Breed History - The Friesian horse was developed in the province
of Friesland in the northern Netherlands. The Romans used the breed
for riding and it is said that they took Friesian horses to England,
where the breed influenced the Shire, Clydesdale, Fell, and Dales.
Friesians were used in medieval times to carry knights into battle. In the 12th and 13th centuries, some of the eastern horses from the crusaders were bred with Friesian stock. After the Middle Ages, the Friesian breed was dying out. During the 16th and 17th centuries, when there was less demand for heavy war horses, Andalusian blood was added to lighten the breed and render it more suitable for work as a more urban carriage horse. Friesians were also used by riding schools in France and Spain for high-school dressage, and they remain a favorite breed to this day due to their gentle, willing temperaments and beauty.
The Friesian breed was particularly popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. They were in demand as harness horses and for agricultural work and for trotting races that were in vogue during this time. The Friesian was used as foundation stock for breeds such as the Orlov Trotter, the Norfolk Trotter (ancestor to the Hackney), and the Morgan. The Friesian also influenced the "Old Black Horse" of the U.S. farm belt and it influenced the Dole Gudbrandsdal of Norway, and formed the foundation stock for Germany's Marbach stud which contributed to the development of the Oldenburg and the Wurttemberger breeds.
Friesian Breed Characteristics - The Friesian breed is known for its luxurious mane, tail and forelock which are never cut. They also have abundant feathers (long hair reaching down from the middle of the leg). Their color is always black, and only a small white star on the forehead is permissible.
The Friesian's head is majestic and carried high. The face is expressive. The neck is carried rather vertically and is low-set. The legs and hind quarters are muscular and powerful. The Friesian stands between 15 - 18 hands high. Their trot is spectacular - fast and high stepping.
Friesians are very willing, active and energetic but are gentle and docile. They have great presence and carry themselves proudly. They are a very loyal, loving breed and form deep emotional ties with their owners.
The Friesian Today - Following its decline in the early 1900s, the Friesian breed is being rejuvenated and its future seems assured. In recent years, the breed has attracted a great deal of acclaim. The majestic and versatile Friesian is used for fine carriage driving and in driving competition. Friesians are very popular dressage mounts and are also used for Western riding and as a pleasure riding horse. They are wonderful, loving companions and it's easy to see why their popularity is increasing!
For more information about IFSHA membership and special interest programs available to IFSHA members, please visit the IFSHA website at www.FriesianShowHorse.com.
Mailing Address: IFSHA, PO Box 2839, Lompoc, California 93438 USA | Phone: 805-448-3027 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org