A horse has been a faithful human companion for many hundreds or even thousands of years. Many horse breeds appeared during this time. And each of them deserves the closest attention. Let’s talk about the Friesian in this article.
History of Origin
This breed is considered one of the oldest European breeds. It is named after the northern Dutch province of Friesland. But it should be understood that the modern Friesians have gone far away from their ancestors. Now they already include elements of Eastern and Andalusian origin. Such “additions” made the animals faster and more versatile.
The earliest known mentions of this breed date back to the era of Julius Caesar. They were originally sturdy animals, capable of performing a wide variety of work. However, they were hardly particularly beautiful. The grace of the breed increased gradually through hybridization. By the late Middle Ages, the Friesians were no longer perceived as workhorses but full-fledged horses for knights.
It is not known who and when discovered that this breed was excellent under a saddle. But the indisputable fact is that it was used very actively in any Crusader army. The stage of its development close to modern began in the 16th century. Then the Netherlands were occupied by Spanish invaders and fought fiercely against them. And at the same time (which, of course, anyone hardly realized at that time), the Friesian turned out to be hybridized with:
- the Barbs;
- the Andalusians;
- Spanish racehorses.
At the beginning of the 21st century, the total breed number is approaching 60.000. 50% of this population is in Holland. White horses are considered a fault for breeding purposes but they are just as good as the black standard for practical use. The animals are valued for their expressive coat color. They have been favorites in carriage rides and park walks for several decades.
Speaking of what the Friesian looks like, it is worth beginning by pointing out the animal’s large size. Each of its features is quite massive. The large size does not prevent the Friesian from being a majestic and even elegant horse. The average height of the Friesian reaches 1.5 m; taller horses are quite common.
Despite their very long legs, these horses are distinguished by their harnessed body build. They are even nicknamed “black pearls” for their outward grace. True Friesians cannot have white areas, they have a strictly black color. Only sometimes there are small “blazes” on the head. The proportions of the Friesian’s torso are excellent.
The large elongated head has a straight profile. The ears are very large and the dark eyes look expressive. The strong well-developed neck curves gracefully. The Friesian horses have very powerful withers and a moderately broad chest. The body is slightly elongated.
The constitution of the animal is closer to that of a draft horse. This is largely offset by the overall grace. The coat is not too long, but a long dense mane is formed. The tail is the same. Peculiar feathers are found on the feet of the Friesian which descend smoothly to the hooves.
Many people, seeing the Friesian for the first time, cannot even find the right words to express their impressions. Many horse breeders put this breed in the first place.
Experienced riders, as well as horse owners, pay attention to the spirited temperament of the Friesians. But at the same time, they are not as hot as other breeds. These horses obey the riders without any problems and are composed. The Friesians are also good-natured. Their character does not deteriorate even after moving or when the climate changes.
It should be understood that external softness and friendliness can suddenly disappear. The hidden temperament under these features often breaks through in an unpredictable way. This combination is very attractive for many people. For this reason, the Friesians are valued by those who are professionally engaged in dressage, and just connoisseurs of riding.
The horse is quite curious about everything new which must be taken into account by the owners. The animals have an excellent memory. Combined with the easy assimilation of new knowledge, this allows them to be trained without problems. The commands are executed by them very well. Some problems can arise only with very rough treatment mistakes.
It is from this point that the breed acquires expressive beauty. The first time the Friesians competed in a racing tournament was in 1823. And what is interesting, the tournament was organized just for them. But despite the organization of sports competitions, the heavy cavalry gradually disappeared just in this era. The Friesian horses got another niche – moving carriages.
They are used for ceremonial occasions in the British and Dutch royal courts to this day. No wonder – even people far from perfect aesthetic taste will be delighted. The Friesians were quickly appreciated by moviemakers. It was a representative of this breed that “played” Bucephalus in the movie “Alexander”. Despite the apparent violation of historical authenticity, he did it very well.
The Friesian horse is widely used in sports competitions. He moves just perfectly. Often the Friesian uses gaits with a high leg raise. However, it is worth bearing in mind that this way of movement consumes a lot of energy. The animals will get tired quickly.
That is why the Friesians are used only for relatively short races. In this case, they show both impressive dynamics and maximum beauty when moving. According to the experts, the breed occupies a middle position between the Spanish horses and calm dressage breeds. It is mainly used in harness competitions. But circus directors and organizers of various public shows quite often pay attention to it.
The Friesian horses are actively used in movies about medieval battles. It has long been known that no other horses can convey the atmosphere of that era so well. But private owners of stables purchase such animals willingly. They are also appreciated by the organizers of rentals.
It is customary to be proud in Holland of the fact that that people are the ones who bred the Friesians. Both the authorities and public organizations do everything to popularize the breed. The work on its improvement continues even today. The most experienced geneticists are involved in it. The breeding is also carried out in a number of other countries.
The Friesians are most often harnessed to carriages with high wheels. In this case, they will look as good as possible. The breed is characterized by classical saddle dressage. This means excellent coordination of movements and general composure. The widespread use of horses in the moviemaking process is due not only to their external beauty but also their predictable behavior.
The Friesian breed is well both in harnesses and in carts moving heavy loads. But as such horses have a weight of 600-700 kg, their use in jumping tricks is impossible. The animals’ stamina is due to the fact that they keep the good physical shape on a limited diet. Their movements always have a slower pace which makes the breed unsuitable for racing.
Feeding and Care
To begin with, you have to choose your horse carefully. It is worth realizing that treatment with the Friesians is not as easy as it seems. They will definitely need a lot of activity.
Therefore, if there is not enough free time, it is better to refuse to purchase such animals. Moreover, they become attached to their owners and suffer much in case of lack of communication with them. But if the Friesian is chosen, it is impossible to find any faithful horse. You will manage to achieve a lot of joy and fun. But only if the work is done correctly.
It is recommended to keep the Friesian in personal stalls. It is not allowed to keep it in a herd. The stable must be set up in strict accordance with the requirements of comfort. Good stalks should have a large area and perfect heating.
Each stall is set up as a miniature stable. In winter the temperature should not fall below 16 degrees. But even in summer, you must try to keep it no higher than 20 degrees.
The ratio should also be delicate. Of course, grass and hay are included. However, you should also add:
- whole oat grains;
- ground barley;
- corn and wheat grains.
Raw carrots are recommended from the vegetables. Beets and potatoes can be given regardless of the thermal processing. The Friesians also need mineral components including salt.
The horses can start breeding from 18 months of age. But it is better to wait until the age of 3-5 years old. The Friesian foal is able to run as early as the first day after birth. After a few days, hay, field grass, and concentrates can already be used as supplements to his diet.
The breeding of the Friesians is very difficult. Only 15% of mating attempts are successful. The biologists have not yet established why this is that way. That is why forced (artificial) methods are used for greater efficiency.