Fjord Horse Mission Statement 2015
Norwegian Fjord Horses became a natural outgrowth of our carving business after the studios were moved to the 80 acre farm located 1½ miles from Phil’s birthplace. Our goal is to raise and train well mannered, gentle, athletic Fjord Horses of the highest quality. To this end we have both attended the evaluators training sessions in Fjord Horse conformation and movement given by the National Fjord Horse Registry (NFHR). We have also traveled to Norway to study Fjords in their native country and meet the people who breed the best Fjords in the world.
We take pride in having well behaved horses trained to ride and drive. During the winter we hitch our horses to ornate, hand-carved sleighs, then later to carts and wagons when the snow leaves.
Our farm is located near several miles of county woodland riding trails. We have integrated the horses with our rural artisan lifestyle, and we handle the horses several times each day. For us the Fjord Horse is living folk art.
I grew up on a dairy farm. My parents were farmers when I was born and my ancestors were rural people for generations. My father’s family broke ground and homesteaded with horses on the Odden home farm located about a mile and a half from our farm in Timberland community, Roosevelt township, Burnett county, Wisconsin. My father himself farmed at the tail end of the era when horses were used as farm power. He had minimal proficiency with horses and was willing to soon forget them once tractors were invented.
Somehow I came to be named Phillip. Phillip comes from the Greek word meaning lover of horses. Fate.
When I was about 7 years old my parents arranged for us to have a Welch pony over the winter months. My two younger brothers and I had totally unsupervised access to the pony. One of my brothers liked the horse enough that we often fought over who would ride it. My other brother became scared of horses. The red Welch pony was feisty and wise with good self-preservation skills. With the pony’s help we too learned self-preservation skills. For the most part it was a dead even love-hate relationship. The Welch pony was far better at training us then we were at training him. We used leverage and determination. The pony used cunning and agility. All we had was a bridle and a freshly broken branch from a nearby tree—no saddles in those days, so we always rode bare back. It was simpler that way.
My cousins and community friends had ponies too. We were all unsupervised and we learned both good and bad horsemanship from each other. In those days kids had more opportunity to learn to take care of themselves. Mothers were less worried or had too much to do just holding things together. Our ponies learned to survive and so did the kids.
Westerns were popular on the black and white TV. The Lone Ranger, Tonto, Zoro, Wild Bill Hickok, Roy Rogers, and Trigger were our heroes and role models. On Saturday morning we would tie our pony by its reins to the rail on the front porch. As the episode of the Lone Ranger closed the flimsy screen door would be wildly flung open by a fully energized, scrawny, bare-chested young horse lover in cowboy boots too large, with pants too short, covered in hand sewn patches and dirt. Yeehaw, heals to the ribs and branch to his butt, off in a cloud of dust. The adventure was on. Mom was only too happy to see us gone.
I kept in touch with horses from time to time in my late teens and twenties. Usually my courage and stupidity overruled any common sense and exposed my lack of good horsemanship skills. I met my wife Else in Norway, where I also became aware of the native Norwegian Fjord horses. Eventually when we’d bought our 80-acre farm and had a young boy of our own, we bought our first yearling Fjord gelding. The horse was delivered to us by horse trader from Saskatchewan Canada. My horsemanship skills were still minimal but my stupid courage and determination remained.
There were plenty of unfortunate set-backs in learning to train that first horse. We had several wrecks as I learned to drive. I borrowed a harness and paid a local horse trader $35 to show me how to put the harness on the horse. I remodeled a heavy old two-wheeled steel car trailer and cut a couple birch poles to make shaves. With this jury-rigged setup I hooked the green horse to the cart. I knew nothing of driving a horse and the horse knew nothing of pulling a cart. The harness was too light and the cart too heavy. We both survived, but it wasn’t pretty.
There were numerous mishaps and unfortunate scary episodes. Else soon got tired of the horse returning to the farmyard wild eyed, panting, and sweaty without a driver. I’d repair the harness and cart, time would pass, and I would get back at it. Else was scared to ride with me and even our young son could recognize the danger. Eventually I understood that I needed help. I started driving and horsemanship lessons with a local trainer.
Over the years I acquired, bought, and sold lots of Fjord Horses. I learned better riding and driving skills by taking lessons and carefully observing accomplished riders and drivers. I studied conformation issues in horses so as to avoid horses with significant conformation faults. I learned about the Fjord Breed Standard through the Norwegian Fjord Horse Registry. I traveled to Norway to learn how Norwegians viewed the Fjord Horse. I entered driving competitions and began to study dressage. I set my personal standards for conformation, behavior, performance, and breeding.
Over the years I realized how unfair I had been to my horses and how they deserved better. It seemed like they were always waiting for me to catch up while being willing to graciously forgive me for my lack of skills and understanding. I came to realize that it takes three life times to understand horses and that I had started late with little help and supervision. In the end I decided to do what I could to help others, horses and people. This has become my mission with horses.
Purchased 80-acre farm in Timberland 1991
Purchased first Fjord gelding, 1997
First Fjord mare 1999
Started taking riding and driving lessons 2001
Import Smedsmo Gråen, a high quality Gray Fjord Stallion, from Norway 2002
First American Driving Society Pleasure Driving competition at Columbus and Villa
First Combined Driving Event at Hickory Knoll
Built 72’ x 160’ indoor riding and driving training arena
Started training outside horses
Invited to demonstrate with the American Driving Society at the World Equestrian
Games at Lexington, Kentucky
First hunting season in Colorado with horses
First packing experience while hunting in remote wilderness area