Why Buy a Friesian Horse

With its jet black colouring, luxurious mane and tail, and proud bearing the Friesian Horse is instantly recognisable as a creature of great beauty. Although indigenous to Friesland, a province to the North West of the Netherlands, the Friesian Horse is enjoying a huge surge in popularity in the UK. Friesians are exceptional sports horses, be that in top level carriage driving or advanced dressage, however where they really excel is as family pleasure horses.

The Friesian Horse has remained virtually unchanged over the centuries. It originates from Friesland in the north of the Netherlands and is perhaps one of Europes oldest breeds. Friesian Horses were the favoured mount of Knights in Armour in the middle ages, whilst the swan neck, more or-less dished face and high stepping trot is believed to come from crossings with Andalucian horses during the crusades and 80 year war when the Netherlands was occupied by the Spanish.

In the 17th Century, the baroque Friesian was to be found in the Royal Courts of Europe, adept at the high school riding of the time. However, during the course of the 18th and 19th Centuries the Friesian became more limited to Friesland where it had become the horse of the wealthier farmers to drive their Sjees to church on a Sunday. In addition, the Friesian was also used in ridden and driven trotting races.

Notably, the Friesian Horse has been kept free from the influence of the English Thoroughbred and during the last two centuries has been bred pure. However, despite the formation of the Friesch Paarden Stamboek in 1879, cross-breeding of the Friesian Horse became popular, as a result of its trotting prowess and because of the need for heavier agricultural horses. As a result the Friesian Horse, with the blood of a nobleman and a talent for dancing almost became extinct and by 1913 only 3 studbook stallions were left in Friesland. To survive, the Friesian breeders had to adapt, and a shorter, more powerful horse was bred at the expense of a luxurious appearance only for the increasing mechanisation in the 1960s to cause a worse crisis with only 500 mares remaining in the studbook registers.

However, an improving economy, a group of committed Friesian enthusiasts and a strict breeding and selection policy based on conformation, movement and sport ability indexes has lead to the rediscovery of the Friesian as a leisure and sports horse.

Indeed, breeding stallion selection is now strictly controlled. There are no stallions approved for breeding in the UK & Eire and owners of KFPS-registered Friesian mares are encouraged to use AI semen from approved studbook stallions from the Netherlands. The KFPS is a closed studbook and cross-breeding is not allowed.

Today’s Friesian horse should be harmoniously built and well proportioned, with a strong back joining a croup of good length which should not slope to much. A strong sloping shoulder of good length, a good depth of body with well sprung ribs, strong legs and feet with a well developed fore arm are desirable characteristics of the breed, with a height at the withers of 160 cm at three years old being considered ideal.

The quality of movement is of particular importance, the gaits being fluid, square, elegant and elevated. The walk should be active but especially elegant and smooth, whilst the famous Friesian trot is characterised by a high knee action, together with power and strength from the hindquarters. The canter should be balanced uphill and reaching. The colour is various shades of black, although jet black is preferred and the only white markings allowed are a small star or few white hairs on the forehead. Perhaps most important, apart from their sheer presence, is the character of the Friesian horse; lively, intelligent and cheerful. They are willing, honest and faithful and noted for forming a deep bond with “their special person.

Today, the worldwide mother studbook; Royal Freisch Paarden Stamboek (KFPS) has some 40 000 registered horses, with 7,000 members in the Netherlands and 5,000 members in associated Friesian societies in over 30 foreign countries of which the Friesian Horse Association of Great Britain and Ireland Ltd. (FHAGBI) is the sole representative body in the UK and Eire.

It is important when considering the purchase of a Friesian horse to ensure that the horse is registered with the KFPS and fully vetted. Friendly, impartial advice on the buying, registration, breeding and keeping of Friesian horses can be sought from the FHAGBI website, newsletter or helpline. On joining FHAGBI members automatically gain membership of the KFPS.

FHAGBI is also responsible for organising the annual Inspections of KFPS registered Friesian Horses in the UK and Eire, where premium grading of foals and premium grading of adults for entry into the studbook and possibly the prestigious Ster designation by studbook inspectors from the Netherlands takes place.

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.