Monday, June 25, 2012

And we thought only Elephants Never Forget

Human friends may come and go, but a horse could be one of your most loyal, long-term buddies suggests a new study shows that Horses not only remember people who have treated them well, they also understand words. Horses remember people even after long separations.


Horses also understand words better than expected and can remember complex, problem-solving strategies for ten years or more.

The bond with humans likely is an extension of horse behavior in the wild, since horses value their own horse relatives and friends, and are also open to new, non-threatening acquaintances.

"Horses maintain long-term bonds with several members of their family group, but they also interact temporarily with members of other groups when forming herds," explained Carol Sankey, who led the research, and her team.

"Equid social relationships are long-lasting and, in some cases, lifelong," added the scientists, whose paper has been accepted for publication in the journal Animal Behavior.

Ethologist Sankey of the University of Rennes and her colleagues studied 20 Anglo-Arabian and three French Saddlebred horses stabled in Chamberet, France. The scientists tested how well the horses remembered a female trainer and her instructions after she and the horses had been separated up to eight months.

The training program for the horses consisted of 41 steps associated with basic grooming and medical care. For example, the horses had to remain immobile in response to the verbal command "reste!" which is French for "stay." The horses also had to lift their feet, tolerate a thermometer inserted into the rectum and more. When a horse did as it was instructed, the trainer rewarded it with food pellets.

The scientists added, "Horses trained without reinforcement expressed four to six times more 'negative' behaviors, such as biting, kicking and 'falling down' on the experimenter."

Nevertheless, after the eight months of separation, the horses trained with food rewards gravitated towards the same experimenter. The horses also seemed to accept new people more readily, indicating they had developed a "positive memory of humans" in general.

"From our results, it appears that horses are no different than humans (in terms of positive reinforcement teachings)," according to the researchers. "They behave, learn and memorize better when learning is associated with a positive situation."

While people often train dogs in this way, also using verbal commands, Sankey and her team point out that "the majority of horse-riding training is based on tactile sensations -- pressure from bits, movements of riders' legs, weight change in the saddle."

Since "horses are able to learn and memorize human words" and can hear the human voice better than even dogs can, due to their particular range of hearing, the scientists predict trainers could have success if they incorporate more vocal commands into their horse training programs.

Jill Starr is president and founder of Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue, a non-profit that provides refuge, training and adoption placement for otherwise slaughter-bound wild mustangs and domestic horses.

Starr told Discovery News that she's observed horses responding well to verbal commands, such as "trot," but she still feels "horses and people get along better if the person doesn't chatter, since this causes the individual to have greater awareness of body language that is more familiar to horses."

She, however, agrees that horses are loyal, intelligent and have very long-lasting memories -- of both good and bad experiences.

Starr said, "Horses can be very forgiving, but they never forget."

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Since our Interior Design frim, a Little Accent,  designs commercial spaces we thought this color forecast for sent to us from Shaw Contract was worth reading.  Enjoy!
To envision Color Revolution, a collection of 42 colors, Shaw Contract Group spent months researching images to pinpoint the hottest palettes and their insight into our global experience. The company's in house design team examined contemporary social and economic shifts and grouped them into six "personas" or thematic groups: Radical, Visionary, Nomad, Futurist, Resident, and Globeseeker. Creative director Reesie Duncan presented the findings at NeoCon in Chicago.

1. Radical channels the feeling of destruction and turmoil imposed by recent natural disasters and predicts that these phenomena will continue to strike. According to Shaw, these earthly changes will result in our increased familiarity with and embrace of muted tones of black, brown, and gray, while materials within this theme are industrial and heavy such as concrete, stone, and metal.

2. Visionary is a direct response to Radical, expressing a human desire for hope and freshness provoked by decay. This translates into otherworldly materials and ethereal, pale tones manifested in fluid, organic, and voluminous shapes.

3. Following Visionary's reflection on the supernatural, Nomad returns to the raw earth, rediscovering warm tones like forest green, brown, navy, and deep yellow. Found materials are included in this palette, encompassing unfinished stone, rock, clay, and wood.

4. The Futurist truly looks forward and draws shimmering pastels from technological advances such as rapid prototyping and 3-D printing. This palette is about the optimism found in technology, which expresses itself in iridescent surface treatments and faceted silhouettes.

5. Resident is utilitarian. Shaw predicts that a life of excess will cause us to reflect on the essentials, attracting us again to bold primary colors that recall fine craftsmanship and longevity.

6. As a response to Resident's no-frills approach, Globeseeker is a celebration of individual expression. A multicultural explosion will result in bright neons and a focus on handmade crafts that are enhanced by and fused with new technologies.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Is The Glass Half Empty or Half Full?

Is the Glass Half Empty or Half Full?
This was quite an inspirational story I came across of this amazing woman in Germany and it reminded me of how fortunate I am and the power of one’s outlook. Is the glass half full or half empty?
I saw this photo today and it took a while for my brain to register what I was seeing… Take a look.

Look closely...
Yup. No arms. Her name is Bettina Eistel and her horse is Fabuleax 5.
What is even more compelling than the fact that she can brush her horse with her feet, is that she competes, very well, at the Paralympics in dressage.
Bettina didn’t just overcome her disability, she walloped it!
(Kinda makes me feel ridiculous for complaining about anything having to do with just about anything…)


Bettina doesn’t let her disability stop her. After all, this way of being is all she has ever known…
As an aside, another disabled Olympian was explaining the difference between being born with a disability versus being born “whole” and acquiring the disability. This concept is an interesting topic. You probably can come to some of your own conclusions here.

Bridling... look at him drop his head.
Anyway, as a small child, Bettina learned how to use her feet and toes as her hands and fingers. As a youngster, she started in horseback riding lessons. (Thank goodness her parents supported her and let go of their fears around this.) She wears riding boots with cut-outs in the toes so she can have ‘hands’ (imagine how cold her toes must get … and how often they clip a branch or a fence board – ouch!). She can saddle, bridle, hose down, wrap, blanket and do just about anything else that is needed for her horse. And, she rides by steering with her legs and holding the reins in her mouth. IN HER MOUTH. Try that… I tried to hold my brush in my mouth while braiding my girl’s hair and I ended up drooling all over the place in about a minute. I have no idea how she does it. Amazing.
Oh, and besides all those horse riding feats, she can text, write and put on mascara with her toes!
They say Bettina is a master at hose water fights!
“After highschool in 1979, Bettina studied the History of Art, Archaeology and Ethnology in Hamburg, followed by an eight-year study of psychology. During her psychology studies, she participated in a project with Hamburg’s home for children. In 1989 she completed her studies with a diploma and has since worked as a graduate psychologist in a Hamburg counseling center for children and family therapy.”
“Eistel was formerly Vice-Europe and Vice World Champion (two silver and bronze at the European Championships in Portugal in 2002 and three silver at the World Championships in Belgium in 2003) and won two silver and one bronze medal at the 2004 Paralympics in Athens , she won also three times the German championship. As the most recent successes are the bronze medal in the required tasks of the individual competition and the silver medal in the team standings at the 2008 Paralympics in Hong Kong.”
Not bad even for a girl WITH arms…

With her dressage medal
You have to really think about the kind of horse who would let this kind of a rider be his partner. Really… what temperament is needed to perform at high level dressage as well as take care of a disabled rider? Wow. I wish I knew if they looked high and low for him… or if they simply trained a good horse to understand this rider? (I need to read her book.) I mean, did they find a horse and say to him that this is the way we are going to do it now? Or, does the Fabuleax 5 ‘know’? I often hear that certain horses are much more gracious with disabled riders than with regular riders. I know that my Gwen is much nicer to children than to me… I wonder how that happens? Is it the horse or the quality/feel/spirit of the disabled rider/child that effects the horse? Dunno.

Taking a treat from Mom
Bettina says she trained her horse via voice commands, head movement and leg aids. Funny, I bet hardly any of us would think it was even possible to ride a horse without arms.
From where I sit, I would like to be in the presence of the wonderful Fabuleax 5. He is a saint in my book. Fabuleax lets Bettina ride him in the only way she can… with the reins in her teeth and the other set of reins between her toes. And, he does his job. Simple. Gosh. Impressive.
If you notice in the photos, he lowers his head to be bridled and to be brushed. Atta boy!

Beautiful boy
Bettina also landed a gig as a Talk Show Host. With a weekly show on German TV station ZDF, Bettina is something of a media star. They say her popularity is because of her engaging and optimistic personality… but one cannot ignore her amazing ability to do everything, literally everything, with her feet..

Bettina as talk show host
Her website (linked here) is in German… Babelfsh can translate for you. On her home page, on the bottom right corner is a word “Kontakt” which mean Contact. You can email her there.
I wanted to bring this story to you because I think sometimes we give up too easily. Or maybe it is just me… maybe I think I give up too easily or don’t push through my/my horse’s issues or don’t get over myself/my fears or don’t put as much effort/time into training my horses as I could. Reading about Bettina was a good shot in the arm for me…
I sure don’t feel like making any excuses or complaining…
I cannot even imagine folding the laundry with my feet, let alone living 24 hours without my hands. Wow. Very inspirational.

What a great team!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Don't Just Dump that Old Tack, Give it a Second Career

USEF just published Part 2 of our article on “tack hoarding”.  This month we have some simple ideas of how to give a second use to all those stirrup irons you’ve collected.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Our Client---Kathy Cline Photography

This is a client of ours from Florida who just ordered our Ludington Bedding Collection.  Her work is extraordinary and worth sharing with you all.
She recently shot this herd of wild white horses of France's Camargue. Stop.....take a minute and enjoy!   Wow !