Sunday, May 26, 2019

What If We Put Together a Mill Swamp Colonial Spanish Horse Endurance Team?

This October there will be an endurance race close by. Years ago we took five horses to a race in New Jersey and won four of the top ten spots (search this blog for the posts about that race)

Would likely be good publicity for our breed conservation program and for all Colonial Spanish Horses.--Would be hard work--would require putting together a team of riders willing to commit themselves to at least three training rides a week through out the summer.

It would require me to put the hours in the saddle that my body needs--a very good thing--would cause me to loose significant weight and radically improve my health--would do the same thing for all of the riders who participate (unless they did not need to loose any weight)--would be wonderful for the health of the horses that we chose for the team

A team riding great horses with tremendous endurance including Hickory Wind (Marsh Tacky), Joey and Manny, (Choctaws), Swimmer, (Banker from Corolla), Holland (Banker from Shackleford), Long Knife (Banker from Corolla), Janie (high percentage Grand Canyon) Peter Maxwell and Red Fox (each 1/2 Corolla) would be a beautiful thing to behold.

Would love to include Mandy on Pancho but riders under 18 can't ride stallions--Luckily we have a few other horses that she could ride.

This could be a great thing to work and train for--not to win a trophy, but simply to show people another reason that it would be so very wrong to allow these horses to go extinct

Depression, Substance Abuse and Lyrical Genius

No need to list them all here. If you have ever thought about great lyricists you must surely have noted have many of them died from alcohol or drug addiction.

Since I was a child I wondered what the connection between emotional pain and lyrical talent was. I was particularly struck by how many great composers from the south who could put pain to pen lived and died so tragically.

In short, why do Southern mothers so often raise drunken poets?

I am not trained in psychology. My idea could be completely off the mark.  I think that the link is long term bouts of clinical depression that serve as an incubator for substance abuse is also an incubator for profound insight.

It does not take long for someone with clinical depression to notice that they are not like other people--that other people feel things that they don't feel. And they wonder why. And they spend many hours trying to understand. And they look deep within themselves for answers.

And when they finally have some answers they realize how difficult it is for other people to understand what they feel. They search for the words that can help them explain themselves to a world that they do not fit in. They search for words, phrases, comparisons, anything that can help them explain.

And some of them get very good at it.

Joshua Wolf Shenk's spectacular book, "Lincoln's Melancholy"  helped me understand the link between Lincoln's depression and his eloquence.

Only a man who had climbed out of the abyss could come up with a phrase as beautiful as "the better angels of our nature."


Yesterday was different.

It was busy, but it is always busy on Saturdays. Lydia lead the hands on demonstration of shearing a Hog Island sheep with hand shears. Program participants dug up several mulberry trees and brought them over from the Peninsula and planted them here.

Curie has been working with Matchcoor for the last few months and yesterday she tacked him up and I lead them around for the horse's first ride. A pair of young students had their first experience cantering in the woods trails. A bear stood in the middle of one of the trails, giving every rider who saw him a glimpse back in to Tidewater's natural history.

Abigail set some fence post and poles to shore up the rail fence on the new land. Audrey played a Hawaiian steel guitar for the first time. Emma fiddled on the porch. Ariyana and Ming played guitar. A new family came out for a tour of the horse lot and an opportunity to see how we do things.

We went out on three rides.

And there was much laughing. People were having fun.

That is not a word that I think of when I think of the horse lot. I think of the horse lot primarily as an educational institution. I think of it as a place of meaning. I think of it as a place of healing and solace.

I have out grown fun. Satisfaction fills the place in me that was once filled by fun--back when Lido was little and we trained horses. I don't feel "fun" anymore but I do enjoy seeing it in others, particularly little ones.

Sweaty, dust covered little girls. A bench made of a feed pan and a plank and a puppy held between them---and they were having fun. Tremendous fun.

And that gave me satisfaction. Tremendous satisfaction.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

First Responders, Trauma, and Fighting Your Way Back Out

Some things are too important for subtle hints and polite suggestions. This is one of those things. Trauma has always been with us but it is only in the recent past that we have begun to remotely understand the impact that trauma has on human health and happiness.

We are entering our seventh year of providing weekly session for those who are in the inpatient PTSD program at our local Veterans Hospital. We use horses to help participants understand the impact that severe trauma can have on one's reaction to a variety of stimuli.

In short, humans and other large mammal predators share many common body language cues and, more importantly. share a strong drive for autonomy. Severely traumatized people and  prey animals who live in herds often share many common body language cues and, more importantly, share a strong need for security.

While a focal point of the sessions is communication and understanding the extreme need for security a secondary point is nearly as important-- using the horse to learn to regain the ability to trust.

Let me be blunt. For over twenty years I have been prosecuting sexual assault, molestation cases, and crimes against children. I have taken on much of the trauma that the victims relive throughout the process. My parents were among the earliest members of our local volunteer rescue squad.  I understand what first responders often find when they respond to a call. We have a very small office and I work very closely with law enforcement.  I know the toll that some of these cases take on them.

We offer free hands on sessions for first responders who are working their way through the trauma that their jobs bring upon them. Don't worry if you are afraid of large animals--in fact that will make the session even better. Don't worry if you don't know how to ride--there is no riding involved.

Most of all, don't get in your head that this must be some kind of touchy-feely kind of thing where we all get together and learn to cry while holding each other's hand. NO--that is not how this works.

Look at the picture above this post. That is me and my bull. Do I look touchy or feely to you?

We are located in Smithfield Virginia. We are delighted to set up a session for first responders. I have participated in many of these sessions. They matter. They matter so much that we don't charge a penny for them.

To schedule a session send me an email at