The Norwegian Fjord Horse, or Fjord Horse, is a very old Breed and thought to be one of the world’s oldest breed of horse. It developed in the inaccessible mountainous regions of Norway where it is known as the Fjording. Selective breeding and isolation has kept the breed extremely pure over the centuries.
The Fjord horse is one of the world’s oldest and purest breeds. Horses were known to exist in Norway at the end of the last ice age. It is believed that the ancestors of the modern Fjord horse migrated to Norway and were domesticated over 4,000 years ago. Archaeological excavations at Viking burial sites indicate that the Fjord horse type has been selectively bred for at least 2,000 years. The Fjord horse and its ancestors have been used for hundreds of years as farm animals in western Norway. Even as late as World War II, they were useful for work in mountainous terrain. The Fjord horse also has a long recorded history of pure breeding without crossbreeding from other sources.
The Fjord horse has a distinct appearance. The breed’s conformation differs from many other breeds in that it is a blend of draught horse muscling and bone, with smaller size and greater agility. It has a strong, arched neck, sturdy legs and good feet, and a compact, muscular body. The head is medium sized and well defined with a broad, flat forehead and a straight or slightly dished face, with small ears and large eyes. Despite its small size, the breed is fully capable of carrying an adult human and pulling heavy loads. The hair coat becomes particularly heavy and thick in the winter.
The natural mane is long, thick, and heavy, but is usually clipped in a distinctive crescent shape to between five to ten centimetres (two to four inches) so that it stands straight up and emphasises the shape of the neck. This roached mane is thought to make for easier grooming. It also accentuates the horse’s strong neck and full-length dorsal stripe. There is some feathering on the lower legs; however, the breed standard discourages profuse feathering.
There is no upper or lower limit for height set for the breed, but heights between 135 and 150 cm (13.1 and 14.3 hands; 53 and 59 inches) at the withers are recommended. The weight normally ranges from 400 to 500 kilograms (880 to 1,100 lb). Though some individuals may fall under the traditional cutoff between horses and ponies, the Fjord horse is considered a horse, regardless of height.
Fjords are “easy keepers”, with a tendency to become overweight if fed an unrestricted diet and not exercised. Grass hay supplemented by no more than 2 to 4 percent of their body weight with a medium to low protein grain is recommended. Because of their hardy nature do not require excessive grain or supplements.
Their keen intelligence demands that they be kept in a stimulated environment. They do not do well when confined to a stall 24 hours a day. They thrive in pasture or turn out.
Grooming is essential, especially in winter when if left unclipped they will grow a thick and wooly coat. They tend to have excellent, well balanced feet and are often left unshod.
The versatility of the Fjord makes them useful in many disciplines. They are good on the trail and make ideal pleasure horses. If properly trained, their grace and power can also make them competitive in the dressage arena, the show jumping arena, and the cross country course. They make excellent driving horses whose good bone and hardy stature facilitate their great strength and willingness to work.