Monday, August 31, 2020

Volunteers Who Put Their Hearts Into Our Program

People often wonder how we can run all of the programs that we do, for all of the people that we do and care for as many horses as we do---all with no paid staff. It is because we have many volunteers who are as enthusiastic about this program as the participants are. Lydia was eleven years old when she learned to ride in our program. That was over a decade ago. Now she is an integral part of everything we do. Her is what she wrote about our program three years ago.

"My name is Lydia Barr. I ride,volunteer, and train horses, as well as keep my horse out at Mill Swamp Indian Horses.

I started riding and working with horses out there when I was 11yrs old. I was home schooled and my parents were looking for a way to include outdoor work and activities into my schooling as well as an outlet for my delight and curiosity about animals. The freedom to have a whole day of being challenged in an outdoor class room is a rare opportunity and Mill Swamp Indian Horses was the perfect match for me. I am the 5th out of 7 children so it was always a tricky thing for my Mom to work out the schedule for all of us each year. But Mill Swamp was the perfect fit. I was able to count my involvement as extra credits in physical education, community service, and leadership skills. While also gaining confidence, self control and emotional awareness that comes from learning to communicate with horses, other animals, and all the other people who ride and work out there. 

I am now 22 yrs old and my job is professionally training horses several days a week. Because of the rare and incredible opportunity to learn and gain experience training wild horses with Steve, I was able to push myself and develop my natural talent with animals. But through all the different programs at the horselot that focus on using horses for healing and better relationships with people, I have learned and grown up with a deep desire to use my skills and strengths to meet and build up everyone I come in contact with. 

The power of the horse lot comes from it's simplicity and honesty. It doesn't have straight fences and rolling green pastures. There is mud and baling twine fixes. But there is no pretense. We offer what we have to anyone who can come. People from all different backgrounds and stories are able to come and find community because the horses offer comfort and peace.Through the horses I have learned patience, gentleness, courage, compassion, and how to reach out and connect with other people. But it has also been through the people who have opened themselves up to the revealing vulnerability of working with the horses that have taught me some of the most important things about what I want to be, who I want to look like, and where I want to go. 

Steve Edwards, Mill Swamp Indian Horses, and the Gwaltney Frontier Farm have changed my life. Not from something damaged into something healed, or from darkness into light, but simply a deeper understanding, a wider perspective, a more gracious standard, and solid self awareness."

. You can help us keep this program going and growing throughout the pandemic. Make a contribution. Gwaltney Frontier Farm, Inc, is a 501 (c)5 breed conservation program that administers all of the programs at Mill Swamp Indian Horses. Contributions to a 501 (c) 5 breed conservation program are not tax deductible. However, the Gwaltney Frontier Farm Educational Foundation is a 501 (c) 3 educational foundation that helps fund our educational programs and helps pay for the physical infrastructure where we conduct our educational and instructional programs. Contributions to Gwaltney Frontier Farm Educational Foundation may be made by check mailed to 16 Dashiel Drive, Smithfield Virginia, 23430.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Doing Our Part In September

The strangest summer of my lifetime is coming to an end. The pandemic has cost our nation over 180,000 lives. Millions of Americans are unemployed. Educational opportunities across the nation have been turned upside down. Our non-profit program has suffered no deaths. We never had employees. Everything that we do is done by volunteers. However, our educational opportunities have been severely limited by the virus.

I recognize that many individuals and organizations have lost much more than we have, but we have lost enough to put us in a serious financial shortfall. for the month of September I am going to try to use this blog and social media to help us catch up and continue to grow.

I will be explaining different aspects of our program in these posts and will discuss how much it costs to keep different parts of the program going. Here is how you can help:

1. Share each post as they come out on our group facebook page.

2. For program members who do not use facebook I will be emailing each post directly to you. Send them on to friends, family and acquaintances along with a personal note letting them know how helpful a contribution would be during the month of September.

3. Make a contribution. Gwaltney Frontier Farm, Inc, is a 501 (c)5 breed conservation program that administers all of the programs at Mill Swamp Indian Horses. Contributions to a 501 (c) 5 breed conservation program are not tax deductible. However, the Gwaltney Frontier Farm Educational Foundation is a 501 (c) 3 educational foundation that helps fund our educational programs and helps pay for the physical infrastructure where we conduct our educational and instructional programs. Contributions to Gwaltney Frontier Farm Educational Foundation may be made by check mailed to 16 Dashiel Drive, Smithfield Virginia, 23430.

Be prepared to help out on this. Our programming is innovative and its breadth is unique. We touch lives. We save horses, history, and humans, all the while working to conserve and enhance the environment around us. And we have never turned anyone away for inability to pay program fees.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

The Picture From Life's Other Side: What's Keeping Our Program Growing During the Pandemic

Everything that we do is done by volunteers and the work of every volunteer is vitally important. Many of us have particular talents that our program can put to use. The needs of our program change from season to season.

During the pandemic, we have less going on than we ever have, yet the number of program participants continues to grow. That is entirely the result of Sherry Brickhouse Leonard's spectacular photography with Everydaylife Photography.  Sherry's pictures bring to life everything that we do at the horse lot. Sherry's pictures serve as compelling invitations to come out and join us--to work--to-learn- to ride and to grow.

Could you imagine being a photographer and being assigned to take pictures that show why the horse lot is a great place to raise one's family?  Pretty big task. I never asked Sherry to do that, but that is exactly what her pictures  have done over the years.

They really are worth a thousand words--even a thousand of my very best words.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

The Second Best Way To Preserve And Promote Colonial Spanish Horses

The horses that this nation was built on are entirely too close to extinction for comfort. Comparatively speaking few people have even seen one, much less ridden one. They are easy keepers with great hooves, smooth gaits, gentle temperaments--in short, the perfect family horse. Though one might never guess from looking at equine magazines the largest horse market is not for show horses, it is for family weekend and trial horses and we have the horse that fits that bill.

The second best way to preserve and promote these horses is to give people who used to ride a chance to ride them. Empty nesters, with kids all grown are looking for something special to put back in their lives. Those who once rode as young people have a thousand unspoken thoughts that keep them out of the saddle today. Thoughts like, " I'm too old", "I am too over weight", "I could not even get up there by myself", " I'll get hurt", "I don't have time to ride".....

Our smaller horses are easier to mount, less likely to cause injury from a fall than tall horses, have smooth gaits and can carry much more weight than the silly 20% rule that gives one more excuse to stay out of the saddle.

And here is the best part. You will be in significant pain for your first few rides, but it will come back to you.Your body will begin to flow with the horse the way that it once did. Your balance will renew itself. Your core muscles will strengthen.

Just because you have not been in a saddle for the last twenty does not mean that you cannot be happy in a saddle for the next twenty years.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Don't Let The Virus Ruin Your Life With Horses

"We see our friends are weeping with the badges on their door
We see their homes in mourning for the loved ones come no more
You can say just what you please, death rides on every breeze
Look how this world has made us change

Just look how this world has made a change (made a change)
Just look how this world has made a change (made a change)
You can see every day how the people pass away
Look how this world has made us  change"   

                                                                    This World Has Made A Change
                                                                     A.P. Carter

The isolation, the fear, the loss of routine, the confusion generated by contradictory information, and the weaponizing of  social media by those who seek to divide our nation now has us all walking in a world of emotions that none of us are prepared for.

So many of the impacts are obvious. Fear makes one more accepting of conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories generate more fear. Social media guides the fearful towards more conspiracy theories.

Physical health declines as stress reduces sleep, results in binge eating, and makes it that much harder get exercise. The new twenty pounds that so many of us have put on are obvious.

But other impacts are not so obvious. We worry about our loved ones--sometimes the worry is acute--more often chronic, until it becomes the back ground noise of our life.

And that is where the most insidious threat creeps in.  We have always associated affection with love, too many of us have come to associate worrying with loving. 

"Be careful--I'm worried about you!" has all too often replaced, "Have fun--I love you!"

This horrible conflation of of worry and love can disrupt, if not entirely derail, one's relationship with one's horses. It seems that kids are every bit as susceptible to this problem as adults.

Do you eagerly check out your horse to immediately see if he is "ok" when you get to the pasture? Do you start tensing up as you approach the pasture and do you get a jolt of momentary,  satisfying relief when you don't see a health problem?  Does your horse seem to have more health problems, especially small ones that are difficult to diagnose, than he did last year? Are you riding less because you just  "don't want to push him right now"? Are you spending more time researching equine health issues than you did last year? Are you feeding your horse more than you did last year? Have both you and your horse put on significant weight since the virus hit?

Last year when I arrived at the horse lot I was swarmed by kids asking what horse they should ride. Now as soon as I get out of the vehicle I am swarmed by kids who tell me that a horse or two has a kick mark or a bite mark and maybe we should not ride him for a week.

Worry is not love. Worry is not an effective tool in equine health care.

I have never "worried" a horse well. I have "worried" myself sick.

And nothing good ever came of it.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Building Great Pastures Without Chemical Fertilizers and Poisons

 Our earth worms and the microbial life that feeds them are the most important volunteers in our program. They are the building blocks of our program. The health of our livestock depends on them. They produce lush, healthy forage for our animals--and they do it all without poisoning the soil like modern chemicals and fertilizers.

Last year we began clearing Jacob's Woods, a mixed forest woodlot of about 15 acres. I only got about five acres clear. In a 1/2 acre section of that area I concentrated horses for a couple of weeks and rolled out round bales there to feed them.

This is the result. We planted no seed. We added no lime. We used no fertilizer.  Just outside the view of these pictures the same land contains no grass.

The biome in the woods was very high in fungus without sufficient bacteria to create a good home for grasses. Horse manure, horse hooves, and horse saliva brought in the bacteria that we

This winter we have to clear the remainder of the land and roll hay over it. The result will be 15 more acres of forage for our livestock along with improved habitat for quail and rabbits who use the brush piles for cover. the uptick in quail population has shocked me.

This is going to be a paradise for animals, domesticated and wild.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Terry and Sparrow Hawk

Patience, trust and willingness to take control of the horse and the situation are  really paying off for Terry and Sparrow Hawk.

This morning she rode him on a pony line for well over a mile. Next time the pony line comes off and he will be ready to take her a few thousand  miles over the next decade.

Few things inspire me more than to see training working.

Always do the math. Train with 51% control and 49% affection.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

How Long Has This Been Going On?

"She looked up at what she thought was the dirtiest grown up she had ever seen. From the brow of his Australian hat to the tip of his boots the only part of him that was not covered in dust was covered in mud composed of dust and sweat.

"What's wrong little girl? Don't I look like a lawyer to you?," he growled out in his most Wildfred Grimley like voice.

"No sir, she said, "You look like someone who makes horses be nice for little girls." ( Intro to "And a Little Child Shall Lead Them")

You know what is better than putting a kid on a horse for the first time? It's putting a kid on a horse that was once wild for the first time.

You know what is better than that? Putting a kid on a horse that was once wild, for the first time, that that kid helped train.

You know what is best of all? Putting a kid on a horse, that was once wild, for the first time, that that kid helped train, and now owns.

Here is the first kid that I put on a horse that she trained that was once wild that she owned.
And it has been quite a while.

It was years before this picture was taken and this picture was taken over ten years ago. And now Emily is grown with wonderful kids of her own.

I do not profess to know what the future holds for the rest of the world, but I am certain that Emily's future will include putting many kids on horses for their first time.

Monday, August 17, 2020

When Cultures Collide

Some things just stick out in your mind. In the tenth grade a student complained in French class concerning the way a sentence was framed in the text book.

"No one talks that way!", she said in an exasperated tone. The teacher gently responded, "You have to remember that not everyone lives in Smithfield."  The implications of that statement were among the most important parts of my high school education.

It was not long after that that I saw a copy of the Richmond Afro. I had never before seen a Black newspaper.  Up to that point I genuinely did not understand that there could be different racial and cultural perspectives on things that I had simply been taught were facts.

It was at about this time that I stopped thinking as a child.

Years of studying religion at William and Mary made it easier to understand different cultural perspectives. My years of working at Jamestown and studying the culture of the the people of Tsennacomacah who were ruled by the Powhatan helped me understand that different cultures could be completely divergent on such things as whether time ran in a straight line  or was circular.

Years ago I took a young man hunting with me who was from Fairfax, the Virginia county that perhaps most exemplifies suburbanism. As we went around the edge of a field, he saw tonnes of old farm equipment, appliances, and perhaps thirty years of material acquisition rusting and peeking out through the sand in what had been a deep, ugly erosion scar on the steep slope of the hill.

He was shocked. "That looks like a mini-junkyard."

I told him about how farmers during the Depression learned the importance of soil conservation as they watched the Dust Bowl envelop the West. I explained that for the first time farmers set in and fought erosion with every thing in their arsenal.   I got excited as I discussed it, as I usually do. I find it to be the most ironic environmental good news that one could find--using junk to save the soil.

I explained to him how it worked and worked fast to heal the soil. I explained to him what had been happening as corrosive gullies destroyed small acreage fields. I explained to him how, by working very hard, these farmers had defeated a destructive force of nature.

He did not share my enthusiasm. "Yeah, but it looks bad. Something ought to be done about it,' he explained to me, using small words so that I could understand

It is not fair for me to expect modern suburbanites and those who have been away from the soil for generations to understand the vast cultural differences between their culture and mine. My culture has its roots in post Civil War small farms. Modern suburbanite culture traces its roots to the 1950's during a time when order, appearances, and adherence to rules and regulations lead to homogeneous suburbs.

The ultimate fruit of modern suburbanite culture is the homeowners association and its role in determining and enforcing standards of appearance for the neighborhood. Farmers never had home owner's associations. We can barely stomach zoning laws (unless they protect us from having a housing development built in the community).

It would be easy to assume, without giving it a thought, that as a highly educated professional living and educated in America, eating suburban food and watching many of the same TV shows, that my core values would be in line with that of mainstream suburban values.

But that is not how it works.

My Welsh ancestors settled within 10 miles of the horse lot in 1635. To my knowledge, from then until now, I have only had one male ancestor in my direct line who never was a farmer. My culture is fading fast. When I was a child  at least 25% of the natives here still pronounced their words in keeping with their Elizabethan and African roots. I do not know of anyone with an advanced degree in my generation that still does so..but me. As I child I grew up surrounded by farms and farmers. Now I am still surrounded by farms, but the number of farmers who work that land has dwindled to just a handful--still a lot of land to be worked but worked by only a few people.

We are now a small minority that is quickly being swallowed up by the dominant culture. Such is simply the way that societies work. I have resigned myself, when off of the horse lot, to making adjustments  to this culture. The population of my county has doubled in my life time. People routinely move  into the county and pronounce the names of their roads (we never had "streets", we always made due with "roads") and communities different than they have been pronounced for the last three hundred years. It is a bit entertaining to watch as they try so earnestly to help me understand that we have been pronouncing these words wrong all along.

White suburbanite culture has never lacked confidence in its belief that its values were not only the best values, they were in fact the only values, that were worth understanding. Daddy is one of the last people living around here who actually plowed  horses in the field as a very young child.  He was a farrier for fifty years. He trained endless numbers of horses, ponies and mules to saddle and to plow, and to pull buggies and sulkys. But that was never enough to stop people, who might have a string of horse training dvds that they purchased to help them train their first horse,  from explaining to Daddy that he must not have developed "relationships" with his horses as well as they are doing with their first horse.

I am convinced that in order for our program to succeed it must be governed by the best aspects of my cultural roots. Any other option will lead to making the appearance of the place a matter of highest priority. That will cut the heart out of what we do.  I am very much in favor of man made beauty as long as it is functional. Our shelter around the round pen will be a great example of functional beauty. It will be unique and it will serve as an educational opportunity to teach about native vines.

For several hundred years we grew up believing that the solution to problems was to work, to work hard, and to earn what ever might temporally pass through our hands. As far as I know I do not own any stock, bonds, or have any investments. I have never bought a lottery ticket. We were not raised to admire wealth. The best thing that was ever to be said about a person in the community who acquired significant farm land was that he "earned every penny that he ever had."   On the other end of the spectrum, one of the worst things to say of a wealthy person was that he "never worked a day in his life."

I have to admit that the idea of stopping work to tidy up is a most peculiar concept to me.

I cannot get any satisfaction from  how the surface of land looks if I know that beneath the surface the soil has been compacted, polluted, overgrazed and abused. Allowing erosion and  loss of soil to occur is something that I find abhorrent. I believe that it reflects poorly on our program and poorly on me. Erosion is controlled wonderfully by simply  tossing large handfuls of hay string in eroded spots where the water cascades during thunderstorms. The string slows the water enough to allow the dirt in it to settle to the bottom and the deep ugly gash fills itself.

Modern suburban culture cannot understand why I would be so very ashamed of myself if I replaced my missing tooth.

I knew an old farmer in our community who would trade in his car for another one as the need developed. He was a very hard working man and spent his money well. The sales man pushed hard for him to take a more prestigious model car than the one that he wanted. Finely the old farmer agreed to try out the luxury car.

After a short while he brought the car back to the dealership.  

The price was not the problem. He explained to the sales man that he just was "not the kind of man to have a car like that." The salesman was confused. I suspect that what he thought was that the old farmer did not believe that he was good enough to be seen in a luxury car.  Modest though he was, the farmer, if pressed would have had to explain that the problem was that he was too good of a man to be seen driving around in a luxury car.

Friday, August 14, 2020

A Corolla Summer

Last summer we bred several Choctaw mares to a stunning Choctaw stallion. We also produced a beautiful Corolla filly from Baton Rouge and Pancho.

This summer we are breeding Stitch, the big Bay Corolla stallion shown above, to Long Knife. And Manteo, one of our black Corolla stallions, to Matokoa, one of the two last wild daughters of my Red Feather.

We will likely do a cross strain breeding to Polished Steel, Croatoan's last wild daughter.

I hope that next August will bring three more Corolla foals into the Corolla offsite breeding program.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Be Quiet And Listen

The things that we don't hear greatly outnumber the things that we hear. Last Saturday I went on a field trip for my Master Naturalist class. We went up to Chippoaks State Park for a session on birds.

The first thing that we did was listen for birds and then seek to locate them by sound. I realized something shocking. As much time as I spend in the woods, the only birds that I hear/notice are crows, owls, hawks, whippoorwills, and quail.

As we stood there silently I noticed, as if hearing them for the first time, a chorus of little birds of a variety of species.  Over the years my mind drowned out those sounds and replaced them with the sound of everything else going on in my life.

I have found a similar situation with trees and plants. As I began cutting in Jacob's Woods I noticed some small trees that I had never seen before. They tended to grow at an angle instead of growing up right. The wood had a pleasant fruity smell.

I wondered what the tree was and how this species could have  somehow ended up on my land. After I noticed the first few of them I came to realize that there were hundreds of these trees in the 17 acres that make up Jacob's Woods. I have been riding past them for nearly twenty years. I had hunted in those woods for 25 years before that.

I had never noticed those trees.

Then I started finding them in every hardwood forest that I rode through. They not only were not rare, they were prolific.

And I had never noticed them before.

Which brings us to a special gift that riding donkeys can give us. A donkey walks fast enough  so that one feels the wonderful sensation of movement, but trots and canters slow enough to allow for complete observation of the sights and sounds that fill the woods. On a horse, especially if I am riding in the lead of a group of riding students, I must pay extreme attention to any threat, real or imagined, that could spook any of the horses on the ride. I have to focus on the trail to make sure that the footing is sound.

I do not have to be concerned about a donkey spooking. I can pay much less attention to the soundness of the footing. I can see things in the woods that I do not see on a horse. I can hear things in the woods that I do not hear on a horse.

It bothers me to know that Colonial Spanish Horses are so rare that only a fraction of a percent of horse owners ever get to see one, much less ride one. The number of people who ever get the chance to ride a large, well trained donkey is infinitesimal.

I have a lot of work to do this morning, but my plans are changing as I write. Before I go into the office this morning, I think that this would be a great time to go quietly ride donkeys with my granddaughter and be quiet and listen as we slip silently through the woods.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

A League Of Her Own

Our Choctaw foals have taken up much of the discussion for the past several weeks, but we also had a pure Corolla filly born to Baton Rouge. She might end up bringing some very important traits to our program. Her grand father was Cyclops, the one eyed dominant stallion who maintained a large harem in the wild for many years. Her full uncle is Samson. She carries his marking.

To one degree or another all of the Banker horses are gaited. Most shuffle or single foot. Samson has the running walk of a Tennessee Walker and a peculiar canter like gait. Samson is also taller than most wild born Corollas. His body type is leaner than the average Corolla.

The only other Corolla that I know of that has that body type is Abigail's horse, Little Hawk. Neither Samson or Little Hawk remain stallions. For the future of the strain, I hope that Sankofa will preserve all of Samson's great traits.

Getting Back That Which We Have Lost

Those who are new to our program would have a hard time imagining it, but our settler's farm in may ways was once the center point, and springboard, for many of our educational programs. Initially it was constructed to serve as a picture frame to go around the Corolla Breed Conservation program.

 People are thrown for a bit of a loop when they learn that Spanish horses were the horses of early colonial Virginia, that we still have wild horses of that breed on the Outer Banks, and that this was once the frontier on the very edge of the fledgling British Empire. The buildings that made up the settler's farm put all of those things in perspective.The settler's farm lead to the expansion of breed conservation program into other breeds of heritage livestock. The smokehouse was fully functional.

The settler's farm with its simple benches for visitors served as an important point on our tours of the horse lot for both family size groups of visitors and much larger groups. Living history programs were conducted there along with discussions of the culture of the people of Tsennacomaca who were ruled by the Powhatan, who was the father of Pocahontas.

Jackie has maintained a spectacular garden of colonial plants but otherwise the area has fallen from use as the buildings aged.

It is not going to stay that way. As the virus leaves us construction of a new settlers home will be a top priority. Perhaps the following year we will add a smoke house.

In any event, we will be restoring what was once the most important part of the horse lot and we will restore our educational programs to what they once were.....

and then, of, course, we will expand them to much more than they have ever been.

Life is not static. When growth ends, decay begins.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Building a Team For Preservation

The conservation and promotion of heritage breeds of livestock works best when networking produces solid team work. The Choctaws are an incredibly rare strain of Colonial Spanish horse. Our preservation efforts for Corollas and Shacklefords lead us to meet Monique Henry whose love of the Choctaw horses brought the  first three Choctaws to our program. I have long been an admirer of Dr. Phil Sponenberg and his work lead me to first learn of the  Breeds Conservancy. Jeanette Berenger of the Conservancy assisted us in obtaining our Marsh Tackys.

Last spring I contacted Dr. Sponenberg concerning borrowing a Choctaw stallion to breed to our Choctaw and high percentage Choctaw mares. He put me in contact with Mary McConnell who loaned us one of her Choctaw stallions, Big Muddy Miracle, last August. We produced five foals from him with the last one being born two days ago.

Several weeks ago I received and email from Laurel Sherrie in California. She is one of the leaders in the efforts to preserve and promote San Clemente Island goats.  She had traced down living members of the New Hampshire strain of these goats and it turns out that my main San Clemente doe was of that strain. Since I have had her she has produced three little ones. One of them is a beautiful buck. We sold the buck to a San Clemente breeder and I offered to exchange the doe and her young female off-spring for two San Clemente does of a different strain. Getting goats too and from California from here in Virginia is not a simple matter. A team of breeders and enthusiasts worked together to shuttle the goats across the continent.

Yesterday two goats were delivered to our program and three left. That took a lot of team work and cooperation.

And in some ways this picture is the most important one of them all. This is Ututtompkin, a week old Scottish Highland calf born to Seven Leagues and Anne Bonny. Due to the work of dedicated preservationists and with the support of the Livestock Conservancy The Scottish Highland cattle have reached sufficient numbers so that they are no longer on the conservation watch list.

A very bright light at the end of a very long tunnel.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

A Pale and Poor Substitute

What is your model of what a relationship with a horse should be? Do you refer to, or even think of, your horse as your "baby"? Do you try to treat your horse the way that you would want to be treated? Do you feel the need to provide your horse with more and better things in order to assure his happiness (and affection)? Do you love your horse so much that you find yourself constantly worrying  about his medical, nutritional, or emotional needs?

I hope not.

Thoughts have consequences and words create thoughts. Constantly referring to an adult horse as a baby creates the thought that the horse is a fragile, helpless creature constantly in need of the saving grace that only you can provide. An adult horse is not a helpless infant. Although its digestive system is made of the most fragile crystal, the rest of its body is made of steel. Be careful with his digestive system and polish the steel that he is made of  with regular exercise. The healthiest, happiest horse is the horse that can move in a paddock with other horses and is given the opportunity to tire his muscles and burn the stress from his mind with long hard miles of riding.

Not a baby--a horse.

Do not treat your horse the way that you would like to be treated. The Golden Rule does not apply to horses. Instead treat your horse the way he wants to be treated. As a prey animal his emotional and physical needs are often polar opposites of what we, as predators need. As a prey animal the horse;s primary drive is to find security. As a predator our primary drive is to find autonomy. Until one understands the extraordinary implications of that dichotomy one can only understand the artificial horse that one creates in one's own mind. Without that understanding no real relationship with a horse is possible.

Not a human--a horse.

Your horse does not need your money. He needs your time. In that regard horses are like children. Just as too many parents try to provide their kids with every expensive gadget or fad that comes along in order to make it clear to the world how much they love their children, too many horse owners live in a ridiculous race to purchase whatever the established horse world and advertisements in equine magazines tell them that their horse "needs."

Not a shiny new car---a horse.

Perhaps the saddest relationship to be found between horses and humans is  among those who live in constant "worry" for their horse's health. Worry is a useless substitute for love. In many ways it is the most corrosive substitute for love. It creates a relationship that takes an emotional toll on the owner while doing nothing positive for the horse. Eventually, the horse becomes a prisoner of the owner's projected hypochondria and the horse's physical health does begin to suffer.

Not a patient in ICU--a horse

Each of these models have one thing in common. They do not produce healthy relationships. Each of these configurations of horse/human interactions are nothing but pale and poor substitutes for the extraordinary, live altering  results of having a relationship with a horse that is based on understanding the horse's world and learning how to enter into that world

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Authenticity; The Most Difficult Asset To Preserve

Years ago we had a film crew out for an all day shoot at the horse lot. It was before the TV show, "Wild About Animals" did a feature on our program and the wild horses of Corolla. I loved the spontaneity of the director. He found out what time the sun set and that was about as much planning and scripting went into the shoot. Otherwise, he want to see what it was that made our program different.

We wrapped up a series of shots of unmounted horses and then he decided that he wanted shots of riders in the woods. He told me what he wanted and I told the kids to tack up and be ready to ride out to the swamp. The kids understand that,as always, the unspoken part of any direction that I give is "hurry up." In no time eight or ten horses were saddled and heading out to the swamp. The resulting pictures were among the best ever taken at the horse lot.

A few days later Emily Marble said that the best thing about the day of filming was that when I called for riders to catch horses and tack up everyone simply got their horse, brushed off where the saddle and girth would go, mounted up and headed to the swamp. No one stopped to fix their hair or makeup.

Everyone was there to  ride, not to merely look like riders.

The single most important factor in the success of our program is that we have put all of our emphasis on reality. That is what assures authenticity.

That is a picture of me on my first pony, Tanaka fifty five years ago. That is the well behind the Little House that he is standing on. That is the Little House in the background, the house that my mother was born in, that my family lived in while I was little, and the current home of the big girls who help keep this program together.

Continuity helps ensure authenticity.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

From Muddy Dirt To Soil

Why use microbial pasture development? The top picture is darker but that is mud all around that round bale--likely deep mud. This picture was taken in August of 2013.

The second picture was taken in August of 2020. That is the same pasture. My biggest disappointment for the past year is that I have not put enough time into pasture development. Even without providing the land with the care that it deserved, the improvement is obvious.

No chemical fertilizers, no poisons, no pesticides, no herbicides--worms, compost, mowing, and multi-species grazing moved this pasture from a muddy mess to a beautiful pasture.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Perhaps My Most Radical Thought: How Young Is Too Young To Begin To Learn Wisdom?

I got  my first pony when I was two and he was one. Daddy asked Benny Poole, a local blacksmith who once shoed horses for the New York City Police Department, how much longer he should wait before I began to ride the pony. Benny did not give a dissertation on the age that bones cease growing. Instead he said, "Which one the biggest, Steve or the pony? Less Steve is the biggest of the two go ahead and put him up there."

The following year I rode Tanka in the Christmas parade by myself.

How long should we wait before we begin to teach kids to seek wisdom?  It's likely best to wait until after potty training. And I don't meant teaching manners. I don't mean teaching kids to be quiet.

 I mean teaching kids to seek wisdom.

When one learns to become responsible one takes the first step toward seeking wisdom. When one learns that conformity comes at the highest of prices one takes another step toward seeking wisdom. When one learns to work and solve problems on one's own, whether it is learning to put on one's own boots or how to open a gate latch, one takes another step toward seeking wisdom. When one learns to begin to control one's fears instead of being controlled by one's fears, one takes another step toward seeking wisdom.

Some may think that wisdom can only come with years of age and experience. The unfortunate reality is that regardless of age or experience somehow wisdom never seems to catch up to most people. I want the kids in my program to know every mistake that I made and everything that I learned from those mistakes. I want to to know every success that I ever had, especially the ones that the rest of the world thought could never happen.

I want them to squeeze my life dry--and I want them to start doing that when the rest of the world thinks that they are too little to pay attention to.

Filling Buckets a Drop At A Time: The Choctaw Summer

The bloodline of the horses that carried the natives of the southeast on their forced deportation to Oklahoma has been extended another generation. Last summer we borrowed a stunning Choctaw stallion, Big Muddy Miracle,(seen below) from Mary McConnell to breed to some of our Choctaw and high percentage Choctaw mares.

We still have one Choctaw mare yet to foal, a daughter of Rooster named Mozelle. Here are the results so far:

This colt is from Washani and was born yesterday.

This little boy from Feather is 65% Choctaw.

This great granddaughter of Rooster was born to Monique.

At only one day old this colt from Zippy was already ready for a swim.

Ten years ago I thought it impossible for any strain of Colonial Spanish horse to be better suited to my needs then the powerful, smooth gaited, gentle minded Corollas.  However, I am hard pressed to find them to be better horses than what one gets from crossing Choctaw strains with high percentage Grand Canyons.

If Mozelle's foal is a colt, I hope to spend the rest of my life breeding him to Choctaws, Corollas, Marsh Tackys, Shacklefords, and maybe even a Florida Cracker. The Colonial Spanish horse strains that were developed in the Southeast before the Revolution are spectacular trail horses, endurance horses, family horses, and therapy horses. In short, they are needed.

All will be registered with the Horse of Americas Registry. There bloodlines will not only be preserved, they will be documented.

And they are all so rare as to be nearly extinct. Our program works hard to stave off that extinction, one foal at a time and one family at a time.