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Saddling the Scandinavian Breeds

The range of the horses of Norway is quite stunning. Last month, I talked about saddling the Icelandic Horse. This month will include two addition Norwegian breeds: the Fjord and the Swedish Warmblood.

On the surface, these two breeds would seem to be worlds apart. The tall, muscular Swedish Warmblood is a favored mount of the Dressage and Driving rings. A wonderful site:

Says that the original Scandinavian horse was smaller, 12 to 14 hands (Icelandics!), high spirited and of good endurance. In the 16th century, Friesians were imported from the Netherlands to increase the size of the native horses, arriving at the glorious Swedish Warmblood of today.

Photo: Lisbeth Bengston of Oak Hill Farm in River Falls, WI with Octavius, Swedish Warmblood. Photo by Dan McDowell © 2009

Octavius is saddled with the 2010 Lovatt & Ricketts Berkeley Dressage saddle. Unique in that the front of the saddle is flared away from the shoulder area and that the points of the tree point backwards, this saddle makes a superb union with Octavius strong, yet refined back. The closer to the surface the skeleton is, the more important it becomes for the shape of the tree to follow the shape of the back. While an extremely muscle covered horse might soldier through with something that wasn’t perfect, these horses must have what they need to perform at the level their riders aspire to.

Above photo, also courtesy of Dan McDowell © 2009. On the left Jennifer McDowell with Crista in the Pro Trainer Zurich and Eclipse in the 2009 Berkeley. On the right, Lisbeth Bengston with Bayard in the Lovatt & Ricketts Ellipse D2 version and Octavius in his 2010 Berkeley.

Another popular Scandinavian breed is the Fjord, noted for its generous temperament and sturdy build.

Phillip Oden driving Smedsmo Gråen, imported gray dun stallion. The buggy is made by Phil!

While the photo of Smedsmo Graen is driving, Phil brought him and a trailer load of his Fjords to our farm a couple of years ago for saddling. I had to check to "undercarriage" to discover Graen was a stallion, so wonderful are his manners. He and the rest of Phillip and Else Bigton’s horses are substantial and the saddle that worked best for them was the Thornhill Vienna II. This "quiet" saddle is well under $1000 and is a total winner on many different strong backed breeds.

Dr. Conrad Nagle of MI on Andor in a Thornhill Zurich

Andor is a young Fjord and his owners and I expect him to change over the next few years. They were considering a saddle made in France that costs about $6000. That’s right—no typo. Here’s what Kim Nagle had to say about their decision to go with the Thornhill: "On a growing Fjord, the Thornhill worked out just fine and was far more reasonably priced. It was the first saddle we plunked down on his back that fit perfectly. Wow, no rock, no pinching, no bridging, it was a match!"

Unlike the Odden’s Fjords, Andor carries a good wither at an early age and so, I was able to fit him with a saddle that I would normally associate with Arabs and Warmbloods, such as Crista pictured above with Jennifer McDowell.

Feel free to contact me via phone (651-462-5654) or email me if I can be of assistance saddling your Norwegian Horse.


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