It was a local celebration of Norwegian culture and heritage at Cory's All Saints Lutheran Church on a sunny Sunday afternoon in May.
Friendly people of Norwegian and Scandinavian heritage from Delta, Mesa and Montrose counties and beyond gathered for a monthly meeting and Norwegian feast.
And they enjoyed a very special presentation by the only Western Slope breeders of Norwegian Fjord horses, Brandy and Elmer Ferganchick of Eckert.
The Vestagjell Lodge of the Sons of Norway is a Western Slope regional lodge of the Sons of Norway organization that has 60,000 members in the U.S. and Canada, and many more worldwide. Vestagjell means "west of the mountains" in Norwegian.
The local lodge holds its meetings in various locations, always on the second Sunday of the month. Local members include Milford and Elinor Knutson of Eckert and Nelson and Marilyn Cederberg of Cedaredge.
Lodge president Thor Groswald and his wife Twyla, a native of Read, live in Montrose. Groswald said that in addition to their monthly meetings, the lodge members host Scandinavian cultural activities including a Viking picnic in Grand Junction in August.
Also, each year they participate in the Grand Junction Veterans Day Parade. Lodge program director Barbara Firth found the Ferganchicks online. Their Norwegian Fjord breeding enterprise is Thunder Mountain Fjords.
Firth invited them to join the lodge for the parade. The Ferganchicks and their horses did and it was from that contact that the All Saints program in May came about.
The Ferganchicks have 15 Norwegian Fjords at their Eckert ranch.
Dodger, currently the Bev Tibbetts Grand Champion Horse in the North American Trail Ride Conference, came along for the Vestagjell event. Brandy and Dodger won this national championship earlier this year in a sport that is dominated by riders of the Arabian breed.
Fjord enthusiasts generally like to drive them, work them in dressage, or simply keep the gentle and docile Fjords for enjoyment.
The horses are considered a national symbol of Norway. Their export is tightly restricted.
The breed is highly prized in Norway where their compact, sturdy frame is ideally suited to draft and farm work. Fjords combine the power of a Belgian draught horse with the athletic agility of a quarter horse.
There are three sizes in the breed, explained Brandy: a small, a medium, and a large. The large variety is valued for use in heavy logging operations. The medium size variety, Brandy explained, is the only one of the three authorized for export from Norway.
The breed is believed to derive from the wild horse stock of the Eurasian steppe. They are considered by some authorities to be progenitors of the Icelandic horse, Brandy said.
In Norway there is evidence of domesticated Fjords 4,000 years ago. Selective breeding has taken place for at least 2,000 years, she said.
The breed has several unique markings, Brandy explained. One is a narrow dark stripe that runs through the entire length of the mane, across the back, and down through the tail to the very end.
Other distinctive markings are white spots on the tips of the ears, leg barring and dark spots over the eyes. A Norwegian Fjord is not authenticly pure without these distinctive markings, Brandy said.
Brandy explains that she and Elmer found themselves in the Norwegian Fjord breeding business as the result of a private joke they shared at their wedding 11 years ago. To make a long story short, Brandy ended up giving Elmer a Norwegian Fjord as a "gift" on their first wedding anniversary.
Now the couple has the only Norwegian Fjord breeding operation on the Western Slope, Thunder Mountain Fjords, Brandy explained. She has been working with horses since she was eight years old.
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