Tangle Tree Ranch - Norwegian Dole Horses in America - The Dole Horse People


History of the Døle Horses and Coming to America

The Døle Horse is the largest of the four native breeds of horses in Norway. This horse is an all around breed also known as Gudbrandsdals Horse or the East Country Horse denoting the area in Norway where the breed was originally developed.

The Dole Horses in NorwayThe Døle Horse breed is an old breed. In his writings from the 1530's, Archbishop Olaus Magnus mentioned the breed. As early as the 1850's the breed type was established.

The first official horse show was held by the Ministry of Agriculture in Lillehammer in 1857. These stallion shows are still held in the Lillehammer area to this day and are still held by the Ministry of Agriculture. The shows held today are three-day events.

In Norway, only stallions that are "prized" at an official horse show can be used for breeding. If the stallion is not prized, the offspring cannot be registered, unless home bred under certain rules of application.

On the first day of the show, all the stallions' legs are x-rayed. The x-rays are examined to insure proper bone structure and bone mass. They are also measured for height and they are weighed. The stallions are judged on their abilities to perform in the area of driving and they are shown at halter. In Norway, they do not use halters. They show the stallions with a bridle. The horse's temperament is also judged. While the show is going on, there are about 30-40 3-year old and 10-15 4-year old stallions around the outside of the arena, waiting their turn. Stallions who were not prized as a 3-year old may be shown as a 4-year old. The stallions enter the arena one at a time. They enter the arena at one end and exit at the other. Unlike here, in the USA, where there is only one judge; in Norway there are 4 judges. All of the judges are judging the same stallion at the same time. It takes about 15 minutes per horse.

Only stallions who excel in all these areas are "prized". Four-year old prized stallions are then sent to a testing facility for a month. There they are tested on their abilities in riding, driving, and log hauling. All of the testing is done by the same person who is a qualified riding and driving instructor. A stallion who does not pass this round of testing loses his certification. Stallions are then retested at 6 and 9 years of age. Again, if they do not pass, they lose their certification. This gives a certain amount of control over pedigree and insures the quality of breeding stock.

The first stud book was published in 1902, but many of the pedigrees can be traced back to about 1865.

All of the registered Døle Horses are blood typed and DNA tested. This was started in the 1980's. All of the horses who are more than 4 years of age have a microchip.

Logging with a Dole horse in NorwayThe Døle horse was primarily used for farming or logging. They were also used by their owners to pull light carts or carriages. This created a desire to have a horse that carried itself in a refined manner. It's confirmation and disposition are a result of this.

The Døle continues to be appreciated for the versatility and distinctive character of breed. In Norway, Døle and Fjord horses are still used in forestry for thinning out and transporting logs over short distances. They cause less damage to the forest floor and require narrower roads in general than tractors and logging rigs.

The Dole Horses in NorwayIn recent years there has been a renewed interest in the traditional use of the Døle horse. The Døle horse is often found in riding stables and riding schools. They are a versatile horse breed. They can be used for riding and driving as a sport. The Døle horse is often used in riding classes for people with disabilities and for lower classes of dressage or jumping. The Døle horse is often used in these activities for up to 20 years.

The Døle horse population as of the year 2000 was about 4,000. About 175 foals were registered that year.

Black, bay, chestnut, and sorrel are the predominate colors, but there are also duns, dapple grey, and palominos. White is considered an undesirable color for a Døle horse. Markings such as a blaze, star, or socks are frequently seen. There should be a profusion of mane and tail. Spotted or paint coloration was last seen in the breed in the 1970's. No spotted stallion was ever prized. The coloration was carried in the mares and very few were bred. It was eventually bred out.

The Dole Horses in NorwayNorway has a unique tradition when it comes to their Døle horses. For more than 130 years, on or about June 15 to September 1, groups of mares are released on the free range mountain pastures with studs chosen by the breed association. The mares are grouped according to which stud the owner wants the mare bred to.

Because the mares are bred in these pastures, they foal later than they do here in the US. There are many times when the mares foal while in the mountains. The horse owners are not worried about predators because of the stud's ability to defend his herd. The last case was in 1998. A stud named Haugvar protected his herd from an attacking bear. he was found the next day with deep gashes in his rump and hind legs, very weak, and having a hard time breathing. After close examination, they found his wind pipe was restricted by bear fur he had pulled from the animal during the fight.

Yearling and 2-year old stallions are also released in summer pastures. This teaches them good social behavior. It also helps them develop their agility and coordination. Grazing in these pastures, they do not get fat, but they do develop muscle.

The Dole Horses in NorwayThe first Døle horse was brought to the US by a Norwegian lady named Marte, who grew up near Brumundal Norway. When she married a man, Robert, from Doyon, North Dakota, she couldn't leave her sorrel gelding, Silver (Vollaug Silver N-96-2165) behind. Silver had been her constant companion for the last two years they were in Norway. They had done many things together, including watching over a herd of about 200 cows in one of the mountain pastures. They had to keep the cows and bulls in their area. There were other milk cow herds about 3 miles away. The only barrier between them was a river. Marte and Silver took many walks along that river to make sure everyone was on their own side and returning them home if they were not. They also had to keep a herd of reindeer out that tried to move in. Dealing with the reindeer was at times upsetting for Silver. As Silver and Marte were chasing the reindeer, they encountered several areas of marshy land. The reindeer could run through them, but Silver had to go around.

The Dole Horse in AmericaIn the US, Silver and Marte made their home at Tangle Tree Ranch near Doyon, ND. After the first winter, Marte and Robert started taking Silver to shows in the US. The first show was the North Dakota Horse Classic at the North Dakota Winter Show in 2002. They showed him in the parade of breeds and were surprised at the interest the people had in the breed. The most asked question they got was, "Is the horse a stallion?".

That got the wheels turning and in the spring of 2003, Bob and Marte imported 3 more Døle horses. One stallion and 2 mares. This brings the total number of Døle horses in the western hemisphere to 4. The stallion is black. One of the mares is bay and the other is a dun. The mares are due to foal at the end of April and at the beginning of May.

The North Dakota Winter Show isn't the only place Silver has been. he has been to the Minnesota Horse Expo, the Hjemkomst Festival in Moorhead, MN and the Grand Opening parade at the Horse Park in Fargo, ND. Silver and the stallion, Svarten (Skogstad Svarten N-00-2065), svarten is Norwegian for black, have been to Sod Buster Days at Fort Ransom, ND, Horsefest at Taylor, ND, and many events held by the North Dakota Draft Horse Association. For their trip to the North Dakota State Fair, they were accompanied by the dun mare. Svarten won Reserve Champion.

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