Friday, June 22, 2018

A Real Vacation

Our roots music educational program is growing steadily. Next to our riding program it is one of the most popular things that we do. Program participants learn to play a range of acoustic instruments and to perform a few modern songs, but our focus is on Carter Family, Old Time, blues, gospel, bluegrass and folk music. Students learn to play by ear--- no written music is used. This performance at a local nursing home does not include everyone in the program and the camera could not even take in all of the participants that were actually performing.

Dale Jett, A.P. and Sara Carter's grandson, said, "We went to bed of the night with the music and we woke up of the morning with the music." The great performer and ethnomusicologist, Mike Seeger believed that the first step to learning to play this music was to listen to it over and over, until your body absorbed the feel of the music.

Just as one can never be an effective practitioner of natural horsemanship without becoming immersed in the herd, one can never play this music the way it deserves to be played without being immersed in it.

In August I am taking an actual vacation and will be joined by everyone in our music program who can do so. My wife, Beth, has put together a great cultural and educational itinerary for the trip.  We will journey into southwest Virginia to see performances at Hungry Mother State Park, hope to take a tour of the Henderson School, attend the Carter Fold Festival which commemorates the anniversary of the 1927 Bristol Sessions Recordings by the Carter Family, visit the Heartwood, Southwest Virginia's artisan gallery and we will go into Bristol to see the Museum of the Birthplace of Country music. We will spend several days on this trip.

We will bring our instruments along and anytime there is a break in our schedule we will tune up on work on some songs.

All of this is part of what makes Mill Swamp Indian Horses such a different riding experience. We are a 501 (c) 5 non profit breed conservation program. We teach riding and natural horsemanship. We teach history and permaculture. WE heal and we teach others to heal. We fill voids.

The reality is that we are a cultural and educational facility--all with no paid staff. All with 100% volunteers.

There is no charge to participate in our musical program. No one has ever been turned away for lack of ability to pay program fees for our riding instruction program.

We have a very important fundraiser coming up on July 21. You don't have to be there to contribute. Go to our website to learn more about our program and to make a donation on line. Donations to a 501 (c) 5 non profit are not tax deductible.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Music Deserves Respect

There is room for humor in music. There is room for fun in music. There is, on rare occasions, even room for joy in music. But there is never room for disrespect of music in music.

Drunken audiences, people playing "air guitar", inane chatter interrupted only by orders for one more round show more than lack of respect for musicians. They show lack of respect for music.

For years,  Vaugn Deel has put on first rate open mic shows here in Tidewater. At these performances I have watched some very hard working young musicians get better with each performance . Victorian Station in Hampton, provides the best venue for open mics that I have encountered.

There is truth in timeworn lyrics. "Farther Along" says more to many people about the root of good and evil  than can all the verses of Job, Ecclesiastes, and Habakkuk combined. Three verses of "Keep on the Sunny Side" boil down three years of counselling on fighting depression.   Several Steve Earle songs teach us that what was  still is, but that it does not have to be that way in the future.

But the lyrics must be heard to matter and Victorian Station is a place where they can be heard. At the moment Songwriter's night is the first Thursday night of each month and only original songs are performed. I hope that the future will bring back the weekly sessions that made Victorian Station  so special.

If you want to play good music, and if you want to hear good music, open mic nights at Victorian station are where you belong.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Re-Thinking Deworming Strategies

As is wont to happen, each year our mature horses get another year older. We are also raising foals. Foals plus older horses create a perpetual parasite factory. Both the very young and many old horses do not have the quality  of an immune system that the majority of healthy adult horses have. Hence, they become incubators of parasites.

Of course, it is both a ridiculous and counter productive effort to seek to drug horses so often that they have fecal egg counts of zero. But parasites need to be managed for a variety of health reasons. One of those reasons often escapes the eye of the uninformed horse owner. Simply increasing calories, especially if those calories are primarily simple carbohydrates (as in sweet feeds) will do little to help such ancillary problems associated with a heavy parasite load as anemia.

One must also be concerned with the creation of parasites that are drug resistant. That is why the old idea of rotational dewormer use along the lines of the out dated protocol of the 1990's creates such a threat to the future of equine health.

I have always been leery of using Quest dewormer. I worried about the stories often told of the tremendous danger of overdosing horses with the drug contained in Quest. Even if the risk was small, ivermectin was cheap and within twenty four hours generally produced dead parasites in manure piles.

But I was constantly vexed by the problem of several herd members that have been hard to keep weight regardless of when they were dewormed and what they were fed. In recent years our protocol for such horses has been a thorough deworming and movement into a small pasture where they are fed hay and a highly digestible, low sugar, 12% protein extruded feed that is supplemented by a significant amount of gradually increasing vegetable oil. Most promptly begin to put on weight. Those who have dental problems are floated. In very rare cases, the floating helps. Primarily as a result of their forage based diet, few of our horses develop dental problems and the concept of constantly grinding away perfectly good teeth on a horse with no dental problems what so ever because the horse "is due for a floating" is ridiculous beyond consideration.

Completely unnecessary routine floating to prevent dental problems makes no more sense than putting a cast on an unbroken arm twice yearly to prevent broken arms.

Experience, observation and research matter in developing solid health protocols for your horses. Early this spring I stumbled into something that I wish I had truly understood years ago. I dewormed a three year old mare with fenbendazole. I had never been impressed with the results that I got from fenbenzadole and the results were no different this time. After twenty four hours there was minimal evidence of dead parasites in the manure. I decided to see what a follow up with ivermectin would do. The result was substantial evidence of effectiveness the next day. So I followed up with ivermectin two more days in a row. She continued shedding parasites.

There have been no indications of any side effects. I do not recommend following the experiment that I did. In fact, it is important to keep in mind that I am not a veterinarian. Advice on developing a deworming protocol or any other equine health protocol should only come after discussing the options with an experience veterinarian. I am not offering veterinary advice.

This experience, coupled with a discussion with my vet, cause me to reexamine my views on using Quest. While we might be experiencing some drug resistance to ivermectin I do not think that that has been the primary reason that it has appeared less effective in some of our horses. Ivermectin is a highly effective on parasites that are not encysted (with the major exception of tapeworms which it no effectiveness  against). However, it seems that a horse with encysted parasites releases them into the cecum and intestine, allowing them to pass on eggs and complete their life cycle, when their is a significant die off of non-encysted parasites.

The drug in Quest kills both encysted and non-encysted small strongyles. Quest is going to become a major part of our parasite treatment program.

I understand that a double dose of fenbenzadole, for five consecutive days works as well for many horses as a single treatment of Quest. The price and convenience of Quest makes that an attractive option for our horses.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Intro To Horse Back Riding:Saturday Summer Session

Beginning Saturday June 16, at 3:00pm, Mill Swamp Indian Horses, in Smithfield Virginia will offer a six session package introducing people of all ages to horseback riding. Unlike many other riding instruction programs, these sessions will begin with an introduction to natural horsemanship, providing participants with an understanding of a horse's physical and emotional needs. Understanding a horse's motivations is an essential step in developing a safe and humane relationship between horse and rider.

The next session, to be held the following Saturday from 3-5, will focus on understanding tack and how to properly saddle and unsaddle a horse. The remaining sessions will move into proper cues for our horses and the last session will include a group trail ride. Participants must be at least eight years old. Adults are encouraged to participate.

The fee for the entire six session program is only $175.00. Mill Swamp Indian Horses is a program of Gwaltney Frontier Farm, a 501 (c) 5 non profit breed conservation program. On site one will find some of the rarest strains of historic colonial horses left in the  nation, along with heritage breed goats, hogs, and turkeys. No herbicides or pesticides are used on the grounds and the pastures are developed using principles of permaculture  and microbial farming.

See more about our unique program at

Register for the six session program by email to