When I started doing research about my second horse in early 2017, I looked at maaany different breeds …
- Drum Horse
- Norwegian Dole Horse
- North Swedish Draft Horse
- Gypsy Vanner
- Black Forest horse
- Draft x Gypsy crosses
- Friesian crosses
- Shire crosses
- Iberian crosses
- American Cream
And maaany more. I was quite certain I wanted a stocky, tall horse, but not with the most typical draft horse features. I could not keep track on how many hours I spent on reading about horses last year, it was crazy! I ended up with a list of requirements and looked all over the world, except from South America and Australia. You would not believe me if I told you how difficult it was to find my horse.
- Between 0 and 3 years
- Expected to reach at least 160 cm
- Perfect health and clean on x-rays
- Polite and healthy parents
- Curious and intelligent personality
- Grew up with other horses
- Good hooves
- Not bay or tobiano/piebald
- Preferably not ridden
It might seem like a horrible list to some people, but I don’t think so. People freaked about because I excluded certain colors. That’s my choice. On the other hand I did not care about show results, I did not need anything purebred or fancy and I was willing to pay whatever the owner would ask to get what I wanted.
Personality was an important one. Batman has always been a very sensitive and quite spooky horse and he can still be very challenging. If he’s high on energy and hear a weird noise, he is the kind of horse who will immediately start running at the spot and get 3 meters tall, and I won’t be able to get him down to the planet earth until we are back at the stables. I find that kind of behavior a little tiresome, because I get scared and start imagining the worst, but that’s how he is.
When some interesting Iberian crosses and Warlanders showed up, I started thinking very hard. I’m not very brave on horseback and prefer horses whose energy level matches yours on that particular day. I want to be able to add more energy, but prefer horses that are a bit more down to earth to begin with. I could not imagine myself spending another decade with a jumpy horse built for instant action. I’m NOT an instant action kind of rider. Training can of course make a huge difference, but you can’t take away what the horses are bred to do over many thousands years. I therefore decided to stop looking at Warlanders and Iberian crosses.
The other dilemma was my height. I ride bareback a lot and with my 184 cm and long legs, I feel too tall to ride very noble/light built horses and lower horses. Some riders manage to don’t care about it, but I can’t. I don’t want to feel that I can’t jump a log during hacking without pulling up my legs. I don’t like my legs hanging below the horse’s belly, pulling me out of balance in trot. I also prefer being “smaller” than my horse, and want everything to look balanced. Horses smaller than 160 cm is too low, no matter how wide.
Therefore I started looking more at Draft crosses and especially the Drum horse. Huge, powerful, friendly and gorgeous. My search for the perfect Drum horse lead my all the way to the United States, but I had some bad luck and had eventually to let go of the dream horse due to health concerns at a very young age.
In the end, it was between four breeds: Shire, Dole horse, North Swedish Draft and Drum. Everything could happen. I found a few interesting Shires in England and Scotland, sellers turned out to be douchebags, did not manage to find any other Shires I liked. Gave eventually up Drums and Shires and decided to get a Scandinavian horse instead. In other worlds, a horse that would fit in my trailer and would be available in my own country. Seemed very easy, after spending months on figuring out how to transport a horse from New York to Oslo.
The Norwegian Dole Horse is one of three breeds native to Norway. They are light drafts, and are described as intelligent, strong, powerful, beautiful horses who make nice allrounders. I started liking them more and more after seeing them from a different point of view thad I had earlier. As dressage horses, running proud in the mountains with flowy manes and thick tails, instead of the more traditional way to use them, such as farm work and driving. I then realized that I could definitely have one, as long as it was tall enough.
People laughed at me when I openly wrote that I wanted a young 160 cm Dole that was not bay, not ridden or driven. I ignored them, suddenly found one, and he was everything I wanted and more. The most stunning horse I had ever seen. He was perfect, it was love at first sight. At that point I was still kind of sad because of the American dream horse, but this one was definitely also a dream horse. He was clear at the vet exam, I was in heaven. Then issues started appearing and I understood that I should not trust the vet who did the pre purchase. The day I went to pick him up I brought my vet for a second vet exam with new xrays at the spot. Found multiple severe injuries. Fractures, no way to fix it. Another dream shattered. (ALWAYS DO A SECOND OPINION, AND A THIRD, AND FOURTH! And always do x-rays! A perfectly sound horse can have life threatening injures, I learned that the hard way)
At this point, I had spent over 4000 euros on vet exams only. You can buy a decent Dole horse or two for that price, and I felt a bit annoyed, but kept going. I looked at some North Swedish horses online and they are absolutely gorgeous, but I was unable to find a horse tall enough. I also found another young Dole stallion who was lovely, but when I arrived there, I realized that I would make him look like a pony … He was unfortunately way too small. I would do anything to be 165 cm, I thought, and drove back home.
I still wanted a Dole or North Swede, but I did not want to buy something that was not the ultimate dream horse. A rare last minute opportunity suddenly showed up through a friend and within a week, I had finally found Iver. Finding a horse is definitely not easy. Finding a horse that also passes the pre purchase exam, is even harder. But it is possible, and I definitely learned a lot last fall. It was a rough journey, but thankfully, it had a happy ending.
My search for the dream horse led me across the world, but the horse who eventually stole my heart had been there all the time, only an hour away. I’m very happy I ended up with a Norwegian Horse. The Dole horse are facing extinction and in desperate need of some PR. It feels lovely to have a piece of our cultural heritage by my side and the opportunity to show the Dole horses to the world. Iver is nothing but the perfect combo of power, sensitivity, calmness and pride with great movements, perfect health and a kind personality. He is everything I needed; even though I did not know exactly what that would be.
Peace, love and Friesian/Dole-hugs,
Matilde, Batman & Iver