Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Corolla Foals Will be Coming This Spring and Summer

And one of the best ones is likely to be the offspring of Edward Teach, shown above, and Monique, a Choctaw mare and granddaughter of Rooster, a stunning wild stallion from Black Jack mountain.

Edward had already been in a veterinary hospital for two weeks when he arrived at Mill Swamp Indian Horses. As the picture shows, even after two weeks of treatment, the wound that he received in the wild, (likely from a wild hog)was horrific. As the top picture shows, he healed wonderfully. He belongs to two of my adult riders. We healed him, tamed him and trained him. He is a beautiful stallion. You may have seen a segment on Wild About Animals in which he was prominently featured.

Edward has produced one foal, Ashley Edwards' great horse, Peter Maxwell, who is often used in Road To Repair programs. Peter has Edward's sharp mind and gentle spirit.

Bonnie Gruenberg's spectacular research uncovered written references to American Indian tribal horses, specifically the Chickasaws, being bred into the the Banker horses such as those remaining in Corolla in the 17th Century. By using straight Choctaw mares in the Corolla Off site breeding program we are not crossing modern blood into these horses. We are restoring what has been lost. While at the same time producing the perfect family horse--gentle, sweet natured, extraordinary endurance, and smooth , easy gaits.

I expect the foal to be born in June or July. At weaning age its price will be $1,500.00 and as it ages and is trained the price will increase. If you want to be part of the effort to prevent the extinction of these historic horses you can place a deposit down now to reserve a 2017 foal.

We will likely have several foals born to the program this summer.

It is going to be a great year. For more information send us an email at and check out our website at We are a 501 (c) 5 breed conservation non profit organization.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Using The Marsh Tacky Model

We have four Marsh Tacky's in our horse lot. (Here is a picture of Andrew's, wonderful stallion, Mingo.) These horses were expensive, none were trained to saddle, all are extraordinary creatures. I must rate them among the best horses that I have ever encountered.

For nearly a decade we have been working to preserve and promote their cousins to the north, the nearly extinct Banker horses of Corolla and Shackleford. In doing so, I have made a fundamental error that most of those who breed Marsh Tackys do not make. I am not a businessman. I have placed colts at little or no charge from our breeding program because they were going to great homes.

I have never charged enough for any of these horses. That has hurt the effort to preserve them. Americans equate the value of a horse with its sales price. It is a belief that baffles me, but it runs deep in our culture. Ironically, the very best horses that I produced I gave away at no price at all.

With our foals to be born this year we are going to follow the Marsh Tacky model of pricing (which is in line with what Paso Fino breeders did years ago) and sell the foals for very significant money. We also will be keeping several and training them to saddle when old enough and then will be charging an amount in excess of what one would pay for a well trained Quarter horse.

The fundamental point for breeders of rare horses to keep in mind is that America pays very big money for bottled water instead of drinking that cheap liquid that runs out of the tap.

I recognize that I am not a horse dealer. I am a horse evangelist and all of my preaching will not be enough to save these horses. It will take dealers and businessmen to save them. I do not bring that strength to the table.

Horses And Heroes

Many years ago, Rebecca was fairly new to the program--its been that long ago-she looked over and told me, "I bet that you are a good father for daughters."

 It stuck in my head for several reasons. I am much more comfortable with girls and young women than I am with boys and young men. Girls are easy--society has low expectations for girls--I have high expectations. Society values their hopes and beliefs little and I value few things more.

The most difficult part of running our program is teaching boys to ride with confidence and to train their horses using our formula of 51% control and 49% affection. Video games give little boys a false sense of power and control of the environment around them. These games give  boys the empty belief that every encounter is a competitive one, whose only purpose is to divide the world between winners and losers. The computer isolates boys from face to face social interaction resulting in a loss of communication skills that are necessary in dealing both with other riders and, more importantly, horses. I am afraid that the most baleful effects of the "hook up" culture of adolescents and young adults drips down even to much younger boys. Not in the sense that it leads directly to promiscuous behavior but in the more toxic sense that they see few role models in lasting relationships.

One who does not understand what a relationship is cannot build one with a horse.

They grow up in a culture that does not value resilience and persistence. When I was a child there were few things worse than being known as a "quitter." Boys with minimal athletic ability who showed up for every team practice even if they got little game time were respected by adults and other kids. In today's world of travel teams, all star teams, and year around competition in single sports we have gone from sand lot baseball to an elitist competitive model where only the "best" participate in team sports.

To teach a little boy to reject the world around him and accept the  better world that can be found in natural horsemanship does not come easily to me.  Little girls respond to genuine respect and appreciation. I have not found it easy to motivate boys or to teach them the four virtues that I find to be the most important for living an ethical life--compassion, generosity, courage, and resilience.

However, we have had some tremendous successes with boys in our program, Chris being one of the best examples. Still, I do not have a reliable game plan for  teaching boys.

 I am stuck with just having to try to teach by example, knowing that it is probably best that I never had a son.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Riding Without Focus: Don't Be That Way

Focus is the ability to concentrate one's attention entirely on the desired object. Focus primarily affects the lightness and ease with which a horse goes the route the rider intends. Focus is easier for some people to develop than for others. It requires that one be able to look intently at the direction where one wishes to go and to do with with such intensity that the horse feels the rider's focus. Focus requires the rider to achieve another "gear" of awareness of the situation around him. It allows the rider to see everything while being distracted by nothing.

I ride a lot of different horses. The horses that I spend the most time on, Holland and Joey, respond extremely well to my focus. i.e. They generally go where I am looking and where I am thinking. I was a bit surprised when I first started mounted archery. I thought that Holland would be the perfect horse for the job. Instead, everything went great until I focused on the target. At that point he veered hard to the left and ran directly at the target.

He was very confused as I slowly taught him to ignore my focus in just that one instance.

Focus is hard to teach. I am not convinced that children can achieve focus. I believe that focus can be enhanced by playing pool and shooting a bow. Both require a high level of concentration coupled with the ability to visualize patterns and strait lines of movement.

The last week has been a week of not missing the water until the well ran dry. Starting eight days ago every horse that I rode seemed confused, not agitated or stressed, just utterly without an idea of where they were to go. They moved slower and often were placing their feet tentatively as we trotted or gaited along.  I found myself constantly having to resort to using the reins to actually change the horses direction.

I attributed it to the fact that there was snow on the ground. But the snow melted and none of my horses reverted back to our old, comfortable pattern of riding. It was particularly bad over the weekend.

Yesterday as I was cruising along on Manteo, a Corolla stallion, I realized what the problem was. It should have been obvious to me. About ten days ago I had a peculiar fall as I was moving the hogs to prepare for the big snow storm. Seems that I broke a rib. It certainly is not a pleasant situation, but I have broken ribs in the past and have been in much greater discomfort than this time around. In fact, although it was very painful to mount up, after I was in the saddle the pain was not really a big deal.

Or so I thought.

There is enough discomfort to reduce my ability to focus. The horses could no longer read it. Until this thing completely heals I will have to work harder to keep my mind in the game.

It has taken many years in the saddle, and equally important, years in the round pen to develop focus. I wish that I knew how to better teach focus development.

Right now I am stuck in the same place when Lou Grant was asked by Ted, on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, " Why don't people like me?"

Grant responded " Well, Ted, you know how your are,"

"Yes, Lou", Ted interjected.

"Don't be that way," was Grant's advice.

Right now I am stuck with Lou Grant's problem. About all I can really say is, if you ride without focus, "don't be that way."

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Saddest Emails That I Ever Get

When I wake up I often find a slew of emails waiting for me. The second saddest ones that I ever get are from people who have been horribly banged around by life. Those notes generally give a brief, matter-of-fact summary of a life spent in Hell. Sometimes they go on to say that there were times that they were able to get away from the pain by going to a relative's farm or visiting a neighbor's horse. More and more they mention having heard about Ashley Edwards and her experience with the horses. The notes come from those who know what an IED sounds like, what burning flesh smells like, what the hand of an abuser feels like, or what that unyielding bitterness and burning in the throat tastes like.

The notes at times mention a vague, desperate hope that working a horse can help make those memories manageable. They are looking for someone, or something, that understands. When they see pictures like this one of Ashley and Stitch and look at the eyes of the person and the horse, they see understanding.

They often realize that the door to get out of the cage that they are in is the door to a round pen.

Those are not the saddest emails that I get.

The saddest ones set out the kind of pain that I have mentioned above and then go on to tell me that there is not any horse facility that can give them what they need anywhere in their region. They tell me how much they wished that they lived closer to us.

They tell me that they know there is a door to get out but that they have no way to reach the knob.

Those are the saddest emails that I get.

If God has allowed you to have a horse He has given you the power, and the obligation, to improve the lives of some people. If God has given you several horses then He has given you the power, and the obligation, to improve the lives of even more people.

If God has allowed you to have a riding and instruction program, with a score of horses at your disposal, He has given you the power, and the obligation, to begin to change the world.

Get up and get moving. It is time to get some work done.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Urgency Of The Situation

I ride several first rate horses. Some have advantages over the others. Holland is a Shackleford, touch over 13 hands. We took him to one endurance race up in New Jersey--left a lot of Anglo-Arab and Arabian owners with big trailers with their jaws hanging open. He can fly. His endurance is beyond imagination.

All of those things are wonderful for a young person, but the older I get the more comfort matters. Heaviest snow that we have had around here in years-needed to knock off a few miles, needed a horse that could find the ground without being able to see it--twenty degrees and I have a broken rib that is bothersome, particularly when we pick up a bit of speed.

Holland pranced so sweetly this morning-sashaying though the deep snow-went wherever I looked--no jerking or pulling around. It just felt so wonderful--cool comfort...frozen fields...soft snow

Did hurt a bit when I got off--got in the truck delighted with my super horse.....and as I put the truck in gear on the icy path the numbers struck me--barely over 100 left in the wild-only a handful ridden domestically--nearly gone.

And then I got angry. They have been here for 500 years.

We simply do not have the right to allow them to go extinct.

Mill Swamp Indian Horses Herd Reduction

As our program grows and as we plan for more Corollas in the offsite breeding program we are reducing our herd size by offering several horses for sale or placement. For information on these horses send me an email at Please only send a note if you are sincerely interested in one of our horses.

A teen age blm mare very well trained for the trail with hundreds of miles in the woods. Unusual appaloosa markings.

A small Corolla gelding app ten years old, app 12 hands tall, regularly ridden in the woods by children.

Chincoteague/blm cross, beautiful minimally expressed tobanio, about 12 years old, nearly 14 hands, great trail horse for confident rider

Large blm mare, late teens, has been ridden but will need an experienced trainer to take her on.

Dun blm mare, halter broke, older teens, will need experienced trainer-app 14 hands.

Dun blm mare, 13.2 , hard to catch older teens, will need experienced trainer.

I will not respond to any questions on facebook. Anyone with an interest in learning more about the price or any particulars on any of these horses can send me an email as set out above.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

And They Are So Very Alive

No, don't get me wrong about this. They already brought a lot to the table before they ever touched a Colonial Spanish horse. The Marbles, the Barr's, Elise's siblings and cousins, Jen, and Rebecca--all started out active--moving, thinking, running, creating, singing, doing .....

But the horses seem to have polished that zeal and really made it shine. Yesterday I found the weather too wretched to be outside. I cannot tell you what a rare experience that is for me. Staying inside makes my mind and my body feel quite ill. I despise the feeling.

But yesterday I preferred that feeling to being out in the wind and snow.

Jen and Elise did not feel that way. Jen is about to take a bareback ride on Manteo, a formerly wild Corolla stallion.  Elise is there with her horse, Sparrow Hawk, a Marsh Tacky/Kentucky Mountain Horse that she trained to saddle without my assistance.

And they are very alive.

Friday, January 6, 2017

My First Ride On Janie

Brooke Simms is a great young horse trainer in Texas. When I first saw any of her work she was much younger. I was impressed and I sent her a note letting her know that. She read my book and decided that she wanted Janie, a yearling off of her spectacular HOA stallion, Blazing Guns, to be part of our program.

Needless to say I was very honored by both the sentiment and the gift. Ann Katherine did much of the early ground work with her and did her earliest work under saddle. Abigail picked it up from there and got her to the point that she could be described as green broke.

And today I rode her for the first time. We went down the path and around the new land. She did great--paid attention to everything--one bad spook and instantly settled down--she cantered for a very short trial (quite promising). I like to build muscle and power in young horses by long trotting them for at least a year before they jump anything with me on them or even canter more than fifty yards at a stretch. So far this system gives me the kind of horse that I want--powerful, smooth, light and responsive.

Carrying me builds muscle and tremendous strength on these horses. Those who do not know any better scoff self righteously at adult riders of small Colonial Spanish horses. They have to fall back on their last and irrefutable argument "Well even if he seems to be doing ok now he will have problems when he gets older."

Those who actually ride these horses know that the opposite is true. As older horses they are much sounder and stronger than modern horses. This is especially true when they are allowed to live their long lives as horses evolved to do--grass, hay, water, sunshine and herds. Instead of being condemned to suffer through a life of stables, shoes, and sugar.

Janie is going to be one of my main personal riding horses over the next several years--and I am looking forward to those years.

Pollard Hay: Perhaps The First Hay Ever Harvested and Cured

Not really what we think of as nice pasture, is it? Not lush, green and uniform, but it has diverse plants, a tremendous amount of long stem fiber and is nutritious. Without a doubt it does not remotely produce the amount of total digestible nutrients that a modern well seeded, fertilized and mowed pasture produces.

However, if one had unlimited land this type pasture would likely be a healthier environment for a horse than a high carbohydrate monoculture pasture. But most of us do not have unlimited pasture so we have to compromise. We work to create as natural a forage system for the horse as can be done on the available land.

That is what I have been working towards for the past fifteen years. During that time I have allowed hundreds of thousands of pounds of hay to go unharvested and completely unused. This summer that will change. This summer we will be taking a step way back into the dawn of livestock husbandry to harvest Pollard hay. (until about two weeks ago I had never heard of it either).

First a point on technology and how it fits into the theory that Pollard hay is likely to have predated pasture hay. All the way through college and law school I worked at Jamestown. Most of that time I worked in the Indian village and became somewhat proficient in stone age technology--the making and use of stone weapons and tools e.g. arrow points, stone knives, scrapers, cutting tools and stone axes. I have had the rare opportunity to have actually used these tools on a regular basis.

I have cut down small trees and delimbed them with stone tools. It is much easier than one would imagine. I have cut reeds and stems of marsh grasses and sedges with stone tools.

It was brutal work.

The mere thought of cutting sufficient grass forage with stone tools to supplement grazing stock, or even worse, to entirely feed them through the winter is enough to make my back hurt and my hands start to cramp up.

But cutting and breaking off tree branches heavily laden with dense, nutritious leaves and stacking those branches to dry is a much easier task. Horses are primarily grazers, but they are also browsers. Modern horse keeping rarely gives horses the opportunity to eat the tender stems and leaves of healthy trees and shrubs.

Wilted leaves of maple and wild cherry are absolutely deadly and should never be fed to livestock.

But most other browse is a real treat for most horses. On the new land that we are clearing out we are leaving several thousand small hardwood stumps. They will produce stems and shoots of forage for the livestock that is referred to as coppice forage. I am also leaving a couple of acres  of young ash trees to harvest the tops as Pollard hay in the mid to late summer. Though the practice is nearly unknown in America it is still practiced in small farms in Europe and other parts of the world.

Such "hay" may very well have been the first kind of hay used in significant amounts  by our ancestors thousands of years ago. And it took computer technology to teach me this stone age innovation.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Record Keeping: Objective Measures Of Success

When you do things day in and day out that others might think impossible it helps to keep records to objectively measure and quantify results. We do not have a sufficient recorded diary of our efforts to clear off the new land. I wish that we had more before,during and after pictures.

The purpose of such documentation is not for bragging or bluster. It is to objectively show what is possible. This will encourage the development of more programs like ours across the nation.

Our record keeping efforts in the past have fizzled generally when the weather became miserably hot. At the end of a long ride with temperatures in the 90's one's mind is on quickly cooling off, not lining up to record mileage.

This year will be different. We are going to measure the total miles ridden inn our program. Each day, every day, every time, every rider will record the number of miles ridden and the horse that was ridden in the program riding book.

Another book will be used to record every moment of training for the horses that are being trained this year.

Such entries will be brief but will help us keep up with what is going on with different horses as different riders work with the horse. e.g "June 7, Polished Steel, 2 hours, lunging and work with monsters--continued calming with all monsters not related to sound--jumpy about sound-Steve".

The stats will reveal a lot of interesting things about our program--the one that I am curious about is number of miles ridden per injury to a rider. I expect that to verify my hunch that our safety record is beyond the imagination of most riding programs.

(Wanchese--Shackleford Stallion shown above)

Monday, January 2, 2017

Tough As A Billy Goat: Conditioning For The 25 Mile March Mudness Ride

Deer season ends here the first Saturday in January. Our woods riding is radically reduced from Oct1, when bow season comes in, until the close of deer season. Our winters are generally damp and the woods often muddy until the spring vegetation comes out.

We jump start our program by training for our in house "March Mudness 25 Mile Ride". The event is  timed and there is a heart rate check for the horses at the tenth mile and the 20th mile. Riders go at their own pace. The purpose of the event is not to see who has the fastest horse. It is to allow individual riders to reap the benefits of having worked their horses and their bodies to a level of fitness that allows for the completion of such a ride.

Everyone is different both physically and emotionally. There is no one perfect conditioning regimen for every rider. The one thing true for everyone is that the best exercise for riding is to ride and ride..and then ride more.

Here is how I prepare for the event.

I am 57 years old, by most measures fifty pounds over weight, by my own gauge about 30 pounds over weight, with my most significant limitation being a bone spur in my neck that causes chronic and, at times, severely acute pain in my left shoulder. I am a prosecutor with a very heavy caseload. Though I have ridden little in the last three months I am used to heavy mileage having ridden a total of 1002 miles during the first six months of 2016.

Diet--emphasize protein and fat consumption and work hard to keep simple carbohydrate consumption in check. Work hard to keep biome in my digestive tract in great shape by eating kim chee or sour kraught daily and taking a probiotic daily along with five spoonfuls of psyllium powder each morning. When training I take creatine monohydrate, a senior men's vitamin, B12 and D supplements and fish oil pills.

Exercise- Tabata Protocol five mornings a week, some days using heavy bag punching, other days using Farmer's Walk intense intervals--three days a week add in heavy quadricep curls--plan to put in short sessions of barefoot jogging three days a week.

Riding--Shoot for riding 30-50 miles a week with at least 85% of that being at a trot.

This is not much of an exercise routine for a twenty year old athlete but it serves me well. I am only putting this out as an example of my training regimen. I am sure that others will find other regimens that work better for them.

The bottom line is that the better condition you are in the more you will enjoy riding and the more your horse will enjoy being ridden.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Great Distance Derby: Time to Fire Up the GPS

The Great Distance Derby is one kind of equine competition that I greatly approve of. It allows one to simply compete against one's self. The premise could not be more simple--ride your horse, record the mileage, send it in and their computer takes it from there.

This year there is a great improvement in the program. In the past one could only register one horse per rider team. I registered Joey, my super Choctaw. He took 31st place nationally.

This year one can be part of a multi horse team. That means that you can register yourself and several horses that you will ride over the next year. I registered Joey and Holland, a Shackleford, along with Stitch, an unridden Corolla stallion, and Janie an HOA horse of Grand Canyon descent.

Few things are better for the mind and the body than to cover significant ground on a horse. Over the first six months of 2016 I rode one thousand and two miles. The picture above is taken after Terry and I completed a 109 miles ride in 17 hours a few years ago.

I know that these are not huge numbers for a modern endurance racing rider, but for a fifty seven year old prosecutor they are sufficient.

I think that there is still time to register. Sign up, $25.00 for adults, free or under 18. Check out there blog for for information.

Equine Permaculture

I don't think that I had ever heard the term permaculture until about two years ago. I did not understand what it meant until about a year ago. Surely better definitions exist but I would define the term as a principled conservation practice that emphasizes development and maintenance of a healthy biome in the soil, conservation of water in the soil, reduction of runoff, and increased production of vegetation of various types without the use of synthetic chemicals. It gives a new meaning to the term "dirt farmer" in that our primary crop is the dirt that we grow and conserve. Everything that springs from that soil is a secondary crop that depends on the strength of the primary crop.

We are implementing these principles and techniques in our land management at the horse lot. Many years ago I had a soured fifty pound bag of sweet feed. I decided to spread it out in a very thin layer so it could dry and be eaten by birds. Within a few weeks that thin band of sweet feed was gone and the grass where it had been was taller, thicker and a deep blue green color. The only thing that I knew of that produced those results was bags of high nitrogen fertilizer.

I could not understand how so much nitrogen came from that little bag of feed. Only now do I understand that the plant's vigor was caused by a rejuvenated biome that resulted from the introduction of the nutrients and organic matter in that feed.

Permaculture fits in wonderfully with our philosophy of natural horse care, natural hoof care, and natural horsemanship.

This morning I came upon this organization.   I look forward to closely following their posts and other events.

I like where this newly opened door is taking me.