The Friesian is a Dutch breed, and as the name suggests originates in the province of Friesland. In the 16th-17th century, when the Netherlands were occupied by Spain, they crossed the more coldblooded type horse of the Netherlands with the spanish horse, and the Frisian emerged.
In the Beginning of the 18th Century, a more suitable horse was sought to pull the sleek and lightweight carriages of the grand houses. The Military didn’t even ask for the Friesian horse anymore.
In 1854 they came to the conclusion that the Friesian breed could not be saved, and a system to protect the breed was dropped. Although this would have been the end of the breed, the idea came up for a root directory, as it is in place in Britain and France.
In 1879 the Dutch Agriculture Minister approved the statues of the Friesch Paardenstammboek. In 1880 the assosiation had 107 members, 16 stallions and 28 mares. At this time, only 3 crossbred stallions were entered. Despite all this, the breeding of pure Friesian horses was neglected because they were simply out of fashion. The Bovenlander horse (Friesian x Oldenburg) thrilled the horse owners alot more.
In 1913 only 3 stallions were alive : Prins 109, Alva 113 und Friso 117,
but a few breeders didn’t give up and continued to fight for the breed.
They realized that not only the workhorse was threatened with extinction, but also a piece of Frisian history. That year the Het Friesche paard was founded. A few good colts were bought and put in expert hands for raising.. In 1916, 2 of the bought colts were added to the breeding program (Paulus121 and Rudolf122). By 1962 there were already 23 breeding stallions. Between 1962-1967 the population of 4000 sank to 974. This was without a doubt, due to the mechanization of agriculture.
In the mid 70s the Friesian was rediscovered as a leisure companion by riders and drivers. The predisposition for dressage contributed to his current popularity. After the introduction of spanish blood in the early centuries, no other blood was ever added. The breed was enlarged and secured solely due to inbreeding within the small population. This is also the reason why each registered horse has a so called *inbreeding factor* noted in the papers. This indicates the percentage of inbreeding of the genome in the horse.
The selection of new stallions is one of the strictest in the world. Every year new stallion prospects are presented in Ermelo, most of them only being 2 1/2 years old. Only a few of the older stallions try their luck. After evaluation the best ones are then allowed to go to Leuwaarden for. After another 2-fold selection the best will go to the stallion performance test, which will be held in the same year. In their third year, only a few more will advance and go to the final examination, which also includes stable behavior and work ethic will.
The Stallions that have been approved, apply each year to the Keuringcomittee for a breeding licence. After 4-5 years their offspring are evaluated. If a stallions offspring are evaluated as *positive*, he can remain in the root directory. Any stallion that has offspring rated as *negative*, loses his Keurcommission approvel rating and will be *disapproved*.
Friesians are large framed, with an arched, often high set neck.Well angulated and muscled hinquaters. Today they are selected solely on the black color. The last bay mare, Patricia, was entered to the studbook in 1928. Today the brown color is no longer found. Chestnuts very rarely occur and are not disirable. Also the Friesian should not have white markings, a star on the forehead is allowed. As you can see, they are very statley, elegant Horses.
Another sistinct feature are the so called *feathers* at the ankle. This appearance has hardley changed since the 17th Century.
In reasent years, more attention was paid to height, as a more sporty type is in demand, Most mares measure in between 1,55m-1,65m (15.1 hh-16.1hh).
To be eligible for Inspection a Stallion must havea minimum height of 1,58m-1,65m (15,3hh-16,1hh) at the age of 3-4 years.
Until 1996 the Friesian was characterised by a tonguetattoo and branding. Since 1996 microchips are used.
As already mentioned, the Friesian gained more dressage suitability thru crossbreeding with the Spanish horse. The high kneeaction, sweeping gaits and especially his talent for higher levels of dressage made him a popular showhorse. Because of his power, reliability, patience and gentleness, he is still found pulling carriages.
One of these carriges is the singleaxle Sjees. This carriagetype also has its own Studbook in the Netherlands. Worldwide there are only a f ew wellpreserved originals.
You will find more details about the Sjees on the following pages.