By MICHELLE SLATER
A TOONGABBIE horse lover and her beloved mount were raising a few eyebrows at the equestrian industry expo Equitana at the Melbourne showgrounds last week.
Sophie Tsebelis is the proud owner of the gelding Knights Hill Lokken – a rare and ancient Fjord horse, which is only one of 200 of his breed in Australia.
“A lot of people were coming up to him, he does turn a lot of heads. He gets a lot of comments about his mane,” Ms Tsebelis said.
“I had heard of this breed but had never seen one before. When I first saw him I went ‘Oh my God!’ And it was love at first sight. I thought he was so cute and he had an amazing temperament.”
Fjord horses were developed in Norway by the Vikings tracing back 2000 years ago, and are now listed as endangered on the Rare Breeds Trust of Australia.
The solid and stout animal averages between 13 and 15 hands-high and is distinguished by its remarkable beige coat and punk-like spiked mane with a black stripe running down the centre.
Lokken was strutting his stuff and enjoying a lot of pats in the Breeds Village, raising awareness for the Fjord, which is still a popular ridden or harness mount in Scandinavia.
Ms Tsebelis has competed Lokken with success, most recently winning the ridden performance pony section in dressage and jumping with the stars.
She said he felt like a big horse under saddle despite is short stature at only 13.2 hands-high.
Fjord Promotional Group of Australia president, Rachel Young, was at Equitana helping to publicise the breed, which first came to Australia in 1986.
Ms Young said there were a couple of breeders in Gippsland, one in Omeo and another in Upper Beaconsfield, with a few individual owners dotted about.
“They have such great temperaments and are very friendly safe and sensible family horses,” Ms Young said.
“A lot of people here today are happy to meet one in person and are enjoying the fact there is one here in the flesh.”