Sunday, May 31, 2020

Every Horse Is An Individual

Allowing sweeping generalizations to drip from your lips allows sweeping generalizations to stain your character. Be very leary of the self appointed horse expert who casually explains horse behavior by referencing the horse's pedigree.

While tendencies to behave in a given manner exist, I have no doubt that behavior which can be linked to genetics is dwarfed by the behavior that is caused by the handler.

Horses act according to the expectations of the handler. I can have a horse who stands perfectly to be mounted and warn new riders that the horse is not a bad horse, he just will walk off as you try to get on. With that expectation in mind the horse will often simply walk off when the foot touches the stirrup. In two weeks the horse will walk off with every one who seeks to get on him but me. Within a month he will walk off when I try to mount.

All of that behavior resulted from one bit of false information about the horse. The worst example that I have ever encountered was with a wonderful horse who had been given a negative name at birth. He was a great horse for beginners. We had several beginning riders start at the same time. They brought differing degrees of anxiety about riding to the horse lot with them. In a week or two I started hearing talk about how the horse was "living up to his name."

In a month he was a pariah to the new riders.

Many years ago I obtained a mustang mare from someone who was housing her and selling her for her owner. When I picked her up I was pleased with her temperament. The person that I met when I picked her up explained to me that he was not a "horse person" but that she sure seemed sweet and that she had been ridden and was doing great in her training.

I took her home and saddled her up. My little sister hopped on and rode her wonderfully in the round pen. A week later when I spoke to the same person he apologized profusely. He had gotten the horses mixed up. It turns out that this mare had never had a rider.

I told him not to worry, she has had one now.

This spring I began training a Corolla mare who I knew had not been trained in many years. As soon as I put a rope halter on her she responded with the lightest of touch to the lead rope. She took to driving in the surcingle as if she had been doing so every day of her life. She took a rider perfectly.

I assumed that I was incorrect in the information that I received concerning her training. I contacted the previous owner. I was surprised to find out that years ago she received ground work training but had never had a rider.

Of course this does not mean that one can simply hop on untrained horses and ride away. My point is that projecting your fears and prejudices on to the horse will assure a negative result.

The picture above is from yesterday. She is one of the faster learning, gentler horses that I have ever handled. Prior to arriving with us she had been handled about twice a week, for the previous three months, by a very experienced, first rate trainer.

She is a formerly wild BLM mustang. Had she been treated with the fear that most people have of wild horses she would not have that saddle on her.

Projecting one's fear on the horse would be bad enough. What makes it so much worse is that projection of fear seems to amplify it.

Every horse is an individual. Every riding student is an individual. Every person is an individual.

Except that  every expert spokesman for the established horse world are  all the same.

Their problem is not that they do not know enough. Their problem is that they know so many things that are simply not true.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Time To Be Grown: Solve This Problem

When I was a kid no homework made me madder than those problems about  "Johnny leaves on a train going 60 MPH going east and Sally Leaves on a train going..."

Only thing that they ever did for me was to cause me to seek a life with out train riding.

But here is a real problem. it could be an extraordinary learning experience, not just for kids but for the entire family.

Between August 15 and Sept 15 I want to plant our winter pastures. I want to plant a seed mixture that will:

1. provide some green forage throughout  much of the winter.
2. improve the soil by increasing nitrogen fixation
3. provide enough root depth to help fight compaction
4. be hardy enough to take pretty heavy hoof traffic.
5. be affordable.

We will need to seed nearly thirty acres. We will be using no heavy equipment, although we might rent a seed drill for some of the seed.

Now--how much seed should we buy? What kind of seed? Exactly where should we order it from? When will we need to order it by?

Now here will be the hardest part for a lot of people. Do not simply send me the most expensive plan that you can imagine on the assumption that it will be better. It likely will not, but even if it would it does not matter because if we cannot afford it we will not be able to use it.

I want all of the young people in the program to get me a plan by July 1. I hope that you can work on it as a family. Not only will it be great for the program and take a lot of work off of me, your research will help you understand why caring for the health of the soil is the most important that that we can do to care for the health of the horses. Not enough program participants realize this.

I look forward to receiving a plan from everyone in the program between the ages of 11 and 20. Older program participants are invited to submit a plan also.

Don't procrastinate. Don't wait until the last minute to get your plan together. Research. Be skeptical of advertiser's claims. Rely on science.

And do not assume that whatever cost the most is the best.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Now Follow Me On This One, Because There Is A Point Here

This is not a story about Abigail who is riding Dakota in the beautiful picture above. It is about one of the very few young people that I have ever had in the program who rode as well as Abigail. It is about one of my favorite kids that I ever had in the program.

She came from a conservative religious back ground and rarely watched TV and I doubt that she spent much time in a movie theater either. As she became a young adult she expanded her horizons a bit.

She had seen a movie--she wanted to tell me all about it--she was excited.

She said, "Steve, the guy in the movie was just like you!"

She went on to tell me that the protagonist was a producer and purveyor of illegal liquor who was hunted by the law and his competition in his criminal trade.

I was a bit confused. I reminded her that I did not drink and was a Sunday school teacher.

She told me that I was missing the point.

"They shot him, Steve. They blew up his house, They killed his friends. And no matter what they did to him he just got up, wiped off the blood and kept going,".

Now I have had many nice things said to me by young people over the years but this one stuck with me.

This pandemic has caused me to take on behaviors that I did not expect to occur. I find myself angry and barely able to contain myself when others display foolishness, selfishness, or jealousy. I am tired. I procrastinate on doing things that need to be done. (Yesterday I turned in a paper late. I do not think that I have ever done so before.)

Most of all I find it hard to make decisions. I certainly have never had this problem before.

But last night I decided that it was time to get up and wipe the blood off of me and get going. It won't be easy. I got minimal sleep as I watched the nation come apart in Minnesota the same way that prescient observers watched the nation come apart in Kansas in the 1850's.

But it is time to get in gear.

Quick Things That I have Learned This Spring

1.  For the horse that is not putting on weight as it should. Now keep in mind I am not talking about making a horse get fat. Doing so is the most commons form of equine abuse and leads to a host of health problems. I am talking about the horse that is thin to the point of perhaps effecting the strength of his immune system. For years I always followed the same pattern to put weight on those horses. (Keep in mind that the horses have hay around them 24/7, so I am talking about the horse that looses weight when others in the paddock are not)  Deworm the horse, check the horse's teeth, added 13% protein feed with a handful of mineral, add vegetable oil in increasing amounts until I am up to about a cup a day. This worked in the past for 95% of the horses. When it was not working I called in the vet. Unfortunately, in the cases for which it did not work the diagnosis was often cancer.

This spring I had several horses that were eating a great deal of greasy feed and yet not putting on weight. The problem was a protein deficiency. Adding high protein balancer to the feed mixture of mineral, oil, and 13% feed coupled with hay or pasture is promptly restoring the weight.

Lesson--boost fat and if that does not work boost protein.

2. Trotting and cantering five miles a day helps a rider who has been out of the saddle for a while get back into comfortable riding. Doing so in addition to lifting weights on a farmer's walk circuit and doing tabata on a heavy bag, while adding in one weekly ride of at least 20 miles conditions one for serous riding better than anything that I have ever done.

Lesson--push your body as much as you can and you will be able to enjoy long summer rides better than you ever have.

3.  Always be aware of your emotions. Few things stress a horse as much as being around a stressed person. Nothing has illustrated this better than this pandemic.

Lesson--take some time to relax before you tack up or one can simply hop up there and let gravity take its course.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

If I Was a Twelve Year Old Girl I Would Be In Crisis Right Now

Little riders often become very bonded with their favorite horses. They worry about hurting that horse's feelings if they start to enjoy riding another horse. I have seen tremendous expressions of guilt over leaving an old favorite behind to saddle up a new horse.  They worry that their first horse will feel left out from being left behind.

Of course my first love is the Colonial Spanish horse--especially those of the Southeast, Choctaws, Corollas, Shacklefords, and Marsh Tackys.  When my weight was down about thirty pounds I had great fun riding Nick, a large standard donkey born of a blm jenny and a wild father. My daughters rode him a lot as teens.

I have always been intrigued by Mammoth donkeys but they are so rare that I never expected to have any in our program. Thanks to  Thomas family, specifically Jenner Thomas' love of donkeys, we have four of these large, beautiful, athletic equines at the horse lot.

I am certainly drawn to them. They are the most underestimated members of the equine family. I like that. Whether on the ball field or the courtroom I always hoped to be underestimated. There are few advantages in life that one can have that is more helpful than to be underestimated. Luckily for me, it seems that I have always been surrounded by suburbanites who were more than happy to underestimate me.

They have a minimal panic response. That is not exactly true. They are very skilled at hiding panic while looking completely in control of the situation. This is also a trait that I work very hard to emulate.

But most of all, they are real, lacking in flash and chrome, but housing a powerful engine and mud grip tires with deep tread. Oh, I do, admire that.

I don't feel guilty for loving the donkeys. I don't feel like I am letting the horses down.

I just have to figure out how to find the time to ride both donkeys and horses hours on end.

 Guess I will have to learn how to eat faster and sleep less--maybe even spend less time cleaning my vehicles.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Done Come Home To A Place They Never Been Before

Genesis 1:1 "In the beginning...."

Not to get too esoteric and reflective, but it is good to remind ourselves that not everyone, in every age, in every culture shares our most deeply embedded western concepts. For example, not every culture in history has seen time as linear. To take that to its starkest implications, in those cultural settings there is no belief that yesterday came before today and that tomorrow will come after today. In cultures that viewed time as circular instead of linear everything came both before and after everything else. There was no beginning and there will be no end according to such a world view.

If you think about it too hard you can get dizzy.

Yesterday we unloaded the two most beautiful Mammoth jenny donkeys that I have ever seen after a long drive back from Happy Valley Donkey Rescue in Concord Virginia. The Thomas family's love of donkeys has allowed us to preserve and promote this wonderful piece of American history.They are sisters and are of a breed of donkey so rare that few people have any idea that there are donkeys the size of horses.

They are nearly extinct.

That possibility should bother anyone who cares about the agricultural history of this nation. George Washington was among the agricultural pioneers that worked to produce these super sized donkeys.  The tall donkey jacks were bred to  large horse mares. The powerful mules that resulted from the breeding plowed much of the American soil.

When they were unloaded a herd of Spanish goats came over to see what the ruckus was. Right behind the goats came a band of five sheep. Three are of Hog Island lineage. Two of them were directly from Mount Vernon. The other one's parents were from Mount Vernon. The other two are Leicesters, a sheep breed from England that Washington sought out to cross with his American sheep.

We all stood there in a pasture with George Washington's sheep and his donkeys. For a moment, for just a moment, "was", "is", and "will be" were all happening at the very same time.

And for me that is the value that one receives from making the conservation of heritage livestock a top priority in one's life. It is a life enriching experience to simply stand in a pasture watching history unfold, refold itself and then unfold again. 

Over the years our program has allowed a several thousand people to see, and many of them to ride, the horses who carried their ancestor quickly down dark trails in the middle of the night to find the midwife who delivered their great-great-great-great-great-grandmother. They got to see the little Spanish horses that pulled the simple wagon that brought her to the church to be married twenty years later. They get to see the horse that her husband plowed the fields with for nearly a score of years. They get to see the horses that her three sons rode off to war. They get to see the horse that brought the only son who survived that war home. And they get to see the horse that slowly pulled the wagon carrying her simple, small coffin off for its final ride.

And I love doing this. And this is what makes it worth it.

Heritage Breeds Week begins in two days. If you would like to become part of working to conserve the livestock that built our nation go check out the wonderful work that the Livestock Conservancy does. If you would like to participate in the  breeding and conservation of nearly extinct Colonial Spanish Horses you can contact me as

Thursday, May 14, 2020

"I Had No Idea That All This Goes On At Mill Swamp Indian Horses!"

That is what a visitor who lived locally said when he came out to learn about our program. I was not surprised. Not many people do know, and those that do are shocked when they learn that all of this is done with no paid staff. Everything that is done is done by hardworking, knowledgeable, dedicated volunteers.

In fact, we do so much that we document it so that others can understand what is possible. We record the number of miles each rider rides in a  lesson and record the cumulative figures. In 2019 we rode further than from Norfolk to Oslo, Norway.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Here is what goes in in our program--

Gwaltney Frontier Farm Educational Foundation, Inc is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit that supports educational programs at Mill Swam Indian Horses, the program name of Gwaltney Frontier Farm. As is the rest of the nation, we are in a holding pattern for many of our programs and are looking forward to being able to get fully back into gear soon. Below I will set out a list of some of the services that have been provided until the virus suspended things and that will be resumed the moment that it is safe and legal to do so.

We work to preserve and promote nearly extinct strains of historic heritage livestock, including Colonial Spanish Horses, particularly those whose lineage goes back to the Outer banks of North Carolina, the area around the Grand Canyon, Choctaw horses whose ancestors carried Native Americans on the Trail of Tears into what is now Oklahoma,  Galicenos and Marsh Tackys, the horse of Colonial South Carolina. We also feature rare strains of Spanish goats and early Colonial Sheep and hogs and even raise Scottish Highland Cattle. We have recently begun to feature Mammoth donkeys of the type that George Washington used to develop larger, stronger mules.

We teach children and adults to humanely gentle and train the horses to saddle and we teach riding lessons. We have never turned anyone away for inability to pay program fees. It is important to keep in mind that we have no paid staff. Everything that is done is done by volunteers. The program is on nearly sixty acres of land that the program uses at no charge.

We hope to soon return to having our Friday program in which children are taught soil and water conservation, microbial farming, pasture development, Natural Horsemanship, livestock care and handling, Colonial gardening techniques, composting and vermiculture. Perhaps most importantly, the kids learn to work on the farm and use problem solving skills and team work to take on very large projects, e.g. clearing brush and wood land for pasture conversion and fencing that land in for efficient, environmentally sound use. We have a program fee, but no family is ever turned away for inability to pay the fee. In order to make it easier for entire families to participate in our programs, those for which a fee is charged are charged on a per family basis. This makes it possible for large families to participate and encourages parents to participate right along with the children.

Our educational program includes a free Old Time, folk, blues, gospel and American music lesson program. At no additional charge program participants who wish to do so gather weekly to learn to play and perform on stage. A few adults join in with up to a dozen or more kids and play such instruments as banjos, fiddles, mandolins, dulcimers, harmonicas, wash tub bass, dobro, tenor banjo, tenor guitar, bouzouki, kazoo, autoharp, and even a wash board. The kids have played many professional engagements. All of the performance payments are donated back to the program.

Perhaps the most important aspect of what we do involves healing and helping people who have experienced extreme trauma in their lives. For over seven years, until the virus outbreak, we provided weekly programming to those who are in the in-patient PTSD program at the Hampton Veterans Hospital. We have never charged for this service. We provided monthly programming to Mid-Atlantic Teen Challenge, a substance abuse treatment facility at no charge. Although we are not a therapeutic riding facility, many people who suffered significant abuse as children or adults benefit tremendously from interaction with our horses.

We have provided, and look forward to providing more sessions to first responders, medical professionals, and other professions both in using techniques of natural horsemanship to more effectively communicate with traumatized people and to use the horses to deal with the trauma that they experience on the job.

That is what has been going on at the horse lot for many years and I hope that we will be jumping back in with both feet soon.

If you would like to be part of our program you may email me at Fess for riding lessons are $160.00 per family per month. Families in the riding program can participate in the Friday program at no additional charge. Participants in the Friday program without being riding students have a fee of $120.00 per month per family.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Colonial Spanish Horses: Do You Really Think They Are Super Horses?

My strong preferences would be to not hold such a belief. Feeling that way makes me sound too much like an overly eager booster. However, pesky facts and observations keep getting in my way. A Corolla mare, less than a month after being removed from the wild carrying her rider on a forty six mile ride--A Corolla mare never before ridden responding to the lightest pressure while being ridden in a rope halter as if she had been doing so all of her life--Choctaws and a Shackleford taking three of the top ten spots in the first endurance ride that their riders had ever seen--Tradewind a wild stallion from the Outer Banks removed from the wild because of severe founder and hoof abscesses responded so well to therapeutic hoof care that he went on to become the Horse of the Americas National Pleasure Trail Horse of 2010--The list of the accomplishments of these historic horses is beyond the imagination of those who have never had an opportunity to ride them--

 And now this--Bella Note, perhaps the last Colonial Spanish mare alive to have 12.5%  Grand Canyon lineage, eagerly takes to swamp trails including water and mud that was chest deep and then settles into a 17 mph trot with Tam gleefully sitting on the saddle. After she is fully conditioned she will become one of the lead horses in our endurance team.

And this was on her first limited "test run".

There size scares off modern breed enthusiasts--until they ride one.

Super horses? Clarke Kent didn't look like he could fly either.

Does Bedside Manner Affect Live Foal Birth Rates?

I am afraid that it might. I grew up riding stallions. While I suspect that I owned a mare at some point I do not remember doing so. About twenty years ago we began breeding and producing foals.

Our protocol was simple.  I put the mare that I wanted bred in a pasture with a stallion for a few months during spring and summer.  In less than a year she gave birth in an open pasture with no people around.

I did not go out and "check on" the mare every day. I did not subject her to any additional stress beyond that which the other horses were having.  I did not stand around her and worry about whether or not the foal-to-be was developing appropriately. I did not go out and wring my hands around her worrying if she was ok.

I just let her have the foal.

As is my habit, I eventually began studying about prenatal care, conception rates, and live foal birth rates. I was floored when I saw how low the live foal birth rate was in racing and show barn breeding facilities. Mares in those environments were producing live foals way beneath what was occurring in our pastures.

Fifteen years ago it was the rarest of occasions to have a mare bred here that did not produce a healthy, pasture born foal.

Everyone who has any understanding of the mind of the horse knows how strongly they react to human emotions. Their  herd instincts, developed over the ages, cause them to constantly process the actions, and reactions, of other herd members, be those members human or equine.

A terrified person terrifies horses. A person under stress will find a horse that reflects that stress waiting for them in every pasture.

I wonder if being constantly exposed to stressed humans affects a mare's ability to produce a healthy, full sized foal. If it does not, then horses have developed an exception to the entire psychological make up that governs every other aspect of their emotional lives.

I also wonder if being regularly handled by a relaxed, optimistic human who interacts with the mare enhances the chances of a healthy live foal birth.

My strong hunch is that the mare who is allowed to interact with her equine herd without any unnecessary human interaction, particularly during the late stages of pregnancy, would do best.

Such a study would be very difficult to conduct scientifically, but it would certainly be worth conducting.

Of this I am certain--number of horses those illness or injury I have successfully treated by worrying about them, wringing my hands, and constantly trying to show them how much I care comes in at a "0". The number of horses whose illness or injury I have successfully treated by providing them with the most conservative treatment possible, administered in the least stressful manner possible, comes in at "innumerable."

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Be Patient, Conservation Help Can Come From Unanticipated Sources

We work hard to conserve and promote nearly extinct strains of Colonial Spanish horses along with several other Heritage livestock breeds. We work even harder to promote soil and water conservation. This is a winter picture of a portion of a pasture created from acres of brush, trees, and brambles. Thousands of small trees were removed by hand--no heavy equipment to scar and compact the soil. Trees were converted into fences and  brush piles for wild life. No chemical herbicides, fertilizers or pesticides are applied to the land. The soil is being rebuilt by multi species grazing and microbial farming techniques.

One never knows where help will be coming from and that is one of the reasons to never give up on a project worth doing. Wendell purchased a brush buster and walked behind it for countless hours in the early stages of converting the land to usable pasture.  Scouts and volunteers from Dominion  Power helped clear land. A grant from the Livestock Conservancy has allowed us to divide the parcel into five paddocks. Jack  dug out another water hole to go along with the larger ones that my brother dug out. Matt tirelessly cut stumps and built brush piles.

When I purchased a chainsaw to begin this project I had no reason to hope for any of the help that we have received from volunteers and outside organizations.

I see a strange parallel going on in the miles of ditches near the horse lot. About a decade ago I saw something in one of the ditches that I had not seen in nearly forty years--a spotted turtle. These endangered turtles cannot live in the kinds of degraded water ways that modern agriculture often produces. Slowly their numbers increased. In the past few years the spotted turtle population has seemed to skyrocket.

Why could that be? I have a pretty strong hunch.

Raccoons feast on not only the eggs of ground nesting birds, but also on turtle eggs. Since the 90's our raccoon population has been steadily dwindling. Our skunk population is dwindling but  not as fast as the raccoon population.

Ground Hogs have all but disappeared. The once booming fox population seems to have leveled off. Dead possums do not litter the roadways in nearly the numbers that they did a score of years ago. Feral cats, once one of the most commonly seen non-rodent mammals in our woods are now seen only a few times a year by those who observe the woods with the most careful of eyes.

The change has been the explosion of coyotes in our region. Coyotes, who mate freely with dogs, and whose offspring with dogs are fertile, hunt in packs here in Tidewater. By hunting in packs instead of singles or pairs they are more efficient predators and the resulting Coy-Dog has brought a big change to our wild life profile.

The spotted turtles have been unforeseen benefactors of this change in predation. Without so many feral cats, raccoons, and possums out there to dig up and consume their eggs their numbers have taken off.

I cannot imagine that any wild life biologist would have expected this outcome, just as I never expected all of the hard work of volunteers and financial contributions that have kept our program growing.

The spotted turtle provides another lesson for us. They have life spans of 60-110 years of age. They are in it for the long haul.

So are we. Working steady--plodding forward--planting seeds and breeding for the future. 

Check out this great article on these beautiful turtles.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Three Beliefs That Limit One's Horsemanship ...and One's Happiness

Few of us are  lucky enough to have none of these beliefs. Although they are contradictory, some of us are trapped holding all three beliefs at the same time. The beliefs all relate to power and control. Some of the beliefs change on their own as we age. Others might require years of counselling and hard work to over come.

The first of these toxic beliefs  is that one can control the events around them. This is a vanity for little boys who control their environments by pressing buttons on videos. Doing so creates the false perception that life follows the model of  power and competition embodied in these games. But this flawed belief existed ages before video games.  It is embodied in the belief that training problems are solved by showing the horse "who is boss."

Years ago I noticed that, nearly to a uniform degree, little boys described their problems with horses by saying, "That horse is not doing what I said!", while little girls framed the problem in starkly different terms, "That horse is not listening to me!"

In short order, a rider learns that his ability to control the horse is limited. The rider must be confident enough to humble himself into learning how to communicate with the horse. Many people cannot do so. All they can do is seek to prove to themselves and others that the problem lies entirely with the horse. The reality is that one can learn to communicate effectively with the horse in order to increase the degree of control that one has over the horse...but there  never is complete control over the horse.

And there never is complete control in any other aspect of our lives. We live in an uncertain world and those who refuse to accept that will learn that brick walls cannot be broken with human heads.

The second of these toxic beliefs is that one should be able to control the events around them. This belief causes us to analyze all problems with horses with one measure--"What did I do wrong to cause this problem with the horse?" If one should  be in control and a problem arises then the problem is the result of the failure of the person to do what they should  have done.This belief causes people to wrack their minds trying to come up with a  reason that they fell from the horse.

Self loathing is not a productive source of motivation.

The saddest of these three beliefs is that one has no control over the events around them. It is often a product of years of abuse and perhaps full blown PTSD.  This belief is trauma's child. Powerlessness breeds anxiety and depression. The best news is that learning natural horsemanship can reverse this belief. I have seen it happen too often to even question its effectiveness. When one learns to train a horse with 51% control and 49% affection one learns how truly powerful one can become.

 Q. "That horse must be crazy! Why did that horse throw me?'
A.  "He didn't throw you. You fell off."
Q. "So you are saying that it is my fault?"
A. "Nope, I'm saying that if you lengthen your stirrups a notch or two and get a bit more power in your legs you can handle a minor spooking like that."
Q. "I don't think that there is anything that will ever keep me from falling from a horse that spooks like that. You don't really think that I can learn to stay on when that happens, do you?
A. "Yep. And I can show you how. And you can learn to do things that you never thought possible."

And when one internalizes the last statement above--real horsemanship...and real happiness is possible.

Now Listen Very Closely While I Scream Something At You

I am not in pain this morning. I am sixty years old, arthritic, and by any measure at least forty pounds over weight.

And yesterday I rode the easiest, most comfortable thirty miles of primarily trotting and cantering  that I have ever spent on a horse at that distance.

I have only lost eight pounds in the last month so the weight loss does not account for the improvement. For several weeks now I have incorporated light weight training into a tabata protocol work out that has radically improved my level of fitness and strength. 

And it takes about 7 minutes a day.

A horse can carry a fit rider much easier than one who is weak and unsteady. A rider who is fit can flow with the horse's movement in a way that makes riding much easier than can be done otherwise.

If you want to do something great for yourself and your horse, check with your doctor first and research tabata protocol and see if it is right for you.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Preserving Great Colonial Spanish Equine Genetics

Years ago, I stood on the beach at Corrova and saw my first wild Corolla horses. I was on the inspection tour of the wild herds of Shacklford and Corolla with representatives of the Livestock Breeds Conservancy, and the Horse of The Americas Registry, and the American Indian Horse Registry,  including two of the nations premier Colonial Spanish horse preservationist, Vickie Ives and Tom Norush.

At the time I had never heard of a Grand Canyon horse. It seemed that every time we saw a beautiful stallion, Vickie would same something about how important it would be to cross a Corolla stallion with a Grand Canyon mare.

Look at these pictures above. Manteo, the black stallion is a formerly wild horse from Corolla. Bella Note is 12.5% Grand Canyon. That might not seem like much, but to my knowledge, she is the last surviving mare to have such a high percentage of Grand Canyon lineage. The remainder of her lineage is Book Cliff, Choctaw, Brislawn Foundation, Sulfur, Crow and Shoshoni. (For those unfamiliar with the breed, this does not make her a "cross breed." The breed is Colonial Spanish which is composed of many strains, all going back to the horses brought by the Spanish during the earliest years of the colonization  of North and Central America. Some like to argue that this not correct and that each strain must be considered a breed unto itself. Such people could more productively spend their time counting the number of angels that can dance on the tip of a needle)

We now have a son of Rowdy Yates who is 12.5% Grand Canyon (the father of Bella Note), two mares that are 6.25% Grand Canyon, and two other mares at the horse lot owned by program participants who are 6.25% Grand Canyon. Insuring that this remnant does not perish from the earth is an important additional goal for our program.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Spring is A Time For Growth...Even This Spring

Around the world people are finding themselves on lock down or even quarantine. Even for those of us not facing those restrictions it can feel as if life is on hold. Horse shows, parades and equestrian events are being cancelled all around the world. We should not wait until life is "normal" again to improve our knowledge and horsemanship.

We can still grow this spring.  In fact, this is a great time to do that.

Some of us are lucky enough to be able to get out and spend time alone with a horse. There is no better way to build a relationship with a horse than to invest undistracted time in that horse

This is a great time to work on training your equine to be light and responsive to cues. This young rider spends hours each week training a pair of donkeys to make perfect partners for him.

Great equine photographers find that their knowledge of horses grows with the time spent waiting for that perfect shot. Even if you cannot get out and practice your photography this is a great time to research and study the technical aspects of photography. This great picture from Everyday Photography shows the result that such study can produce.

You can also use this time to learn entirely new equine skills. When one considers the cost of horse ownership people rarely think about the cost of good hoof care. Young people who learn natural hoof care not only can make owning their own horse more affordable, they often can earn money by trimming hooves for others. It takes years of study and experience to do so, but Pete Ramey's book on natural horse care is a great place to start.

If horses could tell people what they need for people to do in this time of uncertainty and confusion I am pretty sure that what they would want each of us to do is to grow. We all need to grow in our knowledge of natural horsemanship, natural horse care, and natural hoof care. We all need to grow in our knowledge of riding. But there is one last thing that horses need for people to do.

They need for us to grow in our level of physical fitness. A strong, balanced rider is much easier for a horse to carry.  An aerobically fit rider whose stamina allows for longer riding sessions is much easier for a horse to carry.

One does not need a gym membership to grow in strength, balance, and endurance. One does need dedication and discipline to do so.

Make this spring the time that you grow in knowledge, understanding, and physical fitness.

And by next spring you will see that your enjoyment of horses has grown like a weed.