Thursday, July 31, 2008

Straight Legs

This horse has straighter legs (versus the crooked legs shown in a previous blog), the laterals travelling on separate tracks and the flight of the legs is straight versus the curved flight path of crooked limbs.

Click onto the image to see a larger version.

Originally uploaded by dj_itl

Sitting on the Loins

Icelandic horse
Originally uploaded by dj_itl
Is this rider sitting on the loins? Click onto the photo to see a larger version.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Why We Chose Not to Use Icelandic Saddles

These images show the difference between jineta and brida saddles.

Saddles should not sit past the last rib, approximation marked by the red dot. The dot on the saddle shows the "seat" of the saddle. There is a dot that shows where the stirrups are hung, and the third white dot shows an approximation of the horse's center of mass.

When you ride, you want to be aligned with the horse's center of mass. Which saddle helps you do this?

Jineta and brida style riding and saddles:

Jineta saddles and jineta style riding is balanced riding where the saddle has stirrups more centered, which allows for the rider to be balanced and in alignment from shoulder, hip, heel. "The jineta saddle promotes loin coiling in the horse, ensuring his comfort and mobility including that of his rider." (Quote from the Conquerors.)

Brida saddles and brida style riding is heavy to the rear, feet forward, riding the horse's face. "Brida" is short for "riding from the hand". "The rider's weight pressing down on the tabs crushed the horse's loins, ensuring that he maintain a hollow back, a high head position, and often, a forced ambling gait." (Quote from the Conquerors.)

Here are another couple of examples. This is an icelandic saddle on an Icelandic Pony mare, who does not have a short back.

One image shows the saddle set up front to try to keep it off her loins. As you can see the saddle is "perched" in the front and angled down. The rider's seat is behind the horse's center of mass.

The second image shows the saddle sitting back further, which puts the rider ever further behind the horse's center, and more of the saddle and weight past the last rib, onto the loins.

If you are trying to determine saddle fit for your Icelandic Horse / Pony, one important consideration is the placement of the last rib. Saddles should not sit past the last rib.

Here are a couple of pictures showing how to find the last rib on an Icelandic Pony:

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Keeping Your Icelandic Horse Cool

In the heat of the summer, or before and after, it helps your horse to be more comfortable by keeping him cool.

Clipping can be done before going into the summer season, and also into the fall when their winter coat starts coming in.

More information on:

Clipping Your Icelandic Horse

The Gift of A Clipping

Braids / Braiding and Plaiting the Mane

Sunday, July 27, 2008


The "iPony", short for Icelandic Pony.

Which image do you like better?

These are just preliminary samples. I'm still working on alternatives.

Here are comparison videos of an Icelandic Horse walking without weight on the distal limb, and walking *with* weight on the distal limb.

icelandic horse, cheval islandais, islandhast, islandskehest, islandpferde, íslenskir hestar, ijslands paard, islanninhevonen, islenskihesturinn, islandisches pferd, hestur, islandpony, icelandic pony

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

IceHorses Discussion List

Join us on the IceHorses discussion list, with many other Icelandic Horse owners, discussing saddle fit, training, gaits, and more:


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Horses That Rush

Downhill horses can tend to rush, like a wheelbarrow, trying to catch up to themselves.

Sore backs can cause rushing. A poor fitting saddle, dirty pad or cinch or a weak back can all contribute to a horse moving short and quick rather than long and flowing.

If a rider is tense or nervous (in anticipation of a show, for example) the horse will pick this up right away and start moving quickly. Take a deep breath, settle deep into the saddle and relax.

Rushing can be a sign of a lack of balance. The hind legs thrust more than they carry, because their hip and stifle joints have not developed the necessary elasticity and the flexor muscles of the hind legs have not become strong enough yet.

Some horses will rush because of constant pressure on the reins. Eventually the horse needs to learn to hold a gait at a certain tempo "on the honor system" (dressage riders call this self-carriage) - that is, on his own without holding his speed down via the reins.

Here are some of the suggestions to get started on helping an Icelandic Horse with problems:

* Get an equine dentist to check his teeth and do necessary work (have the wolf teeth been pulled?)

* Get an equine chiropractor to check him out.

* Get his back muscles checked by someone who knows about saddle fitting.

* Switch tack, go to treeless, bitless; remove nosebands.

* Check his hocks.

* Get a knowledgeable farrier to check his feet for any problems, founder, crushed or contracted heels.

* Check for fleas, ticks, lice, ear mites, worms, etc.

* Put him on low-sugar grass hay and supplement with B vitamins (be sure to get B1 in there).

* Forget riding for a while.

* Work on the relationship between horse and owner.

* Make working with a person beneficial to the horse.

* Start on groundwork; include some clicker training. Try the PNH 7 Games, Dorrance ground exercises, Lyons groundwork, TTEAM ground driving and obstacles, etc.

* When you're ready to prepare to start riding, be sure the saddle fits. Be extra extra sure! Either do the learning yourself or check with someone extremely knowledgeable about how to fit a saddle (not necessarily a trainer).

* If you aren't comfortable re-starting a horse in a sidepull, bosal, halter, or otherwise bitless, be sure the bit fits. Single jointed snaffles aren't always the best fit for Icelandic Horses because of the low palate and shorter length of palate (equating to less room in the mouth for the action of a single-jointed snaffle).

* Start in a small area. Practice stand for mounting, get on, get off. Build up your "basket of yes" answers (positive responses). The more positive responses, the better.

* Try not to rush or get ahead of yourself or the horse. Try not to get into situations or ask for something that you are not sure of getting a good response. Remember he may have lots of negative stuff to be over-written by positive stuff.

* Still in a confined area, work on walk, walk, walk, with head down. Long and low.

* If a horse does not want to move in an arena, it may be because of his feet and the footing; or the turns required in the confined area which may bother him because of saddle fit or weak back, or the rider not moving in sync with the horse on the bends.

* Practice circles; catch the horse before he speeds up and ask for a circle; praise and reward.

Icelandic Horse Video

A video by Equitrekking about the Icelandic Horse:

Monday, July 21, 2008

Gait Chart

Here is the gait chart for easy gaited horses:

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Icelandic Horse Becomes Possee Certified!

From Janice and Trausti, Icelandic Horse:

Trausti passed his posse certification today! He flunked a couple of areas but did so well on others he passed anyway! Here are pictures:

1. had to stand for five minutes while guns were fired. (first from left to right) he flinched the first ten shots or so. The first shot he sort of tried to skitter ahead but saw the other horses were calm so the next was just tense and flinched then the next less tense etc. New horses are put next to horses already desensitized. At the end they fired a high powered rifle BOOM and he flinched again, then after three shots didnt even flinch.

2. Here we are coming in second in the race where the slowest horse wins. we weren't allowed to check the horse's speed with out hands. I don't know how to do it any other way. I kept saying easssyyyy but he just wanted to go fast! The winner actually, was pretty funny, the one slowest and last and therefore the winner, was a barrel racer haha.

3. Here we had to leave the group and go off in pairs, lead and follow, a simple exercise you think but sirens were going.

He did not do very well at the deal where you toss a bag of aluminum cans from the saddle, but of all the ones who didn't like that he was best, I mean some totally lost it, he just wanted to back away from it. And we had to partner with someone and carry a flapping banner between us and the horse we were partnered with freaked out entirely, ran backwards and almost sat and she dropped her end and Trausti was scared because the other horse was scared and went sideways but i hollered whoa and he did and I gathered the banner to keep it from flapping so me and the other girl had to dismount and leave the arena and work on getting out horses used to the banner.

But he passed!! yeay! The worlds second Icelandic Horse is posse certified! he had to stand and walk close touching sides to others, he was great at that, and in the egg and spoon race when he started to take his first step I dropped the egg so we had to go stand in the middle all alone and he kept sorta turning wondering why we couldn't go with the others but didn't dance and act out like some later on.

Stonewall flunked entirely. I could not even mount him and neither could my husband. But it was great for him to have exposure to the only thing that freaks him out... new places and new things and a lot of horses. I am going to take him to every session from now on. He stood tied to the trailer calling and calling and whenever we left the arena to go stand in the shade in a large mounted group and listen to our grouchy macho leader jim, Stonewall would call and Trausti would turn and want to go to him and I would have to rattle reins and tug one rein or scold, but he would calm down.

Oh! he was hilarious at barrel racing. he sauntered casually to the first barrel (after being mister hurry up in the slow walk race) and insisted on stopping to sniff it all over from top to bottom while everyone laughed and jeered. Then he went to the next barrel and walked wayyyy around it, then to the last one and then going for home I gave him a nudge and he turned and hurried up headed for the gate, not the end of the arena, but he was better than many! and the barrel racers horse knocked a barrel over :)


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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Description of the Tolt

An Icelandic Horse breeder / trainer has this on their website in regard to describing the tolt:

"The horse moves its feet in the same order as the walk. The hind legs move well under the body, the back rises, and the horse becomes light on the front, generally with high front leg action and head and neck elevated but collected and on the bit. If you see a tolting Icelandic who is hollow in the back, his neck vertical and ewed, and with his nose in the air, it is a sign of improper collection and bad riding, and is unnecessary for the performance of this magnificent gait."

Let's take a look at this to see what it all means. Let's also consider whether the points are "natural" or not.

[] "horse moves its feet in the same order as the walk": Yes, good.

[] "hind legs move well under the body": Does the horse do this naturally or has it been intimidated by the whip? Let's see how the horse moves at liberty.

[] "the back rises": In tolt, the back is in ventroflexion. There are varying degrees, from the horse's natural frame for the gait, to the forced frame by the rider, but tolt requires some ventroflexion to be able to do the gait.

[] "horse becomes light on the front": It may "feel" like the front feet are light, but the vector of the horse is earthbound, easily seen by the eye. Another thing to consider in this area is whether the horse is heavy on the bit and how much pull the rider is exerting on the reins.

[] "generally with high front leg action": Does the horse have high front leg action naturally? Check the horse moving at liberty without appliances. (This is also how you'd want to chose your breeding stock, at liberty, natural gaits.) Action can be created by the weight of the shoes, the boots, the terrain, the frame.

[] "head and neck elevated": How does the horse hold his head and neck at liberty? Should the head and neck be held up by the rider?

[] "collected": The tolt is not a collected movement. Everything about it is anti-collection, the hollow frame required, the speed.

[] "on the bit": The horse's neck is not in a frame to be "on the bit".

[] "tolting Icelandic who is hollow in the back, his neck vertical and ewed, and with his nose in the air, it is a sign of improper collection and bad riding, and is unnecessary": It may be a matter of degrees as to whether the tolt is slightly hollow or very hollow, but it's not collection either way.

[] "magnificent gait": Tolt can be a magnificent gait, but in it's "natural" state. What is magnificent about putting weight on the horse's distal limbs, having a rider hanging full weight on it's mouth, which is tied shut, rider sitting on the cantle of the saddle to dig into the horse's loins, pulling it's head into an unnatural position, constricting it's breathing by the forced neck frame and the tight noseband, and being intimidated by a whip.

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Sunday, July 6, 2008

Icelandic Horse Neck Conformation

Horses and humans and most other animals have seven vertebrae in the neck.

The cervical spine in horses can be shaped very differently.

There are some straight necks, but for the most part, the cervical vertebrae are shaped in an "S".

The top curve of the "S" can be straight, wide curve, or narrow curve.

The bottom curve of the "S" can be straight, wide curve, or narrow (shallow) curve.

The shape of the curve can be enhanced to a small degree by the way the horse uses it's muscles, or how the rider affects the horse with contact and exercises; but the basic shape will remain the same.

The pictures below will show different "S" shapes of the cervical neck of the horse.

The horse with the wider curve at the top, and the less curve at the bottom, will have more athletic ability than one with a shallow curve at the top and wide curve at the bottom.

Icelandic Horses generally have shallow curves at the top, and wide curves at the bottom. The shallow curve at the top restricts the area between the vertebrae and the jaw, and does not allow the horse to easily flex. Flexing can constrict the windpipe.

Dressage horses generally have wider / longer curves at the top; shallow on the bottom. This upper curve allows the horse the ability to flex more easily, and to give to the bit. Additionally, there is more room in the throat latch area for the windpipe. This shallow tie-in to the spine allows them to be lighter on the front end and move more athletically.

Icelandic Horse's necks are wider and thicker on the bottom than on the top.

This type of neck would be called "inverted".

It seems that the current breeding goal for Icelandic Horses is to breed for a higher set neck. However, the actual neck shape is still inverted. Perhaps the breeding goal should be, first and foremost, to breed necks that are not inverted. That seems as though it would be a more logical direction to take, especially if it's desired to have the horse that goes more easily on the bit!

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Icelandic Horse Connection

Icelandic Horse Crooked Legs

Horses with straight legs, travel with the laterals on separate tracks. They don't interfere.

Horses with crooked legs, tend to travel on one track (often called rope walking), they tend to wing, and have a tendency to interfere. The supporting leg, when moving, tends to be at an angle rather than straight down.

What is happening in this picture (below)? Look at the right rear and the left front. These two limbs should be traveling on separate tracks. In this image, they are overlapping on a single track, generally called "rope walking". This can cause interference.

This horse (below) has straighter flight of the limbs, on two separate tracks.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Hypertrophy Icelandic Horse Shoulders

We will see some Icelandic Horses who have hypertrophied muscles around the shoulder and base of the neck, and weak rear ends.

The horse's "engine" is always in the rear. When the horse is in ventroflexion with the head pulled up, it sort of stops the flow of the power from the hindquarters and the horse ends up pulling with the front end.

The show horses, and any other horse that is ridden in that style, will have hypertrophy of the shoulder muscles, and weak hindquarters.

We probably do not want to learn from trainers who ride the horse's face.

Here's an excerpt from Horse Breeding and Management about hypertrophy.

1. Hypertrophy due to poor overall balance or lack of self-carriage. This is a problem of green and badly-trained horses. Muscles typically affected are the serrati of both the neck and body and the pectorals, especially the flat portions of the muscle that lie between the arms and that extend directly from the arms to the sternum just in front of the girth. The muscles will be too firm in tone and bulging.

Rigidity in the serrati and pectoral muscles is the primary cause of binding up or restriction of movement in the shoulder.

Dressage was invented in order to produce self-carriage and loose, mobile shoulders; its exercises, when correctly executed, have the effect of inducing the horse to cease to carry itself on the forehand or to stretch the muscles of the neck, back, and shoulders (d la Gueriniere, 1751).

2. Hypertrophy due to incorrect dressage. Over-developments and muscular rigidities of the latissimus and rhomboideus muscles are especially prevalent among horses engaged in the new, competitive form of dressage.

The cure for these problems is to stop pushing the horse onto the forehand during extensions, stop permitting or encouraging it to hollow its back and "flick" or hyper extend the forelimb, stop hanging on its mouth and go back to insisting that back and neck be swinging and elastic and that the fore and hind strides be of equal size during all phases of the trot (Hebermann, 1984).

3. Hypertrophy due to the application of weights to the forelimbs. There is almost no muscular tissue in the forelimb of the horse below the carpus or knee. The bulk of muscles that control the swing of the forelimbs is located above the elbow.

The majority of trainers who use weights such as heavy shoes or weighted boots on horses believe that their purpose is to product motion. In fact, weights were originally used to change the timing of the footfalls which they do with an effect similar to that produced by adding weights to cogwheels or camshafts. The major side-effect of weights is to exponentially increase the amount of lateral instability (wobble) in the forelimb of the horse. When the weights are over 12 oz., forced hyperextension of the shoulder joint also occurs.

Under normal circumstances, lateral instability of the limb is controlled primarily by the pectoral muscles while movements of the scapulohumeral joint are controlled by the infraspinatus, supraspinatus, and subscapularis muscles.

The the horse, the arm is attached to the shoulder blade by no ligaments at all, except by the paper-thin joint-capsule. Therefore, under the influence of weights, all muscles spanning the shoulder joint hypertrophy, pushing the scapulas laterally and producing a horse with an abnormally wide chest.

Heavy weights also induce hypertrophy of the brachiocephaicus and trapezius muscles from which an abnormally rigid neck carriage results (Bennett, 1984).

Since the use of weights is entirely directed to forcing the horse to produce artificial or fantasy gaits often resulting in joint injuries, self-defensive muscular hypertrophy and rigidity in the horse, their use cannot be justified.

Here's a couple of older posts where we were discussing these issues:

My Icelandic Horses

Here's some pictures of my Icelandic Horses, Cookie and Charm:

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Loading the Hoof

Here is slow motion loading and unloading of the hoof of the Icelandic Horse in tolt: