One breed you’ll probably recognize instantly is the Norwegian Fjord Horse. If you’ve seen the popular movie Frozen—and who hasn’t?—you’re familiar with the animated rendition of the breed. Anna’s pleasantly plump mount and Hans’ majestic equine companion are both Norwegian Fjord Horses. A highly appropriate choice for a film set in Norway!
Norwegian Fjord Horses (pronounced fe-ord) have several distinctive characteristics. Probably the most obvious is their color. All Fjords are essentially one color—dun. But even though you will never see a bay, black, or chestnut Fjord, you can find them in several different shades of dun. At first glance, they might seem hard to tell apart, but each shade has a slightly different coat color and the color of the points also varies.
There’s something special about their manes and tails, too. The mane of a Fjord is white on either side with a stripe of darker hair down the middle. The hair is coarse, so it stands straight up if it’s cut to only a few inches long. Their manes are usually kept short so this interesting color pattern can be seen and appreciated. The dark stripe in the mane is called a midtstol. Fjords have dark stripes in the middle of their tails, too—these are called halefjaers.
The most common Fjord color is called brunblakk, which is brown dun. Brunblakk looks very similar to rodblakk (red dun), but brunblakk horses have dark points and black or dark brown midtstols and halefjaers, while rodblakk horses have reddish-brown ones. Hans’ horse in Frozen is undoubtedly a brunblakk!
The three other colors of Fjords are grablakk (gray dun), ulsblakk (white dun), and the very rare gulblakk (yellow dun). Anna’s horse is an ulsblakk!
A Drive Through History
We all know that color isn’t the most important factor to consider when you’re looking to buy a horse, but for people who are interested in the sport of driving and dream of owning a matched team (a pair of horses that are similar in color, type and size), Fjords fit the bill!
Driving enthusiasts are drawn to much more than just the consistent coloring of the Fjords. They also love their versatility, their strength, and excellent dispositions. Fjords usually stand between 13.2 and 14.2 hands, and they can be enjoyed in many other disciplines aside from driving, including dressage, eventing and gymkhana.
Norwegian Fjord Horses were domesticated thousands of years ago and used as war horses and then farm horses by the Vikings. But even though the breed has been around for centuries, Fjords didn’t arrive in the United States until the late 1800s, and they weren’t common in this country until the 1950s. There are approximately 6,500 Norwegian Fjord Horses in the U.S. today.
In the 1990s, members of a Norwegian Fjord Horse society (the Norges Fjordhestlag) described what the ideal Fjord should be like: “The eyes should be like the mountain lakes on a mid-summer evening, big and bright. A bold bearing of the neck like a lad from the mountains on his way to his beloved. Well-defined withers like the contours of the mountains set against an evening sky. The temperament as lively as a waterfall in spring, and still good-natured.”
Anyone who knows and loves Fjords is sure to agree—they’re extra-special hester (that’s the Norwegian word for horses)!
Learn more from the Norwegian Fjord Horse Registry.
A Fjord Family
Twelve-year-old Afton Mignery got her family started with Fjord horses, and now they can’t stop.
Afton rode her first Fjord when she started taking lessons at age 8. Her mare Nysena was actually one of the first horses she rode! They had such a strong connection that when Nysena came up for sale, one thing led to another, and that’s how the family first became horse owners.
Afton does all sorts of activities with her Fjord. She shows both English and western, and competes in speed events such as barrels and pole bending. She also trail rides and does trail events and working equitation. The family works cows at a friend’s ranch, and recently started learning archery on horseback.
Nysena was just the beginning of the family’s Fjords. Afton’s mom, Christine, got jealous of standing on the ground watching Afton have all the fun! Freya joined the herd first (Freya is the Nordic goddess of love), followed by a gelding named Toivo. And Nysena was due to foal in June, which would add one more.
The family fell in love with the Fjords because of their personalities. They are extremely smart (sometimes too smart, according to Christine, who says theirs have figured out how to unlatch the gate!) and have an inquisitive nature. They also love to hang out with people and are very affectionate. —YR Staff
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2019 issue of Young Rider magazine. Click here to subscribe!