The Friesian
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Breed Characteristics

The Friesian is a noble animal, possessing a kind and willing character, intelligence and strength. The horses are always black, with a long wavy mane and tail, and feather on the legs. No white markings are permitted, except for a small white star on the forehead. They possess a high neck carriage and powerful hindquarters. Their movement is forward and elevated with a high knee action. The average height is 15- 17 hands with an average weight of 1300-1600 pounds.

History of the Friesian Horse

The black Friesian breed of horse, over 2000 years old, is one of the oldest domesticated breeds in Europe. It is native to the province of Friesland in the northern Netherlands. During the 16th and 17th centuries, but probably earlier, Arabian and Andalusian blood was introduced to lighten the breed. This has given them the high knee action, the small head and the arching neck. The Friesian horse has been kept free from influence of the English Thoroughbred. During the last two centuries, the breed has been bred pure and is considered to be a warm blood. The Friesian has been used to form the basis of many breeds, such as the Shire, New Forest, Dale, Morgan, Swedish Warmblood, the Orlov Trotter, and was recently used to revive the Kladruber breed.

The armored knights found the Friesian horse very desirable, having the strength to carry great weight and still maneuver precisely. The Hungarian King Louis II used a Friesian stallion on the battlefield on June 15, 1526. The Friesian was used as a war horse by Friesian soldiers fighting with the Roman Armies, and later was used by knights and traveled all the way to the Middle East with the Crusaders. Their suppleness and agility made Friesians sought after in the riding schools of Paris and Spain in the 15th and 16th centuries. The Friesian was also used as a fast trotting coach horse, and it was, in fact, Friesians who invented trotting races over short distances (320 metres) in the 18th century.

With industrialization and the increase of mechanization on the farm and in transportation, the Friesian horse was very close to extinction. In fact, prior to World War I, the number of Friesian stallions was reduced to only three. The Friesian was saved from extinction by a group of dedicated breeders in Friesland, a northern province of Holland and through the rigorous efforts of the "Het Friesch Paarden-Stamboek" (or FPS), the official Dutch studbook, the purity of the Friesian horse was preserved. The FPS is one of the oldest breed registries in the world having been established in 1879. Breeding of the Friesian horse is still done under strict guidelines such as selection, performance testing and classification to ensure that the quality of the breed remains very high.

The Modern day Friesian has also enjoyed its share of publicity, regularly being seen on the big screen in movies such as The Mask of Zorro, Interview with a Vampire, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Disney's-Tall Tales, Sleepy Hollow, and Bedazzled. There was the magnificent Othello, known as Goliath, a Friesian who caught many people's eyes in the 1986 movie, LadyHawke. For those who have traveled to Harrod's Department store in London, you may have seen the impressive Friesian stallions driving their carriages. In recent years, the Friesian horse has grown in popularity here in North America with approximately 5,000 Friesian horses currently registered with the Friesian Horse Association of North America (FHANA) in 2003, the North American affiliate of the original Dutch registry, the FPS. They can often be seen at such national equestrian events, as Equitana, Equine Affair, the World Horse Show, and the annual Friesian Extravaganza.

The Friesian is, by nature, a talented show horse with its shiny black coat, flying mane and tail, and high knee action. Today, they are now gaining further respect in the dressage arena as some specimens of the breed are reaching Grand Prix level due to their natural carriage and elevated movement. They also perform very well in harness events such as pleasure, dressage, and combined driving. Driving one or more Friesian horses has become increasingly popular in the past few years. Tough international competitions are only for the few, but there are many who derive relaxation and pleasure from driving their Friesians for recreation or to perfect and test their driving skills at dressage driving events.

The Friesian's beauty, size, rideability, and temperament make them a perfect choice for the whole family.

View Friesian Horse Pictures & Friesian Breed Photos



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