Saturday, May 28, 2016

Origin of Western Canadian Horses and Yakut Pony

Just came across this study about the origin of some western Canadian wild horses--stock from the French king, some Spanish, and the Russian Yakut pony.  And the Yakut is distantly related to the Icelandics since the Vikings took some Yakut/Mongolian sourced stock to Iceland at its settlement from 800 to 1000AD.  Who would have ever guessed?

Friday, May 27, 2016

Blessi and the Demented Hen

This is not the demented hen.  This is the rooster
of the flock to which the demented hen belongs.
Oh, and there was the demented hen.   As I was longeing Blessi, the old hen with crazed behavior came into the arena and started winding in and out of Blessi's longe circle--clucking and squawking in random directions and various speeds.

Blessi ignored her even though she was almost going through his legs.   After a minute, I realized that she was not going to leave the arena and there was a real possibility that Blessi was going to have to make a choice as to whether he was going to step on the chicken or veer out of the circle. 

Since I didn't want to explain to the barn owner why there was a pancake chicken in his arena, I tried to modify my longeing circle but got flustered tracking random chicken movements and got the longe line between Blessi's front legs as he was circling.  This was even more dangerous since the hen was still fluttering in random directions and Blessi still had the rope between his legs.  So I dropped the rope and got Blessi to stop.  Then I chased the *%#%@  chicken out of the arena.  Got to give Blessi lots of credit.  He really expected a treat as I untacked him.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Icelandics sure do love their cats

Icelandics seem to have a natural affinity for cats.  Or are cats attracted to those plump, comfy backs covered with all that fur.  Try getting this cat Jim off his Icelandic friend.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Versatility of Blessi

I am pulling together a multi-media presentation about the history and origin of the Icelandic horse.  My first delivery will be to the Daughters of Norway.   The slide entitled "Versatility of the Icelandic Horse"  features Blessi and his many adventures.  Interestingly, I did not have room to show Blessi "racing" on Emerald Downs Race Track, barrel racing, mounted cowboy shooting, playing musical instruments, introduction to polo, or stupid pet tricks. As I've always said, Blessi is a Blessing.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Hillary Clinton Owned Two Icelandic Horses ---Briefly

The children of Iceland gave Senator Hillary Clinton two Icelandic horses, one of which was named Spadi.  Einar Bollason, Managing Director of Íshestar Riding Tours, was selected to present the horses to Clinton.  As he explains, "It was a big media fuzz and the reporters followed me for days before she came, because the day was kept a secret for security reasons. The only way to escape the journalists was to saddle up my horses and ride into the mountains!" (Interview with, n.d.)

You can view a picture of the presentation of the horses here:

Then Senator Clinton accepted them with the intent of donating them to the children of the United States.  Senator Clinton gave the horses to Green Chimneys, a non-profit therapeutic and educational center.  (Halberg, 2008, p. 53)  Currently Green Chimneys supports over 300 animals and birds--including horses, camels, llamas, goats, falcons, guinea pigs, hedgehog, rats, cat, and more--used in their therapy programs for emotionally troubled children. 

Spadi was a favorite therapy horse at Green Chimneys. (The second horse died of cancer and Spadi is no longer listed on the Green Chimneys web page.)  One of the young riders Devon  "likes Spadi for a couple of reasons. First, in addition to the usual gaits of walk, trot, canter and gallop, Spadi has a gait called the toelt that is something like the long trotting gait of a Missouri Fox Trotter; very smooth, fast and stable. Devon very much likes that toelt gait. Second, Spadi is the unquestioned herd leader of Green Chimneys' horses, even though compared to American horses like the quarter horse, Morgan, Standardbred or Thoroughbred, he looks no bigger than a tall pony. He has an attitude that says, "I will NOT be intimidated by you, and you WILL do what I tell you." He stands like a rock and stares them down. Finally, the two of them get along; there is a bond between them. Horse people will understand what I mean."  (Junior, 2013)   

You can view a picture of Spadi and his young rider Devon at:

Now that Hillary and Bill Clinton have their first grandchild, I wonder if they are thinking about getting the young one a pony--perhaps an Icelandic pony.  ;-)


Halberg, L.  (2008) Walking the Way of the Horse, iUniverse.  

Interview with Einar Bollason at

Junior on Horseback (2013).  Found at

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Horse by Wendy Williams a book review

Below is a photo of the Vogelherd horse, the first known sculpture of a horse carved 35,000 years ago. This 2-inch long horse carved from Mammoth ivory was found in a cave in Germany. As Wendy Williams in her recently published book The Horse: The Epic History of our Noble Companion, describes it: "Across thirty five millennia, you can almost hear him snort and see him toss his head, warning encroaching stallions to take care." p. 12 Williams asks the question about horses... "What are their special powers?" Perhaps our "fascination with horses is somehow encoded in our genes."

She examines the natural history of the horse and the horse-human bond especially emphasizing recent equine research, which definitely disproves a lot of the claims of certain horse training approaches. Some points I have discovered in the first chapter:

- The male-centric view of wild horses is false--very often the mares initiate herd behavior.

- A pair of bonded mares in a wild horse herd in Spain remained in a territory with the head stallion but when they came into season, they accompanied each other to go mate with a neighboring stallion--year after year

- British researcher Deborah Goodwin is summarized by Williams as saying "our belief that stallions dominate a band may be due to the hierarchical structure of our own culture..." which has caused us to "view relationships among horses with blinders on." p. 28

- One wild mare High Tail bonded so strongly with her first stallion that even after he lost his harem, she snuck away from each new stallion to be with him until he died of old age. As she did with other stallions she bonded with.

- Horse hierarchies are not fixed but are fluid and flexible. Horse A may rank higher than b, but c may rank higher than a.

"Now that science is showing us the subtleties of how horses naturally interact with each other, we can expand our own interactions with them, improve our ability to communicate with them, and enrich our partnership....A relationship that has been traditionally seen as unidirectional--we command and they obey--can now become much more nuanced and sensitive." p 32

Can't wait to read more. I am only on page 32.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Dominance Behavior in Icelandic Horse Herds

 Many horse trainers claim that their training techniques mimic what happens in the horse herd.  Dominant, aggressive is justified because horses in the herd bite and kick each other so what the trainer does is mild in comparison with what the trainer does.  Interestingly research may or may not support their claims.  In the following study based on observations of a horse herd in the Netherlands, rank could be determined among the horses.  However amount of aggression displayed by individual horses did not correlated with rank.

Van Dierendonck, De Vries, and Schilder published a study on dominance behavior in Icelandic horses titled "An Analysis of Dominance, Its Behavioural Parameters and Possible Determinants in a Herd of Icelandic Horses in Captivity" (Netherlands Journal of Zoology, 1995).  In their review of previous research, they found a lack of clarity in how dominance is defined and hence how it impacted hierarchy among and between horses other than adult horses were almost always dominant over immature horses and horses newly introduced to the herd having lower rank.  The impact of weight, height, and age, and age at castration varied among studies .
Farm in Iceland--Cornell university

The researchers observed a herd of 26 Icelandic horses (6 geldings, 16 mares, 2 young stallions, and 2 young mares) and 5 ponies of different breeds at a farm in the Netherlands over a period of 6 months in 1984.  The horses were pastured year round with access to water, shelter, and food.  The non-Icelandic horses, young horses, and one mare with a probable hormonal disorder were excluded from the study. The horses had been together for several years.

Dominance behaviors were defined as offensive aggressive behaviors (attack, bite, threat to bite, approach with ears flattened,) versus avoidance.  Defensive aggressive behaviors were  kick, threat to kick, and buck.  Based on these observed behaviors the scientists could build a strictly linear relationship among the Icelandic geldings and mares.  The top five places in rank were taken by the older Icelandic mares with the sixth place held by a gelding with the rest of the rankings interspersed among mares and geldings.
Between sexes, certain lower ranking members could be dominant to higher ranking individuals.

  • Age correlated with rank in the mixed sex herd ranking and among mares but not among the geldings.  
  • Height did not correlate with rank when males and females were considered separately.  However height did correlate with the entire herd ranking with smaller horses ranking higher in this herd.
  • Length of residency in the herd correlated higher with rank.
  • Rank position surprisingly did not correlate well with amount of aggression displayed.
  • Submission correlated with rank.
  • Age at castration  linked with sexual experience  correlated with rank.  In other words, the amount of sexual experience and the opportunity to develop and practice male displays rather than age of castration per se influenced ranking among geldings.
  • Mares with foals temporarily can gain in herd ranking.
  • Ranking of adult mares correlated positively with their adult offspring.
  • If a mare exhibited more aggressive behavior, her offspring was likely to be observed exhibiting more frequent aggressive behavior (which could be due to heredity and/or learned behavior).

This study did not observe and correlation between rank and allogrooming, kinship, and social bonds.  However pairs of horses closer in rank tended to spend more time close to each other.


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Icelandic Horse Games--600 kilometers in 8 days

In this video, Anita (not sure of spelling) is proposing Icelandic Horse Games, a 600 kilometer race across Iceland in eight days with 300 horses and 30 riders.  Each rider with two to three changes of mounts needs to ride 80 kilometers a day to be competitive.  Each day there will be vet checks.  The race, inspired by the Mongolian Derby at 1000 kilometers and the South African race, is intended to bring the adventuresome and adrenalin junkies to Iceland.  The race organizers already have 300 horses available and are looking for corporate sponsors.  Planned kick off date is fall of 2017.