The Friesian Horse is among Europe’s oldest horse breeds. They have existed in Europe for over 1,000 years and may have even been in existence since 1000 B.C. They were noted by the Roman historian Tacitus, being described as powerful and versatile.
Friesian horses are incredible examples of the species. They are tall and big-boned. They are almost always black, ranging from a deep blue-black to an almost bay-black when they are shedding. They have thick manes and tails and perform well at whatever task they are given.
These horses suit almost any equestrian. In this article, we describe the Friesian horse, their history, their care, and more.
Quick Facts about the Friesian Horse
|Species Name:||Equus caballus|
|Temperament:||Eager, friendly, calm|
|Size:||14.2 to 17 hands; 1,450 lbs.|
|Diet:||Hay, plant matter, supplements|
|Minimum Enclosure Size:||At least 1 acre of pasture; 24’x24’ stall|
|Shelter Set-Up:||Large stall|
Friesian Horse Overview
Although the Friesian horse is thought to be an ancient breed, they are heavily attributed to the Netherlands.
These horses were rebred in the Netherlands on the small island of Friesland. They had virtually disappeared from the mainland of Europe and were brought back from strains of the horse left on the island. The belief is that they descend from the Forest Horse or Tarpan, a primitive breed that is now extinct.
The breed became warhorses in the Crusades, fighting with the German and Friesian knights. When the animals came into contact and crossbred with the Eastern Arabian-like horses, they were lightened in stature.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Friesian horse was improved by Barb and Andalusian lines when Spain conquered the Netherlands. They have had a hoof in the bloodlines of several other well-known breeds of today, including the Oldenburg horse, the Dales, Fell ponies, and the Shire horse.
Although quite large, Friesian horses have such adaptable temperaments and trainability that they are well-suited to many purposes. They were used for war and agriculture in the beginning. Now, they make excellent dressage and riding horses.
How Much Do Friesian Horses Cost?
Friesian horses are not only an incredibly versatile breed, but they are also quite popular. As with any other horse, a Friesian’s cost varies depending on their training, age, and pedigree.
A purebred Friesian with a pedigree will cost around $7,000, depending on the three above factors. A full-grown stallion with qualifying offspring can sell for upward of $600,000.
Typical Behavior & Temperament
Friesian horses are intelligent and can be rather wily if they are not working with an individual who has previous experience with horses. Still, they are quite gentle and seem to have a solid understanding of their large size and hefty weight.
These horses are versatile. They can be trained across many skillsets. That adaptability, along with their willingness and eagerness to please, makes them easy to work with for the experienced.
Overall, the breed has a reputation for being cheerful, loyal, elegant, strong, proud, and calm. Friesians are quite people-oriented.
Appearance & Varieties
Friesian horses are straightforward when it comes to their coloration and variety. The most common color of the horse is black. That black can range from bay-black when shedding in the spring to a deep brown and true black. They should not have any white markings, except for a small star on their forehead.
Rarely, a Friesian horse will have a chestnut color. Breed standards do not often recognize these.
Friesian horses have thick, fairytale-like manes and tails. They can be long, flowing, and wavy. They also tend to have “feathers” on their lower legs, although often not as thick as draft horses like Clydesdales. The natural feathering is light enough to be left untrimmed.
The horse’s body is compact and muscular. They are also known for their magnificent posture. Their heads are elongated with alert ears and a deep nasal cavity. They have a refined elegance that is only brought out by their sturdy legs and brilliant eyes.
How to Take Care of a Friesian Horse
Caring for a Friesian horse is similar to caring for many other breeds. They need plenty of space to move around in, and their thick manes and tails need a great deal of attention to stay healthy. Since this breed is so intelligent, they require daily exercise or training routines to keep them mentally and physically stimulated.
Enclosure, Shelter & Setup
The Friesian’s enclosure setup should include a paddock or pasture for them to run around and play in. They should have a shelter within that paddock or pasture area in case of sudden onset inclement weather.
The best minimum size for a paddock is 30 feet wide by 100 feet long. That is enough room for most horses to run around in and get exercise beyond what you have time to do in a day. If you put them out to pasture, remember the rule of thumb that 1 acre is the minimum required for one horse.
In addition to paddock space, most horses will be taken into a barn or stable at night to keep them protected. A horse’s stall doesn’t have to be excessively large, but it does need to allow them to shift, turn around, eat, and sleep. A minimum size of 12 feet by 12 feet should be considered, especially for a larger breed like a Friesian.
Along with the paddock area, they should have a shelter that is about 24 feet by 24 feet, or 576 square feet in a rectangular shape. They need enough room to move around if they are caught by poor weather for a while.
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Grooming is another essential factor in a Friesian’s care. Keeping any horse well-groomed will help them to look and feel their best. Establishing an equine grooming routine is the best way to keep these horses in good shape.
The Friesian’s tail tends to be long. To keep it healthy, cut it evenly at the lowest point, about fetlock height, to stop it from dragging on the ground. Doing so allows the horse to produce enough hair to maintain the tail’s thickness from top to bottom.
The Friesian’s mane is also thick and usually left long and flowing. Instead of cutting the hair along the bottom, pull the mane until you reach the desired length.
The last critical part of their grooming other than the typical body brushing is the maintenance of their feathering. The feathers on their lower legs should be neat and tidy. Clip the hair behind their knees and in front of the cannon bone. Trim any of the feathers that drag along the ground to keep their legs healthy.
Riding and Training
A Friesian horse needs to be ridden every day, but even every other day is better than consistently leaving them in their paddock. They are such valuable and talented horses that many consider it a waste not to train them in dressage or another equine sport.
Do Friesian Horses Get Along With Other Pets?
Friesian horses are not easily startled or aggressive toward other horses or animal breeds. They are quite friendly and people-oriented. Friesians typically don’t mind other pets and will quickly adapt to having other animals around them. Friesians like being kept in a herd of other horses and tend to make new friends rapidly.
What to Feed Your Friesian Horse
Friesians should receive high-quality grass hay each day. The feeding rule for an average horse doing minimal work is 18 pounds of hay per day per 1,000 pounds of body weight. You can supplement this with small amounts of a simple grain mixture.
You might need to supplement your horse’s diet if they do not get out to pasture often. Check with your vet if they suffer from a deficiency in any of their more essential nutrients.
Keeping Your Friesian Horse Healthy
Friesian horses are said to be more sprinters than marathon runners. They do not do well at endurance events due to the fatigue limits set by their anaerobic threshold. It is better to give them short spurts of activity rather than go on long, intensive rides.
The ancient bloodlines in Friesians make them relatively healthy horses. They are prone to a few genetic issues, however. Most of these are related to their inbreeding over the centuries or their anatomical structure.
Health problems to watch out for include:
- Retained placenta
- Chronic dermatitis
- Aortopulmonary fistula
- Aortic rupture
- Sensitivity to insects
It is best to be prepared for these concerns by budgeting for extra veterinary care.
Breeding Friesian horses is no different than breeding almost any other type of horse. The most important aspects are the parents, since their genetics will reflect in their future bloodline.
Once you have successfully orchestrated the breeding between a stallion and a mare, watch for pregnancy signs. The gestation period for a Friesian mare is about 332 days, almost a year. Throughout their pregnancy, you need to feed them differently at various stages and restructure their typical exercise and training routines.
Are Friesian Horses Suitable for You?
Friesian horses are best for those with more experience working with horses in the past. They are well-suited to equine trainers who will have the time and knowledge to train them as sport horses.
They are also a good choice for those who enjoy frequently riding because they need plenty of exercise that they can’t receive sitting in their paddock.
Summarily, these horses should find a home with owners who have the time to give them and the experience to enhance the relationship.
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