One of the most beautiful and magnificent horse breeds I have met is the Friesian Horse. It has that captivating aura for everyone who sees this type of horse and they are undeniably mesmerizing that most wanted to have a horse buddy like the Friesian horse.
The Friesian or also known as Frisian horse is one of a kind and truly a horse buddy you can be proud of. They were inherent to all of Western Europe, and the only horse native to Friesland, in the Netherlands informally called Holland.
When we look back in history, the Friesian horse has often been near extinction. We may not have the opportunity of seeing them today, if not for the great minds of our fellow horse lovers, our forefathers in horsemanship who saved these lovely horses from being extinct.
Thus, most Friesian horses were greatly influenced by eastern bloodlines, and now possess many wonderful characteristics that made them even more unique and special.
The Walks of the Friesian Horse
Many horses are known to have existed in early ages. This includes the Friesians who have helped shape our civilization. They were known to be war horses for their bravery in early history and often carry an armored knight in battle.
Having been cross-bred with other horse types such as the Andalusians, The Friesian horse became lighter and more suitable for work as urban carriage horses. They have been so popular back then as harness horses and for agricultural purposes. The Friesians were also in-demand for trotting races that were very popular in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The pure breed of Friesians had faced a very critical condition, and history shows how Friesian horse owners and associations made ways to revive them.
Although most of Friesian horses nowadays are already infused with other bloodlines, the indigenous characteristics of these horses are still eminent.
Today, Friesian horses are remarkably applauded in the show ring. With their physique and conformation often resembles that of a light draught horse, adding up their shiny black coat, and a beautiful feathery mane and tail, the Friesian is, indeed, natural beauty and a talented show horse.
Meeting the Friesian Horse
Being unique and rarely seen in other parts of the world, if you are into meeting a Friesian horse in person, these are the events in which the Friesian horses can typically be present.
Friesians on Harness Shows
Harness shows aim to bring out the best ability of a horse. Friesian horses are notably known to have been trained as carriage horses, so, they are commonly used for ceremonies involving the use of chariots, carts, wagons and the like for parades and a traditional carriage is seen in some events designed for Friesian horses called the sjees.
Friesians on Recreational and Competition Driving
Friesian horses are, by nature, a type of horse breed that is very smart. And with their overall appearance and skills, they become one of the most favorites for recreational and pleasure driving. You can often spot Friesian horses in dressage competitions and events too. All of this can be attributed to their intelligence, willingness to learn, and readiness to perform that they also become one of the top choices for movie productions.
Friesians on Tilting at the Ring
Being a native breed of horses in the Netherland, the Friesian horses are often used in this traditional sport enthusiastically practiced in Netherland (informal, Holland). In this event, you would see Friesian horses pull assortments of carriages.
Friesians on Quadrille
The Friesian quadrille is a show number that is very much appreciated by horse show audience. This is a show where you would see 8 sjees, drawn by Friesian horses, driven by gentlemen with him a lady, both dressed in traditional costumes like those worn in the early centuries. A variety of complex patterns are driven, showing the drivers’ trust in the obedience of their horses.
Characteristics of a Friesian Horse
If you see a black horse, then that, without doubt, is a Friesian horse. They possess an attractive appearance with that black color coat all over their body including a black feathery and bouncy mane and tail. Friesians on rare occasions have white markings, and registries allow only a small “start” on the forehead to be accepted for purebred registration.
This we can all agree, the Friesian horse is looking majestic with its conformation with long, arched and strongly defined facial features with short ears and “Spanish-type” heads. They also possess a powerful, compact, and muscular body with strong sloping shoulders, hindquarters, and low-set tails. Also, they have shorter limbs but are very strong in that manner.
Being an all-purpose horse, the Friesian horse is an intelligent and witty horse, is also very well considered as energetic, willing and active, but also gentle and docile. The Friesians tend to have a strong stage presence and perform with elegance.
Diseases common to Friesian Horses
Like all living creatures, the Friesian horse may have remarkable strengths, but they also possess a weakness in their genetic make-ups. The Friesian horse is known to be affected by four genetic disorders; dwarfism, hydrocephalus, a tendency for aortic rupture and megaesophagus.
- Dwarfism with Friesian Horse
On average, a Friesian horse stands approximately 147 cm to 173 cm at the withers. Comparatively shorter than other horse breeds or that desired for a stallion.
- Hydrocephalus in Friesian Horse
This condition is an inherited developmental disorder. It is often the result of stillbirths of affected foals and obstructed labor or dystocia in dams, which can be fatal for the dam during birth. This condition is characterized by the accumulation or distention of fluid on the ventricular system of the brain, where the head becomes bulgy or bigger than usual.
- Aortic Rupture in Friesian Horse
In most horses, the aortic rupture occurs at the aortic root (Sinus of Valsalva) resulting in the aortic cardiac fistula or simply what we call a “heart attack” in humans. In the case of Friesian horses, this rare condition occurs in a different location, it predominates in the ligament arteriosum, the connecting place of the pulmonary trunk and the wall of the aorta.
- Megaesophagus in Friesian Horse
This condition may occur in humans, dogs, and other horses but are very common to Friesian Horses and most diagnosis and study of this condition links it to heredity and some muscular disorder.
Megaesophagus is characterized by the presence of the following signs and symptoms;
- Difficulty swallowing
- Weight loss
- Lack of appetite
- Trouble drinking water
- External visualization of cervical esophagus enlargement.
- Other Symptoms of an underlying disease may also be present.
Friesian Diet and Nutrition
Due to their geographic nativity, the Friesian horses are not fed with alfalfa hay as there is none of this in Holland. Alfalfa also contains a too high percentage (about 22% max) of protein for them. Some Friesians, as it is not natural for them, when fed with hay may cause allergic reactions, so, be cautious in feeding hay imports that have never been fed to your Friesian horse. It is suggested that good quality grass hay following the general horse feeding rule of thumb for an average horse in minimal work is to be followed. Boost up your Friesian horse’s energy by feeding small amounts of mixed grains. Also, don’t forget to include trace minerals or salt blocks with plenty of water with their diet. As their big body structure may be deceptive, just bear in mind to always keep an eye with their weight and do not underfeed them.
Grooming a Friesian Horse
The Friesian horse is very well-known to be attractive-looking because of its very thick mane and tail, and those “feathers” on their low legs. Maintenance of these may include these techniques.
- For the Mane: Friesian’s mane is usually long, and left as is. Cutting along the bottom may result in unevenness. The best way to maintain this is to pull out the longest hairs and cut evenly until you get the desired length.
- For the Tail: It is best recommended to cut only at the lowest point leaving its thick nature at the very bottom.
- For the “feathers” on the lower leg: The most common maintenance you will perform here is to trim down feathers that drag on the ground. Doing this will keep their feathers looking neat and will also show off their legs.
As records show that Friesians may be prone to skin diseases twice as much as other horse breeds, it is very important to choose the grooming kits particularly the soap or horse shampoo to use with these horse breeds, If you are not sure, please refer or consult your equine veterinarians.
Friesian Horse Training
The Friesian horse is an intelligent and very kind animal. They are quick to learn and excel in all disciplines you train them for.
The most common mistake done for trainers unfamiliar with the Friesian horse is advancing training too quickly, not because Friesians are willing that you can start training them just like that. It is a must that you take into consideration their growth and development stage. Consulting a veterinarian is the best for you to know if their body is fully developed and is ready for training. Always do things one step at a time with your Friesian horse or the consequence will backfire on you at a later date.
Friesians also have the tendency to bolt as their response to an unknown fear, this is often the result of skipping training steps or your Friesian horse has been pushed beyond its comfort zone. Keep in mind that Friesians are special, and not that they are lazy, just that they seem to be a little late in maturity. This means that when you buy a 4-year old Friesian, it is just equivalent to buying a 2-year old horse from other breeds. Patience and waiting for the right age for them to grow and take on these training is vital for your horsemanship success. Nevertheless, Friesians may be trained at age 8, a little too late for you, but the Friesian is intelligent and learns quickly. So there is no need to rush.
Tips in Buying a Friesian Horse
So, you cannot contain your excitement and you wanted to own a Friesian horse, here is my tip for you that you may consider giving your money great value.
- Don’t rush on your purchase. There are a lot of Friesian Horses for sale, keep on searching and try to compare and evaluate every aspect you need to consider. Is the price reasonable for the horse and all the qualities offered?
- Check on the level stated. You can ask a professional trainer or an independent rider to evaluate the claims of the seller. You can ask them to ride the horse in person or let them watch a video of the horse perform.
- Check on skin conditions and bone structures as European horses are not kept-up to worming and vitamins specially if the horse has a history of pre-purchase, it’s best to get a second opinion. Also if the horse is a mare, request for culture and reproductive check.
- Make sure the horse you are buying can at least perform the basic walk, trot, and gallop. You can ask the seller to have it ridden by a rider to perform this before you do for your own safety. If there is hesitation about this request, then this is a RED FLAG to consider. You don’t want to take the risk if the seller-owner won’t do it.
- Check the contract. Always make sure that everything you agreed on talking is stated in the contract. That includes other fees incurred for deliveries, vaccinations, documentation and etc. you need to be specific on these matters to avoid confusion. Never make payments or deposits without first reading the agreement.
- Ask for insurance when you are decided to buy the horse, at least get the horse insured when traveled and within 24 hours upon arrival. Take note that most horses take at least 3 months to adapt to a new environment, especially for imported ones.