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Breed Spotlight – Appaloosa

In North America, a horse with a colorful spotted coat pattern was developed in the Pacific Northwest by the Nez Perce people. Settlers referred to this horse as the “Palouse Horse”, after the Palouse River in the area. Gradually, this breed’s name evolved into “Appaloosa”.

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Artwork depicting prehistoric horses with leopard spotting exists in cave paintings in Europe. Images of domesticated horses with the same coloring patterns appear in artwork from Ancient Greece and Han dynasty China through to modern times. The Nez Perce people of the Pacific Northwest United States lost most of their horses after the Nez Perce War in the year 1877. The Appaloosa breed fell into decline for several decades after this. Because of the dedication of a small number of breeders, the Appaloosa was preserved as a distinct breed until the Appaloosa Horse Club (known as the ApHC) was formed in 1938 and acted as a breed registry. The modern breed maintains bloodlines tracing back to the foundation stock of the registry. The breed registry allows some addition of Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, and Arabian blood. 

Ancient art depicting Leopard spotted horses

Today, the Appaloosa is one of the most popular breeds in the United States. It was named the official state horse of Idaho in 1975. Appaloosas have been used in movies, as sports team mascots, and as influence to other horse breeds. They are a versatile breed, suitable as a stock horse in western riding disciplines as well as other equestrian activities. 

The Appaloosa is best known for its leopard spotted coat, which is the preference in the breed. Aside from spotting, there are three other distinctive core characteristics of the Appaloosa: mottled skin, striped hooves, and white sclera in the eyes. Though all horses show white around the eye if the eye is rolled back, white sclera showing while the eye is in a normal position is a distinctive characteristic seen more in Appaloosas than in other breeds. Occasionally, an Appaloosa horse is born with little or no visible spotting pattern. The ApHC allows for the “regular” registration of horses with mottled skin plus at least one other common characteristic of the breed. There is also a “non-characteristic” registration for horses with two ApHC parents who show no identifiable Appaloosa characteristics. 

It is not always easy to predict the color a grown Appaloosa will be when it is born. Patterns sometimes change over the course of the horse’s lifetime, and foals do not always show classic leopard spotting characteristics. Horses with the varnish roan and the snowflake patterns usually show very little of the color pattern at birth, but develop more visible spotting as they age. Appaloosa horses come in several base colors, including bay, black, chestnut, palomino, buckskin, cremello, perlino, roan, gray, dun, and grulla. There are ten different recognized spotting patterns, including spotted, blanket, leopard, snowflake, and mottled markings.

Domestic horses with spotted patterns in artwork have been seen as far back as Ancient Greece, Ancient Persia, and China. Eleventh century France and Twelfth century England paintings also depicted spotted horses. Records indicate that spotted horses were used as coach horses at the court of Louis XIV of France, and in the mid-18th-century there was a huge demand for spotted horses among the nobility and royalty. These horses were used in schools, parades, and other displays. The Spanish obtained spotted horses, likely from trade with Austria and Hungary. These horses then traveled with the Conquistadors and Spanish settlers to the Americas in the early 16th century. A snowflake patterned horse was listed among the 16 horses brought to Mexico by Cortez. 

Spotted horses went out of style in Europe in the late 18th century. This caused these horses to be shipped to Mexico, California, and Oregon.

The Nez Perce were living in what is today eastern Washington, Oregon, and north central Idaho. They engaged in horse breeding as well as agriculture. Horses were first obtained by the Nez Perce people in 1730, and they received them from the Shoshone. Because the Nez Perce lived in excellent horse breeding country, and were relatively protected from raids, they took advantage of this and developed strict breeding selection practices. They were one of the few tribes that actively gelded inferior male horses and traded away poor stock to remove unsuitable animals from the gene pool. They were notable horse breeders by the early 19th century.

Nez Perce horses were known to be of the highest quality, and even Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark Expedition wrote in his journal about the excellence of their horses. He also mentioned the horses being “pied”, noting the spotted patterns of the modern Appaloosa horse. At this time, however, many of the Nez Perce horses were solid colored, as they had not yet begun to breed for color until after Lewis and Clark’s visit. As settlers moved into the Nez Perce lands, the successful trade of their horses enriched the tribe. In 1861, the Nez Perce horses were said to be “elegant chargers, fit to mount a prince.” Ordinary horses at the time could be purchased for $15. Settlers and non-Natives who owned Appaloosa horses from the Nez Perce turned down offers as high as $600 for their animals.

The encroachment of gold miners in the 1860’s and settlers in the 1870’s put pressure on the Nez Perce people. A treaty in 1863 reduced the lands allotted to the Nez Perce people by ninety percent. Some of the Nez Perce refused to give up their lands under this treaty, including a band living in the Wallowa Valley of Oregon. Tensions rose, and in May of 1877, General Oliver Otis Howard called a council and ordered the bands to move to the reservation. The leader of the bands, known as Chief Joseph, felt that military resistance would ultimately be futile. But, on the day that the Chief had gathered 600 people in Idaho, a small group of warriors staged an attack on nearby settlers. After several small battles in Idaho, 800 Nez Perce took 2000 head of livestock and fled into Montana before heading southeast and into Yellowstone National Park. 

A small number of the Nez Perce warriors held off larger U.S. Army forces in several skirmishes, including a two-day battle in southwestern Montana. After being rebuffed by the Crow Nation when they sought safety there, the Nez Perce headed for Canada. The journey was around 1,400 miles, and all throughout it, the Nez Perce relied on their fast, agile, and hard Appaloosa horses. They stopped to rest near the Bears Paw Mountains in Montana, around 40 miles from the Canadian border. Unknown to them, Colonel Nelson A. Miles had led an infantry-cavalry from Fort Keough in pursuit. After a five day fight, Chief Joseph surrendered. The Nez Perce war was over on October 5, 1877. Most of the war chiefs were dead, and the noncombatants were cold and starving. 

A Nez Perce warrior on horseback.

The U.S. 7th Cavalry immediately took more than 1,000 of the tribe’s horses when they accepted Chief Joseph’s surrender. They sold what they could and then shot the rest. A significant population of horses were left behind in the Wallowa Valley when the Nez Perce began their retreat, and additional horses escaped or were abandoned on the way. When the Nez Perce were relocated to reservations in north central Idaho, they were allowed to keep few horses and were forced to crossbreed with draft horses in an attempt to create farm horses. 

A remnant population of the Appaloosa horses remained after 1877, but they were nearly forgotten as a distinct breed for nearly 60 years. A few of the best horses continued to be bred and used as working ranch horses. Others were used in circuses and shows, such as Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. The name “Appaloosa” came from the Palouse River that ran through the Nez Perce territories. There were several other spellings of the breed’s name, including “Appalucy”, “Opelousa”, and “Apalousey”. By the 1950’s, “Appaloosa” was considered the correct spelling of the name. 

Western Horseman magazine published an article in 1937 describing the Appaloosa breed’s history and urging the preservation of the horses. This was when the Appaloosa came to the attention of the general public. The author of the article, Francis D. Haines, had performed extensive research, including traveling with a friend to various Nez Perce villages to collect history and take photographs. The article generated interest in the breed, and was responsible for the founding of the Appaloosa Horse Club by Claude Thompson in 1938. The Appaloosa Museum Foundation was formed in 1975 to preserve the history of the Nez Perce horse. Western Horseman magazine continued to support and promote the breed in subsequent issues. 

The Arabian horse played a huge part in the revitalization of the Appaloosa horse, as evidenced by early registration lists that show Arabian-Appaloosa crossbreeds as ten of the first fifteen horses registered with the ApHC. Later, Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse lines were added, as well as crosses from breeds such as the Morgan and Standardbreds. In 1983 the ApHC reduced the number of allowable crosses to three main breeds: Arabian, American Quarter Horse, and the Thoroughbred. 

By 1978, the ApHC was the third largest horse registry of light horse breeds. By 2007, more than 670,000 Appaloosas were registered. They are an international organization, with affiliates in Europe, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, and Israel. The ApHC has 33,000 members as of 2010. 

The American Appaloosa Association was founded in 1983 by members of the ApHC who opposed the registration of solid colored horses. Based in Missouri, the AAA had a membership of more than 2,000 as of 2008. Other registries have been created for horses with leopard complex genetics that are not affiliated with ApHC. The ApHC is, by far, the largest Appaloosa horse registry, and it hosts one of the largest breed shows in the world.

The ApHC does not accept horses with draft, pony, Pinto, or Paint breeding. Mature horses must stand at least 14hh while unshod. If a horse has excessive white markings that are not associated with the recognized Appaloosa patterns, it cannot be registered unless a DNA test reveals that both the horse’s parents have ApHC registration. 

Unfortunately, Appaloosas have an eightfold greater risk of developing Equine Recurrent Uveitis than all other breeds combined. Up to 25 percent of all horses with ERU may be Appaloosas. If not treated, ERU can lead to blindness. Appaloosas with roan or light colored patterns, little pigment around the eyelids and sparse hair in the mane and tail mark the most at-risk horses for this condition. Researchers believe they have identified a gene region in the Appaloosa that makes the breed more susceptible to the disease.

Some Appaloosas are also at risk for congenital stationary night blindness. CSNB is a disorder that causes a lack of night vision, though day vision is normal. It is an inherited disorder, present from birth, and does not progress over time. 

Appaloosas are a versatile and hardy breed. They are used for both Western and English riding disciplines. Western competitors use the Appaloosa for cutting, reining, roping, barrel racing, and pole bending. Barrel racing is known as the Camas Prairie Stump Race in Appaloosa-only competitions, and pole bending is called Nez Perce Stake Race at breed shows. English riding disciplines use Appaloosas for competitions such as eventing, show jumping, and fox hunting. They are common in endurance riding competitions and casual trail riding. Appaloosas are also bred for horse racing and have an active breed racing association promoting the sport. Generally, they are used for middle-distance racing. An Appaloosa holds the all-breed record for the 4.5 furlongs distance, which was set in 1989.

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To learn more about the Appaloosa horse, go to the ApHC Official Website.

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Equine March 2019

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 I have been participating in Equine March this year, though I only found out about it on the 5th of the month! Equine March is an art related prompt begun (as far as I can tell) by Dalgeor on DeviantArt

Equine March is a set of prompts, one for each day of the month of March. Some of the prompts are broad, like “Cremello”, “Fear”, and “Joy”. But some of them are more specific, such as “Buchephalus”, “Marwari”, and “Thestral”. I haven’t done all of the prompts, because I missed the first few and sometimes on the weekends I’m at the barn or busy at the art co-op and don’t have the time or energy to draw, but the ones that I have done have been so much fun and have challenged me to try new things. I wanted to share some of my favorites from this month so far here.

You can see more of these by following me on Instagram or my Facebook art page. You can also search the hashtag #equinemarch on Instagram to see more of the incredible work done by other artists this month! 

Prompt #5 “Cremello”

Cremello Horse ©Liz Staley 2019

I really enjoyed drawing this beautiful Cremello horse. I haven’t done this specific color before, and it was nice to challenge myself. Especially with trying to do it on the toned paper. I seriously LOVE doing horse art on toned paper, for some reason? This Cremello was drawn with ink and colored pencils.

Prompt # 9 “Fear”

“Fear” © Liz Staley 2019

This prompt took some consideration for me to figure out what I was going to draw. I finally decided to interpret it as a fear of my own that I have worked through with riding. For years, I was scared of mounting. Getting into the saddle caused major anxiety thanks to a number of falls after horses walked away at the mounting block. The view in this drawing gave me a sinking feeling in my stomach for a long time until I worked hard to get through it. I still have unfamiliar horses held for me if at all possible, but for the horses I ride regularly I no longer need someone to hold them while I get on. I love riding, so starting every ride with intense anxiety wasn’t fun and I’m so proud that now I can mount up 99% of the time without being terrified.

Prompt #12 “Thestral

“Thestral” © Liz Staley 2019

I have a strange fascination with horse skulls (see: the Mari Lwyd art I did as a Christmas/T-shirt design a few years ago). I even have a horse skull- a REAL horse skull- in my office. So it was only natural for me to decide to make this Thestral very skull-like. This was done on toned brown paper with ballpoint pen and a white Gellyroll pen for the highlights.

Prompt #18 “Marwari”

“Marwari Love” © Liz Staley 2019

Marwari are one of my favorite horse breeds because I love their ears! Marwari ears are just the most darling things ever. I decided to create a design that would show my love for Marwari ears, and this was what I came up with. This was done on white paper with ink, alcohol markers, and colored pencils and is probably my most-liked photo on Instagram at the moment.

Prompt #22 “Capriole”

“Capriole” © Liz Staley 2019

This is the first prompt that I missed doing on the day it was supposed to be done, and then I went back and did it the next day because I was so excited for this one and hated that I’d missed it. I nearly did a Capriole pose for a horse earlier in the prompt list, but then I saw that this was a prompt later in the month so I decided to hold off so I could do it on the 22nd, and then I had to go back and do it. I think it turned out so nicely though! Toned paper, ink, and colored pencils.

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Breed Spotlight – Arabian

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 The Arabian horse is one of the oldest horse breeds in the world. Archaeological evidence of horses resembling the Arabian have been found in the Middle East dating back 4,500 years. It is one of the most easily recognizable horses in the world. Throughout history, the Arabian has spread around the world thanks to both war and trade. The breed has been use to improve other horse breeds by adding speed, endurance, and strong bone. The Arabian horse bloodline is found in almost every modern breed of riding horse. 

The nomadic Bedouin people of the area where the Arabian developed prized the horses so much that they would often bring them inside the family tent for shelter and to protect the horses from theft. Arabian horses are quick learners, good-natured, and eager to please, with the high spirit and alertness required for war. Arabian horses are the masters of endurance, dominating the sport of endurance riding because of their soundness, strength, and superior stamina. Romantic myths are often told of the Arabian breed, giving them nearly divine characteristics and powers.

There are several myths of the origin of the Arabian horse. One origin myth tells of how Muhammed gave his mares a test of their loyalty and courage by turning them loose after a long journey through the desert and let them race toward an oasis for a desperately needed drink of water. Before the herd reached the oasis, Muhammed called the herd back to him. Only five mares returned to their master, becoming his favorites and being named Al Khamsa– “The Five”. These mares became the legendary foundation mares of the five strains of Arabian horses. 

Another version says that Solomon gave a stallion to the Banu Azd people when they came to pay tribute to him. It was said that every hunt with this stallion was successful, and when he was put to stud he founded the Arabian breed. Several other origin myths claim that the Arabian was created from the wind and stormclouds, including one where Allah says to the South Wind, “I want to make a creature of you. Condense.” The material condensed from the South Wind became the horse.

Assyrian horses on the so called Lachisch relief, from

Arabians are one of the oldest human-developed breeds in the world. Horses with characteristics similar to the modern Arabian have been depicted in rock paintings and inscriptions in the Arabian Peninsula dating back 3,500 years. Ancient Egyptian art as far back as the 16th Century B.C. depicted horses with refined heads and tails with a high carriage. Horses with similar characteristics to the Arabian include the Marwari horse of India, the Barb of North Africa, and the Akhal-Teke of Turkmenistan. 

The desert climate and culture greatly influenced the development of the Arabian breed. The desert environment needed a domesticated horse who would cooperate with humans to survive. Humans were the only source of food and water in some areas. Even hardy Arabian horses require more water than camels in order to live. If there was no water or pasture, the Bedouin would feed their horses camel’s milk and dates. A desert horse needs the ability to survive with little food, and must have anatomical traits that would compensate for the dry climate and extreme shifts of temperature between day and night. Arabians were bred to be war horses with speed, intelligence, and endurance. Mares were often preferred over stallions for raids requiring stealth, because they were quieter and less likely to give away the position of the raiding party. Because the prized horses were often brought inside the family tents at night to protect them from the weather, theft, and predators, a good disposition was necessary. Appearance was not required for the breed’s survival, but the Bedouin bred for refinement and beauty in their horses’ features as well as for their more practical traits.  The Bedouin people knew the pedigrees of their best war mares in detail, including their accomplishments and victories, down through the maternal lines.

There is a misconception that because the Arabian is a small, refined breed of horse, that they are not strong. The Arabian has more dense bone than other breeds, short cannon bones, sound hooves, and a short, broad back, all of which give the horse a physical strength comparable to larger horses. Even a small Arabian can carry a heavier rider. In areas such as farm work, where a heavier horse is an advantage, the Arabian is not suitable because of their lighter weight and smaller stature. For most purposes, the Arabian is a strong and hardy light horse with the capability of carrying any type of rider in most equestrian sports. 

Arabian horse in “Traditional” garb, 2006 Arabian Horse Nationals

Arabians are one of the few breeds where the United States Equestrian Federation rules allow children to show stallions in nearly all show ring classes. This is because of the Arabian’s naturally good disposition. For centuries, only horses with a good nature were allowed to reproduce, resulting in a breed with an overall good and willing disposition. Though the Arabian is considered a “hot-blooded” horse, unlike other high spirited breeds their intelligence enables quick learning and greater communication with their riders. The downside of this is that it is just as easy for the Arabian to learn bad habits as it is good ones, and they do not tolerate inept handlers or abusive training practices. Most Arabians are naturally inclined to cooperate with humans. When treated badly, however, they can become as nervous and anxious as any other horse, but they seldom become vicious unless severely abused. 

The earliest horses with Arabian bloodlines to come to Europe probably did so indirectly, through Spain and France. Other Arabians arrived as spoils of war with knights returning from the Crusades. As heavily armored knights and their heavy war horses became obsolete, the Arabian horses and their descendants were used to develop faster and more agile light cavalry horses. Arabian horses also came to Europe when the Ottoman Turks sent 300,000 horsemen into Hungary in 1522, many of whom were riding pure-blooded Arabians. The Ottomans reached Vienna before they were stopped by the Polish and Hungarian armies. The horses were captured from the defeated Ottoman cavalry, and some of these animals provided foundation bloodstock for the major studs of eastern Europe. 

As the use of light cavalry in warfare began to rise, the stamina and agility of Arabian horses gave an advantage to any army that had them. European monarchs began to support large breeding programs that crossed local stock with Arabian horses. European horse breeders also began to acquire Arabians through direct trade with the desert. By the late 1800’s, the Arabian as a pure breed of horse was under threat due to modern warfare, inbreeding, importing to Europe, and other problems that were reducing the horse population in the Bedouin tribes. Some Europeans began to collect the finest Arabian horses they could find in order to preserve the blood of the desert horse for future generations. The most famous collector of Arabians for the future was Lady Anne Blunt, the daughter of Ada Lovelace and granddaughter of Lord Byron. 

Lady Anne Blunt and the horse Kasida

World War I, the Russian Revolution, and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire destroyed many historic European stud farms. The Spanish Civil War and World War II also had a devastating impact on horse breeding throughout Europe. Many studs, and most records of breeding, were entirely lost. The Soviet Union and the United States obtained valuable Arabian horses as spoils of war. The Soviets had taken steps to protect their breeding stock, and using horses captured from Poland they were able to re-establish their breeding program soon after the end of World War II. Horses captured in Europe were brought to the United States, mostly to the Pomona U.S. Army Remount Station in California. 

In America, the earliest Arabian horses arrived with Hernan Cortes in 1519. More horses followed with each Conquistador, missionary, and settler. Many horses escaped or were stolen and became the foundation stock for the American Mustang. Colonists from England brought horses of Arabian breeding to the Eastern Seaboard. One of George Washington’s horses during the American Revolutionary War was a gray half-Arabian named Blueskin. Other presidents also owned Arabian horses, including President Ulysses S. Grant, who obtained an Arabian stallion named Leopard and a Barb as gifts from the Sultan of Turkey. 

George Washington on his half-Arabian, “Blueskin”

One of the earliest American breeders of Arabian horses was A. Keene Richard. He crossed his Arabians with Thoroughbreds, but also bred pure Arabian horses. Unfortunately, his horses were lost during the Civil War and have no known purebred Arabian descendants today. Leopard is the only known stallion imported before 1888 who has known purebred descendants in America. 

In 1908, the Arabian Horse Registry of America was established and recorded 71 animals. By 1994, the number of animals registered was half a million. There are more Arabian horses registered in North America today than in the rest of the world combined. 

In the 1980’s, the Arabian horse became a popular status symbol. The horses were marketed in a similar fashion as fine art. Prices for Arabians went through the roof, with some people using the horses as tax shelters. A record-setting auction had a mare sell for 2.55 million dollars in 1984. A stallion sold at the same auction for 11 million dollars. The potential for profit on the horses led to over-breeding, and when the tax law was changed in 1986, the Arabian market was particularly vulnerable to over-saturation and inflated prices. The market soon collapsed, forcing many breeders into bankruptcy. Many pure-bred Arabians were sent to slaughter in the aftermath. The prices for Arabians recovered slowly after many breeders moved away from creating “living art” and began producing horses suited toward amateur owners and a variety of riding disciplines. As of 2013, there are more than 660,000 registered Arabians in the United States, the largest number of Arabians in any nation in the world. The second largest registry in the world is the Australian Arabian Horse Registry.

The genetic strength of the desert-bred Arabian horse has led to the bloodlines having a hand in the development of almost every modern light horse breed. This includes the Thoroughbred, Orlov Trotter, Morgan, American Saddlebred, Quarter Horse, Trakehner, Welsh Pony, Australian Stock Horse, Percheron, Appaloosa, and the Colorado Ranger Horse. Arabians are crossed with other breeds to add refinement, agility, beauty, and endurance. Some half-Arabian crosses, such as the Morab (Morgan-Arabian) are even popular enough to have their own breed registries. 

There is some debate over the role the Arabian played in the development of other light horse breeds. DNA studies of multiple horse breeds suggest that, after the domestication of the horse, the location of the Middle East as the crossroads of the ancient world allowed the Oriental horse to spread through Europe and Asia. There is little doubt that humans crossed “oriental” blood to create other breeds of light riding horses. The only questions are at what point the “oriental” type horse could be called an “Arabian”, how much Arabian blood was mixed with local animals, and at what point in history. For some breeds of horse, such as the Thoroughbred, Arabian influence is documented in written stud books. For older breeds, the date of Arabian influx of breeding is more difficult to determine. 

Arabians are intelligent, willing, and versatile horses that compete today in many equestrian disciplines. Horse racing, saddle seat, Western pleasure, hunt seat, dressage, show jumping, cutting, reining, endurance riding, eventing, and youth events all see Arabian participants. They are used for pleasure riding, trail riding, and working horses. The Arabian dominates the sport of Endurance riding thanks to their superior stamina. They are the leading breeds in competitions such as the Tevis Cup, where they can cover up to 100 miles in a day. 

Anglo-Arabian Endurance Competitors

Series of horse shows specifically for Arabians and half-Arabians exist in America, Canada, Great Britain, France, Spain, Poland, and the United Arab Emirates. In North America, the Arabian Horse Association’s “sport horse” events draw up to 2000 entries. This competition sees Arabian and part-Arabian horses performing in hunter, jumper, dressage, combined driving, and sport horse under saddle and in hand classes. 

Purebred Arabians have also excelled in open events against other breeds. They have won against other breeds in Refined Cow Horse, cutting horse, show jumping, and show hunter competitions. A purebred Arabian competed on the Brazilian eventing team in the 2004 Athens Olympics. Arabians have won Olympic medals in dressage and show jumping as well. 

Arabians have been popular in movies dating back to the silent film era when Rudolph Valentino rode the Arabian stallion Jadaan in 1926’s “Son of the Sheik”. They have been seen in many films, including The Black Stallion, as well as Hidalgo and Ben-Hur. They are popular mascots for sports teams. Arabians are also used in search and rescue teams and for police work, as polo horses, in circuses, therapeutic horse riding programs, and on guest ranches.

The Arabian is a breed that has had influence all over the world. From the tents of the Bedouin people who fed their prized mares dates and camel’s milk, to the personal mounts of kings and Presidents, to the Olympic games. They are truly a versatile breed with intelligence and a willing disposition. 

Find out more about the Arabian breed at the Arabian Horse Association’s website at

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Breed Spotlight – Nokota Horse

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By the early 20th century, the feral and semi-feral horse known as the Nokota was nearly wiped out by ranchers and state and federal agencies in North Dakota. When Theodore Roosevelt National Park was created in the 1940’s, a few bands of Nokota were inadvertently trapped inside by workers, and were thus preserved. 

The Nokota horse developed in the 19th century in the southwestern corner of North Dakota, in an area known as the Little Missouri River Badlands. Horses from domestic herds mingled with the original feral herds. Ranchers often crossbred Spanish horses from the southwest, local Native American ponies, and various draft, harness, Thoroughbred, and stock horses to create hardy and useful ranch horses. The Nokota horse has an angular frame and prominent withers, usually standing between 14.2 to 17 hands. They often exhibit an ambling gait called the “Indian Shuffle”. They are often blue roan in color, which is rare in other breeds. Black and gray are also common colorations for the Nokota. Less common colors include red roan, bay, chestnut, dun, grullo, and palomino. Pinto patterns occur on occasion. 

Nokota horses today are used in many horseback riding events, including endurance riding, western riding, fox hunting, dressage, three-day eventing, and show jumping. The breed is described by fans as “versatile and intelligent.”

There are two commonly cited sources for the Nokota name. One source states that the Nokota gets its name from the Nakota people who inhabited North and South Dakota. The other origin claims the name comes from a combination of North and Dakota, and was created by the Kuntz brothers.

In 1884, a ranch near Medora, North Dakota, called the HT Ranch purchased 60 mares from a herd of 250 Native American-bred horses that were originally confiscated from the Lakota leader Sitting Bull in 1881. Some of the mares were bred to the Thoroughbred racing stallion Lexington, also owned by the ranch. 

Nokota Horses: Photo from the Nokota Horse Conservancy

By the early 20th century, the feral herds became the target of local ranchers who wanted to limit grazing competition for their own herds. Many horses were removed from the wild, used either for ranch horses, sold to slaughter, or killed. From the 1930’s to the 1950’s, federal and state agencies worked with the ranchers to remove the horses from western North Dakota. The species was all but extinct by the time that Theodore Roosevelt National Park was established in the 1940’s. During construction, a few bands of the horses were accidentally trapped in the park when the fence was constructed. By the 1960’s, these bands of horses were the last remaining feral Nokota in North Dakota. 

Despite their status, the park sought to eliminate these feral bands of horses. The National Park Service was declared exempt from the Wild and Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, an act that protected free-roaming horses and burros on other federal lands. This allowed the park to view the Nokota horses as a nuisance and deal with them as such, which included sending many of them to slaughter. In the 1970’s, public opposition to the removal of the feral horses prompted management strategy changes. Today, the herds within the Theodore Roosevelt National Park are managed for historical demonstration purposes. 

In 1986, the park added outside bloodlines into the feral bands with the aim of modifying the appearance of the Nokota because management of the park felt the resulting horses would sell better at auctions. Dominant herd stallions were removed and replaced with a crossbred Shire stallion, a Quarter Horse stallion, an Arabian stallion, and two feral stallions from the Bureau of Land Management Mustang herds. At the same time, a large number of horses from the park were rounded up and sold. At this auction, Leo and Frank Kuntz purchased 54 horses, including the dominant stallion, because they were concerned about the welfare of the Nokota horses. 

By 1993, the Kuntz brothers had a herd of 150 Nokota horses, including those purchased from the park over the course of several auctions and the descendants of those horses. The horses were mainly used for ranching and endurance races. In that year, the Nokota was declared the Honorary State Equine of North Dakota. In 1994 , researchers conducted a study of the horses in the park and on the Kuntz ranch. They discovered that none of the horses in the park and only about 20 on the ranch had characteristics consistent with the Colonial Spanish Horse. Since that study, the horses on the Kuntz ranch have been bred with the goal of maintaining and improving their Spanish characteristics. In 1999, the Kuntz brothers founded the Nokota Horse Conservancy to protect and conserve the Nokota horse. The Conservancy tracks around 1,000 horses throughout the United States. 

Breyer Nokota Horse Model

In recent years, Theodore Roosevelt park has continued to thin the feral Nokota herd. Several round-ups were conducted throughout the 1990’s and the early 21st century. In the year 2000, the last horses to be considered of the “traditional” Nokota type were removed from the wild. Some were purchased by supporters of the Nokota Horse Conservancy. The National Park Service maintains a herd of 70 to 110 horses.

The Breyer Animal Creations annual “Benefit Horse” Campaign chose to honor the Nokota in 2006. A Breyer model was created, manufactured, and marketed throughout the following year, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Nokota Horse Conservancy. In 2006, the Kuntz family owned approximately 500 Nokota, with the Conservancy owning another 40. At that point, there were less than 1,000 living horses of the breed in the world. 

In the fall of 2009, the North Dakota Badlands Horse Registry was created to register horses that have been removed from the park. They state that these horses are not accepted by the main Nokota Horse Registry. In March of 2011, approximately 40 horses had been registered to this organization. The Nokota Horse Registry is run by the Nokota Horse Conservancy, and currently has around 2,000 horses in the registry. 

Learn more about the Nokota Horse by visiting 

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Breed Spotlight: Australian Brumby

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 Recently, I completed a new horse breed design of the Brumby horse. 

A Brumby is a free-roaming wild horse in Australia. They are mostly found in the Australian Alps region and the Northern Territory, with the second largest population in Queensland. 

The first recorded use of the term “Brumby” in print was in 1871, and had the connotation of an inferior or worthless animal. Several other origins of the term have also been cited, including the Once A Month magazine suggesting that it came from a South Wales term, “rumbies”. The poet Banjo Paterson stated in the introduction of his poem “Brumby’s Run” that the word is of an Aboriginal origin and means “Wild Horse”. It’s derivation is obscure, and may have come from a number of different sources. This includes being named after Sergeant James Brumby, an Aboriginal word “baroomby” which means wild, and the name of the Baramba creek and station in the Queensland district of Burnett. 

Brumbies are the descendants of escaped or lost horses that in some cases date back to those belonging to the early European settlers, including the “Capers” from South Africa. Timor ponies from Indonesia, British ponies and draft breeds, and Thoroughbreds and Arabians have likely made up a large amount of the Brumby breed. Horses first arrived in Australia in 1788. They were imported for utility and farm work, for recreational riding, and for racing. Only 200 horses had made their way to Australia by the year 1800. An influx in Thoroughbreds came when horse racing became popular around 1810. By 1820, roughly 3500 horses were living in Australia. This number had increased to 160,000 horses in just thirty years. Because of the long journey by sea from England, Europ, and Asia, only the strongest and heartiest horses could survive. This made for a healthy and strong Australian stock and contributed to their ability to flourish. 

The first report of an escaped horse was in 1804. By the 1840’s, some horses had escaped from the settled regions of the country. Some likely escaped from improperly installed and repaired fences. But it is believed that many of the feral horses came from horses released into the wild and left to fend for themselves when pastoralists abandoned their settlements. After World War I, the number of unwanted animals who were set free increased due to a decreased demand for horses and an increase in mechanization. Throughout the 20th century, demand was further decreased thanks to the replacement of horses in farming with machines like tractors. This likely increased the population of wild bands of horses even more. 

Currently, there are around 400,000 horses roaming the continent of Australia. It is estimated that in non-drought conditions the population increases by 20% each year. Drought conditions and brushfires are natural threats to the horses. Despite their high population numbers, the Brumby horse is considered a moderate pest. The impact on the environment can be detrimental in areas where the horses are allowed to damage vegetation and cause erosion. Because the horses also have cultural and economic value, the management of the Brumby bands is a complex issue. 

Today, the Brumby bands live in many places, including some National Parks, such as Alpine National Park in Victoria, Barrington National Park in NSW, and Carnarvon National Park in Queensland. Occasionally they are rounded up and domesticated for use as stock horses, trail horses, show horses, Pony Club mounts, and pleasure horses. 

The Brumby horse is at the center of some controversy. Some people regard them as a pest or threat to native ecosystems. Others value them as part of Australia’s heritage. Supporters work to prevent inhumane treatment and extermination of the Brumby, and also rehome horses who have been captured. Wild Brumbies are used in Brumby training camps by organisations that promote positive interaction between troubled, high-risk youths. These camps usually last several weeks, allowing youths to train a wild Brumby to become a quiet, willing saddle horse while improving the youths’ self-esteem.

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10 Valentine’s Gift Ideas for Equestrians

 If you have an equestrian in your life, you might be wondering what to get them for Valentine’s Day! Equestrians can be hard to shop for, because it seems that some of them have everything (and, more frustratingly, some of them need everything to be JUST THE RIGHT SHADE of their riding color!) but hopefully this list can give you an idea or two for the horsey person you love.

Note that this article has affiliate links that help support this blog. Clicking one of the links below and purchasing an item will give me a small percentage of the sale.

1. Fashion Scarf (with horse design, of course!)  Any equestrian will appreciate something warm to wear since our sport puts us outside in the cold a good bit of the time. But how about a nice scarf to wear while we’re not at the barn? So many of my clothes are “barn clothes” that I feel like I have nothing to wear when I want to dress up a bit, and I’m sure other equestrians feel the same way sometimes! This lovely fashion scarf has a delicate and subtle horse pattern in colors that would be easy to match to any outfit.

2. Hand-painted wooden memory box  A memory box can be small enough for some tail hair and a few other tiny mementos, or large enough to put a halter, show ribbons, and horseshoes inside. This hand-painted memory box is made of willow and crafted by artist Susan Lordi. It includes a lovely sentiment on the inside and is big enough for a tail hair bracelet and a few other small items, such as jewelry or bridle charms. Would be a beautiful way to store jewelry and baubles or to fill with keepsakes of a cherished equine friend!

3. Sterling Silver Horseshoe Pendant with Rose Gold Heart Jewelry is almost always a good Valentine’s Day gift, and this lovely sterling silver pendant is beautiful and horse themed! Rose Gold has become very popular in equestrian items in the past few years, and this pendant includes a little rose gold heart at the top of the horseshoe, making it a great way to show your love for the horse lover in your life. 

4. Swedish Chocolate Horses filled with assorted Truffle flavors Chocolate is a favorite for Valentine’s day, and these little Swedish candies are shaped like horses. They come in various types and flavors, but the ones in the link are various truffle fillings. Yum! 

5. Gift Horses Soy Candles With scents like “In the Tack Room” and “Rescues Love Peppermints”, these candles will remind the horse lover of the barn, no matter where they’re at! These candles are made in the U.S.A. and are high-quality soy wax. They are eco-friendly and non-toxic.

6. Horse Wine Bottle Holder I’m not a drinker, but I know a bunch of my fellow horseback riders are, so this one is for them! This fun and dynamic horse sculpture doubles as a wine bottle holder and is a definite conversation starter. Pair it with a bottle of your equestrian’s favorite wine for a whole package gift! 

7. Love Horses Bracelet These cute bracelets are fashionable and they very blatantly say that the wearer loves horses. They come in a few different colors, so hopefully, you’ll be able to match your equestrians riding outfit color! OR just get black. You probably can’t go wrong with black!

8. Hold Your Horses Book This book is full of humorous nuggets of wisdom that will touch the hearts of everyone, young and old, who loves horses! The author, Bonnie Timmons, is an award-winning illustrator who loves horses (and that makes me love her instantly!)

9. Horse Coloring Book Owning, riding, and working with horses can be really stressful. Coloring is a great way to deal with stress! And this coloring book has 40 horses to color, so you can de-stress from your horsey life by looking at drawings of horses. What could be better? 

10. Horse Notecards Equestrians need to write notes to the barn manager, to their trainer, to the hay guy, and to the farrier. These notecards, drawn and sold by me, are perfect for any correspondence- not just ones related to your hooved best friend. With these cards, the equestrian in your life can send their letters in style! Comes in a set of 12 or 8, complete with envelopes.
I hope this list gave you some ideas for a great gift for the horse lover in your life. Share what you’re getting your equestrian in the comments! 

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Learn Clip Studio Paint now available!

 Some of you who only know me through my horse drawings may not know that I am also a writer. I love to write fiction, but in the past few years I have also written several software books for the digital art software “Clip Studio Paint” (formerly known as Manga Studio 5). 

Through the latter part of 2018, I worked on the 2nd Edition of “Learn Clip Studio Paint“, published by Packt Publishing. I’m very pleased to say that this book was released in late December and is now out! I got my advance copies a few days ago and am so pleased with how they turned out. 

Clip Studio Paint is a world-class art software used by over four million creators worldwide to create comics, manga, illustrations, concept art, and more. Unlike most other art software, Clip Studio Paint is created with artists in mind- most specifically comic artists. It has a powerful and highly customizable brush engine, allowing the user to achieve a variety of real-world media looks like watercolor and oil paint in the digital realm. It also includes digital rulers, speech balloon tools, perspective tools to assist in drawing backgrounds, 3D models that can be posed and edited, materials like patterns, images, and screentones, and more. 

Learn Clip Studio Paint 2nd Edition is the updated version of “Manga Studio 5 for Beginners”, written by Michael Rhodes. After Michael couldn’t complete the update because of personal reasons, I was asked to take over writing the book. It was an honor to work on and publish my third software book with Packt Publishing! 

Through the course of this book, the reader learns how to select a computer to run CSP, as well as the differences between CSP Pro and CSP EX. They learn how to install the software and navigate the interface, as well as how to create new files. Customizing tools like brushes and other drawing tools are covered, as well as the basics of inking your work. This book is ideal for beginner’s and those switching from other graphic software programs. 

As of the time of this writing, the e-book version of Learn Clip Studio Paint is on sale for just $5, so snatch it up quick before the sale ends!

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Fear of Stirrups: How I Conquered My Anxiety and Got in the Saddle

I have anxiety. 

I was officially diagnosed with it about two years ago and started taking medication, but looking back on my life, I’m pretty sure I’ve always been extremely anxious. As a child, I remember reading a science book and then being terrified that the sun was going to blow up and we were all going to burn up and die. I was scared during fireworks displays on the Fourth of July that bits of smoldering fireworks were going to drop on my head and burn me. School turned me into a wreck if we had to answer questions in class or read out loud because I was terrified I would mess up and make myself look like an idiot in front of my classmates.

Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’ve had anxiety my entire life and no one really noticed. I was a crybaby, and anti-social, and a scaredy-cat, and any other manner of mean name you could call a child who has anxiety and no one is willing to open their eyes to that fact. 

As a child, I always wanted to have a horse and learn how to ride. That dream didn’t start coming true until I turned 30, and suddenly I had the opportunity to work with horses and learn how to ride. Learning to ride at 30 years old is not easy, let me tell you. First of all, most people at that age know very well that they can die at any moment, thank-you-very-much, and so I didn’t have the luxury of learning during that fearless time that young children have. Though sometimes I wonder if, because I have had anxiety since a very young age, I ever had that “fearless and immortal” period of my life at all. 

“Even with medication, all these falls started making me anxious.”

Anxiety on Four Hooves

One of the first times I ever got in a saddle without someone else checking the girth (the strap that holds the saddle to the horse) for me, the horse walked away from the mounting block while I was just starting to get on, the saddle slipped, and I fell under the horse. During a riding lesson at another barn, I went to get on a lesson horse who wouldn’t stand still at the mounting block at all and I ended up going right over the other side and falling. Before I had another couple of falls in the past year and a half of riding, ninety-percent of my horseback riding related falls were while I was trying to get in the saddle.

Even with medication, all these falls started making me anxious. Since they happened mostly when I was getting on the horse, I began to get seriously terrified of not having my girth tightened enough that my saddle wouldn’t slip when I got on. Getting in the saddle when there was no one there to hold my horse was also a nightmare, because what if I tried to get on and they walked off without me firmly sitting down in the saddle?! The horror!

It got to the point where I would double and triple check my girth before getting on the mounting block. Then I would play a game called “The mounting block isn’t the correct distance from the horse”, and I would go down and up the mounting block several times, adjusting its position until it was perfect. Then I would stand on the top of the mounting block, staring at my saddle as though it were a firing squad. Eventually, I might get in the saddle, or I might just call it quits and decide not to ride at all. 

We got a VERY tall mounting block eventually at the barn I boarded at, and that made things a little bit easier. I could put my horse (a rather short Morgan mare) next to it and literally swing my leg over and sit down, no stirrups required. And since there were no stirrups required to get on, I could be reasonably sure that my saddle wouldn’t slide and deposit me on the ground underneath an animal with four hard hooves and that spooks easily. 

But this didn’t really solve my anxiety. And things just became worse when the person who owned that mounting block left, taking my salvation with them. 
I got a breastplate, figuring that even if it wasn’t actually designed to stop a saddle from rolling side-to-side, it would be enough of a placebo effect that I would be able to calm my anxiety and get on. But even with the extra piece of tack to give me peace of mind, the anxiety was still there. 

“Yes, anxiety about being anxious! I truly am a mess!”

I soon realized that the anxiety was stemming not just from fear of the saddle slipping, but also from the fear of the horse walking away before I could get in the saddle, AND from my embarrassment about my anxiety. Yes, anxiety about being anxious! I truly am a mess! I knew that I was going to have to get over this and get on my horse like a normal human equestrian is supposed to, not climbing down onto the horse’s back like I was doing a squat in the gym. (Besides, the taller mounting block only allowed me to do that if the horse was as short as my personal horse, and not many of them are. If I rode a taller horse, I was out of luck and HAD to use the stirrup to get on!)

I was in a bind. Nothing I’d tried had worked yet, but I was determined that I was going to stop having so much anxiety about an activity that I truly love and I was going to teach myself to get over this and stop being stared at while I climbed into the saddle like it was my first day of riding. By now I had been riding for almost five years and this just seemed silly. But I was lost on how to make myself not anxious when even buying a piece of tack that was supposed to help me didn’t help at all. 

The answer came to me one day when I was going through TED Talk videos on YouTube. I’ve been in a huge “personal development” phase this year and I randomly stumbled across an interview with Mel Robbins conducted by Tom Bilyeu on how to stop procrastinating and stop being anxious. I watched the interview, enthralled with the simplicity of this technique. And it really, really is very simple. If you don’t have time to watch the interview or don’t know about Mel Robbins’ “Five Second Rule”, let me sum it up.

In the Five Second Rule, you give yourself a task that you need to start. Let’s use getting out of bed since it’s her example in the video. So you say to yourself, “I am getting out of this bed now,” and then you count backward from five to one, and you start that task. It helps squash procrastination because you have a set time limit to start the task, and it kills anxiety because five seconds isn’t enough time to second guess your decision. A simple “5-4-3-2-1” seemed… TOO simple. 

But it was worth a shot when everything else had failed me, right?

I was eager to try this technique and was going riding with some friends the next day. I told myself that I was going to make sure my girth was tight, then I was going to do my countdown and get in my saddle- and I was going to use my stirrup to do it like a normal equestrian! 

“5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1!”

The next day came and I repeated my plan over and over again to myself as I tacked up. I made sure my girth was good and snug and that my helmet was on, and I went to the mounting block. I made sure to adjust the mounting block back a little further than normal so I would have room to use my stirrup. Then I got to the top step, adjusted my reins, put my foot in the stirrup, and said “Five, four, three, two, one!” 

Boom! I was in my saddle! I was giddy over this little victory, could my stirrup worries be over with, finally? I had to get down at one point during that ride to adjust something in the arena, and I used my countdown to get on using my stirrups again. Two for two, I was on fire! Then my friend asked if I wanted to ride her horse for a few minutes because I had never been on him before. This horse is significantly taller than mine, and I knew I was going to have no choice but to use the stirrup for this one. Another countdown and BAM! I was on a horse that I’d never ridden before, and I’d used a stirrup to get there, and I hadn’t fallen off! I was over the moon!

I am happy to report that I now have very little anxiety while getting in the saddle. I can’t say that it’s completely gone, because I often ride a friend’s horse bareback and that horse walks away from the mounting block like she’s just been kicked in the butt the second you get on her back. But when I’m on my horse I use my stirrup and I don’t get anxious about it. I know now that even if my saddle slips a little, I’m good enough that I can still get on without falling. Those little baby steps and a five-second countdown gave me the confidence I needed to get through the anxiety and start enjoying the beginning of my rides. 

I still have a long way to go with my anxiety, even when I’m riding, but I know that I can get there. And I know that because I conquered my fear of a silly little thing like putting my foot in a stirrup. 

Have you ever had an anxious reaction to something that you knew was silly, and if so how did you deal with that anxiety? Have you ever used the five-second rule to deal with your anxiety? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments or on Facebook! Or you can email me to connect too.

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Marwari Horse Process Video

Video of me working on the Marwari Horse drawing. In this video I use a lightpadto trace the sketch onto the map page with Copic Multiliner pens. Then the large areas of base color are added with Copic Markers. I use Fantasia Artist Premium Colored Pencils to add additional shading and highlights over the marker. The real-time on this drawing was about 90 minutes (not including the initial sketching of the horse, which I didn’t film).

Thanks for watching, and don’t forget to check out my other blog post with more information about the Horses of the World series!

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The Story Behind The Horses Of The World

I’ve gotten a good bit of attention locally for my Horses Of The World series. This series of art is very special to me and is one that I really enjoy working on. As I write this blog post there are 20 completed horse breeds. 

In this series, I use mixed media to attempt to tell the story of horse breeds and where they come from. Each breed of horse is drawn on a vintage map page from a page of the Goode’s World Atlas by Rand McNally (11th Edition, 1960). I pick the map page to draw on based on the area of the world the horse breed originates from- so the Arabian horse, for example, is drawn on the map of Saudi Arabia. I use this as a way to tell a story about the horse breeds that we all love but may not know where they originated from in the world. 

I create these pieces of art by first researching the horse breed I want to illustrate and then checking to make sure I have a corresponding map page. The first eighteen horses in the series were sketched directly onto the map pages, but recently I have started sketching on plain paper and then transferring the sketch to the map via a lightbox instead because sometimes it’s difficult to see the sketch overtop of the map lines, especially on particularly busy maps, and I have a difficult time with the inking process. Once the sketch is complete, the drawing is inked with waterproof and alcohol marker proof Copic Multiliner brush pens. The inked lines are allowed to dry for a while and then the coloring process begins!

Coloring occurs directly on the original map. I use a variety of materials to add the color to the horse drawings. White/gray horses get a light coat of white acrylic paint as a base, usually from a white paint pen. Darker colored horses get large areas filled in with alcohol markers (Copic or Spectrum Noir, I have both kinds). Then additional shading, highlighting, and details are added with colored pencils. Horses who had paint used on them have any lines that were painted over touched back up with the same inking pens as before since the paint tends to wash the ink lines out when it goes over them and I like for the inking lines to be bold and dark! 

This series of drawings is very important to me. I have loved horses ever since I was very young, but I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland and there was nowhere around for a young girl from a middle-class family to do anything with horses. I remember pony rides at various events on occasion, probably especially at the Maryland Renaissance Fair, and one of my cousins had horses on their farm when we were younger so at Easter and Christmas we would sometimes get pony rides there as well. But I never had the opportunity to actually learn to ride, or to have a horse of my own. So instead of being around horses in physical space, I was with them mentally. I read every book on horses at my local library, and read every book with horses in it that I could find at thrift stores or flea markets. Horses were the first subject that I could draw fairly well. I remember having a How To Draw Horses book that I studied almost religiously. I would doodle horse heads on everything. I couldn’t be around horses in real life, so I was with them in my mind and in my art.

Eventually, as I grew older, I gave up on the dream of ever actually being around horses, or owning one, or riding them. But I still would stare at a field of horses as we drove past, or watch horses in movies, or make sure my character had a horse in a role-playing game. All of that changed when I turned 30. I had just quit my day job to make a go at being self-employed, and I was looking for some sort of volunteer opportunity. I had been collecting My Little Pony figures over the past few years and decided that I wanted to find something horse related. I stumbled across a local riding school looking for volunteers to help with their summer camp, and no experience was needed! 

I volunteered and that was the beginning of horse madness. Through all of this, a friend I had who owned a horse realized that I liked horses. Two years later, her horse became my horse. Glory and I have been together for five years now and she is my constant muse and source of stress relief. I wouldn’t trade her for anything!