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!
Hey Fjord fans, you’ll want to rush right out and pick up the March 2014 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine!
The cover says “Meet the Norwegian Fjord” (with a sweet Fjord face peering out of a sidebar photo) and that’s just what you’ll do in journalist Samantha Johnson’s article, “The FJORD Factor”.
The tagline reads: Find out just how much fun you can have with a Norwegian Fjord, and it’s so true. The article focuses on the versatility of our all-purpose breed and it’s universal appeal, featuring Fjord horses and their owners competing in dressage, jumping, and driving.
Interviews with several Fjord experts (including yours truly, pictured training with our stallion Mogly in Wellington Florida) discuss the experience of those who are out competing with Fjords and how the animals are received in open competition.
There are sections on the colours of the Fjord, Fjords in the Disney movie Frozen, and Fjords in the 2014 Rose Parade. Great job, Horse Illustrated!
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.
All five colours of the breed were represented in this group, which included five ridden Fjords and eight driven: two singles, a pair, and a four-in-hand. Seven side walkers rounded out the team for ground support.
Beth Beymer drove her four-in-hand of white dun mares: Starfire Biela, Millennium, Luna vom Oderhaff, and Lia vom Oderhaff. The four pulled an antique carriage carrying five passengers in traditional Norwegian apparel, plus two whippets.
The ridden horses include the brown dun mare Sweetwater’s Zorah Belle owned by Teressa Kandianis and ridden by Marg Clumpner, the red dun mare OH Adrianna, Longtheway Farm’s yellow dun mare OH Yenna ridden in Norwegian costume by Shari MacCallum Clark, Victoria Arling’s grey gelding LTW Van Gogh ridden in western tack, and Kristin Miller’s brown dun mare Bergen Saundra.
NFHR Registrar Jeanne Poirier drove her brown dun mare Hanne, accompanied by NFHR Board Member Margie Diaz beside her on the carriage and NFHR President Teressa Kandianis on the back.
The Finnoes drove their pair of brown dun geldings Proud Bottom Indiana and TBF Deilig, and the brown dun mare Sundag as a single rounded out the driven horses.
The gorgeous flowers were supplied by Margit Holakoui, a Norwegian florist based in Los Angeles, CA. There were 14 bouquets for the four carriages, plus five smaller bouquets for the ridden horses’ tails, and eight slightly larger bouquets on the driven horses’ harness.
Cancer has deeply affected the Fjord community (as it has the community at large) and it was touching to see the parade participants honour lost comrades with the cancer awareness ribbon clipped into the horses’ coats.
The Rose Parade is a 125 year old New Year’s tradition in American culture. The two hour parade covers a five and a half mile route through Pasadena, and features three types of entries: floral-decorated floats sponsored by a corporation or community organization, equestrian units, and marching bands. Each float is decorated with more flowers than the average florist will use in five years.
Click on the video link to see all the televised coverage of Fjord Horses in the Rose Parade!
Congratulations to all of the participants of the NFHR team who worked long and hard and traveled thousands of miles to represent our wonderful breed at this prestigious event!
All photos by Sandy North, and are available for purchase on SmugMug, with proceeds going to help with the parade expenses.
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?
Four year old Fjelljo is ponying around the farm with saddle and bridle now. The wheat field has been cut, so today it was a great place for him to experience finding his balance walking up and down hills.