Fjord horses, originally from the mountains of western Norway, were the horses of choice for the Vikings. They are a sturdy and versatile breed.
Gina DeSantis of Let’s Dance Dressage showed two Fjord horses at Ag Progress Days as part of “The Equestrian Experience”: Gunter, her gelding, and Lily, her mare. “We bred them, and I raised them both from birth,” DeSantis explained. “Lily is Gunter’s aunt. She came from Gunter’s grandmother, who was imported from Norway.
“Lily’s father was a more refined type of Fjord. There’s a big difference between Lily and Gunter in bone structure. Gunter was a feisty colt, so he got gelded.”
Fjords are classified as horses, although by measurements, most would consider them ponies. But don’t let that size deceive you. They are strong and sturdy, and can carry large, heavy adults for extended periods, making them ideal for therapy riding programs, because their small size makes them less intimidating to new riders.
Temperament is another positive for the breed. “They don’t spook easily,” explained de Santis. “When they see new things, Fjord horses want to check them out, but they don’t tend to get excited about anything. They’re not stubborn unless you work them too hard.”
These small, pleasant horses are also easy keepers. “Ours are on pasture year round,” said de Santis, quickly adding that their pasture is grazed year round, so the grass is not too lush. “I don’t know how they’d do in a lush pasture.”
Gunter, the horse de Santis was riding for the event, has “fantastic, hard hooves. He has shoes because I show him, but Fjord horses can do trail riding without shoes.”
“A lot of my students like Lily,” she continued. Lily was led at the event by a student. “We competed with her last year.”
These horses have endearing personalities, too, almost to the point of being so friendly that they make pests of themselves. “They’ll always have their noses right in your pockets,” continued de Santis. “If you want them out of your space, you actually have to get mad and raise a fuss. But their nature makes them a fantastic family horse. They’re easy to take care of and easy to work with.”
Fjords are versatile. They can do endurance riding, trail rides, single and double hitches with carts. Some Fjord horses compete in dressage and higher level jumping, according to de Santis, but the numbers in those events aren’t as large.
“Although we keep different kinds of horses, Fjords are the only ones we breed. They are such an appropriate breed for where we’re located [Clearfield, in mountainous western PA].” There aren’t a whole lot of these charming, strong small horses in any one area.
The only problem DeSantis has encountered in her breeding has been with two foals that were born with trouble with overheating — perhaps because Norway is a much colder climate, she theorizes. “They were given a regulator, though, and since then, we have not had further problems.”