Sunday, September 27, 2015

Even Super Horses Can't Flourish In Dangerous Environments

Can That Pony Carry Someone My Size?

I should not make assumptions when people ask for my advice on equine issues. For years now when people have asked if a Corolla can carry an adult I have explained that of course they can. I tell them about Tradewind, the wild Corolla stallion shown above. He was captured because he was absolutely crippled with founder. It took a year or two of good natural trimming to make his feet completely comfortable for him. In 2011 he carried me over 200 hours on trails with the vast majority of those hours being spent trotting, gaiting, or cantering. He had no problem and still does not.

I weigh over 200 pounds. In a few hours I will saddle him up for a nice two hour ride that will be at a more leisurely pace. He loves to get out and be ridden in the woods.

So of course, I have always explained that, yes a Corolla can carry adult riders with no problem.

Only this morning did it occur to me to put a very important caveat in that assessment. A Corolla who lives under conditions of natural horse care can carry an adult with no problem.

I am not suggesting that a Corolla who is forced to spend time in a stable, allowed to become overweight, forced to wear shoes, and fed horse feed or grain could do so.

Our horses live outside 24/7, eat hay and forage, never enter a stable and never wear shoes, and as a result they are startlingly healthy. I am not suggesting that a Corolla who was forced to live a life of stables, shoes and sugar would be any healthier than a modern horse who is forced into that lifestyle.

September: It Was Worth it

It was brutal, but it was worth it. In addition to everything else we always do, we conducted an Introduction to Trail Riding class while simultaneously doing an Introduction To Natural Horsemanship Class.

After a short break we then had a round pen demonstration and as night fell we did a living history program over in the settler's farm. There were multiple newspaper stories and announcements about the events.

As a result of this frantic schedule and the great instruction that Lloyd, Lydia and Abigail provided we have about six or seven new riders.

And each of those new riders makes it a bit more likely that we will be able to help prevent the extinction of the Corollas, Shacklefords, Choctaws, Marsh Tackys, Galicenos, Baccas, and maybe even the Grand Canyons.

First Rate Kids

Abigail and Emily are in Texas as I type competing in the Horse of The Americas/American Indian Horse National Horse Show. Emily is pictured with the grandson of Choctaw Sundance and Abigail stands with his great grand daughter.

They embody what I want our program to help develop. Each ride quite well and train even better. Both are kind, generous, brave and compassionate. Natural horsemanship has made both of them more confident and more empathetic.

Both of them could grow up to run a program like ours.

And that is the best thing I could ever say about a kid.

Pot Luck--So Much Better Than No Luck At All

Now Ashley recently hit me with a great idea. The success of our program depends on many factors but one of the most importance is cohesiveness and a strong feeling of being a participant in something bigger than one's self. That means more than just showing up to ride.

Of course, we have need of many things to maintain everything that we do. Tack, organic fertilizer, wire, wormer, water tubs, pitchforks, reins, blankets, pads, rope halters, nails, staples, roof sealant, bags of 2-1 mineral, helmets and slews of other things that I do not think about until I need one.

We have a beautiful fire pit that the kids put together near the tack shed. The older kids love being around a fire at night. (so do the little ones). Ashley told me to have a pot luck dinner/bonfire/playing music at the tack shed event in October for our riders and our guests. But this potluck dinner will be different

I am to provide all of the food. Guests will not be asked to bring a dish. Instead everyone is asked to bring in affordable things we need such as those that I set out on the list above, which is not at all an all inclusive list. Riders can join in with other riders and purchase a larger ticket item.

We will have the event in a few weeks. (I will post the exact date later today).

We will have a great time and will get some much needed supplies.

Stay tuned.

A Buffet--You Only Need Pasture Hands Who Have No Hands

We have had nice rain for the past three days, but for the past six weeks it has been incredibly dry at the horse lot. This is the transitional time of the year for the pastures. In past years it was the time that I began to transition from dust to mud.

Not this year. We have never had so much greenery in the horse lot. Much of the credit goes to the microbes that were on the organic fertilizer that we have put down in most of the pastures. These microbes have lead to phenomenal root development. This summer I have not had an abundance of dung beetles as I have had in past years. Their shortage has been taken up by large night crawling worms who surface and gobble manure at an incredible rate. I have not raised any jumping worms for release but theses worms seem to be a feral variant of a strain of jumping worm. One does not realize how much manure they consume until one takes a close look at the pastures where they are abundant. In those pastures there are very few piles of manure to be found.

These worms also tunnel deeply into the soil and even penetrate compacted hard pan which reduces run off by increasing the amount of water can reach through the soil instead of ponding on it.

The dry weather may have reduced the effectiveness of an experiment that I am working on. I put down diakon radishes to reduce soil compaction and to bring nutrients to the surface where they can be used by the grasses. They are germinating now and I fear that an early frost will kill them before they can do their job.

My experiments on a very small scale with hugelculture are not conclusive--likely much to early to see an effect. I hope to see this tremendously expanded over the next decade with more water being absorbed into the soil and more microbes, and worms living in the decaying wood which lies just below the surface.

One of the most tedious jobs at the horse lot is trimming back undergrowth from the electric wire. The shortages created by having plants grow up the fences and contacting the strand of electric wire can render the protective strand of electric wire useless. This week I began to make the trek around the perimeter fencing (about 1.25 miles) with hedge trimmers in hand. I found only a few spots to cut. Our colonial Spanish goats, (primarily the Syfan does who are nursing little ones) have gobbled the honey suckle and other vines to the point of near elimination. Of course, with the root system those plants have they will be back--and so will my goats.

Wendell's knowledge of such matters, coupled with what I have picked up from Lloyd and Lydia about permaculture have greatly improved our pastures, but the biggest improvement is by way of weed reduction. I have never used commercial poison to kill weeds in the horse lot. Over the years the weeds always won by mid August. They out competed the grasses and when they died down they left dust for the fall-- soon to be converted to winter mud.

I purchased a commercial size zero turn mower. Daddy has kept the weeds down now for the entire summer, but for the time the mower was in the shop. This year the weeds lost. Grass grows thick with mowing and weeds can not take the blows from the blade.

 At Lydia's suggestion I purchased a subsoiler. This single bladed plow cuts through the hard pan, reduces soil compaction, increases water absorption and helps microbes grow at a faster rate. I hope to spend more time next year using that blade. I can already see a tremendous difference where Lloyd used it.

The last thing that has helped the pastures is diversity of grasses and clovers. Wendell showed me a great strain of fescue that is very drought resistant. I planted that and have added in several different plant species in most of the pastures--some will do well--most will not, but they will provide more diverse nutrition for the horses than will a monoculture pasture.

Grass-water-sunshine-movement-living in a herd: These are the keys to  maintaining a horse with a healthy body and a peaceful mind.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

On My Shoulder Makes Me Happy

The sun shines a little prettier at the horse lot than it does in other places.

And Thus it Was Written....

Some spectacular children's books have been written about about two Corolla horses who came to live at Mill Swamp Indian Horses. These horses, Red Feather and Croatoan, became part of our program to help prevent the extinction of the Corollas. Kay Kerr's book on Croatoan has the bet art work that I have ever seen in a children's book and "Red Feather Goes to School" is an innovative way to introduce very young children to natural horsemanship.

Kay Kerr has been invited to the Equus Film Festival in New York for a book signing and I think that she will also have with her my book, "And a Little child Shall Lead Them: Learning From Wild Horses and Little Children" and Linda W. Hurst new Red Feather book.

All of the books may be ordered through our website at

Look for more media announcements coming down the road. Perhaps another film from Rebecca Stevenson is in the works.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Coming For To Carry Me Home

I was delighted to read Bonnie Gruenberg's research that showed how what were then called "Chickasaw Horses" were brought into the Outer Banks in the early 1800's and bred into the Banker stock. Dr. Phil Sponenberg had always suggested that the Choctaws would be a good match to breed into the few remaining Corollas to help prevent the extinction of these historic horses.

This Sunday we will leave home at 6:00 am to travel to the western part of the state to pick up two Choctaws for our program. One is a sweet natured, beautiful little mare. The other is a Palomino Choctaw of Gilbert Jones stock who has not been handled and shows no interest in being handled.

I will catch him, halter train him and get him on the trailer. I have done this twice before with horses who have not been handled and were for all practical purposes wild. One took a few hours, the other took a very long day.

We shall see Sunday.

By bringing in straight Colonial Spanish horse genetics from the closest living relatives to the Corollas and adding slight bits of that breeding into the program, while working vigorously to keep out the outside blood of any modern breeds, we will be able to prevent the extinction of the Corollas. At the same time we will be bringing the Shackelfords, Choctaws, and Marsh Tackys before the eyes of the non horse owning public.

The off site breeding program will not only work to save the Corollas it will help resurrect the horse of the frontier at a time when that frontier did not extend to the Mississippi river.

These are the Genesis horses of our nation and we can't let them go the way of the passenger pigeon.

Twister, shown above is a loving young Choctaw who is simply anything that a family could want for a family horse. Don't be deceived by the pictures that you see in horse magazines. Only a small portion of the horse world participates in shows and other competitions as the primary purpose of their horse ownership. More people are looking for family horses.

And we are bringing back the perfect family horse.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Healing Ways

Edward Teach came to us nearly five years ago. He is a formerly wild Corolla stallion. This injury was likely the result of a wild sow's attack. This is what he looked like the day he arrived--after having spent two weeks at a veterinary hospital.

In the other picture he stands with Croatoan, neck healed, owned by one of my adult riders, regularly ridden and one of our more important breeding stallions for the off site breeding program. He is the father of Ashley's horse, Peter Maxwell.

This is a very important part of what we do.

Imagine the result when we recreate history by crossing him with a Choctaw mare as was done on the Outer Banks two hundred years ago.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Why It Is So Wrong To Shine Ole Massah's Shoes


If your horsemanship causes you to define yourself based on how well you adhere to a set of rules, your are suffering and your horse probably is also. If your horsemanship has not liberated you from mindless conformity to the edicts of the established horse world you are suffering and your horse is too.

Natural horsemanship is a window to see the real world. It gives one the opportunity to step out of the chains and leave the cave that Plato analogizes to the condition of those whose vision is limited by the illusions that they consider to be truths.

If working your horse does not cause you to grow closer to him as the days pass something is very wrong. When one seeks security by seeking a closeness to the horse, one becomes free. When one seeks security by constantly seeking out the rules that others have decreed about that relationship, one becomes a slave.

"Am I too tall for my horse? Is my four year old horse too young to ride? Which supplements should I give my horses? Am I sitting properly in a saddle? How can I best limit turnout time? If I use a bit am I being cruel? Is my horse fat enough?"

The list is endless. It is not a coincidence that the "answers" to questions like these always result in rules that financially benefit the horse industry.

Am I too tall for my horse? Yes--go buy a taller one. Is my four year old too young to ride? Yes--go buy a series of training videos on how to prepare your horse ad nauseum before a saddle touches its back? Am I sitting improperly in the saddle? Yes--buy more videos, and get a new saddle. If I use a bit am I being cruel? Yes, try every version of the $7.00 rope halter on the market, but make sure you pay at least $75.00 for it so you will know that you are getting a quality product. Is my horse in need of more fat on his frame? Yes, buy more feed and supplements, after all a fat horse is a happy horse and the obesity shows everyone how much you love your horse. Should I limit turnout time? Yes--if your horse is allowed to move about freely he might injure himself. Make sure that he is stable boarded, wearing shoes and standing on very expensive bedding.

For years it has been obvious to me that horses suffer horribly because of the dictates of the established horse world, but I am only now seeing the damages that those dictates to to horse owners.

A horse world that causes someone who loves their horse with all of their being to be  torn because of a perceived need to sell the horse because she has been told she "looks" too tall for the horse is a pitiful victim of those dictates.

My disdain for the established horse world is rooted in the fact that it trades pain for profit. It makes money by promoting values that hurt horses.

 The established horse world's disdain for people like me is that we refuse to pretend that they do otherwise.If one spends enough time with one's horse one simply finds that their is not enough time left for all of the scraping and bowing to Ole Massah and Ole Missus that the established horse world demands of us.

Monday, September 14, 2015

It's Just Not About The Horses Anymore

Sometimes things just jump out of your mouth before they have fully settled into your mind. Usually one regrets such things. On the rarest of occasions something real and true is what jumps out. Such a thing happened during the first session of our Introduction to Natural Horsemanship Session a couple of weeks ago.

As I have many times before, I said that the value of Natural Horsemanship is not merely to produce better horses, but, instead, it is to produce better people. But my mouth just kept going and went on to say, that there was no way that I would spend so much money and put so much effort into something just for the horses and that it was the people that matter.

It is months like this that really drive that point home. I am exhausted from the additional programming that we are doing but am much more exhausted by the demands to water the animals during another period of drought. We are a non profit. No one here gets paid. When program participants are unable to pay monthly participation fees I cover bills.

Yes, I have reached the point in my life where it is the people that matter. Oh yes, I certainly hope that what we are doing prevents the extinction of the Bankers (the horses of the Outer Banks of North Carolina). I certainly hope that our efforts to publicize and promote other strains of nearly extinct Colonial Spanish horses helps those strains. Those goals are at the heart of what we do and they are not being set aside.

But they are not the most important things to me now.

Formal aspects of what we do, like our program held weekly for those in the in patient program at our local Veteran's Hospital and Ashley Edwards training programs through Road to Repair, LLC are among the most important things that we do. The improvement in the lives of the participants in our program is one of the most important achievements of what we do. The building of the confidence of young people to the degree that they understand that as adults they can administer their own breed conservation programs like ours that save horses, and people, is one of the most important things that we do.

I am always looking for ways to improve what we do but there is one central guiding principle that is absolutely essential to making the program work. We must never seek to placate the established horse world. We must never seek their approval. We must never extend an olive branch in their direction.

There can be no compromise with that world. It is a world of greed and competition instead of generosity and cooperation. It is a world that happily trades the suffering and slaughter of horses for profit. It is a world that sets up artificial costs to horse ownership that places owning a horse beyond the reach of working families and makes horses into toys for little rich girls.

It is a world in which I have absolutely no place.