Friday, January 30, 2015

Identifying Gait in Medieval Art on Falconry

As you watch the above video montage of art on the sport of falconry, observe the horses.  Almost all of them display lateral gaits or amble or tolt (legs on the same side are raised) as opposed to the diagonal gait trot (legs on opposite sides are raised).

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Perhaps an Icelandic used in Falconry

I am pretty sure that the above video features an Icelandic horse featured in a display of falconry.

Despite its obvious dangers, “Hunting, falconry and the tournament were major sporting activities claiming much royal and noble leisure time” Hyland (1999, p. 78).  In his survey of the medieval French romances, Faaborg (2006) finds “Les nobles s’occupent quasi exclusivement de leurs chevaux et, dans une moindre mesure, des chiens et des oiseaux de chasse, tandis que les roturiers tirent plus de profit des vaches, des brebis etc.[1] ” (p. 371).  The French romances frequently mention the hunt and specify the types of birds of prey used in this sport.  Historically, many monks and clerics also enjoyed hunting--sometimes to the neglect of their priestly duties.  In 1215, Pope Innocent III tried to prohibit monks from hunting as the Abbot of Cluny did his monks in 1310.  None of these and other attempts were successful. (Hyland, 1999)

[1] Translated by the author as “The noble deal almost exclusively with their horses and, to a lesser extent, dogs and birds in the hunt, while the commoners derive more profit from cows, sheep etc.”

Paging through art work and manuscripts created from 1150 to 1650, the author observed that most riders when hawking were mounted on ambling or galloping horses, as shown in below.  However, the author found, from time to time, a rider hunting on a trotting horse. 
Although numerous medieval authors wrote volumes about the art of hunting, the books focused more on selecting and training hounds and hawks than horses.  As Hyland (1999) notes, “The part the horse played in European and English hunting has to be extrapolated from accounts, poems, and contemporary illustrations of hunting and hawking.  In hunting treatises information on the hunting horse is scarce.  No doubt in nobles’ stables certain horses were valued for their performance in the field, but unlike today, where a hunter is a certain stamp of horse which does not exclude other suitable horses, medieval hunting horses were not specially designated.  The usual mount was the courser, swift and not too heavy, and the palfrey, elegant and comfortable” (p. 78).
De Angleria coats of arms in which the riders are mounted on ambling horses, carrying hawks and riding to hounds.  Insignia Neapolitanorum, - BSB Cod.icon. ca Italy, 1550s

Cummins (2003) notes that often the success of the hunt depends on the quality of the horse.  Below, he describes the horses shown in medieval paintings of the hunt and quotes some contemporary experts on their desired characteristics.
Those in the medieval miniatures…usually look smaller than a modern hunter, clean-legged and somewhat broad in the body and chest.  They had to be responsive to the bit, to avoid the dangers of tree branches and rocks, in any form of par force hunting, but in the boar-hunt, where accuracy of aim might be a matter of life and death, the great essential was a serene temperament.  “Hunters must have nothing to do with a nervous horse, for this is one of the worst faults that a hunting-horse can have,…for we would have been ten or a dozen times in danger of death had we been on a nervous horse, and we advise all hunters never to put themselves astride one;” so says John of Portugal.[1] (p.102)
Gace de la Vigne in Le Roman des Déduis describes three typical fourteenth century hunts of the French court.  In the third hunt, he notes that in flying sparrow hawks a hunter needs “a stout, steady-going horse, another in reserve, and four spaniels to quest and retrieve, two in the morning and two in the afternoon” (Cummins, 2003, p. 215).

Considering their temperaments, Icelandic horses should make very good mounts for this sport today.  If you watch the video at the beginning of this posting, I think there is an Icelandic horse featured.

Cummins, J.  (2003).  The art of Medieval hunting: The hound and the hawk.  Edison, NJ: Castle Books.
Hyland, A.  (1999).  The horse in the Middle Ages.  Sutton, England: History Press Limited.
Faaborg, J.  (2006).  Animaux domestiques dans la literature narrative française au Moyen Âge, Museum Tusculanum Press, Université de Copenhague.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Performing Pilates with Your Horse

Here is an alternative treat to use to encourage those carrot stretches.   This young lady demonstrates a variety of stretches using "carrot in can".  And you have to love the color of that horse.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Performing Games on your Icelandic horse

Watching the start of this video, you may wonder why the teen Lizzy is continually jumping on her Icelandic Bjally from different angles---they are preparing for mounted horse game shown later in the video.  Lizzy and Bjally are the reserve champions in Luxemburg.  Everybody seems to be having such fun.  And the music is so catchy, the tune has been going through my head all day.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Etched Icelandic Horses on Glass

My friends Judy and Dave made this candle holder with an etched Icelandic horse tolting.  I love, love, love how it looks next to my computer.  I really think they should sell these.  What do you think?

I was having fun taking photos so I have posted two of them.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Blessi and his girl friends

At the stable last week, ladies were bathing 4 minihorse mares in preparation for a horse show.  Blessi had previously met these horses when I lent him to a 4-h group to practice some ground exercises.  Blessi was convinced he had a harem.  Tonight he got to socialize with them over the fence.

 Here are some photos.  The owner says that normally the mares tend to squeal and strike at geldings.  All but one of them loved Blessi and he returned the feeling.

Of course not just the equine ladies appreciated Blessi.  He was a hit with the ladies regardless of species.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

First Icelandic Horse Twins in North America --Part 2

As mentioned yesterday, Kathy Lockerbie's Icelandic mare Aska gave birth to twins .  Here is a video of Bróðir and Systir at six months of age.

You can read the complete story of these twins at

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

First Icelandic Horse Twins Born in North America--Part I

Kathie Lockerbie's mare Aska delivered twins on July 1st, 2014.  Bróðir and Systir (Icelandic for Brother and Sister) and Aska are both doing well.  Below is a heart warming video of the story of the first three days of these cute little pinto foals.

You can read the complete story of these twins at:

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Finding the Go in Icelandic Horses

Dani Germacher gave a Icelandic horse riding clinic at Sand Meadow Farms on the east coast.  She provides some excellent tips for improving your riding like how to use your breath to slow down or speed up a horse, a demonstration of how leg aids work because they are applied to one of the muscle groups controlling the hind end, etc.  I would love to go to one of her clinics.

I can't embed this video but you can access via this link

One of her useful tidbits is what happens when we give conflicting signals (both slow down and go at the same time).  A reactive, forward horse will listen to both signals and choose the go signal.  A less reactive horse will listen to both signals and choose slow.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Tevis Cup

The Tevis Cup, sanctioned by AERC,  is one of the more challenging endurance races--100 miles in one day through rough terrain from Squaw Valley to Auburn CA.  In the video below, you can review the entire course in 7 minutes.  In 2014,  over 9000 riders with a completion rate of 54%.  The winning ride took 13 hours and 50 minutes with 2 mandatory 1 hour rest stops and multiple vet checks.  Riders were almost exactly evenly divided between men and women. To be awarded a silver completion award, the ride must be finished within 24 hours and the horse must pass a final vet check.

If I remember correctly, John Parke and Remington competed in Tevis several times and made the vet check but did not meet the 24-hour deadline.

Horses in The Hobbit and HBO Game of Thrones--Update 1-19-15

The black and white horses that appear in The Hobbit--The Desolation of Smaug are Gypsy Vanners
Gypsy Vanner Mare---from Wikipedia
provided by Gypsy Royal Stud. When the owner was first contacted, she thought the message on her answer machine was a joke.
“I thought it was a joke so I did nothing about it,” Lynda says. “The next day they rang again and it was for real.  They said they had been searching for a particular looking horse and found [the Gypsy breed] on the internet.  They apparently thought they would be perfect for what they wanted and googled gypsy horses in NZ which brought up my stud.” Here is a link to the breeding farm site that explains about why this type of horse was selected for the movie.

Like Icelandic horses, Gypsy Vanners tend to be round and low withered.  Jed Brophy who plays Nori the Dwarf makes the following observation about riding Gypsy Vanners in the movie:
"Getting on the pregnant horses was interesting. We had these black and white horses and we couldn't do the girths up properly, so that was getting on … and falling off. There was quite a bit of that in the day which was quite a lot of fun, working out how to get on a horse when the saddle was slipping."

Read more:

To the best of my knowledge, Icelandic horses do not make an appearance in The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies.  However, here is a video about the horse Draysill that Beorn gave to Gandalf (appears in Parts 2 and 3).  Draysill is an 18-hand Clydesdale whose real name is Big Nick.  Oh, the elk that Thranduil rides is a digitally enhanced horse by the name of Moose (breed unknown).

Here is a report about how animals were handled during the filming of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Firve Armies.  Interestingly even though there was quite a scandal during the treatment of livestock during the first movie, "Due to limited resources and scheduling conflicts, The American Humane Association did not monitor any of the dog, goat, pig and some of the horse action."


Game of Thrones filmed much of the Arya and Hound arc in Iceland in summer.  The producers certainly show off Iceland in all of its summer glory.  In the finale of Season 4, Arya rides away from the dying Hound.  In these scenes, the actress Maise Williams who plays Arya is riding a beautiful Icelandic horse.  Hopefully her riding in Iceland in Season 4 went a bit better than her riding experiences in Season 3:
" I was riding on the horse for a bit that day, and it was lovely weather, and I just remember having such a relaxing day. I met Rory in the pilot episode, and he's just a really, really nice guy. In that scene, we'd done a few rehearsals before with [director] David Nutter, just to see how everything was gonna go. So by the time we started shooting, we were quite confident. There weren't many hiccups, apart from I kind of fell off the horse and my foot got caught in the reins.
Oh, really?
Yeah, it was really funny, actually. My leg was, like, caught up by my ear, and I was like, "Oh, brilliant." [Laughs.] "

Since the only horses in Iceland are the pony-sized Icelandic horse breed (no horses can be imported into Iceland because of concerns of spreading disease to the native horses), one can understand the scene in Season 4, Episode 10 in which Brienne of Tarth wakes up, finds the horses missing,  and accuses Pod of failing to hobble them correctly.  And why the Hound and Arya walk the last leg of the trip to the Vales. 

I just received notice that 6 Icelandic horses were used in The Hobbit from 5 different owners from all over New Zealand.  I am waiting to see if I get permission to post the entire email.  No chestnut Icelandic horse was used in the film so it looks like Bilbo is not riding an Icelandic horse.  ;-)

You may also want to check my posting
for details and pictures on how the steeds the dwaves ride are horses made up to look like Icelandic horse while Bilbo rides a real Icelandic horse.

Below is a series of posts linking all the stories that I could find abouut Icelandic horses in The Hobbit movie and the HBO Game of Thrones.


The American Human Society, whivh was invited to oversee the health and safety of the animals used in the filming of "The Hobbit" has put out a release on how it protected the animals.  The AHS also discusses how animals died on an off-site boarding facility.
"Our stringent Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Media were rigorously applied and followed during production. However, in 2011 while filming was being conducted in New Zealand, the production company made us aware that some of the animal actors being used for the production had died while on a farm that was being used only as housing. None of the animals in question died during filming action or were being used as animal actors when they died. As our jurisdiction does not encompass off set activities, our on-set representative had not previously conducted a review of the farm. Nevertheless, after the deaths, upon the request by the production company, we traveled to the farm and conducted a thorough examination. We made safety recommendations to the animals’ living areas. The production company followed our recommendations and upgraded fence and farm housing, among other things. Working together with the production company, we were able to increase safety for animals on the farm."

12-3-2012 Update
In the Winter USIHC Quarterly, Lisa Keller in her article "Land of the Hobbits," provides a clue about  a possible source of the Icelandic horses used in the soon-to-be-released Hobbit movie which was mostly filmed in New Zealand.  Lisa Keller vacationed in New Zealand and decided she had to visit the largest Icelandic horse farm in New Zealand, Neđri Bakki (meaning Down Under at the Edge of a Stream), whose web address is listed below:

The owners Kenneth and Snejina hail from Denmark and Bulgaria.  In the interview, the owners Kenneth and Snejina discuss their experience with horses and Icelandics, farm services, and  their goals for the Icelandic horse in New Zealand.  When asked about Icelandic horses being used in the filming of The Hobbit, Kenneth replies: "Unfortunately, we are not allowed to comment on that.  We will all need to wait till "The Hobbit" is released."

One must admit that their farm photos of Icelandic horses look just like Hobbit horses living in the Shire.
And for those of you in the US, you may want to join the United States Icelandic Horse Congress so that you can get copies of this quarterly full of informative fun articles about the Icelandic horse--and possibly a future, more detailed article about Icelandic horses in The Hobbit movie.

Note:  As a volunteer writer, I do provide the occassional article for the USIHC quarterly.

11-26-12 Update
Not all is well in Hobbitland.  Nick Perry in an Associated Press article reports "Animal wranglers involved in the making of "The Hobbit" movie trilogy say the production company is responsible for the deaths of up to 27 animals, largely because they were kept at a farm filled with bluffs, sinkholes and other 'death traps.'"

No animals were harmed on the set of the film but it appears that there is no oversight at the stables or sites where animals are housed when not on the film set.  Horses Rainbow, Doofus, Claire, Zepplin, and Molly were seriously injured or died off-site.  Based on the names, none of the horses appear to be Icelandics.

Peter Jackson and company claim that exceptional measures were taken to protect all animals used on the set.  However, having some sort of oversight of animals off the set seems like a hole in their plans to protect animals.

Although it is too late to help the animals used in The Hobbit film, it is a wake up call to help animals in future films.  Here is the email site of the New Zealand Humane Society.

For those of you interested in the origins of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, there are multiple connections to Iceland.  Nancy Marie Brown has written Song of the Vikings about the life of the Snorri Sturluson.  In the 1200s AD, Snorri collected the myths and folklore of medieval Scandinavia into the Prose Edda, one of the sources of inspiration to JRR Tolken when he wrote his novels.  As Nancy discusses, Tolkein even got many of his characters' names directly from the Prose Edda.  See how many names from The Hobbit you can recognize below.

"And these, says the Sibyl, are their names:

Nýi and Nidi, | Nordri and Sudri,
Austri, Vestri, | Althjófr, Dvalinn;
Nár, Náinn, | Nípingr, Dáinn,
Bifurr, Báfurr, | Bömburr, Nóri,
Óri, Ónarr, | Óinn, Mjödvitnir,
Viggr and Gandálfr, | Vindálfr,

Fíli, Kíli, | Fundinn, Váli;
Thrór, Thróinn, | Thekkr, Litr and Vitr,
Nýr, Nýrádr, | Rekkr, Rádsvidr.

Snorri himself had a fascinating life.  He was a poet, historian, warrior, lawspeaker, diplomat, and politician.  In Iceland, Snorri acted as both an agent of the King of Norway and he attempted to consolidate power over all of Iceland, which ended with his assassination.

Here is more footage about the filming of Game of Thrones in Iceland.  You will see Icelandic horses in the background.  The horses were probably the only cast members not freezing during filming.

There is a wonderful site dedicated to discussing news about HBO filming of Game of Thones while providing a place for fans to discuss and debate topic from the series of novels collectively called A Song of Fire and Ice. 

Elio, the webmaster at Westeros, has given me permission to share two screen shots from Season 2 of HBO's Game of Thrones.  Both shots are from Iceland.  The first shot shows Jon Snow (played by Kit Harington)  looking out over the icebound vastness Beyond the Wall.  This part of the script was filmed in Iceland in winter so the scenery is so dramatic that little CGI was required.

And here is a glimpse of the Icelandic horses in their role as pack animals or garons for the Wildlings.

HBO has released the new trailer for Season 2 of Game of Thrones.  The beyond the wall chapters of the book were filmed in Iceland in winter.  And as you can see in this trailer, the scenery in Iceland lends the footage a fantastical aura.  You can see the wildlings leading Icelandic horses around the 52 second marker.

12/21/11  I have decided to keep a running posting on this topic since it is so cool.   You can see more Icelandic horses in Peter Jackson's Production Video, Part 5 (see link below).  It is well worth watching the video to see Elijah Wood take a tour of the Hobbiton, with its 44 permanently installed hobbit holes that will remain after shooting ends.  The New Zealand Department of Tourism will be promoting the site.  Anyone for a tour of New Zealand?


Here is a link to the Hobbit Movie Trailer.  You will see Icelandics!!!  How awesome.

The film industry has finally figured out the appeal of Icelandic horses, who  definitely have an elfish or Hobbit-like look.  Some Iceys are scheduled to make appearances in two major films--The Hobbit and HBO's Game of Thrones.

The Hobbit

I couldn't find my English version
 of the Hobbit.
Peter Jackson is using thirteen Icelandics in the filming of The Hobbit in New Zealand.  Per Cali Madincea of New Line Cinema, "'The look of the Icelandic horse, which grows a thick coat in the winter, was one of the things that attracted the attention of the producers. Another important aspect of the Icelandic horse is its endurance and strength.' She added that the tölt, the gait particular to the breed, played a part in the decision as well 'This soft gait moves them right along, which helps an actor in full armour stay close to Gandalf, who's riding a large horse.'"

The Hobbit is scheduled to be released in two parts, December 2012 and December 2013.  My friends and I have already set up a date to go to see that movie.

Game of Thrones
George R.R. Martin's multi-book series A Song of Ice and Fire has often been compared to Lord of the Rings--except that there are not purely good versus pure evil characters--characters are more gray, grittier, and definitely bloodier in Martin's books.  I have read the first 5 books in the series and highly recommend them.

HBO made the first book Game of Thrones into a very successful 10-part TV series.  Filming has started on part 2 of the series A Clash of Kings.  Events "beyond the wall" are being filmed in Iceland.  Fifteen Icelandic horses are included in the shoot, including a 28-year old horse Randver.  "Randver has the right qualities and considerable experience for the part; it has both been on stage in Reykjavík City Theater and at Hotel Ísland."

You can read in Icelandic about the Icelandic horses being used in the film at this source:

Although no Icelandic horses appear in the following clip, you do get some views of the spectacular scenery from Icelandic that will appear in Season 2 of Game of Thrones.  After a lot of commercials, the program picks up again around minute 15:00.

I am so looking forward to seeing the Icelands in Season 2 of HBO's The Game of Thrones.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

My new Icelandic "Breeding Farm"--Tolting Treasures

This is Galsi from Tolting Treasures.  He is a yellow dun.
1-17-15 Update--I just found out that Galsi raised $150 at auction for the Lower Puget Sound Dressage.  Evidently there was a bidding war.

If I win the lottery, my fantasy is to start breeding a few Icelandic horses.  Of course in my fantasy all  offspring achieve first and second prize.  In reality, breeding quality horses involves a certain amount of money, a lot of knowledge, considerable experience, and bit of luck--none of which I possess.

A few years ago, I found some quality German mohair being sold quite cheaply at a local thrift store.  Using this "distressed stock,"  I made about 20 Icelandic foals.  My first thought was to start a business but economically this only made sense if I had a continuing supply of cheap mohair.

Instead I have given these little guys to friends or donated them to charities for fund raising events.  Above is my last offspring  Galsi from Tolting Treasures.  He will be auctioned off by the Lower Puget Sound Dressage club in their annual fund raising event.  Last year, there was a considerable bidding war over his sister Drifa.

One of the things I discovered about myself through this hobby is that the "fun" of "breeding" for me was getting to brainstorm about  the name for my farm and naming the "offspring."  And I don't have to worry about anybody forgetting to feed these little guys or failing to give them vet care after the sale!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Blessi and Jade

One of the pleasures of attending a horse expo is watching the attendees interact with Icelandic horses for the first time.  Jade really wants an Icelandic horse of her own.  Her sister wants a donkey.  As you can see by the photos, Blessi gives her a soft kiss upon first meeting Jade, who is not sure what she thinks of horse slobber.

Blessi then investigates how her wheelchair works.  It has a neat joystick that is about 4 inchs long and is positioned horizontally on the chair.  Blessi was sure if he gripped it just so he could make the chair move (see photo below).  He also tried to unpack Jade's backpack.  And then tried to "read" the magazine that Jade's mother is holding.

One of the most touching moments of the weekend for me is when Jade met Svartbakur fra Holum  owned by Karen Brotzman.  The two of them gently touched foreheads and communed together for several minutes--sharing only those dreams that little girls and horses own.

Endurance with a Young Rider on an Icelandic Horse

In this video by Dave Wisniewski, Marlaina age 11 rides, as she reminds us, an Icelandic "horse not a pony" in endurance.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Raven Flores and Rothadis in Placing in Endurance and Competitive Trail

Raven Flores and her Icelandic horse Rothadis from Tolt Haven Ranch are doing well in endurance and other events.  They compete in the Friends of Sound Horses (FOSH) Gaited Distance Program.  In 2014, they won a FOSH award in the the Heavy Weight Division of the Competitive Trail Category. The dynamic duo also compete in long distance endurance in the midwest and have placed in the top 11 in their state.. 

Raven is a member of the International Icelandic horse discussion Yahoo group and I love reading about her and Rothadis' accomplishments.  Prepare to move over John and Remington to make room for Raven and Rothadis in the future.

Here is video that Raven Flores posted of their first solo ride together.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Which Breeds compete in Endurance

In 2005, the American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) published a table of which horses participating in their endurance rides by breed.  You can find the original report here.

1810 Painting of Arab horse by Antoine Jon Gros
Source: Wikipedia
Out of the 25716 horses registered, Arabs and Arab crosses (included Morabs etc in this group) dominate this sport representing, respectively, 55% and 14% of the total.  (There was one Fjord-Arab cross and since no other Fjords are represented I did not count this as an Arab cross figuring the Fjords needed the representation.)

Other groupings that were well represented were Appaloosas (700) and Appy Crosses (37), Mustangs including Keigers and Spanish, etc.  (293) and cross (31).

Certain breeds were not heavily represented despite the huge numbers in the US.  Quarter horses (189), Paints (160), Thoroughbreds (315) and crosses (16).

There were 162 mules, 5 Andalusians (no Lusitanos), 1 American Warmblood, 10 Trakenhners, 3 Belgians.

Surprisingly there were many more gaited horses, more than would be expected based on their proportion within overall breed numbers in the US.   Peruvian Paso (48), Kentucky Mountain Horses (8), Missouri Fox Trotters (93), Rocky Mountain (24), Saddlebred (72), Tennessee Walkers (236).

In 2005, there were....drum roll please...16 Icelandics on the AERC roll.  Considering there were probably around 3200 registered Icelandics in the US  at the time, this is a pretty good representation of the breed.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Icelandic Horse Remington Inducted Into Endurance Hall of Fame

In 2013, Remington (Spæjari), a 26-year old Icelandic horse owned by John Parke, was inducted into the American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) Hall of Fame.  Remington and John have accumulated over 11,000 miles and have competed every year for the past 20 years and never been pulled.  John is still riding Remington in endurance races.  Last year, John and Remington did two 50 mile races, one of which was in the Arizona dessert.

Per John Parker, "Some of the horses in the Hall of Fame have won ride after ride. Others have rolled up mile after mile. Some have done both.

With Remington it is all about longevity. With two 50-mile rides so far this season, we have now completed endurance rides together for the last 20 years in a row. He has accumulated 11,300 career endurance miles so far. He is a gold level horse in the AERC’s 100-mile program for having completed ten 100-mile rides. He has also completed more than ten multiday Pioneer rides. 

Even among all the incredible horses in the Hall of Fame, Remington is unique for the combination of these achievements."

To read more about John and Remington's accomplishments, follow the link below:

 The US Icelandic Horse Congress gives out the Spaejari award, sponsored by John and Marilyn Parke, to a child who submits the best essay about the Icelandic horse.  You can read about the requirements for the award here:

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Indian Movie Star Darshan Falls Off Icelandic Horse and Makes National News

Darshan Thoogudeep is a very popular movie star and producer in India.    He was making an action film Brindavana (released 2013), part of which was flmed in Iceland, when he fell off an Icelandic horse whose foot  slipped off the road while tolting.  The fall was serious enough to require a hospital visit and wearing of a support collar.  The clip made national news in India.  

The plot of the movie involves two step brothers who are rivals in the same village.  Two women in the same village have problems, one of who is engaged to be married to one of the step brothers.  The character played by Darshan comes to the village, he and one of the woman fall in love, and he also helps to resolve some of the villages issues caused by the rival step brothers.  I have not done justice to the plot of the movie.

I have no idea how the footage filmed in Iceland fits into the plot of the movie.  Evidently two songs and several scenes were filmed there.  

Here is a 40 minute special devoted to a discussion of how the accident with the Icelandic horse happened--there are a passages in English discussing tolt versus trot versus canter and mulitple repeats of the accident in slo-motion.

Here is one song filmed in Iceland, which does not involve a horse:

Friday, January 9, 2015

How Does the Icelandic Horse Personality Compare to Other Breeds

Icelandic horse and Irish Sports Horse
Horse owners have long debated about variations in personality among the different horse breeds.  Arabs may be described as flighty, draft horses as stoic, and ponies as stubborn.  Others may counter that Arabs are responsive, draft horses are obedient, and ponies are smart.   Scientists have just started studying variations in personality between breeds.

In a preliminary study, Lloyd, et al (2007) developed a Horse Personality Questionnaire based on 25 personality attributes that were found to reliably rate horse personality.  These 25 attributes were further grouped into 6 underlying personality components--Dominance, Anxiousness, Excitability, Protection, Sociability and Inquisitiveness shown below:

  • Dominance—Reliable, Subordinate, Equable, Eccentric, Effective, Stubborn, Aggressive, Irritable
  • Anxiousness—Suspicious, Insecure, Tense, Apprehensive, Fearful
  • Excitability—Active, Slow, Excitable, Intelligent
  • Protection—Understanding, Motherly, Protective
  • Sociability-- Sociable, Playful, Popular
  • Inquisitiveness—Curious, Opportunistic
In a follow up study, Lloyd, et al (2008) contacted breed societies and used other communication methods to ask owners to rate their purebred horses on a scale from 1 to 7 across these 25 behaviorally defined objectives in the Horse Personality Questionnaire.  They received responses about 1223 horses representing the following breeds: Irish draught horses, thoroughbreds, Shetland ponies, Arabs, Highland ponies, Welsh ponies and cobs, American Quarter Horses, and Appaloosas.  The researchers deliberately included heavy, light, and pony breeds.  The horses had to be purebred, at least one year old, and handled by the owner for at least six months to be included.  Stallions, mares, and geldings were represented. 

Supporting earlier studies, Lloyd et al (2008) found statistically significant differences in personality between breeds.  The original table in the study provides average component scores for each breed.  To better enable comparison and discussion by you the readers, I have redrawn the table by showing Lloyd et al’s ranking of the breeds from high to low.  Note by doing so I may have inadvertently biased reader interpretation by camouflaging variability shown by the numeric scores. In reality, Anxiousness and Excitability exhibit great variability and Dominance and Protection,  low variability.  The reader is advised to go to the original study to see actual results.  I also rearranged the breeds to more clearly highlight breed relationships such as the Arabian horse having a great genetic input into the Welsh cob breed.  And, of course, I added my own estimate of where the Icelandic horse may fall in this ranking.   I also admit that I may be unconsciously biased since I have owned an Icelandic horse for 11 years.

Do you agree with my ranking of the Icelandic horse?  Do you think the researchers skewed the results by including intelligence with excitability?  Can a horse be intelligent and calm?

As Lloyd, et al (2008) observed, “…the temperament, and therefore the personality, of a horse is considered to be an important attribute and was considered a key issue in horse health and performance. Therefore a greater understanding of the typical behaviour and personality of specific horse breeds may aid the selection of horses for specific equine disciplines, including use for leisure by amateur riders. More informed selection of horses should lead to improved horse welfare, as horses are more likely to be selected for appropriate functions and rider capabilities” (pp. 371-372).


Lloyd, A.S., Martin, J.E., Bornett-Gauci, H.L.I.,Wilkinson, R.G., 2007. Evaluation of a novel method of horse personality assessment: rater agreement and links to behaviour. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 105, 205–222. 

Lloyd, A., Martin, J., Bornett-Gauci, H., Wilkinson, R.  (2008).  Horse personality: Variation between breeds, Applied Animal Behaviour Science 112 (2008) 369–383

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Queen of England Rides a Pony--Advantages of Small Horse

I really wish that I could show you this picture directly.  However it is copyrighted so you'll have to use the link to view it.

In the picture, Queen Elizabeth, on a Fell pony, is riding with her grandchildren Lady Louise Windsor and James, Viscount Severn, in Windsor Great Park.  So if an 85-year old woman, who just happens to be the Queen of England, can ride a pony, why should any of us worry about being seen on a smaller horse?

Princess Fiona is an Irish warmblood who is very successful at
cross country, jumping, and dressage.  Compare her conformation
with Blessi.  He is a bit unsure of Fiona's intentions--his front legs
are not normally splayed.
Smaller horses definitely offer some advantages over larger horses.  The Horse Confirmation Handbook by Heather Smith Thomas discusses how to evaluate horse confirmation for soundness, potential for different activities, trainability, and willingness. The author gives some information on gaited breeds but that is not her focus.

One of the chapters in the book discusses height and how it impacts horse performance. Thomas makes some interesting statements as to why smaller horses can be a better ride. (I am summarizing some of the points so there may be some oversimplification since confirmation requires the analysis of many interrelated factors.)
  • Body balance is more important than size.
  • "A shorter legged horse has a lower center of gravity and better base of support, with a securer balance than an overly leggy horse."
  • "Horses with short legs rarely overreach and forge, yet this is a common problem in a disproportionately long-legged horse." ie, short-legged is defined as slightly short-legged in relation to the horse's proportion.
  • "When a short-legged horse gallops well, he can often compete with the best of the taller, leggier horses, due to better balance and body control on turns and uneven terrain on downhill slopes."
  • The longer-legged horse will probably be faster on a long uphill grade.
  • A short rider on a tall horse may have difficulty applying the aids appropriately since the rider's legs may be too short to contact the appropriate areas on the horse.
  • Tall horses are harder to mount and dismount.
  • A rider who is too heavy or tall for a shorter horse may hinder the horse's balance.
  • "A small horse almost always has better endurance tnan a large, bulky horse."
  • Depending on bone width and back length, a smaller horse may be able to carry more weight proportionate to its height.
  • "When agility and staying power are considered, a well-built small horse will often do better than a well-built tall horse." ie, cutting horses are usually 15 hands or less.
  • A taller horse may be better for racing and jumping, but many smaller horses excel at these sports also.
  • "From foalhood, large, leggy horses tend to have higher risks for injury and problems." due to fast growth, weak spots in bones growing rapidly, etc.
I have only owned one horse, Blessi an Icelandic. Do you agree with these statements? How do Icelandics compare with the other breeds you may have ridden or owned?  And taller horses offer advantages over shorter horses but you'll have to look up that information yourself.