History & Heritage

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Iceland is a small island nation located at the juncture of the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, between Greenland and Norway. It has a population of around 364,000 people, many of whom live in the capital city of Reykjavik in southwest Iceland. The country has a unique geography, characterized by volcanic mountains, glaciers, plains, waterfalls, geysers, hot springs, and black sand beaches. It is also home to a diverse array of wildlife. Yet, one of the most notable features of Iceland is its horses.

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Ever since the wheel was first invented around 3,500 BC in Mesopotamia as a wooden disc with a hole in the middle for some form of axle, creative Sumarian minds were buzzing. They were, after all, already planting crops, herding animals, and had a pretty impressive social order. But getting the wheel contraption right took a bit of creative genius. The holes in the centre of the disc and at the ends of the axle had to be perfectly smooth and round in order for the wheel to fit and turn. Otherwise, too much friction would cause breakage.

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Little Horses of the Big Woods - Sitting in the trees, the boys could feel warmth in the air, the breath of the herd rising to their feet. Pounding hooves echoed through the oaks like a warning bell, chasing Bill and his friends into the low branches. Here they sat watching dozens of horses pass below. Through Ontario’s Carolinian woods, the boys often followed snake-like “miikaans,” the little roads created by the horses. Emerging from the trees, the herd would wade across the shallow waters of the river to a small island, cooling themselves while they escaped the bugs. When the drumming of hooves had faded, the boys would drop from the branches like apples in autumn and continue on their way.

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Job Description: Usually working in pairs, pick-up horses and riders are responsible for assisting the rodeo competitor to get off the bucking animal safely.

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Horses and oxen have been used to haul logs since pre-industrial times. Much of it was small scale harvesting, but it was hard and hazardous work. Unstable and snagged trees, falling branches, and loose material were the “widow makers” of a rapidly growing but dangerous industry. But as settlers arrived in Canada, more land had to be cleared for home-building, farming, and travel. Ultimately, horses and oxen were replaced with machinery and logging trucks. But today, some people have kept the heritage of horse logging alive.

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Twenty years ago, the Oregon Horse Center in Eugene, Oregon held an indoor trail competition using log obstacles, water ponds, and dirt embankments to transform their arena into mountain trails. That event was the beginning of competitive mountain trail, where neatly dressed riders navigate an untimed, subjectively-judged course of obstacles typically found on wilderness mountain trails. In Canada, two organizations promote the sport — International Mountain Trail Challenge Association (IMTCA) Canada and the British Columbia Mountain Trail Association (BCMTA)— and each has their own rules, judging criteria, and obstacles.

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The Fraser Valley Hunt Club has been organizing “drag scent” hunts in British Columbia every fall and winter for almost 50 years. A local horse and hunt enthusiast hosts the opening hunt for the club each fall from his farm on the upper slopes of Mount Elphinstone on the Sunshine Coast. This story begins in early November when the core group of dedicated hunters arrive from the Fraser Valley by ferry with several trailers of horses and one of hounds.

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Job Description: These sturdy horses and mules carry gear and supplies, usually in panniers or sidebags, typically across rugged terrain.

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Ron Turcotte is a celebrated Thoroughbred jockey renowned for riding the superstar racehorse Secretariat to win the US Triple Crown in 1973.

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Our group of 17 horses and riders had taken shelter from the brutal midday sun beneath a massive overhang created thousands of years ago when water roared through the valley, and our chosen lunch spot was also home to several rattlesnakes.

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