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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Working At The Heavy Horse Wash

Mar 21, 2014 by

Everybody likes to spruce up their ride on the first sunny weekend of Spring, so pull your Clydesdale into line and we’ll have him detailed and ready to go in no time!


Here’s a look at how these beautiful Clydesdale horses appear in harness:




For information about the 2014 Royal Highland Show, which will be held in June, click HERE.

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Scotland’s Equine Art Kelpies Coming to New York

Mar 6, 2014 by

As part of the festivities leading up to National Tartan Day on April 6, 2014, Bryant Park in New York City is hosting two large scale replicas of Scotland’s stunning sculptural tribute to heavy horses, The Kelpies.  The largest equine sculpture in the world, The Kelpies are the creation of Glasgow-born artist, Andy Scott, and are located in Falkirk, Scotland, near the Forth and Clyde Canal, as part of the area’s Helix Project, a large, public green space development. The scale replicas, known as The Maquettes, will be on display in NYC’s Bryant Park from March 19-April 22, 2014 and are expected to attract more than  250,000 people a day.

The name of the equine sculpture was chosen by Scottish canals to reflect the eponymous mythological water horses that could change shape on land and possessed the strength and endurance of ten horses, qualities that are analogous with the transformational change and endurance of Scotland’s inland waterways. The Kelpies also represent the lineage of the heavy horse of Scottish industry and economy, pulling the wagons, ploughs, barges and coalships that shaped the geographical layout of the Falkirk area.


Andy Scott used the idea of the water horse from Scottish myth as inspiration for his work, but he also wanted to reflect the important contributions that real horses have made throughout Scotland’s history:

During the conceptual stages, I visualised the Kelpies as monuments to the horse and a paean to the lost industries of the Falkirk area and of Scotland…
The original concept of mythical water horses was a valid starting point for the artistic development of the structures, but from the original sketches of 2006 I deliberately styled the sculptures as heavy horses.
In early proposal documents I referred to Clydesdales, Shires and Percherons, of the fabled equus magnus of the northern countries.
I wrote of working horses. Of their role in the progress of modern society, as the powerhouses of the early industrial revolution, the tractors of early agriculture and, of course, the first source of locomotion for barges on the Forth & Clyde canal, which The Kelpies will soon inhabit….

I see The Kelpies as a personification of local and national equine history, of the lost industries of Scotland. I also envisage them as a symbol of modern Scotland – proud and majestic, of the people and the land. They are the culmination of cutting edge technology and hand crafted artisanship, created by our country’s leading experts through international partnerships.

They will elevate Falkirk and Grangemouth to national and international prominence and foster a sense of pride and ownership. As a canal structure they will partner the iconic Falkirk Wheel, and echo its grandeur. They will stand testament to the achievements of the past, a tribute to artisanship and engineering and a proud declaration of intent for the future of Scotland.

~Sculptor Andy Scott on the artistic purpose and intent of The Kelpies, The Helix Project Website,



For more information about the Maquettes display and New York’s Tartan Week activities, please click  on any of the following links:

American Scottish Foundation

NYC Tartan Week

The Helix Project

Andy Scott, artist

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May 7, 2013 by

WALES: Man v Horse 2012

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Feb 12, 2013 by

In Irish legend, the white crested waves of the sea are poetically called the horses of Manannán mac Lir, an Irish sea deity and the guardian between worlds.

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