The Friesian horse is one of the most beautiful,
stately, and large stature horse breeds with flowing mane, extra-long wavy tail and jet-black
coat. In addition they have ‘feathering’ or long hair on their lower legs called fetlocks,
which are purposely left untrimmed. The breed standard is pure black with no markings. However,
there is the possibility of a small white star on their forehead.
They are compact and muscular with sloping shoulders, sloping hindquarters and a low
set tail. Their exquisite structure includes a long arched neck, outstanding crest, well
chiseled short ears, and a Spanish type head which is carried high.
They are known for their high stepping gait, versatility, and elegant build. Their power,
movement, and body control captivates audiences and makes them very popular for carriage and
dressage. The Friesian horse is immensely popular and
used in various branches of equestrian sport. Both as a riding horse and as a driving and
harness horse, the Friesian can deliver great performances.
Their character is marked by friendliness, intelligence, adaptability and an enormous
willingness to work. They have become very popular in the film and entertainment industry.
Friesians do need a great deal of grooming however to keep them looking at their best.
Friesians originate from Friesland, an island off the coast of the Netherlands, where there
is evidence of thousands years of breeding. In fact, there is evidence that the Friesian
horse may have existed as far back as 1000 B.C. It is said that the ancestors of the Friesians
were used as medieval mounts, strong and heavy enough to carry a knight in armor, and in
the 12th century were bred to eastern horses during the crusades. Because of their strength
and agility Friesians were desirable war horses. Friesians nearly went extinct during the early
20th Century however, due to being bred as trotting horses rather than for strong agricultural
work. By 1913, only 3 Friesian stallions still existed in Friesland, but the breed was saved
by WWII, when fuel shortages encouraged farmers to return to strong horse power. A new breeding
program was started using imported Oldenburger stallions and the breed was revived.
In England they are also traditionally used in funerals that require horse-drawn hearses.
In London, a team of Friesians is still used to pull the Harrods department store carriage
for promotional excursions and deliveries. Today, there are two distinct types: the ‘baroque’
type, which is heavier and more like the original Friesian carriage horse, and the ‘modern-style’
type, which is lighter and finer boned. A professional team of Dutch dressage riders
debuted in Britain performing a unique quadrille with Friesian horses. The quadrille display
was an artistic ride to music using Friesian horses all trained to the highest level of
dressage. With a long history and modern breeding control,
Friesians remain one of the most beautiful, intelligent, gentle and popular horses.