The Friesian horse – powerful beauty
The Friesian horse is the only horse breed native to the Netherlands, where the Friesian has been known since as far back as the 13th century. A consistent breeding policy has produced the Friesian horse we are familiar with today, exhibiting the unique characteristics of the breed and continuing to bear close resemblance to its ancestors.
Typical of these Black Pearls are the front, the majestic mane and feathering of the lower legs, the jet black colour and the spacious, powerful elevated gaits. The harmonious build and the noble head, set on a lightly arched neck, complete the aristocratic and fiery appearance. Its amicable character is the key to a great utility breed.
There is a close relationship between an animal’s intended use and its exterior. The horses that were bred for use in agriculture were more short-legged and compact than their ancestors, with forelegs a bit behind the vertical and a broad chest. With this broad chest, the horse was better able to throw itself ‘into the harness’ and in so doing so it could develop more pulling power.
Nowadays, these exterior characteristics are less functional these days in the riding arena or in harness or driving horses. Nonetheless, the heavier and short-legged type is still much in evidence, partly because this type has been bred for so many years and it takes generations before it can phased out from the breed.
For work under the saddle and driving sports a functional build is key. The horse’s body must have an ‘uphill’ frame. With this ‘uphill’ build, the distribution of weight is brought more onto the hindquarters in motion, enabling the horse to ‘carry’ more with its hindquarters. For an uphill build, a relatively long foreleg is important, as well as the stance of the foreleg.
The stance of the foreleg is linked to the shoulder, whereby an sloping and long shoulder provide the horse with enough space to extend its foreleg far out to the front.
The harness horse often has a more vertical neckline than the riding and driving horse.
KFPS approved stallion Wolfert 467
KFPS Permitted Stallion Jurre fan 'e Gaestdyk of Van Gelder Friesians with rider Ty Zoontjens
For animals of all purposes, the horse must move fluidly through its entire body, with powerful hindquarters that transmit movement forwards, enabling the horse to ‘grow’ in front, a desired trait for both riding under the saddle and for driving in front of the carriage. For harness horses a lot of knee action is desirable (but not this alone, as it must be combined with spaciousness of gaits and carrying' hindquarters), while for riding horses and also driving horses, extravagant knee action is not always appreciated. For all purposes, a correct leg stance is a must.
The Friesian horse has increasingly developed itself as a sports horse over the past decades and in doing so has in fact returned to its origins from the agricultural interlude. The Friesian’s origin is of a luxuriant and aristocratic carriage horse. Today, thanks to its typical functional characteristics, the Friesian horse now competes with other breeds at the highest levels of equestrian sports.
The Friesian Horse is always black with a long flowing mane and tail, often to the ground. He carries his noble head on a crested neck. His action is flamboyant and eye-catching. He can be driven, ridden, jumped, likes working on the land or performing in the circus. He is one of the most versatile breeds of the world.
Contrary to wide belief, there are not two types of Friesians in the studbook. The breed standards are consistent and uniform for any horse that is of a proven Friesian mating.
The Friesian is a harmoniously and evenly built horse with a noble head and bright intelligent eyes, small attentive ears, slightly inclining towards each other. A neck that is not to short, slightly bent, a strong back, ending in a croup that is not too short and should not be too slanted. A powerful shoulder that should be long enough and slanting. With long enough ribs that are well-arched, strong legs and feet, a well-developed upper arm and a good position.