Friday 27 February 2015

Cloning Curiosity

This post is going to be a break from my regular journal-type blogging as:
(a) I have barely seen my horses all week;
(b) I haven't ridden since Sunday and
(c) I am seriously curious as to ya'lls take on the cloning of top horses rigmarole...

Now let me preface this musing post by saying I know nothing about the science behind this process nor am I claiming to know anything about anything to do with cloning. I am simply going to share info I came across and perhaps ask some questions to try and gauge how others feel about this particular scientific advancement.

Cruising - LINK for photo source
This topic came to my attention through the announcement that arguably one of the most influential sport horse sires bred & stood in Ireland, Cruising, has been cloned.
His mini-mes are now 3 years of age and will be starting breeding duties this year. Below is a video that was on national television in Ireland explaining the owner/breeders reasoning/Decvision to clone the great horse.

Personally I am not sure how I feel about this.
I am all for stem cell research for curing illnesses but I cannot hand-on-heart say I am 100% behind the cloning of animals for personal gain.
There is so much still unknown when it comes to clones, admittedly the only way to learn more about this is to try things and see what happens, but still I am wary of the boundaries being pushed too far too fast. How much controlled testing has happened when we consider that the first horse was only cloned in 2003 - the longterm effects of these experiments can hardly be considered concrete at this early stage - little over a decade since the first equine clone.

LINK to image source
However mixed my feelings are about the act of cloning top class animals for those who have the money to do so (at the end of the day how you spend your mega-bucks is your choice) - my fears stem from these clones being used for breeding. I am not entirely happy with this I being naive & closed minded?
Is it not basically devaluing the offspring of the cloned horse?
Is it saying we don't think they can ever live up to their lineage so we will just make another...

Will people breed to this unknown quantity without a performance record?
I would like to see these horses ridden and competed up to a high level before considering entering them into a studbook and allowing people to breed to them - but then I suppose the argument could be raised that Cruising ticked all those boxes in his lifetime & these are his clones, so hasn't he already proven himself?
But, as evidenced from the video above and previous evidence of other cloned creatures; characteristics & mannerisms while similar are not identical.
Like identical twins these are not 100% carbon copies of each other!

How will the cloned DNA reproduce when crossed with other DNA - is that science like breathing and something that happens naturally or will the genes mutate and create X-horses...I have no idea!
In this instance the cloned horse was in his 20s when the DNA samples were taken to be cloned - does age affect DNA?
Although the youngsters in question in this instance are physically three years of age, is their DNA older?
Will they develop differently because of this?
Can anyone know for sure?

I have none of these answers, and not to panic, I don't expect to find any in the comments of this post - however it would be awesome if you more knowledgeable horse folk could enlighten me. I am curious as to your thoughts on the cloning question.
If you wish to share that is, obviously no one need comment!
Not having buckets of money I do not think cloning my girls will ever be an issue for me, nor do I think I would want to if the opportunity presented itself. I guess my bigger qualm over this particular cloning story is their being directly available for breeding purposes. I have more questions than I have answers to and the whole thing makes me uneasy & my head spin - science for science sake is a slippery slope in my opinion - but I am not in anyway scientifically minded so in all honesty probably shouldn't even be commenting.
Had you heard this story before reading this post?
Have you any thoughts you'd care to share - please do not be shy if yes, I am super curious to read anything anyone has to say on the matter.

Sunday 22 February 2015

Soulful Sunday

Another week has gone by where I didn't manage to ride any evening after work. I started with Kika today in the same arena we worked in all last weekend and for our lesson on Monday.
A new small radio was placed on the side of the arena, which Kika noticed as soon as i got on and couldn't walk alongside it to save her life. Bless her brain gremlins *sigh*

Rather than get into a full blown argument with her (thus setting us off on the wrong foot for our spin) i hopped of and let her have a sniff and get up close and personal while i was safely on the floor alongside her. Not that it made much difference to be honest, K just had a bee in her bonnet about the little black box and that was all there was to it as far as she was concerned.

Pretending to be zen
No big deal, I got to work on a circle and put the Diva through her paces. We had plenty sticky moments and a couple more fits from Miss prissy-pants, but all in all it was a very positive spin despite her attempted dramatics.

Our canter work was pretty ropey as she kept getting herself all worked up & by consequence our downward transitions were very poor as she got herself all wound up, tossing her head in the air and flailing. So i had my work cut out there calming her gremlins - challenging but rewarding spin with K displaying her never ending spice despite her increasing age.

My fav photo of the weekend
It was a beautiful sunny day, so I scrapped my initial plan to ride Nancy in the indoor & decided to go for a quick stroll in the woods with Kika along for some moral support. Lol, she is the biggest chicken under saddle but surprisingly stoic as accompaniment - not that Nancy needs hand holding, but i do enjoy being able to spend time with them together.

This is such a sweet moment for me to capture.
 I love how well they get on

It truly was a gorgeous day

Thursday 19 February 2015

BBS - Nancy Conformation Review

Following on from Kika's critique (LINK); now it is Nancy's turn.
Apologies for her bedraggled state, her mane is in dire need of some serious TLC, i must buy more mane and tail spray & braid it again so she doesn't break it all scratching off trees in turn out (one of her fav hobbies). I find her expression priceless in this pic, total patience with the humans silly wishes for photos. She is also not exactly square, but better than her previous attempts.

Cropped photo i used from my "photoshoot" on Saturday

Length vs. Height
Ideal – The length of the horse from the point of the shoulder to the buttock should be equal to the height of the horse from from the top of the withers to the ground. This should create an box around the horse (minus the head and neck) that is a square with equal sides.

Nancy – Like Kika, Nancy is slightly longer than she is tall. It must be something i am subconsciously attracted to! Again according to my super scientific IT skills, the same ruler being held up to my computer screen, Nancy is 1.5cms longer than she is tall onscreen. Maybe this weekend I will see if i can get someone to help me measure them.
However Nancy is considerably wider (not surprising considering her draft daddy), she wears 6ft6/6ft9 rugs whereas Kika wears 6ft3/6ft6 depending on the rug cut ...

Heartgirth vs. Legs 
Ideal – The depth of the heartgirth from the top of the withers to the elbow should be equal to the length of the leg from the elbow to the fetlock.

Nancy –She is symmetrical in this case, so far as i can tell in any case...

Topline vs Underline 
Ideal – The topline should be level so the point of the croup is at the same height or slightly lower than the top of the withers. The topline from the top of the withers to the point of the hip should be shorter that the underline from the point of the elbow to the stifle.

Nancy – Her topline is shorter than her underline, although there isn't much in the difference. I actually think she is butt high again, or at least she would be if she were standing better. She may be going to grow again...I think i remember hearing somewhere that draft types can keep growing until they are 8 years of age. She will be 6 in June, so could have plenty more growth in her yet - so long as her personality doesn't change I don't mind how tall she gets!

Forequarter vs. Hindquarter 
Ideal – The forequarter of the horse (minus the head and neck) should be equal to the hindquarter of the horse when a line is drawn through the center (near the last rib) of the horse in the box from before.

Nancy –Again i guesstimated the positioning of her last rib (it is hard to tell from a photo), she seems pretty even. There is 0.5cms according to my ruler/screen measurements. She is a lot more even than Kika who had a 2cms difference from front to back. This may explain her finding it easier to use herself properly vs Kika's difficulties from having a longer forequarter compared to hindquarter.

Shoulder vs. Back vs. Buttock
Ideal – The shoulder, back, and buttock should all be equal in length when lines are drawn from the top of the wither to the ground and the point of the hip to the ground in the box from before.

Nancy –Not one of these is equal, her shoulder is slightly slighter than her buttocks and her back is considerably longer. In fact i think if front and back were added together the result wouldn't be far off the length of her back...not sure exactly what that means - but under saddle she feels pretty balanced, so all in all i am happy with her even if she doesn't meet the "ideal"

Head vs. Body
Ideal – The length of the head should be similar to the lengths from the point of the hock to the ground, the chestnut on a forelimb to the ground, length of heartgirth, and from the stifle to the croup.

Nancy – I have been waiting for this one, as Nancy has one of the biggest heads i have ever seen on a horse. It kind of takes you by surprise, as it doesn't seem so massive until you are standing alongside it.
her leg measurements are identical, however her croup to stifle is smaller, head is larger and then her heartgirth is larger again. Curious, these lines really highlight an imbalance between her front and hind, she has very "heavy" looking shoulders and a "light" looking hind-end.
Hopefully this will all balance out with more and better work to help develop her musculation...

Buttock vs. Hip vs. Stifle
Ideal – The lengths from the buttock to the stifle, the stifle to the point of the hip, and the point of hip to the buttock should all be similar.

Nancy – Her hip to buttock & buttock to stifle lengths are the same; her stifle to hip is slightly shorter (1cm on screen).

I'm not too sure what to make of all these measurements, however i have had fun dissecting their conformation vs the ideal and am curious to see what they will look like in conformation shots at the end of the year - IF i can get more work done with them and build them up into fitter animals with the help of a trainer and more consistent excercise...We shall see, hopefully!

What do you guys think?
I know i am quite late doing these breakdowns, but all opinions always welcome :)

Tuesday 17 February 2015

BBS - Kika Conformation Review

Like many bloggers I am jumping on the BBS bandwagon to crucify my horse's conformation.
I actually know very little about conformation & how it affects horses other than too much or too little length and/or bone etc can have negative or positive effects on the horse's way of going. What these cut off points are; or what the positive and negatives actually are is a mystery to me.
So those more knowledgeable than I if you could please weigh in in the comments I would be super grateful for your input, expert eye & opinion :)

For reference this is the image I used

Length vs. Height 
Ideal – The length of the horse from the point of the shoulder to the buttock should be equal to the height of the horse from from the top of the withers to the ground. This should create an box around the horse (minus the head and neck) that is a square with equal sides.

Kika –  According to my super skills (with paint & an actual ruler held up to the screen) Kika is 1cm longer than she is tall. What those measurements amount to in real life, I have no idea and would have to take out a measuring tape...but I'm not sure is anyone wants the real facts & figures - if yes, please post in the comments ;-)

This result seems odd to me as when I look at her she generally seems like a compact animal in the way she is put together, but people have told me in the past that she is longer than I think. And in fact i noticed it myself once, when I was riding Kika in the woods and a friend rode Nancy, when we were side by side and i turned around Kika was longer than Nancy - which almost floored me as Nancy is a much more imposing animal than Kika in the flesh. Kika seems very dainty & refined compared to Nancy. Perhaps this exercise is about to open my eyes to all sorts of wonderful new information with regard to my girls...

Heartgirth vs. Legs
Ideal – The depth of the heartgirth from the top of the withers to the elbow should be equal to the length of the leg from the elbow to the fetlock.

Kika –I am very pleasantly surprised (again through my not scientific measurements of holding a ruler up to the computer screen) that these measurements are the same

Topline vs Underline
Ideal – The topline should be level so the point of the croup is at the same height or slightly lower than the top of the withers. The topline from the top of the withers to the point of the hip should be shorter that the underline from the point of the elbow to the stifle.

Kika –If i have drawn the lines correctly in paint with my squiggly mouse controlling hand, her topline is shorter than her underline and keeping in line (geddit?) with the ideal as described above. It is worth bearing in mind that when these photos were taken I think she had been ridden once in about 3 weeks, so musculature is lacking in all departments because I am a crappy person ... moving on

Forequarter vs. Hindquarter
Ideal – The forequarter of the horse (minus the head and neck) should be equal to the hindquarter of the horse when a line is drawn through the center (near the last rib) of the horse in the box from before.

Kika –This was a tough one, I had to guesstimate from the image where her last rib might be...I'm not sure i got it right. In any case from this admittedly poor attempt, her front half is slightly longer than her back half - I'm not sure what this means, but if it has anything to do with her reluctance/laziness to use her backside, these measurements might help me understand...

Shoulder vs. Back vs. Buttock
Ideal – The shoulder, back, and buttock should all be equal in length when lines are drawn from the top of the wither to the ground and the point of the hip to the ground in the box from before.

Kika –Not one of Kika's measurements here are the same (again not scientific measuring on my part, merely holding a ruler up to my computer screen). Her back is almost double the length of her front end and her back end is slightly longer than her front. I am prepared to hold my hands up and admit that my placement of the lines may be off - but is my horse as lopsided as this breakdown makes her out to be? How does she not bend in the middle from being too long?!

Head vs. Body
Ideal – The length of the head should be similar to the lengths from the point of the hock to the ground, the chestnut on a forelimb to the ground, length of heartgirth, and from the stifle to the croup.

Kika – The length of her head matches up with her lower limbs and croup to stifle, but her hearthgirth is a little deeper. Does this mean she has a higher lung to brain capacity?! If yes this would explain her tendency to spook first & think later ;-)

Buttock vs. Hip vs. Stifle
Ideal – The lengths from the buttock to the stifle, the stifle to the point of the hip, and the point of hip to the buttock should all be similar.

Kika – Her stifle to hip & stifle to buttock are equal (again according to my super sleuthing ruler vs screen measurements), her buttock to hip is slightly longer - does this give her more power from behind when she jumps? I would have to test this theory by returning to jumping...if only i had more time & minions to help put up and take down fences!

Google images LINK

I wish I knew what the lack of alignment with the ideal means towards Kika's ability to work and or reproduce in the future. What with her being a mare and passed her tenth birthday I have found my thoughts wandering more and more towards baby Kikas ... Having seen her interact with creatures smaller than her and indeed watching her reaction to foals in general (unadulturated awe crosses her face); I have no doubt she would love to be a mammy.
I am also anxious that i get her back to Ireland for retirement/baby-making duties (if that is the next path chosen for her) as I would love for her to end her days on the family farm and have started to worry (hopefully needlessly at this point seeing as she will not be 11 till May) about paying closer attention to her and not missing the boat (literally)/opportunity to send her "home".
Then there are all the thoughts surrounding the overpopulation of horses already in Ireland and the world at large, which makes me reconsider breeding her at all given she has done very little competition wise with her life and absolutely nothing since we left Ireland in 2010 :-(
For anyone curious about Kika's pedigree, it can be found HERE, if she was yours would you breed from her based off this conformation breakdown & pedigree info?

PS: I hope to play with Nancys picture tomorrow...I daren't admit how long i spent playing in paint to do this post!

Monday 16 February 2015


My girls are two very different horses but they have one big problem in common...MOI!
I got pretty much the same comments for both;
- they both favour looking outside vs bending correctly towards the inside.
Kika is squirmy as mentioned before, she is slightly easier to manoeuvre as she's more sensitive then Nancy. But this also makes her slightly more difficult as she reacts first and thinks about what she's being asked later - whereas Nancy thinks about things first and takes a little more time (and coercion aka leg) to do what is being asked of her.

Post-work mirror selfie

- i need to raise my inside hand slightly & lower my outside hand ... it is particularly bad when my right hand is on the inside. Not surprising really as this has long been my weaker side, so it makes sense that it needs more work.
I also need to watch my wrists as i have a nasty habit of letting them droop and/or become puppy paws - i must pay more attention to them!

Sadly I didn't manage a mirror selfie with N
in her new to us petrol saddle pad...
maybe tomorrow

- i need to turn my toes out slightly to help my leg position. Oddly my left leg is typically worse that my right leg on this occasion...although now that I think about it, it is usually more my inside leg than outside leg and probably because I am a demon for using my heel to nag their sides rather than my calf which has the negative effect of curling my leg up into more of a foetal position than it should be in. Honestly how i don't fall off for being so unbalanced is ridiculous as my outside leg stays long and that heel stays down - go figure!
I think this may also have something to do with both girls habit of gawping outside and not bending towards the inside (see first indent above) my mind knows i have to keep my inside leg on to present some resistance to stop the squirming in (Kika) / fishtailing (Nancy).

- S (trainer) gave me good feedback to ride Nancy with my hands further apart to help her understand what i am asking of her and between them and my legs give little option but to follow the funnel i am providing to keep her straight/coax some more inside bend.

- Both girls need to work more on transitions w/t & t/c with plenty changes of rein, bend, serpentines and circles of all sizes.

- Kika needs to work on her halt, i am to do nothing with my hands till she gives or alternatively play a little with the bit of she is being particularly awkward.

My chunky monkey ♡ 
Both girls were very good, I rode Kika first because i thought the arena would be quieter earlier in the day - boy was i wrong. There were three others in the arena with us, K kept it together really well despite the close quarters and encounters.  She was much better and less squirmy than the last two days. I guess practice does make perfect and a bit of consistent saddle time makes all the difference. I hope to return to both saddles tomorrow evening after work.
Fingers crossed i can make a clean break from work and clock up more saddle time ☺

Sunday 15 February 2015

Sunday Funday

Both girls were really good today, amazing what a little consistency & saddle time will do for horses and riders amirite ;-)

I started with Kika in the same indoor as yesterday and dispensed with the lunging. As i know her quirks by now and if she gets it into her head to be a numbnut, lunging and/or walker before riding won't make an iota of difference to her. If she wants to be silly and jump and squirm at shadows when you ride she will either way.
So i placed three trotting poles to distract the two of us as a reward if we both kept our cool and/or needed a distraction/reset button ☺

It's been so long since I saw a blue sky
 i almost didn't know what to do with myself
She was a superstar, I concentrated on walk until she settled and i knew her frame of mind (read:better than yesterday). So we moved up to trot and canter work without any fuss. Sure we still had some squiggly squirmy moments, but overall she was 10 times better than Saturday. I had accidentally placed the poles in such a way that we really had to ride into the scary corners to get our turns - totes a happy coincidence. As we navigated those bad boys without either of us throwing the toys out of the pram. No they weren't pretty, but we got the job done so i am a happy camper.

It was a lovely day so I decided to take Nancy for a stroll in the woods and Kika came along on a leadrope cos why not. She has had the bones of three weeks off so a bit of walking wasn't going to kill her. Nancy didn't put a toe out of line, not on crow hop or kick nor did she bulge/swing her backside left at any stage. I'll still get the osteo out to her, but maybe the issues in arena work are mine...let's be honest - this is 99% probable. ;-)
Our only hiccup was on our way to the woods we have to pass a field where a couple horses are turned out. Normally this isn't a problem, but today the black and white cob was lying down with his back to us. So Nancy stopped for a gawk till he turned to look at us and she realised it was a horse and not a monstrosity or whatever she had previously thought.

I am over the moon that I have managed to sign up for a lesson on each tomorrow. Kika first at 13h30 & then Nancy a little later at 15h30. I cannot wait!

Saturday 14 February 2015

Mischief Managed

My return to the tack today was eventful. I knew Kika would be spicy, wiggly and awkward as she's Kika and i hadn't managed to ride her in about 3 weeks or more. So i knew I'd be in for some fun with her and took the necessary precaution of lunging her first.

Moi?! I'm an angel
She is always such a sweetheart to lunge, she just gets on with things without much fuss. There was some head shaking and front leg flailing in two of her canters - but no massive bucking/farting fits. This having gone well i hopped up and the wiggling started, she let me know that the sides of the arena were simply terrifying and walking in a straight line alongside them was going to be an issue for her.
No problem says I, I kept my cool and we walked and walked till her brain re-engaged. Lots of circles, changes of rein and serpentines finally got her brain clicked in enough for some trot and canter work.

Kika being sweet with my friend who helped me
 with new conformation photos.
It wasn't a bad spin compared to her rearing antics of the past (hopefully distant never to return past); but it was a far cry from the lovely work we are capable of. I am under no illusions that I have but myself to blame for not managing to keep up the saddle time so far this winter.
Fingers crossed this is now behind us...

Non-blooper shots to follow early next week for BBS critique
Nancy has been quite antsy the last few days when I turn her out. When we leave the confines of the stable buildings she'd bounce on the spot making faces at Kika - to be fair Kika is always a lazy sod and lagging behind me when I lead the two of them out, so she may well have been needling at Nancy. I have no idea as i do not have eyes at the back of my head. However methinks it unlikely as Kika doesn't often annoy her when being led. I'm thinking now that maybe Nancy is in season and was just being witchy towards Kika. N also took to trotting in her excitement to get to turn out, not appreciated by me as mentioned above K lags behind so I'm stuck in the middle like a scarecrow.

Saying all this I did not foresee Nancy's silliness under saddle coming. I mounted no problem and she stood like a good girl as i sorted myself out. When we started walking things got interesting, I felt her back come up under me and she coiled like a spring before kicking out - she has some bulk & power when you feel her bunch below you like that. So rather than the walk warm up i favour, we went straight to trot work where she threw another buck but half hearted as she didn't drop her head at all. She was one very unhappy camper through the whole ride when I asked her to walk going left handed (i get confused is this when your left had is on the inside, right?!).
I could feel her curl under me and swing her backside into the arena - we have been struggling with walking in a straight line on this rein our last few spins - she was very evasive today. I am hoping to get a lesson on each on Monday as I have the day off and i want eyes on the ground to help guide me through the issues with both girls before they become deep rooted problems.

Meet - derpyness
N was much happier trotting and gave me some lovely trot and canter work. First canter also had a  bit of a hop, skip & a buck - but this often happens when we first canter after a break. I hadn't cantered her our last few spins under saddle.
I also hope to get the osteo out to check both girls over, they are prob a little ouchy as i don't think they have been seen by her since the summer.

She really is such a sweetheart

Friday 13 February 2015

Friday Fail - Conformation

I tried to nab some conformation photos of the girls on Wednesday evening for my 30 b4 30 monthly updates (i already missed out on taking the first ones in January oopsy) and the awesome BBS conformation critique is something I really wanna do with my monsters.

As good as it got - but far from square

However as you'll see from the fabulous fail photos i didn't quite manage to nab either girl standing square. A definite work in progress!

Downside to her Friesian blood - i hate when she stands under herself like this

Wednesday 11 February 2015

WW - Harmonious Horses

Happily sharing

I haven't fallen off the face of the earth and the girls are thankfully happy & healthy. I did manage to have a lovely return to the tack with Nancy on Sunday - here's hoping I can continue to carve out some saddle time as the days get longer again ☺

Very happy coincidence to my visiting
the tack store for new fencing supplies

If you don't follow EquestrianReality's blog, well you really should, but in case her humerus corner of the Irish interweb hasn't reached you yet - be sure to check out her hilarious poem inspired by the fifty shades of grey hype...
Fifty Shades of Hay CLICK HERE

While sticking with the humerus vein of things anti-50 shades, I loved Red Lemonade's recaps as she attempted to read these books. Language may be a bit crude for some, but for others it will be right up your street & her gifs and rants epitomise my emotions when I foolishly read those rubbish books!
LINK to her blow-by-bow review of books I & II, hopefully you had no other plans for today as if you are anything like me you will be reading and laughing your way through these awesome recaps!

Ok, I'll shut up now that you know I & the ponios are alive and well - hopefully future updates will contain more content & who knows maybe someday my WW's will actually be "wordless". I promise that when I sit down to upload the image(s) I wish to share I have every intention of saying nada/niente - but then the verbal vomit starts and I am afraid I cannot help myself!
PS: Not obvious from the above photos, but today was warm enough to turn the girls out without their hoods!
Bring it on S/S I am anxiously awaiting your arrival!
Begone cold, snowy winter!

Wednesday 4 February 2015

WW - Snow Storm and Sheeran

Well the title is a bit of a misnomer as usual I cannot keep things wordless. Photos were taken on Saturday evening after the girls and I got caught in a snow storm coming in from turnout. I sadly (for me) haven't seen either of them since I brought them in from turnout on Sunday as i have been ill. I came home from work on a half day on Monday, didn't go in at all yesterday and finished "early" at 5pm today - having worked through lunch. At the moment I am not sure if I'll make it into work tomorrow morning. :-/
On the upside, all decisions were made on Saturday for my final furniture purchases and the big things have now all been ordered for the flat. Fingers crossed it all looks ok when assembled and installed in a couple months time.

Come to think of it, getting caught in the snow storm with the girls on Saturday evening probably didn't help the oncoming illness that has knocked me out for the week so far. Needless to say the poor ponios are having another uber quiet week. The good news about the final furniture decisions is that I now know exactly how much I have spent and will be spending considerably more time with the horses from here on out as I'll have no more spare change to swan off spending elsewhere...silver lining?! I deff think so ☺
I'm going to leave you with a couple panoramic shots from the Ed Sheeran concert i went to on Friday night in France as a Christmas/Birthday gift for my mam.