This draft breed is rooted in Friesland, Northwestern Europe, which is now a part of the Netherlands. The original stock was descended from the order of Equus robustus (the big horse). In the 16th and 17th centuries, Andalusian lineage was introduced to the bloodline in the form of Spanish stallions which were abandoned on the battlefield during the war between the Spanish and the Dutch. This new blood endowed the Friesian line with higher knee action, smaller heads, and arching necks.
Description and Characteristics
Although the Friesian is considered one of the smaller draft horses it is also used as a superior riding horse and lens itself to being a great dressage, jumping or pleasure mount. There are breed specifications and in order for Friesians to be deemed purebred, and allowed to be used for breeding stock for a purebred line, they must be at least 14.3 hands (57.2 in., or 145.3 cm.) at the shoulder and must be solid black with no white markings on the legs or body. The typical height is 15.3 to 16.1 hands (155.4 to 163.6 cm., or 61.2 to 64.4 in.).
The Friesian is heavily boned, and the adult averages about 1300 pounds (92.3 stones). This breed appears to be short and stocky. The thick manes and tails, and abundant fetlock hair are traditionally allowed to remain full and natural. The Friesian has a good temperament and is sensible but lively.
The breed can be used for pulling, or for saddle riding. And while Friesians have the normal gaits – walk, trot, and canter – long tradition has emphasized the “big” trot which is typical of the breed.