Tuesday, March 31, 2015

2014 Small Farmers Journal Auction --Part 7

More harness and lawn ornament
Ball and chain used at one of the Washington prisons.
Hand hitched shoo fly.  Made in one of the Washington prisons.  Sold for about $250

Monday, March 30, 2015

2014--Small Farmers Journal Auction --Part 6

McCellon style saddle,.  There was also a Japanese military saddle and a Russian military saddle.
Dog cart--I did not catch the price
More harness

Friday, March 27, 2015

2014 Small Farmers Journal Auction --Part 5

This is the old Welsh spotted harness.
Horse collars in different styles.  These went from $40 to $150 depending on style and condition.
One of the assistants who helps the auctioneer spot bids and help entertain the crowd.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

2014 Small Farmers Journal Auction--Part 4

This was the wagon that I was thinking of getting for Blessi.  One of these years, I would like to
drive Blessi on the John Wayne trail and be able to haul a tent and food for several days.  I did not bid on this
wagon.  It went for about $200 but would have required a lot of renovation.  Whoever bought it took it home
and relisted it on Craigslist for $600--with no restoration.
Some of the antiques and Americana

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

2014 Small Farmers Journal Auction--Part 3

This was absolutely my favorite--a courting carriage.  Don't you love the upholstered heart.  The small driver's seat
in the front folds down so that the gentleman can drive from the shared seat if needed.  Price $2800.
Since this is a high pace auction, you really do have to be careful of how you move your head and hands.  I inadvertently nodded my head and the auctioneer took it as a bid.  He was kind enough to let me out of the bidding process.  I went to the upper level of seats to find my friend Nancy.  I spotted her and smiled.  She waved at me and ended up buying harness piece covers used in the salt mines.  She kept them.
Reproduction hearse  Final bid was $5500 but there was no sale at that price.

This is a buckboard.  To qualify as a buckboard it has to be constructed like this--I think the floor needs to be on springs.
I am unsure of the finer points of vehicle identification. Price $1950.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

2014 Small Farmers Journal Auction--Part 2

Vendor wagon--went for $1300

Unrestored shephard's wagon

Inside of restored sheep camp wagon--This went for $4500

Monday, March 23, 2015

2014 Small Farmers Journal Auction--Part 1

Last year, some friends and I went to the Small Farmers Journal Auction in Madras, Oregon.  What a piece of Americana!!!  Sponsored by the Small Farmers Journal, a beautifully produced publication geared towards the independent farmer, some of whom still use horses, the auction contains items from 6-team draft harness to farrier tools to hand-hitched bridles to antique tractors.  The draw at the auction is the amazing collection of carriages, sleighs, hearses, marathon carriages, wagons, chariots, and training carts that are brought in for auction.  Over the next few days, I am going to post some pictures with the winning prices for the items.

In 2015, there will be no auction since the Small Farmers Journal is considering if it makes economic sense to continue with this event.
This chuck wagon and pup wagon went for $4500.

This is only one area in which tack to be auctioned off was stored.
The highest bid for this reproduction stagecoach was $15000.  It went for no sale since the owner would not take the bid.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Mom Surprises Daughter with Icelandic Pony

What an adorable story!  A mother drives her daughters to a friend who happens to have Icelandic ponies.  Daughter Paige gets to take one home offering her life's savings of $20.  I wish my Mom would have done that.  If you have only a few minutes to spend, you can fast forward to the last few moments of the video.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Principles of Horse Learning

We constantly debate different horse training methodologies—Parelli versus Anderson, classical German dressage versus classical French dressage, development of Alpha horse versus partner relationships, etc. I decided I have been getting caught up in labels and trainer personalities, so I thought I would try to switch my thinking from what is a “label” to “how does the horse learn.”

Most of us borrow a technique from TTEAM, a tip from our Pony Club teacher, some Centered Riding, a dash of tolt training from our Icelandic instructor, the friendly game from Parelli, but why do we select those particular training techniques?

My Icelandic horse Blessi is really my best guide to what works for us. He usually likes doing new and different things, but he is quick to respond to something or someone he thinks is unfair, confusing, aggressive, or overly repetitious.

I was doing some online research when I came across the following article: “Does Your Training System Stand the Test of Science?” published by the International Society for Equitation Science (ISES). McGreevy and McLean reviewed the scientific research on equine learning theory and ethology to define what equine training principles are effective. The principles they lay out, paraphrased below, apply across all equine training methodologies from natural horsemanship to classical dressage.

1. Equine learning theory needs to be followed: Positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, and habituation can be used effectively but they must be used properly. Negative reinforcement must have a release, and there should be no prolonged pressure.

2. Train easy to discriminate signals: To be clear to the horse, certain signals can only be applied to the appropriate parts of the horse anatomy, and you should not confuse the horse by applying multiple signals at the same time.

3. Train and shape responses singularly: In other words, “chunk down” the steps and build them up one by one.

4. Train only one response per signal: One signal should have one response, but you can use several signals for the same response (i.e., several different ways to ask for backing on the ground), but once again this should be shaped and developed progressively.

5. Responses are to be completed within a consistent structure to confer predictability: Learned responses should be trained and occur within a certain timeframe so that they become habitual.

6. Train persistence of responses or self carriage: We should train the horse to self-carry or continue with behavior without excessive nagging or pressure.

7. Avoid associations with flight responses/fear because they are difficult to extinguish: “When animals experience fear, all characteristics of the environment at the time (including humans present) may be associated with the fear. It is known that fear responses do not fade as other responses do, and that fearful animals tend not to trial new learned responses. It is therefore essential that fear is avoided in training.” (ISES, paragraph 9)

8. Incorporate relaxation and ensure the absence of conflict in training: Make sure that the
horse is relaxed during training. Avoid using uncomfortable tack or restraining devices.

When I looked back at the techniques that Blessi and I liked from Methodology X, they followed the above principles. When I looked back at bad experiences that Blessi and I had with Methodology Y, those methods broke the above principles, especially 7 and 8.

Believe it or not, there is a close tie between ISES and Iceland—and not just through my evaluation of Blessi’s training experiences. For many years, the renowned International Center for Icelandic Horses at Hólar University College, Iceland, had a research association with the University of Pennsylvania.

In 2002, the Dorothy Russell Havemeyer Foundation (associated with the University of Pennsylvania); the University of Lincoln, Great Britain; and Hólar University College, Iceland sponsored a historic conference on horse welfare and behavior at Hólar. Daniel Mills, Principal Lecturer in Behavioural Studies & Animal Welfare, University of Lincoln, Great Britain, proclaimed this conference “probably the greatest gathering in recent times of equine behaviour and welfare scientists, with expertise spanning five decades of research” (2002, para 1).
Scientists from Europe, North America, and Australia traveled to Iceland to present papers on topics such as horse housing, medical research, and social behavior. These presentations can be found online at the Havemeyer Foundation link cited in the references below. The site is a treasure trove of research articles on the Icelandic horse.

Conference attendees acknowledged that the public and science have to take co-responsibility in promoting the welfare of the horse. Since 2002, scientists specializing in equine research have continued to hold yearly conferences to this end, and ISES was founded as a result of these conferences. ISES’ mission is to apply the results of scientific research to help improve the welfare of horses and their treatment by humans. And to think this all started in Iceland!


International Society for Equitation Science. (no date). “Does Your Training System Stand the Test of Science?” Found at http://www.equitationscience.com/Documents/TrainingPrinciples.pdf

Mills, D.  (2002). “Call for better communication between science and public.” Found at http://www.lincoln.ac.uk/news/2002/07/holarconference.htm

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Skjorning at 35 miles per hour on an Icelandic

Sigh!  I can't even stand up on skis on level ground let alone use an Icelandic horse to ski uphill at 35 miles an hour.  What fun--to watch on TV.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Icelandic at the Back Door

Poor Maari!  She just wants to come inside and be with her people.  What an adorable mare.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Bridle Path

Although it is regarded as heresy in certain Icelandic horse circles, bridle paths can be useful in finetuning
bridle fit.  I have been making some Viking period reconstruction bridles for Blessi.  One of the things that I discovered is that if Blessi does not have a bridle path, the leather of the bridle (from center of head to bit) is at least 1 inch longer on the side that has all the mane.  This has got to impact straightness and precision of contact with your horse.  So Blessi has a bridle path, which is not the first time.

As you can see, the mane extends for almost 4 inches across the poll of the head.  That is a lot of hair!!!!

Lysh did the trim job again.  I always butcher stuff like this.

Although Blessi has had a bridle path from time to time, I don't believe in trimming whiskers or ear hair.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Bare Blessi

The 2014-2015 winter has been very mild here in the Pacific Northwest.  Today, March 14th, the temperature was 64 degrees F.  Unfortunately Blessi's shedding of his winter coat syncs up with daylight not temperature.  Last week, I found him dripping sweat just standing in his stall in the evening.
Blessi and Lysh

Lysh at the stable kindly gave him a hunter trim.  She is a hair stylist so her work is beautiful.  I kept telling her that his coat is unbelievably thick.  She didn't believe me until she dulled 2 shaver heads just doing a hunter trim.

I was going to label this post "Naked Blessi" but such titles tend to pull in the adult naughty viewers.  I hope I am safe with "Bare Blessi."

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Those Darned Socks

OK sometimes I can totally obsess about a project.  I knit some socks a few years ago.  I love the cuff of the sock which has some cashmere in it.  However, I made the mistake of using fingerling yarn or light yarn meant for baby clothes and other projects for the body of the sock.  I have spent so much time repairing these socks that I could have knit two more pair.  The socks now look like a folk art project.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Period Barding Based on the Visconti-Sforza tarot cards

The Visconti-Sforza tarot cards were painted around 1451 AD.  The cards depict members of the Visconti and Sforza noble families of Milan wearing period outfits and in period settings.  The details, compositions, colors are exquisite.  You can view many of these cards at the following link to the Beinecke Library at Yale:


I found a stash of leather and suede on sale at Goodwill so I spent the winter making period halters and barding and some fantasy projects--all of which I will share with you.  In preparation for an SCA tournament this year based on the Tournament Rules of King Rene of France, I decided to try and make a copy of the horse barding on one of the Visconti-Sforza tarot cards.

I cut pieces of blue suede and tied and stitched the pieces together as best I could to make strap barding as depicted on the card. You can see the closthespins that I used as temporary holders.  Poor Blessi spent a lot of time this winter with clothes pins attached to various items put on him.  Don't worry he got lots of treats for his patience.

Note that the white, lacy saddle cloth is not period and will be replaced in the final version. (Blessi wore the modified lace curtain in the wedding he was invited to last summer.)  The straps are embellished with gilt studs and metal ornaments (pieces of a belt from Goodwill--gotta love Goodwill).

I have also made a gown, coat, skirt, bodice, and underslip to match this outfit.  The pieces contain historical elements but the entire outfit is not historically accurate.  Altogether Blessi and I should be quite the fashion plate this summer.  I wonder if I can teach Blessi the Spanish Walk so we can make a truly memorable entrance for the judges.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

A little historical knowledge can be a dangerous thing--horse barding the wrong way

A few summers ago, I wanted to make full barding for Blessi for equestrian tournaments held by the Society for Creative Anachronism.  Since my persona is that of Norse woman in Iceland around 1000 AD, I thought I would use some Norse-like braiding on the borders to give a Viking feel to the barding.

As you can see I found a great table cloth that was easily converted to barding.   The design is probalby more Greek folk than Nordic or Celtic.   (Poor Blessi, I think he is the only horse in existence that his own set of tailors chalk for projects like this.)

I made a large French buttonholes (gee Mom those tailoring classes post college really did come in handy) to accommodate the girth and tucked in the sides in large gathers so Blessi was less likely to trip over the draping cloth.

Personally I think Blessi looks stunning in the colors and design.  However, the pattern and design are totally incompatible with medieval barding.  Plus the Norse probably did not use this style of barding.

However, I hope to use it at some future SCA event at which the pressure is not so high to be "historically accurate."  I'll try and use the "makes an effort to be historically accurate" concept in SCA thinking to get a bye on this barding.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Building a Norse Persona--Winroth vs. Short--Part II

In comparison to Anders Winroth's The Age of the Vikings, William Short in his Icelanders in the Viking Age concentrates more on the minutia of day to day living in Iceland. He describes the settlement, government and law, feuds, gender roles, religion, exploration, technology, etc., of  Iceland.  Short also considers the Icelandic sagas as a useful resource with the understanding that the sagas were written down several hundred years after the events occurred.  He also provides archaeological data to back up his descriptions.

 Last summer, I read many of the Icelandic sagas after decades of putting off exploring this branch of World literature.  I have to admit that I was fascinated by the content and variety of styles.  There were lying sagas (similar to Tall Tales of US literature), mysteries, psychological drama, comedy, and political machinations and bribery that could be played out in US politics today.  There are endless scholarly dissertations analyzing these sagas from various academic disciplines.

One aspect of the sagas that I found very hard to relate to was the attitude toward violence and killing and how it related to honor.  As Short points out, Egill Skalla-Grimsson  in Egils Saga takes men on a raid on a farm off the Baltic Sea.  The farmer and his supports capture Egill and the raiders and tie them up for the night.  After escaping during the night and stealing the treasure, Egill re-evaluates the situation and considers it shameful behavior for a warrior.  He and his men go back to the farm, kill the inhabitants, re-claim the treasure that they now deserve, and return to the ship with honor full filled.

Violence was often the only acceptable response in certain situations.  How we react to the violence in the saga's is more determined by how we define honor rather than how the Norse defined it.  As Short explains:

"The feud revolved around the concept of honor.  The English word utterly fails to express the depth and complexity of the concept in the saga age.  Honor was a measure of the social credibility of an individual.  Honor was earned by the person who possessed it, granted by the community around him who observed and judged his behaviors.  When traveling, a man's honor was conveyed by his reputation and good name, and by his family' reputation." (p. 40)

Short goes on to explain that a man preserves his honor and his family's honor by meeting every challenge no matter how minor and regardless of the cost.  The Norse concept of fate is intertwined with one's sense of honor since one's time of death is preordained by the Norns, goddesses of fate, but nobody knows one's fate so it was better to be bold and adventuresome than cautious.  Bold behavior by men,  women and children was well regarded in public opinion.

"A drengr (honorable man) was brave, honest, fearless, with a sense of fair play, and a respect for others.  He always kept his word.  Strength, although admired, needed to be moderated so one did not become ojafnathr (unjust)."  (p. 42)

A nithingr or man without honor was subject to scorn and ridicule and was not likely to receive support from others.  "Typical causes for such disgrace included: cowardice, treachery, breaking one's oath, and killing kinsmen or defenseless people.  When a man betrayed the trust of another man, he became known as a nithingr."  (p. 43)

So when I look back at some of the behavior that appalled me in the sagas--killing a man for riding a horse dedicated to the gods, threatening to kill a man for dropping off a gift weapon when the warrior is not at home, a child killing a playmate for a perceived insult--is more understandable viewed within Norse culture. A man (or child) would have lost honor by acting any differently and to lose honor was to be vulnerable.  I also think that the Norse sagas suffer by their realism.  When compared to the medieval romances such as the tales of King of  Arthur and his knights, the sagas seem so much more violent.  However the medieval tales of knightly behavior were idealized behavior among the noble social caste.  I bet there were many medieval peasants, serfs, Saracens, and tradesmen who would have of very different definition of knightly "honor."

To summarize, I would recommend both books because they provide different sorts of information about Norse life--Winroth more macro and Short more micro.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Building a Norse Persona--Winroth vs. Short--Part I

As a participant in the Society for Creative Anachronism, my persona is an Icelandic woman from around 1000 AD.  I picked this persona to honor Blessi.  To better understand a woman's role during this time frame, I sometimes read a book on Norse history and/or culture.

My most recent foray involves two books:
- The Age of the Vikings by Anders Winroth
- Icelanders in the Viking Age by William Short

I highly recommend both books for different reasons.

Winroth provides an excellent discussion of the violence inherent in Norse Society, even though the Norse were also traders and explorers.  During the years of the Vikings before the consolidation of power under the Scandinavian kings, chieftains maintained power by giving away riches and exotic items (I never thought of a Walnut as an exotic item) to ensure the loyalty of their followers.  To ensure a steady stream of booty, the chieftain was reliant on organizing successful raids by ships, which because possible due to technological advances in ship building.  Traders also brought home considerable silver and gold traded for  slaves, furs, ivory, walrus skin ropes, etc, and Winroth does an excellent job tracing the economic impact of this transfer of goods and the rise and fall of Norse market centers across Europe.  Those who choose not to go a vikingr and remain on the farm were also subject to the possibility of random violence.

When discussing Norse politics, art, religion, and home life, Winroth makes the decision not to use the Icelandic sagas,  arguing that they were written some 200 years after events occurred so they are biased by the beliefs of the post Christian conversion people who wrote them down.   Instead he used contemporary Arab accounts,  archaeological finds, rune carved stones commemorating various events, skaldic poetry  such as Beowulf  and Vellekla dating from this period.

His discussion of the interpretation of rune stones is fascinating.  He provides a detailed breakdown of the multiple layers of  meanings of the Karlevi runestone on an island off Sweden carved as a memorial to the chieftain Sibbi in the late 10th century.  On a superficial level to a passerby who is slightly conversant in reading the runes, Winroth explains that the monument "screams 'Danger!  Ghosts!" to a potential grave robber but a more sophisticated reader would pick up the lavish praise for Sibbi (I have just condensed 5 pages of extrapolation to 1 sentence.)

Winroth also argues against some of the most popularly held beliefs of Norse behavior--the blood eagle (a horrify way of executing somebody), berserkers as fighters crazed by drugs or blood lust, and the sacrifice of large numbers of men and beast by hanging in the pagan religious center at Uppsala in Sweden (where are all the bones and/or ashes of these sacrifices if they were so prevalent?).

My only quibble about this book is I wonder if all of Winroth's archaelogical data is strictly accurate.  At one point in the book, he states that the height of the feast halls cannot  be extrapolated from post holes (discolorations in the ground marking where posts were set into the ground).  I remember from my archaeology class in college that the height of a pole could be determined if there was remnants of the wood remaining in the post hole since different types of wood have different weight bearing properties; therefore a general height of the original pole can be  estimated. Woodroth may have meant that all of the wood had rotten away so there was no way to estimate the height.  I went looking for review of this book by scholars and found an article by Sæbjørg Walaker Nordeide, University of Bergen in The Medieval Review :

Nordeide argues that a number of Winroth's statements are based on outdated literary resources and old archeology."I must point out that some of the literature cited is extremely old, such as in the case of Viking-Age decorative styles (68-71). Sometimes this leads to serious errors in the book, such as in the case of the Gokstad ship burial, which is dated to "some point soon after the middle of the ninth century" (44), and to "the early ninth century" (76). However, since 1993 the date of this grave has been known to be from c. 900. "

Dr. Martin Rundkvist points out another series of errors and redundancies in his Science Blog found at:

Rundkvist points out that some of the examples of Norse art are not categorized correctly and some of the sources that Winroth uses are dated.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this review.

Monday, March 2, 2015

How Sensitive is the Horse to Touch and Motion

Horse language can be very subtle.  The March 2015 edition of Equus Magazine features an article on "Getting the Feel" by Janet Jones, PhD, (pp. 54-61) about how to improve your proprioceptive abilities when riding.  Proprioception is defined as the brain's ability to be aware "of body location, pressure, and movement."  The example that I remember from college is taking a glass of water filled to the brim and holding it at arm's length.  When you close your eyes, you will find it much more difficult to maintain the water at an even level.  Some people are better at this trial than others.

Dr. Jones states that you need to develop better proprioceptive abilities to help you match those of your horse.  We have all heard the analogy that a horse can feel the weight of a fly but Dr. Jones takes this analogy so much further:

"The average horse weighs 50 million times more than the average fly but immediately feels the pest settle on his body.  A hypothetical human with that degree of sensitivity would feel the weight of five unseen dandelion seeds.  Trained horses can detect from two yards away a nod of the human head that measures only 8/1000 of an inch in displacement.  That's two and one half times more sensitive to visual displacement than we are. Faced with the same nod, humans wouldn't even know it had occurred.  One more statistic: At the withers, horse can detect .0003 ounces of pressure from one nylon filament--the weight of about three grains of sand.  Push the same filament into your fingertip, and you'd have no idea it was there." (p. 55)

I always said that abuot 80% of my signals when riding Blessi are white noise to him.  Perhaps I should revise the percentage upwards.  Poor boy!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Review of Runaway Pony by Krista Ruepp

Runaway Pony by Krista Ruepp is a charming story about a young girl named Anna who lives with her parents and grandparents on a farm on an island off the coast of Iceland.   Anna is teaching her special friend, a young Icelandic colt named Prince, to lead.  Scared by tractor pulling a load of empty milk cans, Prince takes off and refuses to let Anna catch him.  Anna's grandmother teaches Anna a lesson on how to work with horses and gain their trust.  Those of us familiar with Icelandic horses can all guess that the lesson involves apples.    The water colors of the Icelandic landscapes and horses by Ulrike Heyne are wonderfully executed.

Sigh!  I am really going to have to go on Amazon and purchase a bunch of these books for my niece MacKenzie.