Last Sunday Ooruk and I had a really nice training session working with my coach Summer McEwan (that’s her on the ground in the second photo below).
The neat thing about this particular training was that Stefan was home, and he took a series of photos of us training the piaffe, which I can now share with you! Parenthetically, it’s probably more correct to call it half-steps than piaffe at this point, although I am certainly thinking “on-the-spot”.
This photo series provides a nice snap-shot of our on-going work towards developing improved balance and self-carriage. These concepts have really been the theme of our training this summer!
Click on any photo to see it larger.
We began introducing these concepts to this horse on long-lines and through work in-hand earlier this summer. Let me know if you have any questions or comments, which I will address in a future article!
I must say, we are really lucky to live in this area where we can take advantage of so many opportunities to train, learn, and improve!
I just came back from riding in a clinic this past Thursday, April 3rd, with Russell Guire of Centaur Biomechanics. It was held at Whitaker Stables near Orangeville, Ontario.
Russell has an interesting and impressive background. After graduating from Equine Sport Science at University in England, Russell started his own company which focuses on the biomechanics of the performance horse and rider.
Warming up in the Visualise jacket
Russell has been involved with a lot of advanced scientific research into improving the performance of equine athletes, including Great Britain’s Gold Medal Dressage Team. Russell is also the designer of Visualise Sportswear, a line of jackets which allow you and your trainer to see and correct problems and weaknesses in your position.
Ooruk and I started off with a short warm-up during the last fifteen minutes of the previous rider’s lesson. Then Russell asked me about my horse and my goals with him, what I saw as our weaknesses, and what I would like to wave a magic wand at and have fixed. The Visualise jacket was there to show the alignment of my position relative to the horse, and to assist with this, Russell fixed white dots onto the middle of the back of the saddle and Ooruk’s croup.
Alignment stripes, and the dots on Mr. Big Bum (I’m very proud of how his muscling is developing)
We then immediately dove in to our lesson with riding canter half-passes left and right while Russell videoed us with the high-speed camera. This camera shoots 300 frames per second, versus a normal video camera which does 60 frames per second. As as result it captures every nuance and shows it to you in slow motion, and afterwards we all headed over to the big computer screens set up in the corner, to watch and analyze what we were seeing.
Then it was back out for more exercises, video them, analyze, and repeat. There was an audience of auditors, to whom I was pleased to be able to show the capabilities of a well-trained Fjordhorse.
Russell gave me fine-tuning tips related to the carriage of my horse and the way in which I needed to have him react to my aids. In one way it was all a rephrasing of what my regular coach and clinician have been saying, but in slightly different words and from a slightly different perspective with slightly different exercises. So although the magic wand never exactly waved for me, it was all quite helpful once I had processed it through in my head.
Click on any image in the gallery to see it larger.
Here’s a video clip showing the output of the high speed camera. The three and a half minute clip was about 45 seconds in real time, and shows us doing a canter-trot transition on the 20 m circle as we check my alignment and the effectiveness of my aids on the horse’s way of going.
I am keen to put my new knowledge into action, and to carry on my training with some new ideas. I also love my Visualise jacket! Thank you to the clinic host for making us welcome, and the organizer Allison Pezzack for making this opportunity available!
At an age when a lot of people are contemplating slowing down and retirement, Alice MacGillivray made the decision to make her back-burnered life-long dream of horse ownership a reality.
A thoughtful planner, Alice did copious research as well as following the pull of her heart in deciding to make her first horse a Fjord. We were pleased when Alice made the decision to purchase the lovely Fjord mare Bocina from us in the fall of 2010.
Just prior to that I had been asked to represent the Fjord breed at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto. I had been thinking Bocina would be an ideal partner, for a number of reasons. She’s beautiful, friendly, well-trained, plus calm and accepting of all sorts of distractions. Alice kindly gave me permission to exhibit Bocina.
Bocina was a super star at the The Royal! From the moment we backed her off our trailer at the main dock with big trucks unloading all types of products and produce all around us, to which she barely flicked an unconcerned ear, to her flawless four times daily performances in the Spirit of the Horse ring, hours she spent with her head hanging out her stall door to greet endless lineups of visitors, and morning walks all around the CNE grounds calmly taking in the sights of the city, not to mention the cattle corralled at the back under the Gardiner Expressway, Bocina demonstrated all that we love about the Fjord breed.
And that is a photo of the lovely Bocina on the cover of Alice’s new book. Riding Horseback in Purple was just recently published! Written for the mature adult who is contemplating a re-awakening of their dream of owning a horse, this engaging book guides readers through important considerations of horse ownership and phases of learning as well as sharing Alice’s journey from horse-newbie to horse-owner. Highly recommended!
The top three questions we get about our Fjords when we are out in public are about the mane.
“Do you dye the stripe?”
“Does the mane stand up like that by itself?”
“Can I touch it?”
And, just to be complete, here are the answers:
No (it grows that way). Yes (but you have to keep it trimmed). Sure (it does feel really cool)!
A beautiful Fjord with its mane neatly cut into the traditional crescent-shaped arch is a glorious sight. I know I’m not the only one who feels that way!
Those who have never seen the Fjord mane up close before have even described it as awe-inspiring.
Grooming a Fjord so his mane is cut in this trademark way will make him instantly recognizable as a member of his breed.
When a mane is cut well, it enhances the shape of that individual Fjord’s neck, making him look his very best. A short neck can be made to appear a little bit longer, and a heavy neck or heavy throat latch can be minimized with a skillful hair cut.
BEFORE: In this photo he had just arrived at our farm.
AFTER: The same horse, two years later.
If you don’t cut a Fjord horse’s mane, it will eventually get long and heavy enough to fall over. When that happens the black and white hairs will jumble together, detracting from the special appeal of the breed.
The Before and After photos at right show the difference between a Fjord with a long mane and a Fjord with a cut mane. It is the same horse in both photos!
Clearly more than just a haircut has transpired, but I think it’s a pretty graphical demonstration of the difference a trimmed mane makes to the general impression of a Fjord horse.
If a Fjord has a particularly heavy mane that is allowed to grow long and fall over, the mane can pull the crest of the neck right over with it. This results in a so-called broken crest which could possibly never stand upright again, spoiling the horse’s appearance for life.
Luckily that didn’t happen to this handsome boy.
To help you make your Fjord look its best, we made a video showing how our resident mane stylist, Stefan, cuts the Fjord manes at Bluebird Lane.
Note that the video is in two parts, so click on part two once you are done watching part one.
Stripe-Up or Stripe-Level
If you look around the world, you will see two basic styles of Fjord mane cuts. One has the dark stripe sticking up above the white side hairs by 1 cm (about half an inch), the second has the stripe cut level with the white hairs. We learned the stripe sticking up method from a Dutch girl, so we have always called it the Dutch-cut. When were in Norway we typically saw the stripe cut level, so we called it the Norwegian-cut.
I did some research on the origin of the two styles of cut, and found one reference to the stripe sticking up being called a Danish-cut. So I spoke to a Danish Fjord expert who didn’t agree, saying the stripe-up type of haircut is not really practiced any longer in the Scandinavian countries (Norway, Denmark, Sweden) and hasn’t been for decades. There, Fjord horses are typically given a cut with the stripe kept at the same level with the white hairs. The cover photo at the top of this page shows an example of this, in a photo Stefan took in Norway with all five colours of Fjords.
Scandinavians refer to the stripe-up style of mane trim as a “funeral stripe” or “mourning stripe”, named after the thin black border traditionally seen on the stationery of a death announcement.
To my eye, cutting the mane so the stripe sticks up gives the horse a striking, eye-catching appearance. This style of cut is the most common in North America, Holland, and Germany. Either way of cutting the mane is correct, and the choice is personal. Most important is getting the arch a nice shape with the highest point in the correct place.
Rellie shows off the full length of her dark stripe while Storjo models his curly baby mane.
Q: At what age do you start cutting the mane?
A: We generally give our foals their first hair cut at two months of age. The Fjord is born with a curly mane, which is pretty adorable. Cutting the mane at around two months of age will train it to stand upright before it gets too heavy and starts to lean over.
Q: How often do you cut the mane?
A: Cutting the mane every four to six weeks is ideal.
Q: What do you cut it with, clippers or scissors?
A: We use a sharp pair of scissors to cut the mane. Fiskars is a good brand, and you can buy them at an office supply store. We use clippers only for the bridle path, the fronts of the ears, and under the jaw line.
Q: Should you clip the Fjord’s whiskers or inside the ears?
A: No. Other than cutting the mane, the grooming of the Fjord should be kept as natural as possible. The whiskers are an important part of his sensory apparatus, and the hair in the ears protects him from bugs. We use the clippers to trim only the hairs that stick outside of the ears, and to trim the long hairs from the bottom of his jaw line, for neatness and to accentuate the appearance of the head.
Q: What should I do if my Fjord’s mane has been allowed to grow so long that it bends forward or to one side, or completely falls over?
A: You have two options if your Fjord has a long mane that is bent or falling. One is to roach it right down to his neck with a pair of wide clippers. Functionally this is your best option. The mane will then grow back nice and tight and upright, and in a month or so you can start to trim it to a nice shape as shown in the video. The downside of doing this is that your horse will look funny for that month until his mane grows back. The other option is to try giving it a proper trim, but fairly short, and hope that without the excess weight it will gradually straighten up. But you may find that the hair has been permanently bent from the weight of being long so it won’t stand up nicely. In that case, take option one and roach it down to the neck to start afresh.
Q: Should you cut off the feathers on the back of his legs?
A: The feathers are typical of the breed, and should be left on whenever possible. Fjords are not heavily feathered as some draft horses, but they generally have some feathering. This protects the legs by giving water a channel to run down without collecting in the back of the pastern joint, and keeps mud away from the skin. Fjord feathers can be neatened with clippers or scissors, or clipped off completely when necessary for showing in open competition (to please those performance judges who find the feathers distracting). For day-to-day and when showing at a Fjord-only show, try to leave the feathers on.
In the comments section below, put your questions or feedback you have about cutting manes, and we will answer them!
Bluebird Lane extends a hearty congratulations for a job well done to the team that represented our Norwegian Fjord Horse Registry in the 2014 Rose Parade in Pasadena, CA!
On January 1, in front of over eight hundred thousand spectators and broadcast nationally, this group of Fjord owners made us proud by presenting 13 beautifully turned-out Fjord horses, exhibiting the unique traits of our wonderful breed and their Norwegian heritage.
Norwegian Fjord horse fans the world over were thrilled and excited when Disney’s upcoming animated movie, Frozen, was announced. The reason for this excitement? This new movie is set in Norway and the prince, Hans, rides a Fjord horse. Oh my!! But, how many of us can say our own Fjord horse was used in the production design?
If you are looking for a really good Norwegian Fjord for any discipline then I would highly recommend that you go see Lori. She knows what she is doing and she takes her breeding program very seriously.