While it is common to see a wide variety of horse breeds used in therapeutic horseback riding, some breeds tend to be especially popular. The Norwegian Fjord is a breed of horse that has become increasingly well known for therapeutic riding. What makes this particular breed so well suited for this type of job? Here are some interesting facts about the breed.
1. Norwegian Fjords had originally been bred to help pull plows for farmers in Norway. The geography of the area created a need for a strong and muscular horse with the ability to be agile in rocky areas. This is beneficial in therapeutic horseback riding since a Fjord can carry a larger student, while allowing the instructor and side-walker to have a safe hold on the student.
2. Our current Fjords most likely were domesticated over 4,000 years ago. This helped to create the normally docile horse we know and love today. Working with humans, as well as some selective breeding for temperament, has created a breed well known for being calm and docile.
3. The Fjords’ past work has helped the breed develop a type of movement that works well for students that need to make improvements in gross motors skills, or core muscle strength. Much of this is due to the rough terrain the breed was originally bred to work on. This range of movement creates a steady gait, with a lot of 3-dimensional movement, which mimics the natural human gait.
4. Some other interesting facts about the breed are that the Norwegian Fjord is a very pure breed. This ‘purity’ makes most Fjords very similar in appearance. All Fjords have a similar dun coat (blondish hair color), a dorsal stripe (black strip down the back), and a unique mane with a black strip in the middle. Due to their close relationship to prehistoric horses, they often have black stripes, similar to a zebra, on their legs.
While the Norwegian Fjord is commonly seen in therapeutic horseback riding programs, we don’t want to typecast this wonderful breed. You will also see Fjords in the Dressage ring, pulling plows, or driving a cart. What is truly amazing is how a breed of horse bred from a small part of Norway has built up quite a reputation for helping students with a disability reach their riding goals.