Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Human Face as Canvas

Imagine a world in which your face becomes a canvas for you to paint without limits--a living rose, waterfalls from your eyes, a lava creature.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Argentia Polo Riding Boots

I have a terrible time finding tall riding boots that fit.  My calf is short and wide but my arch is tall.  Well I found my favorite pair ever in a vintage store---Argentina Polo Boots.   Adjustable Velcro along the calf ensure the fit is comfortable.

At first there was some pressure on my ankle bones.  I looked up how to break in mounted police boots and learned how to bend and fold the boots to help the boots break at the proper place at the ankle.  Plus I started using some of Blessi's self wrap elastic to cover the ankle bones.  They now
fit like a dream.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Power of the Candy Wrapper

I am absolutely amazed how much attention horses give to the crinkle of peppermint wrappers. As I was grooming Blessi, somebody walked by and unwrapped some celophane candy. Here is the resulting picture--such a proud head set. Normally I don't put Blessi in the cross ties when grooming but there was a lot of activity at the barn. Lot's of activity means many unprotected tack boxes. So better the crossties than 20 minutes helping to pick up scattered brushes, hoof picks, etc, or worse getting into a tug of war battle in the middle of the aisle over a bag of treats.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Power of the Sugar Lump

Theodore Roosevelt understood that feeding a well timed treat could help the horse adapt to novel situations. His young horse Renown was extremely frightened of automobiles encountered during rides in Washington DC. On one ride the young horse behaved better than expected upon meeting a large red automobile. “In fact,” as Roosevelt explained, “he behaved so well that I leaned over and gave him a lump of sugar when he had passed the object of terror—the old boy eagerly turning his head around to get it.”

The first 20 seconds of this video shows Theodore Roosevelt riding his thoroughbred Sidar in 1912. When he dismounts, he feeds Sidar a sugar cube, probably for approaching that scary, huge old time film camera.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Barn Swallow

This summer I found a dead bird in Blessi's runout shed. It was such a pretty bird, dark blue with an orange chest and built for speed. I had to look it up--a barn swallow. When I scooped it up for burial, Blessi was all kind of interested as to why Mr. Barn Swallow was not moving.
Did you know that barn swallows are usually monogamous during the breeding season but can practice polygyny? Perhaps Mr. Barn Swallow wore himself out taking care of multiple wives. Barn swallows nest and raise their young across the US in May through September and then migrate to Central and South America for the winter. Per the Bird Web site, "The killing of Barn Swallows for their feathers was one of the issues that led to the founding of the Audubon Society and the passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act."

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Horses Use iPads to Learn

Blessi would love his own iPad. I can see him playing equine computer games for hours. The technology is here. Japanese researchers have developed such a device that enables horses to discriminate between sizes and shapes and earn carrots. Horses, probably because of their viewing angle, have some difficulty in distinguishing between objects close to the same size.

"As far as shape difference is concerned, the ponies’ performance didn’t vary much from that of chimpanzees and humans, Tomanaga said. Still, there were a few trends regarding the kinds of angles and shapes that were specific to the species, he said. For example, ponies had a harder time distinguishing “closed” shapes—like O or D, or squares and triangles."

Thursday, November 15, 2018

1930s Vintage Film of Iceland

Thought you might like this vintage news reel about Iceland from the 1930.  About midway, the narrator talks about the "Icelandic ponies."  Pay special attention to how the horses are tied up in the absence of trees---one horse's bridle is tied to another horse's tail down the line of horses.  I can't think of another breed that wouldn't flip out in that situation.

For some reason, I can't embed this video, but here is the link.  Definitely worth watching.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Horse Color and Behavioral Traits

“Oh my mare is a fiery redhead” or “My chestnut gelding is hard to train” are comments that you’ll hear owners say about their chestnut horses. But are these statements supported by science? Interestingly researchers have found that genes influencing melanocytes that determine coat colors are related to certain behavioral traits in other species. For example tortoiseshell and calico cats really are divas. But what about horses?

JL Finn et al adapted the Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire (a validated dog behavior survey) which contained 90 behavioral assessment questions. Over 900 responses were returned from owners of Arabians, Australian stock horses, ponies, Warmbloods, Crossbreds, Thoroughbreds, Irish Sport horses, and Quarter Horses. The researchers used the 477 responses returned by owners of bay and chestnut horses (stallions were excluded). The greatest influences on behavior were gender, age, and breed. 

There was basically no difference in ease of handling or training between chestnuts and bays. Chestnuts were a bit more difficult when their feet were picked up by strangers but the researchers felt that was due to a sampling error. However owner-reported results seem to indicate that chestnuts are bolder than bays since chestnuts are reported to approach new objects more readily.

“The current results suggest that chestnut horses are more likely to approach objects and animals in their environment, regardless of their familiarity. This is particularly worth noting as prior to domestication and selection, the vast majority of horses expressed the bay phenotype and the increase in coat-colour variability is widely considered a direct consequence of domestication (Cieslak et al., 2011, Ludwig et al., 2009, Pruvost et al., 2011). As a result, it is possible that selection for the chestnut phenotype may have inadvertently involved selection for boldness as well.”
More research is of course needed to confirm these results.

In the photo, Blessi and I are riding through fire at a police horse clinic. My friend Judy was riding a black Icelandic mare, who did just as well as Blessi.


Sunday, November 11, 2018

Blessi and the Rug

I have been trying to think why Blessi was so fascinated by the rug yesterday at the Pet Partner Certification. Then the solution, like a falling horse shoe, struck me in the middle of the forehead! The last time Blessi saw anything like a "rug" was the Easter Carrot Hunt in his paddock when I hid carrots and small peanut butter cookies under saddle pads, buckets, napkins, etc.

How sweet and typical of Blessi's thought process. He gets to go into a "house" for the first time and he immediately assumes that he has been invited to an indoor Carrot Hunt. "Of course there are carrots hidden somewhere under that rug if only I keep looking". (Hummm. wonder why he pulled up the masking tape on the rug since he has never "played" with masking tape. How did he even know that it pulled off the rug?)

And when he doesn't find a carrot under the rug, he assumes we are all there to pet and groom and talk to him--which is why he thought he needed to stay with the volunteer rather than walk by the neutral dog.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Blessi Passes Pet Therapy Test

Blessi and I passed Pet Partner Certification. I am so proud of this horse!!! In case you aren't familiar with the organization, Pet Partners "is the nation’s largest and most prestigious nonprofit registering handlers of multiple species as volunteer teams providing Animal-Assisted Interactions. With the highest caliber curriculum in the industry, Pet Partners trains volunteers and evaluates them with their pets for visiting animal programs in hospitals, nursing homes, veterans’ centers, hospice, Alzheimer’s facilities, courtrooms, schools and other settings."

I had to take 8 hours of computer-based training on how to be a pet handler plus pass a test. Blessi had to get a health certification. Then we had the team evaluation today.

This is a rigorous program. Both the handler and
the animal are scored separately. All exercises need to be conducted on a loose lead line. As handler, I need to be proactive, read Blessi's cues, and intercede if somebody needs coaching on how to interact with a horse.

Per photo 1 (the 5 additional volunteers aren't in camera range), the evaluation occurred at the Fleet Reserve Association Branch. As far as Blessi was concerned, he was thrilled to finally get to enter a "house." He was particularly interested in "kitchen" but he didn't have an opportunity to explore that area of enticing food scents.

Pet Partners offers certification for the team at two different levels--simple and complex environments. We are certified for simple environments, complex with full time organizational escort. Photo 2 shows us at the end of Exercise 5, Out for a Walk. Blessi scored a 1 (he needed a 2 for complex). Why you may ask did Blessi only get a 1 when he is so obviously walking on a loose lead line? Ha! Ha! Take a look at the mussed up rug in the back ground. As we were walking by, Blessi decided to roll it up. When I suggested that he not play with the rug, he started to rip the masking tape off the rug. Blessi had the room laughing so hard.

In Photo 3, Blessi is doing his back up 6 feet. What you don't see are his attempts to move chairs with his mouth to make the back up easier.

Blessi adored his full, restraining hug with volunteer Andria, one of the more complex requirements, shown in Photo 4.

Photos 5 and 6 show some of the complex situations in which Blessi just was an angel. He needed to walk through a crowd, have an object make an unexpected noise behind him, deal with volunteers portraying people with movement irregularities, have a couple get into an argument and then walk up for pets, have multiple people pet him. He just seeks out and thrives with this kind of attention.

The other exercise in which Blessi and I scored a 1, instead of a 2, was walking past a neutral dog. Blessi was fine walking past the sweet, old black lab. But he was late starting the walk because he insisted on staying and socializing with a volunteer and I did not set him up for success in the exercise by anticipating this.

All together there were 17 exercises. But Photo 7 shows Blessi's real challenge--"Leave the toy."

The Pet Partner Evaluater congratulated both Blessi and me on our team skills. But the real compliment was she asked after the test if her 6-year old grandson could come ride Blessi on his next visit.

Note we never officially became Pet Partners since I didn't pay the final membership fee.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Prepping for Pet Therapy Test

My friend Judy helped me and Blessi with some Intrizen crunches and preparation for the pet therapy certification scheduled for Saturday. Blessi is great with neutral dog (thanks Chica for playing that role), hugs, people arguing, ear touching, etc. However as Judy and I discovered when practicing, Blessi and I are not going to do well if there is any hay on the floor of the Fleet Reserve Association Branch.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Odin frá Búðardal

Blessi's registered name is Veigar frá Búðardal out of breeding by the late Skjoldur Steffanson. One of Iceland's most successful competition horses came off this farm Odin frá Búðardal (shares almost no genetic heritage with Blessi). Below is an article about how Odin is still competing at age 22. Odin ridden by Sigurbjörn Bárðarson broke the 250 m pace record in 2003.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

A Tatoo of Blessi's half brother Leiftur fra Búðardal

How awesome is this? A tattoo of an Icelandic horse. This is Leiftur fra Búðardal, Blessi's much better known younger half brother. Blessi is 20 and Leiftur is 19 and still competing in pace races at 100 m. How awesome is that?

I didn't get this tatoo.  Stefon uses it as an illustration on his Facebook page and he gave me permission to use it on Blessiblog.

For those visiting Iceland, Stefon does amazing tattoo work. The studio is located near Reykjavík. How awesome would it be to return from Iceland with your favorite horse tattooed on your shoulder? Or if you want a delicate cross and necklace around your ankle or a forest across your back or a raven on your hip? Check out Stefon's work.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Is an Electoral Vote in Wyoming Worth More than One in California

There is a chart being passed around on Facebook stating that a vote in Wyoming is worth 380% more than a vote in California. To try to understand why somebody made that statement (and you may totally disagree with it) I did quite a bit of research on the electoral college. If you go to Wikipedia (I know not the best source but good for a quick review) article on the history of the Electoral College, you can see how the electoral college has been chosen has changed over the years.

At the birth of our nation, citizens voted directly for electors, trusting the electors to make the best choice for president. The winner with the highest number of votes became President and the second highest, VP. In 1796, John Adams (Federalist) became President and Thomas Jefferson (Republican), VP, so that was changed. The original constitution also allocated 2 senators per state and a number of representatives based on number of inhabitants in which slaves counted as 3/5s of an inhabitant. So the number of electors has always been based on the number senators and representatives in Congress (each state gets 2 electors for its two senators plus the number of representatives in House). In the early 1800s each state could determine how electors were chosen. In the later 1800s the parties got to choose their own candidates. I have condensed pages and pages. In the early 1820s,most states introduced the winner take all electoral votes concept. If you read the Wikipedia link, you can see how interests of small states versus large states, slave holding states versus mostly non-slave holdings all impacted the development of the constitution while balancing the desire of the Founding Fathers to maintain a republic.

Congress regularly increased the number of state representatives until it was set at 435 in 1911 and has not been increased since (except when AK and Hawaii joined--two were added but later subtracted out.) These 435 representatives are allocated out to each state based on population determined by US Census every 10 years. Each state gets a minimum of 1 representative and the remained are allocated, not by direct proportion, but by some weirdly complicated formula that I thought somebody had hacked Wikepedia as a joke. But I confirmed on a .gov website.

The chart shared on Facebook states that a vote cast in Wyoming is worth 380% (or 340 depending on what you read) more than a vote cast in California since CA gets 55 electoral votes and WY 3 (2 for each senator and 1 for representative, which is the minimum number a state can have. Vermont and North Dakota also have 3 electoral votes). Actually that number is higher. The number of representatives for California was set in 2010 when the CA population was 37,253,956 versus WY population of 563,626 . The current estimated population of CA is 39 million; whereas WY population is estimated at 587,910.

The number of representatives could be increased again to account for the corresponding increase in population. This would impact the presidential election because of different voting trends for rural versus urban, blue states versus red states, so each party as an opposing stake in this issue. And the smaller states want to protect their interests also. But a quick review of the history of the electoral college indicates that its evolution has always been impacted by large state versus small state, impact on political party, interest in political parties controlling who runs, etc.

I tried to write this in a politically neutral tone but recognize the above two paragraphs could be interpreted as having a Democratic slant, which I am. Hope this helps.
Chart is from Wikipedia.