Monday, November 28, 2011

Blessi and Cats

Blessi has always loved cats.  He will go out of his way to meet up with a cat.  And sometimes I will find scratch marks on his nose when he has tried to make friends with a non-horse savvy cat.
Blessi and Regato, his new best cat friend
Sam, a black barn cat, was Blessi’s earliest cat friend.   Sam discovered what a joy it was to sleep on the broad, hairy Icelandic back in the winter.  And at every opportunity Blessi would gently  snuffle and groom Sam’s head.  I don't have any pictures of Sam and Blessi, but Blessi's current cat friend is a black cat named Regato.
Blessi pets Lora as she pets Regato.
Blessi and I were on a trail ride one day.  As we got back to the stable property, Sam was perched on a fence post.  On catching sight of Sam, Blessi took the bit in his teeth and marched us over to greet Sam.  After the friendly reunion, we had to follow Sam as he walked the top of the fence line.  After all Sam was part of the herd. 
Blessi and Mittens
When we moved from the east coast to the west coast, we boarded at a number of feline-free stables.     Then we went to Big Steel Ranch in Port Orchard, WA, which had a resident cat named Mittens.  Mittens liked horses but most of the horses were afraid of her or did not care for her.  However, Blessi did.  I would sometimes find Mittens perched on Blessi’s back.  She seemed to like the elevation which got her closer to the birds and away from the barn dogs.  Blessi just liked the company.
So then my friend Lora and I decided to teach Mittens to ride.  We would put a saddle pad on on our horse and place Mittens on the horse while we groomed the horse.  Lora’s horse Hollyanna, a lovely paint, opinionated mare, had a different reaction.  She would wait until Lora turned her back and then grab the saddle pad and fling saddle pad and cat away from her.  Blessi was much more tolerant. 
I started giving Mittens a ride around the farm on a lead line.  Both Blessi and Mittens seemed to enjoy the walk.  Of course the barn dogs were really flummoxed by the situation—their facial expressions were quite comical.
Of course, one of us got the brilliant idea to take Mittens for a real ride.  Here is the film footage of Mittens’ first ride. 

Mittens became addicted to riding.  She would clamber up the mounting block as I got on Blessi trying to get on with me.  She would sit on the half wall of the arena and cry to be picked up and taken for a ride.   Unfortunately (for many, many reasons), Big Steel Ranch had to close for financial reasons and I never had the opportunity to take Mittens for tolt.
PS  There are only 5 types of wild mammals commonly found in Iceland—4 species of rats and mice, reindeer, mink, Arctic fox, and rabbits. 
Several of the rat/mice species, mink, and rabbits are not native and were introduced as accidents.  So coming from Iceland, Blessi was totally unfamiliar with many of the common, wild mammals found in the US.   He tended to treat everything as a “cat” or a “dog.”  Boy was he surprised when he met his first black “cat” with the white stripe down the back and tail.  I came back from several trips to find him reeking after he had tried to make friends with a black and white-striped “kitty.”

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