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The Friesian Horse Breed: Facts, Color, and Temperament

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A friend of ours recommended a Friesian horse to us as a dressage prospect. I’ve never watched one perform, nor have we ever owned one, so we were unsure if it would be a good option for us, but I decided to learn more about the breed.

The Friesian horses are a tall, big-boned equine breed that typically has a black coat with thick manes and tails. These animals have the desired temperament and athletic ability to perform well in dressage. They are also suitable horses for beginners or advanced riders.

Friesian horses are majestic animals with great size and color. But there are lots of other things about this breed you need to know before you decide to purchase one.

If you’re interested in checking out some Friesian horse art or other Friesian memorabilia, you can find them by clicking here and scrolling down.

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What is the Temperament of Friesian Horses?

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I recently saw a Friesian trotting in an arena, and his movements displayed the strength and fierceness you expect from a battle steed. But this show of power made me concerned about their temperament.

Friesian horses were used for centuries as warhorses; however, they have a calm demeanor. They are willing learners, social, and are eager to please their owner. These traits are excellent in any horse. Friesians have a good temperament for any level of rider.

Before we dig into the Friesian’s temperament, let’s look at what temperament means in context to horses. Temperament refers to the overall nature of a horse breed, their general outlook on life.

Horse’s temperament affects their behavior. Some breeds are comfortable with people, and others are not. Some are very stubborn, and other breeds are eager to please.

Friesians don’t easily spook.

The temperament of a horse breed is an essential factor in determining the suitability of a horse. Horses rated on the lower end of a temperament scale tend to be calm and dependable, and are easy to work with and don’t spook when riding.

You don’t want a horse that jumps at its own shadow. Friesians rate on the lower end of the temperament scale. Matching your riding ability with the temperament of the horse you ride will enhance your riding and horse ownership experience.

Horses, like humans, are individuals, and each will have their own personality. Temperament is just one factor in determining if a Friesian horse is a horse for you.

Friesians can be good dressage horses.

Yes, both baroque and sport Friesians can excel in dressage. Friesians have the desire to please and the athletic ability to compete in dressage.

A sport Friesian stallion named Adel 357, was the first Friesian competed in the International Grand Prix. Since he broke the barrier into dressage for Friesians, there have been other successful Friesians in dressage.

Is a Friesian Horse High Maintainance?

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The flowing mane and tail of a Friesian is beautiful, and their thick feathers are a delight to watch move up and down. But all their hair made me wonder if it requires a lot of care to maintain.

Friesians are hard to groom and high maintenance. To keep your Friesian looking like the ones in photographs you have to put in some serious time grooming their coat, mane, feathers, and tail.

Is there any prettier coat than the Friesian? What about their flowing, thick long, black mane, and tail, can you think of a breed that matches its beauty? Now, the most crucial question, do you want to groom this Horse?

If you have experience keeping tangles out of a horses’ mane and tail, you can guess the amount of time involved in maintaining a Friesian looking good.

Friesian have dry skin and develop rashes quickly. Because of the propensity to develop skin disorders, your horse needs to be groomed daily.

Daily grooming for Friesians’ include:

Wash Feathers

Wash the feathers with an anti-bacterial shampoo, towel dry, and blow-dry. Using this combination to dry the feathers ensures no moisture is left on the skin. Moisture leads to skin irritations. Keeping skin sores from cropping up in this area is work.

Pastern dermatitis is a common condition in horse breeds with feathers. It’s a skin irritation of the lower legs; under the dense hair, sometimes the disease will reach up to the knee. 

If left untreated, pastern dermatitis can lead to swelling of the entire leg, oozing scabs and open sores. The best way to prevent the condition is through the use of proper grooming methods. Click here to check prices the prices of anti-bacterial shampoos on Amazon. 

Coat care

Sunlight will bleach out the shine in a jet-black coat. Avoid turning your horse out during times with bright sunlight. A proper, highly nutritious diet promotes a healthy, shiny coat.

Use the right color enhancing shampoo when you wash your horse. Shapley’s Hi Shine Shampoo, 1-Quart. Friesians have dry skin and a product like Medi-Care Med Shampoo W/Tea Tree & Lemon Grass may help the skin condition.

Brush out the tail and mane

Brush the mane and tail daily using a detangler such as Premium Showsheen with a wide-tooth comb. Start combing at the bottom and work up; you are trying to avoid pulling out any hair. One solution for horses with really long manes is to French braid it.

Housing

Friesians are best kept in cold weather climates. They don’t tolerate heat well. Friesians are prone to suffer from anhydrosis, lack of sweating. In hot environments, this can cause serious problems.

During warm months these horses should be monitored for anhydrosis. There are some treatment options that have shown positive results, such as reduced concentrate feeding, and vitamin E injections along with fluid and electrolyte injections.

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However, most horses that suffer anhidrosis improve when they are moved to a cooler climate with lower humidity or housed in air-conditioned barns.

Overall Friesians are high maintenance horses.

Friesian horses are known for their long manes and tails.

The most notable characteristic of the Friesian breed is its long mane and tail and black color. Often the tails are so long they drag the ground.

Friesians also have long hair from the middle of their legs to feathers at the ankles. Feathers on a Friesian describes the long, silky hair on the lower legs.

Friesians are powerfully built.

The Friesian is a large horse with a thick muscular body. The average Friesian stands 15.3 hands, but it is not uncommon to see a Friesian 17 hands tall.

They have a powerfully muscled body with strong hindquarters and low-set tail. Friesian have long necks that arch with a well-defined small head with eyes spread apart and short ears. Similar to Spanish horses.

The shoulders of a Friesian are also well-muscled and compact. The horse has short, strong legs compared to the rest of the body. Currently, there are two body types of Friesians, the baroque type and the sport type.

The horses will also display high knee action. The baroque type a Friesian is a more classical body, thick boned, and heavier, whereas the sports type is a thinner boned horse used more often in shows.

Not all Friesians have black coats.

Friesian should have an abundant amount of black hair. Its black coat often distinguishes the Friesian breed; however, there have been chestnut and bay Friesians. The only white marking allowed on a Friesians is a small star on the forehead for purebred registration.

Today the chestnut and bay coloring is not acceptable for registration in some Friesian horse associations. The American Friesian Association still allows registration of chestnut Friesians.

The Friesian breed has a high rate of genetic disorders.

Friesian have a higher rate of genetic disorders than most horse breeds. The high instances of genetic disease is likely caused by years of inbreeding. Here is a list of the most common diseases associated with the Friesian breed.

  • Dwarfism: Friesians with dwarfism have normal-sized heads and long bodies, full chest with extremely short limbs.
  • Hydrocephalus: Is a term used to describe the build-up of spinal fluid inside the brain: The fluid increases and created pressure in the skull leading to numerous adverse conditions.
  • Aortic ruptureThis is a bursting of the largest artery in the body of the horse.
  • Megaesophagus: Condition of the throat that can cause the horse to choke. Megaesophagus is the enlargement of the throat and makes it hard to swallow and get food into the horse’s stomach.
  • Equine polysaccharide storage myopathy: This is a disorder that exhibits signs similar to colic in extreme cases. It is a lack of glycogen in the muscles. It can be successfully treated with diet on occasion.
  • Digestive system disorders: Friesians are more prone to suffer colic and other gastrointestinal disorders than other breeds.
  • Hypersensitivity to insect bites: Friesians can have an extreme reaction to insect bites such as mosquitoes and horseflies. The hypersensitivity is intense, leading to hair loss and skin damage of the mane, tail, head, and stomach. In some horses, the skin damage is severe enough to render the horse unusable for prolonged periods.
  • Pastern dermatopathy: Friesians are prone to have skin disease in the pastern area, especially the area of the feathers.

Click here to read our article on the lifespan of Friesian horses.

Where Do Friesian Horses Originate From?

When I first saw a Friesian I thought it may have been a French or Spanish horse. I wasn’t sure where they originated, so I decided to do some research to find out.

The Friesian horse originated in the northern part of the Netherlands, in the province of Friesland. There is evidence that horses have existed in this province for thousands of years.

The Friesian breed made its way across Europe and became a favorite mount of armored knights. The knights wore heavy armor and required a steed with the strength and endurance to carry them to battle.

The Friesian was made to order. And they provided the added benefit of being an impressive looking mount. During the 16th and 17th centuries, as demand decreased for heavy warhorses, the Friesian’s were bred to lighter horses such as the Spanish horse breed, Andalusian.

Although this cross produced a lighter battle horse, it still retained much of the characteristics of the Friesian, such as the black coat, prominent gait, and thick mane, and tail. From the Andalusian, the Friesian not only became lighter but also adapted other characteristics.

These traits include the high knee-action, small head, and craning neck, which is also indicative of an Arabian horse. Arabian blood is in the pedigree of the Andalusian breed. Over the last two centuries, the bloodline of the Friesian has been kept pure.

Friesians first came to America in the 17th century.

In the early 17th century the Dutch came to America and settled in the area now known are New York. During the period of Dutch occupation, it was named New Amsterdam, and Friesian horses were imported from the Netherlands.

These Friesians are believed to be the ancestors of the American Morgan horse breed. The Friesian influence in the Morgan pedigree has not been proven, but the conformation, gait, and general disposition of the breeds are strikingly similar.

Friesian Stallions must meet specific criteria.

Soon after birth, Friesians are graded, then they are graded again at 2.5 and three years old. After their foal inspection, they will be classified and entered into a foal book. Foals can earn a grade of 1st,2nd, 3rd, or no premie.

When a Friesian returns for its second inspection, they are judged on the quality of conformation, movement, type, and sports success if they are in competition.

Friesian horses are divided into the quality of breed groupings called predicates. Predicates are based not only on his quality but also on the quality of his offspring.

Friesian Predicates:

Crown/Kroon Predicate

To qualify for crown predicate the horse must be three years old and have tested out at 77 points at an IBOP or ABFP event. They are also examined at a walk and trot and must average 7 points. The minimum height is 15.2 hands.

Ster Predicate

The horse must be a minimum height of 15.1 hands and are examined at walk and trot while being led by the hand. Studs are examined at 2.5 years old, and mares and gelding are eligible at three years old.

Sport Predicate

Horses must meet predicate for dressage, obtaining five scores of 60% or higher at the 3rd level or above.  Horses in driving must earn 10 points from at least three different FEI Test #9. 

Model Predicate

This classification is reserved for the highest quality Friesian mares. The mares must have produced an offspring and be a minimum of 7 years old. They will be judged on sports aptitude and breed conformation characteristics. Few mares are awarded this high status.

Preferent for Stallions

To be awarded preferent stallion status the quality of the studs offspring will be judged and tested for breeding-goal attributes. Stallions that have produced superior offspring are awarded preferent status.

Is a Friesian a Warmblood Horse?

Warmblood horses are a classification of horses. The warmbloods are a mixture of cold-blood and hot blood genes in their pedigree. They originated in Europe and are a mid-sized horse.

Friesian falls into the warmblood category. The original Friesian was bred with the Spanish Andalusian breed, which included Arabian genes. The Arabian is considered a hot-blooded horse.

Warmbloods commonly have a calmer temperament than the hot-bloods but aren’t as listful as the cold-blood. Warmbloods are the in-between horses in size and temperament. They have become popular breeds in many equine sports.

Friesians are expensive to buy.

On average, you can expect to spend about $30,000.00 to purchase a Friesian horse. The price of a Friesian depends on the age and the amount of training. Horses ready for competition may cost much more. You can check this website for a list of current Friesians that are offered for sale. https://www.equine.com/horses-for-sale?b=Friesian

What is a Friesian Keuring?

A Friesian Keuring is a judge of the Friesian breed. The actual word “keuring” means inspection in the dutch language. These judges are exclusively Dutch and determine which Friesians qualify for entry into the only certified pure-bred database for Friesians in the world. The database is called the Royal Friesian Studbook or KFPS.

Are Friesian Horses Fast?

Friesian horses are not fast. A fast horse can run up to 55 miles per hour. Friesians are not known as slow horses, but compared to other warmblood horses, they are not fast. Click here to read about the fastest horse breeds in the world.

Friesians are a mid-sized warmblood horse. They are thick boned and robust horses. They have been used as war-horses, riding horses, and trotters to pull carriages. But they aren’t used for racing.

Are Friesians Horses Good Jumpers?

Friesians are not good jumpers. Friesians can be used for recreational jumping and are easily trained to jump; however, their heavy build prevents them from competing at higher-level jump competitions.

Conclusion

I wouldn’t buy a Friesian unless I had a person experienced with this breed working for me. Their genetic predispositions for medical disorders are a big problem, plus I live in a warm-weather climate, not a good place for Friesians.

FAQ

What are Friesians used for?

Friesian horses are used in various equine activities, including dressage, trail riding, and pulling carriages. If you’re interested in learning more about how Friesian horses are used, you may find this article interesting: What Are Friesian Horses Used For? 5 Uses That May Surprise!

How long do Friesian horse live?

Pureblooded Friesian horses typically live only 16 years. Most other horse breeds’ lifespan is between 25 to 30 years old. You can find out why they have short lifespans here: The Friesian Horse Breed: Lifespan and other Quick Facts

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