The Piebald Irish Cob

Jul 9, 2014 by

The Irish Cob, also known as the Gypsy Vanner or Gypsy horse, has long had an important role in Irish life, as a cart horse in the city streets, an all purpose farm horse in the countryside, and a means of transportation and barter for the Irish Travellers.    Although this sturdy draft horse comes in many coat colors, the  most common is a piebald, or black and white pinto coat pattern.   Whatever the color, however, the Irish Cob is a fitting symbol of  Ireland: strong, resilient, spirited.


Piebald Irish Cob galloping.  Image source

Piebald Irish Cob galloping. Image source

Denise Blake of Donegal wrote a lovely poem about a piebald horse who faced down the dreaded Black and Tans during the Irish War of Independence:

It is said in Ceannconn — the Head of the Hound —
the Black and Tans came for my great-grandfather’s horse,
a piebald horse that ate windfall apples from a child’s palm,
who back-burdened their small farm, who cart-pulled
a whole clan the miles to Schull for Sunday mass.

They came for his horse as they came for all others,
with no intent of any speedy return.
Paddy Callaghan, staying gravestone silent, stared
at the horse who reared full height on his back legs,
brandished hooves more deadly than smuggled Fenian guns.

So the Black and Tans went away,
passed the family in their moonlight ransacking.
If Paddy and his piebald came wandering towards
a boreen checkpoint, the makeshift soldiers stood aside
as if he was Lord of West Cork, his family the heirs.

Has his Ceannconn nature passed through our blood,
a piebald-soul that can incite bone-crushing wildness?
Come between me and mine, and we’ll see.

WILD HORSES by Denise Blake

from TAKE A DEEP BREATH, Summer Palace Press

Rearing piebald at Dublin's Smithfield Horse Fair. Image source

Rearing piebald at Dublin’s Smithfield Horse Fair. Image source

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Dapper Shetland Ponies

Jun 12, 2014 by

If you asked the average person on the street to name an icon of Scotland, you can bet your bucket of oats that the Shetland pony would be in the top five.  What’s not to love?  These sturdy natives of the Scottish isle are small, cute, and cuddly looking–oh, and they wear sweaters and dance, too.

Ponies Fivla and Vitamin in their custom made Shetland wool cardigans

Ponies Fivla and Vitamin in their custom made Shetland wool cardigans Source:


Visit Scotland made international stars of two Shetland ponies in 2013 when the national tourism group used Fivla and Vitamin in an ad campaign. The oversized jumpers, or sweaters as we call them here in the US, were handcrafted by Shetland knitter Doreen Brown and made of Shetland wool sheared from Shetland sheep.  The equine ambassadors from Scotland even attracted the attention of television news network CNN:


As if the idea of Scottish ponies in sweaters wasn’t charming enough, a London ad agency took it to the next level by creating a 2013 video ad  for a UK mobile phone company, starring a dancing Shetland pony:


In describing the feel-good ad, the agency notes:

Shot against the dramatic backdrop of the Shetland Islands, the :60 spot follows the story of a stocky little pony. But this is no ordinary Shetland pony. With the scrape of a hoof and a flick of his Tina Turner-esque mane, he effortlessly moonwalks along to the sound of ‘Everywhere’ by Fleetwood Mac.


Needless to say, the prancing Shetland pony went viral and has, to date, over nine million views on YouTube.



Scottish tourism officials are always working on new campaigns, but I’m not sure the Shetland ponies can be topped–unless someone can dress a Clydesdale in a kilt.


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