several of them joined me in the woods for their first ride on their young horse that they trained at the horse lot.

One thing is certain, everyone of them can fully understand what a wonderful day yesterday was.

(Ashley on Peter Maxwell and me on Holland coming in after a great ride.)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Opening Day

Attila is energetic, hard working and enthusiastic. I am not used to having boys who ride who are like him. Modern life does not bring these qualities out in boys today.

Yesterday he started his first day of working with the horse I assigned him to train. He did a great job with Twister, a beautiful bay Choctaw. He worked him from the ground and on his back.

They are going to make a great team.

Which Side Are You On?

The established horse world is,at its center, a commercial enterprise. It has no purpose but the accumulation of wealth. All forms of equine competition tie into that desire for cash.

At the root of the moral squalor that is the established horse world is the idea that a horse's sales price is the equivalent of its value. There exist the idea that some horses lives are more valuable than others solely based on the amount of income the more "valuable" horse can produce.

I saw that some one had written that they support horse slaughter because they value the horse industry. In such a case industry is valued more than the horse.

The established horse world relates to true horsemanship the same way prostitution relates to marriage. In each case one is a degrading commercial venture and the other is an institution based on love.

This colt lays down with Daddy on a pretty much daily basis. How much is that worth?

I do not want there to be any equivocation on this issue. I do not support horse slaughter and I do not support the horse industry.

I would be so very ashamed of myself if I were raising and training horses that working people could not afford. If I knew that I was raising and discarding six horses for every one that made me so much money I would not be able to walk around in public.

The gift of being in a position to connect people with horses is all the reward one needs for the endeavor.

Croatoan Will Be Going To Press

He was captured because he was sickly and kept leaving the sand and getting into the paved highway at Corolla. That was abut five years ago. He was an older stallion then. Even so, he quickly settled down and was under saddle. For quite a while he was the main horse that I rode. To this day he remains the most comfortable of all horses that I have ever ridden.

Eventually he became a starting horse for novices, even though he was a mature, formerly wild stallion. He has been on hundreds of trail rides with children and mares and has never been a problem. He is the father of Mokete, the first Corolla born of the off site breeding program. I bred him to several non Corolla mares and in every case he created calm, sweet natured athletes.

There are so few Spanish mustangs left that very few people have ever seen one. People are much more familiar with the appearance of Clydesdales, and they associate this head shapes with those giants. His features came from a different history than the draft horses. It is one of the types of Iberian profiles of the horses brought here in the 1500's by the Spanish. Most people are taken by his mane. I love the shape of his head best.

There are two schools of thought regarding his head shape,--those who find it beautiful, powerful and reeking with noble history and those who are wrong.

Two days ago three beautiful Colonial Spanish fillies arrived from Texas. One of them, Feather, is 34% Choctaw and Dr. Phil Sponenberg advised that she would be a good line to bring in for the Corolla off site breeding program. In the fall I plan to breed her to Croatoan. If the resulting foal shows good Corolla phenotype it will become part of the program and bred back to a Corolla. If it does not carry that phenotype it will still be a beautiful registered American Indian Horse(O type) and a registered Horse of the Americas.

Croatoan is the subject of a children's book written by Kay Kerr that will be going to print in the near future. He will join Red Feather, who is about to have the second book about his life published, as literary symbols for their nearly extinct wild family members at Corolla.

Every bit of publicity about these horses is important. There is only one wild herd in America that is truly safe from being destroyed--those on Assateague Island. They are safe because many years ago Margarite Henry wrote, "Misty of Chincoteague" and a beautifully filmed movie followed.

I don't know where I would ever find another horse to play the part of  Croatoan in the movie. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Family Horses and Horse Families

Serious readers of this blog know about a young lady in Texas named Brooke Sims. She is a serious young horse trainer who gets results by understanding horses and causing a horse to want to make her happy. Her entire family is active in the effort to preserve Colonial Spanish horses. Their farm, Lothlorian Farm, like Mill Swamp Indian Horses, has been awarded the Keeper of The Flame Award by the American Indian Horse Registry for their efforts to preserve these these rare, historic horses.

This is a shot of their stallion, Blazing Guns, a grandson of Choctaw Sundance, as is my great horse Ta Sunka Witco. Brooke wanted one of his daughters to become part of our program. Turns out that two of his daughters will. Before supper tomorrow night I expect to be welcoming them to their new home.

Along with a young mare named Feather, who is also a cousin of Ta Sunka they will become part of our family.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

He Is Ready

Peter Maxwell and Ashley, the team that has created such a boom in interest in our program, are ready to hit the woods. Very soon she and I will take him out on his first trail ride. We will take it slow and easy. As he has gotten older he has taken on his father's, Edward Teach--a Corolla, temperament. That seems to happen with all of our half Corollas--eventually they settle in to complete relaxation with a personality that simply asks, "Where do you want me to go now?"

Early predictions are that:

1. He will conduct himself perfectly and have a great time.
2. Ashley will smile so hard and for so long that her teeth will become dust bowl dry.
3. I will be very pleased to see two more lives coming completely together. (There are few things better than having the horse that you trained happily trot through the woods with you.)

My Trailer and Truck Are Gone

And they are going further from home than I have ever been. Jen and Kelly are venturing into Texas to bring back a super little filly, owned by a super family, whose father is a super stallion who was trained by a young lady who is on the road to becoming one of the best mustang trainers in the nation.

I am especially honored that this young lady wanted one of her fillies to be part of our program.

They will also be bringing back a beautiful young mare to be part of the Corolla offsite breeding program.

This is a very big and very exciting time for our program. You can follow the progress of their trip on the Mill Swamp Indian Horses group page on face book.

They will be getting back just after the first family arrives this spring to spend a weekend with us learning how we do things with an eye toward developing a program like ours in Northern Virginia.

And the picture above tells a big part of our story. That is Edward Teach, a formerly wild Corolla stallion, who came to us with a wound in his neck, likely caused by a wild hog, big enough and deep enough to put a baby's face in. Now all that is left is the little bald scar that you see here.

He is ridden every weekend and loved every day. He will be the father of Corollas that we raise here as part of the Corolla offsite breeding program. We have six formerly wild stallions from the Outer Banks of North Carolina that form the foundation of our effort to prevent the extinction of these horses.

If you want to become part of this effort to preserve one of America's oldest and rarest distinct genetic grouping of American horse let us know. There are many ways to help in this effort--from acquiring a foal to becoming a full fledged off site breeding program satellite.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Paradox Of Sleep

There is no easy answer to this dilemma. I am sleeping more hours per night than I have since the 1992 Presidential campaign.

As a direct result I am getting less accomplished than I have in many, many years. In order to get things done that need doing I need to be up and rolling by 3:00 am. It is not simply that I am accustomed to working early. The problem is much deeper. My creativity shuts down about 10:00 am--that is true whether I wake up at 2:30 or, as has recently been happening, 5:30.

Not only do I have less time for work, I find that I have no time for either playing music or listening to it.

I am fully aware of the importance to one's health of sleeping a significant portion of the night. But I am even more aware of the importance of putting some points on the board before the last whistle blows.

I assume that there is some median that will result in a practical compromise. So I will keep digging around until I stumble on the best time to wake up.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

"It Don't Matter What Kind Of Building We Go In...

.....all the janitors know my family."

I had forgotten about that. Someone in my office today quoted it to me. It was from what I said in Momma's eulogy. Actually I was quoting my little sister Jeannette, who, at about age 7, said it with great pride--it was a sign of real status in the community to her way of thinking.

Momma headed up the Virginia Foster Parent Association. She was one of the first female members of the Rescue Squad. She worked with the Red Cross in disaster relief. She and Daddy had over 120 foster kids and I have a slew of adopted brothers and sisters.

She was her own private Department of Social Services. Momma was a rural mail carrier so she knew every family in the neighborhood. She knew who needed clothes for their little ones, who had found out that they could not have children and wanted to learn about adoption, who had kids in trouble, who was being beaten by their husband, who was being evicted, who needed money for a doctor, who had a child that was not getting the special eduction services that the law required.

And she knew who was hungry. Yes, there are a lot more hungry people around then we like to admit.

She did not learn these things because of the kind of mail the people were getting. She learned because people brought their problems to Momma. They did not come to Momma because she was "a good listener." They came to her because they wanted help.

And she always tried to help. Even when she had no money. Even when she was in significant pain. Even when she knew that this bout with cancer would be her last one.

And generally, she was successful in helping out. And when she wasn't it was not because she didn't try and it sure was not because she didn't care. 

But she was not syrupy sweet. Momma was hot tempered with a sharp, biting tongue. She never forgot anyone that had ever helped her out and she never forgot anyone that slighted her. She despised injustice and oppression. She was utterly contemptuous of society's norms and lack of values. She preferred the runt of the litter, admired those who worked hard for everything they had, and only really looked up to those who had over come tremendous hardships to prevail in a world where the odds were always against them.

Before she died Governor Mark Warner designated a late September day of 2005 as "Nelson and Aileen Edwards Day." It was one of the few honors that she received that seemed to really mean much to her. Momma always liked Mark. She knew that he meant what he said about taking care of forgotten kids.

My wife bites her tongue when people comment, after seeing me and Daddy on stage, that I am just like Daddy. Of course, there is much that I get from Daddy, but Beth sees me as more like Momma--a bit dark and worried, disdainful of all norms and most rules, constantly conscious of my own mortality and being driven to get some things fixed before I die, and loving a whole lot more people than I actually like.

And I must admit that it means a lot to me when a member of the custodial staff in some big building looks over and asks, "Ain't you Aileen Edwards boy? Ain't you the one that is a lawyer?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Why Breed Half Corollas?

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Why Breed Half Corollas?:   Look at this colt! That is why! Corn Stalk's mother is a roan BLM mare and his father is Croatoan. To stress once again, the only hors...