fjord horse

Fjord Horse Breed: The Beginners Guide (2022)

The Fjord horse is one of the oldest known breeds to humankind. It is considered the ancient horse of Vikings, and we know this equine breed has existed since the Ice Age. The small but muscular horses have a very distinctive look and are pure-bred with an origin in the mountains of Western Norway. 

Breed: Fjord Horse
Adult Weight: 880 to 1,100 lbs (400 to 500 kilograms)
Adult Height: 13.1 – 14.3 hands (135 – 150 cm; 53 and 59 inches)
Origin: Norway
Use: Driving, Pleasure, Farming, Trekking
Colors: Red Dun, White Dun, Yellow Dun, Grey Dun, Brown Dun
Features: Small size, clipped mane, draft horse body, muscular and sturdy
Lifespan: 30 years
Character: Gentle, Hardy, Kind
Gait: Sure-footed, true, well-balanced
Best for: All levels of riders

Fjord Horse Characteristics

The Fjord horse characteristics are very distinctive, and this breed looks very different from most other horse breeds. The Fjord horse breed looks like a light draft horse but is relatively small compared to the standard size of a draft horse. 

The Fjord horse head is well-proportioned and characterized by a heavy and full but clipped mane (1). They have big eyes and feathers on their legs (1). 

Size 

There is no minimum or maximum limit for Fjord horse height, but the horses usually stand between 13.1 and 14.3 hands (135 – 150 cm; 53 and 59 inches) at the withers (1). These heights are recommended for the usual Fjord size by the breeding society, but they are not a mandatory standard. 

The Fjord horse is relatively small for a light draft horse, seeing that draft horses usually stand between 16 to 20 hands (8). Some even argued they should be considered as a fijord pony, but they are considered a horse despite their small size (1). Their body is a mixture of a typical, muscular draft horse combined with a lighter and more defined lightweight horse breed stature (1).

Weight 

The Fjord horse weight ranges typically from 880 to 1,100 lbs (400 to 500 kilograms) (2). However, their solid and sturdy build allows them to carry adult riders and pull lots of weight. In addition, fjord horses have an excellent bone structure and are very muscular despite their rather small height (2). 

Colors 

The Fjord horse colors are not too diverse, seeing that only the dun color is breed standard (1). The dun color is of a golden to beige shade and comes with five recognized shade variations. A beautiful Fjord horse can be either yellow dun, brown dun, red dun, grey/grey dun, or white dun. 

The popularity of colors within the breed has been well documented (1). We know that 90% of all Fjord horses are brown dun. Only the remaining 10% are either grey/grey dun. The most rare Fjord horse colors would be white dun and yellow dun since those come from a gene called the “creme gene”(2).

Temperament 

Fjord horse temperament is generally described as well-behaved and calm. They are considered to be agreeable and good-natured horses (1). Fjord horse behavior is perfect for children and beginners since they are gentle and kind horses often used as family horses. 

A kind horse will be forgiving of beginners’ mistakes and tolerate inexperienced riders (2). There are some other horse breeds like Appaloosas or Thoroughbreds who are not as forgiving when it comes to inexperienced riders (1). 

Fjord Horse Care

A purebred Norwegian Fjord Horse is likely used to harsh weather and adapted well to the circumstances of the elements. In Norway, they are often kept outdoors, and they tend to their nutrition by themselves. They will frequently graze through the pasture eat what they need to be healthy and fat horses. Natural foraging has been proven to influence the Fjord horse lifespan positively.

Diet and Nutrition 

The Fjord diet can be considered thrifty and easy-going. Many Fjord Horses will get along fine with grass and hay as an ideal and natural nutrition. A rider probably won’t need additional grain or very little at all. Fjord horses are used to the rich soils of Norway, and one might want to add some vitamin-mineral supplements to their diet if needed or advised by a vet (3). 

It is recommendable not to overfeed them with starch, grain, or calorie-rich hay to prevent problems with obesity and their joints as they are relatively small equine and can be prone to obesity since they are light draft horses (3).

Health Problems 

The Fjord horse is an endangered species, and the owner of a Fjord horse should be aware of the health problems this breed might encounter or be prone to. There are no specific genetic problems that Fjord horses are prone to, but they risk getting Laminitis (9).

Laminitis is a painful disease of the hooves where a horse’s coffin bone rotates. The illness often develops in obese horses, so be very vigilant about the diet and weight of your Fjord horse (9). But no need to overly worry. Generally speaking, the Fjord horse is considered a healthy and hardy horse breed (9). 

Grooming 

Fjord horses are considered to be easy-keepers overall. The Norwegian fjord has strong hoof walls and a thick sole inherent to their breed. This evolutionary advantage evolved due to the hard floors and Norway’s diverse and mountainous landscapes. Therefore many riders state that their Fjord horse does well without shoes. 

Kept in a cold climate, most Norwegian horses will do just fine without coats and will be happy to have a barn in winter to shield them from harsh winds. Some Fjord horses have feathers that need to be groomed regularly. Many riders like to clip the heavy manes of their Fjord horses because this makes Fjord grooming much less extensive. 

Fjord Horse History

The Fjord horse history is rich and old. Very old. We know that this breed, natively called gulblakk fjord, has existed since the Ice Age from which bones have been discovered in glaciers which have been traced back to our small draft horse from Norway (4). Furthermore, it is known that the Vikings used Fjord horses for farming and even traveled with them (4). 

Origin 

The Fjord horse origin has been traced back to Norway and the Vikings. Horses were known to exist in Norway at the end of the last ice age. Theories from scientists say that the ancestors of our modern Fjord horse migrated to Norway 4000 years ago and were domesticated back then (4). 

We also know that the Fjord horse has been bred selectively for probably at least 2,000 years due to excavations at burial sites of the Vikings (4). The Vikings also used the Fjord horse type was as a war mount (4). 

Historic Development 

The historical development of the Norwegian Horse mainly changed from them being farm animals in western Norway and for the Vikings to sadly becoming warhorses in World War II. Their tough character and suitability to trek through the mountains became their burden. 

Seeing that the Fjord horse is not only one of the oldest horse breeds known to humankind, we also know that there hasn’t been a history of crossbreeding with other horse breeds. To this day, the Fjord horse is one of the purest breeds of equines. 

Notable Fjord Horses 

Even though the Fjord horse is one of the oldest breeds on our planet, there aren’t too many famous Fjord horses or a very popular Fjord horse pedigree. Norwegians are known to be modest, and even the history of the Vikings isn’t that well-documented since they mainly traveled by boats. 

The Fjord Horse as a Charge 

What we do know and find often of Fjord horses as charges on coats of arms of the municipalities of Gloppen and Eid, both located in Nordfjord. Nordfjord lies in Western Norway, and the charges of the magnificent Fjord horse can often be seen while visiting the local museums. 

Symbols of Norway 

We all know and adore the pictures of the Fjords of Norway, and seeing that the Fjord Horse has this specific name, it is a given that they are an ambassador for the Fjord and for Norway itself. If you google Norway or Fjords, you will see a Fjord horse many times.

Belle’s Horse  

Do you know the Disney movie “Beauty and the Beast”? Belle’s horse, named Phillipe, looks exactly like a red dun Fjord horse, and some Norwegians claim he is supposed to be one. But the majority say Phillipe is a Belgian horse due to his size. Well, only Belle knows. 

Myths and Legends 

There are some Fjord horse legends and myths about the small draft horse from Norway. Norse Mythology, as well as Asian resemblances, for sure fired up some myths about the Fjord Horse. 

Asian Horse

The Fjord horse bears some striking resemblances to Asian horses. Myths say the Fjords horse ancestors migrated from Asia to Norway and that their origin is even older than the one we have proof of. 

Healing Magic 

Fjord horses are a popular choice for therapy horses. Norse Mythology says the Fjord horse has magic capabilities and has been the horse of the Gods, and maybe this is true. Their positive effect as a Therapy horse seems to prove the myths right. 

A Royal Horse 

Queen Elizabeth owned a Fjord horse during the 1940s that has been bred in Scotland. The horse’s name was Glen Tanar Hans. Glen Tanar Hans won the silver cup at the Royal Windsor Horse Show in 1943.

Modern Fjord Horses

Nowadays, the different types of Fjord horses are still a loved and internationally recognized breed. Equestrians love the Fjord horse’s calm spirit, and they are famous for being kind and firm, sturdy horses that the whole family can use. 

They are easy to care for and considered to be family horses. They are used under saddle and harness and can be used for many equine aspects. In Norway, they are still famous farm horses, and many Norwegians enjoy them as pets for pleasure riding.

Breeding 

Even though more farms than just Norwegian breeders breed Fjord Horses, the local  Fjord breeding societies are considered for breeding the purest horses of this breed. You can purchase Fjord Horses mostly in Norway, Belgium, Sweden, Germany, the US, Denmark, and the UK. 

Fjord horses breeding is not the most popular compared to other breeds like American Quarter horses for example, but they are beloved by some passionate Fjord horse enthusiasts.

Population 

The Fjord horse population counts about 5,800 Fjord horses in Norway itself (2). Most Fjord horses live outside of Noway, with an estimated population of 80 000 Fjord horses worldwide (1).  

There are approximately 6500 Fjord horses registered in the US and 1000 registered Fjord Horses in Canada (1). Norway considers their national horse breed to be endangered and is very aware of the breeding of their magical breed (5).

Uses 

Fjord horse uses have been versatile throughout history, but mostly they have been used as farm horses or war mounts. In Norway, Fjord horses are still used for agriculture and economic purposes. At the same time, the use of them for pleasure and trekking also became quite popular in international countries like Germany, Norway, the US, the UK, Denmark, and Sweden (1). 

The ordinary Fjord Horse is mainly used as a family horse and for pleasure riding since they have a sturdy and hardy built for trekking through landscapes and rough terrain. The Fjord horse gait is well-balanced and straight through the walk, trot, and canter (1). 

Fjord Horse Prices

As we already know, there are not too many purebred Fjord Horses roaming the world, compared to more common breeds like an American Quarter Horse. That is why the limitation of horses and Fjord Horse-certified breeds can make the initial purchase a little more expensive than purchasing more common horse breeds. 

Purchase Price 

Several factors determine the purchase price of the Fjord horse of your choice. The age of the horse and its training level are two significant factors. When buying a horse, you are predominantly paying for time, meaning the Fjord horse training and the time the horse has been cared for. 

Even though a Fjord Horse is not considered a luxurious horse breed, the prices can vary from $4,000 to $14,000 for a Fjord stallion (6). The physical features of a horse, the height, and the pedigree are significant factors when it comes to pricing (6). If you want to purchase purebred gelding from a renowned bloodline, you can expect to pay more than for an untrained Fjord foal (6). 

Ownership Costs 

When it comes to Fjord horse cost of ownership, there are a lot of different monetary points to factor in. For example, is your horse already trained for the intended use, or will you have to pay for training? 

Despite the initial ​​Fjord price of purchasing the animal ($4,000-$10,000) (6), you must calculate the monthly fees of hay, care, boarding, and feed, assuming that you don’t already have a smallholding with employees which will be around 400-800$ in most countries (7). 

Board 

The Fjord horse board cost will probably be the most significant factor when it comes to the price of horsemanship (7). Do you have a property or smallholding where the horse can live and graze for free, or do you have to pay monthly fees for stable and care? Keeping a horse near a big city will probably be more expensive than in areas where there are a lot of equestrians already. 

Boarding costs vary depending on if you pay for full or half board. Full board includes feed, care, and vet costs and can be as high as $800 per month (7). If you only pay for “putting” your horse in a stable, you may pay as little as $200 (7) but will have to pay for the additional costs separately (7). 

Feed 

Fjord horse feed cost is one cost factor where you can be happy to feed a Fjord horse (10). Due to their nature and their small size, they are happy and healthy with grazing through the pasture and having a few snacks of hay (10), depending on hay prices in your region which can vary from 2$ to 15$ a bale (10). 

You might want to buy an additional salt stone ($12 and lasting 3-4 months) and some high-quality grain feed (around 15$) if your horse is very active or works on a farm (10).

Veterinary Care

The annual Fjord horse veterinary cost will be approximately around $200-$300 (12) if you have set up a yearly care plan. These costs will cover annual vaccinations, deworming for 12 months, and the teeth floating once or twice per year. 

These costs do not cover anything unexpected like injuries, inflammations, or colics – one of those diseases alone can easily cost you $1200 (12), depending on the severity of the problem (12). Watch out for obesity since draft horses are prone to get fat if fed too much grain. 

Hoof Care 

Some Fjord Horses do not need shoes which can be a relief for the Fjord horse hoof care cost. As horses need to get new shoes or a trim every 6-8 weeks, the costs of hoof care can be considered a regular expense.

Trimming your horses’ hooves will most likely cost around $35 every few weeks (11). Shoeing your horse will cost you more than twice as much – around $80 per shoeing session. This brings the costs to anything from $150 to over $1,000 annually (11), depending on the hoof care. 

Buying a Fjord Horse 

Buying a horse of the Fjord breed, or any breed that is is a huge responsibility. It can be intimidating if this is your first horse to buy, and you should be 100% sure that you can tend to the horse’s needs as it deserves. 

Be aware of the monthly costs you will have to cover and ensure that you can cover those costs. Always meet the Fjord horse of your interest before buying – even if you have to fly to Norway. The Fjord horse should always have all the documentation and health certificates. 

Is the Fjord Horse Right for You? 

Riding a Fjord horse is fun, and their tremendous and easy-going character makes them an excellent choice for many riders. Owning a Fjord comes with many responsibilities, and you need to be an organized person and reliable to own a horse since you will have to care for this animal as long as it lives. 

If you prefer more miniature horses and like to ride for pleasure or you need help on your farm, the Fjord will be a great choice for you. If you are a very large or tall person, you might want to check if the small draft horse is the right choice for you. 

How to Buy a Fjord Horse? 

If you’ve decided to buy a Fjord, you will need to search for the Fjord breeder of your trust. Some people like to import Fjord Horses directly from Norway, but this comes with more costs and stress for the horse since it has to travel by plane or ship. 

You will want to buy from a breeder that is open with you and lets you handle and ride the horse of your interest. Take a look at the horse farm and how the horses are treated. When buying a Fjord horse, the seller should also ask you several questions to ensure their horse is sold into good hands.

Similar Breeds to Fjord

Fjord horses are a great choice when buying a horse. They are calm, kind, sturdy, and hardy horses with a unique look, even though some people might want to look at Fjord breed alternatives if they would prefer to have a taller horse or have a special preparation when it comes to coat colors. 

Icelandic Horse 

The Icelandic Horse is another kind and calm horse breed that is also a rather small equine. They come in many coat colors with beautiful spots or markings, and they are a sturdy breed. Their looks are slightly different, and they can look more well-defined than a Fjord Horse.

Norwegian Dole Horse 

The Norwegian Dole horse comes from the same country as the Fjord horse, and they are an excellent choice for a horse as well. They appear in darker colors and are very talented in trotting competitions. They are slightly taller than a Fjord Horse and the tallest of the four native horse breeds of Norway. 

Belgian 

The Belgian Horse is somehow the neighbor of the Norwegian Horse. Belgians are draft horses as well, and the main difference compared to a Fjord horse is the size. Belgians are huge horses and usually stand at 16 to 1t hands. If you are looking for a taller draft horse than the Fjord, you might want to take a closer look at this breed. 

FAQ 

What is a Fjord horse? 

The Fjord horse is a horse originating from Norway and named after the beautiful Fjords of the country. 

What does a Fjord horse look like?

Fjord Horses have a distinctive look to them since they have a draft-type body combined with a small height. They are muscular and sturdy, with a golden or beige mane in one of the five dun-shades. 

How did the Fjord horse get its name? 

The Fjord horse was named after the stunning Fjords, where it originates from, located in Norway. 

Can you ride a Fjord horse? 

Yes, the Fjord horse is a great horse for the whole family and can be ridden by all-level riders.

Are Fjord horses good for beginners?

Yes, the Fjord horse is suitable for beginners and novices. Fjords are gentle and kind horses that will be forgiving of beginners’ mistakes and they don’t spook easily. 

How tall is a Fjord horse? 

There are no breeding standards, but the breeding society recommends a height between 13.1 – 14.3 hands (135 – 150 cm; 53 and 59 inches) for an adult Fjord Horse.

How much does a Fjord horse weigh? 

Fjord horses come with some muscle weight, and they usually weigh between 880 to 1,100 lbs (400 to 500 kilograms). 

How big is a Fjord horse? 

Fjord horses are a quite small light draft horse breed and usually stand on 13.1 – 14.3 hands (135 – 150 cm; 53 and 59 inches). Their body is rather muscular and sturdy.

How much does a Fjord horse cost? 

The price of a Fjord will be determined by the training the horse has received, age, sex, accomplishments, color, and pedigree. An adult and registered Fjord horse usually starts at $4,000, with the price going up to $14,000 for well-accomplished horses.

How much does a Fjord horse ownership cost? 

Ownership costs are determined by the costs of board, vet care, feed, and training. The full board usually costs between $600-$800 a month. 

How long do Fjord horses live? 

Fjord Horses usually have a lifespan of up to 30 years. 

How fast can a Fjord horse run? 

There is no documentation about the usual speed of a Fjord horse, but they are sufficiently fast enough to farm, pull and carry or canter through rugged landscapes. But it is not a racing horse, that is for sure. 

How much can a Fjord horse pull? 

Fjord horses are known to be able to pull heavy loads. They can easily pull up to 1/10th of their body weight. 

How much can a Fjord horse carry? 

Fjord horses can carry adult riders easily despite their small size. For example, an adult Fjord horse can carry a 200-pound person with ease. 

At what age is a Fjord horse full grown? 

Most Fjord horses are fully grown at the age of 4 or 6 years. They grow very fast during the first 12 months, and the last growing period (approximately 10% of their total height) will take more than 2 years to be completed. 

What are Fjord horses used for? 

Fjord horses are mainly used in a harness, under the saddle for pleasure or trekking, and as family horses. Some people still use them for farming, especially in Norway. 

References

  1. Norwegian Fjord Horse Registry. 2022. Link
  2. Fjordstudbook. 2022. Link
  3. The Fjord Horse National Studbook Association of Great Britain. 2022. Link
  4. Fjordpferd. 2022. Link
  5. Fjordhesten Denmark. 2022. Link
  6. Ehorses. 2022. Fjord Horse Prices. Link
  7. Stable Management. 2014. How to Set Board Rates. Link
  8. Britannica. 2022. Draft Horse. Link
  9. Kentucky Equine Research. 2004. Norwegian Fjord Horses. Link
  10. Nordic Genetic Resource Center (NordGen). 2022. Norwegian Fjord Horse. Link
  11. FRS Farm Services. 2022. FRS Hoof Care Service. Link
  12. UCD Veterinary Hospital. 2022. Costs and Packages Available. Link

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