Sunday, July 30, 2017

Taking the Plunge: A Bold New Programing Step

Growth is not easy when everyone is a volunteer and already hampered with the hassle of normal day to day living. To have reached the point that our program has with out a paid staff is difficult tohave foreseen.

But we have made it

This spring we are taking a bold step in the educational programs that we offer. We are going to be offering very affordable field trips to Tidewater schools in the spring of 2018. We will likely have at least two separate types of field trip programs available, one focuses on the horses and livestock breed conservation. The other will focus on soil and water conservation programs that we incorporate in our permaculture approach to land management. (this topic has proven to be tremendous interest to our home school program participants).

We will make it clear that we are not a petting zoo and this is not a riding opportunity, or merely a trip out in the country to play horsey. We recognize the breadth and diversity of our programs.

Our focus is on breed conservation and preventing the extinction of nearly extinct stains of Colonial Spanish horses. We do that within the context of being an educational and cultural institution with tremendous emphasis on promoting the horses by using them to bring pleasure and healing to people with little or no horse experience.

Second Foal of the Year Born To the Corolla Breeding Program

This little filly, Lefty, was born to Polished Steel this week. Her father is Tradewind, named the 2011 National Pleasure Trail Horse of the Year by the Horse of the Americas Registry. In about six months I hope that she has been purchased by a breeder who will join us in seeking to prevent the extinction of these historic horses from the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

We are a 501(c)5 non-profit breed conservation program. We are all volunteers with no paid staff. If you would like to learn more about these horses, how you can become a breeder  and even come up and ride some of these Banker strain, Colonial Spanish mustangs send me an email at

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Dirt Farmer: Simple Soil Solutions

I am where I was twenty years ago. I had trained horses to saddle from the time I was an adolescent. I knew how we did it. I genuinely believed that the way we "trained" was the same way everyone else did.

We trained a horse by riding him. Period. Of course,the result was that the horses that we all rode were not trained. We were good riders. If one is not to be a good trainer than one had better become a good rider.

Then I heard about natural horsemanship. What I heard did not seem possible. It was alien to everything that had been practiced around here for over 100 years.

I was intrigued and confused. I purchased Parelli's "Natural Horse-Man-Ship". Read it cover to cover--I genuinely believed that the book must be part of a multi volume set and I had simply picked up the first volume. It seemed to me that the entire volume was designed to teach one to teach a horse to be lead. I wanted to find the volume that must be out there that taught how to train a horse to be ridden.

Of course, what I learned led to the opening of my eyes and better lives for hundreds of horses and scores of young people.

I was only the second man in my direct line since coming to America in the 1630's who was not a farmer at some point in his life. I had a basic understanding of agriculture and I studied everything that I could find about pasture management from the publications of the established horse world.

Then I started learning about permaculture. All of that has lead to bumping into a spectacular teaching program found here in Virginia. Vail Dixon's programs though her company, Simple Soil Solutions, particularly the program Grazing Power, are something that I hope to take complete advantage of.

I am impressed with her for several reasons. She actually has horse pasture that she manages. She relies on science but learns from trial and error. But most importantly she is a first rate communicator.

And she believes in what she is doing. She has another session coming up on August 10.

Take a look at her website

Keep your mind open. That is the only way that knowledge can slip in.

( This foal was born nigh before last. She is the second foal born to our Corolla breeding preservation program this summer.)

Friday, July 21, 2017

Run Find Your Hackles and Get Ready to Put Them Upp

For too long I have been holding back in order to try to find a subtle, diplomatic way to impart this very important lesson.

I give up--can't figure out a way to do it.

I despise cliches. They do not pass through my lips or even my mind. When it comes to horsemanship they are the sum total teachings of the established horse world, all filtered down to simple rules that can be followed by the simplest of minds.

They tend to have one thing in common.

These cliches help direct a steady cash flow to the agribusiness industries that depend on the ignorance and inompetence of horse owners. Not all of these agribusiness interests are bad. Many, like veterinarians are essential and filled with dedicated professionals.

But veterinarians have much more important things to do than doing physical exams or tests on perfectly healthy horses who are guilty of being poorly trained or,even worse, simply exhibiting normal, horse behavior.

I constantly read of people with poorly behaved horses being advised to "first have him checked out by the vet to see if there is a physical cause to his problem."

Yes, on the rarest occasion there is a physical problem. Those cases are dwarfed by learned behavioral problems and the consequences of living in stables and eating sugar. Check the horses training and lifestyle first. Train the horse. Allow it to live as naturally as possible.

Then you can check with the vet if the problem persist.

But what does it hurt just to check with the vet first--you know--just to be sure?

What it hurts is that is skyrockets the cost of owning horses. That means more horses go to slaughter. That means fewer kids ever get a chance to have the life altering experience of owning a horse.

I could not be happier with my veterinarians. I strongly suspect that they are very happy with our horses.

They know that they are never going to be called out and asked to give a horse a pill to make it stop biting people

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Time In A Bottle

About twenty years ago I was squirrel hunting near a section of marsh that I had not walked around since I was a small child. Way above the normal high tide mark I found an old bottle. It had a top on it and was clear and easy to see though.

 Inside it was a piece of folded paper. The top was not easy to remove but it came off with some hard twists. The hand writing on the note was beautiful. It was dated before the frst World War. The writer was a young man traveling and working his way though the southeast. He talked a bit about his life and explained that he put this message in the bottle and set it to sea (did not say where)and asked the finder send him a note to his home in Maryland to let him know that it had been recovered.

I put it back in the bottle and headed home. I made a few phone calls concerning my very unusual discovery. About the third time that I removed it from the bottle I noticed that it was much more fragile and brittle.

A few days later I opened the bottle to find the paper so deteriorated that it essentially disintegrated upon touch. It could not be unrolled and none of the words were any longer legible. Of course, it likely never had any value except as a personal curiosity.

But it could have been saved.

It could have been preserved. Had I been willing to do the work to find an expert who could have kept it in the correct environment and who could have taught me how to maintain it, I would still have this little piece of time safely sealed in a bottle.

But I was younger, impatient, and most of all I was busy with what the rest of the world calls, "having a life."

Nothing is more detrimental to  having a life with meaning, a life  that focuses on building something  bigger than one's self, than "having a life."

"Having a life" leads to a trivial existence with meaningless priorities. It leads to simply trying to figure out the easiest way instead of the most  efficient way.

Ultimately it leads to a huge volume of excuses, with endless new editions and reprints, but only a small sticky note sized list of solutions and accomplishments.

For everything there is a season. As every horse culture that has existed in history has shown the taming and training of horses can be, and often was, child's play. It still can, and should, be.

But the actual work of preserving these horses can only be successfully done by those old enough to realize what a worthless pursuit "having a life " is. The hard work of preservation is, with a few rare exceptions, left to those whose only interest in life is that it have meaning.

And that is why one is never to old to begin to work to preserve these nearly extinct horses. That is why one is never too old to begin to work to develop a riding and training program  that serves the needs of those that your community has left behind.

That is why one is never too old to look ahead with hope.

It is an ironic aspect of human existence that as our eyesight fades, our vision can become clearer. Only those who have through past  decades have the vision to see what is possible in future decades.

The seeds of our program were planted about 18 years ago. I once wished that I had begun thirty years ago.

 I no longer have that wish.

That would not have worked well. Thirty years ago I "had a life". It's focus was on meetings, martini's and the accumulation of power.

Now I have a life whose only focus is  meaning.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Temperament of Our Horses--For Sale

Yes, one thing that we are able to sell because of our efforts to preserve the nearly extinct horses of the Outer Banks of North Carolina is their temperament.

Their gaits are smooth and they endurance is beyond the imagination of most owners of modern horses. With strong, healthy hooves and remarkable need to bond with people, they make the perfect family horses.

Matchcoor's mother was born wild on Shackleford Island and his father was born wild in the Corolla herd.

When he is weaning age he will be available for placement with someone who will help carry on the work of the conservation of the Colonial Spanish mustangs of the Outer Banks. His sales price at weaning age will be $1,200.00. Purchaser must agree to maintain him as a stallion and allow him to be bred to mares who are in the conservation program at no cost.

Our program currently has six stallions from Corolla or Shackleford on site. Most of the stallions, even those born wild, are often ridden with groups of mares and geldings. Great genetics gives them a big head start but the gentle, yet firm, early handling that all of our horses receive brings out the sweetness of their nature.

One of the points that I have to constantly stress to riders in our program is that they cannot expect other horses to be as safe, calm, and sweet natured as ours and that they will have to be much more careful around modern horses who are not allowed to live as naturally as our herd does.

Within the next few weeks we expect several more foals to be born and We plan to breed three mares for next year.

If you want to acquire one of these horses and become part of the effort to preserve this nearly extinct strain of Colonial Spanish horses contact me at

Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Permaculture Payoff

The work has been hard. Some of it remains to be done and all of it, in one way or another, is perpetually ongoing.

Substantial soil and water conservation programs, vermicomposting, deep well and intensive irrigation, daily small pasture rotation for about 20% of our horses, clearing off new land and leaving coppage stumps for grazing, better use of forage in the woods lot, organic fertilizer, no artificial  chemicals, encouragement of dung beetle production, adding high carbon materials to compost piles, hugelkulture demonstration plots, swales and soil decompaction techniques, pasture inoculation experiments with helpful bacteria and fungi, mowing weeds in pastures, combining goat and horse grazing, encouraging growth of existing "wild" vegetation and planting several different grass species

......lead to a forty percent reduction in our hay bill for the last month. When one considers that our horses were consuming 10-12 thousand pounds of hay per week, that is a lot of money....and healthier horses, and less mud and less dust.

And perhaps equally important, we have included th teaching of these techniques in our educational programs.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Will You Allow Your Veterinarian To Tell You The Truth?

We use The Oaks Veterinary practice here in Smithfield. I could not imagine having a better team caring for our horses--first rate diagnosticians, completely up to date on research and new findings, and able to handle a horse that is in pain.

One of the reasons that we have as good of a relationship as we do is that they are all completely comfortable in telling me exactly what a horse needs.

For example, if the best treatment for problem is to simply leave it alone and let it get well, they know that I am never going to think that they should instead "do something." If the horse is going to die, they tell me that it is going to die. If there are range of treatments out there they explain each and they know that after I have all of that information I will let them know which way I want to go.

I will never say "do what you think is best." That is  unfair to a vet. When the vet has explained the pluses and minuses of every option and asks you what you want done--take the responsibility to make that informed decision.

Don't just position yourself to be able to set back and say, "I did everything the vet said to do and my horse still died!"

The test of the quality of a horse owner as a client is simple. Would the client seek another vet if their vet looked them in the eye and said, "The problem is that your horse is 300 pounds over weight and the diet and lack of exercise that you are providing him will likely drastically shorten his life and will likely lead to horrific pain from laminitis and then full blown founder."?

Do you care enough about your horse to accept the vet's advice that what your horse needs to be healthier is exercise, good hay, water and companionship or are you going to feel cheated if the vet does not leave you with a string of supplements and prescription drugs for your horse?

Your horse needs a first rate vet. Even more importantly, your horse needs for you to be a first rate client.

(The picture above is of Burns Red, son of El Rosio, and one of the few high percentage Bacca colts in existence.  Lloyd is a veteran, not a veterinarian--but its still a great picture.)

Saturday, July 1, 2017

How to Handle A Stallion

....with 51% control and 49% affection.

That is the best way to handle every horse. I never grew up with mares and was around few geldings. Both of may parents rode stallions.

I did not grow up to be testostrophobic.

When one of our stallions is in the immediate vicinity of a mare in heat we have to take special preparations. Otherwise our experienced riders ride them as they would any of the other horses.

We would not be able to do that if our stallions were kept shut up in stables with limited "turnout." We would not be able to do that if our stallions were fed abusive levels of high sugar feeds. We would not be able to do that if we taught our stallions that they were ticking time bombs. It is simple to do so. All one has to do is treat their stallions as if they were ticking time bombs and they will oblige.

Tam is a highly impressive young lady. She worked Scoundrel Days, our high percentage Grand Canyon stallion in the round pen for several minutes before this picture was taken. He resisted her leadership and she insisted that he move in the direction she indicated and at the speed she indicated.

In short order he felt secure knowing that he was in the presence of a benevolent, powerful leader.

Not control or affection. Not control now affection later. Not affection now and control after we bond.

51% control now. 49% affection now.

Simply the best way to train horses. Simply the best way to raise children.