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Viking horse breed in Marshall turns heads

Anne Crandall of Nottawa Crossing Fjords riding Alena.
Rebecca Thiele, WMUK

The Norwegian Fjord Horse is roughly 5,000 years old. Fjord horse bones have even been found at Viking burial sites. There are only about 20 Fjord herds in Michigan and Nottawa Crossing Fjordsin Marshall has one of the largest herds. Anne Crandalll raises them with her mother Bernadine Karns.

While growing up Crandall says her parents had to use some horse breeds for farm work and some horse breeds for riding. Until they found a breed that could do both—the Norwegian Fjord Horse. Crandall says the idea was to have fewer horses, but it didn’t really work out that way. 

“There’s a joke in the Fjord world that, ‘Fjords are like potato chips, you can’t have just one,’” she says.

Now the family owns seven Fjord Horses. Crandall says the horses have a very unique look:

“They have this black stripe that runs down the middle of their mane. It’s white on both sides with that black stripe. And that black stripe continues down their back and goes right into their tail. So it’s a little bit unusual. As well as, on their legs they have the dark striping—zebra striping, which are considered to be primitive markings. They stand out quite a bit at the horse show among all the other quarter horses and paint horses and things like that. They are a lot of fun and we meet a lot of people because of that, because they tend to draw just a lot of attention.”

Most Fjord Horses are have coloration like this, they’re what’s known as ‘brown dun’ Fjords. There are also red duns, which have a red stripe instead of a black stripe. Grey and white duns have a different body color all together. Nottawa Crossing’s Alena is your standard brown dun Fjord Horse. She’s short and stocky.

“In Norway where they originated, they were used as draft animals which means they hauled their wagons and the plows to plow their fields and things like that,” says Crandall. “Well, they had to be quite stocky in order to do that. Plus in Norway, they don’t have a lot of room like we do here. An average farm is 40 acres which here is considered to be a small farm. It’s all on the side of a mountain, so they needed a horse that was very sturdy and that was also very compact.”

Crandall says Fjords also have a lot of personality.

“You have to be careful when you’re working in their stall or their pen because they’ll take your tools,” she says. “They’ll take your gloves—whatever you happen to have there they’ll take because it looks like something fun that they want to play with.”

Crandall says she finds taking care of horses a relaxing escape from the corporate world.

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