Blika - The Faroese Horse
When doing my research about the Faroe Islands I came across many pictures of adorable little long haired ponies. I was determined to meet a few and make new friends with them and snuggle a few. In my quest - I just happened to learn something. Many of the horses and ponies on the island are Icelandic or other Nordic breeds, but there are a small number of very special horses that are unique to the Faroe Islands. Though they look similar to Icelandic horses - they are slightly smaller, but are just as hardy and rugged - and have a quite naughty and stubborn personality which requires some training. I was able to spend a morning with a few of these special horses and the people who have made it their life work to rescue the breed from extinction.
In the 1950s, there were only 5 pure Faroe Ponies in existence - 4 mares & 1 stallion; as of today there are 80, and Blika, the young foal in the pictures is number 80, born on the 7th of July 2016. Dorotea and Signa, a mother and daughter who have played a part in the resurgence of this breed shared their story with me. Many children all over the world have uttered the phrase "Mommy/Daddy I want a pony!" It's not very often that this request is entertained, but on her 10th birthday in 2002, Signa received not 1, but 2, ponies - Dogg & Gongurolvur - who were sold on the condition that be kept as a pair since they had lived together all their lives. This was the start of Signa & Dorthea's ongoing connection with the Faroe Horse.
Signa's interest in horses didn't wane in the years following receiving her first two horses, much to Dorthea's relief. At the age of 16 Signa moved to Iceland for 6 months to work with horses and did that again the following year. She knew even while growing up she wanted to work with horses. Today, Signa now sits as a member of the board of Association of the Faroese Horse. They are currently working with Nordgen to create a program to preserve the native genetic diversity of the horse. A big issue that has arisen from conserving this breed from such a small number is the inbreeding. One of the biggest problems that inbreeding creates is the difficulty to get the animals to breed successfully. Right now there are 50 breeding animals out of the 80 living Faroe Horses, split up between 30 different breeders across the Faroe islands.
As we chatted in her living room, Dorothea told me about the ongoing difficulty of getting the local government to set up a registry for the horses. There are a lot of differing opinions among the breeders and it just isn't a high priority for the agriculture department to attend to. Currently all registration is done through a private network which someone has set up in their spare time to help breeders. They have a goal to join the Worldfengur - Icelandic Registry of Horses, but there is a considerable monetary fee to join-up and a requirement that they need to meet of 300 breeding age animals. There is still a lot of work to be done.
But all our worries about extinction, registration fees, beaurocratic red tape, were about to be put aside when we decided to meet young Blika and her mum for a mid morning snack. Signa, Dorthea, & little Elisa (Signa's daughter), collected a buckets of treats for the horses and guided us up the hillside behind their house. At first Blika and her mum were cautions, then they became curious, coming close to me, nuzzling the camera and nibbling on my jacket. My novelty soon wore off, and they returned to being more interested in the treats we brought them. I didn't just get my snuggle, I got a little bit of Blika's life story too.