The Norwegian Fjord horse has a temperament that is big and bright. There is a certain pride in how it holds itself, but there is also a certain boldness that can be seen in the eyes of the horse. They are willing, able, and easy to please, but can also have the “stubbornness of a waterfall” if they get their mind set on something.
As a domesticated horse, the Norwegian Fjord is considered to be one of the oldest breeds in the world today. It isn’t a wild horse because it still has 64 chromosomes, while wild horses have 66 chromosomes. This breed may have first arrived in Norway more than 4,000 years ago, with selective breeding practices dating back up to 2,000 years.
Most Norwegian Fjord horses have a coldblooded temperament. They are calm and gentle, not easily spooked by changing circumstances. There are some Fjord horses that were crossed with Doles and these tend to have a poorer, more aggressive temperament. Dole blood was purged from the Fjord breed in 1907, but there are still some crossbred lines that exist or are promoted by private owners or breeders.
The Characteristics of the Modern Norwegian Fjord
Although they are often used like a draft horse, the Norwegian Fjord is much smaller as a breed. The average Fjord stands below 14.2 hands and will weigh 1,200 pounds or less. It’s a size that is not very intimidating to most people, but they are strong enough to accommodate virtually anyone underneath the saddle. Add in the calm temperament that most Fjords have and they are a suitable horse for children who are interested in the equine world.
The modern Norwegian Fjord is a sturdy and hardy horse as well. Many within this breed are still highly active well into their 30s. There are three good gaits in a purebred Fjord, which offers balance, cadence, and energy into the temperament of the horse. Many Fjords seem to define themselves by the quality of their gait. If they perform well, there is a natural pride that can be seen, with a noticeably higher gait and neck than if the horse believes it is not performing well.
Most Fjords like to experience a variety of activities so they can remain entertained. An inactive Fjord is one that has a higher risk of developing behavioral concerns in the future. The versatility of this breed allows it to do whatever is needed, from farm work to general riding, to competitive sports and racing.
Is the Norwegian Fjord Horse Slow and Plodding?
Like many draft-style horses, the Norwegian Fjord has developed a bit of a reputation. Many believe that this breed tends to be slow and plodding. It is a reputation that is not fairly earned. Many Fjords have been involved in international-level competitive events, including combined driving and dressage, and performed extremely well. They are incredibly athletic for a draft-style horse, including the ability to jump up to 4 feet in height.
There are also some superstitions around the actual shading of the Norwegian Fjord horse. All accepted horses have the dun gene present. There are three accepted shades of dun that can be seen within this breed. Most Fjords are “brunblakk,” which means they have a coat color that is somewhat yellowish-brown. There may also be a dorsal stripe and additional markings that are attributed to the foundation mare of the breed.
90% of the Fjord horses that are registered today are brunblakk.
There is also a red dun coat that is found within this breed. The reddish coloration creates markings that are darker on the body. Red duns also tend to have white hooves when they are foals, though it almost always darkens with age.
A rare color shade is the gray dun, which can vary from a silver to a dark gray color. The markings on the coat that are present will typically be lighter than the body color. It is also the only shade of coat in the Norwegian Fjord breed where the muzzle is darker than the coat color instead of lighter.
There are also yellow and white dun horses in this breed, which are extremely rare. The yellow dun Fjord looks very similar to a palomino, with yellow dorsal striping that may be indistinct from the rest of the coat, creating an optically solid-color horse. The white dun adds a cream gene to the mix, diluting the pigment of the coat, turning it into more of a buckskin coloration.
The Charm of the Norwegian Fjord Horse
The best thing about the Norwegian Fjord horse is its overall intelligence. There is a certain charm about this breed that makes it willing to work while maintaining a gentle and kind nature. For the most part, they are dependable and cooperative. Before reacting, most Fjords will stop and think for a moment to determine what the best course of action should be.
This tendency to think before reacting makes the average Fjord horse one of the best therapeutic riding horses. They are also good for first-time riders who are just learning the equestrian arts. Some like to say that the Fjord is a breed that is “born broke,” but that is a misconception. They are very expressive immediately after birth, extremely personable, and with a certain level of independence that creates a unique and individualized personality.
Fjords have the same horse instincts as any other breed. They might be competent as a breed, consistent, and act professionally in a training environment, but a Fjord will also protect itself against a training partner who they feel is abusive. Fjords are patient with those who are trying to learn, but they are quick to react when they feel mistreated.
It is a temperament that has been highly prized within this breed for hundreds of years. They are people-friendly, excellent works, and very consistent.
Does Location Change the Temperament of the Norwegian Fjord?
Norwegian Fjord horses are bred all over the world. You’ll find associations in more than a dozen countries that support this friendly breed. For the most part, location does not change the temperament of this breed from a geographical sense.
What you will discover is that the Fjord is a breed that likes to drive forward with its own decisions. If kept in a stall, even with toys, the horse will grow bored in a short period of time. Letting the horse loose in a small paddock or fenced area isn’t much better. They like to have some space to roam, daily personal contact, and social interaction with other horses.
Fjords will actively seek out human attention. They are very much a “snuggle horse.” If they could fit into your lap, you’d have a horse there on a regular basis. Because of this, there can be a certain amount of aggressiveness seen in the personality of the horse if it feels like it isn’t getting enough attention.
Most Norwegian Fjord horses are calm, collected, gentle, and kind. They are a wonderful family horse, beginner horse, or therapeutic horse. That is why this breed is so highly prized.