The Friesian horse
The Friesian horse is one of the oldest breed in the world. The breed originates from Friesland in the Netherlands. The origins can be trace down to the 13th century maybe even further. In the Middle Ages, Friesians were used by knights because their ability to support the knights in their armor and their courage on the battlefield. It was also around the 16th and 17th century that the blood of Iberian breeds (Lusitano, PRE) was introduced which gave them their high gaits and arched neck. For a long time, Friesians were used in Haute École because of their docility and their ease in performing figures such as piaffe.
However, the following centuries, the breed was less used and was only present in its home province where it was used as a driving horse for the higher class society as a representative of their wealth. Despite their low number, these circumstances have kept the breed pure and away from crossbreeding.
From the 19th and 20th centuries, the Friesian horse was mainly used by farmers. In doing so, it produced a smaller and massive horse in order to better carry out agricultural tasks. The breed faced extinction twice. The first time, it was at the beginning of the 20th century, when only 3 purebred stallions remained. The second time, at the turn of the 1950s, when the mechanization of farms was booming. At that time, only about 500 purebred mares were left.
It was in the 1970s that the horse was rediscovered as a riding horse. It was at this time that additional efforts were made to modernize the breed, or rather, to return it to its appearance before its agricultural use in the late 19th century and early 20th century.
Nowadays, the Friesian horse is a multidisciplinary horse but particular attention is paid to dressage and driving. For the past 20 years, the breed has been gaining popularity into the sport due to the careful selection made in recent years and its hardworking character.
The breed conformation
Walk: The walk is a sound 4-tact rhythm. Seen form front and back, the legs are placed forward in a straight line in walk. The hind leg is places well forward under the body with good activity. The forelegs is generously placed forward.
Trot: The trot has a regular 2-beat rhythm. The hind leg is placed forward under the body with power and good reach so that the horse develops self-carriage. The hind leg shows good bend in the hock. The foreleg shows knee action and is generously placed forward. The horse moves in an uphill outlines showing suppleness, balance and a satisfactory moment of suspension. Seen from the front and back, the legs must be placed forward in a straight line.
Canter: The canter has a regular 3-beat rhythm. In canter, the horse moves with active and roomy strides, a forward-reaching foreleg and a carrying hind leg. The canter is uphill with a good moment of suspension, suppleness and balance.
The Friesian horses are inspected two times during their lives at a “keuring” meaning “examination” in dutch.
The first time is when they are foals and the second time when they are adults starting at 3 years old. For the inspection, judges from the Netherlands reward the horses with a premium indicating the quality of conformation and movements which are worth respectively 40 and 60% of the final score.
1st premium: conformation and movement excellent
2nd premium: conformation and movement good
3rd premium: conformation and movement average
Horses of 3 years and older can be awarded predicates which indicate their level of quality among the population. Predicates indicate the quality of the conformation and the movements or the sport achievements.
Mares must be at least 156 cm at withers and 158 cm for geldings and stallions. This mention is given the horses having received a 2nd or 1st premium. Around 25 to 30% of the best mare, gelding or stallions will be awarded this title.
Mares must be a least 158 cm at withers. This predicate is giving to the best Ster mares which were awarded a 1st premium at the inspection. Around 5% of the mares will have this title. To be Kroon definitive, sport aptitudes are also evaluated. Mare must participate in a performance test: the IBOP or ABFP. The score must be at least 77 with a minimum of 7 for the three gaits. Another method is to achieve the Sport predicate.
Only the very best mares of the population are eligible for the Model predicate. It is the highest reward a mare can achieved. Only 2% will receive it. To qualify for this predicate the minimum age is 7, the mare must have nursed at least one foal and height at withers is 160 cm or higher. For Permanent Model status, mares must successfully complete an IBOP- or ABFP test or acquire the Sport predicate.
A mare with at least 4 offspring with at minimum the Ster predicate is declared Preferent. Mares with this title are of great value because they positively contributed to the breed by producing high quality foals. Approved stallions can also achieve this predicate when they accumulate sufficient score based on the quality of their offspring. Few stallions were awarded this status.
To obtain the predicate, the Friesian horse must have competed under saddle at level Z1 in dressage in the Netherlands or level 3 in North America and have five scores of 60% or better in shows sanctioned by Equestrian Canada. The title can be also obtained in driving if 10 points were accumulated in at least three different FEI Single Horse Advanced Driving Dressage Test.
The predicate can be obtained when mare, geldings or stallions have at least five scores of at least 60% in Prix St-Gorge or better in dressage. The title can also be obtained by obtaining the Sport predicate in three disciplines: dressage, driving and show driving.
Furthermore, sport aptitude tests are available to evaluate the sport potential of the horse. Those test have to be successfully completed to obtain the Kroon or Model predicate.
Depending on the result of the test, horses with a above-average score receive a lette code behind their predicate:
A: 73 to 76,5
AA: 77 to 81,5
AAA: 82 and higher