Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Scumbag Mustang Breeder

What is on this horse's face, a climbing rope? What keeps it from sliding down its nose and cutting off airflow? I don't know, but apparently Steve Edwards thinks its a good training tool.

I think you all know about how I feel about mustangs from my previous post about 'em. Quick re-cap: a horse living in the wild is a horse with a poor quality of life, and Americans are paying for them to live it. If I turned my horses loose with no reliable sources of food, water, shelter, vet care or farrier work, I'd be arrested for cruelty. Yet somehow, this is okay as long as the horse is labeled a "mustang." Mustangs, by the way, are feral horses (like feral house cats), not a breed.

So then you can imagine how I feel about people who produce tons more of these critters on purpose. Mill Swamp Indian Horses LLC of Smithfield, VA, breeds mustangs. Yes, even though there are literally thousands of homeless mustangs sitting in BLM holding facilities, waiting to be adopted, sometimes ending up at slaughter plants, Steve Edwards apparently feels he needs to make more of them.

Why? Because they're special mustangs! These ones come from North Carolina! Oooo! They mostly look like this four year old filly of his:

Yeah. Nothing spectacular there; this critter screams "fugly" all over. I'm not sure what scares me most, her incredibly upright shoulder, her tiny and steep rump, or her too-long back, which also looks slightly roached. She's available for sale on his website, for $350, and is described as, "very well built for endurance." I think I just threw up in my mouth a little. Oh, and did I mention that, despite the overwhelming American desire for taller horses, he insists on continuing to breed pony-sized ones? I'm sure they'll sell really well. Here's what he has to say on that:

"I ride ponies and I am an adult. I ride ponies and I am a large adult. I ride ponies and I ride them long and hard. I have ridden Holland, a 13 hand Shackleford [mustang], fifty miles in a day on several occassions [sic]."

Yeah, that scrawny horse totally looks comfy, carrying half its body weight. Tell you what Mr. Edwards, let's have you carry around half of your body weight for fifty miles. Anyway, that's not the only idiotic thing he has to say, in my opinion:

"I teach natural horsemanship to students as young as five years old."

Yeah, 'cause that's totally safe and effective. What the hell?!

“We got him [a wild horse] home at 4:15 and he was completely halter trained in 45 minutes. Within twenty four hours he comfortably wore a saddle and took a child on his back."

I am so impressed with his ability to endanger children. And his truthfulness about his training. On the other hand, maybe it IS true: I bet any pony that gets weighed down until the point of exhaustion acts pretty tame. Don't get me wrong, some ponies are built to carry adults; just not these scrawny, badly-conformed guys.

"Distracting arguments over whether or not crops, spurs, laying a horse down, and the use of snaffle bits were inherently cruel have driven too many people away from natural horsemanship."

Yeah, let's just ignore all that distracting morality crap. Who needs to decide what's right and wrong? Bah.

"A few years ago a grainy you tube image of Linda Parelli working a one eyed horse was deceptively used to accuse her of cruelty to the horse. It was a great piece of work that was utterly inaccurately characterized by Parelli opponents."

He's talking about a widely-known video, in which Mrs. Parellia obviously doesn't know what the hell she's doing, and clearly traumatizes the horse. I'd like to post a link to it, but it's mysteriously disappeared off of the internet...

"Mill Swamp Riders do not learn how to win ribbons in the show ring. They do not learn how to sit up straight and demonstrate 'classical riding skills.' Instead they learn how horses think and how to develop real relationships with horses." 

Gosh, I didn't know that my horse needs hugs more than she needs a rider who knows that the hell she's doing in the saddle! Thank God. Now I don't have to feel bad when I bounce all over her back. She might be more sore and harder to control, but as long as our "relationship" is good, I can totally skip learning to ride!

Oh, and have I mentioned his "Off Site Breeding Program?" It's designed to save this "special breed" from "extinction." (Clearly Edwards doesn't know that fugly grade horses are quite populous in America.) Anyway, the rules don't say anything about a breed standard, health or conformation, but they do say that a mare should produce at least four foals, that no one can charge a stud fee, that you should register a new mustang foal in three bullshit horse registries, and that owners should show off their critters in every way possible, in order to get publicity for the "breed." Of course, none of the rules are mandatory, because hell, Edwards wouldn't want anyone to have to have standards or anything. Sounds like a backyard breeder's paradise to me! In fact, you can breed to his four stallions if you want to. Including this one:

Yay for more child endangerment!

Edwards justifies his obsession with these scrawny mustangs by saying that they're "rare" and "descended from Spanish horses." Mister, just because there's not many of something, and it has ancestors from somewhere, does not make it valuable. By his logic, I should be able to sell my disfigured rescue llama for a ton of money, because A) there aren't very many llamas around here, much less disfigured ones, and B) it has ancestors from South America.

Anyway, Edwards wanted to prove that his beloved feral horses were descended from Spanish horses, so he took a "team of inspectors" (probably him and his buddies) to look for skeletons of dead mustangs, "...to confirm that the herd was composed of horses that bore the unique vertebra of the original horses of the Spanish colonists." If ever I heard bullshit quack science, that's it right there. There's no difference between the backbone of a Spanish horse and a Quarter Horse. Seriously. Go look up the breed descriptions of Andalusians, Lusitanos and any other Spanish horses you can think of. Arabians sometimes have one less lumbar vertebrae.

Now look: my problem with Edwards is not his passion. Millions of people, including me, become obsessed with rather silly things like reality tv or model trains, and the world keeps turning. My problem is that his hobby directly affects the welfare of living creatures. Breeding badly-conformed ponies just for the sake of having more of them around, when we already have tons of unwanted grade horses (including mustangs) is the very definition of irresponsible breeding. Those animals almost certainly aren't going to stay sound, be competitive in equine sports or find and keep homes easily. His propaganda encourages others to breed more of the same. And not only to breed fugly horses, but to train them with crazy methods in the belief that these "special" horses are somehow as safe as puppies. From his website:

"Steve Edwards gave me the courage to do what most everyone else thought could not be done----ride a wild mustang that I trained myself without any experience or lessons at age 58. He said it could be done, and I believed him."

--Vicki, Goochland, VA

Yeah, because it's a GREAT idea for totally inexperienced people to train wild horses! Go Steve! Yay!

And Edwards isn't just getting satisfaction from his hobby. Nope, he's probably making money from his bullshit, by way of his online classes, training clinics, book sales, dvd sales, stud fees, riding classes, horse tours, adoption fees and charity fund. Oh, and did I mention his stores, with souvenirs like jewelery and t-shirts?

Say it with me folks: Scum. Bag. Scumbag.


  1. Just came across your website, I LOVE it!

    The video of Linda Parelli WAS listed under Barney the killer horse on youtube, but now I can't find it either.

  2. You fucking retard. BLM does not equal spanish mustang. These horses built our country. These horsesbeat arabs in endurance regularly. They are the original breed. Your modern horses descend from SPANISH MUSTANGS. Nature shaped the spanish mustang. Irresponsible breeding made horses that need shoes, need extra feed, need blankets, and all the other crap some one told you that you need. My spanish mustang will out last your silly, pampered, MUTT horse on less feed, less acreage, and less artificial crap.

  3. Your comments really show just how little you know about horses. To state that these horses are carrying half their body weight and are getting worn down is so ridiculous. Have you ever measured a horse? Most small ponies weigh upward of 800-900 lbs. Second your crack about child endangerment is really absurd. I have worked with horses of many breeds and training levels and there are definitely a few I would feel safe putting my five year old on. I think it is important that if children are going to be around horses that they start at a young age figuring out what "good horsemanship" is. That said I test the horses first to ensure that they aren't going to do something stupid and they interact under supervision. And as far as BLM being the equivilant of abuse I think you really need to do more research. These horses have been roaming the land in many countries long before we knew what the wheel was. There are always times of drought and lack but the healthy survive to produce more healthy horses. I don't see people out there domesticating deer because there might be to little grass and grains to support them one summer, or any other wild animal for that matter. We have a BLM Mustang and I'll tell you she eats less and needs far less maintenance than the rest of our horses put together. Their feet natural wear correctly based on breed and terrain. All in all unless you actually know what you are talking about please do the world a favor and shut up.

  4. Nature is, by definition, tough on everybody. Animals - and humans - who live without access to our modern comforts like houses, electricity, grocery stores, etc adapt and learn to survive. Taking a horse who has always lived in a stable and dumping it in the wild might be cruel; putting horses in small enclosures they can't get out of and starving them would be cruel; letting mustangs that are wild live wild is not cruel. They know how to find food, water, and shelter, and they don't need the farrier or the vet a tenth of the time domesticated horses do.

    Breeding horses with a bad conformation is definitely not a good idea, but keep in mind that some rules about conformation are not absolutes. Size, for example. It may have escaped your notice, but pony-sized horses are perfect partners for kids. Yes, they need to be trained before you put a kid on them, but nothing inherently wrong with breeding smaller horses and ponies.

    People who study bones don't just compare the number of bones in one skeleton to the number of bones in another! That part really made me laugh. I'm not saying the "team of inspectors" knew what it was doing, I don't know, but there is a heck of a difference in the shape of the skull of an Iberian horse and a Quarter Horse, for example. So yes, you actually can tell a lot from the bones of horses about their ancestry.

  5. I came across this by accident - just today Mill Swamp went to an endurance race and several of these Spanish Mustangs finished in the top ten (36 entries) Steve took 10th with also 6th place best condition on Holland - the 13 hand pony he mentioned riding above. Three years later still sound....nevermind this was their first competiton....guess those poorly confirmed ponies do make good endurance prospects.......LOL!

  6. There is another Spanish mustang breeder who proclaims they breed the best and yet many look like badly put together fugly grade horses. The breeder is also a judge for one of the BS registries you listed. Woman wouldn't know a Spanish horse if it bit her in the ass! Surprised you haven't done an article on her program.