Horse 101: The Mare

animal close up country countryside
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It was a brisk winter morning in New England. I opened the barn as I did every morning, and began to let each horse out to pasture one by one. As I usually did, the last stall door I opened was for a white mare named “Babe.” Her heavily curved back from all of her years of riding, her thick winter coat, and the look in her eyes told me everything that was on her mind at that moment. “I am too old, and it is too cold.”

As usual, I ventured off to grab my manure rake and gave Babe her time (which she usually took a lot of) to make her way outside. I began raking the first stall and after about 15 minutes I looked over the aisle and saw that Babe’s stall door had closed, with the mare still in it. I put down my rake and walked over, reopening her door. I went back to my duties, diligently raking through the hay. After about 5 minutes, I curiously peeked again to see if Babe had in fact finally made it out to pasture. Once again, her door was closed, with her still inside her stall. I put down my rake and this time began to search about for my uncle, who was also in the barn. I asked him if he had closed Babe’s stall door. In complete honesty my uncle replied that he had not, and that he had been washing out food buckets for two of the Quarter Horses.

I shook my head in confusion, strolled again to Babe’s door to open it for a third time. As I made it back to the stall to resume my chores, I picked up the rake and curiously looked over my shoulder. It was then that my mystery was solved. I saw Babe reach her chin over the stall door and diligently nudge it shut while slowly backing herself. She would lower her head, grab the rail beneath her chin and slowly nudge inch by inch, until the door had closed completely, so that she could stay in her warm stall. I laughed to myself at such a feat. Babe looked at me as if to say again, “I am too old and it is too cold.”

Mares are one of the most beloved horses among avid horse owners. There’s a sentimentalism that applies to the appreciation people have for them. It is an old bond for those that have had their mare for the majority of her life; and for those that acquire a mare later in life, still poses equal admiration for their uniqueness.

For those that do not know, a mare is a female horse (or other equine) over the age of 3 to 4 years old. You may also hear the term “Broodmare,” which is a mare used exclusively for breeding. A mare in the wild actually receives great honor. She is the one that leads the herd to grazing areas, water sources, dictates movement of the herd, and of course; procreates to ensure the future of the herd, and nurtures the young.

In 2016 an awe-inspiring mare named “Zenyatta” was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. Her races were so extraordinary that she took 1st place in every race she ran except one, where she took 2nd (in 2010.) This is an amazing feat since her reign spanned for 3 consecutive years!

Image result for zenyatta horse
Zenyatta in the Breeder’s Cup Classic 2009

Mares are known to be temperamental to say the least and quite dangerous even, especially during their heat cycle. This is why some people prefer male equines over females. However, there are hormonal medications that can be given to make a mare in season easier to work with.

Image result for "mare" horse quotes

Although mares are not always such “easy keepers,” they have proven to be one of the most amazing creatures to have ever graced the earth.

Image result for "mare" horse quotes

 

 

Advertisements

The Ragdoll

 

img_20180825_0930254611
8 month old Ragdoll kitten “Luna Baby”

HISTORY

The Ragdoll cat is an American breed developed by a woman named Ann Baker. The cross of a Birman cat and White Angora lead to the first litter of Ragdolls. The breed was not officially named “Ragdoll” until 1965. To prevent inbreeding, many Ragdolls were mixed with other breeds such as the Burmese and Persian.

APPEARANCE

Ragdolls vary in appearance. Their coats come in bi-colored, Van, Mitted, and Colorpoint patterns with varying colors including: seal, blue, chocolate, lilac, and cream. Their coats are medium to long and do not possess an undercoat as do many other cat breeds. This results in a silky, heavy top coat; which are prone to matting unless groomed regularly. Another interesting feature of this cat is that their coats may change slightly in color until they reach their adulthood.

img_20181004_125651020

One of the most obvious characteristics of the Ragdoll is their size. Alongside the Maine Coon, Ragdolls develop into very large cats. They are slow to grow, with most reaching true adulthood and maturity between the ages of 2 to 5 years of age. This breed can grow to weigh anywhere from 12 to 20 pounds.

img_20180427_005936182_ll
Ragdolls have a very silky, dense top coat.

Another marvelous trait of a Ragdoll are their beautifully sharp blue eyes. Ranging from a pale blue, almost grey, to a vibrant crystal blue. img_20180113_125617636

 

img_20180427_010001655_ll
8 month old Luna with adult 14-year-old domestic medium hair. Note the size.

TEMPERMENT

The Ragdoll gets their name from their tendency to “flop” and go limp when being handled. They earn the description of being “dog-like” while they tend to follow their human around the house, greet them at the door, or keep an ever watchful eye on them. Ragdolls even come when called and some even play fetch! Furthermore, if they find a suitable canine match, these cats actually enjoy being with their four-legged cousins and will often buddy up with them. These cats enjoy being in their owners lap, but also posses a very playful side as well, even though they generally are quite low-key. Ragdolls are very quick learners, so as long as they are given plenty of positive reinforcement and treats, there should be no problem convincing them to use a scratching post instead of your couch.

Ragdolls have a quiet, soft voice, and do not tend to vocalize as some other cat breeds. Unless it is feeding time or there is something terribly wrong, you can expect your Ragdoll to be a very quiet keeper.

img_20180316_125609228
Asleep with her buddy
resized952018022095141140956375
Baby “Luna” and her nanny

Ragdolls are a very unique breed. Not only are they simply gorgeous, but they have such a desirable temper that they make a great fit for just about any household.

 

 

Search and Rescue Dogs

Golden Rescue

A few days ago, I took part in a public search for a local man who had been missing in our region. The man had been missing for 2 weeks and the family, desperate for answers, initiated a public search. Although law enforcement had brought in their own team, including dogs and helicopters, their search efforts came to no avail.

As we combed acre after acre of heavily dense woods and swampy bog, I began to truly appreciate the majesty of a Search and Rescue animal. As I attempted to retrace steps, look for anything unusual; a shirt hanging from a tree limb, a flock of circling birds, a path of worn down tall grass. I began to think differently. We had brought our dog. A former sled dog who found his second calling as a “sniffer-efficianado.” Able to find any strong, or “not of nature” scent, and even he- being a superior navigator and with a passion for stopping to smell the roses; even he could not find any rock or shrub out of the ordinary. We walked away discouraged, frustrated, and tired. Our hearts went out (and still do) to the family of this missing man. In my attempt to comfort his wife, I said as I embraced her with a hug, “I know you want answers, and I don’t know what those answers are, but I do know that those answers will come.”

An experience such as this, can truly wake even the most humble person to the fact that- humans are not always superior. It is with this undeniable truth that I now embrace an easily overlooked, yet undoubtedly unique service that only a canine can perform.

Search and Rescue Dogs or SAR’s, for short, are called upon during times of utter despair. Natural disasters, missing persons, mass casualties such as 9/11, and other situations which adhere to the urgency of life or death. Not only does time become a pressing issue for the people needing to be found, but also the environment for the dogs themselves can pose very dangerous risks. For example, in an urban earthquake situation where an SAR dog may be deployed, the dog is at risk of death should crumbling concrete fall on them, or a pile of debris shift below them and trap them as well.

There are some breeds that are better suited for this type of work.  A very common breed choice is the German Shepard, due to their versatility. Other breeds include: Golden Retrievers, Bloodhounds, Border Collies, and many brachycephalic breeds such as the Rottweiler and Boxer. However one cannot mention search and rescue without mentioning the longest forerunner in survival rescues: the Saint Bernard.

The St Bernard is actually one of the oldest search and rescue breeds. This breed was originally bred for companionship to many monks of the mountain monasteries of the Swiss Alps. The St Bernard being a genuine companion, would often set about into the mountains along with the monks, refusing to leave their friends behind, and began to develop into the avalanche/mountain rescue relief that we know today.

FEMA lays out some pretty strict guidelines when registering a dog for rescue work. Many organizations such as the American Rescue Dog Association have regulations of their own as well that dictate whether a rescue dog is “mission ready”; Along with many other localized state organizations.

If you would like to help support some of these dogs, their handlers, or families in need of SAR services, check out the non-profit Search and Rescue Dogs of the United States. If you feel that your dog would be an excellent candidate for search and rescue work, I encourage you to reach out to a local training organization. If you aren’t sure whether or not your dog could be a four legged hero, click here to see a list of common characteristics and traits.

 

 

 

The Snakes of Ireland

worm view of concrete structure
Photo by Chris Carter on Pexels.com

Today, we talk about all of the varieties of snakes that exist in Ireland. There are nearly 3,000 snake species in the world – and NONE are found in Ireland.

This fact is not common knowledge in the United States. Even my partner who is third generation Irish and the only one I know who can eat two cans of raw corned beef hash and feel incredibly sick after, (but be quite delighted and proud of himself for doing so) did not know. Even myself, who is from a devout Roman Catholic family and has an uncle who served many generations in priesthood. A family that is so devout that when my grandmother passed away, there were 16 priests and a bishop at her funeral, with the archbishop having extended a public apology for not being able to attend. Even I, who had been taught about Saint’s Peter, Paul, Patrick, and even one’s that do not begin with the letter “P”- did not know this fact.

It’s not intentional. It’s not our fault as Americans. Just as anyone in their own country would immerse themselves in their nation’s politics and troubles, we in the United States do the same. And like everyone else in the known world, it is often difficult to pay attention to your own agenda, your countries agenda, and then above all else – the snake species agenda.

Now once upon a time on a far away island as green as emeralds, a man in an emerald green robe sat in a tavern having a Guinness. In his hand was a tiny green Shamrock, and as he noted it to have three leaves, he had a moment of spiritual awakening. He pondered again over the three leaves, and said “Alas! My goodness, My Guinness! It’s the Holy Trinity!” He wiped the foam that rested on his mustache and quickly arose to his feet. He realized that in order to achieve greater spiritual enlightenment, he must go to the hill top and fast for 40 days. As the man, Patrick, sat atop his hill dreaming of corned beef hash and cabbage, his old school friend Molly, and what would ever happen if an entire city existed for the Irish in America, (which would possibly be named Boston but is all hypothetical) he noticed a snake lurking about nearby. The snake approached whilst presenting a middle finger to the man, Patrick, and said “Hey Buddy, I’ve got pals, and one day we’re going to get you.” As the snake pulled out his brass knuckles and quick draw blade, Patrick gathered himself together and said, “Oh snap yo! Thou shalt not! And if though whilst then Ye shall be forced to bust a moveth brought forth by the one true God. Would you and your Pagan brother’s be down with that-ith-ist!?” The snake slowly looked Patrick over. He could tell that this man was a true Irishman. He knew he would do-ith as he say-ith. Yet the snake, being Pagan and possibly satanic, with his devil worshiping tattoos and pocket guide to hating God in his right scale, brought forth the challenge. He stuck his tail in his mouth and whistled sharply to his brethren, “Come hither! We must attack this Patrick!” All the snakes came out with their chains, baseball bats, knives, and flags shouting their blasphemies to Patrick. Patrick stood up and said, “Alright then, Ye told-eth Ye would bring-eth the pain and yet thou doest anyway (or something).” And Patrick with one swift raise of the arms, tip of the hat and raise of the eyebrow, lifted all the snakes in the air. He then flung all the snakes into the sea, never to return again. Patrick sat down again on his hilltop, returning to his spiritual journey.

…..And that is why there are no snakes in Ireland………

…….OR…..

One could agree with National Geographic and many others in the scientific community and head the truth that snakes most likely never made it to Ireland. When the thaw of the Ice Age came about, the seas were too vast and deep for snakes to migrate through. Furthermore, (having no seamstress to make them Angora wool sweaters) Ireland’s climate was not favorable for colonization.

green snake
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In fact, not a single fossil ever found in Ireland could be traced back to a single snake species. Not a one, ever.

There are some other lands that snakes do not inhabit as well, such as: Antarctica, New Zealand, Iceland, and Greenland.

Which of the two stories above you choose to believe, is up to you. However the moral of the story is (my fellow American’s in particular, I’m talking to you) there are no snakes in Ireland. And THAT…. is a super cool fact. (Sorry, Harry Potter).

 

 

 

The Chihuahua

dog chihuahua sobel
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I recently found myself sitting by a camp fire in conversation with a Chihuahua owner. We talked about “Peanut” and her mischievous ways. We joyfully discussed different dog breeds and origins. Yet when asked about the Chihuahua breed’s origin; I was finally stumped. I had absolutely no clue. My knowledge of dog breeds are a deep and vast well of information yet the little Mexican mascot’s origin had me at a loss. The owner and I began our research to find out, right then and there, and what we found out was amazing. I am going to share with you, the history of the Chihuahua and I am sure that you will find this information fascinating as well.

I began my search on the internet, like most of the world’s population would do, and believe it or not; I couldn’t find much that was of any factual use. So I dug out my AKC Breed book circa 1992, that I received as a child. I opened the dusty cover and found myself suddenly on a rich and timeless adventure.

Chihuahua’s are believed to have existed in their native Mexico since the 9th century. Although many records show their existence as early as the 5th century, it has yet to be accepted among the dog community as a whole. At the time of the 9th century and for several centuries after; the Toltec’s were inhabitants of the area and recorded much of a dog they called the “Techichi.” The dog was found depicted on stone carvings and remains were even found in gravesites along with human remains.

The Techichi was small, with heavy bone structure and long hair. One of the most notable characteristics was that this breed was mute- as noted once in a letter from Christopher Columbus to the King of Spain. Upon the arrival of the Aztecs, a new chapter opened up for the Chihuahua. One very contrast and yet deeply meaningful. It was at this time that if a person were of a wealthy status, the Techichi would be kept as a beloved and adored house pet. However if you were of a lower class; these Techichi’s were instead eaten as food.

Both the Toltec’s and the Aztec’s placed high religious value on the Techichi. There were often great ceremonies involving the Techichi. The dog was believed to purify the soul, a protector from evil spirits, a guide for a soul during the transition into the afterlife, and much more.

It is believed that the Chihuahua is undoubtedly derived from the Techichi, and although color variations have undergone tremendous changes, at one point having a ‘blue’ color, the breed itself essentially has only been variated once, and bred with the Chinese Hairless to create the smooth coated Chihuahua.

The Chihuahua is described as “clannish.” Meaning that it recognizes and prefers dogs of its own kind and is generally unaccepting of dogs of other breeds. The smooth coated is most numerously found in the United States which indicates that this is in fact the most prefered type.

The history of the Chihuahua is rich indeed. It is a marvelous tale that spans centuries. Uncommon to other dog breeds which variate over decades, the Chihuahua proves to be one of the oldest dog breeds. The Chihuahua full of culture, history, and personality- still thrives today.

 

Pet Obesity Awareness Day

active bikes cyclist elderly
Photo by Public Domain Pictures on Pexels.com

Today is National Pet Obesity Awareness Day in America. Over half of the pet population in the U.S. are overweight. There are some simple steps you can take to maintain proper weight in your pet, which lead to tremendous benefits.

It’s so easy to let your pet and your own weight management go out the window. Your 40 hour work week, your physical and/or mental limitations, your schedule and agenda, your life demands, sometimes leave you with little room for anything else to accomplish; like talking your dog for a walk.

But there are some really simple things you can do. Even if you are couch-bound after a long day at work; grab a toy and play with your cat. Throw a ball over your shoulder for your dog to chase after. Engaging your pet in exercise does not necessarily mean you have to awkwardly put your jogging pants on and run a quarter-mile with them. Take your dog for a casual stroll around your neighborhood. Even 10 to 15 minuets of walking is beneficial to your pets health and your own.

Better yet; make it fun. There are many canine toys on the market that help to stimulate your dogs mind. Try giving them a puzzle to solve while keeping their legs moving. However try to avoid games that include treats; like Kong’s. This would be counter-productive to keeping your pets weight in line. Cats as well, can be stimulated by sound. Strumming your fingers on a table nearby or crumpling up a ball of paper for them to chase, is also a super easy way to get your cat interested and potentially active.

For some owners, it is hard to get their animal intrigued at anything at all. Some owners have the Garfield cat or the Snoopy dog that just lays around all day. This can be changed. Your pet is most likely used to the idea of not having to be active. So if at first, your pet doesn’t pounce at your new idea; try, try again. Eventually your pet will understand that you are attempting to make a change in the day’s program.

In the case where a person may be disabled and unable to provide a pet with adequate exercise, there are many websites such as care.com and petsitter, that offer pet services for a fee. You can set your own price and create your own ad, for someone in your area to come and exercise your pet for you.

There are so many advantages to keeping your pet active. Not only is it healthy for them- it is also healthy for you. Many cats, dogs, birds, horses, etc have a tendency to act out when not properly exercised. Certain health issues may develop as well, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and other illnesses that could cost your pet their life. Having a healthier animal means less trips to the vet, lower food bills, and more. To find out more information on pet obesity and things that you can do to right now to have a more active pet, click here.

If you already keep your pet active; then a big round of applause to you. Although pet food manufacturers may not like the idea of less treats; your pets do. Keep up the good work!

Dolly the Sheep Clone

In July of 1996 in Scotland, a little baby sheep took it’s first breath. A cute and soft little female lamb. She was named “Dolly.” Dolly (or 6LLS to her creaters) looked like a perfect sheep. No one would have been able to tell that Dolly was actually a clone. Born in a lab from a peatry dish.

Dolly’s life began from a mammary cell of one ewe, an egg from another, and then implanted into another for growth and birthing.

Beginning in 1998, Dolly herself became a mother and produced six offspring. Including twins and triplets.

Dolly died just under 7 years old as a result of lung cancer which is common in her breed. Scientists have stated that the development of the disease is not in any way connected to the fact the she was a clone. It was just a typical genetical flaw as any sheep of her breed could have gotten.

As of 2016 there are a reported 13 cloned sheep in existence, four of which come from Dolly’s cell line.

Dolly was not in fact the first animal to be successfully cloned. Records beginning in the 1950s show tadpoles, carp, and mice as being a prelude to Dolly’s scientific conception. Some records show that cloning actually dates back to the 1880’s. Since Dolly, many animals have been successfully cloned as well including cows, goats, pigs, monkeys, a cat, and a horse. Even attempts at cloning humans and extinct animals such as the Wolly Mammoth have been researched.

All of this information makes me wonder, why our scientific community sees these experiments as valuable. Although it is a natural tendency for scientific minds to explore new territories; are these experiments beneficial or harmful? Can we potentially recreate limbs or other body parts needed for those that have lost theirs? Where are we headed as a society with this process? The questions of intrigue are endless.

Cloning undoubtedly is an incredibly interesting topic. I encourage us all to take a moment to marvel at our world’s greatest scientific accomplishments.