Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Using Your Free $10,000.00 Equestrian Gym

For about six weeks I have been very unhealthy and have become rather weak with a tremendous loss of cardiovascular fitness. For a while another round of Rocky Mountain Spotted fever was suspected but that has been ruled out. For the first six months of 2016 I rode 1002 miles--with very little of that at a walk--very, very little. For those of you who ride hard you already know how much such intense riding does to build he condition of the rider.

Bottom line--I was in good shape, for a man my age, or for a man of any age.

Things started fading and I got weaker as I rode less and I rode much less as I got weaker. Got weak enough so that it has taken a big toll even on my ability to work in the office. So, it is time to reclaim my health.

High Intensity Interval Training is my preferred mode of exercise--takes less time gives faster results and coupled with 50-100 miles of riding each week gives me a pretty good base of exercise. I have no interest in being a body builder. I want to build the muscles that I use for riding. I want them to have power and endurance.

That means that my core muscles have to be the focus of my exercise. I just finished a workout that I hope to build on that really seems ideal for building riding muscles. It was quick. It was hard and it will be effective.

Best of all, although the major piece of exercise equipment cost about $10,000.00 it came at no cost.

Very simple session--walk the drive way while curling 5 pound weights and on the third lap put down the five pound weights and do one lap curling 25 pound weights. Repeat several circuits.

By then I was warmed up enough for the meat of the program. I put the car in neutral and pushed it up and down the driveway for several circuits.

Back, abdominal muscles, obliques, quadriceps and calves all worked very hard. I don't think that I could have gotten much better of a workout for building riding muscles at the most expensive gym around.

And my gym cost me nothing.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Horse Brushes and Paint Brushes

Much is written and is slowly becoming understood about how working with horses helps emotional healing. It is still more of a mystery than it is understood.

From my limited observation, it seems that working with horses can open doors to creativity. Here are two award winning paintings that Pam did of two Corolla stallions and a Shackleford stallion. I do not think that working horses creates talent where none existed but I think that it is possible that it helps talents surface or perhaps merely clears the mind so one can take the time to create.

I see creativity coming out in painting but also in other creative endeavors--Jackie's colonial garden, Wendell's gates, Pam's girth's, Lloyd's quirts, bosals, and dulcimer work, Kay's writing, Ashley's cooking and I even see it in non-tangible creation.

It seems that natural horsemanship might even open the door to musical creativity. When one considers how many of our riders can take the stage playing instruments that they had never touched 18 month's ago it seems like more than a coincidence.

This will be my next meandering study--the link, if any, between natural horsemanship and creativity.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Big Events For 2017 At Mill Swamp Indian Horses

We are a non profit organization and are governed by a Board of Directors which met this week. We have approved plans to hold two major events next year and will be looking into doing a third.

We have not chosen dates for the events at this time:

Virginia American Indian Horse Festival: Featuring Living history, book signings, stone age technology, hide tanning, horse training demonstrations, music,  black powder firearms and tours of our diverse herd of Colonial Spanish horses. It will be the first such event we have held in a decade. Our inaugural American Indian Horse Festival attracted nearly 900 visitors. We will likely have a few horses for sale at that event.

Virginia Rare Livestock and Heritage Breed Festival: Featuring rare and nearly extinct breeds of livestock, poultry and horses. with our replica 1650's farm site as a back drop. We hope to have demonstrations of working livestock such as mules and perhaps even oxen plowing. We will have a Parade of Strains of Colonial Spanish horses. We will seek to provide a showcase for heirloom plants and vegetables.  This will be our biggest event of the year and we hope to have several horses for sale at that event.

Warrosquoyacke Native American Expo: We hope to have an event featuring members of local tribes demonstrating native living skills, dances and crafts. Demonstrations of horse taming using training techniques developed by Argentinian Indians will be one of the days highlights.

If you want to be on the email list  either as a potential exhibitor or simply as a visitor send me an email at

It is going to be a great year for our program and for the efforts to prevent the extinction of these rare, historic horses.

Burns Red In the Sun is pictured above. His father is a Bacca Colonial Spanish horse. I understand that only two adult Bacca stallions exist today. That is why he is so important and he is only one of several horses that we have from various  endangered Colonial Spanish horse strains. Corollas, Shacklefords, Choctaws, Marsh Tackys, a Galiceno, and Grand Canyons are just some of the horses that you will see at Mill Swamp Indian Horses.

More information will come on this log as plans for the events develop.

The Tragic Realization

...that hits when one realizes that,though only 22 years old, no picture better than this one can ever be taken of you.

There are no fashion accessories that make one look better than a solid Corolla stallion.

Making Your Pasture Great For The Horse and The Environment

Get your priorities straight. You are not trying to make the perfect golf course, lawn or cemetery. You need to maximize your land so that it produces the greatest amount of horse healthy vegetation with the least amount of runoff possible, at the least cost possible.

1. Do a soil test to determine ph level. A correct balance will give optimum growth and will likely reduce the amount of fertilizer that you use.

2. Check with your extension agent for seed planting recommendations for your area, but do not create a monoculture. Plant several different species of plants and encourage beneficial forbs such as dandy lions.

3. Mow instead of using herbicide. Mowing makes grasses flourish and either destroys or minimizes most summer weeds.

4. Use a subsoiling plow to cut through compaction, allow water penetration of the soil and to fully aerate the ground. This radically reduces runoff and mud accumulation. Might be the best kept secret in pasture management. A subsoiling plow is cheap and along with lime are likely to give you the most payoff for the cost.

5. Hire free labor. Worms and beetles do not charge for the work that they do. Composting techniques that involve earth worm production will not only create great compost but will also give you thousands of earth worms that can be gently transferred to the pasture. They will work to create better soil for years to come. Learn all about the dung beetles that live in your area. Encourage their proliferation. They can bury up to 40% of the manure in the pasture, reducing runoff, aerating the soil, turning the manure into a soil amendment, and radically reducing the number of parasite eggs in the pasture by putting them underground where they will not be consumed by the horses. Remove horses from the pasture for about 30 hours after giving them ivermectin wormers. That drug kills dung beetles.

6. Plant diakon radishes in areas of soil compaction. Keep the horses away from them until they are fully grown. Will reduce soil compaction and will bring nutrients up to the near surface where grasses will be able to use them.

7. Plant winter cover which will reduce runoff and provide some grazing over many of the colder months. I like various rye grasses and clover. (Insulin resistant horses should be kept away from clover as should all obese horses.)

8. Research rotational grazing, become an expert on it and use it as much as possible on your land.

9. Be very proactive in fighting erosion. Seed bare spots. Washes and ruts can often heal themselves by simply placing large tangles of natural baling string from your hay in the fastest flowing parts of the gorges. This slows the flow and allows the soil to become sediment, healing the soil's wound by accretion.

10. Cut swales to slow runoff and consider digging a few retention ponds which can be very shallow and can e dug with a hand shovel. If the soil is not too sandy fence those ponds off from the horses and plant native wetland plants in and around the ponds (e.g willows, cat tails, etc--but no red maple. Wilting red maple leaves are deadly for horses.)

11. There are a thousand reasons to refrain from feeding your horse commercial horse feeds but one of the reasons is that doing so produces wastes that are much higher in ammonia and phosphates than a diet of grass, hay and forbs.

12. Wind row composting is often the best way to deal with waste. The compost forms faster than with traditional methods of composting. Feed round bales in a waste area of the pasture. With a tractor blade make wind rows of the manure and leftover hay for this composting. Very little labor involved, great place to grow earth worms, actually reduces the number of flies that hatch out in wet hay and straw.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A Small Breeding Band Of Your Own

This is the time to become involved in preventing the extinction of the Corolla Colonial Spanish Mustangs. The Corolla off site breeding program works to provide sufficient genetic diversity to our foundation herd of formerly wild Corolla horses. We do so by bringing in other closely related strains of Colonial Spanish horses such as Choctaws and Marsh Tackys. Our Shackleford line is of the same strain as the Corollas but comes from a different island and allows for the injection of intra strain diversity.

No modern horses are used in the breeding program.

Next summer we will have several foals born. You can reserve a foal now and we can even discuss providing a stallion and mare to you to allow you to become a satellite breeding program.

We are a nonprofit breed conservation program. As such we have no interest in making money off of the sale of these horses.

If you want to become and active participant in this effort send an email to for more information.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

A Rumble In The Jungle

Muhammad Ali was about to enter the ring to fight the much younger George Foreman for the heavy weight championship in 1974.  His locker room was filled with gloom. His team of long time supporters and ring crew showed the wear that months of hearing the constant drum beat that Ali was too old and Foreman was too strong--that Ali would not simply be beaten he would be humiliated, had played on them.

The scene was described as like being in a morgue.

Then Ali picked up his head, looked over at Bundini Brown and said "I'm goin' dance. I"m goin' dance." Brown repeated the refrain. Soon the entire locker room was filled with chants of " You goin' dance!"

Ali took on George Foreman and took back the heavy weight Championship of the world in that fight. He danced.

Stitch is a Corolla stallion about ten years old. He is filled with fear and anxiety. Gentling him and training him to saddle had seemed like an impossible task. The progress that my youngest daughter, Ashley Edwards, made with him in 72 hours is beyond anything that I have ever seen with a scared horse. I wish everyone who is interested horses or people could see what is happening.

When Ashley gets in the ring with Stitch I never know exactly what is going to happen--but I know one thing for sure ---They goin' dance! They goin' dance!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Chasm: Why It Is So Difficult to Understand Horses

We eat meat. He is eaten.

Our greatest desire is for autonomy. His greatest desire is for security.

We crave excitement. He longs for peace.

We have him run hard when we want excitement. He runs his hardest when he sprints away from danger.

We embrace change. He seeks security.

We abhor boredom. He seeks security.

We take risks. He seeks security.

We will accept anarchy if it provides sufficient autonomy. He seeks security.

We pine for adventure. He seeks security.

It has taken me a life time to understand it, but there is no trust--no real relationship with a horse unless one can provide the horse with a sense of security. And therein lies the part of the story most difficult for humans to understand. Our desperate desire for autonomy blinds us to the horses' need to be controlled in order to feel secure. We cannot come to understand the horse until we have spent several thousand hours watching how he interacts with a herd of horses. A lifetime spent with horses who live without the comfort of a herd not only does not help one understand horses, it greatly hinders the process.

In every band, or herd, there is a leader (or two in rare occasions). His leadership style does not appeal to us. He looks to us to be a bully, but the members of his band often panic merely from being separated from him.

We train with 51% control and 49% affection. The result is a herd of very secure horses who seek out human attention because simply standing near a human that provides that control and affection provides them that security.

And if you do not understand this it does not matter how perfect you mimic the techniques of great trainers and clinicians you will never achieve the results that are attainable by simply understanding the key motivation of horse's soul.