Saturday, March 7, 2015

Why We Took Out a Wall In The Little House

We had too many people playing music on Monday nights to fit into one room.

These two shots are from a great show last night at Poquoson Methodist Church. My two year old grand daughter's professional debut (I gave her a dollar for playing spoons and singing.) Five of the performers were playing instruments that they have taken up since January 1. Cajon, wash tub bass, wooden spoons, five string banjo, three string banjo, fiddle, autoharp, mandolins, guitars, bouzouki, long neck dulcimer and a ukelele.

And we are getting to a sound for porch music that I want. And this was not even all of our performers.

I need a good harmonica player who has first rate round pen skills with a wild horse.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Simple Carbohydrates and Damage to A Horse's Immune System

Sometimes advances in medical understanding of human health pays off for horses' health also. The link between obesity, insulin resistance and founder is clearer to us now because of improved understanding of Type Two diabetes in humans.

We may be on the edge of another diet related breakthrough. Several years ago our vet commented that our herd was the only one she had seen lately with no rain rot. It was a particularly wet winter. Of course, our horses are never subjected to unhealthy practices like putting on pasture blankets.

 I assumed that that was why our horses had healthy skins.

That might not be the only reason. The various fungi that cause rain rot are around at all times. The issue is not whether a horse is exposed to the fungi. The issue is whether his immune system and the natural fauna on his skin are sufficient to protect him against this germ invasion.

This week Terry asked me about "scratches" and why our horses did not develop this condition, which is also caused "greasy heel." Scratches is a condition similar to rain rot that results in seeping cracks not far above the hoof line, generally on the back of the pastern. It can be very difficult to treat because it can develop both fungal and bacterial components.

The "cause" of scratches is often considered to be exposure to mud. This winter has exposed our horses to more mud than any other time for the past seven or eight years. We have not had any incidences of scratches. In fact, the only time we have had it show up was on a very old mare several years go.

We are beginning to learn how important keeping a healthy combination of microbes in the human digestive tract is for the development and sustenance of a healthy immune system. Prebiotics and probiotics seem to rev up our immune systems. (I have found significant improvement in my own health when taking probiotics and eating sauer kraut (a food rich in beneficial microbes) daily.

Simple carbohydrates increase the acidity of a horse's digestive tract, killing beneficial microbes. This is the root cause of impaction colic that occurs after binging on sweet feed or straight grain. I suspect that constant exposure to even small amounts of simple carbohydrates can weaken a horse's immune system.

Horses evolved to eat living and dead grasses, leaves, roots and bark. Their need for those feeds does not change because huge agribusiness concerns have been able to spend a fortune in advertising to convince horse owners that the key to proper horse are is to keep one's horse dangerously obese on a diet of molasses and grain by products.

Even if future research bears out the simple proposition that horses, like all other creatures, are healthiest when given a diet that they evolved over the millennia to eat that message will remain muted by the dollars spent on advertising and marketing.

The pitiful irony will continue to be that a horse's health will depend largely on whether he is lucky enough to be owned by someone who cares enough to provide him with a healthy lifestyle, or is condemned to be owned by someone who gets all of their horse health information from shiny advertisements in horse magazines.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Relationship, Sure, But What Kin Are You To Your Horse?

Horses fill a range of emotional needs and fill a range of relationship roles. For some they are babies. Such owners refer to themselves as their horse's Momma or Daddy. There is nothing wrong with this perception as long as it does not lead the owner to falsely believe that their horse is helpless and in need of protections 24/7. Often such owners, in an effort to "baby" their horse, do not allow the horse sufficient exercise and over feed the animal. The irony is that this effort to protect the horse is at the root of the two leading reasons horses are put down today--colic and laminitis/founder.

In reality, a horse is tremendously tough and resilient, with one exception--their digestive systems had just as well be made of crystal. They are subject to a range of toxic threats in addition to the various types of colic.

Preteen girls often view their horses as their first boyfriend--not in any perverse sense but in the sense that they project onto the horse all the qualities that they want in a boyfriend. They often tell me that one of the best things about their horse is how well he "listens" to them. They are concerned that their horse might think that they are "cheating on him" if they ride another horse. When they fall from their horse they are often disappointed in the horse and will share with me that they are afraid that "he does not love me anymore."

This is a positive step in a girls emotional development. It is no different than having a puppy, or even a doll, as their first baby.

I do not think of my horses as babies. If anything I think of them as little brothers. I want to respect them. I want them to impress me. I want them to be glad to see me. I do not mind if they disagree with me. I recognize that that I am not always right--maybe there is a better way to get around that tree than the way I suggested. I expect them to get the job done just as I expect to get the job done myself. I expect them to tolerate my imperfections. I do not have unreasonable expectations for them but I expect them to meet my expectations.

I never think of them as weak or fragile.

I have never asked Ashley how she thinks of Peter Maxwell but my strong hunch is that she simply thinks of him as a very close friend. (That is what he thinks of her).

(This picture is of the first time she got on Peter.)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Gailanne Aumendsen, Sarah Carter And Why The Circle Will Never Be Broken

Longtime readers know many of my little riders and some adults join us at the Little House each week where I teach them songs of the Original Carter Family. I love going to the Carter Fold. The songs that the Carter Family worked up are porch music songs--in fact the reason we have a porch on the tack shed is to have a good place to play music in warm weather. Tonight I was sitting here working at this computer and listening to the two disc collection of Carter Family songs, Wildwood Flower, when I stopped to run through facebook and learned of an important musical project that is in the works.

Several months ago I was rummaging though the computer and I stumbled onto one of the best female voices that I had ever heard. The young lady was also a first rate instrumentalist, particularly on the fiddle. She is part of the Florida band, Jubal's Kin. I was struck in particular by the way she took two old songs, "Buffalo Gals" and "Clementine" and updated the melody a bit and sang each song with respect. My immediate thought was that this was exactly what A.P. Carter did with so many of the songs that he worked up over the years. A.P. Carter was a driven collector, preserver and reviser of ancient songs. Maybelle Carter was an innovative guitarist who could pay anything with strings on it. (I expect that she could have gotten good music out of a yo-yo.) And Sara Carter could sing, and sing, and sing. My second thought was that if Sara enjoyed performing more and looked as happy on stage as Gailanne Aumendsen does  a better comparison between the two could be made.

Gailanne is developing an album of Carter Family songs because she says that she wants to bring the music of the Carter Family to a new generation. That would be a worthy goal even if the young lady was not so extraordinarily talented. Today few people truly understand the impact that the Carter Family had on what became American music  June Carter Cash once said that there was a time when she could turn the radio on to any country station and in a few songs pick out a few bars of one of the Carter Family songs. It is not that their music was plagiarized so much as it was that their music permeated rural culture.

As my Grandmother said, "Oh people listened to the Grand Ole Opry, but they all talked about the Carter Family music."   Just a few hours ago I was listening to "My Home's Across the Blue Ridge Mountains" and I was hearing a tune that sounded much to me like Steve Earle's "Pilgrim". Again, not to suggest that the music was plagiarized It is not.  Steve Earle simply was drinking from a well that the Carter Family dug.

Ms Aumendsen needs to have this album preordered to make it a doable project. You can be part of bringing this music to a new generation by preordering yours today. Go to to look at the preordering packages.

And listen to everything you can find by Jubal's Kin and you will understand what I mean about this young lady. (And I do hope that she does not mind me using this picture of her. Incidentally, do a little research and see if you can find the picture of Sarah as a teenager with curled hair.)

Book Marked: Saddled Up And Hard Bound

Red Feather will soon have the second children's book based on his life in print. The first work, also by Linda Whittington Hurst was a fusion of stories about him and his famous father by the same name. It included stories rooted in the history of the wild Colonial Spanish mustangs of Corolla.

This book will focus on his life here with us.

Bonnie Gruenberg's spectacular book, "The Wild Horse Dilemma" recently hit the market. It is the best book that will ever be written about the wild horses of the Atlantic. This scholarly book is nearly 600 pages long. Their are several pictures of our some of our herd of formerly wild Corollas and Shacklefords and many references to our program and citations to this blog.

Croatoan will soon have a beautiful children's book coming out. Written and illustrated by Kay Kerr it looks at life through the eyes of the original stallion in our offsite breeding program. The old stallion passed away last fall, but this book and his descendants yet to be born will keep his memory alive. (In fact, I just got back from the horse lot checking to see if he has a little grandchild out there--not yet, but close enough so I am going back to check when I finish this post).

The first book written about our program was my book, "And A Little child Shall Lead Them: Learning From Wild Horses and Small Children". It has been around for a while and a few copies are still out there.

To my eye, the best thing that has ever been written about our program is Margaret Matray's long feature in the Virginian Pilot, "Teens Work Through The Pain By Taming Horses." She is a masterful writer and one of the best story tellers that I have ever encountered. Here is a link to that article-- .

Of course, there was an episode of the tv show 'Wild About Animals" filmed at our horse lot that was beautifully filmed and dead on accurate.  I am looking forward to David Grant coming up this spring to film an episode of "Horse Tails."

All of this media attention is vital to our efforts. The problem is that I know two things that very few others know:

1. The Corollas teeter on the brink of extinction.
2. We still have time to save them.

These books, articles and tv shows help get this secret out.

Training With 51% Control And 49% Affection: A Post From a Few Years Back

When training we should never cause the simple to become unnecessarily complicated. One of the most important ways to build trust with the horse is to practice forms of affection that the horse understands. The most important is close contact with sufficient strength so that it does not tickle the horse or seem like a signal to move off.

There are three key points to keep in mind: use the palm or a closed hand more than finger tips, keep one's body very close to the horse, preferably touching the horse, and rub firmly but do not pet as you might with a dog.

By allowing your body to completely relax you signal to the horse that he is safe and can completely relax. But too much emphasis on technique can lead to a failure to understand purpose.

The purpose of the contact is not to simulate affection, but to generate affection. In this world the only thing that cannot be faked is sincerity. There is no doubt that the horse will come to feel closer to the person that uses affectionate handling in a manner that the horse can understand. The other side is equally important. The person that allows himself to relax and gently handle the horse will develop sincere affection for the horse. The more one cares for the horse the more time one will spend with him. The more time one spends with him the closer the bond will be between the two.

The closer the bond---period. That's right the, developing the closest bond possible is the goal in itself. Everything else that gets between a horse and a person hampers that goal. Other goals--winning a race, bringing home a blue ribbon, earning the admiration (jealousy) of other horse owners are all hindrances to the only goal that matters for the horse.

Affection is something that the horse is entitled to. It is not something that he earns.

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