Sunday, December 31, 2017

Moose and Icelandics in Sweden--Not My Hay

Moose come to visit Icelandic horses almost daily at Swedish farm. But Icelandics don't share food even with the "big deer."

Saturday, December 30, 2017

If Santa Used Ponies Instead of Reindeer

Another epic, misbehaving Christmas pony video. Oh would Blessi love to explore a Christmas tree with gifts.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Christmas, ambling horses, and medieval art

Here's a post about Christmas, ambling horses, and medieval art--what could be better except a real pony under the Christmas tree. The Three Wise Men rode gaited horses for some part of their journey.
In addition to--or as a replacement to--a trot, gaited horses exhibit an intermediate gait between a walk and canter, now known as rack, amble, single foot, tolt, running walk, fino fino depending on the horse breed. This 4-beat gait can be as smooth as silk to ride at speed as opposed to the up-down motion of the 2-beat trot. In medieval art (and the art of many other cultures) you can tell whether the horse is trotting or ambling by the position of the legs. If the diagonal legs are moving, then the horse is trotting. If the lateral legs on the same side are moving (observe to see if that back hock is cocked), then horse is ambling. Ambling horses or palfreys were especially prized in the Middle Ages since this smooth gait was very comfortable to ride for long distances.

The first image is the three wise kings depicted on the Catalan Atlas, drawn by Cresques Abraham, around 1375. Abraham created a series of maps showing the universe and the world as known at that time. This particular map showed the known world with Jerusalem at its center. The translation of the map inset explains "This province is called Tarshish, from which came the Three Wise Kings, and they came to Bethlehem in Judaea with their gifts and worshipped Jesus Christ, and they are entombed in the city of Cologne two days journey from Bruges." Tarshish was supposedly located in Spain. And I love the dappling of these palfreys.

The second image is a Limoges box reliquary dating from around 1200 AD. It depicts the story of the
Three Wise Men. The side displays the Adoration of the Magi and the top shows their journey to find Baby Jesus. If you enlarge the magnification, you will see that the two left riders are on amblers whereas the rider to the far right is just breaking into the canter perhaps because he first caught sight of the star over the stable in Bethlehem--which is a lovely way to indicate motion in a static medium.
Both images and their explanation are from Wikipedia.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Wexford Carol for Peace

To my friends and family, Merry Christmas. Here's the lovely Wexford Carol sung by Alison Krauss accompanied by Yo-Yo Ma. Regardless of our religions, let us all pray for peace on earth next year.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas Kittens and Icelandic Horses

Kittens, Christmas, snow, Icelandic horses, deer, sunset--you cannot get much cuter.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Protecting Cats During Christmas

Need some tips to keep your Christmas tree safe from the pets? Here they are!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Printing Your Own Icelandic Horse for Christmas

Okari decided to draw her own Icelandic horse for Christmas using a 3D pen.  What a great project!  And I bet more little girls would become interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics if they could get a kit to grow their own ponies for Christmas.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Plans versus reality in riding your pony

Most of us go to the stable with plans--or intentions--of executing a planned session of dressage skills or suppling exercises or trick training.  For me, the stable is also a social environment so it is easy to get side tracked into talking with friends and goofing off.   There is no age limit to this phenomenon.  In this video, Fairy Teller illustrates the principle of "Expectation Vs. Reality" with her Icelandic Nikolaus. And, oh are they so cute together!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

2017 Christmas Card--In Progress

Darn the free public library systems of the United States!  The Kitsap Country Library runs wonderful educational programs for adults and children from how to use a computer to making mixed media mini tiles out of dominoes to reading to a dog. A few months ago, I took a class on making lino-block prints--a craft that most of us last did in our high school years.  I had so much fun that I resolved to make my own Blessi Christmas cards.  Did I start in September?  October?  November?  How about six days before Christmas?

To the left is a photo of my results so far--the wood block has been cut but I have yet to pull my first print.  Oh, don't worry the bandage covers a developing blister from cutting the wood block.  The red is from the marker used to highlight the block to see if I cut enough surface material.  And I still have an hour till midnight.  I am off to ink up the roller!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Blessi Can Subtract

I think I am teaching my horse Blessi how to subtract. We do some clicker training. If I reward him with three peanuts and two drop to the ground, he will search through the dirt for two nuts. We are not continuing with training until he gets those two specific nuts. I have tried giving him substitute peanuts but that doesn't work. Either he finds the missing two nuts by shifting through the sand or I bend down and retrieve the missing peanuts. He does well with subtraction of amounts of 5 and under.

As Blessi sings to the Meghan Trainor tune, "Because you know I’m all about that nut ‘Bout that nut, no trouble. I’m all about that nut all about that nut no trouble"

Friday, December 15, 2017

I Guess I'll Do the Book

Blessi does his best Steve
Martin impression.
You may enjoy reading my latest post on my blog "Writing to A Muse" about how Steve Martin,
leaplings, and birds can help you become a better writer.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Kerry Bogs as the Last of the Hobby Horses

Dr. Ruth Bennett identifies the Kerry Bog as "probably the last population in the world of nearly pure Hobby extraction," a horse breed that she argues is the world's most important horse breed. The Kerry Bog horse is an ancient breed from Ireland. They have long adapted to the bogs and moorelands of Ireland over which their ability to amble is especially useful in traveling over soft, unstable ground. Some herds have historically run feral. Rarely attaining 12 hands*, the Kerry bog breed has traditionally been used to haul peat and pull carts in Ireland. Genetically the Kerry Bog is closely related to the Icelandic, Shetland, and Dartmoor breeds. Between 300 and 400 are recognized the breed registry. But why would Dr. Bennett declare the Hobby horse as the world's most important breed compared to Arabians, Thoroughbred, or Quarter Horses? (*Hobby horses might have been taller than 12 hands based on geographic location. Today's Kerry Bog horses are rarely above 12 hands.)

Last year we read with interest, the research study that proposed the first gaited/ambling horses derive from a mutation from York in England around 850 AD, a mutation that was spread through the horses of Eurasia as the Viking traded and raided across Europe. In the November 2014 edition of Equus magazine, Dr. Bennett proposed a different theory for the origin and spread of the easy gaited horses that, perhaps, better accounts for the pre-850 AD written and pictorial representations of ambling horses.

Around 1100 BC, Lydian and Danuvian traders from Western Turkey and Phoenicians from Tyre started trade routes from the Eastern Mediteranean to what is now the coastal areas of Spain, France, and even as far north as England. One of the trade goods were the native, domesticated stallions from the subspecies equus caballus pumpelli (think AkhalTeke not Arabian which is derived from a different subspecies) which carried the mutation DMRT3 for gaitedness. These imported stallions were then crossed with the native horse breeds which derived from the subspecies equus caballus caballus (think Kerry Bog or Icelandic looking) which carried the sprint speed gene. These new crosses ended up being called by their region of origin--Breton, Asturian, Galician, Merens, Scottish Galway, and Irish Hobby among others.

As Dr., Bennett states, "Explosive speed suited them for the ancient style of cavalry warfare...A knack for ambling at the same time made them comfortable mounts for travel..." During the Roman empire, hobby horses were taken from Britain back to Rome where they proved especially successful in chariot racing as shown by the horse portraits of the time. Other than a fully trained destrier or war horse, an easy gaited ambling horse or palfrey were among the most valuable horses of the Middle Ages. Henry VIII maintained a stable of racing Irish and English hobbies.
Source: Wikipedia

But whence comes Dr. Bennett's claim that "by far and away, the Hobby is the most important horse breed ever to have existed"? The hobby horses with their unique combination of speed and gait formed the genetic foundation of the Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, Morgan, and gaited breeds derived from the Morgan. Recent mtDNA research has shown that the genetic input of the English thoroughbred is about 60% native British and Irish mares (hobby horses) outcrossed with Turkomen and some Barb stallions. Very little genetic input comes from the Arabian.

""The results suggest that the founders of the Thoroughbred breed imported fast Middle East and West Asian stallions into an already thriving racehorse breeding scene, then bred them with the best mares available at their stud," added Dr Bower. The most surprising finding was that, contrary to assertions by some influential breeders that Thoroughbreds are purely Oriental (specifically Arabian) in origin, these results argue strongly against this claim. Instead, thoroughbred maternal lineages most likely represent a cross-section of female bloodstock available at each stud participating in the foundation of the breed -- with a minimal contribution from Arabian horses. "[M]ost of the founding mares came from Britain and Ireland. They are not these exotic foreign creatures everyone thinks they are," explained Dr Bower. "Having said that, they were not just any mares. They were themselves descended from the fastest horses in the country." "…/punctuated-equi…/2010/oct/18/3

Monday, December 11, 2017

Jeff Davis--the Quarter Running Horse of General Grant

In the June 2017 edition of Equus magazine, Dr. Deb Bennett wrote an article "Horses of the Civil War." Her focus was on types of horses, their origins, and development of subsequent breeds during this time frame. Of course, she discuses the "appalling slaughter" of horses and men in this conflict.

Source: Library of Congress
My attention was drawn to the photo of Jeff Davis--a captured, 14.2 hand, ambling, black pony that became one of General Grant's favorite riding horses--because of his resemblance to an Icelandic horse. Bennett identifies Jeff Davis as a "quarter running horse," which formed the basis of the American Quarter Horse, and was a mixture of "Thoroughbred, Morgan, Hobby and Narragansett Pacer." She sees a high percentage of Hobby in Jeff Davis. Icelandics and Kerry Bogs are very close cousins of the Hobby which no longer exists as a breed but was important in the development of the Thoroughbred, Morgan, Quarter Horse, and gaited breeds.

Here's a description of Jeff Davis, the pony, from General Grant's son:
"During the campaign and siege of Vicksburg, a cavalry raid or scouting party arrived at Joe Davis' plantation (the brother of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy) and there captured a black pony which was brought to the rear of the city and presented to me. The animal was worn out when it reached headquarters but was a very easy riding horse and I used him once or twice. With care he began to pick up and soon carried himself in fine shape.

At that time my father was suffering with a carbuncle and his horse being restless caused him a great deal of pain. It was necessary for General Grant to visit the lines frequently and one day he took this pony for that purpose. The gait of the pony was so delightful that he directed that he be turned over to the quartermaster as a captured horse and a board of officers be convened to appraise the animal. This was done and my father purchased the animal and kept him until he died, which was long after the Civil War. This pony was known as "Jeff Davis."​"

So if a famous Civil War general, who was known for his riding skills, rode a "pony" then none of us should worry about what folks think when we ride our Icelandics with their "so delightful" gaits.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Blesssi Stars in His Own Comic Book

Here is Blessi as a comic  super hero.  He has some definite thoughts on the subject.   You can listen to what Blessi is thinking if you turn on the closed captions.  (The iphone offers some amazing, simple to use video software.)

Thursday, December 7, 2017

2017 Icelandic Horse World Championships

Here's highlights from the 2017 Icelandic Horse World Championships. Nothing like a fast flying pace to rev up expectations!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Blessi "Sitting Pretty" in Equus Magazine

Equus Magazine published my article "Sitting Pretty" about Blessi and his favorite cat Mittens.  Equus has a huge, national readership among the horse owning public in the US so this is great exposure for the Icelandic horse.  You can read their on-line version at the link below:

Sunday, December 3, 2017

What Was It LIke for Horses in the Mines

From 1871 to 1875, 7868 horses were exported from Iceland--many intended for the mines in Scotland and England. Life for horses in the mines was tough, some became blind because they remained underground until they retired. The following tonal video helps us imagine what it took for a horse to enter an environment so unnatural to it--in this case the Allenheads mine entrance in Northumberland, England. The horse sounds are provided by a "happy Icelandic" living in open pastures.
Horse track in Allenheads from sabine vogel on Vimeo.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Enter the Gripping Beast

The study "Enter the Gripping Beast. Artistic innovation and social networks in Viking-period towns" by Berge, Jasinski, and Sognnes identifies the emergence of gripping beast motif as early as 790 AD. I was highly amused by one of their proposed inspirations for gripping beasts. "Suddenly a new and very different form of decoration...occurs alongside this, consisting in curiously squat, short-legged little animals with a clearly defined anatomy, faces shown en face, and paws grasping at whatever they can reach..Was it an inspiration from Western Europe, acquired the first Viking raids? Did it reflect a fascination with newly introduced domestic cats? A symbol of Freya?"

Recent genetic research shows that the Norse were key in the dispersion of domestic cats during their long sailings . Can't you see the poor creatures desperately clinging to tall, bearded, wool wrapped Vikings as the felines try to avoid all that water?Above  is an early 9th century depiction of gripping beasts on the Carolingian Animal head post from the Oseberg ship grave. They certainly look like  cats trying to avoid a bath.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Best Icelandic Horse Video from Horses of Iceland

The Icelandic horse marketing group just put out the most fantastic video. I really think they captured all the best points of this breed--personality, color, amazing gaits.  And the music and scenery just enhance the messaging.  Do you think this captures the soul of the Icelandic horse?

Monday, November 27, 2017

Icelandic Horse Pendant from Hugrun


Pat, who is a fellow boarder at Blessi's stable, just returned from a riding holiday in Iceland.  She gave me an Icelandic horse decoration.  Although it is meant as a Christmas tree decoration, it looks lovely as a pendent. 

I wear it frequently and get a lot of notice.  Once the comment had more to do with the soup I had spilled on it.  Sigh!  No wonder Blessi always checks out my shirt or jacket.  It must smell of such interesting food possibilities.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

How an Invisible Rabbit Helped me see the pony in the Elevator

My latest posting on my blog "Writings to A Muse" is how techniques used in writing plays can help you write better fiction--or in my case non-fiction about the pony Algonquin owned by President Theodore Roosevelt's children.  Here's a link to the essay explaining how I wrote a mini play about Quentin Roosevelt taking Algonquin into the White House elevator to visit his sick brother.   Hum, I wonder if Blessi would like to play Algonquin in a Broadway musical?

And for your viewing enjoyment here is Jimmy Stewart taking his six foot eight inch invisible rabbit Harvey out to the bar for martinis.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Romance is Over--Jake and Bless

Blessi lost his bond with Jake, the mule. I took Blessi over to graze next to Jake. The mule saw Blessi coming and gave the cutest little mule nicker. The two of them immediately put their heads together and started grazing. Unfortunately, Jake zapped his head on the electric fence...poor thing...and took off at a canter. Now Blessi is "that bad horse who shoots lazers out of his eyes to hurt poor, unsuspecting mules." Jake would not come within 20 feet of Mr. Blessi. Photo is from when they were friends.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Icelandic Gypsy Vanner Cross

I don't recommend crossing Icelandics with other breeds.   But in the what if category, here is a Gypsy Vanner and Icelandic cross named Loki.  The horse is in Hawaii, hence the sweat marks. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Blessi Meets Jake the Mule

Jake the mule has joined Lone Eagle. Jake is a sweetie pie and very handsome. Here is a video showing Blessi and Jake's reaction to each other.  Here's a short video of Jake and Blessi. I just think Jake is so cute and polite. Jake is sharing his pasture with Dan the horse and a steer. It is fascinating to watch the three species get along so well.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Painting Horse Portraits for KARE

My friend Judy and I attended a Kitsap Animal Rescue (KARE) workshop in which we had lessons
http://nwkare. org If you are in a different part of the country, please remember your local pet rescue.

on painting horse portraits from a local artist. Wine and snacks were served. What a fun way to expand one's artistic skills and benefit local animal rescues. Here's my painting. It's a bay Icelandic, not Blessi. We're going to more of these. Here's a link if you want to make a donation.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Blessi Versus Cowboy the Pony

My grandniece MacKenzie, age 9, has never met Blessi.  But she has heard enough Blessi stories to create the following chart compare Cowboy the pony, whom she has met, and Blessi.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Icelandic Horses Help with Making Stepping Stones

My friend Judy and I were experimenting with mixing cement to make patio blocks with Celtic designs. We learned that men and women may have different definitions of the "consistency of pancake batter." We also learned that Icelandic horses are eternal optimists about the possibility of human activities leading to food.

Judy turned her mares Freya and Gloma loose together to run around the pasture. As shown by the photo, they stood by the fence line and watched us intently for 1 1/2 hours. Why? Because we were using old feed buckets and the bag of cement could have held grain, we were obviously stirring up some special treat for them.

We also discussed using horse hair as binder in the next batch. Around 8 years ago, if I remember correctly, the University of Pennsylvania was asking Icelandic horse owners to ship them bags of brushed out body hair since they were experimenting with horse hair in composite building materials and somehow Icelandic horse hair offered some sort of advantage.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Bark Like a Puppy, Ooze Like a Stump

You can now read read my latest musing on the art of writing on my other blog "Writing to a Muse."  Find out how snarky I can be about why:

- Ann Lamott barks like a puppy, oozes like a stump
- Janet Burroway's inadequately defines writing transition as “authorial intrusion”
- Ann Dillard exaggerates beyond hyperbole in her story about the eating habits of the giant water bug
- Bruce Chatwin tells "not
a half-truth but a truth and a half"
Or you can pass on the snark and just watch the video of puppies barking.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Icelandic Horse in Justice League

Here's another reason to see Justice League besides Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and Jason Momoa as Icelandic horse.  Watch the first ten seconds of the trailer.  That footage was filmed in Iceland and somebody is mounting an Icelandic horse.  The double S stirrups are pretty strong clue. So which superhero is riding the Icey since several heros--Momoa, Aflleck, Gadot, Dafoe, Heard are on the island? It's Batman!

"The trailer begins with Ben Affleck, playing Batman, mounting an Icelandic horse somewhere on a desolate Icelandic heath, riding to Djúpavík village where the film crew was based during the shooting last year."

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Eyes in the Trees

Here's a photo that I took at the Bloedel Reserve, in the Seattle area .  Here's my lesson learned. I would have never observed this remarkably weird, eerie pattern found in the bark of a birch tree by myself. It was only by listening to a friend that I was able to see beyond my narrow focus.

What do you see?  To me.  these look like the weirwood in Game of Thrones.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Icelandic Horses under the Midnight Sun

Benedikt Sigeirsson released an absolutely beautiful video of Icelandic horses by the sea under the midnight sun.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Finished Norse Shield

Here is my finished Norse shield!

It will look so good with Blessi'
Vendel bridle.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Painting a Vendel Shield

Thanks to good friends my Norse shield made by Bill Grunner made its way from Snohomish to Bellingham to Port Townsend to my place. Mr. Grunner did a wonderful job making the shield--beautiful finish job. I am painting it with a gripping beast design to match Blessi's Vendel bridle that I made for him.

Here are some stages in the execution.
I have already primed the wood, marked off the shield into thirds (since the design repeats 3 times), used the computer to blow up the design to shield size, transferred motif to shield, and started painting. I had to do a lot of manual adjustments to the design since the original image was off center. Also start painting from left to right (if you are right handed) or you will smear paint at some point. Also make sure your design aligns with handle in the back or you may end up carrying an upside down or sideways design.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Plan for Sólvangur Icelandic Horse Center

For those of you who speak Icelandic or understand sign language, this is the start up tourism demo day plan for Sólvangur Icelandic Horse Center . Here is my translation"
" calm and love Icelandic horses...horses....Lansmot......horses.....tourists feed our horses too much junk's a horses....horses."

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Oh I Could Tell You Stories

Check out my other blog "Writing to A Muse" for a new musing "Oh I Could Tell You Stories." The writer as Scheherazade uses the wonderful conflict implicit in the conditional verb “could,”  ignores broadcasts from Lamont's imaginary radio station KFKD that lead the writer to vacillate between doubting despair and their certainty of genius, and realizing Chatwin's finding that the real version of events has the “merit” of truth but is “less romantic.”  What advice does Scheherazade whisper in your ear?

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Norse Designs in Poulsbo WA

Poulsbo, WA adapted a Norse great hall design for its public library. One outside corridor is
decorated with carved, wooden panels of gripping beasts. The gripping beast occurs as a motif throughout the library.

This style is known as Urnes, the latest of the Norse art styles from around 1050 to 1120 AD. The Urnes gripping beast motifs are slim, stylized, and usually tightly woven. The best example is the wooden Urnes stave church in Norway.

Urnes photos are from Wikipedia.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Kittens Reenact Halloween Horror Movies

Don't be afraid! It's only a Halloween horror movie starring kittens. Bahahaha!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Pumpkin Carving at NASA

Every year, workers at NASA have a pumpkin carving contest.  The results are out of this world.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Nomad Horse Games

Forget the prancing horses in the Olympics, let's watch real nomad horse games.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Ultima Thule School of Vikingr Voltes and Kung Fu Mezairs

Xenophon’s Dream from Seriouspony on Vimeo.
Icelandics at play as coached by Steinar and Kathy Sierra. Move over Spanish Riding School--this is what haute ecole would look like if the horses designed the curriculum. My suggested name for this curriculum is the Ultima Thule School of Vikingr Voltes and Kung Fu Mezairs translated as the Icelandic School of Bad Ass Circles and Kung Fu Leaps.  Kathy could call her troupe the Second City Ponies.

Ultimate Thule is the ancient Greek name for Iceland. Xenophon, who wrote On Horsemanship in Greece circa 350 BC, had this to say about training horses:

"What we need is that the horse should of his own
accord exhibit his finest airs and paces at set signals. Supposing,
when he is in the riding-field, you push him to a gallop until he is
bathed in sweat, and when he begins to prance and show his airs to fine
effect, you promptly dismount and take off the bit, you may rely upon
it he will of his own accord another time break into the same
prancing action. Such are the horses on which gods and heroes ride,
as represented by the artist. The majesty of men themselves is best
discovered in the graceful handling of such animals. A horse so
prancing is indeed a thing of beauty, a wonder and a marvel; riveting
the gaze of all who see him, young alike and graybeards. They will never
turn their backs, I venture to predict, or weary of their gazing so long
as he continues to display his splendid action."

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Poor Blessi's Eye

Blessi really enjoys meeting the public and being an ambassador for the Icelandic breed.  He could
not go to the Washington State Fair this year because he got an irritated eye.  He was very sensitive about anybody touching his face.  He took his upper lip and made circles to push my arm away every time I approached with the eye salve--kind of like a queen motioning "Go away you peasant!"  The summer was very dry in the Pacific Northwest; the forest fire ash and the dust created a lot of particulates in the air.  The vet had to make a second visit but Blessi eventually recovered.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Icelandics at the Washington State Fair

The original sketch
Dreki, a Viking dragonship, "sailed" to the Washington State Fair in Puyallup from Iceland with a cargo of rare Icelandic horses September 1 to 13, 2017.  Come meet the steeds that Thor and Odin rode. Learn about their unique gaits--the tolt and the flying pace.

This was the project that I was managing in August and September. Lots of people contributed to the success of this exhibit.   I hope you were able to come to the Breed Showcase. Only 6 breeds--Curly, Arab, Friesian, Paint, Icelandic, and Appaloosa-- were invited to attend so we are really excited that the million visitors to the Fair have the opp
ortunity to meet our fabulous breed. (There will be no ridden demos this year.)

And we really built a Viking ship as a demo booth!!!!There was Dreki the dragon prow in front of a sail and each horse stall was decorated as part of the ship with viking shields.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Geologists Can Rap

Who knew geologists can rap?  I love the hammer drop at the end.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Renaissance notation knives

Renaissance notation knives had music inscribed on the blades. Each blade had the music for one voice as part of a chorus who would sing the benediction or grace at a meal. If you listen to the video at the end of the article, you will hear some lovely music.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

2015 WorldFengur Report

Here are some highlights (in my humble opinion):

In March 2016, WorldFengur, the Icelandic horse world registry, published a report on major trends in the registration of these horses.

Subscriptions to WF, currently 19,060 are up by 5% in one year. Over the past three years, the greatest number of users is in Germany 5,173 or 27% followed by Iceland at 4,028, Sweden 3,617, Denmark 2,639. Members are up by 11% in Germany and Sweden and down by 40% in Norway. (US is not mentioned.)

If you are a WF subscriber, you can purchase a service to view videos from Lansmot this year. WF is also adding videos from previous Lansmots that you can view for a fee.

Different countries now have different criteria for approval of stallions for breeding purposes. Iceland allows breeders to choose any stallion they want. Other countries have different criteria. WF continues to discuss if there should be standardization in this area.

There are 142 registered Icelandic horses in New Zealand.

“Should Icelandic horses always carry Iceland names? There are various takes on this topic: some studbook associations allow only Icelandic names, others are more liberal provided the name chosen is not offensive. In general, most horses get Icelandic names. At a WF meeting in Malmö in 2013, WF registrars discussed this topic and the outcome was that based on legal grounds, it is not possible to set stricter rules to the use of Icelandic horse names only, since this would infringe on the breeders´ freedom of choice.” P. 6 Personal comment: I sometimes get kidded about misspelling Blessi’s name (his barn name to me is short for Blessing). When I did a search in WF, I found about 17 or so mares named Pamela and 1 mare in Iceland named Pamela Anderson.  FEIF recently ruled that Icelandic horses should carry Icelandic names.

The number of foals born and assessed on a world-wide basis continues to drop steadily over the past 8 years. In 2008, 16,454 foals were born and 3,119 registered. In 2015 those numbers were 8,164 and 2,155 respectively.

In 2015, 1360 were exported from Iceland, compared with 1,269 in 2014. Export numbers: Germany—529, Sweden – 219, Denmark 165,US – 39.

The full report is no longer available online.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Putting the Octopus to Bed--Writing as Spawning

My perceived need to write perfection is like
an octopus  trapping me in the edit process.
(1801 Drawing by Pierre de Montfort: Wikipedia)
Octopus can be cute and awesome and inspiring but not when they prevent you from writing.  You
might be interested in checking out my new essay "Putting the Octopus to Bed--Writing as Spawning."   Click on the almost invisible link below:

Monday, October 16, 2017

1896 Irish Parliament Hearings about Icelandic Horses

In 1896, the Irish Parliament conducted hearings on the state of horse breeding in the country. At that time, the view of Icelandic "ponies" was not very favorable.   Mr. J. F. Bomford testified about the ponies who came over from Iceland as ballast to Dublin and Belfast as not being worth very much.

One witness stated, "What do you think of them ?—I think they are the most wretched animals you could imagine of the equine race." Another witness said, "I think a strong or rougher Shetland or Iceland pony would suit the people" in rough, boggy parts of Ireland as opposed to a more delicate Hackney pony. 

The Irish speakers didn't like American horses either.  As one speaker noted,  "I have seen some American horses and they were all very bad; they were so bad and so ill-formed that I do not understand why anyone wanted a brand to distinguish them." Although he had seen some good Canadian horses.

If you read the "Minutes of evidence taken before the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the horse breeding industry in Ireland," you will find that the speaker's point of view is heavily influenced by the intended use of the horse. One speaker was concerned about breeding hunters; another, cart horses on rough roads.

The photo above, from Hayes' The Points of the Horse in 1893, shows what was regarded as a "typical" Icelandic foal (shown at top of page) vs. Shetland pony.;view=1up;seq=445

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Life is Like Photographing Dragonflies

I have decided that life is like trying to photograph dragonflies. You just need to take the chance and point the camera---the dragonflies will fly into the frame. Of course if you learn about f-stops, apertures, and shutter speed, your photographs of the dragonflies may be sharper.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Icelandics and Interpretive Dance

What could be better than an Icelandic horse participating in an interpretive dance? Note the rider is using a neckring and riding bareback. Minutes 10:00 to 12:00 and the ending are especially affecting. Idunn the fiery chestnut knows she deserves that ovation.

Here is a translation from the Danish:
"Join us on a journey
Into the border between the divided and united,
Nature and culture, vulnerability and power.
This is the free land of motion,
Where body, sound and life meet, divide and show way.
Notice the chaos and individuality that makes
That harmony and cohesion can exist

Improvised multi-performance, inspired by the song
"If I disappear" by Freja Møller Kristiansen
Dance: Katja Døi Jensen and Mikael Hedegaard
Riding: Katrine Buur and Idunn fra Midgaard"

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

History of Judging Spirit of Icelandic Horse

f you look at the history of the Icelandic horse breeding evaluations, there has always been a lot of
discussion about how to judge spirit. In the 1980's the horses were judged on both willingness and disposition--two separate scores. And the weighting of what is now "spirit" has changed over the years also. At one point, it was weighted at around 17% and today at 9% .

The original designers of the breeding evals were specifically not looking to reward fear. Per Marit Jonson 1988 Judging Icelandic Breeding Horses: She quotes from a pre-1988 breeding standard:

"Willingness and self-propulsion is the most important quality in an Icelandic riding horse and is the foundation for all other riding qualities. Irrespective of an excellent predisposition for all the gaits, a horse will never achieve top notes unless it has the prerequisite willingness. The horse must push ahead willingly in all gaits, always a little bit faster than the tempo indicated by the rider, so that it is always pushing a little at the bit. The willingness will also show itself by the fact that the horse will go ahead without sticking to other horses, and that it will continue even when tired. The willingness may well approach the uncontrollable as long as it does not exceed this limit."

She writes:

"This untamed will, this reservoir of power, which must not be confused with fear or nervousness [I added the bold], is what makes our small horses appear so big. If you have ever tried to cross an Icelandic desert on a tired horse, you will appreciate the enormous value of this strange gift."

She goes on to note that horses in Iceland are more "willing" than those bred in Europe. To score a 10 the horses should be "'Live volcanoes' with a large power reserve and indefatigable energy."
Disposition is defined as "It is obviously important for a horse to have a good character, to have the ability to learn, to be cheerful and courageous, docile and cooperative. The disposition is so critical that the value of its will to run is wholly dependent on the character of the horse. We do not, after all, want surly, nervous or stupid 'live volcanoes'".

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Finding Mjǫllnir, the Hammer of the Gods

While shopping at Goodwill, I found a wide camp bed. The cashier asked me about the cot and I mentioned Society for Creative Anachronism events. The cashier said he did Norse events and was looking for a new shield.   Somehow the topic came up about how we were building a dragonship for the WA State Fair for our Icelandic horses and I was looking for Viking arms for kids to wear for photo ops. 

The cashier said, "Wait right here. There's some treasure you need to see."   He got a manager to cover for him and ran off.  He came back a few minutes later with a double headed ax, two Viking helmets, and Mjǫllnir, Thor's hammer. When I asked his name to thank him, he said Thor. I was taken aback but I checked his name tag which did indeed say Thor. So when kids ask us where we got the hammer, we can truthfully say that Thor gave it to us.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Harvey the Hawk Finds a Taxi During Huricane Irma

Among all the stress and suffering due to the hurricane in Texas, here is a great story of neighborly behavior. Houston resident William Bruso was startled when a Coopers hawk flew into his taxi and decided to stay despite Bruso trying to shoo the bird away. Bruso drove the hawk to his house but the seemingly healthy hawk refused to leave the car. Bruso eventually picked up the hawk, nicknamed Harvey the Hurricane Hawk, and took it inside his apartment. Harvey spent the rest of the storm watching TV and eating chicken hearts with the guys who were having a beer or so.

Here's a link to a video of Harvey eating a chicken heart snack in front of the liquor cabinet.

The next day, the Texas Wildlife Rehab Coalition picked up the bird for evaluation.

Bruso posted a series of videos of Harvey through the storm.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Can a Mule Look Wistful?

Can a mule look wistful? Here is Jake the mule wondering why Blessi gets to graze that one lush patch of clover and grass by the watering hose. Look at how relaxed Jake is in his new home. His lower lip extends beyond his upper lip by at least an inch.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

My New Blog "Writing to A Muse"

I have started a new blog. No it is not about Blessi--although he is often my muse. It is about writing and writing about Blessi.--after all Pegasus is the horse of the muses.  My articles are now being published by such periodicals as Equus magazine.

 I am still working on site development but I thought you might enjoy my first essay on "The Whys of Becoming a Writer."

Monday, October 2, 2017

Blessi Reads Sitting Pretty

Blessi got to read his article "Sitting Pretty" in the September Equus magazine. It was hard to get a good picture because Blessi assumed there was a way to earn a peanut by interacting with the magazine. He sniffed it, flipped pages, slimed it, and even grabbed it out of my hand at one point and shook it. I think he liked it. The opinion of Mittens the cat is unknown.

If you are interested in more of my humorous stories about Blessi, here is a link to my other blog that lists my published stories.

And here's a link to my essay on how to start writing.  Enjoy!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Blessi saves the day in absentia

I went to the library today. Before selecting books, I decided to wash up after a visit with Blessi. As I was about to leave, a lady with a little girl about 5 and little boy about 2 came in. The mother was assisting her daughter as the little boy went to the door and started to have a meltdown in his desire to leave the room. In an attempt to help, I started talking to Jamie (with the mother's agreement)--playing peekaboo, askng him if he had any pets, did he like the library....Jamie went all shy and quiet. 

Finally in desperation to find something to talk about I asked "Do you want to see a picture of my pony?" Jamie was quite enchanted just to have an adult to stare at. The little girl finished so I said good bye to the family and the mother thanked me for helping. As I opened the door to leave, the little girl Mandy piped up as she was washing her hands "But I want to see the pony pictures." 

Luckily today's theme at the stable was Blessi and the farm animals so there were lots of cute pictures to share. Here is Blessi with one of the goats. Note Blessi likes goats, the goat is shy around horses, and the nearest horse is sure the goat is going to eat him.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Icelandic Horses on the Shetland Islands

The Shetland Arts Community Film Making Project made this short glimpse into today's Icelandic horse community on the Shetland Islands.  As Bjorn Larson concludes, "I think they are special and everybody should go try an Icelandic." 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Icelandic Horse Portraits by Bragi Ingibergsson

Just to brighten everybody's day, here are some gorgeous photos of Icelandics in their native country--truly soulful portraits by Bragi J Ingibergsson.  Trust me, it's worth clicking on the link.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Blessi had a vet appointment--shots and teeth floating-- so he was given a tranquilizer. The visit was
conducted in his run-out shed which is open to a large paddock with grass. When the vet left, I put a mounting block in the doorway, sat on it, and started to read a book as I waited for Blessi to recover from the tranquilizer. You don't want the horse to have any food available at that time since he could choke while eating.

So Blessi recovered enough to decide he wanted to go outside to eat grass. Horses could communicate this intent in many ways--pushing their way past me, head butting me, waiting patiently by the door in front of me. 

Blessi is a civilized but cunning pony. He quietly stood in front of me and stared at the book pages from about 2 inches. Then he tried to gently turn the pages of the book. He attempted to close the book. This went on for two or three minutes. In other words, he was exhibiting just enough low level annoying behavior to get me to stop reading and let him out for grass. It worked. I figured if he had enough control of his lips to turn library book pages without tearing them then he was recovered enough to eat grass.

Now who was controlling whom?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Homage to Franz Marc the Impressionist

Found this sketch of mine on a random search on Google. I'm trying to figure out how a student exercise got posted. And why the horses are blue. Somehow it all made sense at the time.

Now, I remember where the idea for the blue horses came from---Franz Marc the impressionist painter. I went off to review his work and I have to say my sketch is a homage to Marc. This is probably why I threw out my original --- it was a student copy of parts of a masters work.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

How Big Is a Horse's Brain?

Here's a trivia question from the August edition of Equus magazine. "Which produce item is closer to the size of the average equine brain?
a. kiwi
b. large baking potato
c. grapefruit
d. small cantaloupe"

Scroll down for answer.


Saturday, September 23, 2017

Lonely Little Pony in Welsh

What if the horses in the Lonely Little Pony advert spoke with Welsh accents?  Wonder no more.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Cat, the Burglar, and I

For those of you following my blog on writing, I just posted another essay on what are "Literary
Points of View--the cat, the burglar, and I." I wrote this story when I was auditing a creative writing course. The assignment was to read the textbooks and summarize what we learned. Hey, I was auditing--no grade worries for me. However, it is interesting how student commitment to learning plus removing the pressure to get a grade can equal a much better product. I think. Anyway, you can be the grader of this essay.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Prance Armstrong The Pony in the 2017 Tour de Polagne

A pony decided to join a cycling race in the 2017 Tour de Polagne. The plucky pony was a real Prance Armstrong.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

My Article on Icelandic Horse Origins Cited by Wild Equids Book

I did some more research. My article "Detecting the Origin of Icelandic Horses" is also referenced in "The Roles of Humans in Horse Distribution" by Sandra Olsen, pp. 105-120, in the book Wild Equids: Ecology, Management, and Conservation edited by Jason I. Ransom, Petra Kaczensky, John Hopkins University Press, May 15, 2016

Monday, September 18, 2017

Musings After Blessi's Dental Float

While waiting for Blessi to recover from his sedation for a dental float, I was stuck in Blessi's run out shed with only my phone for entertainment. It is a new phone and I haven't downloaded any aps or games. I tried calling people but no one was available for a conversation. My next few posts have to do with random thoughts while I was waiting for Blessi to sober up and the resulting photos of drunk Blessi to accompany them.

All that set up for my first thought. "It's crazy how much mane an Icelandic has."