Sunday, July 31, 2016

Shock and Ahhhh.. Our Breeding Program--A Fork In The Road

The brunt of the work of breed conservation that we have done over the years is embodied in the Corolla offsite breeding program that we began. This effort, which seeks to place Corollas in the hands of families that will agree to breed a small number of foals and seek to place them in the hands of other breeders who will do the same, has been successful on a small scale.

Of course, we are a 501 (c) 5 non profit breed conservation program so strategic decisions may be made with a focus on effectiveness instead of profit. At the same time, funds are limited so strategies for preventing the extinction of the Corollas cannot be made without considering our long term viability as an organization.

We can pursue more than one strategy at a time. I see no hope in trying to convert the established horse world or to seek their acceptance though competition in their shows and other events (with the possible exception of endurance racing).

In looking at the future of our  program I have several factors to consider. I have to look at our assets:

The diversity of our Colonial Spanish horse strains that we seek to preserve and promote. Although our primary emphasis is on the Corollas, we also work to preserve and promote Choctaws, Grand Canyons, Marsh Tacky's, Galicenos, and Baccas.

Our unique physical environment.  We demonstrate the effectiveness of natural horse care. We demonstrate proper use of the round pen. Our obstacle course that we use to build horse and rider confidence, the Amusement Park, is a tremendous asset. The colonial livestock that wander around the horse lot put our horses in their proper historical setting. All of this  sits alongside our replica 1650's era settler's farm.

Our capacity to provide entertaining educational programs. Our round pen demos are first rate and often have large segments of them presented by people who not only are too young to drive, but only recently became too old to order off of the children's menu. We have done living history programs and have had many speakers come in and present extraordinary programs for our riders. As we get more into use of permaculture techniques we have an interesting environmental story to tell. Lastly, our unique music program that teaches ancient songs being played on ancient, and often homemade, instruments allows us to do programs that not only are tremendous fun, but provide significant cultural education.

Our capacity to produce foals for Corolla preservation is unique in the nation. We have assembled a sufficient foundation herd of Corollas along with closely related strains for strain crossing which will provide genetic diversity to breed for many generations to come.  The result will be larger Corollas--not tall and without type--but taller than they are in the wild. Doing so will reduce a significant part of the resistance to these horses--the belief that they are too small to be ridden by adults.

With all of these assets in mind I am carefully considering a major change in the focus of our efforts at breed conservation. I am continuing to think out loud and will be putting up some ideas for a change in direction soon.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


Andrew took his new Marsh Tacky stallion out for his first halter training--horse was perfect, don't know how he could have been better.

Andrew was pleased--Said that the horse did better than he expected--asked me if it was better than I expected.

I realized that it was a question that I could not answer--first time that I ever realized that point about where I am with understanding horses. I had to explain, and I fear that I did a poor job of doing so, that I simply had no expectations other than I expected the horse to act like a horse and I expect to deal with any reaction that the horse has with only that expectation in mind.

I do not know the specific point in which I stopped having expectations for horses, but whatever day it was was one of the most important days in my understanding of training.

Because I expect a horse to act like a horse I:

do not get my feelings hurt by the horse's actions;
do not get shocked at a horse's reactions;
do not waste my time trying to spin out scenario's that make sense to a human to explain why a horse acted a given way;
do not pretend that failing to teach a horse shows virtue because I recognize that he merely "needs to go slowly.".

Natural horsemanship students do well to fully understand the concepts that underlie horse behavior instead of merely learning techniques to train a horse. The former is to play music by ear. The latter is to be chained to a sheet of music.

Andrew is doing great at focusing on concepts and realizes that the techniques will fall into place when the concepts are fully understood.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Gwaltney National Homecoming 2016

Another year and another big weekend at the horse lot--The Gwaltney National Homecoming, a nationwide family reunion where descendants of Thomas Gwaltney, who arrived in America in the 1630's, will return to the land where our family began. About six miles through the woods from the horse lot was the first Gwaltney land grant.

Our horse lot is on Gwaltney land. It was the farm of my grand father, Horace Gwaltney. Friday night we will pay music at the event. Saturday morning many participants will be out at the horse lot and on Saturday afternoon Gerald Gwaltney and I will present a program on the life here in World War II.

This weekend is a great illustration of the educational aspect of our program. Just one more thing that makes us unique.

(Spicer, a Spanish Colonial Goat is shown above along with a great shot of last summer's riders and our toaco arn.)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Tidewater Area Clinic: Ending Riding Anxiety and Fear Of Horses

Saturday, August 13, from 9-3, at Mill Swamp Indian Horses near Smithfield, VA, we will conduct a very important session aimed both at novices who are afraid of horses and those who have lost their confidence in themselves as riders.

Participants will not ride in this session. No one will be embarrassed or shamed into trying to change their feelings. Instead we will look at the root causes of this fear and offer strategies to overcome it.

Few things improve the quality of one's life as much as developing a close relationship with a horse and it is a horrible irony that many of those who would benefit the most from such a relationship are prevented from doing so because of their anxiety.

For over a decade I have been teaching riders, both children and adults, how to deal with riding anxiety and fear of horses. I recognize that this fear has different causes for different people. For example, a person with PTSD who has experienced severe trauma will generally benefit from a different approach than will one whose fear is rooted in complete inexperience with animals larger than dogs.

There are no gimmicks or quick fixes. The solutions lie in both learning to understand horses and learning to understand one's self.

Topics covered will include:

1. Understanding what flight, freeze or fight means to a horse.
2. Understanding a horse's fears and motivations.
3. Understanding how to communicate with a horse in a manner that the horse can understand.
4. Understanding why you fear loosing control of the horse and why the horse fears being uncontrolled.
5. Understanding your personal obstacles in developing a close, comfortable relationship with a horse.
6. Understanding how to regain your sense of confidence after a traumatic event with a horse.
7. Understanding real safety issues with horses and how to make you and the horse safer.

I am not a mental health professional. My life has two separate facets that complement each other. Often what I learn from one side can be directly applied to the other. I am a horse trainer and riding instructor who is also the Deputy prosecutor for Isle of Wight. For over fifteen years I have worked with victims of severe abuse and trauma in the courtroom. And for about the same length of time I have been teaching people to improve their lives by developing close relationships with horses.

We are a 501(c)5 non profit corporation. None of us get paid for what we do. I want to limit this session to 10 participants in order to allow each participant to gain everything possible from the session. The cost for the session is $76.00. To register contact me at

This topic is very important to me. I have seen a lot of suffering healed in the horse lot and I want to share that healing.

Share this post with anyone that you think might benefit.

Friday, July 15, 2016

A Shift In Emphasis: Changing Our Preservation Program? A Confessioinal

It likely is a character flaw, but I know myself well enough to know so that I have utterly no desire for self improvement. Over seven billion people on this planet--don't like the way I do things then go find somebody else.

So in every endeavor in which I am involved I bring whatever strengths that I might have to the table along with every single weakness. I have a wide range of peculiarities. I have a near fetish about honesty and integrity that goes way beyond the point that others understand. I do not at all mind if others dress nicely, have beautiful hair, and stylish clothes  (not being sarcastic here at all), but for myself I abhor efforts to "improve" my appearance. Wearing dentures to make it look like I have more teeth than the average chicken seems profoundly dishonest to me. I simply cannot do it.

I have never had a new vehicle. I would feel deeply ashamed of myself if I spent that kind of money to impress others. This has nothing to do with frugality. I am not frugal in regard to overall spending. In fact, over the first decade of running our program I lost much more actual cash than our first home cost. I continue to spend a fortune on the program each year.

I only mention these peculiarities because of the impact that they will have on the direction that our program takes. I could never imagine the possibility that I would be involved in a program that would turn a kid away because they cannot afford to participate. (Merely typing that sentence sent a tinge of anger through me.) So that is absolutely out of the question.

But that peculiarity does not hamper our program. What does hamper its development is my discomfort at selling horses at high prices. By "high" I mean more than a working family can afford.

However, part of the tremendous success that those who seek to preserve the Marsh Tackys have had is that they generally charge a pretty high price for them. Americans think that things are worth more if they cost more. The concept of linking sales price to the value of a horse is alien to me.

And that belief hurts our efforts.

And I am going to have to set aside my feelings on the matter and start selling foals for real money. I know that, but I dread it like most people dread a root canal.

To over simplify enormously, I see three viable options for a breed conservation program to preserve the Corollas and some of the other rare strains of Colonial Spanish Horses that we seek to preserve and promote--the cluster method, the viral method, and the shock and awe method.

The cluster method is pure conservation. it requires one to assemble a breeding population, allow them to breed while maintaining them in a safe and appropriate setting. The most successful cluster method of which I know is that which surrounds the Chincoteague pony. I believe that the Chincoteagues are the only population of wild horses whose future is truly secure. They will likely still be on those beaches in 100 years.

But the cluster method requires an enormous tract of land if it is to become anything more than a hoarding disaster waiting to happen. A few years ago I gave serious thought toward a cluster method preservation program. A huge tract of cut over and timber adjacent to my land was for sale. I thought about simply seeking to raise the money to buy the land, create a preserve and allow the horses to live naturally in its enclosure and rounding up foals and yearlings for adoption as a herd management strategy.

The unspoken part of the cluster method option is that it assumes that one day someone will come along and make a major effort to promote and preserve these horses.

I am very uncomfortable with treating the idea of holding on and hoping as a "plan."

The viral method of breed conservation is what we currently practice. We have been successful in a small scale in using that method. Simply put, our effort focuses on creating a unique riding/training/breeding program that can be affordably emulated all over the country. We work to spread off site breeding programs like a virus. We publicize the success of our program in every way that we know how in order to help that virus spread. We create the right conditions for the virus to spread, like low cost and ease of management though natural horse care. We seek to spread the virus to novices and newcomers to the horse world instead of bowing and scraping to the demands of the established horse world.

This method is working, slowly and steadily. It has several drawbacks--the greatest of which is one that cannot be avoided--my death. It is inevitable--might not be for thirty more years, but it will happen, and when it does I will have to be replaced by someone who is willing to make running the program the focus of their life. I work hard to encourage my riders to see the potential of being lifelong horseman by running a program like ours. Several of my big girls could do it--but life has a way of getting in the way. And regardless of their skills they have but little control over their futures.

Perhaps our best hope is to combine the best of what we have with a "Shock and Awe" method of preservation and promotion. That is what I am considering now.

More about that in a future post.

(Want to see how our program is working right now? Look at Lloyd and Burns Red In The Sun, shown in the picture above. He is the first colt born of a Bacca stallion on the east coast.)

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Strain Crossing: The Karma Farms Approach

Which is preferable, strain preservation or cross strain breeding which increases genetic diversity while still maintaining the purity of the breed? Without the preservation of nearly extinct strains of historic Colonial Spanish Horses there would be no strains to cross.

Both breeding approaches can and should go on at the same time. The first pure Corolla foal born in Texas was born within the last week or two at Karma Farms, the same farm that for many years has given us the very best of Colonial Spanish Horses by crossing what are considered the best horses from different strains.

Our emphasis has always been on strain preservation. However, I cannot argue that strain preservation produces the best horse.

Not after yesterday I can't.

La Primera is pictured above as a yearling.  Abigail has done a wonderful job of training this little horse. She is very high percentage Choctaw but carries a great deal of Grand Canyon lineage, along with a few other strains of Colonial Spanish horse.

Yesterday morning was the first time that I have ever ridden her. She, even at this early stage in her overall training as a trail horse, was showing me everything that I want in a horse--calm, smart, alert, great endurance, multiple gaits and extreme comfort to ride.

I rode her again last night and she was even better. After I put a few hundred miles on her strength will go through the roof. She will be a super star.

Her lineage goes back to Karma Farms but she comes from the Simm's family at Lothlarian Farm in Texas.

So we will continue to do both, breeding to prevent the extinction of historic strains of Colonial horses and on occasion, crossing those strains to produce super horses. I am particularly interested in developing southeastern Colonial Spanish horses by crossing Corolla, Shackleford, Choctaw and Marsh Tacky lines.

We have to plan for the long term--but even more importantly, we have to work with the long term in mind.

That is what they have been doing at Karma Farms for years and that is what we will also do.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Mind Of A Marsh Tacky...

is right in line with the mind of a Corolla or a Choctaw--calm, easy to teach and with a strong need to bond closely with people.

The Marsh Tacky is likely very closely related to the Banker, though taller and leaner built than nearly all Bankers. The few surviving Marsh Tackys have been bred domestically for many generations. This accounts for some of the difference in appearance.

Consider this yearling filly. We acquired her from D.P. Lowther's herd in South Carolina. She had minimal handling. Of course she was not trained to lead at halter. That took about twenty minutes for her to learn. She accepted a saddle on her back in about another twenty minutes. (Of course she will not have a rider on her for a very long time. The more that a horse can learn as a yearling the easier the transition to being ridden will be.

She will be an important part of the foundation stock that we use in the Corolla off site breeding program. In a few more years she will be bred to a Corolla stallion. That offspring will then be bred to a Corolla/Shackleford intra-strain cross. From then on straight Corollas will be bred into future generations.

If you want to be part of this breeding program contact us now--we will have several foals born in 2017 who will be looking for homes with families who will continue the effort to stave off the extinction of this historic strain of Colonial Spanish horse.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

A Fork In The Road

Those of you who have been reading this blog for years have probably noticed that the posts seem to have different purposes. Most are written to inform and/or entertain. On occasion I write simply to think out loud and in hopes that I will get some useful input from readers.

This is one of those times.

A bit of background--we are a 501(c)5 non-profit breed conservation corporation. That is not how we started out. We were once a for profit operation. In 2008 we began to acquire a few wild Corollas from the Outer Banks of North Carolina, likely the oldest and rarest distinct genetic grouping of American horse. We began the effort to breed these horses domestically in an effort to stave off their extinction.

These wild horses had to be gentled and trained and the other major facet of our program is to teach natural horsemanship to children who eventually tame and train these horses. Over the years we have added other strains of nearly extinct Colonial Spanish Horses to our program.

We now seek to preserve and promote such historic strains as the Choctaws, Grand Canyons, Baccas, Marsh Tacky, Galicenos, Brislawns along with our Corollas and Shacklefords. The Choctaws, Corollas, Marsh Tackys and Shacklefords All descend from horses that were brought to the southeast by Spanish explorers. The Galicenos are Colonial Spanish horses associated with Mexico. The Baccas, Grand Canyons, and much of the Brislawn strain came from the western part of our nation. Again--all the same breed, but different strains in that breed.

The breed, the Colonial Spanish horse, is in its entirety  endangered. There are likely fewer than 3,000 horses of all of these strains combined. Of that sparse number only a fraction have been trained to saddle. As a result, very few experienced horse people have ever even seen a Colonial Spanish horse, and only a relative handful of Americans have ever ridden one.

So here we sit--guarding a treasure while trying to protect and share it, all at the same time.

My focus has always been on increasing the number of satellite breeding facilities. Maye I need to add another strategy to this mix.

More on that later.

Friday, July 8, 2016

To Fight The Darkness You Must Fight Dirty

Fighting depression and anxiety disorders is a full time job that requires full time commitment. No one ever gets better without putting tremendous effort into the struggle..

There are no accidental healings.

The answers are not easy but they never come until the questions are asked.

Here is a hard, basic question that goes to the heart of getting better--why is this illness so much more prevalent in modern society than in agricultural cultures?

I have no doubt that we are genetically predisposed to farming and animal husbandry. It is a simple evolutionary fact. Those who were drawn to farming survived at much higher rates than hunter/gatherers.They produced more off spring and came to dominate the genetic pool

There is also the suggestion that microbes in soil may be necessary for a human brain to function correctly. If so, there is a direct link between the soil and happiness.

The Darkness rarely leaves on its own accord. It thrives in seclusion and blossoms in inactivity.

But the Darkness can't live forever when it is forced to enter a shadow. Getting outside, getting in the sunlight, getting into situations where one is constantly able to see one's shadow is toxic to the Darkness.

And one sees one's shadow in a horse lot. One sees one's shadow in a pig pen. One sees one's shadow in a poultry yard. And one sees one's shadow in a goat pasture.

But there is no shadow in a darkened room. There is no shadow in a bedroom with tightly drawn shades. A bottle of liquor does not generate the light needed to create a shadow.

There are no shadows in coffins.

Plant a tree. Pick a fruit. Feed a pig. Gather an egg. Slaughter a goat.---get your hands dirty.

And fight the Darkness.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Another Great Corolla In The Woods

Little Hawk, son the the famous Red Feather, had his first ride in the woods today. Yesterday I rode him in the round pen. Last night I ponied him in full tack on a night ride.

This morning Terry rode him in the woods.

He is going to be great!

Monday, July 4, 2016

When I Started I Did Not Plan To Ride 1000 Miles In Six Months

Sometimes these things just creep up on you and before you know it--bam! you are caught up in it. I planned to ride 1000 miles in a year. Eventually I decided to keep the GPS on and go for it in half that time.

These rides were about 85 percent cantering, trotting or gaiting for the first four months. For the last two months they were much more than 95 percent cantering, trotting or gaiting. I rode 300 miles in the last 22 days.

My main horses were all Colonial Spanish Horses. Joey, a Choctaw, was my fastest ground coverer. Ta Sunka Witco a high percentage Choctaw was my most comfortable to ride at a lope (though his lope was much slower than Joey's trot). Holland, my Shackleford, gave me smooth gaited rides and sure footedness that I could always could on when riding through the woods. Twister, a Choctaw, improved with every 10 mile run.

I rode a few other Corollas but the horses listed above were pretty much the string that took me through this. Towards the end instead of running a horse from 7-8 am, I began to ride much earlier, generally around five am. Terry, my good friend and paralegal joined me for most of the 5:00 am rides. Of course she loved the ride but I think that she was also riding because she did not want me running a horse very hard alone in the woods so long before the sun rose.

A few odd notes on the effort:

1. I did not get a single saddle sore.
2. The girth's that Pam makes from mohair greatly out perform any of the other girths that I used.
3. Lost over ten pounds on the last 11 days of the ride--riding very hard, many hours in the saddle each day and low carbohydrate diet.
4. A conditioned horse can be counted on to move at speed for ten miles at a time.
5. #4 is only true if we are talking about a horse living in a natural horse care environment.
I can not make such a claim for horses trapped in lives of sugar, shoes and stables.
6. Every single horse, on every single ride carried more than the silly 20% weight carrying capacity myth that so many riders fall prey to.
7.   A bit of perspective on distance: Norfolk Virginia is 983 miles from Des Moines, Iowa and 1009 miles from Kansas City, Missouri  and 1012 miles from Havana, Cuba.

1000 miles in six months at age 56 while serving as Deputy prosecutor for Isle of Wight County and running our program, and being significantly over weight.

Take away point-- you are not too old, too busy, or too out of shape to get in the kind of hours in the saddle that you and your horse deserve.

What's Coming Up

Very little done on the blog lately--been busy--rode over 300 miles in 22 days and rode 1000 miles in six months--now I will be getting back into training, writing, and program development over the next six months.

In the meantime--here is a shot of Burns Red In The Sun--the first foal born on the east coast from a Bacca stallion and Taney Town, our new Marsh Tacky yearling filly.

Good stuff will be coming!