Is a Friesian a Good First Horse: The Essential Guide

Are you considering getting a horse as your first pet? If so, you may be wondering, “Is a Friesian a good first horse?” Look no further! In this essential guide, we’ll explore the characteristics of Friesian horses and help you determine if they are the right fit for you.

Friesian Horse Overview

A Friesian stallion on a sand


The Friesian horse is one of the oldest horse breeds in the world, with records describing horses that resemble the Friesian as early as the 11th century. However, the breed has likely been evolving for much longer, possibly dating back to the 4th century. Originating in Friesland, a province in the Netherlands, the Friesian horse has since developed a prestigious reputation throughout the world.


The Friesian horse is a visually striking breed, known for its large size and muscular body. The average Friesian stands at 15.3 hands, though it is not uncommon for some to reach a staggering 17 hands tall. Sporting a low-set tail and strong hindquarters, the breed flaunts a long, arched neck with a small, well-defined head. Their eyes are set wide apart, and they have short ears. The Friesian horse is primarily known for its luxurious pitch-black coat, although chestnut Friesians have been reported on rare occasions.

The breed also showcases some unique features which add to its grandeur:

  • Long, thick mane and tail, often wavy
  • “Feather” or long, silky hair on the lower legs, deliberately left untrimmed
  • Brisk, high-stepping trot


The temperament of the Friesian horse is a major contributing factor to its popularity as a riding horse. These horses are generally friendly, docile, and easy to handle, making them a desirable choice for riders of various skill levels. They are known for their willingness, active energy, and gentle disposition, which contribute to their elegance and grace both in and out of the saddle.

While the Friesian horse boasts an impressive history, stunning appearance, and a gentle temperament, novice riders may still want to consider factors such as the breed’s size and strength. As with any horse, it is important to carefully evaluate the compatibility between rider and horse, taking initial riding experiences and other relevant factors into account. Overall, the Friesian horse can be a great choice for those seeking a beautiful, reliable, and gentle companion in the world of equestrian pursuits.

Breeding and Conformation

Beautiful Friesian Mare and her Colt moving forward

Standards and Keuring

The Friesian horse is known for its captivating appearance, strong body, and flowing mane. The KFPS breeding goals aim to maintain the traditional Friesian look and temperament while producing sport horses with remarkable athletic ability. To ensure these qualities, the breed adheres to specific conformation standards that are evaluated during Keuring – a judging event organized by the breed society.

These conformation standards include features like a well-chiseled head, short ears, an arched neck, and a balanced, muscular body with powerful shoulders and low-set tails. The Friesian horse’s knee action should be graceful and energetic, emphasizing its powerful presence without compromising functionality.

Genetics and Predicates

The Friesian breed has a history marked by two near-extinction events leading to a narrow gene pool and higher inbreeding rates. To preserve and monitor the genetic health of the breed, KFPS has implemented a system of predicates that classifies Friesian horses based on their merits in conformation, movement, and genetic purity.

  • Crown/Kroon predicate: This distinction is awarded to mares that excel in both conformation and movement. These mares have an essential role in preserving the breed’s quality and ensuring future generations inherit their best attributes.
  • Ster predicate: Horses awarded the Ster predicate exhibit exceptional conformation and movement. This distinction is highly valued in breeding programs, as it signifies horses with superior attributes that contribute positively to the breed’s improvement.
  • Model predicate: The highest honor for a Friesian mare, the Model predicate is reserved only for those that exemplify the breed’s standards in conformation, movement, and genetic purity. Model mares are considered the epitome of Friesian horses and serve as a benchmark for excellence.

Overall, Friesian horses are bred with care and precision, focusing on maintaining traditional beauty while enhancing their athletic capabilities. Prospective owners should be aware of the breed’s conformation requirements and genetic considerations before deciding whether a Friesian is a suitable choice for a first horse.

Health Concerns and Maintenance

Portrait of an elegant friesian horse gelding in autumn outdoors

Common Health Issues

Friesian horses, while stunning and majestic, do have some health concerns to be aware of. These horses are prone to certain genetic disorders such as dwarfism, which affects about 0.25% of the population. Dwarfism causes a horse to have a normal-sized head, a broad chest, long back, and very short limbs. Another rare genetic condition affecting Friesians is hydrocephalus, a condition where cerebrospinal fluid builds up inside the skull, leading to an enlarged head and neurological issues.

A more common issue in Friesians is aortic rupture, a life-threatening condition where the heart’s main artery ruptures, leading to sudden death. Megaesophagus, which is an enlargement of the esophagus, can also be found in this breed, causing difficulty swallowing and regurgitating food. Additionally, Friesians may be susceptible to equine polysaccharide storage myopathy (EPSM), a metabolic disorder that affects the muscles.

Some Friesians also suffer from digestive system disorders, with pastern dermatitis being a noteworthy issue affecting the skin on the pasterns. Though treatment can be challenging, it’s important to monitor their diet and be vigilant about their overall health.

Grooming and Care

Friesian horses are considered high maintenance, requiring regular grooming sessions to keep their coat and mane in optimal condition. Their long, luxurious mane and tail tend to tangle easily, necessitating frequent brushing and application of detangler.

Feathers and Pastern Dermatitis Care:

  • Keep feathers clean and dry.
  • Regularly trim feathers to reduce the risk of irritation.
  • Apply topical ointments as necessary.

Sunlight is another essential factor in Friesian care. These horses need adequate exposure to sunlight for vitamin D production and their overall well-being. However, as a breed originating from cooler climates, they may require additional protection in hot, sunny environments.

In summary, owning a Friesian as a first horse may not be ideal for everyone due to their common health issues, unique grooming requirements, and maintenance needs. Researching and understanding these concerns before committing to a Friesian is recommended for potential owners to ensure they can provide the necessary level of care for their equine companion.

Friesian Horse Abilities and Uses

Friesian horses are known for their majestic appearance, friendly disposition, and versatile abilities. In this section, we’ll cover the different areas where Friesian horses excel, making them a potentially great first horse for riders with various interests.


Friesian horses have a comfortable and high-stepping gait, making them enjoyable for riding purposes. Their calm demeanor, willingness to learn, and eagerness to please their owners make them suitable for riders of all skill levels. Their friendly and docile personality makes them a popular choice for riding and equine therapy, providing emotional support to individuals with mental and physical health conditions source.


Historically, Friesians were bred for pulling carriages, making them excellent driving horses. They can be used for both competitive and recreational driving, either singly or in teams. One traditional carriage used in Friesian-focused events is the high-wheeled cart called a sjees.


Due to their elegance, Friesians are popular in the discipline of dressage. Their flowing mane, tail, and powerful movements make them an impressive sight to behold. Friesians’ trainable nature and aptitude for learning complex maneuvers make them well-suited for dressage competitions.


Although not widely known for their jumping abilities, Friesian horses are versatile and can be trained in this discipline. Their natural athleticism, paired with their intelligent and adaptable nature, allows them to develop jumping skills with proper training.


Friesian horses possess a solid build and strong work ethic, with a history that includes being used as warhorses. Though they may not be the top choice for endurance races, they can be trained for this discipline with consistent conditioning, ensuring they have the stamina required for longer distances.

Trail Riding

The calm and social nature of Friesian horses makes them great companions for trail riding. They can navigate various terrains and are easily manageable for even inexperienced riders. Friesians’ strength, agility, and reliability make for a comfortable and enjoyable trail riding experience.

Overall, Friesian horses offer a wide range of abilities and uses, making them a potential good first horse for various equestrian pursuits.

Is a Friesian a Good First Horse?

A friesian and an arabian horse playing happily

The Friesian horse breed, with its origins in the Friesland region of the Netherlands, is one of the oldest breeds in Europe, dating back to the Middle Ages when they were used as warhorses and carriage horses, popular among the nobility. The breed, known for its calm temperament, intelligence, and eagerness to please, quickly gained popularity for various equestrian activities.

One remarkable characteristic of Friesian horses is their gentle and forgiving nature, making them suitable for novice riders. Their calm demeanor, willingness to learn, and social interaction have made them a favorite among horse enthusiasts seeking a suitable first horse. Additionally, Friesian horses are known for their exceptional athleticism, making them an ideal choice for hobbyists and professional riders alike.

Friesians are renowned for being light on their feet with an effortless canter, making them excellent dressage horses that can be easily controlled by riders of any skill level. Their versatility and adaptability to various equestrian disciplines further add to their appeal as a first horse.

However, potential owners should also be aware of some considerations when choosing a Friesian as their first horse. First and foremost, the breed has a specific set of care and grooming requirements due to their long, thick manes and tails, as well as their feathered legs. Potential owners should be prepared to invest time and effort in maintaining their Friesian’s coat to keep it clean and healthy. Health-wise, the breed may also be prone to certain conditions, such as equine polysaccharide storage myopathy (EPSM), which affects their muscles. It is crucial to ensure that regular veterinary care and a proper diet is provided to keep them in optimal health.


In summary, the Friesian horse breed exhibits many qualities that make it a suitable choice for a first horse. With its calm temperament, intelligence, and adaptability to various equestrian disciplines, a Friesian horse can be an excellent companion for novice riders and professionals alike. However, those considering a Friesian as their first horse should also be prepared to invest in the necessary care, grooming, and medical attention to maintain their horse’s health and well-being. By taking these factors into account, prospective owners can make an informed decision as to whether a Friesian horse is the right choice for their equestrian journey.