Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Icelandic Horse in Germany

There are currently as many Icelandic horses in Germany as there are in Iceland.  Per FEIF there are 65,000 Icelandic horses in Germany and 80,000 in Iceland.  Here is a fascinating video of how people interrelate with their Icelandic horses in Germany--from touring castle grounds, to competitions, to shoeing, to saddlery.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Zooey the baby horse is smarter than I (and a better jumper)

I went to get Blessi out of the pasture today. Zooey, the five month old warmblood filly who is Blessi's pasture mate, was super good about it. She was very interested in watching some riders jump their horses.

I had Blessi in the cross ties when I hear the clatter of little hooves. Zooey comes cantering into the barn and runs up to Blessi. She was so proud of herself!!! At that point, I wasn't sure how she had gotten out since I had remembered to latch the gate and the people gate still had Zooey's lead line tied between the posts. 

So I put a lead line over Zooey's neck and led her back to the pasture. She led quite nicely until I got her into the pasture and tried to shut the gate. At which point being younger and quicker (and perhaps smarter) than I, she escaped and ran back to the barn.

Somebody came over to help. She got Zooey's halter on and led her back to the pasture. We re-adjusted the lead line "fence" and started to go back to the barn. Zooey attempted to jump the lead line "fence" and almost got her feet entangled. So Zooey got to come into the barn and join the party.   Tomorrow, boards are going up over what was intended to be a people gate.

Zooey was so proud of herself for a) escaping, b) getting to join in the socialization in the barn, and c) eating dinner early. I am afraid that we have just rewarded her for escaping. ;-) She is going to be an amazing jumper. She must have cleared 2 1/2 to 3 feet from a standstill. She must also have worked the lead line down since I had it at about 4 feet when I took Blessi into the barn.

Oh I didn't ride that night  Take a look at the attached photo. I had no idea what I had done until Barbara pointed it out. No wonder I misplace things constantly!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

I'm making my cat fat--need picture

Yesterday, I got on my bathroom scale for the first time in years. I was dreading the results. My scale is electronic so the first thing I do is push on the scale with my foot, wait for the numbers to go from 8888 to 000.0 and then step on and wait for the scale to register my weight.

After all this, the scale would only register 000.0. Oh crap!!!! I have gained so much weight that my weight is beyond the upper limits of the scale. Now is that upper limit 300 or 350 lbs? As I am obsessing about this, I decided to weight a cat. Fortunately, the cat also weights 0000.0 and so did everything else that I put on the scale.

So I decide to change the batteries. The scale is an expensive piece of crap manufactured in China with a "lifetime" battery. There is no way to change the battery without totally disassembling the scale--which I do only to find that the battery is soldered into the scale.

I'll have to get another scale I guess. I think I will go to Goodwill and find an old fashioned mechanical scale. And to top it off, I find out that cats mimic the habits, including eating style, of their owner. I am making my cat fat also.

"In a new study from the University of Messina, it turns out that cats who live intimately with their owners (indoor cats that live in a small space) "mirror" the lives of their caregivers. They sleep at the same time, eat at the same time, and can even become more or less social depending on the behavior of their owners.

"Cats are intelligent animals with a long memory," Jane Brunt, veterinarian and the executive director of the CATalyst Council, told Discovery News. "They watch and learn from us, (noting) the patterns of our actions, as evidenced by knowing where their food is kept and what time to expect to be fed, how to open the cupboard door that's been improperly closed, and where their feeding and toileting areas are."

Because cats mimic our habits, if you spend a lot of time raiding the fridge, your cat will return to its food bowl for that midnight snack, too. According to the study, this explains why "human and cat obesity rates often seem to match." So, if you felt guilty about leaving your precious kitty at home while you go to work, now you can feel even worse: You are making your cat fat! "

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Wedding with Icelandics

What a wonderful idea.  This bride and groom Sarah and Steffan  in Danmark have an escort of Icelandic horses for their photo shoot.  And the "horse of honor" unrolls the green carpet.  And manages to pop all the bridal ballons.  And somehow doing a bow and then eating grass while kneeling seems very typically Icelandic. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Pony Fold

Cornell University Library
Having riden to church, Icelanders would typically keep their horses in a paddock made of turf.  This "pony fold" is located near the small, historic church at Stórinúpur, located about 15 miles northwest of the Hekla volcano.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Icelandics Race the Clydesdales

Each year riders take Clydesdale Horses from Skye to Cumbria, Britain, approximately 420 miles.  Here you see the Icelandics racing before them at the Ford West at Linton.  I love the contrast in the way the two breeds move---but boy are those Iceys quick.

Monday, January 21, 2013

2013 Catdance Film Festival

Freshstep Cat Litter is sponsoring a film festival called Catdance.  At first I pooh-poohed the idea but I checked one submission, then another, and then another.  One tale concerns the catalog order of bedroom furnishings that happens to include a cat.  Then there is a 1950s training video for the felines who are considering including a human in their lives.  Or what happens to a cat famous for his youtube videos but who can no longer pull in the viewership with his recent stuff.  But I dare you watch "Dear Rocky"shown above without tearing up.

Below is probably my favorite--Meows in the Afternoon--a kind of Japanese, existential thriller on the feline life.  It is a re-imaging of the 1940's movie "Meshes of the Afternoon."

You can vote for the finalists here:

Saturday, January 19, 2013

48 Hours with Blessi

Monday morning, I went to see Blessi. I was going to ride him in the arena but I thought I would longe him first since I hadn't ridden him for a few days.  The barn had a jump clinic over the weekend. The jump course was still set up in the big arena (as opposed to the covered arena). A line of trot poles was set up and all the jump poles were in place but the cross poles weren't up. 

This is a jump cup.
I decided to turn Blessi loose in the arena so he could run around . What does he do but he trots right down the center of the arena across the center of the trot poles and then proceeds to trot through about 30% of the course! The cross poles weren't up but he still trotted between the support poles. Blessi must have been watching the clinic all weekend and was just dying to show off what he could do. So I decided to change plans---free style jumping rather than riding.

Since Blessi seemed so interested, I put up some of the cross poles to create low jumps and then asked him to free jump for a piece of carrot. He had a blast taking those jumps from different directions per my ground directions. Some times he did go between the jumps but he did it at a trot. Between treating, I was laughing at all the attitude he was exhibiting--arched neck and fancy steps. 

Then Barb set up some real jumps for Diva, her Dutch warmblood. She set up a cross pole on the ground, a very low jump, followed by three high jumps--all designed to be jumped in sequence in a straight line. As Barb returned to the barn to finish saddling up, I went to the arena gate to collect my stuff. Blessi was still loose in the arena and since I wasn't paying attention, he decided to make a bid for a jackpot of carrots. He voluntarily started to take the run over Barb's set up of jumps. Blessi went over the trot pole, jumped the little jump, and then decided that the first of the large jumps was too high and slid to a stop. He bumped the pole and knocked it off the jump but this was done very slowly. However, he did manage to break the jump cup---yes, I learned a new word and how much it costs to replace them.

The next day, Shannon was cleaning Blessi's stall and let his stall door open a bit. Blessi saw an opportunity and opened the door to take himself off to pasture. They left him graze thinking he would come back out of the rain but, being Icelandic, Blessi was not detered by some rain. So Lea went out had to chase him for a bit to catch him. Blessi was bound and determined that he was on pasture break.

Today, Shannon started teaching Blessi how to piaffe. The beginning steps are easy. You just tickle the horse's back leg until he picks it up and then feed the horse a carrot. However, piaffing with a rider on his back comes at the end of a longer process. Blessi does get the idea though. Since a sugar cube was involved, he picked up the idea really quickly.

And Blessi has taught Zoeey the weanling a new trick. A bunch of tall ornamental grass grows next to their pasture. Blessi demoed to Zooey how to lean over the fence and nibble on the plant. So now they are taking turns "hedge trimming."

And this is what 48 hours with Blessi is like. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Queen Elizabeth I Riding a Pacing Horse

Image from flickr
I am stll trying to track down an example of a tolting or pacing horse used on a coat of arms.  (Does anybody out there know of an example used prior to 1600 AD?)  In my research, I came across a number of seals used by various historical personages that feature the rider on a pacing horse. 

"Elizabeth I used this great seal during the second half of her reign - from 1586 to 1603. It is an impression from seal matrix made of bronze and was engraved by Nicholas Hilliard, who was famous for his small paintings or miniatures. The matrix was used to create wax impressions that were used to 'seal' documents. This was a means of proving that the accompanying document had been written or approved by the owner of the seal.

Seals were widely used by statesmen, nobles, judges, churchmen and even ordinary people. The great seal was the most important of all, as the monarch used it to approve public acts and announcements. It was a powerful political tool. The great seal of Elizabeth gives an insight into how the queen wanted to be seen. On one side, she is shown holding the sceptre and orb that are the traditional symbols of royal power. Heavenly rays above her head are a sign of her divine status. On the reverse side, Elizabeth is shown on horseback riding across a field of flowering plants. This symbolises hope and prosperity, as well as the queen's femininity.Her image is one of strength, but unlike her predecessors she is not wearing military dress.She is flanked by the symbols of her lands: the Tudor Rose of England, the Harp of Ireland, and the Fleur-de-Lys of France. The inscription around the edge reads 'Elizabetha dei gracia Anglie Francie et Hibernie Regina Fidei Defensor' (Elizabeth, by grace of God, Queen of England, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith)."


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Doma Vaquero Speed Trial

I have always admired Iberian horses and riding.  Portual and Spain have long traditions of both classical dressage and Doma Vaquero or country style riding.  Doma Vaquero developed out of the skills needed to work agressive bulls in the countryside--sometimes using long pole. Horses should only walk or canter, not trot.   Here you see an amazing example of this type of riding.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Icelandic Horse and the Ort

Photo by F. Howell, Cornell University Library
Taken around 1900, this print is labelled as "'Bloc,' Hvítárvatn. One of the 'orts' of Langjökull."  I had to do some research to figure out what this meant since "ort" means a bit of uneatten food remaining at the end of a meal.  Langjökull is the second largest ice cap in Iceland located in the western part of the Icelandic interior.  And Hvítárvatn is a lake near this glacier.  So my interpretation of the caption is that this Icelandic horse is taking a rest near one of the huge "bits" thrown out by an active volcano at one point in time.  How would you interpret the caption?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Propaganda by Liberal Feline Media

Whether you are a dog fan or a cat fan, you must watch this. Here is proof that cats are better than dogs--at least according to the liberal feline media conspiracy.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Great Apple Bobbing Contest--Geisli and Blessi

Lori encouraging Geisli
The Cascade Icelandic Horse Club was well represented at the Northwest Horse Expo in 2012.  One of the challenges in taking horses to an event like this is keeping them interested and happy.  I usually put an apple in Blessi's water bucket and let him bob for apples---he drinks more water while he entertains himself getting the apple.  I learned early on not to put carrots in the bucket since the carrots sink to the bottom of the buck and Blessi just dumps the bucket.

Blessi taking a break for air
Both Lori and her Icelandic horse Geisli noticed that Blessi was having fun bobbing for apples so we decided to put an apple in Geisli's bucket.  He had a blast also.  So we decided to stage the Great Apple Bobbing Contest.

We led both horses into the aisle and presented them with buckets of water.  A small crowd gathered.  On the count of three,  we put apples in the water buckets.  Horse heads went down and the race was on.

Geisli was a valiant competitor.  He snorted, he blew bubbles, he grabbed the apple, and sunk it.  But Blessi's greater experience won out at the end.
Blessi attempting to splash the children

Both the audience and the horses really enjoyed the contest.  Blessi decided to add some additional entertainment value by deliberately splashing the children who stopped by to watch.   The more they laughed, the harder Blessi splashed.  Geisli wants a re-match for 2013.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Great Blessi Give Away

Blessi--ngs: Life with an Icelandic horse has been in existence for almost a year now.  So I thought I would commemorate this achievement by giving away a Blessi--not The Blessi--but a stuffed version of Blessi that I made.

So here are the rules.  Just go through the past year's postings and make a comment on one or more posts.  I will go through all the postings on the evening of January 9 and determine the "best" posting.  Criteria will be most amusing, most thought provoking, best shared story of your horse, or whatever may takes my fancy that day. 

On January 10 I will announce the winner and make arrangements to get your address to mail you the stuffed Blessi.  And, yes, I will mail overseas.  Unfortunately, I only have one stuffed Blessi to give away but it is the closest that I could come to cloning him.  ;-)

And the winner is Chris--who not being able to leave a comment due to technology issues, emailed the following comment on the Blessi apple bobbing contest:

Dear Blessi,
I bet I could beat you at apple bobbing.
Gizmo - Paso Fino, Woodside, Ca.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

How Popular is the Icelandic Horse

Horse anatomy--Wikipedia
Praveen Trivedi and team worked on creating a horse in computer-generated graphics which would take into consideration the movement, behavior, and anatomy of the horse. In their wonderful dissertation to support this project, the team did some in-depth research in all of these areas, including the evolution and history of the breed.

The team analyzed the number of breeders and breed associations with web sites throughout the world.  Based on the number of web sites, they ranked the breeds by popularity.  Icelandic horses come in at number 15 in this ranking!!!! 

Here are the top 15 and the number of web sites: Arabian (939), Quarter Horse (911), Paint (698), Miniature (543, Thoroughbred (371), Appaloosa (334), Morgan (294), Tennessee Walker (241), Welsh Pony (215), Andalusian (164), Missouri Fox Trotter (127), Friesian (116), Peruvian Paso (84), Paso Fino (84), Icelandic (81).

Note this does not correlate to number of horses per breed--just the number of web sites.  And certainly popularity can be defined in many ways besides number of web sites.  Also,  I wonder if the team, which seems to originate from India,  searched for "Icelandic horse" in all of its multiple spellings across languages  such as Islander, islandhast, etc.  For example, I counted 36 Icelandic horse breeders on the USIHC website, which does not represents all Icelandic horse farms in the US--only those that pay to be listed on the website.  There are probably dozens more Icelandic horse breeders in the US.   And the US probably has fewer Icelandic horse breeders than Iceland, Sweden, Germany, etc.

However, this is an exceeding minor quibble since the scholars working on this dissertation were focusing on computer generation of the horse and not on the Icelandic horse. 


Friday, January 4, 2013

Icelandic Horse Step Dance

Icelandic horses can dance also.  Here Michael Donnallan step dances as an accompaniment to the Icelandic Horse demo at CHIO 2012.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

How to Organize for a Disaster

Are you prepared to take care of your horse and pets during a national disaster?  It is a new year and time to re-evaluate your planning.  At a meeting of the Pleasure Walkers Club of Washington (Blessi is an honorary Tennessee Walker), a speaker from the Washington State Animal Response Team (WASART)  explained what to do.

Here are my notes:

q  Evaluate your horses.  Develop a list of the order in which they should be evacuated (there may only be so much room the rescue trailer).  Post list in barn.

q  Ensure all horses can be loaded by anybody into any type of trailer.  If horse will not load easily, organizations like WASART will not move them.

q  Establish a phone tree listing of whom to call if there is a problem.

q  Set up a place to evacuate.

q  Have a photo of you and your horse together for ID.  Keep one copy with you and one in the horse trailer.  Include registration number and medical requirements.

q  Create an emergency supply packet for the horses.

q  Have stickers on windows listing the number of dogs, cats, horses, etc.

q  Make sure medications are current.  Have first aid supplies ready to go.

q  Take toys for pets.

q  Every dog and cat should have individual carriers.  After Katrina, shelters for humans must make provisions for pet shelters nearby.  However, pets will be accommodated only if they have individual carriers.

q  Survey horses and trailers available to rescue.

q  Keep at least a half tank of gas in truck.  If there is an earthquake, there will be no electricity or gas deliveries for days.

q  Stash some cash.

q  Stock water and three to five days of human food--make sure that it is food you like.

q  Make plans for alternative routes for evacuation if major roads are closed.

q  Be prepared to be self sufficient for five days.

q  Take CERT training by fire department.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Icelandics in the Rose Parade

The Tournament of Roses Parade, also known as the Rose Parade, occurs on New Years in Pasadena, CA.  The parade features marching bads, floats covered in flowers, and horses.  It is held in association with the Rose Bowl, a college football game played on New Year's Day. Several years the parade featured Icelandic horses.  I am jealous of the barding.  And only a newscaster would think of comparing the tolt to the macarena.