Saturday, May 24, 2014

For The Record--The Horse of The Americas Registry

No horse registry has been as supportive of the efforts to prevent the extinction of the Corollas as has the Horse of the Americas Registry. All the way back to 2008 they lead the expedition of experienced Colonial Spanish horse experts resulting in the conclusive report that the wild horses of Corolla and Shackleford were, in fact, Colonial Spanish horses and not an ad mixture of other breeds. The picture of my riders riding some of our herd of Corollas and Shacklefords shown above was taken at an HOA national meeting several years ago.

The HOA keeps a data base of Colonial Spanish horses from several of the registries that register such horses. It is one of the greatest services that they provide. This morning I learned that one of our mares, of Cayuse Ranch heritage  became the 6,500th horse added to that data base. I was delighted that Snow On Her's registry caused this bench mark to be met but I am still rattled by the fact that there are so few horses around from each strain of Colonial Spanish Horse (Spanish Mustang).

The candle is not blown out, but it is still a candle. With the continued hard work of those involved in the preservation of these horses the candle will become a flame, then a torch and finally a beacon.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Things That Last

This post goes back to 2010 ---Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Things That Last: When I was fourteen years old I sat on my bed dazed at the realization that there was no way that my knees were going to allow me to play b...

Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Things That Last

This post goes back to 2010 ---Mill Swamp Indian Horse Views: Things That Last: When I was fourteen years old I sat on my bed dazed at the realization that there was no way that my knees were going to allow me to play b...


Joshua Shenk's book, "Lincoln's Melancholy--How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness",just came in the mail. I cannot wait to fully understand every bit of this book. Very few people have the remotest understanding of how sick Abraham Lincoln was all of his adult life. Shenk suggests that Lincoln's greatness may not have come in spite of his illness, but because of it.

It is the 21st century and we expect doctors to be able to cure everything but cancer. When we are sick we expect to get well. Lincoln lived in a time where no one carried such expectations. He seems to have accepted misery as an unwelcome partner.

Were horses human each would qualify for a diagnosis of anxiety disorder. Suffering is not a prerequisite to becoming a great horse trainer, but when one looks at the lives of many of the best trainers one finds such suffering.

That is not a coincidence.

Vacuous and empty headed optimism gets one nowhere with a horse. When one seeks to try to make a horse believe that everything is wonderful and there is nothing to be afraid of one must fail.

The horse knows better.

He lives in a world where every shadow threatens his existence. The horse has fought off extinction because of his flight instinct and fear, not in spite of has flight instinct and fear.

The best trainers do not seek to constantly teach the horse that there is nothing to be afraid of. The best trainers seek to let the horse know that no matter how horrid the experience, it can be overcome by following the trainer's lead.

Perhaps the best trainers, like Lincoln, are those who seek only to persevere, not to pretend.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Poisonous Plants

Poisonous plants are the bane of natural horse care. There are two problems in dealing with these plants. The first problem is in identifying them. The second is in eradicating them.

One of the most peculiar aspects of our legacy of slavery and segregation is that in many regions of the south even the most experienced of woodsmen can properly identify anymore than a handful of the plants around them. Of course, racism involved more than hating another race. At its most virulent, it required the hatred of everything associated with that race.

Africans and Indians used wild plants both as medicine in the way that we think of medicine now and as a source of magical power. Knowledge of such plants was something scorned by white society. In fact, this phenomenon is not to be found is in Appalachia, where the fewest number of slaves were found anywhere in the South.

For much of the rest of the South whites did not learn the names of any but the most commonly used trees. The most bizarre aspect of this child  of Jim Crow is that everyone felt perfectly free to make up their own names for different plants.

"Grandaddy, what kind of tree is this?" was very often met with a response such as, "That is what your great uncle called a Swamp Gum." Families living on adjacent farms for 150 years often had completely different names for the same tree.

I am trapped by this aspect of my history. Around the horse lot there are many examples of what Grandaddy called a Fence post oak or a bitter berry plant, or a brier bush. Who knows what the rest of the world called them?

Looking at pictures of plants does little good. They look too much alike.

But here is the bottom line for coastal Virginia. Wilted Red maple might be the only wilted maple leaves that will kill a horse--but pick up every broken maple limb as son as it hits the ground. No need to risk it. We have four different kinds of wild cherry plants here. The bark does not seem poisonous. In fact may horses love it. The wilted leaves of all seem to be dangerous.

I have read that 'butter cups" cause problems. In the past fifteen years a yellow plant that looks like a butter cup has taken over open pastures here. Some goats and a few horses seems to enjoy it. Most avoid it and wait for it to disappear in mid summer. I have never known it to bother an animal.

I have also been told that this plant is not a butter cup but a variant of mustard. In any event, the only hope to eradicate it is herbicide and I have avoided the use of chemical poisons to date.

Eradication is the biggest problem for all of these plants. Red Maple is one of the most common trees in our region. When sawed down it quickly puts out new shoots. It can only safely be cut down in the winter if one is to avoid putting wilted leaves on the ground. Perhaps removing the bark in the winter will lead to permanent death of the tree. I hope to give that a try this winter.

I try to keep cherry trimmed back from the horses reach and have not had a cherry problem yet.

Many of my nightmares involve a limb broken from a maple tree only to fall within reach of the horses. In about 12 hours in the sun it turns into a lethal threat to the horses. Worst of all, some horses seems to enjoy the flavor of wilted maple (most horses love to eat living maple leaves and I am not aware of a living leaf being any problem for horses.)

To top it all off, using black walnut shavings as bedding can colic or founder a horse. Now how is anyone supposed to intuitively know that? 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Dying More Than Once

Highly organized people suffer from a different neurosis than those from which I suffer. It seems that the more stressful the event will be the more they want to prepare for it. Preparation is organized worry extended over long periods of time, constantly imagining failure and constantly coming up with scenarios to deal with that anticipated failure.

I have never been inclined to seek multiple deaths. If the future event will be stressful for only 45 minutes why on earth would I want to spend many hours of stress, over many weeks preparing  for that relatively brief period stress? This is not to say that I present significant public statements without adequate preparation.

It is just that by "adequate preparation" I mean making sure that the microphone is plugged in.

I am always a bit perplexed when people want to know what I "plan" to do in a round pen demonstrations with a completely untrained horse. I "plan" to get in the pen with him and take it from there.

People ask me what "accessories" I will need for a demo. I plan to drink some ice water if it is hot and I Plan to go to the hospital if things go really bad. 

I find rehearsing tedious. Lydia was once discussing which type horses different people liked. Some went for beauty, some for fancy gaits, some for flashy color--Lydia told me that all I wanted is a horse was one who would shut up and get the job done. I had never thought about it, but she was exactly right--the traits that I admire in people are those I admire in my horses.

All of which is a lengthy wind up to explain how much Ashley impressed me Thursday night. We gave a presentation to a Rotary Club. Our preparation consisted of this--me to Ashley "I'm going to talk to them a while abut the horse lot then I will turn it over to you to dazzle them and wrap it up."

She just said "o.k." And then proceeded to do so.

Afterwards we headed over to Discover Teas. I planned to do a few songs that I wrote--just before I went up there I asked her if she wanted to come join in on the choruses.

She just said "o.k." and proceeded to nail the songs, note for note.

And she is 19 years old.

Not a whole lot of 19 year olds out there that could have pulled those two things off.

I am highly impressed with this young lady.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mokete--Moving Into The Second Generation

Mokete, born of Baton Rouge and Croatoan was the first horse born of the Corolla off site breeding program. That was over four years ago. This spring she will be bred to Wanchese.

Next spring the second generation of the program will begin.

That is how these horses will be preerved, one horse at a time, one generation at a time.

300 Members

What started out with a fifty four pound weight loss, a plan to adopt one blm mare to breed to a blm donkey to produce a mule that would be able to perhaps trot comfortably enough for me to ride it alone in the woods, thinking that that was all my spine could safely take, has grown over the years to one of the world's largest Spanish mustang preservation and natural horsemanship programs.

I never imagined this. I did not plan for this. We are moving into a new phase in which we will grow much bigger. On July 1, I will give the "business" to our nonprofit organization, Gwaltney Frontier Farm, Inc. I chair the board and am Executive Director. I will lease the horses, the land and my tack to our non profit. Tom Crockett is guiding us through this process. His help has been invaluable.

I only have one criterion for those who want to participate in leading this organization--that they understand and care about what we are doing. Tom understands and cares.

It will be good change. No one hates change more than I do. I do not even like for people to get new hair styles and have nearly never seen anyone look better from changing their hair. This will be one of those less than 2% of the time events when change actually results in improvement.

Why am I optimistic? Because I know more about what will happen than does anyone else. I would love to see programs like ours become the wave of the future, but wave or not, we are about to be a much bigger ripple in the pond than before. I will spend more time training, writing, speaking, and promoting and less time watering animals.

Today we reached 300 members on our little Facebook group page. That is about three times the number of wild Corollas in existence. We have a lot of work to do.

And we will get it done.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Marsh Tacky Component

We have begun the spring breeding for the Corolla off site breeding program. Croatoan is bred to our spectacular Marsh Tacky mare, Hickory Wind.

Hickory Wind goes by another name on her registration papers. She is even easier to train than the wild Corollas. Friday before dark she had her first saddle on. Minutes later Lydia was on her back. The horse never even alerted, much less showed any fear. Without training she responded to Lydia's request to back up as if she had been trained for months. She was so calm that she just walked off and grazed while Lydia was on her back.

These things are hard to believe until one has experienced what some of these Colonial Spanish Horses have to offer. Gentle, smart, easy keepers, smooth gaits, great hooves, small enough for a child yet strong enough to carry most adults with ease.

Yet they teeter on the brink of extinction.

We can't let that happen.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

It Will Be Worth A Try--Growing my own Fodder

One of my riders sent me a link to an article about growing horse fodder by feeding them hydroponically grown small grains. It looked like a great idea for the person with one or two horses, but I was put off by the start up costs and labor involved. The systems involved a green house and a series of trays. Barley was placed in the trays and covered in water. In a but a week the seed had grown up to a few inches. The horses eat the entire plant, roots and all.

I am considering a low cost experiment to produce some fodder. I plan to stretch out a large tarp and merely drape its sides over a row of landscaping timbers in a manner that will allow the rectangle of tarp to hold two inches of water over a layer of seed I can remove the fodder by lifting the tarps.

Might even be able to make fodder hay by allowing the fodder to completely sun dry and then rolling it for storage.

I am looking forward to seeing how this system could work.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

For Medicinal Purposes Only

Shoulder not looking good and feeling worse. Seems sometime in the recent past I have damaged it and I am to go see the surgeon Monday.

 In all seriousness, it hurts.

Should say 'hurted"--right now it feels fine--it will start back hurting rather intensely when I get up and leave Levon Helm, Gram Parsons,  and Steve Earle alone here at this desk. As long as I have been sitting here listening with my granddaughter in my lap it feels fine.

Music does for me what liquor does for other people.

It makes everything stop hurting for a little while. It does not make me want to dance. It does not make me want to act without dignity on stage. It does not make me laugh.

It does not even really make me feel good, but there is nothing better than solid music to make me stop feeling bad.

1.5 Corollas

This is a shot of The Black Drink, the first stallion produced in the Corolla off site breeding program. He is the son of Tradewind and Baton Rouge. He is at Boys Home in Covington Virginia, along with two mares that form their satellite offsite breeding program.

The picture also shows a partial shot of Quannah Parker, the son of Croatoan and Cynthia Parker. He is a 1/2 Corolla. Though stunningly beautiful half Corollas with modern breed lineage are not used in the effort to build up a domestic herd of Corollas sufficient to fight off extinction.

From this angle one can see the narrow chest and well developed barrel that is part of the package that gives the Colonial Spanish Horse both his endurance and smooth gaits.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Focus Becomes Stronger With Use

Dorrence and other truly great horseman have written and spoken about the difficult concept of "feel." Feel is easy to demonstrate and nearly impossible to define.

My poor effort to come up with a definition is that "feel" is the ability to produce movement in a horse by wanting the horse to make that movement.

I have come to believe that there is an important precursor to achieving "feel." I think first one must achieve true focus.

Focus, as I use the term, means the ability to concentrate one's senses to the degree that one is able to close down all other senses while redirecting the energy of those senses in the one to be heightened.

Or phrased differently, concentration that allows one to block out all distractions. Focus is reached when one is able to direct one's eyesight to the degree that one might see the tip of the nose on the face of another person without seeing any other part of the face.

This kind of focus is part of what makes it possible to hit a baseball thrown at 100 miles per hour or to hit a bull's eye consistently with an arrow at 30 yards.

Focus comes easier for some people than for others. People who talk fast and talk a lot find achieving focus very difficult. People who spend a great deal of time talking about themselves find achieving focus impossible.

But those who are steady of eye and of movement find focus much easier. Chloe, shown above with Samson, a formerly wild Corolla, is predisposed towards finding focus. Though she has limited exposure to the horses she shows the same kind of focus that I have seen in Samantha, Lydia, Brent, Lido, Ashley and a handful of others.With experience she will be a first rate horse trainer.

People do not understand focus, but horses do. Focus gets stronger with use. On many occasions I have thought that I was alone in a round pen while training only to notice, as I leave, that several people have been standing there the entire time.

Some athletes call it being in the "zone." What ever one calls it, it is  frequency that horses communicate on and it is a channel that great horseman can all tune into at will.

But once again, this is a truth that generates no cash, therefore it is not taught. No money can be made selling videos that tell one to learn to shut up and focus, so it is never taught. It is very liberating to be able to simply teach truth without regard to profit.

I wish more of the big name clinicians had that freedom.

Thursday, May 1, 2014