Monday, December 31, 2018

Grass Is Always Greener

Icelandic horses seem to invent every opportunity to escape....and look for the greener grass.  Notice how one doesn't care that the other horses have been led away.  She has her grass.  But once the halters are on, "It's a fair cop.  But did you know there is grass over there?  And there?  And there?  Just in case you missed it..."

Thursday, December 27, 2018

An Advent Calendar for Icelandic Horses and Friend

What a cool idea from Koedbloed Kim.  Build an advent calendar for your horses containing special treats for each day.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Merry Christmas from Iceland

Sean Parker Photography provides this beautiful video of the Northern Lights highlighting the horses waiting for their Christmas surprise at a church in Iceland.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

A Pony for Christmas

Irie gets her pony for Christmas.  And she already has a name picked out.  The Labrador Retriever is very happy for her.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Naughty Ponies at Christmas

Who can pull Santa's sleigh and ring the Christmas bells better than than the rocking Christmas ponies?

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Coming Home at Christmas

Another great Christmas video.  After all, grandparents are teddy bears.

Friday, December 21, 2018

2019 World Championships for Icelandic Horses Berlin Preview

Here's a preview of the 2019 Icelandic Horse World Championships in Berlin.  It looks like the event may be combined with a larger equine show.  Anyway, enjoy the footage of the Icelandics.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Blessi's Favorite Snacking Place

This is Blessi's favorite place
most summers. The outdoor washrack behind the barn ensures lush grass. Beau the mini and Tessa would really like to join Blessi.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Wendy Williams' The Horse: Review Part II

I finally finished Wendy William's The Horse: The Epic History of Our Noble Companion. Her master work includes interviews with researchers studying wild horse behavior, organizers who successfully reintroduced the Przewalsksi or Takhi wild horse to Mongolia, scientists studying equine social behavior, and much more.

Williams writes so vividly that for the first time I read about the evolution of the horse from start to finish--a process involving continental drift, triumph of grass, climate change, plant wax at the bottom of the ocean, and much more. 

Above is a photo from the 1905 Scientific American article on the evolution of the horse. It contrasts the phases of a modern horse canter (based on photographs) with how scientists of the time thought the Hyracotheium, a 4-toed horse dating from 56 million years ago in the Eocene period moved. Hyracothenium was assumed to canter like modern horses.

As Williams explains these very early horses lived in a warm, jungle- like environment in which they mushed grapes, browsed on other fodder, and scampered like rabbits. The modern horse canter was millions of years in the future. Plains covered in grass appeared and the horse grew taller, four toes became one toe, evolved to run, and developed the tough teeth needed to graze on silica-based grasses. Brains grew bigger to track and find more dispersed resources.

The evolution of the horse had one benefit important to mankind. As Dr. Martin Fischer, German evolutionary biologist explains, "Horses are actually the only dorsal-stable animal we have. That's why we can ride them." p. 83

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Wendy Williams' The Horse: Review Part I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Traditionally, we've thought that horses only function via a kind of computerlike binary code of positive and negative reinforcement--the carrot or the stick. Now that science is showing us the subtleties of how horses naturally interact with each other, we can expand our own interactions with them, improve our ability to communicate with them, and enrich our partnership....A relationship that has been traditionally seen as unidirectional--we command and they obey--can now become much more nuanced and sensitive." p 32

Can't wait to read more. I am only on page 32.  Hint:  This book would make a fantastic Christmas present for any of your equine oriented friends or family.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Lonely Little Pony

Blessi wants one of these for Christmas that goes into the people barn.  I wonder if Amazon makes one in XXXXX Large.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Hafflinger Success in Working Equitation

Andalusians and Lusitanos have a natural advantage in Working Equitation because of their slow, collected canter. But many different breeds of horses can be successful in this sport. Here are Chesna Klimek and her Haflinger Pip winning Intermediate Ease of Handling at a Working Equitation clinic in the Pacific Northwest. She and Pip also won the Dressage and Speed trails. And this was only their second competition in Working Equitation!

Chesna and Pip are legends in the Pacific Northwest. They compete and win at Grand Prix dressage (if I remember correctly), speed jumping, extreme trail, trick training, bridleless riding, and more, There is nothing these two can't do and do extremely well.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Working Equitation Icelandic Style

In Working Equitation, "the aim of the sport is to preserve and perpetuate each country’s type of equitation, as well as the various working equestrian traditions and the tack and attire which each nation brings to the sport." Julie Malik on the Icelandic Horses for fun group identified the national attire of Icelandic herders as "woolly sweaters and bright orange fisherman raingear." Here is a video to prove it.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Blessi and Judy Try Working Equitation

My friend Judy rode Blessi in an introduction to Working Equitation clinic given by Jordan Banks at the Paddock Woods stable in Gig Harbor WA. "The discipline of Working Equitation (WE) was created to celebrate the partnership between horse and rider, with a focus on classical horsemanship and use of the horse for ranch work." During a competition, each rider will compete in a dressage trial, an ease of handling trial, and speed trial.

What a wonderful clinic to audit. I learned a lot about how to better ride obstacles. And the dressage horses really seem to love finding a purpose for why they are asked to do all those transitions and movements. And all breeds of horses including gaited horses are welcome in the sport. A Quarter horse, Fjord, Haflinger, Icelandic, Gypsian, Andalusian, and Friesian cross were at the clinic. 

Note If you start the trial in tolt however, the rider should maintain that gait. Poor Judy! Blessi kept switching between tolt and trot. He didn't help her out with any precision moves at this clinic but most importantly the two had fun!

If you are in the Seattle area, you should check out this clinic and sport. You can find the dates for any future clinics on Jordon Bank's facebook page or web page at Golden Horse Dressage.

Since the "aim of the sport is to preserve and perpetuate each country’s type of equitation, as well as the various working equestrian traditions and the tack and attire which each nation brings to the sport," I wonder what the tack and attire should be for Iceland?

Here is a link to the WE webpage:

If you are in the Seattle area, you should check

Monday, December 3, 2018

ýruskjóttur New Icelandic Horse Color

A color new to Icelandics, and horses in general, has appeared in Iceland--ýruskjóttur or speckle piebald.  Ellert at Baldurshagi, an offspring of a bay dun and a blue dun, is the first to exhibit this color.  Theoretically it should not be possible to get a pinto offspring from two solid colored horses.  He has passed it on to to several offspring.  Breeder Baldur Eiðsson hopes this new color will become established in the Icelandic breed.

Genetic testing at University of Bern confirms that this is a new color mutation in horses called coat color allele W21 related to the "dominant white."  Ellert is colored like a  bay dun with primitive markings including the dorsal stripe, black mane and tail, with lots of white specking, a bald white face, and eyes that are a combination of blue and brown.  

Use this link to access some great photos:

Due to IP issues, you'll have to use the link below to view the new color.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Were Women the First Cave Artists

I think that women always have had a special relationship with horses, which includes drawing and painting them. While researching the clip on animated paleolithic cave art, I came across the research of Dean Snow at Pennsylvania State University. He proposes that about 75% of the artists drawing animals in such caves as Altiamira Cave, Spain, and Lascaux Cave, France, circa 30,000 to 17,300 years ago, were women. Up to this time, most researchers and art historians assumed all cave artists were men-- probably involved in the creation of hunting magic. 

Snow bases his proposal on the way men and women's hands differ. Usually the length of the index finger and the ring finger are roughly the same for women. The ring finger is longer than the index finger on most men. Hand stencils (pigment is flicked around the hand to create an outline) frequently occur as part of paleolithic cave art. Analysis of the outlines of these hands is how Snow determined that most of the artists were women, possibly female shaman involved in hunting magic.

Of course, there are alternative ways to analyze the same date. R. Dale Guthrie analyzed the measurements of palm widths and thumbs to conclude that the artists were adolescent boys interested in powerful animals and big busted fertility goddesses (think Venus of

Photo source: Pech Merle Cave Painting Wikipedia