Have you driven a Fjord lately?

Horses 101

You’ve probably had Frozen inflicted on you 12341982304 times by now and are sick sick sick of it.

I must point out that it is incredible well designed (not to mention a great story and wonderful soundtrack).

I’m talking about design here. Art. Animals. And how Disney manages to do darn good stuff 99.9% of the time (we won’t mention the dysfunctional bridles on Cinderella’s horses which will fall off because they have no crownpieces which will cause the horses to go out of control when the first bunny zips across their path, causing a Major Wreck and the demise of our heroine).

Specifically I’m impressed by the horses. And I’ll make this point to budding artists… or pros who need a swift kick from a set of hooves.

DO YOUR RESEARCH!

Disney did.

While Disney got the horses right, the bridles are nearly right, but not so much. The overall structure (crownpiece, cheekpieces, throatlatch, browband, noseband, reins) is right, but they show the reins attached to the noseband, as if the bridle were a halter (above horse is in a halter) rather than having a bit in the horse’s mouth (see Fjord rider at bottom of page). I ride with a bitless bridle which actually looks a bit like the film’s bridles.


In Frozen, the artists needed some horses for the heroes, and villains to ride, but they didn’t pick just any horse out of their imagination. They found that in Scandinavia (especially in Norway) there is a very old breed (more than 4000 years old) of horse which is adapted to the harsh climate of the north: the Fjord. It is a small, sturdy horse, strong and agile, and able to carry a big person.

Fjords come in one color: dun. Well, actually they come in five shades of dun (and the odd white). Dun ranges from sand to gold to cream to pewter to silver, always with darker points (mane, tail, lower legs)(and sometimes a dorsal stripe, a transverse stripe over the shoulders, and zebra strips on the upper legs). Fjords have a unique and pretty mane: white on the outside, with a dark stripe down the center. Their manes are cut short to show off this color, and sometimes the white and black parts are trimmed in patterns like hearts or crenelations (the notches found at the top of castle walls). 

5 recognized colors of Norwegian Fjord Horses, from left to right: red dun/rødblakk (chestnut + dun); yellow dun/gulblakk (dunalino: palomino + dun); grey dun/grå (grullo: black + dun or smoky grullo: smoky black + dun); brown dun/brunblakk (bay + dun); white dun/ulsblakk (dunskin: buckskin + dun). Fjords have several modifying genes, dun and cream etc....:

5 recognized colors of Norwegian Fjord Horses, from left to right: red dun/rødblakk (chestnut + dun); yellow dun/gulblakk (dunalino: palomino + dun); grey dun/grå (grullo: black + dun or smoky grullo: smoky black + dun); brown dun/brunblakk (bay + dun); white dun/ulsblakk (dunskin: buckskin + dun). Fjords have several modifying genes, dun and cream etc.

Hans’ horse is “brunblakk”, the golden dun most often seen in the breed. Anna’s horse (which spooks, dumps her in the snow and runs back to the castle) is a light “gra”, or grulla (a pewter/silver color… not grey, grey is made up of white and dark hairs mixed, and there are no greys in the Fjord breed. In grulla, each hair is silver). Fjords all look very much alike, and there are no black or bay or chestnut, or pinto horses or horses with white socks…  but the artists understood how to make each horse look different, and yet tell the truth. Some of the details of animal behavior were wonderful too: Anna’s horse spooking and dumping her was typical of a large prey item (I’ve been dumped by terrified horses a few times). And the way Anna’s horse trudged through the deep snow was exactly how horses move (they are heavier than reindeer or sled dogs and sink in more, and sort of lurch like a boat on heavy seas).

That is apparently the actual Fjord Disney used as a model for Hans’ horse…

…this site has some neat insights on these movie horses and the ones in the Hobbit:

http://6angryalphanerds.com/2013/12/30/wildfillysama-horses-in-frozen-and-the-hobbit-the-desolation-of-smaug/

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