Horses can learn to tell us what they need (with signs)

This is not big news to anyone who has lived with horses. They let you know what they want alright, if you tune into them. But this is fun and should wake at least a few humans up how smart horses are. My horses will no doubt be highly amused when I tell them about it. -Ed.


Twenty-two horses in Norway can tell you whether they want to wear a blanket or stick with bare backs, according to a new study.

This is, needless to say, a handy skill for anyone who resides in a northern nation that gets a lot of snow. But its discovery is also an important addition to understanding of horse smarts and learning abilities, according to researchers at the Norwegian Veterinary Institute.

They taught the horses to use symbols to indicate their blanket-wearing preference — and the equines’ easy mastery of the task suggests they understood that the symbols had meanings that led to outcomes.

More than a century ago, a German horse nicknamed Clever Hans became a celebrity in Europe for his whiz-like ability to answer complex math, reading and spelling questions by tapping his hoof. Today, he’s an example of some of the pitfalls of scientific studies involving people and animals: Hans, it turned out, was stumped when his human testers didn’t know the answer to the question — which meant he was actually clever at reading the unconscious cues of people.*

Horse cognition research has come some way since then, and the animals have shown savvy at recognizing shapes and telling objects apart. But this task added another level.

The subjects were 23 ordinary riding horses with charming names including Poltergeist, Virvelvind and Romano (one horse died shortly after the training, leaving 22 in the end). All had previous experience wearing blankets when their owners deemed them necessary.

To help the horses express their own preferences, the researchers created three simple boards: One with a horizontal bar meant “put blanket on”; an unmarked board meant “no change”; and a board with a vertical bar meant “take blanket off.”

Horses learned touched their muzzles to the symbol that expressed their blanket preference. (Mejdell et. al. / Applied Animal Behaviour Science).
Horses learned touched their muzzles to the symbol that expressed their blanket preference. (Mejdell et. al. / Applied Animal Behaviour Science).

Then the horses went through a methodical literacy course of sorts. First, the trainers introduced the symbols one at a time. Horses that touched it with their muzzles would be rewarded with a thin slice of carrot, and then the corresponding action would be carried out — the blanket taken on or off.

Once the horses had that down, they were shown both symbols at the same time, but they only got their treats if they touched the “relevant” one. In other words, if a horse wearing a blanket touched the symbol that meant “put a blanket on,” he’d get nothing. Read the rest, view the video »

*Horses mirror human thoughts and emotions back to humans. Horses have all the intelligence they need. Why on earth would horses need to add and subtract or spell?

Unattributed photo of a blanketed horse standing at the fence of a snowy corral. Google search result.

Tiny real-life horses of Greek Myth headed for extinction

Skyros ponies, thought to have pulled Achilles’ legendary chariot, have declined to about 200 animals left on Earth.

Cross-posted from the National Geographic »
By Kristin Hugo
Published September 27, 2016

The issues facing these special horses are manmade and sound all too familiar. -Ed.

The breed that may have pulled Achilles’ legendary chariot is in danger of becoming resigned to the history books itself.

The horses depicted in this sculpture, Balius and Xanthus, were gifts from Poseidon to Peleus when he wed the goddess Thetis. The immortal horses later drew the chariot of the couple's son, Achilles. Photo source: Pinterest UK.
The horses depicted in this sculpture, Balius and Xanthus, were gifts from Poseidon to Peleus when he wed the goddess Thetis. The immortal horses later drew the chariot of the couple’s son, Achilles. Photo source: Pinterest UK.

The semi-wild Skyrian horse, or Skyros pony, has lived on the Greek island of Skyros for 2,000 years.

But due to overgrazing of sheep, disappearing habitat, and interbreeding with donkeys, the horse has declined to only about 200 individuals left on Earth, most of which live on Skyros, according to the Skyros Island Horse Trust, a nonprofit on the island.

Saving the horse is “very difficult within Greece’s economic situation,” says Amanda Simpson, who runs the trust.

“Even though it’s a rare breed and there’s status, there [are] no kinds of funding in terms of government resources.” (Read “Strapped for Cash, Some Greeks Turn to Ancient Source of Wealth.”)

Simpson, originally from England, founded the trust in 2005 after visiting Skyros and seeing that the horses needed help. The trust promotes awareness of the horse, monitors the wild population, and sometimes takes in ponies that are sick or injured. They also breed horses and use them for education.*

Another compelling reason to protect this animal is because of its role in Greek mythology, Simpson says. In addition to transporting Achilles, the Skyros may well be the small horses featured on a frieze in the Parthenon in Athens (see a video of the temple’s frieze.)

“These are sort of living museums,” says Simpson. “You actually have a living breathing piece of history. It would seem criminal to see them go into extinction.” <a href="http://” target=”_blank”>Continue reading »

Linked to in the report is “Read Before Riding: Horses Have Consciousness“. How arrogant to think that only humans have consciousness. I think I’ll stop right there. Interesting reading. If you are a human.

The Skyros Island Horse Trust

Wild horses and controversy — Notes from the range

Thanks to our good friend Terry we received an interesting email containing an embedded post.

The controversy surrounding wild horses on public lands and the cruel and often deathly mismanagement by the federal agency Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is not news to us and no doubt not news to you.

We have read numerous writings over the years by those out in the field from experts to interested observers.

What is pretty clear is that the BLM and their cohorts simply do not want wild horses off public lands. They want them dead. Historically this is a decades old problem.

Here’s the opening salvo from the post I refer to:

“Soon we will not have available our historic link to wild horses. Ignorance is dominating the wild horse issue, as if trading slaughter for birth control to extinction is an answer to save them! No! It is simply an overwhelming amount of ignorance, from those who have no clue in the matter of wild horse management nor anything of wild horse virtue and necessity. Our American Icon has so many positive attritbutes, and unless one knows of nature, our environment, and our natural ecological systems, they will never know, nor acknowledge the benefits of wild horses on our public lands. Below are notes and from limited distribution, so perhaps new information to many. . .” — John Cox, The Cascades

The writer continues by pointing out problems that the BLM and the federal government continue to ignore.

There are too many cattle on public lands. Check. Wherever they are, the cattle are destroying the ecosystems. Check. The Humane Society continue to promote its pesticide PZP they say to help control herd numbers when it appears to be destroying them. Check.

We have not heard the following before.

The BLM allow public land ranchers (or “welfare ranchers” — we will come back to that in a minute) to do as they please which he says results as follows:

“Public health hazards are developing, aggressively I might add, even while I am writing this, and beef from public lands grazing is diseased.”

Diseased. Interesting.

The writer goes on to say that he does not know to what degree (as in percentage) but cites the BLM’s inadequate checks and balance system as the reason for it.

Now you may think that public land ranchers — some of whose contracts with the federal government go back generations — do not contribute that much to the beef industry. We do not have the data. But even if we were able to get figures from the BLM could we believe them given the BLM’s history of playing with numbers.

We know it’s huge and it costs the American taxpayer an enormous amount of money — in the billions.

Let’s take a look at who some of these “welfare ranchers” are.

Here’s an excerpt from a Tuesday’s Horse post from 2015:

Years ago Ellen Cathryn Nash wrote an insightful report for our website called Rolex Ranchers and the Living Legends which she distributed as a Press Release in 2005.

Some of the names listed as “Rolex Ranchers” by Nash are:

Ted Turner
Baron Hilton
Mary Hewlett-Jaffey
JR Simplot
Hunt Oil Company of Dallas

If you will remember, in 2015 Vickery Eckhoff revisited this topic with an in depth look of her own and published “Forbes Billionaires Top US Welfare Ranchers List” on AlterNet.

Take a look some of the people on her monied list of who’s who. It hasn’t changed much in ten years has it?

David and Charles Koch (Koch Industries)
J.R. Simplot Corp.
Bruce McCaw (McCaw Cellular)
Barrick Gold
Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA)
W. Barron Hilton (Hilton Hotels)
Mary Hewlett-Jaffe (Hewlett-Packard)
James Barta (
T. Wright Dickinson
Stan Kroenke (Kroenke Group) & Ann Walton Kroenke (Walmart)
Family of Robert Earl Holding (Sinclair Oil and Hotels)
Ted Turner

Southern Nevada Water Authority is on this list? That raises some interesting questions doesn’t it?

At any rate, that is a helluva a lot of cattle producing a helluva lot of beef destroying a helluva lot of public land.

Wild horses are free roaming by nature. Cattle on the other hand have to be moved. Cattle will graze right down to the dirt. You can imagine how destructive that alone is. Never mind the dung and the enormous amounts of water cattle use.

Eckhoff sums up her report with this statement:

“The .01 percenters are the nation’s biggest welfare ranchers, according to numerous environmental and policy groups; and it’s time they brought some attention to themselves and the federal grazing program they’re exploiting to the tune of an annual estimated one billion dollars in taxpayer subsidies while causing long-term damage to one of the public’s most treasured assets.”

Nash states in her report:

“In reality, the wild horses and burros are not the problem, rather it is the privately owned livestock grazing on public lands subsidized by American taxpayers at great expense. It is important to note that cattle are ‘static’ animals in that they do not move much and they destroy the ground. It takes ten years to reclaim land destroyed by cattle, and longer in arid areas such as Nevada.”

Now back to the writer we started with.

Another point he makes in his eyebrow raising post is one that could possibly explain some of the policies by some wild horse and burro advocates — so called — that have long puzzled us. The writer says:

“We also discover, through factual research and credible sources, several non-profits today are currently, or have done, [are] receiving money from BoLM grants or payroll money as well, applications for grants and even employment from the BoLM – we find this directly a conflict of interest, and a violation of their non-profit status . . .”

We may never get all or even many of the facts concerning most of the issues impacting America’s wild horses and burros.

However one thing is crystal clear. They are a far cry from being protected.

The history of America’s wild horses and burros on U.S. public lands is riddled with cruelty, deception, corruption and death.


Wild Horses and Controversy: Notes from the Cascade Mountain Range; Photojournalist — Journalist; Sept. 22, 2016.

Forbes Billionaires Top US Welfare Ranchers List, 10% of BLM Land Lease Subsidy Recipients are Billionaires and Control 65% of all BLM Lands; Vickery Eckhoff; Alternet; Mar. 24, 2015.

Rolex Ranchers and the Living Legends, 10% of BLM Land Lease Subsidy Recipients are Billionaires and Control 65% of all BLM Lands; Ellen Cathryn Nash; Tuesday’s Horse; Mar. 25, 2005.


Pesticide PZP Truth; Photojournalist — Journalist; Sept. 13, 2016.


Eureka, Nevada – A group of wild horses wait in a holding pen after a gathering July 7, 2005 in Eureka, Nevada. The Bureau of Land Management is gathering wild horses in the American West, where an estimated 37,000 wild horses roam free. Many of the horses that are gathered are put up for adoption while others are treated with birth control and released back to the wild. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A look at a PMU farm in China — and it’s not all about Pfizer

Pfizer’s international market for Premarin is open game for competitors without the U. S. Food & Drug Administration’s protection of the company’s monopoly trade secret.

The key component for the production of Premarin is the estrogen rich urine collected from pregnant mares. This business has become commonly referred to as the pregnant mare’s urine or PMU industry.

In 2005, a Chinese company — Xinjiang Xinziyuan Biological Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. — was formed for the express purpose of creating a Chinese PMU industry based in northwest China’s Nilka County, located within the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Breeding of PMU mares and sales of pregnant mare’s urine has since become the “sunrise industry” for the regional rural farm economy, providing a significant increase in income for the farmers and incentive to expand production and number of horses.

Pfizer is stated to be the reason for establishing Xinjiang Xinziyuan Biological, but the relationship described between the two companies is inconsistent.

On one hand, Xinjiang Xinziyuan Biological’s founding purpose is to dominate Pfizer’s international Premarin market as a Chinese competitor, while on the other hand Pfizer is said to be the primary contractor for pregnant mare’s urine produced by the “sunrise industry” that Xinjiang Xinziyuan Biological’s created, and which supplies Pfizer with the pregnant mare’s urine to manufacture the Premarin products.

Whatever the true circumstances are concerning Pfizer, the magnitude of gross cruelty to horses resulting from the creation of a domestic market in China for equine estrogen projects is in itself unthinkable.

Chinese version of Premarin cream.
Chinese version of Premarin cream.

The number of middle-age women in China presently within the target demography for estrogen products exceeds the total population of the rest of world.

The corresponding number of horses required to meet China’s domestic demand annually is greater than the the total number of horses used for Premarin production during the 75 years since FDA approval in 1942.

Here’s what a pregnant mare’s urine farm in Xinyuan County, China looks like.

PMU Farm in Xinyuan County, China (2012).
PMU Farm in Xinyuan County, China (2012).
PMU Farm in Xinyuan County, China (2012).
PMU Farm in Xinyuan County, China (2012).
PMU Farm in Xinyuan County, China (2012).
PMU Farm in Xinyuan County, China (2012).
PMU Farm in Xinyuan County, China (2012).
PMU Farm in Xinyuan County, China (2012).
PMU Farm in Xinyuan County, China (2012).
PMU Farm in Xinyuan County, China (2012).
PMU Farm in Xinyuan County, China (2012).
PMU Farm in Xinyuan County, China (2012).
PMU Farm in Xinyuan County, China (2012).
PMU Farm in Xinyuan County, China (2012).
PMU Farm in Xinyuan County, China (2012).
PMU Farm in Xinyuan County, China (2012).
PMU Farm in Xinyuan County, China (2012).
PMU Farm in Xinyuan County, China (2012).

PMU Farm in Xinyuan County, China (2012).

This is only tip of the iceberg of what we will be bringing to your attention. The challenge has always been that the information we sought was quite naturally in Chinese. Now of course there are Chinese translation apps but as helpful as they are, they only get you so far.

We are working to find Chinese language translators with good English to help us not only with documentation but also to help us create alerts to the women in China through social media about the carcinogenic properties of drugs made with conjugated equine estrogens as declared by the World Health Organization. We are hopeful they will not be as blasé about it as American women seem to be. There are alternatives. Yet there may be a glimmer of hope on that horizon.

In the meantime, we have also received a tip that the bulk of PMU farms supplying Pfizer are actually in Latin America. Stay tuned.

Blog Horse Fund

%d bloggers like this: