Thursday, February 23, 2017

Mill Swamp Indian Horses: An Educational, Breed Conservation Program

We are not a riding barn. (Although we ride more miles than most people could imagine our horses live freely and as naturally as possible and have never seen a barn or a stable)

We are not static. Our program is constantly growing and evolving. We stick to our central beliefs as we grow.

These include:
1. The best way to prevent the extinction of Colonial Spanish horses is to teach a person to ride one.
2. Natural horsemanship creates better horses, but more importantly it creates better people.
3. Working with horses helps solve tremendous emotional pain and can be a linchpin in fighting PTSD.
4. Learning should not merely be fun. It should be exhilarating.
5. A riding program should create a sense of community among its participants.

With those principles firmly in place we are launching into a more structured Friday program for home schooled kids. The response to the announcement has been mind boggling. It bodes equally well for the future that iin a few days we will have visitors from New Hampshire who will spend a week learning how our program works in order to see if they can incorporate some of what we do into their program.

And in November the Breeds Conservancy will be holding their national meeting in Williamsburg and we will be offering a program for participants on our unique model designed to preserve these horses.

Here is a note that I sent out to those who inquired about our home school program so they might understand a bit of what we do. Mill Swamp Indian Horses is the program name of Gwaltney Frontier Farm, Inc, a 501 (c) 5 non-profit breed conservation program.

"Our primary purpose is to work to prevent the extinction of several strains of nearly extinct Colonial Spanish Horses such as the Corollas, Shacklefords, Choctaws, Marsh Tackys, Grand Canyon influenced horses and Brislawn strain horses. These were among the original horses brought to America in the 1500's, some arriving nearly 100 years before the settlement of Jamestown. As the southern colonies developed, up until around 1700 these horses were the only horses found in the southeast and then on across the Mississippi. We seek to expose these horses to as many people as possible in order both to educate and to assist others who might want to own and become breeders of these horses.

Our program is unique. Next week we will have visitors from New Hampshire who are spending a week to learn how we do things in order to develop a program like ours. In order to place the horses in their proper historical context--to put a picture frame around them--we built a replicated 1650's era farm sight which is also stocked with historically appropriate goats, super rare Ossabaw colonial hogs, and colonial chickens. We are constantly on the look out for additional historically appropriate livestock and hope to add colonial cattle and maybe even sheep in the future.

We have a colonial garden and one of the tasks for participants in this program will be to assist in that garden.

We teach natural horsemanship which simply means that we train horses using modes of communication that they understand because it mimics how they naturally interact with each other. We teach natural horse care because it is healthy and humane for horses to be allowed to live as close to their natural state as possible. We even teach natural hoof care.

This spring and summer we will have several foals born. Program participants will learn how to, and actually have hands on opportunities to humanely tame and gentle horses. The focus of the Friday program is not riding. However, I hope to give some opportunity for riding as the program develops.

We are very interested in soil and water conservation and a major part of our program is the development of demonstration permaculture techniques. This is an important point to understand. Program participants learn and they work on various projects. One of the most important things that kids in our programs learn is the satisfaction that comes from hard work and the importance of team work. It is not at all unusual for kids to begin the program having no idea what they are capable of doing. It is very rewarding to see the pride in their faces as they learn to handle farm chores and work to improve the environment around them.

We also teach kids to have the confidence to communicate effectively. My riders not only learn how to tame and train horses, they learn how to do a complete clinic or demonstration while explaining to the audience every step of the process. (Not sure if it will be part of this program but we even teach kids with an interest in the matter how to perform ancient American songs on ancient instruments.)

Our program has several other facets that will not be part of the Home School program. I list them just for your information. We have weekly programming for in patient PTSD veterans from the Hampton Veterans Hospital. We conduct programming with the Rivermont School on the Peninsula. W encourage people who have been thorough severe trauma to participate in our programs. The Road to Repair sessions are difficult to explain in just a few words. Here is a link to a TV news story about that program ;

If you take a moment to look over that news story you will be glad that you did."

(The pictures above are from a program that Gene Gwaltney presents on the Indian artifacts that he has collected from the area over the last fifty years).

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