Sunday, September 10, 2017

Horses, History, Education, Permaculture, Conservation..and Music

The time has long since past when our program was simply a place to learn to ride. We teach and practice natural horsemanship,riding,rare and historic livestock conservation, history,soil and water conservation, natural hoof care, natural horse care,public service, permaculture, and music.

We are a non-profit breed conservation program with no paid staff. We are all volunteers. Our program has become a cultural and educational institution. And every aspect of our program serves our central focus of preserving and promoting nearly extinct strains of Colonial Spanish Horses. Each aspect of our program serves to attract more people out to the horses lot to learn about these horses.

On Monday nights many program participants get together to learn ancient songs, often on ancient instruments.

The thread that ties our program together is that every aspect reaches back to bring some of the best aspects of the past to the present.

And that is what we are doing with our horses.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Simple Soil Solutions: No It Is Not a Typo

I want to keep our hay bills down. I want healthy horses with strong backs and necks. I want our soil rich and vibrant. I want resilient, highly productive pastures.

Of course, that means that I will be soil testing, putting down appropriate levels of fertilizers and herbicides, and buying the best horse pasture seed on the market. I then will need to wait about a year before a hoof print appears on that soil.

Except that I will not be doing any of that. Instead I am going to achieve these goals by allowing (encouraging?) my horses to waste hay.

I know. I am still reeling from the concept.

Waste hay to save money and get a better pasture! I have the same feeling about this concept as I first did when I encountered natural horsemanship. It is contrary not only to the way everything has been done here for ages. On the surface it makes no sense.

But neither did natural horsemanship.

I am currently taking an online class, "Grazing Power Training" from Simple Soil Solutions. It is an extraordinary learning experience. I am learning the role that microbes play in building the soil and creating better forage. The picture above is of the 20 acres that my wife and I purchased for the use of our program. It was a pasture about 15 years ago. Since then it has over grown with trees, briars, weeds, and vines. Clearing the land is a slow task for us since we are all volunteers with no paid staff.

Last winter I cut down about 70% of the trees that need to come down. This winter I will take down more trees and remove stumps.

And I will waste a lot of hay. The pasture will be slightly over stocked with horses. The round bales will be rolled out and the horses will trample and manure it as the season moves on. Doing so will put a carbon sheet on the soil to cover it as it heals and all the while residual seeds from the hay will create forage for the future. We likely will use temporary electric fencing to concentrate the horses' activity.

This entire journey began for me when I spread a damp, moldy bag of feed up in a thin layer away from the horses so the birds could eat it. To my surprise, the grass under that layer grew tall, rich and dark of leaf. I could not understand why the waste feed produced better grass than did fertilizer.

Years later I became further confused when doing soil samples on portions of pastures that had been sacrifice areas for many seasons. The areas had been covered with scores of tonnes of horse manure. I expected the land to require a tremendous amount of lime, but the soil test showed these areas to need no lime.

The real spur to my curiosity happened a few years ago when Wendell suggested that I use organic fertilizer instead of regular 10-10-10. He told me that it cost more but I could use less and it would be worth it.

I assumed that this organic fertilizer must be very concentrated if I could use less of it and get better results. Instead it was much less concentrated than 10-10-10 yet I still got much better results with it.

The answer was microbes. The microbes put the nutrients that the plants needed in a chemical form that they cold utilize.

As I am learning from this class and a general study of permaculture, the microbes are the key and a sufficient ratio of carbon to nitrogen is necessary for those microbes to begin the process of healing the soil.

So, beginning today I am going to work diligently to waste hay.

(If you think saying that out loud hurts,imagine how it feels to type those words)

Monday, September 4, 2017


- Start Service Code -->

Just fourteen months ago I finished riding 1002 miles in six months. Yesterday I rode 14.65 miles, likely the most miles that I have ridden in one day in all of 2017.

It was brutal.

Not all that long ago I would never call such a short ride "brutal". I would have likely called it simply "Tuesday". My physical deterioration has been at a lightening pace. In terms of simply my ability to lift weight, I am weaker than I have been at any point since 1990.

Once again, I am working to restore my health. Back to tabata. Back to a bit of barefoot jogging. Back to a bit of kettle bell work. Back to clearing land with the chain saw.

And most importantly--back to riding and writing.

The writing part is very important. When I keep a rigidly accurate log of the number of miles that I ride I find that I ride more--many more--miles than if I fail to do so.

Perhaps there is something out there better for my mind and my body than riding hard. If so, I have gone fifty seven years without finding that thing.

There really is no need to.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Fall Home School Friday Program to Begin in October

Our Friday Home school pilot program has been a tremendous success and we are ready to take it to a higher level beginning the first Friday in October. A herd of nearly extinct Colonial Spanish horses, endangered Colonial Spanish goats and hogs, heritage turkeys and a replicate 1650's era farm site with a settlers home, tobacco barn, corn crib and smoke house is our class room.

The Friday sessions do not focus on riding lessons. Instead they present a wide range of programs that include using natural horsemanship to train horses, rare breed conservation, history, stone age technology (making arrowheads, bow construction, hide tanning, etc, soil and water conservation through the development of permaculture projects, and even music sessions where students old time American folk and roots songs and are given the opportunity to learn to play ancient American folk instruments.

And they learn to work, and work together. Work projects often include fence repair, land clearing, and feeding and care of livestock.

And all of this for only $85.00 per family per month. And if a family participates in our riding program there is no charge at all for the program.

Visit for an introduction to our non profit organization. We are all volunteers, no paid staff.

For more information email us at We are located just outside of Smithfield Virginia. Sessions last from 9-4 each Friday