Sunday, September 27, 2015

Blessi and the can of peanuts

Here is a video of Blessi opening a can of peanuts.   This is the third time that he has had the opportunity to "play" with a can of peanuts.  However, he was just as quick and assured on his first attempt.

Event 1:
For 2 years, I used peanuts to treat him for tricks.  One time, Blessi was playing the game at two levels:
-tactical--do the trick and get one peanut
- strategic--watch me carefully to see when I was not paying since he was at liberty and go for the whole can.
I got tired of moving the can of peanuts so I closed it and put it outside the arena.

As I was leading him outside the arena, I started to talk to another boarder.  Just that fast, he opened the can of peanuts to win the jackpot.

Event 2:
I gave Blessi a large plastic bag of new musical instruments for him to explore.   Instead of pulling things out of the bag and tossing them around, Blessi kept his head in the bag which was odd.  Finally I went to check on him.  I had forgotten that the peanut can was in the bag.  Blessi had opened the can and munching peanuts being careful to keep his head out of sight.

Event 3:
Video that I made today.

This is an amazing video if you think about it.  Blessi must have observed me for years and in his own mind figured out the spacial representations on how to use his lips to replace fingers.  Plus he doesn't have opposable thumbs so he had to pre-figure out how to brace the can against the ground to get leverage.  And the can is in his blind spot so he was working without a lot of visual feedback.  There is a lot of cognitive processing going on in Blessi' black box.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Ríðum, ríðum--Great arrangement and translation

I love this song based on riding for safe over the Icelandic country side threatened by fairies and bandits.  Enjoy the wonderful Icelandic tenor Jón Þorsteinsson accompanied by Eduad de Boer.  Be sure to check out the words to the song in original Icelandic and translation.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

What Does a Missouri Foxtrotter and Icelandic Cross Look Like

Just for fun I have decided to start collecting videos of what Icelandics look like when crossed with another breed.  I'm not advocating crossing the Icelandic with anything but it happens.  Here is an example of a Missouri Foxtrotter-Icelandic cross.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Equine Innovative Behavior--opening feed drawer

Here's another example of Iris opening a feed gate to raid the other horse's meals.  And her owners were wondering why she wasn't losing weight.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Equine Innovative Behavior--Social Reasons 2

Here is another example of one horse deliberately feeding another.  What does this say about herd dynamics and hierarchy?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Equine Innovative Behavior--Social Reasons 1

As per our last posting, Dr. Konstanz Krueger and her equine behaviour team at Nürtingen-Geislingen University are studying equine innovative behavior--in other words a horse exhibiting unusual behavior indicating higher level processing.  Their preliminary examination of submitted examples show that horses exhibit innovative behavior over food, escape, social reasons, and maintenance.  Here is an excellent example that I found of horses sharing food.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Social Learning Among Horses--Blessi does an experiment

Scientists have recently started studying social learning among horses. Social learning refers to horses learning from the observation of other creatures--such as horses or humans.   For years scientists were unable to devise a controlled experiment to document that horses learn from observing others--something almost all horse owners give examples of from opening gates to raiding closed feed containers.

Just a few years ago, Dr. Konstanz Krueger and her equine behaviour team at Nürtingen-Geislingen University were able to demonstrate that horses could learn from observing people and other horses.  The horses were more likely to copy behavior from older, more higher ranking herd members.  

Dr. Krueger and her team are now studying innovative behavior in horses--actions in which a horse figures out a problem or develops a solution not typically exhibited by horses. Her team are collecting examples of such innovative behavior from horse owners (it is not too late to submit examples of what your clever Icelandics do). As of June of this year, 304 examples have been submitted including simple tool use.  Check out this page to see a yearling use a brush to groom his dam, a horse open an electric gate by grabbing the three handles of the wires, etc.  At one point the site had a video of horse picking up a stick to sweep out stray hay from under his feed box.

Preliminary review of the innovative equine behaviors exhibited indicate that most are driven by quest for food, desire to escape, social reasons, and maintenance.  As Dr. Krueger explains, "In a nutshell, the horses’ cognitive capacities appear to be underestimated throughout the last decades. The horses’ social complexity is far more elaborate than previously assumed, horses learn socially from conspecific and humans, some of them demonstrate innovative behaviour adaptations to their environment and even simple forms of tool use."


Inspired by this reading, I decided to "play" (in no way was this a scientifically controlled experiment or have any association with the work of Dr. and her team) with Blessi. I first demonstrated to him how to pull a rope to drag a bag of carrots under the fence. He picked this up in under 10 minutes. Once again this was not a controlled experiment so I am sure I was unintentionally giving lots of cues on expected behavior. 

This was Blessi's first attempt to pull a rope using an item other than a bag of carrots--can he transfer his learning to a new object? You may also get a chuckle out of the "psychology joke" that results.

Enjoy, Pamela Nolf

Friday, September 11, 2015

Feeding a horse before exercise helps prevent ulcers

Dr. Nerida Richards reports that feeding a horse can help prevent gastric ulcers.  She states, "Having a full stomach is important for the horse as it stops gastric acids from the lower part of the stomach splashing around and irritating the upper sections of the gastrointestinal tract. This acid splash that occurs in horses exercised on an empty stomach is thought to contribute to the development of gastric ulcers."

Therefore it is important to feed horses before exercise if it has been more than 2 hours since they have eaten.  Forage, preferably hay, is recommended.  Alfalfa has been shown to help prevent ulcers.  Grain should not be fed within the hours before or after the ride because of its effect on insulin.

You can read the entire article at:

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Blessi's side saddle-ride like a queen

My friend Dawn tried riding side saddle on Blessi.  She had a great time.  One of the keys to aside riding seems to be sit like a queen.  Dawn looks very regal.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Advice to a Younger Horse

Horse Collaborative has a wonderful series of entertaining videos.  What kind of advice would an older horse give to a colt?

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Icelandics in the Tunnel

I am always amazed at how calmly Icelandics accept situations that most other horse breed balk at.  Here riders and the loose horses accompanying the group ride through what the video poster calls "the scary tunnel."

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Our New Motto

I was doing some research on the history of Icelandic horses in Ballard WA (essentially there isn't any), when I came across this wonderful expression.

  • Megi spjót þitt í mark fara, örvar þínar beint fl júga, og sverð þitt góðu biti halda. 
  • May your spear hit your target, your arrows fly straight, and your sword stay sharp.

I have no idea if it is period or not, but I am adopting it for Blessi and me.  We need all the help we can get in medieval equestrian games.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015