Saturday, October 13, 2018

Historic Icelandic Church Attire 1840

Here's what Icelandic men and women wore while riding to church around 1840. The women, in riding chairs, wear faldbúningur, a style worn from the 1600s to mid 1800s. The women are wearing two types of hat; the one with the curved top piece is unique to Iceland. The men wore pantaloons or breeches. Source is an engraving by Paul Gaimard, found on Wikipedia.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

If I Was a Horse--Sing to Icelandic Horses

Federico Borluzzi took time during his tour of Iceland to play a song to the local horses.  As you can see, they are a respectful but appreciative audience.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Icelandic Farmer Attire 1911

Here is what a working Icelandic farmer wore about 1911. The farmer is bringing in hay from the fields. The photograph, called the Hay Train, is from Cornell University, Frederick Howell Collection.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Icelandic Riding Habit circa 1908

Got into another discussion about traditional Icelandic riding attire. Here is a watercolor of what the well dressed Icelandic woman would have worn around 1908. Photo is from Mrs. Disney Leith's book Iceland.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Lyngshest Horse Herding Sheep

This is a Lyngshest horse from Norway, a close relation to the Icelandic. Here Peter, Neisti, and Tinka the border collie are herding sheep in the mountains of Norway. Tinka works independently at such far distances. And I swear by Neisti's ears that horse is looking for sheep also. On steeper parts of the trail, I had my eyes closed.

I wonder what types of obstacles this would require in a Working Equitation class and how the longer legged horses would do. ;-) Check out the trail maps at the beginning of the video showing the rough, steep, terrain that had to be negotiated.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Hancock's 50 Facts on Icelandic Sheep

Icelandic sheep  Photo: Wikipedia
I keep finding some absolutely fascinating, almost crazy, information about Iceland, its horses, and other inhabitants. Edward Hancock has the same disease, er interest. He published his research on Icelandic sheep on his Blog Iceland Defrosted. Here are some of the 50 facts he discovered.

"#1. Sheep have a lot of very important business in the middle of roads. You will often see them having meetings. @CatTheobald

#2. Icelandic sheep have radars in their horns so they know exactly when to run in front of your car.

#14. Icelandic Sheep favour Twitter over Facebook, due to the confusion around facial recognition.

#15. Icelandic sheep have lead sheep called forystufe, who can operate GPS, and know the farmers phone number by heart.

#46. When transported out of Iceland, Icelandic sheep retain their accents. "

You can check out his web site for the rest of his crazy facts about Icelandic sheep

Monday, October 1, 2018

Horses of St Marks Basilica in Venice

One last post about Roman chariot racing....the horses of St. Marks Basilica in Venice (the originals are now inside the church) represent a Quadriga, or 4-horse team, used in Roman victory parades or chariot racing. These gorgeous sculptures are copper, not bronze and were probably made in the Roman Empire circa second or third century AD. Enjoy the video showing the beauty of these golden horses and the miraculous story of their survival as they were moved around Europe and Asia by conquest and war.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Training the Horses for the Ben Hur Chariot Scene

The end of the theater showing of the 1959 version of Ben Hur featured a piece on the training of the horses in the movie. Charlton Heston learned how to drive a 4-horse chariot team quickly because e learned how to drive a two-horse team for the film The Ten Commandments.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Chariot Racing Scene from Ben Hur

Here is the famous chariot racing scene from the 1959 version of Ben Hur. Both Charlton Heston and Stephen Boyd drove their own teams with very little stunt double substitution. The horses were Andalusians and Lipizzans. Contrary to urban myth, no horses or stuntmen died during the filming although Heston and Boyd accidentally drove the teams through a $100,000 camera. The filming of 1925 silent version of Ben Hur was responsible for multiple horse deaths.

The arena was based on a plan of a Roman circus in Jerusalem. Cost to build the set was $1 million; cost to film the scene was another million. This scene alone accounted for about 14 % of total film budget.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Hobby Horse as Roman Chariot Horse

The latest remake of Ben Hur premiered last year. Who can forget the chariot racing scene from the 1959 version starring Charlton Heston? And how is Pamela going to relate Ben Hur to Icelandic horses?

Dr. Deb Bennett wrote an article in Equus magazine identifying the most historically important horse breed ever as the Hobby Horse. To briefly summarize...around 1500 to 1000 BC, Phoenician traders were taking horses with the gaited gene to trade for tin in what is now Great Britain. These gaited stallions were crossed with native ponies who had the speed gene to form the foundation for what became the Hobby Horse (in appearance think Icelandic or Kerry Bog). (Certainly the Norse would have taken some hobby horses from Northern England and Scotland to Iceland to contribute to the foundation of the Icelandic horse.)

Speed plus gait was an extremely desirable combination so the Romans (circa 43 AD to 410 AD) took hobby horses back to Italy for chariot races. Horses for chariot racing were bred from stock primarily from what is now Spain, Libya (northern Africa), and other areas. The training of Roman chariot racing started at age 5 and successful horses were know to race into their 20s.

As you can see by the Roman mosaics, chariot racing horses were much smaller than the horses we see in the movies. Some mosaics even depicted portraits of individual horses and their names. You can easily compare the more compact shapes of the hobby horses types versus the lighter boned horses from Spain and Africa.

So to be more historically accurate from an appearance point, some of the charioteers in Ben
Hur movies should be driving Icelandics representing the Hobby horse; and some, shorter Andalusians. Wouldn't that be a race to see?

Sunday, September 23, 2018

My "Breeding" Farm Tolting Treasures

You guys may not know that I started my own "breeding farm" Tolting Treasures a few years ago.
The farm produces one or two quality, "registered" foals per year which are donated for auction by local equine organizations. I have found this is a great way to have all the fun of breeding and naming Icelandic foals without having to know anything about lineages, horse conformation, gaits, etc.

I have even "bred" a replacement for Blessi. The photo of Blessi with the electric blue hair extension is from when I was experimenting to see where I could put the hair extension to discover if the farrier would notice (hence Blessi's googly eyes). I ended up putting the extension in Blessi's tail and the farrier never noticed until I pointed it out.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Tonka Walking Assistant Mini

Wow! It is amazing what horses can learn to do. This miniature horse Tonka helps his owner with balance. He had to learn how to ride elevators, get into and out of cars, enter and exit crowded
trams. In addition, he picks up car keys for his owner, positions himself to help her get up from a chair, and remains with her if she falls.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Horse in Norse Life

The Viking Heritage Magazine published an excellent overview of the horse in Norse life including horses sources, tack, burial customs, etc. Additional articles cover Norse musical instruments, tillers, rune stones, and much more. Illustrations are gorgeous.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Horses Using Symbols

Blessi in his custom made camel hair coat
Researchers in Norway trained horses (including one Icelandic) to indicate their preferences as to before the experiment).
having their blankets on or off by touching a symbol. All the horses learned the task in just a few days. Researchers tested understanding by comparing preferences to daily temperatures, putting on extra heavy blanket, checking degree of sweat. Warmbloods learned the task faster than coldbloods (but researchers noted some warmbloods had been exposed to positive reinforcement

"Positive reinforcement training has been shown to increase horses’ general interest in humans (Sankey et al., 2010) and their motivation to participate in training (Innes and McBride, 2008). Actually, such a change in behaviour was observed among our horses. When horses realized that they were able to communicate with the trainers, i.e. to signal their wishes regarding blanketing, many became very eager in the training or testing situation. Some even tried to attract the attention of the trainers prior to the test situation, by vocalizing and running towards the trainers, and follow their movements. On a number of such occasions the horses were taken out and allowed to make a choice before its regular turn, and signalled that they wanted the blanket to be removed. It turned out that the horses were sweaty underneath the blanket."

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Kids Fashion Shoot in Iceland

Cute kids, cute clothes, cute horses!  Here's a behind the scenes look at the fashion shoot the Canadian company Deux-par-Deux conducted in Iceland for its line of clothing.  And I always knew Icelandic horses were unicorns.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Teaching Camels to Play Soccer

What happens when you teach camels to play soccer? Everybody has a good time. Although one young camel has found a unique way to dominate the ball. Video from Safari in Bellingham, WA.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Playing Polo on Camels

Polo is the sport of kings, with a rich history going back 1000s of years. Today's top level polo horses are graceful, quick, dashing, energetic partners to their top notch, athletic riders. My friend Christine commented that Icelandics don't look much like the long legged, short backed, successful polo ponies--which is true. However I did find a version of polo played with short legged, hairy mounts that may be suitable for Icelandics.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Highlights from a Polo Match

Here are some of the action highlights from 2012 IPC Professional Polo Competition.

Friday, September 7, 2018

The Pony that Turned the Water on

A few weeks back, Blessi and I returned from a clinic. I took him to the wash stall to hose down his legs. I almost always offer him a drink direct from the hose. That day I was running a little behind schedule so didn't let him have a drink since he was going back to his paddock with a big tub of water.

It was a relatively hot day and Blessi must have been thirsty. After I shut off the water, he reached over to the taps and twisted one to turn the water back on (there was no shut off at the end of the hose). Now he must have been observing how this works for months because he turned the tap in the correct direction to start the water flowing. If you turn that particular tap too far in the open direction the tap itself falls off. So Blessi got his drink of water.

Blessi's actions remind me of an Icelandic horse story collected by Shirley Hibbard in her 1868 book Clever Dog, Horses, Etc. with Anecdotes of Other Animals. Under the section title I borrowed for the name of my posting, she quoted the following paragraph from The Scotmans newspaper article "Extraordinary case of equine sagacity".

"An almost unparalleled circumstance was noted at Muirhall, near West Calder. During the great heat that prevailed on a recent day, an Icelandic pony, the property of Mr. John Waddell, contractor, was for a time left to its own free will during the temporary absence of its driver. The pony, which had been driven for a considerable distance, and was seemingly actuated by a craving for water, was observed by the proprietor of Muirhall, and others who chanced to be in the vicinity, to deliberately walk a distance of fully fifty yards, and with its teeth turn the cock of a water-pipe projecting out of the road embankment, supply itself with a draught of the refreshing beverage, readjust the cock, and return to the position in which it was left."

Now Muirhall and West Calder at that time were noted for the quality of its breweries and distilleries, which may account for the absence of the Icelandic horse owner and, possibly, the trustworthiness of the witnesses. However, I was able to verify that The Scotsman published said article because I could see the title in an archives search of 19th century Scottish newspapers. Since I am not a citizen of Scotland, I could not view the individual pages of the newspaper to validate the actual quote. Interestingly, The Scotsman of that year published a newspaper article almost monthly about a new shipment of ponies direct from Iceland. Many Icelandics were purchased for use in the coal mines of that period. The book The Icelandic Horse by Arnarorsson, Sigurthardottir, and Guthlaugsson reports that 107,000 Icelandic horses were exported to Britain from 1850 to 1949.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Learning Polo from Nacho Figueras

Some friends have ridden my Icelandic horse Blessi and fooled around with a polo mallet. I was interested learning more about the sport. What a wonderful way to learn by watching Ignacio "Nacho" Figueras from Argentina explain the game. Ignacio was rated the second most handsome man in the world several years ago---behind Robert Pattinson but ahead of Brad Pitt. Oh, he rides a horse beautifully also.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Get One of World's Most Handsome Men to Promote Icelandic HorseIC HORSE BREED

This all started with Conan O’Brien. Put Conan next to a horse and instant hilarity results. Previous Conan videos feature him dressed as Fabio riding Martha Stewart’s Friesian and starting a race at the Santa Anita track by calling “It’s a pony party.” So when I found a video of Senor F. (reason for alias will shortly become apparent) teaching Conan to play polo, I thought I had won a Trifecta which I could share with my Facebook friends.

At one point in the video, Senor F. asks Conan if he would like to wear a safety helmet. To me the polo helmet has an attractive masculine vibe. It looks like a pith helmet and a football helmet mated while everybody was distracted by the running of the Kentucky Derby. Conan has a different view, “I want to look cool. That is more important than safety.” Upon seeing himself in the polo helmet, he swore “I would rather be killed.” OK, I admit I laughed out loud at his dead pan delivery--as I did multiple times during this video. But research shows that falling off a horse without a helmet is equivalent in force to being hit by a car. If you wear a helmet during a fall, you are five times less likely to have a traumatic brain injury.

I decided not to share that video but I thought all my Facebook friends deserved the opportunity to admire Senor F., whose appearance, frankly, took my breath away. And his equitation skills are world class. Since some of my friends have played around with my Goodwill, bargain polo mallets and my Icelandic horse Blessi, I decided to share that anecdote with a video of Senor F. explaining how to play polo. He promotes polo as a sport that riders can enjoy at multiple levels of expertise. Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States from 1901 to 1909, agreed, “Polo is a good game, infinitely better for vigorous men than football or golf.” Theodore wrote multiple letters discussing the bitting and conditioning of his polo pony named, believe it or not, Pickles.

Truly it is not part of my public persona to burble, rhapsodize, or rave over the appearance of actors, models, and athletes. OK, that is a lie. I do gush and swoon in my own thoughts. And my girlfriends and I may choose to discuss over glasses of wine the aesthetics of male physiognomy in the film we just viewed. Fortuitously I chose to describe Senor F. as follows: Per a Vanity Fair poll, “X was rated the second most handsome man in the world several years ago---behind Robert Pattinson but ahead of Brad Pitt. Oh, he rides a horse beautifully also.” OK, I gushed via proxy.

So I posted on Facebook and shut down the computer for the night. When I checked Facebook the next morning, Senior F. had not only liked my posting but, much to my surprise, shared it on his Facebook page along with other postings about his family and personal accomplishments. (Senor F. seems like a very nice guy who just happens to be drop dead gorgeous.) And to my utter amazement, his fans shared my posting 14 times--modest exposure for the Icelandic breed in Facebook terms but huge in my personal Facebook attempts.

Face it Blessi, I am not certain that many readers noticed your cute photo or even your breed while
distracted by the sight of Senor F. To me you have the coloring of Robert Redford during his younger years, the poise of Cary Grant, the athletic ability of Tom Cruise, the humor of John Cleese, and the rugged good looks of Harrison Ford. If I only had the riding ability of Senor F, we could make beautiful, classic, MGM dancing movies together. As it is, I limit us to screwball comedies. So I will continue to gush frequently and in public over you.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Conan Learns to Play Polo

Conan learns to play polo from one of the top players in the world, Nacho Figueras.  The video is hysterically funny but I don't support the not wearing helmets because it makes me look stupid remark.  Anyway, this video is the start of a series of posts of "How to inadvertently get one of the world's most handsome men to do promotion for the Icelandic horse."

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Icelandic Andalusian Cross

I don't support crossing Icelandics with other breeds.  But I am always curious as to what the cross would look like.  Here is Sugar, who is a 14.0 hand rose gray cross between an Icelandic and an Andalusian.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Great Way to Train Icelandics to Trailer Load

Most Icelandics are very food oriented.  I love the way this horse trainer uses clicker training and positive reinforcement to teach Normann the Icelandic to trailer load.  The trainer also chunks down the action--approach trailer, stand by trailer calmly, put one foot on trailer, etc.--before attempting the next step.  And the horse is a willing participant. 

There are three videos posted about this process--all very informative.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

A Newfoundland Dances in Canine Freestyle

Here is Marina Novoselova and FUNNYUF from Russia competing in the 2016 Dog Dance World Championships. One never thinks of Newfoundlands as a breed for canine freestyle. This just goes to show you we shouldn't limit our selection by breed but by an understanding of what an individual animal enjoys and the training methods to help keep its interest and joy. Love it !

Friday, August 24, 2018

Innovative Behavior by Mules

Dr. Kruger and her team are studying innovative behavior among equines. Here is a great example!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Dr. Andersson's Work on DMRT3 Gait Gene

Here is an absolutely fascinating video about Dr. Leif Andersson, Uppsala University, and his work on the DMRT3 gene which is determines if a horse exhibits lateral gaits such as tolt/rack and flying pace. This research was sponsored by the harness racing industry in Sweden to find out if genes influence why a trotter may be more likely to break into a canter and thus be disqualified from the race. The researchers quickly turned to study of the Icelandic horse for help with this research.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Effect of MSTN Speed Gene in Icelandic Horse

Recently scientists have discovered the relationship between speed and myostatin as it relates to the MSTN gene, the so-called speed gene. Myostatin is related to muscle mass development which influences speed and stamina. (I have read the article several times and admit this topic is beyond my comfort level so pardon my mistakes in summarizing this info.)

By studying thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses, researchers have found that:
- CC version relates to sprinting success at racing 5/8 to 1 mile
- CT is mid-distance speed at 7/8 to 1 1/2 miles
- TT is stamina at over 1 1/2 miles

Unsurprisingly, racing Quarter Horses tested out at almost all CC.

In this video, Dr Emmeline Hill discusses the origin of her research into the MSTN gene and thoroughbreds.

In the study Conformation Traits and Gaits in the Icelandic Horse are Associated with Genetic Variants in Myostatin, researchers found that 4% are CC, 28% are CT, and 65% are TT. The TT alleles tended to be related to higher scores in certain conformation ratings achieved at breeding evaluations.

"Not only do Icelandic horses have to meet the visual standards of
the breed, but they are also expected to be capable of sustaining speed with energetic movements all while carrying a rider (FEIF 2015). This balance between form and function is particularly important given the significant associations between the evaluation of the neck, withers, and shoulders and SNPs PR8604 and PR3737 in this study (Tables 4 and 5). Alleles T and C (PR8604 and PR3737, respectively) resulted in lower scores for this trait and subsequent haplotype analyses corroborated the associations. The frequency of the C allele for SNP PR3737 was very low in the sample set of this study and this allele was previously associated with higher Type 2B and lower Type 1 gluteus muscle fibre proportions. However, it has been shown to be more prevalent in sprinting type Thoroughbred horses and Italian Heavy Draft horses where fast twitching muscle fibres are needed for short bursts of energy."

No information was given if perhaps the CC version of the gene might have been more prevalent in flying pace racers.


Thursday, August 16, 2018

Blessi and Friends

Here are the Three Musketeers. The Fjord and Blessi know there can never be enough grazing, which is more fun to do as a herd.

Future of Horses in Europe

The European Horse Network has released a June 2018 study on the future horses in Europe in light of horses seemingly being excluded from European Commission's plans for subsidies and planning for agriculture and farms.  The EHN counter argues that equines play an important role in European agriculture even as the scarcity of open land grows.

"Although horses are the smallest group of farm animals, the breeding activity for the 7 million horses (86 million beef/veal animals)is the one with the least adverse impact on nature and presents many opportunites [sic] for rural employment."

The report talks about the benefits of mare milk as opposed to cow milk (8 times more vitamin C and more digestible).

"There is a real renaissance of the working horse in vineyards, for instance, in France. High quality estates such as Château Latour or Romanée Conti replace tractors by horses, with remarkable results: young vines growing in a vineyard worked only with horses start to fruit one or even two years earlier than those growing in soils compacted by tractors. The roots of the vines go deeper, the soil structure regenerates, the water balance is improved and the biodiversity of soil organisms is increased."

Huum seems to me like benefits go from yogurt to wine....

Here's a link to the report.


Saturday, August 11, 2018

My article "Blessi's mysterious nosebleed" in September 2018 Equus

My Icelandic horse Blessi really is my muse.  So far he has been mentioned in all three of my articles published by Equus magazine in the past year.  This month, "Blessi's mysterious nosebleed" is the EQ Case Report.  

"On the day before a holiday, a gelding's sudden nasal problem worries his owner as a veterinarian searches for the cause..."  

One day Blessi was discovered bleeding from both nostrils or exhibiting bilateral nasal epistaxis in medical terms.  Dr. Weeks, Blessi's vet from Gig Harbor, WA, became a medical Sherlock Holmes as he tried to make a diagnosis.  I learned lots of new words such as exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage, guttoral pouch mycosis, aspergillus....We learned from where the bleeding was originating but not the cause.  Luckily, the nose bleed stopped by itself after two days with no other consequences. 

I  noticed that the cross section drawing of the horse's nasal cavity used in the article looks like it was inspired by Blessi--flaxen chestnut, mealy nose, limited forelock that Blessi has in comparison to other Icelandics but luxurious mane, thicker neck, wide jowls, slightly raven (roman) nose which is also not a breed characteristic...hum looks familiar to me.   How many owners have individual, color portraits of their horses' nasal cavities? 

Please check out Equus magazine.  This month's featured articles: 
- Dr. Bennett's article "Working horses of the West" was enthralling--a wonderful combination of history, romance of the West, artwork, and education about conformation. 
- Plus a friend and I were just discussing how best to trailer our horses so "Prevent shipping fever" was very timely.  
- And the article on "Surprising findings about saddle design" was revelatory.  Finding saddles to fit Icelandics is always a challenge so any good info is welcome.   

You really should invest in a subscription.;-)

Friday, August 10, 2018

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Drunk Blessi

Last year, Blessi had his hocks injected. As I was leaving the house to go to the stable, I noticed that I was wearing my sneakers, not the safest barn attire. But did I go change? No. All I needed to do was lead Blessi from the paddock to the barn and back. After all, Blessi is very careful about my space and in 12 years he has stepped on my foot less than 5 times--usually because I put my foot right
where his foot is about to land.

The 15 minutes of leg scrubbing and 10 minutes of finding the injectable spaces between the hock bones went well--Blessi was an angel. After it was all over, I intended to take a folding chair to Blessi's run out shed to sit in the doorway and read until Blessi recovered from the anesthesia. So off we go. I am carrying a folding chair and my cell phone in one hand and leading a somewhat drunk, stumbling Blessi in the other. 

All is well until we get to the run out shed. Between managing cell phone, chair, door, and stepping over the riser, I stumbled. Blessi was right behind me and stumbled too. He tried not to step on me but clipped the side of my foot. Luckily I have bruising between my big and little toe but no damage. And the toes only hurt when I am wearing shoes. Limping around the stable in my riding boots these days is a constant reminder to always wear my boots to the barn

Monday, August 6, 2018

KaetiKvik Green Eyed Filly

My friend Kathy's mare had a little dark gray filly that I had the privilege to name. When I saw her, the baby KaetiKvik had light green eyes (they have since turned brown). So I looked up the genetics of green eyes and horses. Green eyes are among the rarest of eye colors in horses and are associated with the champagne and pearl dilution factors.

Here's a link to Johnny Cash singing about the
Tennessee stud that was "long and lean, the color of the sun and his eyes were green."

Saturday, August 4, 2018

New York Equus Film Festival

The New York Equus Film Festival is scheduled in the November time frame in New York City. If you are in the New York area.....

The following link goes to previews of last year's submissions. Films included exposes on Big Lick and slaughter of thoroughbred foals to previews of commercial films to horses from exotic locations to light humor. The ToltVibernation folk could have submitted The Cognitive Horse film. Beware you can spend hours watching these snippets just to see the beautiful horses.

Here's a link to the previous year's films.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

In the Realm of Legends with the Icelandic Horse

Drew Doggett crafted this equisite production of white Icelandic horses showcased against the blue and gray ice and shores of the Icelandic coast.  Magical! A must see!  I can't wait to see his entire production of "In the Realms of Legends."

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Blessi Intelligent Disobediance

Gotta love Mr. Blessi who thinks for himself so he can keep his rider safe. Karina was schooling him today to refresh his lateral work. As a lovey light, dressage trainer, she carried a crop, not to hit or tap, but to touch or motion towards his hindquarters to remind him that his hind legs can cross over and his butt keep even with his forequarters.  As a special treat at the end of the lesson, Karina got to play with my medieval lance and attempt to spear a pig (a chunk of styrofoam). 

You need to hold the lance in a certain way so you don't break your elbow when the weight of the stuck pig carries the lance backwards. This is usually hard for a newbie to grasp how to handle a 10 foot lance on horseback. Karina whacked Blessi in the butt multiple times learning this skill. He never even flinched or moved since he makes the distinction between crop handled by dressage instructor and lance in newbie's hands--even when it is the same person.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

No Wool, No Sails, No Viking

From the article: "Viking life must have been like this—frigid, wild days in an open boat, constantly watching the waves and clouds to avoid disaster. Wool was as much a part of that life as the sea and the ships. The Vikings were great sailors and fearsome warriors, but they couldn’t have left port without wool. It provided the raw material for their clothes, their blankets, even the sails that harnessed the wind for their ships." And women were key to the Viking explorations and raids. The ship could have been built by two skilled boat builders in weeks but two women worked for a year to make the sails.

"Researchers at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark, calculated that by the mid-11th century, the Viking fleet—fishing boats, coastal traders, cargo ships, and longships—carried roughly one million square meters of sail, requiring the equivalent of all the wool produced in one year by about two million sheep."
Fascinating article!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Beach Riding with Icelandics near Burra Scotland

Dorothy Sales of Houlls Horses and Hounds posted this amazing video of riding Icelandic horses along the Simmer Dim on the East Isle near Burra Scotland.  I think this is a ride that you can book via the UK Trip Advisor.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Riding Icelandics on the Beach in New Zealand

Ever want to ride Icelandic horses on the beach? Here's a twist--Inga Currey runs Icelandic horse treks near Christchurch, New Zealand. You can start watching the video at 15:10 minutes or you can start at the beginning and learn about farming and earth moving in rural New Zealand.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Ram Truck Commercial with Icelandic Horses

How cool!  Jeremiah, a farrier, has racked up over 500,000 miles on his Ram Truck.  But even cooler, at least to Icelandic horse aficionados, are the frequent appearances of Icelandic horses.  There is even footage of an Icelandic horse tolting.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Blessi and the Fountain of the Unicorn

I was invited to design a SCA Noblesse Oblige Tournament--think of a trail obstacle course that includes weapons. My chosen theme is The Hunt for the Unicorn Tapestries, now exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Each obstacle ties back--however loosely to one of the medieval tapestries.

One obstacle, based on the Fountain of the Unicorn, involves a tarp on which I painted silver ripples and a fountain that I made out of pompoms. The rider needs to cross the tarp and deposit a "commission from Anne of Burgundy" into the fountain. Since Blessi is not going to the tournament, I decided to test out this obstacle because if Blessi had problems with it I would need to do some redesign. Here is Blessi's first attempt at the fountain as ridden by Karina. The tarp still smells like spray paint and Karina need to pull on the reins to prevent Blessi from dismantling the fountain.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

mounted archery on a camel

Today my smart phone slipped into voice dictation mode so I decided to try it out. The phone typed "Blessi and I are going to mate a camel." No we are not going to play chess with a camel but we were going to meet the camel Eli who will be competing in mounted archery.   Unfortunately, we never got to meet Eli the Camel.  But here's a video of mounted archery on the camel Zachir  from Poland.

And since the phone transcription totally mutilated that infinitive, I have decided to stick with typing by hand.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Pudder Dudder the Hen

For my friends who like chickens, here's Pudder Dudder, the hen who thinks she's a dog.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Kimni from Tolting Treasures

Kathy offered me a trade---the honor of naming her youngest filly in exchange for one of my Tolting Treasure offspring to be auctioned off for the benefit of the club.

Meet Kimni from Tolting Treasures. This palomino filly with light amber eyes certainly lives up to her name of Humor. She tolts her way from emptying my tack box to pulling on Blessi's tail to chasing Chico the barn dog. Kimni will make you laugh with her antics. She is 5 gaited with a nice, high stepping tolt and animated trot. Kimni is weaned and introduced to a halter. She's coming to Kathy's stable next week. Just hide
any bright and shining things since she likes to go a vikring.

Materials: Teddy bear fur, leather, polyester stuffing, wool roving, vintage glass and rhinestone buttons (possibly 1920s from France) This toy is not for young children since roving is fragile and cannot be combed and removing an antique French button from a nose can be expensive.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Making a Maze to Show How a Creature Thinks

"We don't understand them," [Wendy Alexa] continued. "Try to make a maze that will show how this creature thinks. We don't even understand them enough to test them. Maybe mazes aren't the way to study them. Science can only say so much. I know they watched me. They followed me. But proving that intelligence is so difficult. There's nothing so peculiar as an octopus." 
Quoted by Sy Montgomery in The Soul of an Octopus.

Ha, I bet you thought I was talking about horses. And in a way, I was. Some of the surprising recent research that has recently come out about equine cognitive processing (using symbols to indicate choices on blanketing, using glances to try to get people to put treat bucket in paddock with horse, figuring out how to open a box with hay by observing another horse) is the result of scientists building tests based on better understanding of how a horse thinks and communicates.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

What is a brave horse

What is a brave horse? Some very interesting research showing that a horse that seems calm and nonreactive when faced with a startling situation may be scared but trusts his rider. Conversely, a horse that reacts may not be scared as evidenced by a low heart rate.

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Black Horse Logo of Lloyds Bank

I am being conditioned to tear up every time I see the black horse logo of Lloyds Bank. Check my previous post for how the horses were trained for the amazing ad.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Training Horses for the Lloyds Bank advert

Here's the behind the scene's look at how the trainers worked with the black horses to film the follow up ad for Lloyds Bank in Britain. There's some really good insight for how to humanely train horses, including use of special shoes for galloping on hard surfaces.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Black Horse of Lloyds Bank

Llyods Bank in Britain has created a touchingly awesome about how their logo of a black horse is transmuted into a real horse to accompany and support people at major moments of their life through the 250 years of the bank's history. At what second did you tear up?

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Horse of Iceland by Guadalupe Laiz

Guadalupe Laiz has opened a major exhibit of her photographs of Icelandic horses.  She admires their majestic presence and endearing personalities.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Norse Jewelry from Raymond Quiet

Raymond Quiet is an artist specializing in making historically accurate reproductions Norse, Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, etc. jewelry and armor pieces. His work is exquisite. I own several pieces--turtle brooches, needle case. Plus I have Rus buckles to make another bridle. Kathy and I met him at Viking Days in Ballard. So if you are interested, here is the link.

To the right is a photo of Raymond's Viking horses on Turtle Brooches used on a Norse apron.  The horse projections were used to attach ribbons.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Viking Cats

Blessi and his honorary Viking
cat Mittens
Did you know that there were Viking cats? As per a study reported in Scientific America, researchers
examined the mtDNA of 200 cats dating from 15,000 to 300 years ago.

Cats were associated with humans from the beginning of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent, probably helping to control the rat and mice populations. One wave of cats came out of this area; the other, from Egypt. "Thousands of years later, cats descended from those in Egypt spread rapidly around Eurasia and Africa. A mitochondrial lineage common in Egyptian cat mummies from the end of the fourth century B.C. to the fourth century A.D. was also carried by cats in Bulgaria, Turkey and sub-Saharan Africa from around the same time. Sea-faring people probably kept cats to keep rodents in check, says Geigl, whose team also found cat remains with this maternal DNA lineage at a Viking site dating to between the eighth and eleventh century A.D. in northern Germany."

As Pontus Skoglund, a geneticist at the Harvard Medical School, states, “I didn’t even know there were Viking cats.”

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Baldur Jumping Almost Three Feet

Here is a video of the tremendously cute, blue-eyed Baldur and his wonderful rider jumping 80 cm and then 90 cm (almost 3 feet) at a canter. Interestingly his jumps get bolder at the greater height.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Driving a Caravan Through Ireland

This is on my bucket list. Who wants to go to Ireland to drive a Gypsy Caravan across the country side for a week?

Friday, June 15, 2018

Saving the Faroe Pony

The Faroese pony, which averages from 11 to 12 hands, is native to its eponymous island of origin. Like the Icelandic, this breed can tolt, has abundant mane and tail and coat in winter, and is agile over rough terrain.  It was used to carry loads on farms and herd sheep.

 I remember reading in one source written around 1900 that compared the horse and pony breeds of Scotland, Ireland, Iceland, etc., that the Faroe pony was regarded as being smarter than the other breeds since, not only was it used to herd sheep, but it would trap sheep between its legs to move an individual.

In the 1880s, there were 800 such horses on the Island but the population was severely reduced due to exports to the coal mines for use as pit ponies and the changing needs of the farmers on the island.  By the 1960s, there were 5 or 6 known purebreds.  Today there 85 purebreds left because of a strong rescue effort to save the equine heritage of the island, as the above video explains. As of 2017, there are 307 registered Icelandics on the island.

You can view the subtitles to this video by clicking the closed caption button.
Source of most info is Wikipedia.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Crocheting an Icelandic Horse Keychain Holder

Here are cute directions for crocheting an Icelandic horse to use as a key chain. Skip to the last 10 seconds of the video to see how cute the results are. Don't worry subtitles are in English.
I wish I had paid more attention when my Grandmother taught me to crochet. I wish I had spent more time with my grandparents period.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Flooding Vs. Desensitizing Your Horse

Over the years, Blessi has taught me that helping a horse to overcome a scary situation can be done in two different ways. Systematic desensitization chunks down the situation and gradually introduces the scary item (Blessi prefers treats being involved) in stages acceptable to the horse. Flooding involves overwhelming the horse with the stimuli to until the horse shuts down and does what the human wants. Here's a great explanation of the two methods and why only one of them is Blessi-approved.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Development of Icelandic Horse Image Over the Years

Gréta Vilborg Guðmundsdóttir wrote her thesis "Product or Being? Development of the Image of the
Icelandic Horse" for her Masters of Design, The Department of Design and Architecture, Iceland Academy of the Arts. She examines the history of the image of the Icelandic horse and investigates how the breed is becoming almost synonymous with the image of a high-stepping tolting horse at the expense of the reliable, all terrain family horse.

Per Guðmundsdóttir, "Constructing this narrow image of the international competitive toelter horse creates the danger of losing the valuable abilities of the Icelandic horse that had developed over 1100 years. The main characteristics of the Icelandic horse that make it in demand are, among others, its frugality and friendliness, vigour and endurance. Considering its size it is unbelievably strong and compares well with other horse breeds."

She categorizes the photos of horses shown in 327 issues of Eiðfaxi magazine between 1978-2012 to find that in 2003 to 2006, photos of horses tolting comprised 70% of all horse photos. "At this time the expansion of the economy was greatest and money streamed into the field. There is a strong demand for stepping high and almost all the stallions are shown in the symbolic toelt stance." She notes this trend dropped during the following recession but re-occurred during 2011 to 2012.

Guðmundsdóttir also interviewed 10 professionals and people generally interested in the Icelandic horse breed in Iceland about their image of the Icelandic horse and how it has changed over the past 20 years. "But in the same way all share worries that great emphasis is placed on competitive characteristics and high-stepping. To get this high-stepping ability it is necessary that the horse has a certain character that the general rider cannot cope with. The high-stepping toelter horse therefore is not suitable for the average rider nor for the increasing number of foreign tourists who want to enjoy riding their own horse out in Iceland’s impressive  natural environment. The interviews also revealed that with the present breeding objectives we are losing those traits that best characterise the Icelandic horse, traits that do not turn only on gait and appearance."

Not everybody is going to agree with Guðmundsdóttir's conclusions but her research does present some interesting topics for discussion. And it is not often one reads about the Icelandic horse from the perspective about societal norms about beauty and how the economy can drive marketing images. Besides her final project of a life sized, transparent sculpture of an Icelandic horse is beauty indeed.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

SCA Arts and Sciences Day--Norse Bridle Reconstruction

I went to my first Arts and Sciences Day at SCA
Dragonslaire. The purpose is for people to get together to share and work on projects. As you can tell, I went way overboard on the sharing part by creating a posterboard presentation on my reconstruction of two bridles found in Norse ship burials--one in Sweden and one in Norway.
I think I went way overboard but it was a lot of fun to meet people and see all the wonderful projects on which they are working.
A special shout out to Countess Ilaria who provides inspiration and background knowledge on her web site about how to make period bridles. 

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Intrinzen--To the Moon

To the moon from Seriouspony on Vimeo.
Kathy Sierra and Steiner Sigurbjornsson are leading the Intrizen group to develop a new way of working with the horse to develop its pride, agility, and fitness through positive reinforcement and a sense of play. So instead of chasing the horse with a longe whip, what if you rewarded the horse for chasing a plastic bag and then shaped that behavior to high leg lift? Icelandics aren't known for their baroque movements or collected canter but you can see some of the results in this video. Five gaiters are developing the most amazing, springy trot and four gaiters are volunteering loose rein tolt. I really need to get serious on starting this program with Blessi.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Tall heights Horse to Water

"Leadin' me back from the darkness like you do
 Leading me back like a horse to water knowing I'd refuse
'Cause you're a wanderer too"

Douglas doVale published this beautiful song with its haunting words and and melody accompanies by the spectacular scenery of Iceland.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Viking Reenactment Humor

For all of you Vikings at heart, here is a tour of a reenactment encampment in Trondheim. Lots of great historical touches and some crazy humor. Are you sick and tired of having your ax stuck in the bodies of your enemies? Be sure and watch at minute 2:04 for Honest Ulf's solution.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Do Icelandic Horses Like Belly Dancying

Agnieszka & Fabiana perform their Shimmy By Fire dance to a herd of Icelandic horses  in Iceland.  As the dancers note, the horses don't look too impressed.  I wonder if they had performed facing the horses, rather than the camera, if the results would be different.

It is such a shame that the camera tipped over and their heads were not recorded.  The dance is brilliant.  Here's a link to a video of them dancing at Gunnhuver Hot Springs.  The cold does limit costuming choices.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Horses of Iceland Marketing Plan

Various stakeholders in Icelandic horse breeding, showing, and training in Icelandic have pulled together a marketing plan for the Icelandic horse. Not only has the group been producing some great videos, they have set up a website called "The Horses of Iceland" which provides a wonderful overview of the horse and its heritage.
"In Iceland, the horses are actually the only domesticated animal that is kept outdoors all year around still today, and if they have good land to graze on with natural shelter, they might not need any extra feeding at all and still be fat and healthy by spring. The Icelandic terrain is vast and rugged and the horses learn from early on how to move easily on the uneven ground, cope with mountains and crags, and crossing rivers. This makes the horses both couragous and powerful, and many continental riders find that horses raised in Iceland have something a bit special, due to their natural upbringing with minimum human interference. Courage, curiosity, self-reliance and calm – these are the shaping factors of nature."

You can go to this site to find out more about the branding of Icelandic horses and upcoming world wide events.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Regency Riding Habits

Here are examples of Regency riding habits. I especially like the plate that features the-tie-the-rider-to-the-saddle tack.  When looking at fashion plates of regency outfits, you can tell a riding habit from a general outdoors outfit because the model carries a riding crop even if she is not pictured with a horse.

One of my planned sewing projects is to make a Regency riding habit.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Horse Round Up at Laufskálarétt, Iceland

Some great aerial footage of the horse roundup in Laufskálarétt, Iceland. These aren't wild horses but horses that the local farmers turn loose in the highlands for summer grazing. Note some of the horses don't want to swirl around aimlessly--they want to go in one of the pens--perhaps to be with people they know?

Monday, May 21, 2018

Blessi and the Barn Decorations

Ever wonder why the photos of Blessi in the barn usually show him in the cross ties? When he stands so nicely for tacking up? This is why. Even on one cross tie, he managed to knock down this wall decoration when I turned my back for a second. I hurriedly restored to its original position. And if you notice, Blessi is on one cross tie. If he hadn't been, I would have been picking up all the items he dumped out of the tack box.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Horses Using Symbols to Communicate

Great summary of the recent research in Norway that taught horses to use symbols to communicate with their caretakers as to whether or not the horses wanted their blankets on or off.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Kulning or How to Sing Your Livestock Home

Jonna Jinton demonstrates the ancient Nordic skill of Kulning or how to sing your livestock back home in Sweden.
Here's a link exlaining Kulning.
And here's a video determining how well it works.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Tails of Iceland--Upcoming Documentary

For a thousand years, Icelanders have had a special bond with their horses.  ArtasAir is producing a  documentary "Tails of Iceland" about this relationship.  "It is about the culture and the connection, and there have been as many stories as there are thousands of years since these horses were brought to this fiercely unforgiving and magnificent island. Our goal is to capture some of the tales and a lot of the history, but more importantly, to illustrate how deep this unique kinship goes."  Expected is in early 2019.  I love the segment when a young horse puts its head through the fence to play with the reins of an older horse about to go on a trek. 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Horses Read Emotion from Photos

I have been showing Blessi the video of my grandniece MacKenzie playing her saxaphone.  Researchers showed horses a photo of a person who was happy or scowling.  Later the horses met those people in person.  Not only did the horses recognize the person from her photo but they showed signs of stress if the photo showed the person as angry.

So Blessi will recognize Kenzie but what will he think about her saxophone playing?

Here's a link to a great study. 
Beware the long face: horses remember your mood