Thursday, February 28, 2019

Huglekulture Program March 23, 2:00 Register Now

No, things are not green like this yet around here, but we will host our first participatory clinic of 2019 on March 23, at 2:00 pm on building huglekulture mounds to conserve soil and water in a pasture setting. Mill Swamp Indian Horses is located at 9299 Moonlight Road Smithfield Virginia 23430.

Participants are urged to bring a shovel and a lawn chair. There is no fee to attend. However, we are a 501 (c) 5  breed conservation non-profit with no paid staff and we will accept contributions from attendees should they so desire.

To register contact Please share this announcement with everyone who is interested in promoting ecologically sound methods of soil and water conservation.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Lean Into It And Pull: Why Tomorrow Night is One of the Biggest Nights in The Program's History

We have sold out for the first concert of our Roots and Americana music program's band, Pasture #3.  A Handful of adults, a lot of young people, more traditional musical instruments then will fit in a homeschooler's van, and a great performance coming up.

So what does learning to play and perform have to do with preserving nearly extinct strains of Colonial Spanish Horses? Every bit of our focus links back to the horses and their preservation. The programs that we have developed over the years have turned us from being a place to go learn to ride to being a full fledged, non-traditional educational institutions.

The only hope for these horses is for children who care about them to become spokesman for the horses when they are adults. Being on stage gives the confidence to speak out. When one learns these ancient songs on ancient instruments they learn to reject the edicts of the shallow pop culture that engulfs young people today. When an eleven year old learns to appreciate and understand time worn songs that have no current commercial value they learn to think for themselves. The future of the preservation of the various heritage livestock cannot depend on the hope that mindless conformists will somehow see the light as adults and begin to support preservation.

Kids that will be on the stage tomorrow night have learned  to work as a team and to put their egos away and work for something bigger than themselves. And they have learned to improvise, to solve problems, and to figure it out for themselves. No stilted learning methods, no hammering on the "right way" to do a song--in short, the way poor and working people have learned to play music since the first man picked up a stick and beat a rhythm on a hollow log.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Tradewind, A Corolla Stallion, And The Fourth Fundmental Virtue

He's likely around twenty years old now. When he was captured his founder was so severe that in addition to long curving toes he walked over on the side of his front right hoof. He moved as best he could on strained tendons and ligaments and displaced coffin bones.

He was not merely lame, He was crippled.

Took a long time using Pete Ramey natural hoof care trimming techniques to get him able to walk normally. Took a bit longer for him to be able to move painlessly. He was not difficult for me to train to ride. At that point he was the smallest horse that I had ridden as an adult. I had learned that Colonial Spanish horses easily carried much more than the ridiculous  twenty percent of body weight rule that some many rule obeyers cling tightly to, yet he was only 12.2 hands, weighed 626 pounds and had once been crippled.

But he carried me fine. Never a hint of discomfort in 206 hours of brisk movement through the woods.  He was likely about ten years old then. I was fifty. He carried me, gaiting and trotting primarily, for so many hours through the woods trails in 2011 that he was named National Pleasure Trail Horse of the Year by the Horse of the Americas Registry.

It has been said that while there are many virtues worthy of seeking, courage, generosity, honesty and perseverance are four fundamental virtues upon which the exercise of all other virtues depend.

Tradewind persevered. Tradewind is resilient. I am often asked how much these horses are worth. It is always sad to hear that question because it means that I am speaking with a person who understands so little of life that they equate sales price with worth.

Tradwind is still ridden and brings particular joy to one family. He still produces spectacular foals for the Corolla off site breeding program.

All of that matters, but none of it goes to what he is truly worth. Tradewind's most important job is to stand there in a pen while I tell people about him and what he has over come--when I tell teenagers who are fighting to stay clear of drugs what he has over come, when I tell young adults who suffered molestation as kids what he has over come, when I tell people whose neurotic parents raised them to hate themselves what he has over come, when I tell people gripped in clinical depression what he has over come--That is when he shows his value-that is when he shows his worth.

Tradewind's worth is precisely equal to the worth of the people that can use him as a beacon of the fourth fundamental virtue--perseverance.

He also teaches a bit about the virtues that our program depends on. He was a crippled wild stallion. The established horse world would have simpley decreed that he should be put down.

But we do not throw away horses. And we do not throw away people.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

We Have Enough VermiCompost To Sell

About three years ago we began raising red wigglers in containers of horse manure. As our knowledge of microbial farming increased we worked hard to increase the diversity of the microbes to be found. We include some of the advantages of multi stock grazing by adding in smaller amounts of goat, turkey, hog, and cattle manure. The only thing else to go into our mix are coffee grounds and filters and two small applications of cane mollasses. Microbes from the base of hardwoods along the stream have been added in as have  fungus from an adjacent pine forest floor.

Over the years the wigglers have colonized much of our old pastures and are a big part of why the land can absorb rainfall so much better. We do not use any chemical fertilizers. We have been sparing in how much of our vermicompost we have applied to the soil and primarily use it in areas of too much soil compaction.

While it is very true that worm castings are loaded with nutrients that plants get tremendous use from, I think that the most important component of vermicompost for overall soil health are the microbes that remain in the mix.  I might be being overly cautious, but I only use vermicompost that is fresh and loaded with microbial life.

That is the only way that I will sell it. When purchasers arrive at the horse lot we will sift and package the product directly from the bin. The price will be fifteen dollars for a five pound bag. If you bring your own five gallon bucket we will fill it for $25.00.

Sales go entirely to support our program. We have no paid staff. Everyone here, who do all of the things that we get done, are volunteers. Sales are made by appointment only.

To schedule a purchase email We are located outside of Smithfield, Virginia.

Just A Pilgrim On This Road

A living mind should never be stagnant. My mind has not been stagnant, but for years it has been a slow moving stream, obstructed by false alarms, smoldering embers, brush fires and full blown conflagrations of flame and smoke.

At my age, perhaps the best way to deal with life is to build an intellectual firebreak and spend time reading and learning, as I did when I was young. For a time in my twenties I sought to read three books a week. I tore through subjects that interested me as if they were a seafood buffet--taking little time to chew in order to be able to swallow more. Between 1979 and 1987 I read everything worth reading about the history of the people of Tsennacomacah, and their relationship with the Jamestown experiment. From 1980 to the early 90's I inhaled books on Biblical critical analysis and scholarship. During the same period of time I read everything worth reading about both John and Bobby Kennedy. During the first decade of this century my focus was on absorbing the written word on natural horsemanship.

In recent years my reading has focused on the characters that contributed to Americana and Roots music. But that reading has not been as satisfying. That reading has come from some books, but mostly does from internet research.

Reading from the internet is not like going to a seafood buffet. It is like stopping by 7-11--sometimes I can find something that tastes good there, but the real reason that I stopped is to find something quickly.

Learning from the internet  allows one to accumulate a vast amount of information but is not conducive to reflection on that information. That matters--knowledge comes from the accumulation of information, but wisdom comes from reflection on that information.

Lately I have found myself drawn back to the road--to look for knowledge and wisdom as hard as I did when I was in my twenties. Perhaps this is merely a result of being nearly sixty years old and wanting to get things straight before I am gone.  More likely, the decline in our nation's morality and decency in recent years has caused more reflection.

At William & Mary my mind was on fire. My closest friend in my college years and best man in our wedding was Jim Comey. Jim was also a double major, mine was Government and Religion. I think that Jim's was Chemistry and Religion.  I was not used to talking to people smarter than me. At age 19 it was something that had very rarely  happened. Jim was smarter than me--not by much, but a touch smarter.

After you get a knife  sharp with a sharpening stone,  a steel hones it to an even sharper edge. Jim and I served as steels for each other's minds.

I want to regain that sharpness. Sanders, Niebur, King, Heschel, Amos, Luke and Malachi are starting to push their way back into the workings of my mind.

So now here I sit. I am on the Sabbath that I have about every 18 months to two years. I have the flu and as always I am enjoying it to no end.  It gives an opportunity for complete rest and reflection. The option of getting some work done does not exist. I am entirely too sick to even go feed up. So I can rest--and think.

 I am not too sick to doze off  as I compare Lincoln's Second Inaugural to Martin Luther King's letter from the Birmingham jail. And it is a wonderful thing to allow my mind to go back to being twenty two years old again.

When I was still young enough to be impressed by brilliance.

(The title of this post is from Steve Earle's great funeral song, "I'm Just a Pilgrim This Road.")

Monday, February 11, 2019

If You Must Anthropomorphize, Anthropomorphize Your Vet

After all, your vet actually is human. Your vet is not a guardian angel. Your vet has no magic power. Your vet is an incredibly hard working human trying their best to diagnose a creature who can no speak. Do not expect miracles.

Your horse can't talk, but your vet can. Did you listen to your vet when told that your horse is dangerously over weight, fed too much sugar and given nearly no exercise?

Do you even allow your vet to tell you those things?

When your laminitic horse, who weighs three hundred more than it should has to be put down, do you tell people that "the vet did not even try to save it!"

Has your failure to train and control your horse created an animal is a true danger to the vet?

 Do you get your horse care information from "people at the barn" or even worse, from social media for  opinions  on things like the effectiveness of diamataceous earth?

Where were you in the second grade when the teacher tried to explain the difference between facts and opinions?

Do you control your emotions while the vet is trying to make a difficult diagnosis or do you expect your vet to also be your grief counselor and emotional support?

I am a horse owner so it is my responsibility to stay up to date on medical issues involving my horses. The reality is, when I am confronted with a horse in serious distress and I am utterly at loss to know what the problem is, I have to recognize that there is a substantial chance that the horse is going to die. Of course, in such situations I immediately have the vet called out.

I hope for the best. I do not expect miracles. If one happens that is wonderful. If not, I would never dare complain that the vet, "did not do something." Over 1 in every twenty foals in a 2015 study died during the first 30 days of their lives.  Do you think that vets should have always been able to "do something" to prevent these deaths.

And keep this in mind--the vast majority of colic cases are idiopathic. (That means no one, not even your vet, can figure out what caused the colic attack).

Our vets are The Oaks in Smithfield, Virginia. They do spectacular wok and have never once disappointed me.

Perhaps that is because I only ask them to be vets, not gods.

Friday, February 8, 2019

The Blog Is Back

Regardless of how hard one tries there are some things that it is impossible to turn one's back on. For over a decade this blog has been the main way that people around the world have learned about the unique learning experiences in our program.  We simply have too much going on to put it all on face book.

Yesterday involved a lengthy conference call whose aim was to facilitate the breeding of more Corollas. I have yet to announce our exciting plans for "Choctaw Summer--2019." Our Ossabaw hog heritage pork program is bursting at the seams. Matt Thomas has turned the clearing of land into beautiful, functional performance art. Significant water retention programs have begun on the New Land. Construction of Native American structures to honor those who bred the little Spanish Horses into perhaps the best family and trial horses available on the planet today have begun. My Highland ox, Seven Leagues, has been promoted to Vice-President in Charge of Keeping My Blood Pressure Down and Reducing the Chance of Me Going Up Side Someone's Head. And a fine job he is doing in that role.

We will begin to offer vermicompost for sale and will be expanding our permaculture and soil and water conservation educational programs. We are looking to raise scores of heritage  turkeys in 2019 and expand our educational programs to include sheep shearing and wool and fiber  use. Our Americana and Roots music educational program, "Pasture #3" will have its first solo show on February 23, 7:00 pm at the Moonlight Hunt Club. We have a bumper crop of December born Colonial Spanish Goats and have had a beautiful pair of lambs born to our pure Hog Island Ram and a modern ewe (She will be replaced this spring with a Hog Island Ewe or two.)

Our most popular program innovation is Jackie Teeter's 8:00 am class on conditioning horse for significant mileage which will get us set quite well for our upcoming 60 Mile Ride. Renovations have begun on the Settlers Farm and countless hours have gone into repair of the path back to the tack shed.

Several tons of wood chips lay waiting  to be used in hugelkulture projects. In March we will have our first public educational program on developing hugelkulture mounds. We have several new, very enthusiastic participants in our program who not only want to learn to ride, they want to learn to do everything that it takes to make our program bigger and better.

We will begin planting trees from individual contributions marked for those purchases. Horse training continues to go well. Sally has become a wonderful trail horse and Long Knife will be in the woods soon. Washani is becoming a student favorite.

Beginning in April we will have a series of special programs every Saturday afternoon, weather permitting.

And we are getting our bills paid. That part is not easy but it is happening. I have been entirely too dilatorias in working on 501 (c) 3 status application. Always seems like too many other thing come up first before I get around to getting that done. However, flu is running rampant in our area and if I get laid out with the flu that will give me time  to get that paper work done.

So, you see, facebook is a wonderful tool for distribution of pictures and very short posts on what is going on at the horse lot. But to fully explain what is going on as we grow, this blog is a necessity.

Oh yea, one other thing, I am beginning to work up a testing instrument to be used to measure program participant's views on the proper role of leadership, control, use of power, horse on horse violence, fear of injury, fear of having a horse not "like" the participant, self assessment as a leader, projection of human traits onto horses and everything else that prevents a horse from feeling secure around humans. The results will be used to focus training on the emotional baggage that makes it very difficult to become a safe rider on a happy horse.

You see, it just won't all fit on facebook.