The Friesian horse breed is a beautiful pure black horse that lacks any white markings. They are known for their thick manes and high knee action. They are widely popular for use in dressage and even in fantasy films and movies.
Keep reading to learn all about the amazing Friesian horse!
History Of The Friesian Horse
The Friesian horses have as beautiful and rich of a history as their looks.
They are commonly also called Frizians and originally were bred in the Province Of Friesland, located within the Netherlands.
It is commonly believed among historians that during the Middle Ages, close ancestors of the modern-day Friesian were popularly used as warhorses.
The Friesian is a Medieval Horse
The size and strength of the Friesians helped them be capable of carrying knights, armor, and other battalion gear that was needed in battle in ancient times.
As far back as the 4th century, there were recorded writings of Friesian battalions that rode their own, unique horses.
English author Anthony Dent is among one of the most famous sources for this information about the Friesian horse.
Dent commented that the Friesian horses were a combination of the British Shire (a large draft horse) and the fell pony.
Friesian Horses Were Warhorses
Since there are no illustrations that can be found of these ancient warhorses, no one knew what they looked like until the 11th century when illustrations were uncovered.
William The Conqueror is said to have ridden a Friesian. Unfortunately, after its high point during the Middle Ages, the Friesian nearly went extinct.
Modern-Day Friesian Horses
In recent years, Friesians have still been carefully managed and bred to ensure that the breed and its unique characteristics carry on unchanged or mixed.
Friesians are growing exponentially as a popular choice in dressage, as carriage horses, and for other under-saddle or in-hand events.
Historian Ann Hyland’s Statement About the Friesian Horse
“The Emperor Charles (reigned 1516 – 1556) continued Spanish expansion into the Netherlands, which had its Frisian warhorse, noted by Vegetius and used on the continent and in Britain in Roman times.
Like the Andalusian, the Frisian bred true to type.
Even with infusions of Spanish blood during the sixteenth century, it retained its indigenous characteristics, taking the best from both breeds.
The Frisian is mentioned in 16th and 17th-century works as a courageous horse eminently suitable for war, lacking the volatility of some breeds or the phlegm of very heavy ones.
Generally black, the Frisian was around 15hh with strong, cobby conformation, but with a deal more elegance and quality.
The noted gait was a smooth trot coming from powerful quarters.
Nowadays, though breed definition is retained, the size has markedly increased, as has that of most breeds due to improved rearing and dietary methods.”
Characteristics of the Friesian Horse
The Friesian is notorious and well-recognized for its extremely unique features.
Friesians are elegant horses that sport a similar body style to a light draught or light-weight draft horse.
Despite their larger body size, they are extremely graceful and a joy to watch in motion.
They are often referred to as “baroque-styled” horses. The Friesian will usually present with a black coat, thick and usually very long manes, and tails.
Combine the heavier body types of a draught horse with the refined elegance and movement of Andalusian horses to make a Friesian.
The Friesian horse is considered to be a warm-blooded horse and possesses a very calm and measured personality.
This calm temperament ensures the Friesian is well suited to many endeavors and disciplines from horse shows to military service.
Styles of Friesian Horses
There are technically two different “styles” of Friesian.
- The old Baroque style
- Modern sport horse style
Do Friesian Horses Have Special Markings?
A marking is a white spot on the horse. To be accepted in most Friesian registries the horse will need to only have a small white star at most.
Friesian Horse Breed Standards
The Friesian can range dramatically in height from a mere 15.2 hands tall to 17+ hands tall.
Both mares and geldings must be at least 15.2 hands tall to qualify for a star-designation pedigree. This designation that a true Friesian must meet is also called a “ster Friesian”.
Friesians are noted to be extremely powerful and have a sturdy bone structure.
They are commonly called “baroque-styled” but breeding with lighter horses created a unique sport horse mixture.
Friesians have a striking appearance with long arched necks and refined, Spanish, or Arabian-styled heads.
Their muscular bodies and strong hindquarters create the lift and high knee action that is so loved and sought after by this breed.
What is a Chestnut Friesian?
It has been recognized that a few of the Friesian stallions carry the red ‘E’ gene which can cause chestnut variations within their foals.
This happens when BOTH the mare and sire carry this gene, and the chances of a red foal being born are around 50%.
Around the time that the 1930s rolled around, there were a fair amount of chestnut and bay foals born.
The chestnut or bay coloration is not acceptable for stallions, but some mares and geldings may be allowed to be registered even with red or brown colors in their coat.
Does the Red Gene Cause a Penalty in a Friesian Competition?
Friesian horses that are chestnut or bay are penalized in the show setting due to their coloration.
Horses that have black coats but are sun-bleached or have faded due to past injuries will not be penalized.
In the 90s, the Friesch Paarden Stamboek attempted to begin breeding out this recessive red gene.
Some Friesian Associations such as the American Friesian Association (AFA) allow white markings and chestnut or bay colors to be accepted for registration only.
This is if their purebred pedigree can be proven. As of 2014, there are still eight Friesian studs who are carrying the recessive red gene.
Is there a White Friesian Horse?
No, a purebred Friesian horse cannot be white.
The FPS Studbook
The Friesian studbook (FPS), often called the Dutch Friesian registry or Paarden-Stamboek is a large recording system used to track and date the lineage of Friesian horses.
Friesian stallions must go through an extreme and very rigorous testing period to be approved into the studbook.
A great deal of care and selection goes into the process of tracking and recording serviceable stallions that will “throw” high-quality foals to carry forth the heritage of the Friesian horse breed.
Frisian Farmers Create the Breed Standard
The Studbook Society was founded in 1879 by Frisian farmers and landowners who felt strongly about the preservation of the Friesian breed along with its heritage.
The Paarden-Stamboek was published in the 1880s and not only detailed Friesians but also other groups of heavier warmbloods like Alt-Oldenburgs (Bovenlanders) and Ostfriesen.
The Friesian Horse Almost Goes Extinct
Around this same time, Friesians were being crossbred so much with the Bovenlander horses that purebred Friesians nearly went extinct.
Thankfully, the society revived the breed by the end of the late 19th century.
Even though the society worked hard to rescue the Friesians from extinction, their efforts led to the sale and ultimate disappearance of the majority of the highest-quality studs in the area.
Then in the 20th century, the number of breeding studs dwindled down to only three.
In 1906 both parts of the registry joined together and renamed themselves the Friesch Paarden-Stamboek or FPS.
Friesian Horse Inspections
Friesians have different inspections they can attend which will decide whether or not they receive their ster or star designation.
These inspections are called Kuerig’s and are performed by specially trained Dutch judges. Only after the horse goes through rigorous testing, they may be given their ster or star status.
Health Conditions Specific to Friesian Horses
Four different genetic disorders are officially recognized by the industry that are primarily Friesian-specific disorders.
Health Concerns for Friesian Horses
- Dwarfism Up to ¼ of all Friesians are affected by dwarfism to one degree or another.
- Aortic rupture
- Equine Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy
- Digestive system problems or disorders
- Insect bite hypersensitivity
- Verrucous pastern dermatopathy
- Compromised immune systems
- Friesian mares have a 54% chance of retaining their placenta after foaling takes place
- Tendon and ligament problems
There is currently a genetic test available for dwarfism and hydrocephalus in horses.
There is such a small gene pool for purebred Friesians, which has led to inbreeding. This is what is believed to cause these issues.
If you own a Friesian or are considering purchasing one, please discuss these potential issues with your vet so that you can ensure the health and happiness of your Friesian.
Friesian Horse Care
How to Keep a Friesian Horse’s Coat From Fading?
Friesian owners, never fear! There are many ways that you can help keep your beautiful black horse from becoming sun-faded and patchy-looking.
Tips to Stop a Friesian Horse’s Coat From Fading
- Use coat conditioners and a horse vacuum.
- Avoid over-shampooing or washing your horse
- Try out SmartPak’s supplement created especially for black horses to help keep their coats black. (It REALLY DOES WORK.)
- Use a sheet whenever your horse is turned out, especially in the sun. If you can, avoid turning them out in the heat of the day during the summer.
How to Care For a Friesian’s Mane, Tail, and Feathers
A Friesian is well known for its glorious feathering on its lower legs, its thick manes and tails, and its deep black color on every inch of its body.
Caring for a long mane, flowing tail, and feathers requires work and commitment.
Friesian owners have told me that they always take extra care when they work on their horse’s appearance.
This includes ALWAYS washing their feathers before bringing them in from the pasture or after they get any dirt or mud on them.
Moisturizing is also another great care tool.
Grooming Items You Will Need to Care For a Friesian Horse
- Vet wrap, electrical tape, a sock, and a tail bag
- Sweet almond oil or jojoba oil
- Banding/ braiding bands
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Access to preferably warm water
Tips For Proper Friesian Horse Grooming
This method is a mixture of techniques from the Quarter Horse industry and Arabian horse industries.
Step 1: Wash and condition your horse’s mane and tail weekly, but not more than this. For tails that are being grown to drag on the ground, wash and condition them monthly.
Step 2: Let your horse’s tail partially dry, add the oil, and massage it from their tailbone down to the tips of the hair.
If your horse rubs their tail simply scrub their tailbone well and spray Listerine Original to stop bacteria/ fungus growth (which causes the itch.)
Step 3: Braid your horse’s tail loosely until you have around 2-3 inches of tail left. Tie the tail off with a band. Roll the tail and tuck it back through the top of the braid. Secure it with a band.
Step 4: Wrap the “nugget” of the tail with vet wrap, ensuring that you wrap within the braid itself (doubling back through the top) to completely wrap the hair.
Step 5: Cut the top of the sock so there are 2-3 strands.
Place the wrapped-up hair bundle into the sock and tie the cut pieces, weaving them through the center of the braid where you wrapped your hair.
Secure with electrical tape and put your horse’s tail bag on. This little bundle of hair is commonly called a “peanut.”
To ensure your horse doesn’t try to itch their tail, make sure the “peanut” is not too close to the tailbone and that the hair isn’t too tight.
I learned this the hard way!
Friesian Horse Names
Here is a short list of some unique names for your Friesian horse!
Related Friesian Horse Questions
How much do Friesian horses cost?
Friesian horses, due to their rarity, are generally much more expensive than other breeds.
Depending on the quality of the horse you are looking to purchase along with breeding and training, you can be looking at spending five to 10 thousand (or more) for a one or two-year-old.
However, a well-trained four-year-old Friesian horse could range from $15 to 25,000 or more.
If you are looking at a ster-designated, fully-finished Friesian you could spend $35,000 up to a few hundred thousand dollars.
Where can I buy a Friesian?
There are many places where you can find Friesians for sale. Horse auctions, through breeders, trainers, and even classified ads you can find on the internet.
It is best to work with a trainer who can find a quality prospect for you, especially if you are considering purchasing a top-dollar show horse.
Do I need to import my Friesian from the Netherlands?
Not necessarily, as you can find many Friesians in the United States.
In the US there are many breeders and trainers, but if you can’t find the right horse in the States, importing is always an option albeit a very costly one.
Many times, you can find a previously imported horse for sale in the United States.
What makes a Friesian horse so special?
For starters, the Friesian horse is drop-dead gorgeous. Second, they have a rich history and tradition. The story of the Friesian horse is fascinating!
From the dressage arena to the battlefield this horse has always stood out as special.
What is the most famous Friesian horse?
Frederik The Great is well known throughout the world as a horse that many consider to be the most beautiful horse ever. Yes, Frederik The Great is a Friesian horse.
Was Black Beauty a Friesian horse?
Some people call Frederik The Great the real-life ‘black beauty’.
How can I learn more about the Friesian horse?
There are several organizations dedicated to the Friesian horse that provide a wealth of information for Friesian horse owners and enthusiasts including the following:
Friesian Horses Are Amazing Animals
Friesians are a beautiful, powerful, and well-rounded horse breed that has been around for centuries.
I know your life will be forever changed by this breed if you have the opportunity to meet one and ride one or even own one.