Monday, May 31, 2010

Breed Review: Fjord

This is a breed of horse that has always held my interest. Being Norwegian myself, I wonder if some where in my past is a farmer who worked the fjords of Norway with a team of these beautiful horses. That might be a bit romantic of me, but one never knows. My grandfather, who came over as a child, never liked to talk about his life in Norway.

The Norwegian Fjord is one of the oldest, if not the oldest breed of horse. They are very primitive in looks, resembling the horses depicted in cave paintings. Often they are compared to the Przewalski, although the Fjord horse has been selectively breed for over 2000 years. Fjords come in five colors, all various of a dun. 90% of Fjord Horses are brown dun. The remaining 10% is made up of red, white, gray, or yellow duns. The yellow dun is the most rare. Below is a brown dun on the left and a red on the right.

Steady on feet and steady in the mind, Norwegian Fjords have been shaped by their homeland. Norway is full of fjords, the geological structure, not the horse. These make farming difficult at best. While farming along these fjords this sturdy pony, standing between 13-15 hh, may have to pull for hours up steep and rocky terrain. Compared to goats in the ability to move up and down the steep hill, this is a sure footed horse. Fjord horses are big boned and can almost live on air, also due to the terrain that they lived in for so long. Farmers had to cross the fjords in small row boats, and they took their livestock with them. Between the row boats, narrow paths up the hills, and the general rough terrain the Norwegian Fjord had to have a calm disposition or it would not be around long enough to pass on their good looks.

Obviously Fjord Horses were used to pull: farm equipment, wagons, and carriages. They are, at heart, draft animals. That doesn't dimish what they can do under saddle though. This is a plucky little horse that can do most anything. Really, they can hunker down to do a nice spin for reining or stretch out to make those beautiful extended trots for dressage. Although I am not about to claim that a Fjord is going to be the next US dressage star or hold the world title for reining, they can be competitive enough for the average rider. They are a perfect horse for the person that wants to do a little driving and a little riding and just wants a nice sturdy pony.

Okay they are not without any flaws. The Norwegian Fjord can be stubborn. He's Norwegian, what can you expect? They are also VERY easy keepers. They can live off of very poor forage and still do a lot of work. In today's horse world it can be difficult to keep them at a good weight. When they do gain weight they tend to looks a bit more like a hippo than a horse. Probably the biggest draw back to a person like me us that these are not cheap horses to purchase. Still relatively a novelty, they can be pricey.

If you noticed I have called the Norwegian Fjord a horse and a pony. In its homeland, there was no word for pony, hence it is a Fjord horse in straight translation. Here in America any horse below 14.2 is a pony, and most Fjords do fall below that height. In Britain, a pony has a slightly different definition. Part of the definition is height, but also that they are better able than horses to survive and procreate without the intervention of humans. They are stronger, larger boned, and have more efficient digestive tracts to utilize poor forage than their horse counter parts. Fjords meet all of these requirements.

The Fjord horse meet all my requirements for a new mount too. Hummm. No there isn't one in the barn yet, and I promise that I have not put a down payment on one either.

Equine World
The Scandinavian Horse
Norsk Wood Works
Big Pony, Little Horse

1 comment:

  1. Hey! I'm part Norwegian, too.
    And I have a sad, 'one that got away' story about a Fjord that I almost bought right after my surgery. Her name was Ilsa...and I though it was fate that I should have her since her name and mine were as one. She was in my price range of $3,000 (if I could have sold my mare at the price I paid for her that is) and she was true trail horse through and through.
    I watched her videos with longing and e-mailed with the owner back and forth.
    Ironically the owner was a best friend of one of the blogs I follow, and she had sent me a personally designed greeting card from a trail ride she had went on the summer before...a pack trip. And you can guess at one of the horses that was showcased on the front of that card.....yes dear Ilsa....the Fjord.
    But the problem was selling my horse and the distance involved. She was in the PNW and I'm in the SW.
    But I've always wanted a Fjord and she was the one that got away.



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