23 Nov What Friesian Horses Are Used For: Ultimate Guide
As one of the most versatile and iconic horse breeds, Friesian horses are known as a sort of equine celebrity. With a fascinating history and origin story, it is no surprise that Friesian horses are a favorite of horse lovers around the world. Even young equestrians can identify the unique characteristics and appearance of a Friesian.
So, what are Friesian horses used for? Friesian horses were originally used as working horses. For a long time, Friesians were common warhorses due to their size, demeanor, and favorable characteristics. However, in more modern times, Friesians are used for dressage, trail riding, transportation, show, and even appear in several Hollywood productions!
It is no secret that the Friesian horse has many favorable qualities and characteristics. But, how practical is this horse breed for an everyday rider? How long can you expect a Friesian to live? In this post, we will answer these questions and more, providing you with everything you need to know about Friesian horses!
Everything You Need to Know About Friesian Horses
Whether you are researching your next equine investment or simply looking to expand your knowledge on a popular horse breed, you have come to the right place! Keep reading to learn more about the many uses of Friesian horses and their fascinating history!
What Are Friesian Horses?
Friesian horses closely resemble light draught horses, however, they are much more graceful and nimble in their movements. Friesians are often referred to as one of the most versatile horse breeds. Their favorable demeanor, loyalty, and willingness to please make them an asset to any rider.
Origin of Friesian Horses
The history and origin of Friesian horses are quite fascinating. As one of Europe’s oldest horse breeds, the Friesians have served many purposes. Originally bred in the Friesland providence of the Netherlands as a draught horse, Friesians eventually became popular with noblemen and knights.
Friesian horses were in great demand during the Middle Ages as they performed well as warhorses. In the seventeenth century, the Friesian horse was imported to North America, likely by early Dutch settlers. However, because of improper breeding practices and crossbreeding, the Friesian quickly become extinct in North America until the early 1970s.
While Friesian horses continue to increase in popularity around the world, they are still known as one of the more rare horse breeds. This is due to a combination of strict breeding practices, low lifespan, and the high price of investing in a Friesian.
Common Uses of Friesian Horses
Friesian horses are one of the most versatile horse breeds. While they do not perform well in high-intensity situations such as racing, they are used in many other areas and practices. Here are just a few of the most common uses of Friesian horses:
Friesians Are Excellent Dressage Horses
Friesians are truly a beautiful sight to behold. Majestic in appearance and agreeable in demeanor, Friesians are excellent dressage horses for riders of any age. Friesian horses can easily compete in both classical dressage and modern dressage.
Some horse breeds are not able to agreeably participate in the challenging physical and mental work required to compete in dressage. Friesians, however, are willing and ready to work hard during intense periods of training.
Friesians Are Often Used for Trail Riding
One rather unexpected use for Friesians is trail riding. The personality and temperament of the Friesian horse lend themselves to this type of riding. When you consider their past as a warhorse, their ability to handle long, strenuous trail rides makes sense!
There are several reasons why Friesians make excellent trail riding companions. Friesians have a calm and even temperament, something that is essential for the unexpected surprises that a trail ride may contain. Additionally, they are agreeable and friendly around other horses. This makes your ride much more enjoyable whether you are riding with friends or simply encounter other equestrians on the trail.
Friesians have steady footing and the endurance needed to complete a long trail ride with ease.
Friesian Horses Are Used to Pull Carriages
As the world began to expand through the industrial revolution, the need for reliable transportation became much more evident. Friesian horses have many of the traits required to gracefully pull carriages. Along with the strength and endurance needed for this task, Friesians also exhibit a calm demeanor that is appreciated for transportation.
Although this use for Friesian horses is not as common as it once was, Friesians still pull carriages for show or transportation purposes in various parts of the world.
Friesian Horses Often Appear in Hollywood
The stunning appearance and calm demeanor of Friesian horses make them an excellent candidate for Hollywood. Friesian horses have been used in countless movies and television shows including the following:
- Ladyhawke (1985)
- The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005)
- 300 (2007)
- Eragon (2006)
- The Mask of Zorro (1998)
- The Legend of Zorro (2005)
- Clash of the Titans (1981)
- The Hunger Games (2012)
- The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)
- Emma (2020)
- Sense and Sensibility (1995)
- Once Upon a Time (2011-2018)
- Game of Thrones (2011-2019)
- Alexander (2004)
- And More!
Friesian horses are used for a variety of film and television genres. However, they are most commonly desired for historical or fantasy films.
Want to see a list of the top horse movies? Check out our article 18 Greatest Horse Movies (Picked By An Equestrian.)
Friesians Were Once Used for Battle
The use of Friesian horses in battle is documented as early as the 4th-century and well into the late 19th century. As their use in battle started to decrease, Friesian horses were primarily bred for their pulling power and usefulness in farm work.
Friesians Can Be Used for Light Farm Work
While it is not their most common use today, Friesians were originally bred as working horses. Their draught horse-like characteristics led themselves to light farm work. Friesians that are bred for harness work and farm work are typically larger in stature.
Some Friesians Can Be Trained As Jumpers
Another unlikely, yet possible, use for Friesian horses is as a jumper. While jumping is not typically an activity that Friesians accel at, some equestrians have had success in training their Friesian to jump for pleasure purposes.
Friesians Often Participate in The Circus
The stately appearance and trainable personality of Friesian horses make them popular for use in circuses since the late 1930s.
The Temperament of Friesian Horses
The pleasant temperament of the Friesian horse is the primary reason it can be used in such diverse settings. Friesians are highly intelligent, willing to learn, and friendly with humans, horses, and other animals. They are incredibly loyal and even in temperament, making them reliable in a variety of situations. Friesian horses are easy to train as they easily retain knowledge.
Average Life Expectancy of Friesian Horses
One of the most important things to keep in mind when investing in a Friesian horse is their average life expectancy. While they are certainly one of the most versatile and agreeable horse breeds, they do have one of the lowest life spans. The average life expectancy of a Friesian horse is between 15-17 years, compared to 25-30 years for other horse breeds.
This, of course, is only an average. Some Friesian horses have been known to live for 20 years or longer depending on their overall health and genetics.
Additionally, because of the large stature of Friesian horses, it is not recommended that you start seriously riding them until they are around 4 years of age. Riding your Friesian horse before their legs have had the opportunity to develop properly could result in serious repercussions or health conditions down the road.
Most Friesians can be ridding lightly once they reach 3 years old, with more serious training starting at age 4. The average Friesian horse will not reach full maturity until they are around 8 years old. Taking these facts into consideration, the average life span of a Friesian horse is drastically less than that of other horse breeds.
Are Friesians Considered Expensive For a Horse?
Friesian horses often appear on lists of the most expensive horse breeds. It is important to understand that the appearance and pleasant temperament of Friesians make them quite popular. This, coupled with strict breeding regulations, can result in a high cost of investment.
Friesian foals often sell for between $7,000 and $10,000. Well-trained Friesians are often listed for around $50,000 with high-quality breeding stallions going for over $100,000! However, the Friesian is certainly worth the higher price tag, especially considering their versatility and ease of training.
It is important to take into consideration the average life span of a Friesian horse as their short life expectancy will impact your investment. Additionally, Friesians can develop expensive health conditions as a result of their large size. The cost to care for the expected needs of a Friesian including food, board, tack, and other necessary expenses is similar to other horse breeds.
Unique Facts About Friesian Horses
In addition to their fascinating history and incredible versatility, there are several other unique characteristics and facts about Friesian horses.
Friesian Horses Have Feathered Hooves
One of the defining physical characteristics of Friesian horses is the feathers that surround their hooves. Traditionally, these feathers are left untrimmed and often hang to the ground. While they contribute to the striking appearance of the Friesian horse, they do increase the risk of a skin infection or bacterial growth, especially when the horse is frequently exposed to damp environments.
If you own a Friesian horse, it is important to keep their environment clean and to care for their hooves, especially the areas under the feathers to prevent infection, disease, or rain rot.
Friesian Horses Were, At One Time, Close to Extinction
While Friesian horses continue to grow in popularity throughout the world, they were, at one time, close to extinction! In the early 20th century, the population of Friesian horses was alarming low. Thankfully, with carefully breeding and preservation, the number of Friesians alive today has been on a steady increase.
Friesians Horses Can Vary in Coloring
Although a stunning black coat is a key characteristic of Friesian horses, they can vary in coloring! In some rare situations, purebred Friesians can be a beautiful chestnut color. Friesians of this color are known as Fire Friesians and although they are rare, they are not as desirable as their beautiful black counterparts.
You may occasionally come across a Friesian who has white markings. Although these Friesians may exhibit many of the characteristics and temperaments of a purebred Friesian, they are not purebreds themselves. Because of this, they are not approved for breeding as a purebred Fresian.
Are Friesian Horses Good for Beginner Riders?
While Friesian horses are quite large in size compared to other horses, they can make a great equine companion for a beginner rider. Friesians exhibit many of the qualities that benefit beginner riders such as patience, a calm and even temperament, and an agreeable personality. However, due to their large size, it is important to ensure that the Friesian is well-trained before allowing a beginner rider to hop on their back.
If a beginner rider is looking to purchase their first horse, a Friesian is likely not the best option due to their relatively short life span, high cost of investment, and the likelihood of developing rare health conditions.
Caring for Your Friesian Horse
In order to care for the stunning physical appearance of your Friesian horse, you will need to invest a decent amount of your time in grooming. With their characteristic thick tail and mane, as well as feathers surrounding their hooves, Friesians require significant maintenance.
It is also important to observe the health and development of your Friesian if you are raising them from a foal. Due to their size, Friesians may develop a disease called Osteochondritis Dissecans in which the bones do not develop as they should. This condition can cause inflammation and joint pain. However, there are several treatment options available including surgery, rest, and injections.
Outside of these specifics regarding care, caring for your Friesian horse is similar to caring for any other horse breed. With a suitable environment, proper nutrition, and adequate exercise, your Friesian horse will thrive in your care. Friesians horses are loyal, loving companions that can be used in a variety of ways depending on your unique preferences. It’s easy to see why the Friesian is such an icon in the equine world!
Want to learn more about cool horse breeds? Check out our article Fantastic Horse Breeds and Where to Find Them.
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I’m a lifelong horse trainer and horseback rider who’s passionate about teaching others about the things I’ve learned. I grew up competing in numerous English horseback riding disciplines and am now a certified equine massage therapist. I currently own three horses.