Sunday, February 28, 2021

" If Your Students Don't Participate In Horse Shows How Do You Know Your Program Is Working?"

At the core of our program is an utter and complete rejection of every aspect of the established horse world, particularly its emphasis on using competitions and shows to determine the "worth" of a horse.   Our program focuses on the preservation of nearly extinct strains of Colonial Spanish horses and the use of those horses to improve the quality of the lives of the people around them, including people who have experienced debilitating trauma.

One measure of our success is the range of opportunities that we provide to program participants. Many of our riders learn to tame and train horses to saddle and learn to provide natural hoof trimmings. Doing so will make horse ownership much more affordable for them when they are adults and are on their own. Being able to train your own colt and provide him with quality hoof care on your own at no cost more than the cost of buying nippers, rasp, knife, and hoof pick radically reduces the cost of horse ownership.

Another measure of our success is the number of miles that program participants put on our horses, often in rough, swampy terrain. In 2019, the cumulative number of miles that program participants rode exceeded the distance from Norfolk, Virginia to Oslo, Norway.

The Horse of the Americas Registry has an annual award for national Pleasure Trail Horse. It is based on number of miles or number of hours a horse is ridden on trials in a year. Three of our horses, Ta Sunka Witco, Tradewind, and Uncle Harley have won this award over the years.  The Carol Stone Ambassador Award for work promoting the preservation and conservation of Colonial Spanish horses has been awarded to a participant in our program three times.  Our efforts to preserve the Banker strain of Colonial Spanish horses were rewarded with the Currituck Star Award and the American Indian Horse Registry awarded our program the Keeper of the Flame Award. 

Kay Kerr's great children's book on Croatoan, one of our early Corolla stallions, went on to be the basis for a film that won "Best Short Film' at the New York Equus Film Festival. Kay has a soon to be published book coming out on Edward Teach, the severely injured wild Corolla stallion that we nursed back to health and trained to saddle. Linda Whittington Hurst wrote two wonderful children's book on Red Feather, the most athletic horse with whom I ever shared a round pen. Program participants regularly provide articles for Pony Pals Magazine 

When these horses are handled using principles of natural horsemanship by people who have experienced significant trauma, particularely those with PTSD, the result can appear magical. Lives are utterly transformed. The Virginia Attorney General's office recognized the work that goes on with victims of sexual assault and molestation with the "Unsung Hero Award".  For seven years we provided weekly programming for those in the Hampton Veterans Hospitals PTSD program. The AARP recently celebrated  that work with a national runner up  designation in their Create The Good: Honoring Heroes program.

We use no modern fertilizers or poisons on our property. We teach and practice microbial pasture development, vermiculture, wild life habitat enhancement, and soil and water conservation. As a result we are a "Certified Wild Life Habitat" by the National Wildlife Federation. The environmental aspects of our program are coordinated by a Virginia Master Naturalist.

And all of this is accomplished with no paid staff. Everything is done by volunteers. We are funded by program fees, contributions, and grants and awards. We have never turned anyone away for inability to pay program fees. 

 And I am looking forward to exploding back on the scene with a bigger and better program when the virus permits. 

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