The Fjord pony is an extremely primitive breed of pony and is considered to be one of the original ancestors of all modern European draft horse breeds. It is from the country of Norway, where it has been roaming for thousands of years. The breed has had an exciting history as they have done everything from aiding the Vikings in their quests for new lands to placating children with docile pony rides. They have an excellent temperament, and have been of use to humans for many centuries in many ways.
While the exact origin of the Norwegian Fjord pony is unknown, it is speculated that they are related to the wild horses of Asia known as the Przewalski. They are thought to have migrated to Norway over 4000 years ago, where they were first captured and domesticated.
The earliest known selective breeding is thought to have taken place 2000 years ago by the Vikings. This breed is a product of the harsh geography of Norway.
The tall mountains and deep fjords necessitated the survival of a hardy and sure-footed pony that could manage the navigation of rocky hills while pulling heavy wagons or packing large loads on their backs. They also had to survive in deep snow which accompanied harsh winters. They had limited access to forage and so developed the ability to thrive on small amounts of food. They were an essential tool for the farmers and settlers, so any specimen that did not have the proper temperament or abilities was culled.
When they were not working as farm and cart horses, they were rented out to pull
wagons for British noblemen touring the rough and untamed countryside. To this day, they remain the pride of Norway, and have even been chosen as one of the countries national symbols.
The first studbook dedicated to preserving and promoting the breed was opened in 1910. Currently there are several breed registries around the world including those found in Finland, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United States. The current population of the Norwegian Fjord Pony is approximately7, 000, with representatives of the breed found all over the world.
The Norwegian Fjord Pony is very primitive in appearance. It bears a close resemblance to the Przewalski horse though it is more refined in type. A Norwegian would say that the horse needs to have “eye-appeal” while still being able to perform its duties and tasks. The body should be strong and stand between 13.2 and 14.2 hands tall and weigh between 900 to 1200 pounds.
Most Norwegian Fjords are dun in color, with a small percentage being red dun, gray dun, or white dun. A very rare color is yellow dun, though this color is hardly ever seen even in Norway. One of the hallmarks of the breed is an upright mane with a black dorsal stripe separating lighter sides of the body. Generally they have the other traditional dun markings including barring on the legs, the occasional shoulder stripe and dark tips and outlines on the ears.
The head of the Norwegian Fjord should be of a medium size with a broad and flat forehead and a straight profile. The eyes should be large and expressive. The jowls should be muscular and the jaws should be defined and have good distance between them. The throat latch should be thick, but refined enough to allow flexion at the poll. The neck should have a nice arch and be heavy in appearance while remaining proportional to the rest of the body. The shoulders should be well-muscled and the neck should tie in nicely. The withers need to have moderate definition. The chest should be wide and well muscled and the girth should be deep with ample respiratory
capacity. Their back is broad with ample muscling but is short to moderate in length. The loins have good muscle. The croup and hip should have a harmonious appearance in relation to the hind quarters. The legs should appear straight with moderately angled pasterns and round dense hooves.
The Fjord is very trainable and intelligent with a docile temperament. They are very hardy and adaptable, and can live in any environment. They have great foraging and survival instincts and are generally “easy-keepers”. They are long lived and healthy in general.
Their temperament and smaller size make them great children’s mounts with the added benefit of the strength to carry adults. They are used in many different disciplines, both
western and English. They are sufficiently athletic to excel in the area of dressage, and can piaffe (slow trot in place) as well as any warm blood.
They can also jump quite gracefully over large fences. This jumping ability combined with their dressage potential makes them an excellent prospect for three day eventing. The Fjord can slide to a stop and spin. They are such willing partners that they are also used in events such as reining and horsemanship. They are often used in northern Europe to pull sleighs and carts as singles or in teams.