The Fjord horse, sometimes called the Norwegian Fjord Horse, has a distinctive appearance. This compact, hardy, mild-mannered horse may be small, but it’s strong enough to carry adults. The Fjord is a great choice for disciplines like dressage and driving, and if you’re looking for an equine partner who’s happy to go to work and who isn’t easily spooked, you’ll find it in this unique breed.
Weight: 900 to 1,000 pounds
Height: 13.2 to 14.2 hands
Body Type: Compact, strong body with tough feet and a thick, crested neck
Best For: Trail riding, endurance, and driving
Life Expectancy: 30 years
Fjord History and Origins
The Fjord has a rich history spanning thousands of years, making it one of the oldest horse breeds still in existence today. It may be related to the Przewalski horse, the primitive wild horse that once roamed across Asia. More than 4,000 years ago, the earliest Fjord ancestors were domesticated in Norway. These horses served on Norwegian farms for thousands of years, and the Vikings even rode them into war.
Though the Fjord has existed for thousands of years, it’s been selectively and carefully bred, so it’s a largely pure breed with little influence from other horse breeds. The breed remains highly prized in Norway for its historical significance and its many contributions to Norwegian’s lives.
Fjords are small and compact, typically standing between 13.2 and 14.2 hands high, though the breed standard doesn’t have a height limit. These horses usually weigh between 900 and 1,000 pounds. While they may be small, they’re powerful and can easily carry adults.
Breeding and Uses
Fjords are carefully bred to retain the breed’s integrity and are used for both riding and driving. They’re sometimes used for lower-level dressage and cross-country schooling and competition. The breed has good endurance and makes a great trail mount. Because of its patient nature and calm demeanor, this breed is a preferred riding lesson and therapeutic riding lesson mount.
Colors and Markings
The Fjord has a highly distinctive appearance; all horses of this breed have dun coloring. Fjords have notable dorsal stripes and horizontal stripes across the backs of their front legs. Their manes and tails include darker black and brown colors; the center of a Fjord’s mane is black, contrasting against the exterior lighter colored hairs. Fjords’ manes are cut short so that they stand straight up. Many Fjords also have lighter colored muzzle and belly hair.
While all Fjords are dun, five different dun shades are recognized: Brown dun, red dun, grey, white dun, and yellow dun. As a result, their coats can vary from a light chestnut to cream to grey and red-brownish shades.
Unique Characteristics of the Fjord
Fjords are largely known for their great temperaments. They’re gentle, cooperative, and willing to work. Fjords are typically well-mannered and highly enjoyable to work with. Many of these horses are ideal mounts for children and beginners learning to ride, though they’re also favored mounts of more advanced equestrians who are looking for a reliable, cooperative horse. Many Fjords are considered to be nearly bombproof because of their calm demeanor.
Diet and Nutrition
Most Fjords are easy keepers, so they need minimal hay and grain. Many Fjords do just fine on a quality hay and a vitamin and mineral supplement, not needing any grain at all. Some Fjords may become overweight if given access to grass, so these horses will need to be turned out in a dry lot or they should wear a grazing muzzle when out on pasture. Every horse is different, but when it comes to the Fjord breed in general, a little feed tends to go a long way.
Common Health and Behavior Problems
Fjords are generally healthy and hardy. Because they’re such easy keepers, they can be more likely to experience some related health issues.
- Laminitis: This painful hoof condition can cause a horse’s coffin bone to rotate. Fjords who are overweight and overfed are at an increased risk of this condition.
- Colic: This highly painful digestive issue can be life-threatening and may require emergency surgery. While Fjords aren’t naturally at an increased risk of colic, horses who are overweight and overfed may be more likely to colic.
Fjords have relatively standard grooming needs. They can grow thick winter coats, so frequent currying and the use of a shedding blade can help them to shed out in the spring. Fjords will need to have their manes regularly trimmed to keep them standing up straight in the style that’s typical of the breed. These horses will also benefit from regular grooming and hoof care.
Agreeable, laid-back nature
Suitable for both beginners and advanced riders
Hardy, strong build
Need careful dietary maintenance to prevent weight gain
Not as versatile as some other breeds
Somewhat uncommon, so buying a horse can take some time
Champion and Celebrity Fjord Horses
Many different Fjords hold championships in dressage, driving, and more. Because this breed is so old, there’s no known foundation stallion. Instead, there are countless Fjords excelling at their jobs all over the world today.
Is the Fjord Right for You?
The Fjord is a great choice for many equestrians, whether they ride or drive. Its nearly unflappable temperament and easygoing nature makes it an excellent confidence-builder for young or beginning riders, but the Fjord is also highly trainable and is still a good option if you’re an accomplished rider. While it’s most commonly preferred by dressage riders and drivers, the Fjord is plenty versatile, so this horse could be your next competition partner, trail mount, and more.
The Fjord’s small size is desirable and beneficial in many cases. If you have difficulty mounting larger horses or are looking for a horse that you can easily remount on the trail, the Fjord may be the perfect solution for your needs.
How to Adopt or Buy a Fjord
If you’re ready to buy a Fjord, be prepared to pay in the area of $10,000 for a well-trained horse in its prime. These horses are less common than some other popular breeds, so you may need to travel to find the Fjord that’s just right for you. Consider looking for a reputable breeder, and bring a talented trainer with you to help you evaluate horses.
It’s fairly unlikely to find a Fjord up for adoption through a rescue because of this breed’s value. If you’re not in a hurry to buy a new horse, then you may get lucky and find one through a rescue eventually.
Whether you buy or adopt a Fjord, it’s always a good idea to invest in a pre-purchase exam. This exam can potentially identify health and physical issues that could limit the horse’s athletic capability in the future.
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