Breed: Friesian Horse
Temperament: Intelligent, trainable
Cost: From $7000
Lifespan: 25 years
Recommended for: Experienced horsepeople
Most Australians know Friesians as those black and white dairy cows, but there is another Friesian being seen in our paddocks – the Friesian Horse. It is a rare breed with only 76 in Australia.
Appearance: The Friesian is a tall black horse standing 14.3-17 hands high. The build is described by owners as “bulky” with large feet but not to the conformation of the true heavy horses such as Clydesdales or Shires.
The only colouring allowed today is solid black, with sole exception of a small white star on the forehead. The tail and mane are wavy and there is feathering on the feet.
Temperament: While described as having an easy temperament, most owners agree this is a breed for the more experienced horseman. Being strong horses, they need to know who is in control. Longtime owners say they are intelligent, intuitive and amenable to training.
Health & lifespan:
Feet and joints can suffer due to the heavy weight and special shoes will probably be needed;
The small genetic pool may accentuate any hereditary defects;
Cryptorchidism (undescended testicle/s) and dwarfism is known.
A lifespan of 25 years is suggested.
Uses: Friesians make impressive harness horses, being big, black and enthusiastic workers. They may also be ridden for pleasure and dressage.
Breeding: Friesian owners report some difficulty with mares becoming pregnant despite normal stallion fertility rates. Again, not a breed for the beginner.
Costs: Local prices range from $7000-$10,000. It can cost more than $25,000 to import a Friesian weanling.
Ideal owner: Friesians need experienced owners to handle their size, strength, intelligence and special shoeing requirements.
Grooming: Shoeing will be required every six weeks if the horse is being regularly used for harness work. A good thorough brush for 30 minutes each week will remove dead coat and loose hairs.
History: The Friesian is named after a province in the Netherlands which is considered its homeland. This type of strong, compact horse was ridden by the Crusaders from Europe and being relatively fast despite its size, was a useful warhorse through the centuries. A studbook was established in 1879 but the breed went into a decline and had almost died out before World War I. Enthusiasts have since built up the numbers but it is still a rare breed outside the Netherlands.