[dropcap]F[/dropcap]or many riders the perfect horse has a heart of gold with a coat to match. He’s sure-footed, brave and willing to follow us anywhere, whether it’s into the showring or around a field. Most of us gave up on this dream when we outgrew our hardy crossbreeds – riding communities are filled with adults looking for that perfect bombproof horse who happens to be gorgeous. Enter the Noriker. Available in an assortment of colours including brown, dun, blue roan, leopard spotted and even chestnut with flaxen mane and tail, the Noriker resembles the picture-perfect ponies we used to draw as children, but in adult size.
A fairly heavyset horse, typically standing 16 to 16.2hh (they can be as small as 15.1hh), the breed originated in the Austrian foothills over 2,000 years ago. While their roots are said to be in Greece, where they were bred as heavy war horses, the Romans brought their ancestors to the area and those who remained evolved to withstand the local conditions, resulting in a heavier Alpine horse.
Dedicated while working, sensitive, loving-natured, lively temper. Adaptable and peaceful, calm and very friendly
Strong and hardy
Originally used as pack animals and to pull wagons, the breed was prized for its sure-footedness and strength over long distances. These qualities are still desirable today and Noriker breeding stallions must pass demanding tests to measure strength and speed.
Kept in natural mountain conditions at 6,000 feet, the animals are raised outside year-round and seldom given extra feed. This has created an extremely hardy animal. However, they adapt very well and those who have emigrated to hotter areas, such as South Africa, continue to thrive.
Height: 152 to 165cm
Description: Head is dry with draught characteristics; neck is strong and muscular; shoulder is long and well-positioned; chest is broad and deep; legs are correct with clean joints and little feathering
Character: Dedicated while working, sensitive, loving-natured, lively temper. Adaptable and peaceful, calm and very friendly
Population: ±8,000 horses worldwide
Coat colours: Chestnut, black, brown, dark head/slate blue grey, piebald/skewbald and leopard patterns
Uses: Work horse, draught horse, forestry, equestrian sport
Text: Brigitte Billings. Photography: Courtesy of DanLee Noriker Stud
The full article appears in the March 2015 issue of HQ Magazine.