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The History of the Friesian

As one of the world's oldest equine breeds, the Friesian is native to a northern province in The Netherlands called Friesland, where it is deemed a national treasure. With powerful muscles beneath its lustrous black lacquered coat, and a gentle disposition that endears the animal to those of the two legged kind, the Friesian has enchanted Europeans for centuries. Experts suspect that the Friesian's most influential ancestor was the prehistoric Equus Robustus, an enormous horse that once roamed Northern Europe.

The Friesian people, that lived in the area that is now included in the Northern part of the Netherlands and Germany, and the South of Denmark, were recruited by the Romans to do battle in their legions. Statues on graves of Friesian soldiers on horseback were found as far as Northern England. The monks where well known for their horse breeding in the middle ages, and reputedly crossed the draft type Equus robustus descendents with lighter horse breeds. The result was the Friesian, a horse with incredible strength and agility, coupled with a willing, kind, yet lively disposition. These skilful monks created not only one of Europe's first pure horse breeds but also one of the world's first warm-blooded horses.

The Friesian was a course looking horse, but strength, docility and endurance was proved when carrying the European Knights during the Crusades to the Middle East. The crusades would keep the knights there for long periods. Friesian became better looking, because breeding with the eastern horses improved the Friesian, as did the infusion of the Andalusian blood when the Spanish occupied The Netherlands during the Eighty Years' War.


What should a Friesian Look like? 

The Friesian should be a well balanced, correctly proportioned horse with noble head, clear intelligent eyes, with small, alert ears slightly pointing towards each other. Neck slightly arched  and of sufficient length, strong back joining a croup of good length which should not slope too greatly.

Strong sloping shoulder of good length with body of good depth and well-sprung ribs. Strong legs and feet with well developed forearm and proper stance (not standing too far under at rear or too far out at rear). Fluid, square, elegant and elevated gaits, emphasized by  feathering  on the lower leg which should cover the hoof but not be as abundant as seen on Draught breeds. Full, loose mane (never trimmed), full and long tail giving an overall appearance of a well put together horse of strength and luxury.Preferred height at three years of age (mare and stallion) of 1.60m (15.3HH) at the withers. 

They should be deep Black. Small white marking on the foreface is allowed though not desirable. No other white hairs are allowed. The Friesian should be a willing worker, relaxed and confident with a strong sense of self confidence without being overly dominant. The Friesian is noted for having an affectionate and accepting nature around people. A Strong, well brought under hind legs, not too heavy, luxuriant horse with elevated, sustained movements. Long, sloping shoulders. Hard, dry legs. Light-footed movements with a moment of suspension. Size neither too small or too large. Sufficiently long, muscled forearm and gaskin with cannon bone of front legs not too long. proper transition from loins to the croup with long, well developed gluteal muscles, good wide hooves and proper heels, good head-neck connection. An honest character, good willingness to work with stamina.   


Head and neck: Relatively short and of good width. Small, alert ears, with tips slightly   pointing towards each other. The eyes are large and bright. Preferably, the nasal bone is somewhat hollow or straight. Roman nose, not desirable. The nostrils are wide, the lips are closed and the teeth meet to form a level bite. Jaw bone not too heavy and well spread. The head should be especially dry (no excess fluid or fleshy areas) and expressive, joining smoothly with the neck. The neck is of good length allowing considerable sideways movement of the head. The head is set well on the neck with adequate space for the throat. Slightly arched and crested, the neck should be of proper length and adequately muscled. High set without bulging lower neckline.

The withers and back

Well-developed and in particular blending gradually into the back. The withers should not be too flat. (Friesians do not have a highly pronounced wither and efforts should be made to ensure the wither does not become too flat).  The back is not too long and is well muscled. A slightly low back is allowed.

The Loins and croup

 Wide, strong and well muscled blending smoothly into the croup. The croup is of good length, slightly sloping downwards, wide and muscled. Not overly rounded or pointed. The tail should not be set too low. In particular the gluteal muscle should be long and well developed.

The Shoulders:  The shoulders are of adequate length and sloping. The points of the shoulder are set wide enough so that together with the breast bone and well developed muscles they form a strong, free moving shoulder, allowing sufficient upward movement and reach. The chest is neither too wide nor too narrow.


The front legs are properly positioned. Viewed from the front they are perpendicular with a hoof's width at the ground. Viewed from the side they are perpendicular down through the fetlock joint; the pastern is at a 45 degree angle to the ground. The cannon bone of the foreleg should not be too long; the forearm however should have good length (a forearm that is too short will restrict elevation and extension as well as adversely effect the overall balance of the horse). The pastern is of good length and is resilient. The hooves are hard, wide and sound, not overly large but also not too small. Hooves are always black. Viewed from the rear the hind legs are straight. Viewed from the side they are properly positioned, strong with good strong hooves. The hind cannon is slightly longer than the front while the gaskin is of sufficient length and well muscled. The joints of the forelegs as well as of the hind legs are well developed, dry (not too fleshy or spongy), with ample strength. At the hock the angle should be approximately 150 degrees while at the hind legs the pastern is at an angle of approximately 55 degrees to the ground.  

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