Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Troika Speed

A troika, a three-horse drawn sledge, competes on the frozen Yenisey river during an amateur horse race near the settlement of Novosyolovo. The Ice Derby has been held in Novosyolovo annually at the end of each winter since 1969, drawing participants from the entire region.

Troika Fire Department Horses

More great photos in this set

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Buggymobile

A 1905 Columbus High Wheel Runabout. A perfect example of the transition from the horse and buggy age to the age of the auto mobile. This is "buggymobile" had a twin cylinder 10 HP air cooled electric  motor under the seat. The hood is a false engine compartment. Notice all the 'artifacts' from the horse carriage construction. This vehicle will be auctioned off on October 7th in Hershey PA. It is expected to fetch between $60,000 and $80,000. It sold in 1905 for $750!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Update: Breeching Forces in the Extreme

Update: Consider using tug stops on the shafts of single's vehicles to help disperse the load from breeching by using some pressure on the saddle to help slow and stop the forward motion of the vehicle. As potentially beneficial as it may be to have as little 'weight' on the saddle most of the time, it may also prove to be beneficial in the long run to share some of the vehicle stopping forces between the saddle and the breeching. Thank you, Elsie Rodney, for pointing my thinking in that direction. 9-1-11

Consider the stresses placed on the sacroiliac joint and pelvis of the single driving horse. These structures play a primary role in the transfer of the power developed from the hind legs to propel the horse and carriage and humans forward, they also perform the integral function of transferring the weight of the carriage and humans via the breeching to the horse for braking purposes. Breeching forces at the extreme moments of performance may take these structures to and beyond their limit causing compounding damage over time.

For some perspective, consider the single standardbred race horse. There is NO braking force occurring in their performance. It’s all forward. Now visualize the single combined driving horse with several hundred pounds of vehicle and human weight with the breeching forces shoving the horse from behind in the extremes of full gallop turns on a side hill in a Combined Driving marathon obstacle. These forces are not always symmetrical or predictable to the horse. Imagine yourself running on uneven ground (i.e with each foot on a different elevation) when, out of nowhere, you are shoved to the side from an angle from behind. Do this enough ties and your chances of injury are quite high. It's not hard to imagine the high toll that is taken on the pelvic structures of the equine.

While the following concerns the sacroiliac joint and pelvis, it is similar to the injury cycle of other structures of the horse.

THE INJURY CYCLE – Initial Sprain or over stretch injury Pain and inflammation • Powerful muscle spasm to protect or guard the joint during this painful stage • Pain and inflammation resolve • Powerful muscle spasm remains holding the joint in an abnormal position • Increased stress through the joint, because it is rotated or sitting in an abnormal plane • Arthritic changes set in • Another bout of pain and inflammation occur due to the arthritis and the cycle REPEATS.
Each time the cycle repeats the muscles get tighter, further affecting the function of the sacroiliac joint, pelvis and spine. In summary, the initial sprain leads to a pelvic rotation, which leads to a loss of function. The horse then has to compensate for this rotation at the pelvis, placing abnormal stresses on a whole new set of joints and causing further problems.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Goodbye, John Henry.

So long my friend.

John Henry 1991-2011

Kathleen Conklin, “John Henry’s human”, knew she had to be part of his life the moment she laid eyes on him in an Amish mule dealer’s barn in Lancaster County, PA. on a cold winter night in 1994. The impressive force of his charisma is rare among equines. He usually wasn’t hard to notice. 1200 pounds of 16.2 hand, black shiny Percheron Mule with 12” ears. Hard to be wallflower. Plus he had the uncanny ability to launch a loud, clear, friendly bellow at the precise moment that doing so would have the most powerful effect in a crowd of people and horses. We smiled. Everyone knew who it was and they were glad to have met John Henry. He even gave the lucky ones a kiss.

John Henry began educating Kathleen about mules as a 3 year old. He knew only how to be tied and to be lead. He would not let anyone touch him. What an education he would provide! And what a fortunate mule he was to have Kathleen to work his magic on. She was receptive. Dedicated. Horse smart. Kind and fair. She always did everything the right way for John Henry.

His competition championships stretch from Shelbyville to Saratoga to Gladstone to GMHA to Lorenzo….and to Walnut Hill. The prestigious summit of carriage driving … Walnut Hill! A Mule at walnut Hill!?! Imagine that. Invited there, even. A barrier broken. John Henry was a champion or reserve champion at Walnut Hill 6 of the last 7 years. Few that saw him will forget the turnout: the restored royal blue butcher’s cart with bright yellow trim and Kathleen absolutely correctly appointed in her blue and white striped apron. Every detail meticulously researched and executed. But the joke was on Walnut Hill. A mule would never have been used to pull a butcher’s cart! Only fast horses like hackneys’ would be able to make the rounds before the meat spoiled. But still he won and won and won. Always loved that joke. It was impossible not to smile at John Henry.

Few know that it was John Henry that caused the United States Equine Federation to overturn a 50 year ban on mules in competition. Mules were banned because their exceptional skills beat society’s horses. They were reinstated because of the skillful ambassadorship of John Henry and Kathleen. It was hard to say no to John Henry. A barrier broken with a smile.
I taught John Henry and Kathleen to dance in preparation for an invitational musical Kur at a meeting of the American Driving Society in Fair Hill, Maryland. How could I say no? But what music to use? This had to be special. The choice? I knew it the second I heard it. Canned Heat’s “Too Much Giddyup (Not Enough Whoa)”. Look it up. It was perfect. And of course John Henry was his usual superlative self and made everyone smile again.

John Henry’s legend is larger than space allows to tell it all here. His magic broke down barriers too numerous to list, but…. and I speak for the horsemen that knew him… in a lifetime, we count on the fingers of one hand the good horses by whom we measure all the rest. John Henry will always be at the top of our list. A mule on the top of the list? Imagine that! We are truly privileged to have known the magnificent John Henry.

“Take this hammer, and carry it to the captain,
Tell him I'm gone, tell him I'm gone”. 
A prison work song about John Henry, attributed to Leadbelly

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Swimming in Cement: Sholokhov

A monument of a herd of horses followed by the writer Sholokhov in his boat crossing a river made of cement celebrating the legacy of writer on Gogolevsky Boulevard, Moscow, Russia. Mikhail Sholokhov is known all over the world as the author of the novel “And Quiet Flows the Don”, perhaps the most widely read book of Soviet fiction. He was awarded a Nobel Prize for it. The monument was inaugurated on the 24th of May 2007, on the author's 102nd birthday anniversary. The complicated sculpture was created by Russian national artist - Alexander Rukavishnikov*; the architect, member of the International Architectural Academy - Igor Voskresensky, and sculptors Iulian and Philip Rukavishnikov. The author is depicted sitting in the fishing boat. At the background of the composition there is a high relief that depicts the flow of the imaginary river, horses are swimming in two different directions into eternity, symbolizing the split of the Motherland, “the white” and “the red”, during the Civil War.

Perhaps the greatest feud of Soviet literary history involved Sholokhov and Aleksandr Solzhenitzsyn, who despised one another. Sholokhov wrote a scathing review of Solzhenitzsyn's work, and Solzhenitzsyn accused Sholokhov of plagiarism. (The plagiarism charge was ultimately proven to be false.) Many Moscow residents dislike the monument intensely--Sholokhov had nothing to do with Moscow, they say, and should not be memorialized in the city--certainly not on the street named Gogol Boulevard, The underlying issue seems to be that he's a Soviet author, and these latter days are a problematic time for monuments to Soviet authors.

      *The sculptor, Alexander Rukavishnikov,  is known as the creator of the monument to Fyodor Dostoevsky set up in front of the Russian State Library, and the monument to Yury Nikulin in Tsvetnoy Boulevard. 

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Cacolets: Two men on a Mule


Mules: "Cacolets - these are iron-framed adjustable chairs, intended for the conveyance of sick and wounded by pack transport. A pair of cacolets weighs 56 lb. They are interchangeable, i.e. they can be used either on the near or off side of the saddle by a simple transposition of the back strap and footrest."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Best kept secret in the horse world

Morgan Ponies have earned 7 out of 8 USEF NATIONAL SINGLE PONY CHAMPIONSHIPS
......and the 8th one was a Morgan cross!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Transitions begin with an ending and end with a beginning.

I ran across this idea as it relates to career changes (not mine, btw!) and I have been thinking about it in relation to the transitions we ask our horses to make while performing. This compliments the idea that verbal instructions are more about *changing* what is happening than about the end result. Saying "Trot" isn't  as much about Trotting as it about changing ....transitioning ... to the Trot from something else. Something must end before something else begins. Maybe thinking of it this way will help organize all the micro events that must occur in the right order with the right timing to accomplish something seemingly so simple as a transition from one gait to another.

Friday, March 25, 2011

2011 Jeff Morse Driving Clinic Series @ Absolute Morgan Farm

2011 Clinic Dates
April 16-17, May 7-8, June 24-25, Sept 8-9, Sept 30*, Oct 29-30, Nov 19-20
*The Sept 30 Clinic will be held at Green Meads Farm
Absolute Morgan Farm
139 Schoolhouse Road - Waltham, VT 05491
Contact   Read More....

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

From the Horse & Buggy to the Ford Model T

The wheel making sequence is particularly interesting. Also note how many bodies are involved in this assembly line process compared to today's assembly lines

Thursday, March 10, 2011

What's Old is New

Note the use of the carriage lamps, obviously state of the art at the time. The wooden spoke wheels and pneumatic tires look the same as many European carriages today. The seating is remarkably similar to Combined Driving vehicles of today as well. The top is a direct adaptation of a driving vehicle folding top. Gotta love the 'steam punk' dash! There are, no doubt, many other similarities if one could examine this car more closely.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Watch horses pull a tanker truck out of snow

Watch horses pull a tanker truck out of snow

 Joel Appleman was driving to work in Central Pennsylvania when he came upon an Amish horse team pulling a tanker truck safely out of the snow. Fortunately, he had his camera and captured the conquest of old technology over new.

Monday, January 17, 2011

One Horse Open Sleigh

Liz and Dave Herrick enjoying the ride!

(Br. 1999, Green Meads Galaxy x Rum Brook Promis Promises)
Owned by David and Liz Herrick

Mount Vernon, NH

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Insulation by Mother Nature

Mother Nature is pretty good at what she does. Think about the winter coat of the horse. When snow is piled up on their back, only a little over an inch underneath it the horse's body temperature is over 100 degrees! Turnout blankets crush the loft out of the natural coat and your horse may actually be *colder* while wearing one. These dogs are not so different. Their natural body temperature is 101.5 degrees.