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On this page you will find articles about breeding, use and regulations in the different countries where the beautiful Fjord Horse lives.

Origins of “The Official Handbook for Fjord Horse Judges”
by Eike Schön-Petersen

When Fjord Horse International was founded in 1997, the main purpose was to unite Fjord Horse enthusiasts worldwide in the common purpose of promoting, maintaining and protecting the Fjord Horse breed in its unique characteristics.

We know that distinct types of horses existed as far back as Roman times, when there were heavier horses for armoured battle with sword or spear and lighter, faster and more mobile horses for archers. Later, in the age of enlightenment, the encyclopaedic documentation of the world around us produced descriptions of the species and their local variants. These local variants were the product of selection from the available genepool for a certain environment and purpose. It is important to note, that all three factors: the environment, the purpose and the available genepool are not necessarily static or fixed and in recent times have evolved dramatically. Since the first attempts at organized breeding of the Fjord Horse during the 19th century, the purpose of any breed “improvement” was to follow the market – at times a market that demanded a heavier horse for intensified agriculture – at times and in some countries a market for lighter children’s sports horses. Today, we have come to realize, there is no single market, no single purpose for horses and, by opening the genepool, we would be able to adapt quickly to different purposes, but we would lose what has made the Fjord Horse unique. The responsibility for maintaining the Fjord Horse breed with its core qualities lies with the breeders and their organisations.

Today, Norges Fjordhestlag in Norway and the many national and regional sister-organisations in other countries coordinate and promote the breeding of Fjord Horses. “Breeding”, as we understand it in this context, is the planned mating of documented individuals in order to produce offspring with defined qualities. “Defined Qualities” is where the “The Official Handbook for Fjord Horse Judges” comes in. In 1996, a year before Fjord Horse International was founded, Norges Fjordhestlag organized an international judges conference and seminar at the Stallion Show in Nordfjordeid. During five days of judging together and comparing notes as well as discussing the different systems in different countries, it became obvious that all involved, but especially the Fjord Horse itself, would benefit from a uniform description of the breed, a common breeding goal and guidelines on how judging is to be carried out. In 1999, at the second annual general assembly of Fjord Horse International, an international working group was formed and tasked with the development of common rules of how to judge Fjord Horses.

Systems of judging or evaluating horses for their potential benefit to the breeding program, resulting in a licence to breed for stallions or in different premium levels for mares, have mainly been developed on the background of military use. Cavalry inspectors had a prescribed way of evaluating young horses for their suitability for service. This system was transferred to the selection of breeding stock. In modern times, the article by Marvin Beeman in the American Quarter Horse Journal on “The Relationship of Form to Function” gives a great introduction to the general aspects of functional anatomy. Add to that the evaluation of the movement and a general-purpose horse will be defined.

What then, makes a Fjord Horse special? This is what the working group needed to work out and put into writing. In the different chapters, we worked through tasks like translating lyric descriptions of “carrying its head like a young lad on the way to his beloved”, the famous “eyes like mountain lakes” and other references from sources like the book “Fjordhesten” by Olaf Karstad, written over 50 years ago, into terms that describe these eyes even to someone, who has never seen a mountain lake. Long discussions were had about the graded importance of different anatomic variants and how to weight them in the overall result.

One outcome: We all quickly agreed, that in many aspects specific to the Fjord Horse, we would describe a range, not an end point. To give an example: There is a range for the desired height at the withers; if your horse is otherwise a typical Fjord Horse, it may be larger or may be smaller than the average or even slightly outside of the ideal range. And while the trot should be free and ground covering, there is a limit to where a farther extended trot would be positive – for a typical Fjord Horse. The breeders, and in their service the judges and evaluators, are the guardians of the Fjord Horse breed. Keeping a certain range of variation alive between different breeders and their different bloodlines, the different countries where Fjord Horses are bred and the many purposes a Fjord Horse can serve, while still defining the essential character and the breeding goal was the endeavour of the working group.

The members of the working group are listed in the document. Everyone contributed their special knowledge and talent. Over a time of about 4 years, in a series of meetings, with sometimes heated discussions, hundreds of e-mails and many thousands of kilometres travelled, the international working group came together in a unique example of cooperation and determination (like a good Fjord Horse!) and delivered the Handbook. Today it stands as a living reference document. It is like the breed, open to adaptation as long as the core is preserved. I hope you enjoy reading it!


Picture referring to the event in Fosnes when the Handbook was signed by the different Fjord Horse Nations:

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