Pony Intro: Valkyrie

I decided that it was high time to introduce my “herd”. Most of my friends are ponies, as you all know, but I do have a few who aren’t. We’re all family, though. I thought, if I was going to introduce anybody first, it would be Valkyrie.

Valkyrie is my oldest friend. When we were moving around, she and I were packed up together (which is why, in the oldest pictures, you can’t see either of us). Valkyrie is an Andalusian, which is a breed that comes from Spain. Andalusians have a long history of being adored for their endurance, grace, beauty, and stamina. They were often used by the military, dating back to the Conquistadors. They have powerful legs, which means they can do jumps and tricks many other breeds can’t; this power gives them an advantage in sports like dressage. (Quick side tangent: did you all know that dressage came from military training techniques for horses? Many of the moves today, especially the Aires, had practical functions.)

Andalusians are also known for being bold, which Valkyrie definitely demonstrates. She has no problem going anywhere, and loves to explore.

Her name is mythical. Valkyries come from Norse mythology, which are the stories of the Vikings (or Nordic peoples). The Vikings lived throughout Scandinavia and traveled throughout the known world (even reaching as far as North America). Their mythical figures were often strong, enduring figures. We get giants, elves, and dwarves from them, as well as Thor (who is way crazier in myth, let me assure you. Marvel ain’t got nothing on how crazy Thor really was), Odin, and Loki.

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The Valkyries were considered the “daughters of Odin,” though it varies as to whether or not they were actually his daughters or just female spirits who worked for him. The valkyries rode over battlefields on winged horses, delivering heroes’ spirits who had died valiantly to Odin at Valhalla, the Hall of Heroes. These heroes trained for Ragnarok, the Norse apocalypse, when they would return again and fight Loki and his armies.

Valkyries were tough. They wore armor and had weapons, and though they don’t have a story of their own, they were figures that you definitely didn’t want to mess with. There are a lot of interesting portrayals of them; Rick Riordan in his Magnus Chase series has created a great group of them. Valkyries were kind of like the secret service of Odin, only instead of protecting him at all costs, they went off and gathered warriors for him.

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Another interesting fact (and a bit of a tangent…): our word “berserk” comes from the Vikings. Berserkers were Viking warriors who were so intense on the battlefield that they looked insane. If they died in battle, then those crazy warriors were picked up by the valkyries. I’m just saying: anyone who can deal with a crazy, dead Berserker is not someone to take lightly.

Anyway…

Our Valkyrie is not quite so crazy, though she definitely has a mind for adventure. Keep an eye out for her pictures: she tends to be leading us through something that looks dangerous, or taking it on for herself.

 

Book photo credit:

Lindow, John. Norse Mythology. Santa Barbara, California. ABC-Clio. 2001.

Philip, Neil. The Illustrated Book of Myths. New York, New York. DK Publishing, Inc. 1995

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Diomedes’ Pony

Recently I’ve been traveling to a lot of different restaurants with my person. I know: I don’t eat. But my person does (as does most living beings). She hates to cook, but she’s a bit of a foodie (it kinda cracks me up, really). I like going, because, apart from getting out and having a culinary adventure, I like seeing the different dishes. Some are regional, like the French bistros and Mediterranean cafes, while others hit a bit closer to home, like getting a really good Green Chile Cheeseburger.

Now, if you’re following us on Instagram (@icarusandfriendsponies) or Twitter (@Icarus_Friends), you might have noticed a pair of hashtags that show up whenever we go out to eat. The first is always #grazing , which is just our sign for eating and/or drinking. The second is #diomedespony . This one is a little stranger, and that’s what I wanted to explain today. Before I go into what a #diomedespony is, I have to say that it only appears on meals that have meat in them. Horses, by nature, don’t eat meat: we’re herbivores, and while we do now have critters in our herd that are carnivores (Kili, Sita, and Rama), we (the ponies) don’t eat meat.

However, in Greek mythology, there are horses that do eat meat: Diomedes’ horses. Who was Diomedes, and why did he have meat-eating horses?

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Well, first we need to meet our hero, Hercules (which is actually the Roman spelling of the name; Herakles or Heracles is Greek. But most people know him as Hercules, so we’ll leave it as that). Hercules got in trouble and had to do ten tasks to a king of Thebes named Eurystheus (Eurystheus kinda cheated, and there ended up being 12 tasks, not ten, but that’s a lot of details that we’re not going to go into tonight). Some say that these Labors of Hercules were actually tasks that would make him a god; whatever the reason, Hercules had to do some really nasty chores for this King Eurystheus. Some examples are killing the Nemean lion, who was so large that he dwarfed horses, and cleaning out King Augeus’ stables, where he housed hundreds of horses and had never cleaned them (just an FYI: if you ever want to have a horse, please, clean up after him. Out at pasture is one thing, but if you have a stable, that can become really messy really fast. Just saying).

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Anywho, the tasks were supposed to be challenging and life-threatening, and each task got harder. The eighth task was for Hercules to go to King Diomedes and bring back his meat-eating mares.

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Diomedes wasn’t particularly friendly to people, and had a nasty habit of feeding strangers to his horses. Hercules defeated Diomedes and brought the mares back to King Eurystheus, who was so scared of them that he let them go (and thus ended the goat problem of Greece…just kidding).

 

That’s where our hashtag comes from. We are not meat-eaters, per se, but whenever we’re in a picture of something delicious with meat in it, we like throwing that out there. And you thought this would be about food, right? I lured you all in here with that yummy image, and starting out with the restaurants! I’m definitely learning how to hook you!

And since the photos are of me with books, here’s a small bibliography of the books (in order of photo appearance):

-Coleman, J.A. The Dictionary of Mythology. Arcturus Holdings Limited. 2015

-Riordan, Rick. Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes. New York: Disney-Hyperion. 2015.

-The Illustrarted Book of Myths. Retold by Neil Philip. New York: DK Publishing Inc. 1995

Pokemon-A-Go-Go

I have to talk about PokemonGo, at least once. And, I know: we’ve all heard about this, and the hype is down a little bit right now. But I love this game. I wasn’t around when the card game was popular, but from the way my person plays, it was pretty obvious she was. It was definitely a huge part of her generation, and the generations after. I like the concept: catching little pocket monsters, training them, competing them against each other. It’s like having a virtual pet who can blow fire at someone else’s virtual pet.

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That’s not the only thing about PokemonGo that I like. It promotes exploring. Think about it: how many new places have the players been, simply because they were searching for that one Pokemon? They’re getting out, they’re exploring, they’re exercising, all in the name of a game. There’s no better example of the power of play! And it’s not just kids who are playing PokemonGo: adults are out there, too, gathering the Pokemon they need. Strangers are uniting over a good, fun, common cause!

We were Pokemoning a few weekends back, and we actually discovered a new park in Albuquerque that we’d never been to before. It’s call the USS Bullhead Memorial Park, and it’s in honor of the USS Bullhead, a WWII submarine that took out a few ships and saved people out of the waters.  How cool is that?

One other cool feature: the photos! We all know, everything with me is about photos of places I’ve been, but with this game, I can take pictures with Pokemon! They’re adorable! And that’s how I’m “collecting” my Pokemon. I don’t have my own account (yet…my person and I are still discussing this), but I use hers and collect my Pokemon this way.

 

I just had to share. I really like this game! And now we’re working on “catching them all!”

 

Spooky Fun!

My person’s dad and step-mom bought her a ghost tour for her birthday. I’d never been on one, but she had been a few, and she always got excited about them, so I thought I’d tag along to see what it was all about. It was fantastic, by the way.

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The tour was with the History & Ghost Tours of Old Town, located (you guessed it) in Old Town Albuquerque. It explores the spookier side of Old Town, which, let me tell you, gets pretty spooky.

I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone who might be considering this tour. A quick overview included a phantom mistress-of-the-night (my person won’t tell me exactly what this is…), a revenge-bent lover, an invisible maid, a hanging tree (no, the song from HUNGER GAMES wasn’t played), and the most terrifying reality of what might actually be beneath our streets… 20170708_230658

Our guide was fantastic. He was funny, he was witty, his comic timing was genius. My person isn’t beyond going up in a dare, so she touched haunted doors and giggled at some of the darker jokes. Let’s face it: when you’ve done the Ghost Bus Tour of Dublin, you’ve got to have a sick sense of humor to keep going with these tours!

It was truly an enjoyable tour. With the except of the mistress-of-the-night (still not sure entirely what this means), I’d rate this tour kid-friendly, too.

Road Trippin’

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I’m taking a slight side trip from my normal day of blogging (which hasn’t been normal for awhile, but will be going forward). Today is the first of July, which means it’s the first day of the second half of the year, and this year is FLYING by!

Which brings me here, to our road trip. If you watch Instagram or Facebook, you’ll have seen pictures of our road trip to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The reason we were there was a wedding, but I have to say, driving up was half the fun! There were so many fun things to see. We stopped by a site where a Mason Lodge had once stood; it had the highest altitude of any lodge of it’s time. We stopped by some great rock formations (Camel Rock, in New Mexico, and Chimney Rock and Rabbit Ears Pass in Colorado). We even got a taste of the old Wild West when we stopped by the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave.

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Road trips can take forever. Our first day, we were in the car for almost 11 hours (well, not quite: we stopped at the Colorado Gator Farm to stretch a bit). Going back, because we tried to see so many things, it took about 16 hours to get home. Still, I have to say that it was one of the best ways to see the country.

I mean, Colorado is known for being gorgeous, but some of those mountain ranges are absolutely stunning! And Pike’s Peak, even at a distance, was definitely awe-inspiring for a little 3-inch pony like me.

If you can endure the long drives in the car, road trips are fantastic! Airplanes definitely have their purpose (the trip back from Dublin would have taken FOREVER if we hadn’t flown), but we really enjoyed all the little stops along the way. It shows you a different side of America instead of just the big cities.

Just my opinion. I’ll tell you guys all about the road trip on Wednesday.

Where It All Began…

The new year has begun, which means that I’m finally going to take the advice of my herd and start writing. We’ve all been through so many adventures already, and the adventures don’t seem to be stopping. Who would want them to? I would have never guessed that such a life exists for a toy!

I supposed, then, I should start with introductions. My name is Icarus. When I first got it, it seemed a little strange. It definitely wasn’t what I was expecting it to be. Being a pony, I was expecting something like, “Blackie,” or, “Midnight,” or, “Prince Glitterhooves” (hey, I’ve heard some of the names that toys are called, and that’s not outside the realm of them). Icarus was definitely not in my top five, and it took me a little while to get used to it.

Turns out, Icarus is a character from Greek mythology (I learned a lot about mythology from my person. Who’d guessed, right?). Icarus was the son of Daedalus, who was this amazing inventor and mathematician, and in general pretty cool guy who kept getting into all kinds of trouble from all of these kings. Basically, he and his son were imprisoned, and he decided the only way to get out was to fly across the sea. Pretty cool, right? He built these amazing wings for him and his son, and they flew, but Icarus flew too close to the sun, and the wax holding the wings together melted away, and he felt into the sea.

Not exactly the happiest of stories, but it’s a Greek myth, so what can you expect from it? Anyway, when my person first gave me the name, I thought it was a little strange. I’d never heard of it, but the name stuck. I am Icarus, the little pony who flew too close to the sun. Now I sound a little cynical, don’t I?

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve learned a lot from my person. She loves mythology and history and stories, and I’ve learned to, as well. I mean, I’m writing one, right? It was a little bit of a shock to get used to her, though.

I like my person. She’s short, for a human, and a little rounder than normal (but she’s working on that, so we don’t say anything), but also she’s fun and adventurous. And she chose me. Most toys want to be purchased for a child. We get to be played with, we get to be loved and adored, and we get to have adventures. Adults don’t seem to know how to do that with toys, not really. Or maybe just not as often. That’s what I had wanted, when I’d first showed up at the toy store. I wanted a child to play with me. Hey, I’ve seen Toy Story. The toy struggle is real.

See, I’m from Ireland, originally. Dublin to be exact. I was from this little toy store on the north side. When I was unpacked, there was a small kiosk with other ponies and animals. Some looked like me, but the others didn’t. The toy store was nestled away on a corner by the movie theatre, and I could see and hear people walking to and fro, their voices a blurred chorus of usually happy noise. Inside, there were walls with dolls, and toy guns, and Legos. There were a lot of Legos.

It was a quiet place, the peace broken occasionally by the pitter-patter of children and their delighted squeaks and squeals as they picked their new toy. I watched them come in and pick up toys, the little ones’ eyes filled with joy and wonder and desire. I loved watching them. Sometimes their parents seemed to take joy in the new toys, too, but sometimes it seemed more like a chore for them. I always wondered why that was. How could anyone not be excited about getting a toy?

The other foals and I would talk about the kids that we would get. Would it be a little girl dreaming of being a princess, would it be a cowboy, would we be space ponies? The possibilities seemed endless, and more and more I found that all I wanted to be with a child, any child. It started as nervous energy whenever a child would walk in. Would this be the moment? Would this be my new family? It was hard to tell, but all of us colts felt that way. We’d get jittery.

Time passed, and nervous energy gave way to longing. I wanted to know what the other toys were doing. Were they in space? Had they gone to another planet yet? I tried to imagine what the inside of a messy bedroom looked like, and how my stable might be under a bed. Would I ever be covered in spaghetti? Would I ever play in a bathtub?

Outside, the weather turned from bright, summer sunlight to the grey of winter. Rain fell in icy sheets against the window, and it was harder and harder to see the people as they passed by the store. Inside, I felt like I was losing everything. How could I have not found my family yet?

I promise, this story has a happy ending.

Inside the store, we watched the workers start putting up decorations. Wreaths and ornaments appeared, turning the bright, little store into a glittering alcove. Amongst the shelves, rumors began to spread of a holiday called Christmas that was coming. Christmas was a golden light among us. People would buy toys for children for presents, would buy more toys for their stockings, would buy more toys to pacify other children. That meant that we’d all be getting a home. We’d all be finding families.

And that’s about the time that my person walked in. It was the beginning of December, and it was a grey day, but there wasn’t any rain. She walked in, and she looked lost. Her eyes were tired, and she didn’t seem like she belonged, not really. Still, she looked around. The shop keep and her didn’t talk, and I wondered if he was curious about her as I was. I mean, she wasn’t a little kid, but she looked like she needed something. Like she was somehow incomplete.

After a few moments, her eyes settled on our kiosk. Her blue eyes surveyed us, a hint of amusement showing from the way her lips curled at the tips into a smile. She looked at all of us, and then, quick as a whip, grabbed me and hurried to the cash register.

I had thought, back when the other colts and I fantasized, that I might be leaving with another. It probably wouldn’t be another colt like me (after all, how many Lipizzaner colts does one child need?), but surely another, maybe a Clydesdale, or a Shire, or maybe a pony (a real pony, like a Fell or a Shetland. We all know what we are. Horses, like cats, always know). But she whisked me away, like I was all she needed.

I was put in a little, plastic bag and we left. That was that. I was nervous. As much as I had wanted to be part of a family, now I had even more questions. My person seemed pretty young, definitely not older than mid-twenties, and she seemed lonely. We walked a long time, and I grew worried. Where were we going? The weather was cold; I could feel that, even in my bag. After a while, we entered a courtyard, and I could tell we were getting close. It was the way she walked: she picked up the pace, eager to get out of the weather. I didn’t blame her: the rain in Dublin can be a little unpredictable, and she, as far as I could tell, was only wearing the hoodie. Not very much protection.

We entered a building, with white walls and no noise. I wondered, for a moment, if it was a hospital, but it didn’t smell right. Together, we entered the elevator. It rumbled a little bit, and I could tell we were going really high up. The elevator dinged, and we stepped out into another white hallway, followed by another, and then, at last, a white room. Carefully, she reached into the bag and removed me, and I liked what I saw. She smiled her little smile, and then set me on her desk, which wrapped around the room and was covered in books, rocks, and shells. The walls were decorated with posters and a giant map of Ireland, and nestled in one corner was a bed, made but a little messy.

My person tucked me away, and for a little while, I lived in that room, where I could see out the window. We were five stories up, so I had a great view of the Liffey River, and the O2 Stadium, and all the glittering buildings in between. The room was warm and cozy, and my curiosity peaked. Along the way, I had wondered if my person might have a child she was delivering me to, but now I had doubts. Still, I was curious. What was an adult going to do with me?

I learned a lot in that little room. We were in the heart of Dublin, on the south side, at the edge of Trinity College. My person studied history at the college, but she was also a writer, and loved to read. Soon, she added friends for me: a little statue of Anubis, Guide of the Dead, and a little unicorn named Starlight. She also had a stuffed unicorn called EverSea who looked over everyone. EverSea was beautiful: sea-foam green, she was gentle and caring, and told us stories of the desert where my person lived. Turns out my person was a student studying abroad. At the end of the school year, we’d be moving.