As of the first week of December, three new residents from Germany are calling south Langley home; Footnote Farm has imported Norwegian Fjord horses for their breeding program.
The rare dun-colour breed, considered one of the oldest in the world, is not often seen in B.C., or even the rest of Canada.
Footnote, in fact, is the only fjord breeder in the province and contains the largest pool in the country and western United States.
Jenny Barnes, owner and operator of the sprawling equine centre near 8th Ave and 224 Street, said Footnote began in California in 2006, before moving to Langley in 2009.
“Not including boarding clients, we have 14 fjord horses right now for working, retiring, and breeding,” she said. “People know them for therapy, but they can do so much more.”
Domesticated more than 4,000 years ago and selectively bred for 2,000 – first by the vikings of Norway – most of North America’s stock was imported in the 1950s; their smaller stature had limited many people’s desire to initially have them as a work horse.
Barnes first came in contact with fjord horses when she volunteered with Pacific Riding For Developing Abilities (PRDA), and felt that there seemed to be no limit to their potential.
”They are safe and solid – great with sound and temperament; a sort of jack-of-all-trades that can be used for jumping, dressage, and mountain trail competition,” Barnes explained.
She soon “fell in love” with a barely broken fjord in California, which she trained and later showed on the A circuit.
“I explored everything there is to know about fjords and was having more fun than I ever did with warmbloods,” Barnes added. “And the rest, they say, is history.”
That history included a major shift in the market when a large run up in the economy in 2008 led to, what Barnes said, was far too many fjords on the market.
“What happens is that the market crashes and most breeders either retire, geld stallions, and flood the market with low quality fjords at auctions” Barnes explained. “On the Norwegian Fjord Horse Registry (NFHR) at that time, there were 500 in North America. By 2016, there was 43.”
With a hole in the market and a driving passion for that particular breed, Barnes imported her first fjords for the first time in 2009, then two mares in foal in 2016, and now, the new batch – Lidona, Lajoki, Linda, and soon the stallion Njord Halsnaes – still in quarantine in Alberta.
“They’re considered Europe’s quarter horse. We used the same breeder in Germany as last time – we knew them and have stayed in contact,” Barnes said.
The journey to their arrival involved a plane trip overseas and weeks spent in quarantine in Calgary; in total, the fjord’s arrival from Germany to Langley took several months of travel.
“When the opportunity came up, there was a lot of back and forth messages and wire transfers. It’s simpler and cheaper to import them when they’re under two years of age since quarantine regulations and documentation are not as extensive, but there are great advantages to importing adult horses already evaluated in their home country and proven breeding sound” she continued.
All of Barnes’ instructors are certified and the fjord horses serve as the foundation for the horses used for riding lessons that she gives at Footnotes.
“Our biggest focus is safety,” she stressed. “We give offer boarding, give riding lessons in a private lesson format.”
Barnes also sells the fjords to buyers; the largest demographic of buyers she said is also the largest Griwing demographic in the equine industry – women over 55.
“The equestrian community is squeezed by the continued urbanization of the Fraser Valley but the equestrian community remains robust,” Barnes noted. “The biggest change over the last 20 years has been a growth in recreational riders and trail riders. Certainly, the fjords make great tail horses.”
The newly-arrived trio are a long ways away from jumping and galloping with riders on their back; Barnes said the biggest goal is to get them acclimatized, introduced to the pasture, and eventually, give birth.
For more information of Barnes and her fjord horses, people can visit www.footnotefarm.com.
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