Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What Horses See on the Trail

The Back Country Horsemen of Washington state put together the following video about trail safety.  It does a really good job of introducing the topic of how bicyclists, hikers, and horse riders can share the trail safely.  The biggest key is that everybody should talk to each other--let the horse know that that object wheeling silently through the woods is really a human not a predator.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Icelandic Horses in The Hobbit--and Their Stand-ins Update 1/30/12

Photo used with permission of Eric Vespe
12/20/14 (correction)  It is confirmed by the Icelandic horse association in NZ that Martin Freeman who plays Bilbo Baggins in the movie was not riding  a chestnut Icelandic.  The actors playing dwarves will ride horses made up to look like Icelandics and the size standins for the dwarves will be riding Icelandics.

I was so excited to hear that Bilbo Baggins and the Dwarves stand-in are going to ride Icelandic horses in Peter Jackson’s movie version of The Hobbit.  Icelandics are being featured because of their shaggy, hobbitty look and their smooth gait the tolt.   You can refer to my post “Icelandic Horses in Movies--The Hobbit and HBO Game of Thrones—Update” for more detailed information.

Working for Ain’t It Cool News, Eric Vespe, otherwise known as Quint, was given the chance of lifetime when he was invited to spend two months with The Hobbit cast and crew as they were shooting in New Zealand.  I highly recommend reading his entire 5-part “Unexpected Journey” (link listed below) as he describes observing the set up of Hobbiton, speaking with Frodo (both actor and character), being assigned his hobbit name Fredegar Chubb and getting to de-gut fish for a scene in the movie, attending a Powhiri or greeting ceremony by the local Maori tribes, and much, much more.

One of the sites used for the New Zealand shoot was Ohakune Beech Paddock.  Per Eric, “This wooded area was to represent the outskirts of The Shire and featured Bilbo catching up to Gandalf and the dwarves. They’re riding on horseback so you can imagine the circus that day. Thirteen dwarves and a Wizard and horses for them all! The dwarves’ horses were wearing sort of shaggy jackets since they were supposed to be ponies, but the guys playing the dwarves would look silly in all their gear on tiny ponies. In order to sell the stature they had to make the regular horses look more pony-like.”

Eric Vespe has given me permission to show his photo of a dwarf riding one of the horses disguised as an Icelandic.  How ironic that the actors are riding horses made up to look like Icelandics and their size-stand-ins are riding the real Icelandic horses!

As Eric goes on to say, “The day was spent mostly getting wider shots of troop on horseback riding through the woods as Bilbo catches up to the party, but there was one shot in particular that you can actually glimpse in the trailer that had Fili and Kili picking up Mr. Baggins (from horseback) and putting him up onto his pony.”

Working with children and animals always has its challenges as Eric explains.  “It takes a lot of coordination to make the timing work when you have humans and animals in a scene together and I noticed some interesting things the trainers did to make the horses comfortable. For instance, I saw one of the trainers gently sniff the boom mic in front of a horse so the horse would follow suit and realize this fluffy thing hanging over his head wasn’t going to attack him.”
If you are interested in more details about the Icelandic horses in The Hobbit movie, you may want to check out the future editions of the United States Icelandic Horse Congress Quarterly.  There will be interviews with the owners and handlers of the “real” Icelandic horses on the set of The Hobbit as soon as the non-disclosure contracts permit..

How Horses See

The February 2007 edition of "Perfect Horse" has a fascinating article "Eye Openers" by Tracey Emslie about recent research on how horses perceive the world. Did you know that horses have the largest eyes of any land mammal? I recommend that you check out this article in your local library or bookstore. I have summarized some of the key points below. Most of the results are from the studies of Dr. Evelyn Hanggi, president of the Equine Research Foundation. The research has some interesting implications for people who train or ride horses. It helps explain why that sign post/drain pipe/car was not a problem on the ride out when it was in shadow but was a problem when it was glinting in full sunlight on the ride back.
Horses can see almost 360 degrees around but have small blind spots in front of their noses, just behind their tails, and probably low on their backs. By shifting their heads slightly, they can see even those spots. Horses can see using monocular vision (view different things out of each eye) like a chameleon or binocular (both eyes work together to focus on the same view) like a human. Using monocular vision, the horse can focus on both on the horse behind him and the trail in front—all at the same time! Just think how many scary things the horse can see that way.
This monocular versus binocular vision has probably contributed to the myth that horses need to see things with both eyes before they really process it. However, experiments have shown that a horse can learn to select a symbol with one eye blindfolded and will immediately transfer that learning when the other eye is blindfolded. So information is processed between the two eyes.
Then there is the situation "The horse passes the mail box on the way down the trail but spooks at seeing the mail box when coming home. The horse must not be able to recognize the mail box from a different angle." Horses can recognize different objects when they are rotated through most, but not all, angles. Horses are sensitive to changes in "lighting, contrast, and shadows" so perhaps the horse does not recognize the mailbox due to these differences.
The horse's eyes are set slightly to the front of the head with a 55- to 65-degree overlap in eyesight. From a binocular point of view, the horse has fairly accurate depth perception but needs to raise or lower her head to adjust the depth perception. When riding, you need to give your horse enough rein to move her head when she needs the additional depth perception required to herd cattle or maneuver through tight situations.
This finding has a profound implication when riding "on the bit." After watching two dressage horses collide without seeming to see each other, Dr. Alison Harmon did some studies on the horse retina. "She found that the forward portion of a horse's sight runs approximately down his nose, with the blind spot being roughly the width of the horse's body in front of him as well as slightly above the level of his eyes. If a horse is ridden `on the bit' with hisforehead vertical to the ground, or overflexed and `behind the bit; with his nose pointed toward his chest, he only sees the dirt beneath his nose. The peripheral vision is still showing what is to the side, but he is working blind in regard to anything smack dab in front of him" (p. 35-36). In disciplines like dressage that encourage this type of headset, the horse has to really trust his rider since the horse effectively has blinders on.
Here are some other bits (no pun intended) of horse sight trivia:
  • The horse is a little nearsighted with 20/30 vision.
  • A horse can see fairly well at night 
  • It can adjust to differences in brightness and darkness fairly quickly but is impacted more by "situational differences."
  • Horses can see color but have trouble distinguishing between red and green.
  • "Color vision deficiencies do not make objects invisible" (p. 37).
I hope that you enjoyed reading about some of these perceptual differences as much as I did. Researchers have a lot more to learn about how the horse sees the world. Does anyone have any stories illustrating these differences? Does everyone agree with the research? As a new rider, I am curious about this.
Source: Emslie, T. (2007, February). Eye openers. Perfect Horse, 12, 2, pp. 33-37.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Pippi Longstocking rides a pony

Although the equine in this video is not an Icelandic, you have to admit that the pony is darn cute.  And the little rider dressed as Pippi Longstocking has spent a lot of quality time working with her pony.  This is your quota of cuteness for the day.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Thelwell's Naughty Ponies

When I first got Blessi, the stable owner told me that Blessi looked and sometimes acted just like one of Thelwell's naughty ponies.  I had never heard of Thelwell.  She lent me her beloved Thelwell books and I laughed out loud at the cartoon antics of the little English girl Penelope and her pony Kipper.  Kipper had the thick body, somewhat short legs, and long mane and tail that looked like a cartoon Icelandic.  I promptly went out and got my own copies of Angels on Horseback and Pony Panorama

Thelwell drew his first pony cartoon for Punch in 1953.  Per the official Thelwell site, "...Angels on Horseback, was published in 1957, and was inspired by his observations of two hairy ponies - 'small and round and fat and of very uncertain temper' - who grazed in a field next to his house. They were owned by 'two little girls about three feet high who could have done with losing a few ounces themselves.... As the children got near, the ponies would swing round and present their ample hindquarters and give a few lightning kicks which the children would side-step calmly as if they were avoiding the kitchen table, and they had the head-collars on those animals before they knew what was happening. I was astonished at how meekly they were led away; but they were planning vengeance - you could tell by their eyes' " (para 4).

Although you seldom hear of an Icelandic kicking out at people, the Iceys certainly have attitude and can be creatively naughty.  If you want to make your own comparisons, you can check out some cartoons at the Thelwell site.

Source: http://www.thelwell.org.uk/

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Rodeo of Horse Art

Bestjonbon has put together 230 pictures of the horse in art--from medieval to Impressionist to Amercian Western.  The show is set to the music of Aaron Copeland's Rodeo.  Watching this review really highlights the important role that the horse has played in transportation, war, exploration, sports--andhow it just brings joy to the lives of horse owners.  I had to watch this multiple times.

The very first picture in the video is of a medieval ambler, a type of gaited horse like the Icelandic.  How many other gaited horses can you find in the video?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Icelandic Horses, Hobbit, Dwarves, Goblins and Dragons

Der Kleine Hobbit
Icelandic  ponies are featured in Peter Jackson’s film The Hobbit, to be released in December 2012.  Excited about my favorite breed being showcased in such a high profile movie, I decided to re-read The Hobbit from the pony’s point of view.  Unfortunately the ponies in the book do not fare well.

The first mention of ponies in The Hobbit is when the dwarves come to pick up Bilbo Baggins at the Green Dragon Inn, Bywater, at 11 am.  Bilbo gets to the Inn precisely on time to meet Dwalin.  “Just then all the others came round the corner of the road from the village.  They were on ponies, and each pony was slung about with all kinds of baggages, packages, parcels, and paraphernalia.  There was a very small pony, apparently for Bilbo” (p.29). 
After a brief protest by Bilbo that he was so rushed he forgot his hat, pocket-handkerchief, and money, Dwalin the dwarf reassures Bilbo that all has been provided and he should get on his pony.  “That’s how they all came to start, jogging off from the inn one fine morning just before May, on laden ponies…” (p. 29).  Soon Gandalf joins them “very splendid on a white horse” and so begins the adventure to retrieve the gold Smaug the Dragon stole from Thorin’s grandfather The King Under the Mountain.
The dwarves give Bilbo a dark green hood at the start
of the journey.  Klaus Ensikat illustrator, p. 46. 
After some traveling, Gandalf disappears and the company has their first small mishap.  “Then one of the ponies took fright at nothing and bolted.  He got into the river before they could catch him; and before they could get him out again, Fili and Kili were nearly drowned, and all the baggage that he carried was washed away off him” (p. 31).  The pony survived… this time.  And the ponies did well with the encounter with trolls.
The Over Hill and Under Hill adventure proved fatal for the first set of ponies.  Goblins captured the company.  As Tolkien says, “And that was the last time that they used the ponies, packages, baggages, tools and paraphernalia that they had brought with them” (p.55).  Goblins are not kind to ponies.
After a great escape from wolves, wargs, and goblins, Bilbo and the dwarves encounter Boern, the skin-changer who has the ability to transform himself into a great, shaggy black bear.  Boern “lives in an oak-wood and has a great wooden house; and as a man he keeps cattle and horses which are nearly as marvelous as himself.  They work for him and talk to him.  He does not eat them” (p. 106).  Since Boern can be a bit unpredictable when encountering strangers, Gandalf and Bilbo go ahead to smooth the way.  As they push open the gate and walk towards the house, “some horses, very sleek and well-groomed, trotted up across the grass and looked at them intently with very intelligent faces, then off they galloped to the buildings”( p. 108).  Gandalf explains that the horses have run off to tell Boern that he has visitors. When they find Boern, “The horses were standing by him with their noses at his shoulder.  ‘Ugh! Here they are!’ he said to the horses.  ‘They don’t look dangerous. You can be off!”  (p. 108). 
Animals setting the table at Boern's house.
Klaus Ensikat illustrator, p. 164.
Through the gradual telling of their adventures, Gandalf persuades Boern to host the company.  And here follows a visit with magical creatures as hosts.  “Boern clapped his hands, and in trotted four beautiful white ponies and several large long-bodied grey dogs” who proceed to light the fire and set the table. “A pony pushed two low-seated benches with wide rush-bottoms and little short thick legs for Gandalf and Thorin….The other ponies came in rolling round drum-shaped sections of logs, smoothed and polished, and low enough even for Bilbo…” (p. 115).  The company enjoys a wondrous meal enlivened by song and tales.
After this brief respite, Boern lends the company a horse and ponies, provides food, and sends them on their way to Mirkwood.  However, Boern warns them not to take the ponies into that dangerous place. So upon the edges of the evil forest, “…they said good-bye to their ponies and turned their head for home.  Off they trotted gaily, seeming very glad to put their tails toward the shadow of Mirkwood” (p. 125).  These are the ponies that survive in The Hobbit.
After horrific adventures in Mirkwood and escaping from suspicious elves, the company is provided with another set of ponies and gear by the Master of Laketown for the final leg of the journey to the Lonely Mountain.  As the company camps by the secret door to the lair of Smaug, the ponies are allowed to graze nearby. 
Carelessly, Bilbo alerts Smaug to the presence of the company when he steals a golden cup.   Enraged, Smaug comes diving towards the camp, roaring and shooting flames.  “The ponies screamed with terror, burst their ropes and galloped wildly off.  The dragon swooped and turned to pursue them, and was gone.  ‘That’ll be the end of our poor beasts!’ said Thorin.  ‘Nothing can escape Smaug once he sees it’” (p.197).  Later Smaug taunts Bilbo, “Let me tell you I ate six ponies last night and I shall catch and eat all the others before long” (p. 201).  Three of the ponies do survive and are eventually sent back to the Laketown.
After the demise of the “Worm of Dread” and the Battle of Five Armies, Bilbo bids a heartfelt farewell to his surviving companions.  With new ponies, Gandalf and Bilbo start the long ride home with a short side trip to retrieve the troll treasure.  “So they put the gold in bags and slung them on the ponies who were not at all pleased about it” (p. 269).  They reach finally reach BagsEnd after many adventures and hardships.  Unlike Bill the Pony in Lord of the Rings, only about one in four of the ponies in this story get home.
So this brings up some interesting thoughts.  Just how is Peter Jackson using Icelandic ponies in his script?  The movie trailer shows Bilbo and the dwarves riding Icelandics through the forest and across steep mountain crests.  Do they ride the same set of ponies throughout the adventure?  Or does Peter Jackson follow the book closely in which case there are different sets of ponies—some of whom meet up with a bad end?  We have until December 2012 to ponder these questions.
Tolkien, J.  (1997).  The Hobbit or There and Back Again.  Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

I Send Greetings

Yesterday, I posted a rather silly poem in honor of the Icelandic midwinter festival Þorrablót. Seriously, Iceland has a long history of literature and poetry, going back as far as the saga first told in the 9th and 10th century and written down by the 13th century. Icelander Halldór Kiljan Laxness won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1955.

The following poem was written by Jonas Hallgrimsson in 1835.  Jonas was working for the cultural and economic revival of Iceland and its independence from Denmark. He is credited with introducing the Romanticism movement in Iceland.  Above, you can listen to the poem in Icelandic with English translations.
I Send Greetings
Serene and warm, now southern winds come streaming
To waken all the billows on the ocean,
Who crowd toward Iceland with an urgent motion ---
Isle of my birth! where sand and surf are gleaming.
Oh waves and winds! embrace with bold caresses
The bluffs of home with all their seabirds calling!
Lovingly, waves, salute the boats out trawling!
Lightly, oh winds, kiss glowing cheeks and tresses!
Herald of spring! oh faithful thrush, who flies
Fathomless heaven to reach our valleys, bearing
Cargoes of song to sing the hills above:
There, if you meet an angel with bright eyes
Under the neat, red-tasselled cap she's wearing,
Greet her devoutly! That's the girl I love.

For a detailed interpretation of this poem, refer to:

Friday, January 20, 2012

Þorrablót Poem

Þorrablót is a traditional Icelandic get together held in January or February.  Country style food such as wind-dried fish, rotten shark, ram testicles, blubber, seal flippers, and sheep head  may be served.  (I am not kidding about this--check with your Icelandic friends). And rye bread, lamb, wonderful deserts, and other food are included.  Per Wikipedia, "the Þorrablót is an evening with dinner where participants hold speeches and recite poems, originally to honour the Norse god Thor, after whom the month is presumed to be named."

So in honor of  Þorrablót, here is a poem titled Thor (author unknown):

Photo from Wikipedia
The tunder god went for a ride
Upon his favourite filly
I'm thor! he cried
And his horse replied,
You forgot your thaddle thilly.

Check back tomorrow for a real Icelandic poem set to music and accompanied by wonderful scenes of Iceland and people in traditional costume.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Blessi and the Western Saddle--What not to do

I finally got a custom made Western saddle for Blessi.  Finding a Western saddle for an Icelandic horse is very challenging.  Blessi has a gullet measuring 8 1/2 inches which is draft horse size but a back length of about 23 inches.  He is boulder-shouldered and mutton withered.  And performance of the tolt results in huge shoulder movement which requires a lot of saddle flair.  Blessi is relatively flat backed but requires some flair to the saddle.  Ideally the saddle should weigh around 25 lbs.  And I have it lucky.  I know somebody who has a 13.2 Icelandic with a gullet of 12 1/4 inches!

So I tried the new saddle on Blessi.  I believe it fits him--this is the third or fourth time that he has had a Western saddle on. Anyway, we were riding in the arena all by ourselves in the new Western saddle. Blessi seemed happy in the saddle and I loved the fit.

So I go to dismount and do the typical tyro Western dismount--I get my shirt and coat--but not the bra thank goodness-- hooked on the saddle horn. Now it's a real burlesque show involving both ribald comedy and partial nudity.

I am short and Blessi is short but I still ended up with my feet dangling about six inches off the ground. Blessi has my not-inconsiderable weight hanging off the horn hanging off his left side. I am struggling to get unhooked but there is nothing to push against for leverage to get the clothing off the hook.

Well Blessi stood like a stone for the 2 to 3 minutes that it took me to figure this out. I showed off my bra and untoned stomach to the neighborhood--and it was cold on Sunday. As soon as I dismounted and got my clothing rearranged, Blessi started to bow. He kept bowing. I think he thought that this one of the weirder bomb proofing exercises that I came up with and I had forgotten to feed him his carrot. Thank goodness I had a peppermint in my jacket--he really deserved it.

However, I am going to tell people that I dangled off the saddle horn just to see how Blessi would react to roping a calf.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Walk Like a Yak (on Yaktrax)

I live in the Seattle area and usually winters are quite mild.  The weather forecasters are predicting some severe snow this year so last week I invested in some Yaktrax.  (Eddie Bauer featured a half price special.)   Per the manufacturer, "Named after the sure-footed Tibetan Yak, Yaktrax stre[t]ch over everything from casual walking shoes to winter boots."

I have to admit they are easy to put on over riding boots or sneakers.  They provide a lot of traction on icy surfaces--just what a Klutz like me needs--sort of like snow chains for sneakers.  However, take them off before riding or going inside.  And I discovered that if you aren't careful when you stretch a Yaktrax on your shoe, you can fire it across the driveway like a giant rubber band.  I almost hit Ollie my dog.


Note to self: Next time, remove shoe and Yaktrax before taking
picture--ankle does not bend easily in needed direction.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Whirls, Swirls, and Whorls--Horse Personality

Several registries such as the American Quarter Horse Association and the Arabian Horse Association use whirls, or swirled circular patterns of hair, as a way to identify a particular horse.  FEIF, The International Federation of Icelandic Horse Associations, does the same thing.  Below you can see Blessi's international passport and the location of his whirls and blaze details used for identification purposes.

Many people believe that the location of horse whirls can provide insight into horse personality.  Based on lore passed down from her grandfather as verified by a statistical survey of owners of 1500 horses, Linda Tellington-Jones devised a method of analyzing horse personality based on whirls.  Linda cautions that whirls need to be read as part of an analysis of all facial features.

Here are some of her findings (pp. 40 - 46):
  • A whirl above or between eyes is fairly common and generally indicates a fairly uncomplicated horse but there are some variations.  As you face the horse, a whirl a little to the left indicates that the horse is more complicated but trustworthy.  A whirl  a little to the right indicates less cooperation.
  • A single whirl below the eyes generally indicates an interesting horse with above average intelligence.
  • A single long whirl between the eyes usually indicates a friendly, people oriented horse; if not, check the horse for pain.
  • A horse with two swirls side by side on the forehead may indicated a more reactive and unpredictable horse.
 Linda's sister, Robyn Hood raises Icelandics.  Robyn notes that Icelandics tend to have more double swirls than other horse breeds.  These horses tend to be more emotional but are still less emotional than other breeds.  Icelandics tend to have more facial swirls in different locations but this does not seem to correlate with a more complicated nature.  Icelandic lore states that swirls on the neck or crest tend to indicate good swimming and water abilities.

Source:  Tellington-Jones, L.  (1995).  Getting in TTouch: Understand and Influence Your Horse's Personality, Trafalgar Square Publishing, North Pomfret, VT.

Dr. Temple Grandin has also conducted research in this area and found a definite link between whorls and personality for cattle.  "Cattle also have hair whorls on the forehead similar to horses. We conducted research on hair whorl positions and temperament in cattle because it was easy to find large numbers of cattle with similar genetics and similar early experiences. In a study of 1,500 cattle at a commercial feedlot, we found that cattle with hair whorls above the eyes fought more in a squeeze chute during vaccinations, and were clearly more frightened by restraint compared to cattle Selecting Whole Animals."
Source: http://www.grandin.com/references/horse.genetics.html

Of course, meaning can be attached to body swirls also.  I find it interesting that Blessi has very uniform body swirls--one on the center under his neck and one at the side of each of his four legs.  I have no idea what that means.  But his forehead swirl is above the eyes and slightly to the right--and I do have to say he can be a tad resistant from time to time--especially if he is convinced he is right.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Blessi Has a Passport

Blessi, registered name Veigar frá Búðardal, was exported from Iceland to the US in 2003.  Believe it or not, he had to have his own passport.  This 34-page document--written in Icelandic, German, and English--is issued by FEIF (International Federation of Icelandic Horse Associations).  It contains his registration number, microchip number, owner name, pedigree, and detailed physical description.  There are pages for vaccination records, passport control, medication control, and medical treatment.

Every time Blessi is sold, the passport must be returned to the national Icelandic horse organization (USIHC in US) so the passport and certificate of registration can be re-issued in the new owner's name.

So for your viewing pleasure,  here is Blessi's horse passport.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Loose Rein Tolt

One of the sanctioned Icelandic horse competitions is the loose rein tolt.  In this competition, the riders must tolt down the long side of the oval track with no rein contact.  The rider slides the reins up the horse's neck.  Here is a great example of the quality and training of some of the horse and riders from a competition in Germany.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Fun Facts About Icelandic Horses

·         Icelandic horses come from Iceland, the Land of Fire and Ice (volcanoes and glaciers).

·         Icelandic horses originally came to Iceland on Viking ships.
·         Icelandics can perform two more gaits—tolt and flying pace—than a Quarter horse.
Odin riding Sleipnir--Wikipedia
·         In Norse mythology, the god Odin rides the 8-legged horse Sleipnir.
·         Icelandic horses were given as gifts to the Danish king.
·         Icelandic horses have been fed herring (fish).
  • Icelandic horses are known as the Bridges of Iceland, since people could not drive completely around Iceland the 1960s due to lack of suitable roads--people rode horses to visit the more inaccessible parts of Iceland.
·         Some Icelandics have cannon (leg) bones as thick as some Clydesdales (draft horses).

·         Icelandic horses are related to the Mongolian pony.
·         If an Icelandic horse leaves Iceland, it can never return.
A Viking ship--Wikipedia
·         The Icelandic horse has a longer intestine than other breeds of horses enabling it to get more nutrition out of poor grass.
  • Icelandic horses were buried with important Viking chieftains.
·         The Icelandic mare Tulle lived to be 57 years old in Denmark.
·         The dwarfs in the 2012 movie The Hobbit ride Icelandic horses.
·         Some Icelandic horses can change colors by season—for example be a chestnut in winter and summer and be a white body with chestnut mane, tail, and legs in spring and fall.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Who Says Dogs Can't Do Dressage

Here is a lovely video of Tina Humphrey competing with her dog Chandi, a border collie rescue.  They are competing in freestyle in the Netherlands.  Who says dogs can't do tempi changes and piaffe?  What a great partnership.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Six year old riding Icelandic Stallion Through the Snow

In this video, Auður Karen, age 6,  is riding an Icelandic stallion Friðrik.  They are flying home through the snow at a fast tolt.  What a great partnership between horse and young rider.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Blessi Bling How To--Hair Extensions

Hair extensions can be a fun, funky decoration for your horse.  But it can get expensive buying enough extensions to to make a statement.  Here are directions for making your own.  The hair extensions that I made for Blessi cost me approximately $1.50 each.


  • Snap clips available from beauty supply stores
  • Thin sewing needle (needs to fit through holes in snap clip)
  • Thick quilting or button thread
  • Extension hair usually available in toy section of dollar stores
  • Scissors


Merci is planning her attack!
If necessary, disassemble the hair extension that you bought at the dollar store.


  1. Cut the width of the hair extension to fit the length of the snap clip.  For horses with exceptionally thick mane like Icelandics, you may want to double the width of the hair extension used.

    Tip 1:When working with long, dangling, shiny things, keep your eye on the cat.  A few minutes after this picture was taken, Merci the cat snatched the hair out of my hand and took off with it.
  2. Using quilting or button thread. sew the hair extension to the snap clip using the holes across the top of the snap clip.  Be sure to sew the hair extension to the outside of the snap clip.
    Sew the hair extension to the snap clip.


    Tip 2:You may need to wax the end of the thread by rubbing it over a wax candle.  You will then be able to more easily get the thicker thread through the eye of the needle.
  3. You may need to trim the sides of the extension to give the bottom of the extension a more natural look.
  4. Model hair extensions on your horse.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Talking a Blue Streak over Hair Extensions

Well, you wouldn't think that an Icelandic would need hair extensions.  Truthfully, Blessi has below average length of mane for an Icelandic--if you can believe it.  For Christmas, my friend Deb decided all the Bad Cowgirls' horses needed hair extensions.  So Blessi got a bright blue extension.  Here are pictures.  As you can see, he ended up talking a blue streak about it.   We'll definitely sport this equine accouterment during the next play date--it gives Blessi  that punk rock look.   The question is what is the best place to wear it?  Many thanks to Lora for the title to this posting.

I put the blue hair extension on Blessi when Joe the farrier came to shoe Blessi. I kept waiting and waiting and waiting for Joe to notice the extension in Blessi's mane. Finally, I had to point it out. Joe thought it looked great. We both laughed--just like a guy to never notice any difference in hair styles even if it is a horse.

Here is a link to a source for equine hair extensions.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Sola--The Great Houdini Horse Escapes from the Barn

Chris and Nathaly Jones of Tuskast Icelandics own a very clever Icelandic horse named Sola.  Watch how she opens the barn door latch in under 5 seconds.  She knows how to open 5 different types of latches.  Heaven help us all if Sola and Blessi ever get together!

You can check out Christopher and Nathaly's farm at their web site  http://www.tuskast.com/

Friday, January 6, 2012

Blessi Blog Stats--Those Darn Russian Naughty Sites

One of the pleasures of creating a blog is watching the audience numbers build.   I especially like looking at the number of readers from various countries.  I was so excited that people from Canada, Germany, Sweden, France, and other places would like to read about Blessi.  Most of the traffic comes from countries that have a large or growing population of Icelandic horses. 
Views by country for Blessi Blog

And then I noticed that I had a few viewers from Russia, which according to WorldFengur has only two registered Icelandic horses.  How cool I thought, there must be a growing interest in Russia in this breed.   And within a week, the number of viewers from Russia was way more than any other country except the US.  So I decided to look at the referring sites.

Referring sites for Blessi Blog
I thought that some of the sites looked really weird so I did a search in the on-line help of Blogger to try and figure out what was happening.  The ow.ly and tiny.cc looked a bit suspicious.  It turns out that spanners will surf to as many new blog sites as they can hoping that the new blogger will check her statistics, click on the link, and go to their web site as a customer or spam recipient.

Google's Blogger cautions: "It's even possible that the computers that we see reflected in our logs - Latvia, Poland, and Russia - are being controlled by porn spammers who live in England, Germany, or even the USA. Even spammers don't crap where they live. Referer spamming involves massive amounts of fake page accesses, against multiple websites."
Source:  http://blogging.nitecruzr.net/2011/02/referer-spam-is-needlessly-alarming.html

Oh the joys of being a new blogger.  My apologies to anyone from Russia, Latvia, and Ukraine who may be genuinely interested in the Icelandic horse.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Reykjavik in 1926

I love this black and white film of Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, in 1926.  The film opens with "We came ashore at midnight..."  Watch for the Icelandic women wearing traditional costume.  And there is a great section on Icelandic ponies showing riders with historic tack to the draft-style Icelandic pulling a wagon filled with tourists.  And one rider must be late as he carries an umbrella and canters his horse through the rain.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Icelander--The Metaphysical Mystery Novel

I selected the novel Icelander by Dustin Long based solely on the appeal of  its cover--an embossed line sketch with silver highlighting.  You don't get the same tactile sense when  reading with a Kindle.  OK, the novel doesn't have any Icelandic horses in it.  It does have Icelanders in it---both the above ground and the below ground dwellers the Vanatru.  Yes, that right I said the subterranean, fox worshiping Vanatru who are inciting for sovereignty within Iceland.  So this is also a mystery set in an alternative universe.

At its simplest, the mystery revolves around the murder of Shirley MacGuffin.  Per Hitchcock, the term "MacGuffin" is "the mechanical element that usually crops up in any story. In crook stories it is almost always the necklace and in spy stories it is most always the papers." 
Source: Marshall Deutelbaum, Leland A. Poague (2009) A Hitchcock reader p.114. John Wiley and Sons.   A MacGuffin is essentially meaningless in itself but the search for it drives the plot of the book/movie.

"Our Heroine" is the offspring of Emily Bean-Ymirson, the famous crime solver, and  Jon Ymirson, an adventurer and anthropologist.  She is trying desperately not to be dragged into solving the murder of her friend since she has spent her youth being involved in her mother's adventures, which are immortalized in the 12-volume fictionalized series by Magnus Valison.  There are a host of supporting characters from Wible & Pacheco, the "philosophical investigators;" Garm the Dachshund; Gerd, Queen of the Vanatru; and the Refurserkir, fox-fur wearing Ninjas who serve Gerd.

The best way to describe the style of this book is to compare it to how the author describes the placement of Magnus Valison's novel The Case of the Consternated Cossack which is located between Herman Melville's The Confidence Man and Sir Author Conan Doyle's Valley of Fear but above and below books by Vladimir Nabokov and Elizabeth Peters (author of the Amelia Peabody mysteries).  In other words, Icelander marries the writing style of Nabokov with the plotting of Peters within a self-referential literary romp which adds  references to Scandinavian mythology and 17th century English literature.

You will either love this book or hate it.  But read at least 50 pages before making up your mind.  It wasn't until pg. 41 when the academics Dr. Lorenz, Mohs, and Curleigh (Larry, Moe, and Curley) appear that I got caught up in the free-wheeling spirit of the book.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 Happy New Year

Blessi and I wish everyone a happy New Year.  To celebrate, here is a beautiful video by Yoz Creative--no dialogue--just music and the beauty of a winter skiing or a ride through the snow on your Icelandic horse.  May this be a year of peace and goodwill.