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Use and characteristics of the Fjord Horse
In their homeland, there are two different types of Fjord horse. The fjord-hest comes from the fjord coasts of Norway and is possibly the more ancient of the two. The doele-hest comes from inland and was originally raised in the more fertile valleys. When considering whether to buy a Fjord horse, it’s useful to know that modern Fjords breed very true to type. They are easily recognised by their stocky conformation, pale cream or dun coats and the dorsal stripe that runs from the tail to the forelock. These features are key reference points for those who sell a Fjord horse. In height, Fjords range from 13 hands (52 inches/132 cm) to 14.1 hands (57 inches/145 cm) high, and they are sure-footed, hardy and extremely strong. One interesting characteristic of the breed is that the mane tends to stand up rather than grow over, and trimming the mane produces a beautiful curving crest with a black line in it. This cut seems to have been popular since the days of the Vikings. Sometimes the legs of the ponies have zebra markings.
Origin and history of breeding Fjord Horses
The appearance of the Fjord horse suggests that it has retained many characteristics from ancient times. It is seen as one of the antique types of Eurasian horse, along with Exmoor ponies and Przewalski’s horses (also known as Takis). Experts are confident that the ancestors of Fjord horses were ridden by Norse warriors as well as used for draught and in agriculture. Since most of Europe used exclusively oxen for ploughing, using these stocky little horses to plough the land was one of the distinguishing features of the Vikings when they raided and settled other areas. This tradition may well have been the start of the use of draught horses in agriculture and it’s possible that all European draught horses have Fjord ancestry. The medium to long backs of the Fjords made them good for pack work, too. They were easy to keep and got on well with humans, so they became indispensable on Norwegian farms and smallholdings, and popular throughout Scandinavia. They were also used in a traditional Norwegian vehicle called a cariole, which seats one person with a groom's seat behind. Prior to the establishment of a breeding programme in the 1880s, Fjords could be brown, bay, and other colours, though now their coats are almost exclusively dun and cream in five variations.
Fjord Horses in equestrianism
Small, strong and versatile, Fjords are ideal work horses for tough terrain such as upland areas. Today they are still used in forestry and on smallholdings, where their hardiness and thriftiness are also a boon. They are also very popular riding horses, particularly in trekking centres. Fjords have proved successful as ponies for vaulting and as therapy ponies, too.