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.