What You Need to Know About the Friesian Horse

Beautiful black friesian horse standing in a small farm

Unless you’re a horse enthusiast, you probably had never heard about the Friesian horse. At least until Kim Kardashian West tweeted that they have 14 gorgeous Friesian horses in their ranch.

But even if you’re not a hippophile or don’t keep up with the Kardashians, you should still know more about Friesian horses. And not just because they’re terribly expensive, but also because they’re really an interesting breed.

What is a Friesian Horse?

As the name suggests, the Friesian horse is a breed that originated in Friesland, in the Netherlands. They are mostly known for their black coat, flowing thick manes and tails, and regal bearing.

Traditionally used as a warhorse, Friesian horses now rule dressage competitions. Their arresting look, athletic ability, and desirable temperament also make them a popular choice for stuntwork or as an all-around family horse. The Friesian Horse Association of Great Britain and Ireland (FHAGBI) also mentioned that this breed enjoys Le Trec.

Unsurprisingly, Friesian horses are also high maintenance. To maintain their shiny coat and stunning manes, you need to spend a serious amount of time (and money) grooming them. They also don’t tolerate heat well and are prone to anhydrosis. That’s why in tropical areas, Friesian horses usually need specialized housing.

A black friesian horse running towards north part of the farm

History of the Friesian Horse Breed

The earliest record of horses that resembled that of the Friesian breed was in 150 AD. Roman historians mentioned seeing mounted Friesian troops around Hadrian’s wall. The breed itself, however, originated from Frisia (now Friesland), a province in the northern part of The Netherlands.

Many more records of the Friesian horse being used in war exist as far back as the fourth century. Medieval manuscripts also contained depictions of knights riding what looked like Friesian horses. The most famous example of which is William the Conqueror’s horse during the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

During the next few centuries, especially during the Crusades, the Friesian breed was mated with eastern horses. Then when the Netherlands became a part of Spain in the 16th century, Andalusian horses were crossbred with Friesians. Despite this, the Friesian horse retained most of its indigenous characteristics.

During the Industrial Revolution, Friesian horses became in demand across Europe. Aside from agricultural work, they are also used as harness horses and for trotting races which were so popular back then.

In the 19th century, crossbreeding has virtually decimated purebred Freisian horses. The introduction of diesel-powered machinery further threatened their survival as people have less need for agricultural horses. Luckily, after World War II, people discovered the breed’s show qualities and began using them for entertainment purposes.

Breed Characteristics

Color

Though they’re best known for their pitch-black coat, not all Friesian horses are black. In the early 20th century, chestnuts and bays were seen. Most Friesian horse associations of today, however, only accept black-colored ones in their registers.

Fresian horses rarely have white markings too. Though some may have a small star on their forehead – the only acceptable markings for most purebred registries.

Height

Aside from their distinct black color, Freisian horses are also known for their magnificent built. Standing at an average of 15.3 to 16 hands, this breed can easily tower over most baroque horses.

To qualify for a star-designation pedigree, however, a mare or gelding must be at least 15.2 hands (62 inches).

Conformation

Friesian horses have what we commonly refer to as the “baroque” body type. These types of horses have often been dubbed as the most romantic-looking animals thanks to their flowing mane and noble conformation.

A typical Friesian horse has a good bone structure with well-chiseled heads and small pointed ears. Their necks are long and slightly arched at the crest. A long and sloping shoulder is complemented by a well-muscled back and well-positioned forelegs. When viewed from the rear, their hind legs are straight and muscular with good sound hoofs.

Temperament

What makes Friesian horses ideal for both war and dressage is their mild temperament. They don’t easily spook and are always eager to please their riders. They are also highly trainable and get along well with other horses.

Common Genetic Disorders

Because of their relatively small gene pool and years of inbreeding, this horse breed is prone to several genetic disorders. The most common ones are:

  • dwarfism
  • hydrocephalus
  • increased risk of aortic rupture (an extremely dangerous heart condition)
  • megaesophagus (enlargement of the esophagus)

Friesian horses also tend to develop digestive system disorders and hypersensitivity to insect bites.

How Much Does a Friesian Horse Cost?

On average Friesian horses can cost anywhere from $3,000 to as much as $50,000. Top-quality purebreds are, obviously, more expensive. If a horse is well-trained, they usually cost 20% to 30% more.

Are Friesian Horses Good for Beginners?

Absolutely! Their calm temperament and sociable nature make them suitable for riders of all levels. Beginner riders will also find them easier to work with since they are fast learners and are very dependable.

 

 

Judy Ponio is an author for Millpond Stables.

About The Author

Judy Ponio is a firm believer in the benefits of sharing knowledge for the betterment of us all. She loves to read and write about horse care, riding, and more.