Friday, April 30, 2021

Open For Business: Getting The Program Back On the Road

Priorities--setting them is the most important thing that I do for the growth of our program.  Doing so is fraught with pitfalls. It would be so easy if all we were is a place to learn to ride. It is harder because we are more than that. This is a place where people can come to  learn natural horsemanship, or to learn natural horse care, or to learn natural hoof care, or to learn old time and roots music, or to learn wild life habitat development, or to learn microbial pasture development, or to learn soil and water conservation, or to learn history, or to learn the use of horses in healing those who have suffered childhood trauma, or to preserve and promote nearly extinct strains of Colonial Spanish horses and other forms of Heritage Livestock. 

We are a multi faceted cultural and educational non-profit organization. We have no paid employees. Everything that we  do is done with volunteer hands. We now have a wonderful half mile drive back to the tack shed that will do more to make our program work than anything since the development and implementation of our deep well and water system. 

My mind is often drawn towards major infrastructure improvements. And for everything there is a season. We must continue the progress on converting Jacob's Woods, a 15 acre mixed forest woodlot, into productive silvo pasture. We must construct the stage for our music program and we must continue to enhance the shelter for the Veteran's Programs. I wanted to rebuild our Settlers Farm and it was one of my top priorities for the summer.

But that priority has changed. Take a look at the picture above. That is Bonnie Gruenberg, who wrote the  greatest work that will ever be written about the wild horses of the east coast, "Wild Horse Dilemma" standing with two beautiful Banker yearlings that we bred. We will soon be receiving an influx of pure Banker horses and half Corolla horses that we will train. The pure Bankers will be a center piece of our breed conservation program for years to come. The half Bankers will become part of our riding program.

I did not anticipate this influx of horses. It came as quite a surprise. I was concerned that their training would disrupt my priorities. Over the past week I remembered that I am a grown up and I do not have to live my life according to the priorities of others and I reminded myself that resilience depends on flexibility. Our program has achieved what it has because we have been flexible and have made adjustments as needed.

The best summer that our program ever had involved the training of many colts and a young donkey. If memory serves we trained six horses and a donkey to the degree that each could be ridden in the woods with my oldest training assistant being fourteen years old. it was the work of a handful of young girls and me. We not only trained those animals we did so without having a single one of them buck, even once. 

This summer is going to be special. We are returning to our roots of teaching and practicing natural horsemanship. there has never been a better time to become part of our program. Program fees are only $160.00 per month per family. If you want to become part of this amazing equine experience send an email to me at and get registered right away. 

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Getting Right to Ride: Ketogenic meals and Intermittent Fasting

To my shock I have lost forty pounds and have found other radical improvments in my health by adhering to a ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting. Riding is easier than it has been for me since I was a kid. 

 Everyone time one goes to make significant improvements in one's health one will quickly hear from nay sayers who will tell you that it will not work, that it is unhealthy, that it is a gimmick, etc. Forget those people. Some are jealous, most are ignorant, and all of them are stumbling blocks. Research it hard--talk to your doctor, and unless there is a great health reason not to do so--go for it--it is one of the best things that you can do for your horse--not because he will be carrying less weight, but because you will be putting many more miles on him that you ever could in your present condition.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Weight and Riding Capacity

Between the first of September of 2020 and April 15, 2021 I lost forty pounds. dripping from 230 to 190. I expected this to make a big difference in how well our horses could carry me.

To my surprise I don't see that much difference in how the horses carry me now compared to how they carried me forty pounds ago. When I set my horses in for a long trot of several miles I let them pick their speed. I measure that speed with my gps watch. Each of my main horses only goes at a self selected speed that is slightly above the speed that they used to carry me.

However, riding is much easier for me now. I have much more riding endurance. I suspect that when we get up around miles 25 and more I am easier for the horse to carry, not merely because I am lighter, but because a conditioned rider is much easier for the horse to balance.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Our Music Program:Climbing Out of The Virus

For the first time since November we are going to have practice for our music program tonight at 6:15 at the tack shed--if you are new to the program come on out and see how the music program works--everyone is invited--6:15 April 12, at the Round Pen at the tack shed

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Do You Like How This Horse Looks?

That is a question that one will not hear me ask. I have no interest in how a horses appears. I am only interested in how a horse is.  

Holland was born wild on the southern Outer Banks of North Carolina. He is one of the greatest horses that I will ever ride. He goes through whatever I ask him to, whenever I ask him to, in whatever weather I ask him to, and for as many miles as I ask him to.

And to my eye calling him unattractive would be an extreme compliment. His feet appear pretty. That is about it for my assessment of his appearance. Many people cannot understand how I can admire a horse so much, while recognizing him to be ugly. 

The weakness and shallowness in our culture jumps to the forefront when shocked people exclaim, " How can you say that he is ugly? He is a great horse."

Think about the implications of that knee jerk reaction. It says everything about what we value as a culture. It glorifies appearance over reality. 

For the overwhelming majority of people, and for nearly all of the established horse world, it is appearance that matters most. Think how often one hears, "That is a fine looking horse", or "That horse looks beautiful."

Our obsession with appearance creates a culture in which reality does not matter.  When reality does not matter, truth does not matter. 

This toxic perversion of the concept of beauty saps our culture of virtue while at the same time directly harming individuals, particularely adolescents who come to believe that society's approval of their appearance  is the measuring rod for their worth. Physical anthropologists tend to agree that certain concepts of beauty are cross cultural and that we are hardwired to  be attracted to those with physical traits that that seem to be associated with strong immune systems and a tendency toward passing on healthy genetics. 

In short, what we came biologically to define as appearing strong and vital is, in reality, an indication of strength and vitality. Instead of teaching practices that cause young people to actually become stronger, healthier and more vital, we live in a world that only insists that they take steps to appear that way. 

We do not teach young people to seek the  extraordinary, life improving benefits of exercise and healthy consumption of food, but we do send them off into to life with a fierce drive to find the ultimate life improving device--jeans that do not make their butts look fat. 

Like the slaves chained in the cave of Plato's great parable, most people only see how things appear with no understanding, and no drive to understand, the realty of how things are. 

When we have guests visit this time of the year their utterances generally announce loudly and very clearly if they remain in the Cave or if they can perceive reality . There is a world of difference between those who look at the variety of livestock and natural life around them and enthusiastically exclaim, "This place looks beautiful!", and the more thoughtful minority that look upon the same sights and exclaim, "This place is beautiful!".

Friday, April 9, 2021

Equine Nutrition: Is Consistancy Always the Best?

I am always open to learning more about equine nutrition. In doing so I keep certain principles in mind. Information provided by agribusiness complex funding is taken not merely with a grain, but with an entire truckload, of salt. Obesity is the number one health problem in horses and big agribusiness has been able to convince most horse owners that obesity is not only normal, but that it shows how much one loves one's horse. Horses thrive on a diverse collection of grasses, weeds, forbs, and brush and a monoculture pasture does not provide that diversity. However, the key principle that I keep in mind is that a horse's diet should, as closely as possible, micmic the diet that they evolved over the ages to eat.

 Like humans, most modern horses are fed perhaps the most unnatural of caloric sources, sugar. (This is a slow poison, plainly and simply and anyone who cannot understand that just as well stop reading right now.) I am keeping my eyes open to another possiblity right now--that it might not only matter what they eat, but when they eat.

 I have always adhered to the strong belief that due to the horse's small stomach a horse is best served when provided a free choice source of fiberous nutrition around the clock.  I believed that doing so mimics the horses' natural dietary situation. 

 But is that true?

 Unless the supply of grass is infinite, a wild band will consume calories until the grasses are reduced. They might be run off from the lush grass by a more aggressive band. Dry weather will reduce the caloric and nutritional value of the grass. Spring and fall grass will likely be higher in carbohydrates than midsummer forage. Winter forage will have fewer calories.

 In short, there are constant changes in caloric content in the forage of most wild bands. Yet the wild herd at Corolla maintains its weight even when eating the bleak forage of an Outer Banks winter. I had always attributed that to a low parasite load becuase some much of the forage consumed by the wild herd grows well above the ground and consumption is of forage that is at a distance from the parsite eggs left in the manure at ground level. 

 Now I am considering another possiblity. 

A quick note--Of course I am totally opposed to the intellectual weakness that underlies the projection of human feelings, desires, and health needs onto horses. For that reason I am not ready to endorse the hypothosis set out below yet. A further note, I have recently put contless hours into studying the efeects of what is popularely called "intermittent fasting" on humans. I have been following this health regimen for about six weeks and the positive impact that it is having on my physical and mental health has shocked me. I have never bumped into such a positive set of health changes. But that does not mean that I think that everyone should immediately begin to use that model to care for horses. I am not remotely suggesting that. I am suggesting that it might more accurelty mimic nutritional life in the wild than we might expect.)

 But here is the caloric kicker that really has my curiosity up. Our horses consume an average of 12,000 pounds of hay per week in the winter months. Our hay supplier has run into a shortage and to extend the hay into the spring we began putting out about half as much hay as we normally do. In addition to the hay we are providing all of the horses with a moderate amount of 12% protein feed with  minimal sugar  in its make up. The horses are given this feed every day. 

Hay arrives on Tuesday and the round bales are placed in the different paddocks. They hay has been generally eaten up by Sunday. Tuesday through Saturday the horses recieve many more calories than they were used to becuase they have all of the hay that they can eat in addition to the added feed. They also eat the most nutitious, least weathered hay first.  Sunday and Monday they recieve fewer calories than they were used to because they recieve only the feed. 

The result has greatly surprised me. All of the horse's but three have shown an increase in muscle mass with out appearing to have increased fat levels significantly. The horses have not shown the negative psycological effects of eating commercial feed that one normally finds in horses who are forced to survive in a world of stables, sugar, and shoes. 

Could the change merely be the result of a net increase in protein consumption as compared to past winters? I think that is most likely. I would not suggest trying this feeding pattern on horses who live in stables, without the solace of herd members, and without freedom to move around in paddocks large enough to accomadate them. Doing so would surely result in ulcers and increased develpment of sterotypical behaviors. 

But I think that maybe, just maybe, that roller coastering caloric intake, while maintaining a constant supply of salt, might be the healthiest way to take a horse though the winter. 

Sunday, April 4, 2021

The Internet Is Forever. I Am Not

This is a picture of me with Tanka standing on the well at the Little House. That picture is about 56 years old.
This picture is of me on Crotoan, a wild stallion from Corolla. This picture is about fifteen years old.

These pictures make it clear that time marches on. I expect that I will march on for perhaps another decade or two, maybe more, maybe less. In any event, when the marching stops I will know that we have built a program that saves horses and people. I doubt that enough other people will have seen first hand what can be done with an all volunteer staff who come together to simply make things better.

But it struck me that the recipe for our program will always be around in this blog. One can search key terms and see what has been done and what is possible.