Dual Purpose Ponies - The Norwegian Fjord
The Norwegian Fjord Horse was the horse of the Vikings. It is endemic to Norway and has existed there for centuries. Adaptability was bred into the Norwegian Fjord as it was used as a war-horse and for agricultural draught work. It was also used for horse-fighting which was a popular sport in its time. Thankfully those days are past. Because of the archaeological evidence available it is believed that controlled breeding of the Fjord has been practised for at least 2000 years.
Today all breeding of the Fjord is controlled by the Norwegian government. Only the very best animals can be exported. There have been concerted efforts towards improving the breed without losing the unflappable, kind disposition which is part and parcel of the breed. Its unique markings and gentle nature has endeared it to many people all over the world and it gains new admirers wherever it appears. It is a tough and economical breed.
There is a strong resemblance between the Norwegian Fjord Horse and the Asiatic wild horse, Przewalski's horse. The ancestors of the latter were around in the Ice Age. The colour and markings plus the vigour of its progenitors have been retained in the Norwegian Fjord. It continues to show those attributes which has enabled the breed to thrive under tough conditions over thousands of years.
The similarity of individuals to each other makes finding a matching pair or team relatively easy. Just as the Suffolk Punch is always chestnut and the Percheron always grey or black, so the Norwegian Fjord is always dun although this can very from a red dun to brown, grey or gold with the brown dun or buckskin being the most common. The red dun has red markings and the markings on the grey dun are dark. The gold dun is least often seen and has a gold stripe. The mane is hogged and carefully trimmed to have the darker centre hairs longer than the side hairs. The crest is also emphasised by the cut of the mane. The Fjord has had hogged manes since the time of the Vikings with runestone carvings showing horses with hogged manes.
The dark dorsal (or eel) stripe is very distinctive. It has an erect short mane like a zebra and zebra-like markings on the legs – all signs of its primitive origins. The dorsal stripe begins in the centre of the forelock and runs down the centre of the mane, back and rump through to the tail. There may be dark stripes over the withers as seen in members of the donkey family.
The Norwegian Fjord was once smaller than it is now. Once around 12hh high, it is now most often between 13hh and 14.2hh. It is solid and stocky, weighing between 900 and 1500 pounds and well suited to draught work. It is hardy and courageous, well suited to ploughing, pulling sleds or farm carts or acting as a pack horse. It is hugely popular as a harness horse but is also excellent under saddle and a kind, reliable trekking mount.
Compact, strongly coupled and muscular, it has a medium size head and small, pony-like ears. It has a straight profile but sometimes concave and the nostrils are large. The eyes are dark and large with a soft expression. The legs have good bone and hard feet. The muscular neck has a well developed crest. The mane and tail are coarse.
Despite their primitive features, they are calm and sensible. Being smallish but very strong, they are great mounts for adult beginners and well up to an adult's weight. Their action is free and well-balanced. Altogether an attractive and kindly animal.