How Long Does a Friesian Horse Live: Lifespan and Factors Affecting It

Are you a Friesian Horse owner or enthusiast wondering about their lifespan? Look no further! In this post, we’ll explore the average lifespan of Friesian Horses and the factors that can affect their longevity. From genetics and healthcare to diet and exercise, we’ll provide valuable insights into how to help your Friesian Horse live a long and healthy life. So, if you’re wondering “How long does a Friesian Horse live?” – read on and find out!

Friesian Horse Overview

Friesian horse running with full force

The Friesian horse is a popular and distinctive breed, originating from the Netherlands, specifically the region of Friesland. In this section, we will cover various aspects of the Friesian horse, such as its origin and history, characteristics, colors, size and conformation, and temperament.

Origin and History

Friesian horses trace their heritage back to the Middle Ages, and they are considered one of the oldest European horse breeds. The province of Friesland, located in the Netherlands, is known for its connection to these horses, which have long been a symbol of wealth and status. The Equus ferus caballus, or Friesian horse, was used in agriculture and as warhorses, and they gained popularity among nobility as elegant carriage horses. The Het Friesch Paard Society is responsible for maintaining the breed’s FPS studbook, while the American Friesian Association oversees the breed in the United States.


Friesian horses boast a number of distinctive physical features that contribute to their regal appearance. They have arched necks, a well-proportioned body, strong legs, and a flowing mane and tail. Their coats are typically jet black, making their elegant conformation even more striking. Friesians have a powerful build, which contributes to their impressive strength, agility, and stamina.


The Friesian horse is mainly known for its black coat color, which is the primary color recognized by breed registries. While rare instances of chestnut-colored Friesian horses exist, they are generally not accepted for registration by the FPS Studbook or American Friesian Association. The black coat emphasizes the breed’s elegance and adds to their luxurious appearance.

Size and Conformation

Friesian horses exhibit a range of heights, with an average of 15.3 hands (63 inches, 160 cm) at the withers, and individual horses varying from 14.2 to 17 hands (58 to 68 inches, 147 to 173 cm). For mares or geldings to qualify for a “star-designation” pedigree, they must be at least 15.2 hands (62 inches, 157 cm) high. Their majestic stature complements their well-muscled bodies, creating an imposing presence that never fails to capture attention.


Friesian horses are known for their friendly, gentle, and intelligent nature. They are often described as easy to train, due to their willingness to learn and their ability to bond with their handlers. Despite their size and strength, Friesians are considered suitable for experienced riders as well as those new to horseback riding, thanks to their even temperament and versatility in various equestrian disciplines.

It is worth noting that Friesian horses have a shorter lifespan compared to other breeds, averaging around 16 years. Prospective owners should be aware of this fact when considering the commitment and care required for these magnificent animals.

Health and Lifespan

An elegant Friesian colt in meadow

Average Lifespan

Friesian horses have a relatively shorter lifespan compared to other horse breeds, with an average of around 12-16 years, significantly less than the average lifespan of other horses, which is around 25 years. This, however, can vary depending on factors such as diet, exercise, and overall health management.

Common Health Problems

Friesians are prone to a variety of health problems, some of which are shared with other horse breeds, and some unique to their breed. Common health issues faced by Friesian horses include:

  • Digestive system disorders, such as colic and gastric ulcers
  • Equine polysaccharide storage myopathy (EPSM), a muscle disorder that affects their performance
  • Anhidrosis, also known as “non-sweating disease,” which affects the horses’ ability to stay cool
  • Retained placenta, a potential issue for Friesian mares after giving birth

Genetic Disorders

Friesian horses are also susceptible to multiple genetic disorders, which can impact their lifespan and overall health. Some of the most common genetic disorders found in Friesian horses are:

  1. Hydrocephalus: This is a congenital condition where an excessive accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid occurs in the brain. It can cause neurological problems and often results in foals being stillborn or dying shortly after birth.
  2. Dwarfism: A genetic disorder characterized by shorter legs and abnormal bone structure, leading to health issues related to mobility and overall quality of life.
  3. Aortic rupture: A serious cardiovascular condition where the aorta ruptures, often leading to sudden death. This condition is more prevalent in Friesian horses than other breeds.
  4. Megaesophagus: A disorder characterized by an enlarged esophagus, which can cause difficulty swallowing and breathing, leading to further health complications such as aspiration pneumonia.

Inbreeding has contributed to the prevalence of these genetic disorders in Friesians, and responsible breeding practices are essential for minimizing the risks associated with these conditions.

Overall, the health and lifespan of Friesian horses can be influenced by a combination of genetic factors, appropriate care, and management practices. Maintaining a balanced diet with proper nutrition, exercise, and regular veterinary checkups can help ensure these majestic horses lead a healthy and fulfilling life.

Grooming and Care

Coat and Mane Care

When it comes to a Friesian horse’s grooming and care, their stunning black coat requires consistent attention. Regular grooming is essential for maintaining their healthy and lustrous appearance. It is crucial to brush the coat daily using a soft brush to remove dirt, dust, and loose hair while ensuring that the natural oils are evenly distributed across the coat. Additionally, washing the coat using a suitable shampoo is vital to maintain its vibrant black color.

Friesian horses have a long, flowing mane that requires extra attention. To prevent knotting and breakage, it is essential to brush the mane gently using a wide-tooth comb or detangling brush. If necessary, use a mane conditioner to aid in the detangling process. For better mane management, some Friesian owners choose to braid the hair, maintaining long and loose braids to avoid putting excessive strain on the hair.

Hoof Care

Friesian horses have strong, sturdy hooves that require regular care. This includes daily hoof picking to remove any dirt, stones, and debris that might cause discomfort or infection. Routine trimming from a professional farrier is necessary to ensure that the hooves remain healthy and the horse maintains proper balance.

Regular assessment of the hooves for signs of injury or infection, such as thrush or cracking, is essential. Owners should ensure their Friesian maintains a clean and dry environment to help manage hoof health effectively.

Teeth and Dental Care

A Friesian horse’s teeth are an essential part of their overall health, especially considering their longevity of up to 25 years. Regular dental check-ups by a professional equine dentist can identify potential issues and reduce the risk of dental problems.

In addition to bi-annual dental check-ups, owners can monitor their Friesian’s teeth by observing their eating habits and checking for signs of discomfort. This may include difficulty chewing, dropping food, or excessive drooling. Catching and addressing dental issues early will contribute to the overall health and longevity of a Friesian horse.

Diet and Nutrition

Black friesian horse with sunset background

Feeding Requirements

Friesian horses, like all other breeds, require a well-balanced diet to maintain their health and support their lifespan. The average lifespan of a Friesian horse is slightly shorter than that of other breeds, at around 16 years. To ensure proper growth and development, these horses need the appropriate amounts and balance of energy and nutrients in their diet.

Hay and Forage

A cornerstone of the Friesian horse’s diet is high-quality grass hay. As natural grazers, they do not need any specific food or supplement, but it is vital to provide them with the necessary hay to support their weight and energy needs. An average horse doing minimal work typically needs 18 pounds of hay per day per 1,000 pounds of body weight, as suggested by PetKeen.

It is essential to monitor the horse’s weight and condition and adjust the amount of hay accordingly. Ensuring that the hay provided is top quality and free from mold and dust can help maintain the horse’s overall health.

Supplements and Treats

While Friesian horses can do well on a simple diet of grass hay, some may need additional supplementation depending on their individual needs, physical condition, or the quality of the available forage. In such cases, a veterinarian or equine nutritionist’s advice should be sought to determine the most appropriate supplements.

When feeding growing horses between weaning and 2 years, it is crucial to ensure proper nutrition, since bone formation, size, and muscle mass greatly increase during this time, according to the University of Minnesota Extension. It is advisable to provide a properly balanced concentrate that is specifically designed for growing horses, and to feed it in multiple small meals throughout the day.

Regarding treats, Friesian horses can enjoy a variety of healthy and safe indulgences such as apples, carrots, and sugar-free treats formulated for horses. It is important to provide treats in moderation and to avoid over-feeding or offering unhealthy, sugar-laden snacks.

Remember to keep the diet and nutrition plan tailored to the individual Friesian horse’s needs, monitor their weight and overall health, and make adjustments as necessary. Proper feeding and nutrition management can contribute to better health and support an optimum lifespan for these beautiful horses.

Training and Behavior

Calm and Gentle Nature

Friesian horses are known for their calm and gentle temperament, making them a popular choice for riders of all levels. Their warmblood nature adds to their even-tempered disposition, resulting in a well-behaved and reliable horse. These horses are intelligent, which makes them easy to train and quick to understand new commands. Their loyal and amiable character further enhances their connection with their human counterparts.

Suitable for Beginners

Due to their calm demeanor and gentle behavior, Friesian horses are often considered suitable for beginners. These horses maintain a steady and composed temperament, helping to build confidence in novice riders. Additionally, their intelligent nature allows them to rapidly adapt to the learning pace of inexperienced riders. However, it is necessary to note that while they are suitable for beginners, Friesian horses are best handled by individuals with some prior experience with horses.

Versatility in Disciplines

Friesian horses are incredibly versatile, participating in various equestrian disciplines. Their impressive stature, combined with their powerful yet graceful movements, make them excellent performers in dressage. The breed is also well-suited for driving, pleasure riding, and even trail riding. Their agility and endurance enable them to excel in events such as combined driving and jumping, demonstrating their adaptability to various riding styles.

In conclusion, the Friesian horse’s calm and gentle nature, suitability for beginners, and versatility in disciplines make them a highly sought-after breed for equestrian enthusiasts. Their intelligence, loyalty, and warmblood temperament contribute to their admirable behavior and trainability, ensuring a strong bond between the horse and its rider.

Breeding and Reproduction

Beauty foal friesian horse stallion

Purebred Friesians

When it comes to breeding purebred Friesian horses, it’s essential to understand their unique characteristics and history. Friesians are renowned for their majestic appearance, featuring strong bodies, long manes, and often black coats. Originating from the province of Friesland in the Netherlands, these horses are steeped in history and tradition. To maintain the breed’s purity and quality, the “keuring” is an inspection process used to assess Friesian horses, including their conformation, movement, and temperament.

Stallions and Mares

In the breeding process, special attention is given to stallions and mares. Stallions can breed with multiple mares, enabling the Friesian breed’s propagation. Mares reach puberty at about 18 months of age, and their reproductive cycle is crucial to successful breeding. The average reproductive cycle of a Friesian mare lasts 24½ days, varying between 17-33 days. It’s important to note that the duration of the cycle shows no relation to the mare’s age or condition (maiden, barren, or lactating).

Foaling and Growth

Friesian mares have a gestation period of about 332 days, nearly a year. During this time, it’s important to provide the mare with proper nutrition and adjust exercise routines to ensure a healthy foal. Most births result in a single offspring called a foal, which is capable of standing, walking, and nursing within a few hours following birth.

While Friesians are strong and splendid creatures, they have a slightly shorter life expectancy than most other horse breeds. On average, Friesians live for around 16 years, which is considerably less than the average 25-year lifespan of other horses. However, this number may vary depending on several factors, such as their genetics and overall health.

Maintaining the Friesian breed’s purity and character is essential. By understanding the breeding and reproduction process, as well as the unique qualities of stallions, mares, and foals, we can ensure the continuation of this incredible breed.

Friesian Horse Lifespan

The lifespan of a Friesian horse is generally shorter compared to other horse breeds, with an average life expectancy of 16 years. However, factors such as diet, exercise, and overall health management can impact the longevity of these horses.

Friesian Horse in Sports and Activities

Portrait of nice friesian horse standing in a field full of yellow flowers

Friesian horses are known for their power, versatility, and elegance, making them suitable for various disciplines in equestrian sporting activities. Here, we will explore the role of Friesian horses in Dressage, Driving and Carriage, and other equestrian activities.


Friesian horses exhibit a brisk, high-stepping trot, which makes them a desirable breed for dressage competitions. Their active, energetic nature, and willingness to work allow them to perform complex dressage movements with grace and fluidity. The breed’s gentle temperament and docile nature make them suitable for riders of varying skill levels, from beginners to experienced dressage professionals.

Driving and Carriage

In addition to dressage, Friesian horses excel in driving and carriage activities. They have a strong pulling power and a high degree of stamina, which makes them effective at pulling carts or carriages over a long distance. Moreover, their striking appearance, with long, thick manes and tails, often wavy, and “feather” on their lower legs, enhances the already elegant carriage driving experience.

Other Disciplines

Friesian horses’ athleticism and versatility enable them to participate in a variety of other equestrian disciplines. While not typically associated with jumping events, their sturdy build and strong muscles provide them with the ability to jump obstacles when properly trained. Additionally, their calm demeanor and strength make them ideal for western pleasure, trail riding, and therapeutic riding programs.

Overall, Friesian horses possess remarkable physical attributes and an adaptable nature that allows them to excel in various sports and activities. Caring for these horses can impact their lifespan, however, their prowess in dressage, driving, and other disciplines testifies to their enduring popularity and appeal in the equestrian world.

How Long Does a Friesian Horse Live?

White andalusian horse with black friesian horse

Friesian horses are known for their stunning beauty, strength, and grace. They have long, arched necks, small heads with wide-set eyes, and powerful hindquarters. While they are generally healthy and strong animals, one area of concern is their lifespan compared to other horse breeds.

On average, Friesian horses have a lifespan of around 16 years, which is shorter than the average lifespan of horses at around 25 years. The reason for this disparity is not entirely clear, but it could be due in part to genetics or inherent health issues within the breed. It is worth mentioning that the lifespan of Friesian horses can also vary depending on their living conditions and level of care.

One important aspect of ensuring a Friesian horse has a long and healthy life is to provide proper care and management. This includes regular veterinary check-ups, a suitable diet, and a well-structured exercise routine. Additionally, Friesian horses’ owners should be aware of the breed’s common health issues such as digestive or respiratory problems and be prepared to address them if need be.

Breeding Friesian horses can also impact their lifespan. It is highly recommended that breeders engage in responsible breeding practices to maintain the health and quality of the lineage.


In conclusion, Friesian horses typically live for around 16 years, which is shorter than the average lifespan of horses. However, by providing proper care, addressing any health issues, and practicing responsible breeding, Friesian horse owners can help their horses live longer, healthier lives. While the lifespan of a Friesian horse may not match that of other breeds, their remarkable presence and temperament undoubtedly make them an exceptional equine companion for those who appreciate their uniqueness.