We take breeding extremely seriously. Distinct from the many misuses and abuses of animal production, responsible breeding is essential to maintain and (if appropriate) improve any established breed. Responsible breeding includes both good quality and sustainable quantity.
Health and soundness are non-negotiable baselines. We are committed to keeping our own horses out of the Fjord gene pool if any genetic health or soundness issues are revealed ... with the caveat that the likelihood of heredity MUST be grounded in current science. To that end, we have had DNA panels run on all of our mares by Etalon Diagnostics. We have also removed two outwardly excellent horses from the gene pool (see Willow and Tolliver) for a suspected (and very serious) genetic issue.
Conditions that are expressed only after exposure to environmental triggers — including but not limited to stress, neglect, malnutrition, toxins, parasites, and pathogens — are avoidable, and thus are inappropriate as reasons for removal from the gene pool (especially in an already small and restricted gene pool such as Norwegian Fjord horses). We do not condone "blacklisting" individual horses for their own bad luck, such as being previously compromised, or for being on the more sensitive end of the normal spectrum, or quite frankly for suffering from anything that equine caretakers can and do routinely protect horses from.
Norwegian Fjords are clearly distinct from other breeds in their appearance, but also — even more importantly — in their temperament and versatility. We are committed to preserving these breed characteristics (see below).
We are also deeply committed to reducing the need for rescue, including not adding to the existing and overwhelming number of horses in rescue. That may seem to be in conflict with breeding at all, but Norwegian Fjords are a very unique breed of horse — when properly bred to existing breed standards, Norwegian Fjord horses meet the demands of people and organizations whose needs absolutely cannot be met through adopting rescued horses. That doesn't mean that Fjords are immune to winding up in rescue — although it's unusual, they can and do — and we take that very seriously.
A portion of our gross sales income is donated to Fjord rescues (both Canadian and US), whether we bred that horse or not.
From over 45 years of animal breeding experience and 35 years of animal rehab and rescue, we can tell you:
• It costs the same to feed a fun and easy individual as it costs to feed a challenging or difficult individual ... and, invariably, the cost is less to house the cooperative individuals.
• It costs more (a lot more) to feed unhealthy individuals
• Rescues (and slaughterhouses) are overwhelmingly populated with those challenging and/or difficult and/or unhealthy individuals.
• Many if not most of the challenging and difficult and unsound individuals produce mostly more of the same. These individuals should not be in the breeding pool.
• Training and healthy equine socialization can make or break an initial placement, and also future placement prospects for any animal should it be necessary to sell that horse again after it leaves its birth home. A good foundation of horse-manners-taught-by-adult-horses and in-hand training are vital responsibilities of the breeder.
Whenever we do breed our mares, our choices are made using the knowledge gained from more than 45 years of experience in selective animal breeding coupled with Gwen's lifelong, intense study of genetics and quadrupedal biomechanics. We are committed to actively refining and continually updating our knowledge.
Temperament — Nobody enjoys a fearful or unconfident or dominant (control freak) horse ... including the horse! Our first priority when making breeding choices is to pursue pairings most likely to maintain or improve confidence as well as willingness to be with and do things with humans. A Fjord friend who prioritizes being as gentle and conscientious as desired or required under tack is a priceless gem.
In the case of extraversion / introversion (or outgoing / stoic), one person's nightmare can certainly be another's dream horse. As with type (below), we aim for the middle of the Fjord spectrum, which means a "left brain introvert", but not radically so. The complexity of traits that comprise "temperament" is never inherited as a package; avoiding the extremes and aiming for the center means adequate extra / intro variety will result organically ... something for all human preferences, just not all in the same horse ... and that's a good thing! We humans are not all alike, either.
Going beyond fundamental temperament, we also look at how an individual horse is wired to engage with the world at large, and what will give any planned foal the best chance at success when grown, with emphasis on and tested through trail riding (solidly our lane since 1985). Once again, middle-of-the-road in herd dynamics and potential role tendencies mesh best with the most humans and the most careers.
Solid knowledge of how humans can detrimentally influence mental and emotional states in horses is crucial to accurate assessment of temperament. Solid knowledge of how temperament and mental / emotional state affects posture and movement is absolutely critical to avoid errors when making selections and choices regarding both type and talent (next).
Type — A Fjord should be a Fjord! That should be a big DOH, but you'd be surprised how many people are pushing or even blowing past the boundaries of the existing standards and losing breed type in the process. If one doesn't breed Fjord-like Fjords, the rationale for even having Fjords (not to mention breeding-instead-of-rescuing-and-taming-mustangs) goes right out the window.
The North American Fjord standard does recognize a range of body types, from "drafty" to "sporty" (without universal agreement about what aspects constitute either one). Historically, the most desired point on the type spectrum has depended on current use and demand ... form follows function. We don't need (or want!) to re-learn the lessons that history has already amply taught — versatility and health are compromised whenever extremes of type are actively pursued — so Lost Creek Fjords' goal is to aim for the middle of the spectrum with emphasis on inclusion of the traits that result in a comfortable, functional riding horse (because that is the current use and demand for the majority of modern horses in general and Fjords in particular).
That being said, when making breeding choices we prefer to err on the muscular-and-substantial side of center (but with riding rather than draft-specific conformation or angulations). The established and historic Fjord size range is 13.2-14.3hh; erring on the side of substance better ensures that mature offspring can handle virtually all adult riders. Our observation is that when lighter build is sought and achieved in Fjords, the lower end of the size range becomes best suited for older youth and rather lightweight adults, neither of which describes most riders in North America today.
Emotional and mental state (see temperament, above) influences posture, which is nearly always perceived as "type" (and conformation). Although alertness and well-defined muscling at-the-ready are undeniably eye-catching, those very traits are a red flag that the horse needs to be evaluated for mental stability. True Fjord type excludes edgy-ness and anxiety.
Talent — As long as the horse is confident and is fully willing to allow the human 51% of the partnership to define the parameters of mutual activities (temperament first!), there is no such thing as "too athletic" or "too talented"! A Fjord friend capable of expanding, not limiting, the horizons of the human part of the equation is an amazing opportunity for anyone of any age — truly a long-term equine partner to grow and learn with.
Our primary measure of talent is quality, ease, and harmony of movement within and in transition between all three gaits. Ideal movement tells us that conformation and physiology and mental state are working together successfully for balance, versatility, and soundness over a lifetime. Unlike some other animal breeders who also focus on movement, we do not consider unnatural or eye-catching extremes of movement to be good in any species, but rather an indicator that something is out of harmony with the whole. Displays of attention-grabbing movement may be exuberant showing-off (ie, from mature stallions or confident, well-educated Fjords of any sex), but in all horses (perhaps most especially Fjords), extreme movement is more often driven by anxiety — that is, an instinct-driven display of prowess that serves to make other horses in the area look like easier dinner targets. An anxious Fjord does not meet the breed standard for type or temperament.
All the talent in the world is useless (or even dangerous) in a horse who is fearful, unconfident, or dominant. Breeding for temperament first means a horse's innate talent can be expressed and actualized.
We're not big breeders ... we started small and now we're MICRO
It takes quality time to raise a solid young Fjord citizen. We enjoy providing that time personally, right down to providing all basic training, hoof care, and trail outings. Matching our few Fjord youngsters up with their people is what makes the effort to breed worthwhile at all — for us.
Time is finite for everyone; we make different choices for our time than some. Our broodmare numbers are low. We don't own a stallion. We don't breed every year. We take the time it takes with each foal according to his or her needs, including a longer retention time post-weaning for both healthy equine herd socialization and solidifying those all-important foundation skills.
So, no, we can't provide a one-stop shopping experience. What we can provide is the occasional well-adjusted foal or young horse to the occasional right-fit human who is seeking a prospective Fjunicorn friend.
The most common Fjord color by far is brunblakk or brown dun (bay + dun); CFHA estimates around 90% of all Fjord horses are brown dun.
Fjord breed standards around the world specifically provide for and encourage preservation of the "rare colors":
• grå / grey (black + dun, aka "grey dun"; called mouse dun or grullo in other horse breeds)
• ulsblakk / white (bay + dun + one copy of the cream gene")
• rødblakk / red (chestnut + dun)
• gulblakk / yellow (chestnut + dun + one copy of the cream gene)
In part because of the accuracy, ready availability, and affordable cost of DNA color testing in horses, there is now more attention placed on the "rare color" Fjords than at any time in the past history of the breed.
Genetics are reaaaaally interesting ... and complex in real-life. In order for the "rare color" Fjords to be preserved let alone come up to the same standards as brown duns instead of being poorer-quality novelties, breeders such as ourselves who own any of the rare color Fjords (or even Fjords who carry one copy of any rare color gene) need to pay close attention to the unwanted traits that — although not part of the color gene itself — tend to be inherited along with a particular color.
Sometimes observed trait grouping has to do with the physical location of the color modifying gene on the chromosome, a phenomenon known as genetic linkage. Red (aka chestnut, and actually pheomelanin), for instance, is close enough to the locus controlling white markings that the two traits often end up being inherited together in all equines, not just Fjords.
Other times, observed trait grouping is an inevitable byproduct of the difficulties inherent in any recessive rare trait preservation without the assistance of modern DNA testing options: Precisely because rare traits are typically recessive, there has been far too much reliance on the far too few obvious (that is, homozygous) sources of those traits. Even with careful (but non-DNA-informed) attention to breeding choices, the undesirable flaws incidentally found in that small ancestral pool are given outsized opportunities to perpetuate along with the desirable rare trait. Thanks to the availability of DNA testing, the latter issue no longer needs to be a problem for modern Fjord breeders.
A particular complexity for Fjord horse breeders who adhere to the breed standard is the incomplete dominant action of the cream (aka cremello) gene. One copy of the gene produces the accepted "rare colors" uls (white) or gul (yellow). Two copies produce an undesirable pink-skinned "kvit" — unacceptable and un-register-able in every Fjord registry (except NFHR, go figure). A further challenge is that a grå (grey dun) can have one or two copies of the cream gene, but usually will not show any clear outward indication. Once again, DNA testing allows modern-day Fjord breeders to avoid accidentally producing kvit Fjords by testing for the presence of a cream gene in their grå (grey dun) breeding horses, and to not pair any cryptic cream + grå (grey dun) horses with other cream-genome individuals.
While it is true that a GOOD horse is never a bad color, most horses have baggage (they are not "good horses" right out of the box) and humans have preferences of varying kinds ... including color. We definitely do not discourage others from pursuing their own personal color preferences — if they have them — any more than we'd discourage people from enjoying their preferred gender of horse, or horse breed, or riding style. Life is too short to settle; everyone draws their own personal "settle" line in a different place. If someone's preferred Fjord color (including brown dun!) spreads an involuntary rip-roaring grin across their face every time they go out to see their horse friend, that's a truly wonderful thing! Conversely, pining for a different color horse doesn't best serve the present horse's emotional well-being, and just as with a temperament mismatch, that's best recognized-and-rectified as early as possible (when it can't be averted outright). Our customers can be honest with us about any color preferences they might have and we will respect those preferences.
Our own choice to have a couple of red mares is primarily good fortune. It is also an acknowledgement that because we really get a lot of joy from having some red duns it is good for the gene pool if we — people who care a LOT about the quality of red dun Fjords — take on the responsibility to breed our own red dun mares to the overall best-match stallions we can find (no matter what those stallions' colors and regardless of the potential resulting foal color or color genome) with the goal of improving quality of offspring (who will automatically carry red even if they do not express it themselves).
This means we do incur and accept a higher level of responsibility in our pre-breeding research and eventual breeding choices. We pay close attention to the physical flaws that are historically found in red dun Fjords, and we do our best to choose stallions that neither express those flaws nor have them in their immediate ancestry or progeny. Although we are solidly versed in Fjord color genetics and are aware of the potential color genome of any unborn foals, we do not breed with the goal of producing any particular color(s) for sale; most of our foals have been (and no doubt will continue to be) brown duns.