Category: Canines

Defunct Winter Olympic Sports

So the winter olympics of 2014 started February 6th. The day before I came across an article on defunct Olympic sports. Many of them are eye catching and the winter ones are my favorites and I had to highlight three of them.

Let’s start with sled dog racing.

This sport only made one appearance at the 1932 Lake Placid Games. “Seven American and five Canadian athletes with six dogs apiece ran twice over a 25.1 mile course.” It was only a demonstration sport in the Olympics though Emile St. Goddard from Winnipeg finished first with a time of 4:23:12.5. While it is no longer a Winter Olympic sport, sled dog races are still held annually. In fact, currently there is a race called Yukon Quest which is happening right now! Yukon Quest is 1,000 mile international sled dog race that starts in Fairbanks, Alaska and ends in Whitehorse, Yukon. The race has run since 1984 and lasts for between 10-16 days. This year it started on February 1. There’s a countdown available on the site and more information on the race, mushers, and their locations. Go check it out!

Like sled dog racing, the winter pentathlon was also used once as a demonstration sport in the 1948 St. Moritz Games.

While the winter biathlon (still present in today’s Olympics) requires athletes to be highly skilled in both cross-country skiing and shooting, the pentathlon required athletes to be highly versatile  to win a medal. If the sport had carried over, Winter Olympic pentathlon athletes would need to be skilled in downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, shooting, fencing, and horse riding. in 1948 Sweden’s athletes swept the medal stand.

While polo does mention a merit as a Summer Olympic sport as it is an equitation sport (my favorite category) one more winter sport snagged the most of my attention: Skijoring!

Skijoring is “a wonderful hybrid between water skiing, horse riding and dog sledding.” The sport requires a person riding skis being tugged over the snow by a horse. The word Skijoring is derived from skikjøring, the Norwegian word for ski driving. The sport probably originated as a method of single person winter season travel. This was only used once in the 1928 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland but is still used as a competitive sport today. Usually a single horse is outfitted with a harness by which a skier holds on by an extended tow rope. Sometimes the horse is guided by a rider but it is possible for the skier to direct the horse on his/her own. I believe when the skier navigates the horse it a flat stretch during a race. When a rider guides the horse the skier is more free to navigate jumps and obstacles.

So what do the skiers use during skijoring? Modified water ski towing equipment. If you’re looking to try it and cut down on costs you could use a tow rope looped around a saddle horn or otherwise attached to the western saddle. There are two main types of skijoring competitions: a straight course and a horseshoe-shaped course. On a straight course a horse can run at top speed in the middle of a course. This way the skier can navigate slalom gates and jumps of different heights, grab rings or other items at unique stations. Leadville, Colorado has been organizing equestrian skijoring competitions with a highlight on speed since 1949.

Here’s an example of skijoring competitions still practiced today:

It looks like so much fun! It’s been years since I skied but I would love to try this! Follow this link to learn more about skijoring!

Horses as Bloodhounds

Did you know the power of a horse’s scenting ability rivals that of a dog? Granted a tracking dog can outperform a horse in thick underbrush but horses have an advantage. Why is that? Airborne scents rise and when the winds change, hunting down a target can become a wild goose chase. A horse will zig and zag, following the movement of that scent to the target. The horse’s sense of smell is “one of the best kept secrets in the horse world” according to horse trainer Terry Nowacki in the article, “Horses as Bloodhounds.” He even conducts demonstrations where a volunteer runs to hide in the underbrush and then a horse trained in tracking scents wilwill run out and hide in the underbrush

Well, think about it, when you greet a horse, what does it do when examining you? It’ll look, turn its ears towards you, but most notably it’ll extend it’s nose towards you to smell you. In the wild a horse can detect danger not only by sight and sound, but also by smell. When the wind shifts the horse can pick up on predators hidden from sight, silent in their hiding spots. Therein lies another advantage for horses. When a horse is tired, most especially from exertion, what does it do? It blows harder, flaring its nostrils and taking in more scents. What does a dog do when it’s tired? It pants and breathes through its mouth instead of its nose, reducing the opportunity for olfactory analysis.

To us humans horses may all smell the same with that unique horsey smell. This smell varies between people from stinky to lovely (it depends if you ask a horse fanatic or not). Horses, however, identify each other by unique scents just like dogs, cats, deer, etc. Not only that but horses can also identify dangerous foods simply by the smell of them. How do they learn this? Through observation of their elders or through experience. Through personal experience I have found that some horses enjoy my scent very much. One horse at the center I volunteer at gave a lot of the other female volunteers some trouble. Before I was aware of that I walked the horse around for exercise as he was not allowed to run around on a recovering injury. While walking this horse around he followed close behind with his nose buried in my hair. How do I know he liked the smell in my hair? I would turn my head and he would curl his nose around to follow the hair. He even lipped at it! Never fear, my hair was not yanked on and we made it safely back to his stall with no other mishaps.

According to the above mentioned article horses also give different signs for scenting different things. The signals a horse communicates for a human would be different from, say, a wolf or a deer in the woods. The language horses communicate with can be complicated to decipher. In fact horses are the most difficult animal for animators to bring to life, the most prominent reason being that there are so many moving parts. Despite the challenge the movement of the horse is for some people it is rather fun to watch. The best way I recommend learning their signals is to observe a herd of horses interacting. Well? Go out and find a herd – or look up video recordings online. Teach yourself something today!

The dog in the traffic

So here’s a little story for everyone.

It happened as I was leaving my chiropractor’s office. I was waiting in a lane behind others at a red light. There was not anything particularly special about this day. I have some ambient song playing on my stereo and I look across to my right side view mirror and there it is. Trotting between the cars in hot afternoon traffic is a little fluffy dog.

dog in traffic

Then it’s gone, moving behind an SUV’s bumper. I do a double take and stare into the mirror. That can’t really be what I saw, right? There’s no way that small fluffy dog is moving in and out of traffic. Right? The little seed of doubt is squashed, depraved of its precious package when that dog trots back into my line of view. It sniffs at the cars around it, mildly interested, peering up into the windows at the people inside who are ignorant of his presence. The light is still red for now but I’m gripping my steering wheel with both hands now. Move little doggie! I think. Get off the road! Anxious I eye the other cars around me. Does anyone else see the canine? That light could turn at any minute now and then it’ll be a mad dash across the limit line. It doesn’t have a collar that I can see and there doesn’t seem to be a pedestrian looking out for it or calling to it. Where would he have come from?

Then it happens.

The little doggie raises one hind leg and proceeds to urinate on the back tire of a green SUV. I can’t help but laugh. These busy people with busy lives and their eyes attached to the light ahead or a mobile are completely missing it! At this point I wonder if I should pull over and try to coax that dog off the road and take it to the nearby humane society but my mind is still muzzy and on autopilot so when the car in front me moves forward at the green light I feed gas to my engine. I regret not pulling over and making sure the dog was alright. I don’t even know what kind it was. I did have my camera in the car but I was too busy watching both the traffic and the dog to reach for it.

I am hoping that the next time I see something like this, I’ll pull over as soon as I can and make sure.

Not much writing was done this week but a ton of drawing was completed! Well, as in I filled a few pages in my sketchbook with multiple basic sketches. Concepts, poses, characters, requests. At least now if I”m ever bored I have a few things I can play around with!

Until next week, happy trails~