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The Friesian Horse, the black beauties of Friesland, with long, full mane and shiny muscled coats; the once powerful battle steed of armoured knights, is today admired by horse lovers everywhere.
The Friesian horse, from the battle fields to French and Spanish riding schools of the 1400 through 1500’s, to their great fame as trotters and carriage horses, have excelled. They were even race horses of great popularity in their homeland during the 1700 to 1800’s.
Twice having been saved from dying out at the last minute, the Friesian horse is a breed of history, romance, beauty and also of usefulness. Seen today in dressage, or on parade carrying riders in historical costumes of Baroque era mounted displays, or as teams pulling a carriage, or harnessed to the traditional Freisensjees, or in their own competitions world wide, this breed catches the eye both of horse lovers and serious breeders.
For over 200 years horses have been bred in Friesland and during the Spanish occupation of the Netherlands, local stock was crossed with Andalusian horses who passed on their strong, Baroque neck, long mane and high stepping gait. As early as the 1600’s there were strict rules governing the breeding of the Friesian Horse. By the late 1800’s breeders got together and formed a studbook society. The stock and the breed grew then dwindled, until an association was formed to take over responsibilities of breed, of maintaining numbers of stallions and of monitoring quality, until today, as a result, the Friesians are popular throughout the world.
The Friesch Paarden Stamboek is the earliest registry for the Friesian horse, but registries in Germany, USA, and many countries, now exist, some of which also register crossbreds as well as purebreds. Registries most often allow their stallions to be outcrossed with other breeds.
The FPS (Friesch Paarden Stamboek), requires inspection of horses to be registered in the main book, but “papers” are issued to foals giving their full pedigree, so one must translate the language adequately to know if the papers are from birth or after inspection. Inspection grants acceptance to the main book after the age of two, and the inspectors try to maintain proper standards, yet it is difficult for even the most accomplished of horsemen and long-time breeders to look at a 2 year old and know if uneven growth of front or rear quarters will resolve as the animal matures, or NOT! FPS Friesians in the United States are occasionally discovered to lack a good canter, so it is wise to go beyond “famous papers” and judge the qualities of the animal in front of you, just as is true with any breed. Dressage training and competition, for example, requires a horse to possess a good canter, which requires proper conformation.
The goal of breeders is to produce a strong horse, with the elegance of the characteristically arched neck, a broad chest, a slightly divided croup and muscular high quarters. The long mane, thick tail and silky coat are also important, along with consistent temperament. Today’s Friesians are black, but a white forehead star is allowed.
The current Friesian horse may be of three different types. The heavier built, stocky draught type with pronounced joints and very well muscled, is an ideal carriage horse or can still do heavy agriculture work. This type stands out from any other cold blood via high knee action and energy of gait.
The mid-type Friesian is the goal of most breeders, having a small head, shiny coat, wide chest, arched neck with well defined joints, and is ideal for both carriage driving and riding.
The third type of Friesian is lighter and longer of leg, and is very fast, therefore being ideal for competitive sports as demonstrated by titles won in carriage world championships.
Within the breed, any type of Friesian horse is clearly distinguished from coldbloods with which they are sometimes confused, by the refined, elegant head. not to mention all the other breed characteristics that are now so rightfully protected by good breeders.