An American Legend
The Friesian horse (or frizzy horse), is a medium-sized horse breed originating from Friesland, within the Netherlands. Although the original conformation of this breed closely resembles that of a lighter draft horse, Friesians have been quite nimble and graceful for their large size. It is even believed that during the Middle Ages, Friesian horses who could not keep up with the demands of battlefields were rounded up and given to the poor. But today, Friesians enjoy a steady rise in popularity among horse breeders. They have become known as good stable horses, valued family pet, and are commonly seen as show horses at international horse shows.
The modern history of the Friesian horse can be traced back to the 18th century. As trade between Central and South America increased, the demand for horses from the south began to rise. There was also a rapid increase in the number of people starting farms in North America. A studbook was created, which named this new breed as Nuevo hitchhiking. These studbooks soon became recognized as a distinct breed and were considered a new version of the English Thoroughbred.
Many of the first Friesian horses born in the United States were headed by a single white star – the sign of an accepted pedigree. Nuevo was soon changed to Nuevo Florisco after a Portuguese expedition led by Bartolome de Assisi arrived in 1520. Though officially declared a breed, the Friesian horse did not gain recognition from the American Kennel Club until the mid-eighteenth century. This is because the original male Friesian was quite a bit larger than the female. Thus, when he was bred with a female from the mainland, it resulted in a miniature version that was smaller in comparison.
Although there are numerous purebreds that are the offspring of Nuevo Florisco, many others are the offspring of Nuevo Florisco and a more generic male horse. These horses still carry the white star on their mane, but most have pedigrees that are distinctively different from their European ancestor. In fact, some of these modern-day Friesian horse breeds are so different from their European cousins that they are often confused with the Spanish Malaga (or Mallorca) horse. This would make the horse a unique specimen indeed, though not nearly as colorful as the original Friesian.
One of the distinguishing features of the modern-day Friesian horse is its distinctive color pattern: it has dark, slate-colored hair and a white, floppy, plump, saddle brow. The color can vary throughout the coat, but typically you will see dark brown, chestnut, or off-white markings on the body. It has an undercoat that is straw-colored, and it has almond-shaped pointed ears. All other breed characteristics are specific to the type of Friesian horse, which are known as “methods.”
According to historical writings on the horse’s development, the common factor between the modern-day Friesian horse and the ancient Friesian horse is their long, steady temperament. Though the horses of the Middle Ages were ridden on bridles, most often they galloped freely on open pasture grounds until they were retired for the winter. Their daily workout, of course, included a lot of walking in the fields and meandering through the paddocks.
Another distinctive characteristic of the Friesian horse is its high fertility. They have been known to cross with the Swedish mare, the Californian horse, and the Barbet. Though the Friesian horse is now extinct, the breed is still revered in the Netherlands and abroad. Many foreigners are known to own some number of these horses, including those from Brazil, Mexico, Vietnam, and Germany. In the United States, the Friesian horse is particularly popular as a competitive riding breed.
If you want to learn more about these great breeds, there is a wealth of information available both in print and on the internet. The main net sources for finding information include horse-trading magazines, internet auctions, tack stores, and even veterinary and breeder stores. If you are looking to purchase or collect a specific breed, it is best to consult with a knowledgeable friend who is familiar with the sport. Though the Friesian horse is no longer a common sport in most parts of the world, it is still very much alive and thriving in places like Brazil and the Middle East.