The Frisian Horse – Illustrated Horse
If you like the baroque and the majestic, the romantic and the noble, then one breed of horses should really please you: the Frisian. Once a mount of medieval knights, this beautiful black horse seems to come out of a fairy tale.
The history of Frisian goes back to a primitive horse called Equus robustus, which some experts say was present in Europe during the Ice Age. The Dutch domesticated the descendants of these great horses, using them for horseback riding and agricultural work.
Some time before the 17th century, Arab blood was introduced to native horses in Friesland, a province in the north of the Netherlands. This âlight horseâ blood, combined with the genes of the Andalusian Spanish horses also brought to the region, created a unique horse with high knee action. The result was a flashy mount heavy enough to carry armored warriors into battle.
It wasn’t long before word of this Frisian horse spread throughout Europe. Riders began to import Frisian stallions from the Netherlands to their countries for use in local breeding programs.
During this time, in the 1600s, a group of Dutch settlers came to North America with their Frisian horses. The settlers called their colony New Amsterdam and lived there for 50 years before the British took over the area and renamed it New York. The English settlers began to cross their British horses with the Dutch Frisians who were already there. Some experts believe that the Morgan and the Canadian Horse are two New World breeds resulting from these crosses, claiming that these breeds owe their existence to the Frisian.
The purebred Frisian did not re-exist in America until hundreds of years later. In the 1970s, Americans who discovered the breed while visiting Europe began importing individual horses to the United States.
In 1983, the Friesian Horse Association of North America (FHANA) was formed as the only recognized North American representative of the Friesch Paarden-Stamboek (FPS), the original herdbook of Frisian horses in the Netherlands. The Koninklijke Vereniging “Het Friesch Paarden-Stamboek” (KFPS) has been registering Frisian horses since 1879.
Today, 14,000 Frisians are currently registered in the United States. American breeders follow the same criteria as their Dutch counterparts in order to keep the Frisian breed pure.
The quality of American Frisian foals and adults is determined by an FPS judge from the Netherlands at annual regional events called keurings, which means ‘inspections’ in Dutch. At each keuring, horses are judged on their movement and conformation. Horses which pass the keuring are allowed to enter the Royal Friesian Studbook.
The Friesians are flashy horses, and they stand out in whatever discipline they appear in. The Frisians in the United States are currently featured in Western Pleasure, Driving, Dressage, Riding Dressage, Saddle and English Pleasure.
In recent years, the Frisians have proven to be particularly competitive in dressage, with a number of horses having achieved success at FEI levels. The breed made its dressage world championship debut at the 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France, when the stallion Adelprag Anders 451 represented the country of South Africa.
As amazing as the Frisians are to look at, they are most exceptional when it comes to temperament. Both gentle and strong-willed, the Frisians not only make excellent show horses, they also make wonderful equine companions. While this impressive looking horse may seem whimsical on ordinary treks, many Frisian owners find their horses perfect companion for a day’s trek.
This horse breed profile on the Frisian horse appeared in the August 2020 issue of Illustrated horse magazine. Click here to subscribe !
Fast facts on the Frisian horse
Height: 15.2 to 16 hands on average, although they can be taller or shorter.
Overall appearance: Relatively short head with small alert ears, large eyes and wide nostrils. Slightly curved high collar at the crest. Well-developed withers and slightly sloping croup. Long and heavy mane and tail.