Friesian Horse Breed
Trigger and Mr. Ed may be the most famous Hollywood horses but the Friesian unofficially takes first place as Hollywood's hit horse breed. Movies including the Mask of Zorro, Legend of Zorro, 300, Interviews with a Vampire, Kate and Leopold, Alexander, Chronicles of Narnia and the second film in the Hunger Games trilogy all have the black beauty as the official horse on their set- and that is only the short list of Hollywood films with Friesians. There is little room to argue, the powerful, almost mystical black horse is as attractive as it is talented and can be used in scenes from the medieval times to fantasy/science fiction.
The Friesian's original purpose was not to win the hearts of movie-goers but rather as a dependable war horse for the knights of the Friesland region, of what is today a northern province of The Netherlands. Friesians are tall and black, no question is needed as to why they were the ''warhorse'' of the medieval ages but more qualities are to be noted about the loyal warhorses of mainland Europe that survived well into our warhorse-less era.
Proof of a big black horse from the Friesland region date back to the 13th century, with the earliest display of Friesians in art preserved since the mid 16th century. Friesians were imported to other countries such as Spain and England to improve their stock of draft horses between the 16th and 19th century. Many Andalusians, Shires and today's Belgian were crossed with Friesians to produce a lighter draft and cart horse suitable for a variety of cart and carriage purposes. By the late 19th century, the purebred Friesian was at risk of extinction due to a high cross of Friesians and larger draft horse breeds of The Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. Like other breeds, no documentation of the declining numbers existed to protect the popular breed until less than ten purebred stallions remained and a shift was made away from cross-breeding.
Today the Friesian is no longer in danger of extinction but still treated as a rare gem. They proved themselves as cart and carriage horses before the introduction of automobiles and are still considered one of the most sought after driving breeds. Their strong, fluid trot gained attention of trotting horse races in the 18th and 19th centuries and high knee-action trotters such as the Hackney, Standardbred and the Morgan may have been influenced by the ''18th century trotting champions''. Now little interest for Friesian trotting races exist but they still remain competitive in driving competitions and are seen pulling harnesses in a variety of public events.
Friesians also excel at dressage, English open show classes and even have their own saddleseat class in many saddleseat competitions in the United States. Unlike draft breeds, the Friesian is graceful with four animated gaits that lay the foundation to successful dressage careers. Friesians are also very trainable and are not as lethargic as larger draft breeds. They generally have an interest to work and go through training for various careers.
Purebred Friesians stand between 15 and 17.3 hands tall with the average standing at 15.3 hands. Friesians are typically black but some rare chestnut purebred Friesians occur. Most Friesians will have slight feathering on their legs, very little white markings, very thick manes and tails and larger hooves. Body types vary between the two most common classifications of Friesian and the difference is as big as the difference between a Porsche® and 4X4 Land Rover ® .
Sport Friesians are slimmer, smaller and do not carry their heads in the high, classical head carriage necessary for classical dressage and carriage driving. Baroque, or the 4X4 Land Rover® Friesian is larger, more muscled, holding its head in a natural upright position yet still possessing animated gaits. Heavy draft is a third classification of Friesians and are black horse versions of Belgium draft horses and other related draft horses. On occasion, Friesians are referred to as 'Belgian Blacks'. Most sought after Friesians are registered with the KFPS, the Koninklijke Vereniging ''Het Friesch Paarden-Stamboek'' located in The Netherlands with over 70,000 registered Friesians around the world. The KFPS screens Friesians testing into the registry as breeding stock or not with the highest contingencies to preserve the best confirmation and characteristics of the beloved breed.