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Cutting the Fjord Mane

Kestrel

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!

Valebu

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.

BEFORE: In this photo he had just arrived at our farm.

AFTER: The same horse, two years later.

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.

How To

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.

FAQ

Rellie shows off the full length of her dark stripe while Storjo models his curly baby mane.

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!


                  

5 Responses to “Cutting the Fjord Mane”

  1. On February 23, 2014 at 11:49 pm, Karen McCarthy wrote:

    Excellent article as always Lori. So lucky you have your own resident stylist Stephen. Where did he get his training 🙂 !!

  2. On February 24, 2014 at 5:52 pm, Karen Boba wrote:

    I found your video on how to cut the Fjord mane about a year ago and it really helped me to give my boy a better mane trim (though I still have a long way to go to match Stefan’s expertise). What I find the hardest now is to keep my hand steady because my arm gets tired. It takes me about 45 minutes from start to finish and with my arms above shoulder height all that time it is challenging to keep the last snips steady and in line.

    I generally like my boy’s mane longer (still standing up though) because I like to see it sway from side to side as I ride. I didn’t know that there is a possibility that a too long and heavy mane can fall over, bringing the crest with it. Thanks for the information. I’ll have to trim him as soon as I can.

  3. On January 12, 2016 at 8:49 pm, C Williams wrote:

    I recently bought an extremely overweight and out of shake fjord gelding. He is about 8 years old. He is currently on a diet, but I’m not quite sure how to ease him back into a fitness program. He was also long maned and looked very similar to your horse in the “before” picture, though more flabby! My goal would be to have him looking like your “after” picture in two years as well. Any suggestions/advice?

    Thanks.

  4. On January 13, 2016 at 3:25 pm, Lori Albrough wrote:

    My advice is to do little and do it often, and let the horse tell you what he is able to do. It may be just 10 minutes of real work at the beginning but doing it every day will add up quickly. Also, even overweight horses are capable of doing a lot of walking. If you are able to go out on trail rides at the walk, you could go for quite a bit longer without overtaxing him, and make a lot of fitness progress that way. Especially if you have access to hilly or uneven ground. Walking over poles is great too.

  5. On December 29, 2016 at 11:53 am, Beverley wrote:

    I have a winter mane cut that’s really fast to do on my fjord gelding. We don’t show in the winter so it doesn’t have to be perfect. Using large cattle clippers, start at the base of the mane, press against the neck and cut upwards, angling inward slightly. Continue down the mane taking 4 inch, upward swipes. Finish the top with scissors. What you end up with is a white base and black top. My guy’s mane gets really thick and wide during the winter and this cut keeps all the hairs standing up. It grows out within a month. My friends call this cut the Mohawk – no insult intended

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