Monday, December 27, 2010

Give It a Whorl

A few weeks ago, I noticed that Daltrey has a double whorl on his forehead, in addition to having seemingly endless cowlicks all over his body. I had heard that there was a pseudoscience whereby the temperament of a horse is determined by these whorls and swirls. Curious, I did a little digging, and here — solely for your entertainment — is what I found.
  • According to Chris Irwin, studies were done that showed hair whorls develop before any other body hair and are directly linked to the development of brain matter. 
  • Typically, the whorl(s) on a horse's face will be located more or less between the eyes. If it is above above that, the horse is more aware; if lower, then close minded. 
  • The more geometric and symmetrical the whorl, the greater the horse's ability to focus. Muddled or elongated whorls indicate a horse that has difficulty focusing. 
  • If the whorl is off center to the left (as you look at your horse), it means he is complicated but trustworthy. If it's offset to the right, he is likely to be less cooperative.
  • A double whorl indicates two personalities. If side-by-side, the personalities will be similar, but if they are stacked, the personalities will be contradictory and likely unpredictable.
  • Horses with whorls where the hair grows clockwise tend to favor going to the right; counterclockwise, to the left.
So, what do I have?
Here's Baby D, with his 2 slightly muddled, more or less side-by-side whorls, both centered, slightly above his eyes, running counterclockwise. Hmmm.

You should have seen this one coming: at eye level, denoting average intelligence, symmetrical, running counterclockwise and slightly off center to the right, indicating a less cooperative nature.

And of course, Mr. Perfect: perfectly symmetrical, right where it should be, running clockwise.

It was an interesting way to pass the time on a day when it was too muddy to ride.

What do whorls say about your ponies?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Über Goobers

A secret pact? What's that?

 One for all and all for one.

 Oh, now I get it.

 No, I really don't, but don't tell them.
I just want to be one of the guys.

People are so interesting.

 Dad, you smell funny!

 Hahaha! The kid cracks me up!

Sing it with me:
Anticipation, anticipa-yay-tion
Is making me late
Is keeping me waitin'

Vultures loom.

Moving in for the kill.

To the patient go the spoils.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sometime's You're the Windshield ...

When you're rippin' and a ridin'
And you're coming on strong
You start slippin' and slidin'
And it all goes wrong because
Sometimes you're the windshield
Sometimes you're the bug.
— "The Bug" (Mark Knopfler)
from the 1991 Dire Straits album "On Every Street"

I've been riding on greased rails these last few weeks. I've gotten an enormous amount accomplished both at home and at work, and have been feeling pretty darn smug about it. Wrapped a major video project. Got the last issue of our magazine for the year put to bed. We're all set for Christmas save the usual few last minute straggler gifts. I had minor surgery scheduled for Wednesday, December 15th, had all the paperwork done, the deductibles paid, etc.

I had extensive restorative dental work about 15 years ago, and it's all held up beautifully until last week. A back bottom molar (#18, if you are dentally inclined) that has had a root canal and a crown started becoming uncomfortable. The veneer had worn, and it was lower than the one in front of it, placing undue pressure on the tooth in front of it. Since I already had an appointment in January, I was hoping to limp it along until then, because as anyone knows who has had this type of work done, it's expensive, even with dental insurance. And it was annoying more than anything.


That was the sound of me hitting the windshield of an oncoming semi, in a figurative sense, of course.

To abbreviate a woeful, protracted tale, after a sleepless weekend, the root canal needed to be retreated, which I didn't even know was a possibility. Didn't you think that once you had a root canal, you were done with problems with that tooth? Then you were wrong, too! If the crown develops a leak, bacteria gets down in there and can wreak havoc. And oh, it did. I have an infection in my jaw, am on antibiotics, am still in pain, had to postpone my surgery until January. I have at least one more appointment with the endodontist, then I'll have to replace that crown. It's only money, right?

The good news? It's certainly kept me out of the Christmas goodies. I can't open my mouth wide enough to eat them, and if they're small enough to fit, I can't chew them. See? There's a silver lining in every wintry cloud.

Monday, December 6, 2010

God Bless Texas

Texas is the finest portion of the globe
that has blessed my vision.
Sam Houston

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

There's One in Every Family

 We're like any other family.
Most of us are just average joes.

 But there's one in every family ...
the different one.

They show up around the holidays, eat your food,
loom like turkey buzzards around the punch bowl,
talk too much, laugh too loud.

 They don't fit in at all,
but we try to make the best of it. 
It's only once a year, right?

 Lucky us.

 In our family, it's twins.

"Lucky" is not the word I'd use.
Pass the damn eggnog.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Forsooth! SCA at Iron Ridge!

The SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism)

What are those people doing?
And why?

Mr. Fry enjoys a cigar
while talking to a tall dark stranger (Jason).

Nita watches the fun with
Fiacha the Blue.

To read more about the day, see 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Do You Hear What I Hear?

 Tommy, can you hear me?
Can you feel me near you?
— Pete Townshend (The Who) from the 1969 album, "Tommy" 

First of all, Happy Thanksgiving to my American blogger buddies. I hope you all had a wonderful day that included pie. Well, I guess anybody’s day could be wonderful and include pie, so the wish can be all-inclusive.

As mentioned in my previous post, we have known since birth that Daltrey is hearing impaired to some degree due to his extreme splashed white pattern (read about splashed white here, and look in the right column for links to all the color/pattern posts).

Not all foals with splashed white pattern are born deaf, but there’s a fairly high probability that they will be hearing impaired to some degree. Mating two affected horses will not necessarily produce an affected foal. Not all splashed white foals have blue eyes. It is inaccurate to attribute hearing impairment to the blue eye color; both traits are caused by splashed white in horses. Hearing impairment is caused by a lack of pigment in part of the inner ear.

Figuring out if your horse has a hearing problem and/or to what degree is not as easy as you might think. Like night blindness, some horses adapt better to it than others. Poco is night blind, but you'd never know it. Because Daltrey is so young, he’s still trying to figure out how his world works, and he has the double whammy of being both night blind and hearing impaired.

Some horses, like some people, are more reactive than others. One horse may spook at the slightest sound, while others seem to take everything in stride. Also like people, horses do not respond to every sound they hear. Although horses instinctively pay attention to the vocalizations of other equines, as well as sounds that are not part of their normal repertoire, they filter out much of what they hear. This helps them make sure that only relevant sounds are acted upon. We ignore most of the sounds around us even though we can certainly hear them. It’s this ability that allows us to filter out dozens of different conversations at a cocktail party and focus on only one.

I’m still learning what Daltrey can and can’t hear. I think that overall, his hearing is muffled or muted to some degree. For example, I have fed him in the run-in shed during rains and high winds, with acorns and stuff hitting the sides and roof. Sometimes he seems to acknowledge sounds, but isn’t startled or upset by them. What’s funny is when the other two bolt because of a noise, and he bolts because they do, though I know he has no idea why he’s running. I think the only sounds he perceives as sharp are percussive sounds like gunshots, car backfires, etc. I believe most of his impairment is in the mid-range. I know he can hear the sound of my voice when I call him, even if he’s in the back pasture. He can also hear things like the chain saw, weed whipper, electric saws, etc., that are higher pitched. He doesn’t react to a whisper or a soft voice inches from his head.

I’m not overly concerned about Daltrey’s hearing impairment. In fact, everything in my research pretty much brushed it off as being no big deal. Combined with his already laid-back temperament, it should be an asset for a trail horse. The biggest repercussions involve modifying training techniques. They can’t rely on voice cues, so must be trained using visual cues on the ground and tactile cues under saddle. The only other major consequence is learning to help your horse not be startled by the unseen and unexpected approach of people or other animals. But don’t most of us already do that, for safety’s sake?

Disclaimer: I am not a veterinary professional. Information in this post is for entertainment purposes only and came from the following sites:,,,

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Behind Blue Eyes: Congenital Stationary Night Blindness

Tommy, can you see me?
Can I help to cheer you?
— Pete Townshend (The Who) from the 1969 album, "Tommy"

One evening soon after Daltrey came home, I was spreading Fly Eliminators in the back pasture. The sun had set, but I could still see clearly. As I headed back to the house, I noticed Daltrey standing close to the culvert that bridges the front and back of the property. It seemed odd, because at that time, he still stuck pretty close to his nannies, who were nowhere to be seen. In any case, he wasn’t grazing, just standing there, about 50 paces away. I greeted him in a normal tone of voice, and the little guy jumped straight up. He obviously hadn’t seen or heard me coming, although he was looking right at me.

If you followed Heather’s genetics posts, you know that Daltrey exhibits a number of color and pattern traits gone wild. Seems like if there was any chance of a pattern gene expressing itself, it did in him. We’ve known since his birth that Daltrey is congenitally hearing impaired to some degree, related to his extreme splashed white pattern (read about splashed white here, and look in the right column for links to all the color/pattern posts). That’s a post for another day. The splashed white pattern is also responsible for Daltrey’s startling blue eye color, which does not affect his sight.

However, Daltrey is also homozygous for leopard-pattern complex (LP/LP), which was directly tied to congenital stationary night blindness (CSNB) in a 2005-2006 study. Appaloosas that are heterozygous for LP (LP/lp) are not affected by CSNB. Horses that are true solid, non-characteristic Appaloosas, with no dominant copies of LP (lp/lp), are also not affected by CSNB.

Click on chart to enlarge.
Daltrey is best represented by the bottom row, third from left.
Poco is bottom row, second from right.

So, coat patterns that indicate the presence of two dominant copies of LP are associated with CSNB. The amount of white patterning they display is not important, except that when they have moderate to large amounts of patterning, they are easier to classify correctly as being homozygous for LP. Horses homozygous for LP born with no coat patterning are also night blind.

There may be a variety of causes for CSNB in horses, but we’re looking only at the type found in Appaloosas. CSNB has been detected in other breeds (Paso Fino, Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, Belgian), none of which were Paint or Appaloosa patterned.

Night blindness is not a single disorder. A horse can have a form of night blindness and not have CSNB (uveitis is the most common other cause). In general, the term CSNB is used to describe impaired/absent night vision, which is present at birth, inherited, and non-progressive.  Incidentally, the "stationary" part of the name refers to the fact the condition is non-progressive, and has nothing to do with whether or not the horse is standing still. CSNB-affected Appaloosas usually have normal day vision.

Because we typically don’t interact with our horses after dark, we might not ever see some of the symptoms, such as anxiety or closely following another horse at night. Under normal circumstances, affected horses cope with the condition because they're born with it. They just think that's the way the world works: at night, they can't see. The world is completely black, unless the horse looks straight at the moon or some other light source that is bright enough to appear as a light spot in its field of vision. Poco has it, though he is either not impaired to the degree that Daltrey is, or he is just that much more accustomed to it because he's older (and his hearing is fine).

There is nothing structurally wrong with the eyes of horses with CSNB. The problem occurs during the process of transmitting information from the eyes to the horse's brain. Cone-shaped photoreceptors transmit color and day vision, while rod-shaped photoreceptors are responsible for vision in the dark. In horses with CSNB, the information normally carried by the rod-shaped photoreceptors is dropped or not transmitted properly.

The study linked CSNB in Appaloosas to the leopard complex, but that doesn’t explain how two apparently independent genetic features are actually related. Research in 2008 proved both CSNB and leopard pattern in Appaloosas are caused by a gene whose simplified name is TRPM1. Simply, decreased expression of TRPM1 in the eye and the skin alters signaling from the rod-shaped photoreceptors in the retina as well as the function of certain pigment cells in Apps, thus causing both CSNB and leopard complex.

I may not have ever noticed the degree of Daltrey's impairment were it not for having to play Cafeteria Lady each evening. I have seen first hand that he operates by feel and memory. For example, if he raises his head to chew a mouthful, and he either takes a step or two, or I slide the feed pan, he has to feel around to find it again. It doesn't seem to bother him. I have not found him to be anxious or apprehensive at all. And (knock wood), he has not injured himself.

Gives a whole new meaning to Mike's coining of the term daylight pony for Baby D.

Disclaimer: I am not a veterinary professional. This information is presented as entertainment only. I attempted to obtain permission from the authors and publishers to use this information, but after more than 60 days, my efforts have not been acknowledged. Information came from the following sites:,, and Regardless, most of the actual data about CSNB is the result of a 2005-2006 study by Lynne S. Sandmeyer, DVM, DVSc, DACVO; Carrie B. Breaux, DVM; Sheila Archer, BSc Hons; and Bruce H. Grahn DVM, ACBP, DACVO. The information about TRPM1 is from a 2008 study, which also included Dr. Sandmeyer, as well as Rebecca R. Bellone, Samantha A. Brooks, Barbara A. Murphy, George Forsyth, Sheila Archer (of the Appaloosa Project), Ernest Bailey, and Bruce Grahn.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Autumn Becomes Us

Got up Sunday morning severely lacking in motivation. I knew for sure I was in no mood to mess with Poco after the ride from hell two weeks ago. Then the text messages started arriving from the Pony Pals. I was successfully booted in the pants, however, I could not be prodded to hook up the trailer and haul a horse. I grabbed my tack and headed to Iron Ridge.

My ride on the ever-dependable Doodles (Heather's dad's horse) was as vanilla and undramatic as I could have hoped for. I took pix of some of the new horses, but I'll save those for another day. 

I was home by about 1 p.m. and decided to feed early to take advantage of the sunshine. I'm the cafeteria lady for the foreseeable future, and during the week, it's dark by the time I get home, so feeding in the warm sun is a treat.

I can't give Daltrey all his food at once because he flings it, and the big Boyz will take it, in any case. It takes him at least 45 minutes and often longer to eat his two scoops of feed.



I will make you give me the contents of
that bucket by the power of my superior will.

The closer I get to you, the more distracted you'll be.
You won't notice that I'm also close enough
to bite that baby and take his chow.

To the patient go the spoils.


Not a foal or even a weanling anymore.
Daltrey is a young horse.
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