Friesian Breed Description
|Height||Registered stallions must be at least 15.3 hands high at the age of 4, and mares must be 14.3 hands high.|
|Weight||Mares average about 1300 pounds, more for males.|
|Colour||The Friesian is always black. White markings are undesirable.|
|Head and Neck||The head is rather long but fine. The ears are short but alert. The eyes are dark and expressive. The neck is elegantly and impressively arched. The mane is long and flowing.|
|Body||The shoulders are powerful and well muscled. The chest is prominent. The body is compact, strong and deep. The hindquarters are not massive, but strong, with a sloping croup, and a low-set, very luxuriant tail.|
|Limbs||The limbs are short and strong with good bone. There is a fair amount of feather.|
|Action||The Friesian’s action is very balanced and energetic. It moves impressively with a good, active trot, and displays high, extended front leg action.|
Friesian Breed History
The primitive Forest Horse of Europe, which thrived 3000 years ago, is thought to be the ancestor of the Friesian. The Friesian is the pride of Holland, and the breed boasts a proud heritage. It was admired as a powerful working horse by the invading Romans almost 2000 years ago. The Roman legions used Friesians during their occupation of England, and the Dales Pony and the Fell Pony breeds were influenced by the introduction of Friesian blood.
The breed was used to carry Friesian and German knights to the Crusades 1000 years ago, and was then highly regarded for its endurance, strength and docility. During the Crusades, Eastern horses were brought back to Holland, and were used to improve the Friesian breed. Later, during the Eighty Years’ War, when Spain occupied the Netherlands, the Friesian was influenced by infusions of Andalusian blood.
The Friesian excelled under saddle, in harness, and as an all-round farm horse, and was therefore used to improve other breeds, such as the Oldenburg.
During the 19th century, trotting races became popular, and breeders, noting that Friesians had great aptitude at trotting at speed, attempted to produce a lighter version of the breed. As a result, the Friesian became less useful as an all-round farm horse, and its numbers fell in decline so that the breed was in danger of extinction before World War II. Because of hardships caused by the war, including a lack of vehicles and fuel, Dutch farmers turned once more to horse power, and began to revive the breed. Since then, the Friesian has enjoyed popularity as a good work horse, and especially as a harness horse.
To preserve the characteristic features of the breed, the registration of the Friesian Horse is strictly regulated by the organization, Friesch Paarden-Stamboek (FPS) in the Netherlands. Strict conformation standards and performance tests for stallions and mares have been developed. A breeding stallion must exhibit great athletic ability, trainability, along with a willingness to perform and a good disposition. The mares also have a special performance test to undergo if they are to be included in the breeding registry. The mares are graded on riding and driving. Qualified judges from the Netherlands inspect and evaluate horses yearly on movement, conformation and breed characteristics. The horses are evaluated 60% on movement, and 40% on conformation. Unlike with other breed registries, only approved stallions may be used as sires.
The Friesian Horse Association of North America is responsible for preserving the integrity of the breed in North America, and follows the strict rules laid down by the FPS.