The Friesian


The Friesian horse is unique, truly a breed to be proud of. It developed from a very old breed which was inherent to all of western Europe. It’s the only horse native to Holland. Historically speaking, the Friesian horse has been influenced by eastern bloodlines and has often been threatened with extinction. Thanks to the single-mindedness and dauntless dedication of true horse lovers, one can still appreciate the many facets of the Friesian horse today.


Without a doubt, the black coat of the Friesian will impress you at first sight. Bays and grays occurred earlier in the breed, but now black is the only recognized color. A small white forehead star is also allowed. Other obvious characteristics are the long, heavy mane and tail and the Shire-like fetlock hair.


The Friesian horse is enjoying a revival. He is a noteworthy sight in the show ring. His shiny black coat, flying mane and tail, and high action form an imposing image. The Friesian is, by nature, a talented show horse.

Harness Shows

The aim of showing in harness is to bring out the best in one’s horse. The horse should be balanced in a fast, high-action trot, roomy from the shoulder and powerful in the hindquarters. The total picture is one of lively harmony, with ears pricked attentively forward. Harness events in shows are usually driven with a high-wheeled gig, the “sjees“, for singles, pairs, and tandems. Driving with four-wheeled show carts is also gaining popularity.

Recreational and Competition Driving

Driving one or more Friesian horses has become increasingly popular in the past few years. Tough international competitions are only for the few, but there are many who derive relaxation and pleasure from driving Friesians for recreation. He who wants to perfect his driving and test his skill against others, can do so at the many dressage driving events.


The Friesian horse has a talent for dressage. The foundation lies in his intelligence, willingness to learn, and readiness to perform. His pleasant character and his gentleness make the Friesian an attractive mount for competition as well as for recreational purposes. The riding club “De Oorsprong” (the source), from Huis ter Heide near St. Nicolaasga in Friesland, has been using only Friesian horses since 1937 in order to advertise their abilities as riding horses.

Tilting at the Ring

This traditional sport is still enthusiastically practiced throughout Holland. One can see Friesians pulling a wide assortment of carriages at these events.


The Friesian quadrille is a well-appreciated show number. It is comprised of 8 sjees, drawn by Friesians, driven by gentlemen accompanied by a lady, both dressed in traditional costumes like those worn in the 1850’s. Complex patterns are driven, showing the drivers’ trust in the obedience of their horses.

The inspection
FHANA, The North American chapter of the KFPS organizes inspections throughout North America in the fall season. At these  inspections, foals, as well as mares, geldings and stallions aged 3 years and older can be presented for registration or for an upgrade in ranking. At the keurings, which are ran by the FHANA chapters it is also the time to present for an IBOP.

Average scores for 5 main characteristics Result Title
> 7.5 Included with  1st premium Studbook Star (stb star)
~ 7 Included with 2nd premium Studbook Star (stb star)
~ 6 ¨C 7 Included with 3rd premium Studbook (stb)
~ 6 Included without premium Studbook (stb)
< 6 Not included Remains in foalbook


At the Inspection, foals, yearlings and two-year-old mares, colts and geldings can earn distinctions with a 1st, 2nd or 3rd premium, or they receive no premium. Star mares, geldings and stallions presented for inspection can receive a 1st or 2nd premium. Note: In considering the awarding of premiums, the criteria relating to trueness to breed, the walk and the trot carry the most weight. In addition, a horse with a score of 4 or less for one or more criteria will not be registered, and a horse with a score of unsatisfactory (5 or less) for one or more of the main criteria cannot be entered into the star register.
For the 3-year-old and older stallions that are presented at the foal book stallion inspection there are two possibilities: The stallion remains foal book (Vb) or is declared star (Vb star).

Stallion selection 
Stallions that would like to become eligible for approval for stud service can, starting from their third year, be presented to the studbook.  These young stallions at a keuring have an assessment of exterior and movement in hand.

By invite only they can then attend the stallion Testing. Thestallions must meet rigorous veterinary requirements, including an examination of the chestnut-factor, clinical and X-ray assessments and semen examination. In the selection of stallions for stud service, the quality of the pedigree and the animals’ kinship percentage in relation to the whole of the Friesian horse population, also play a role. Stallions that pass this rigorous selection are given the chance to prove themselves in the Stallion Examination. This is a test lasting 10 weeks in which the stallion is assessed for talent as a dressage, harness and show driving horse. Stallions that prove their quality are entered into the studbook register.

Young stallions receive a stud licence for 180 mares per year. At the time when the oldest progeny become adults, 20 offspring of the stallion concerned are selected for progeny testing.
If the offspring, in categories such as health, use, exterior and movement, turn out to be of sufficient quality, the stallion becomes approved on progeny. From that point onwards, the stallion may serve as stud stallion for an unlimited number of mares.

Central Inspection

In 2016 North America held its first Central Inspection. The horses, with the exception of the foals, that have earned a 1st premium or higher in the inspection season, are invited to take part in the Central Inspection. The inspection is held in October. At the Central Inspection, the 3-year-old and older star mares can earn the preliminary Crown Predicate or perhaps even the preliminary Model Predicate (the highest exterior predicate for mares).


These preliminary predicates can be made permanent through an IBOP or ABFP test, with at least 77 points and an average of 7 for the basic gaits, or by earning the sport predicate.

Stallion Inspection 
In the Netherlands, the stallion inspection is organized on a yearly basis. This takes place in January in the Dutch city of Leeuwarden and is primarily aimed at selection of young stallions and the annual inspection of the approved KFPS studbook stallions. The event is held on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with the Friesian Proms organized as part of the program on Thursday and Friday evening.

On the Friday before the stallion inspection, a public-admission clinic afternoon is organized. For many Friesian horse-lovers, this stallion inspection, which attracts more than 10,000 visitors, is the main event of the year.

Tests and the sport predicate
In North America the Registry offers a couple of tests in which Friesian horses can take part: the IBOP and the ABFP test. The IBOP test is designed to ascertain, in an as objective a manner as possible, the horse’s suitability for a specific purpose. Similarly, the ABFP test is designed to ascertain, in an as objective a manner as possible, talent as dressage and/or show driving and/or harness horse. In addition, for all Friesian horses, there is the possibility to earn the sport predicate.

Other predicates
When it turns out that a stallion exhibits an exceptionally good heritability performance, it can be declared Preferent. Mares can also earn Preferent status. For this, four offspring of the dam must have earned the star predicate. Also, having brought a studbook stallion into the world counts towards the Preferent status of a mare. A mare earns the predicate performance dam when three of her offspring have earned the sport predicate.



Q. When did Friesians come to North America?

A. Friesian horses originated in Friesland—a province of The Netherlands (Holland). The Friesian horse, one of Europe’s oldest breeds, was originally imported to North America in the seventeenth century but the breed was totally lost in North America due to crossbreeding. The Friesian was not reintroduced to North America until 1974.

Q. What can I use a Friesian for?

A. Friesian horses are very versatile and can be used in riding for pleasure and in competition, for dressage, driving for pleasure and in competition and even for light farm work. Unlike some other European warmbloods, Friesians have not been bred as jumpers, although some owners enjoy jumping their horses.  For more information see

Q. How tall are Friesian horses?

A. Friesian stallions must be at least 1.60 M (15.3 hands) by the age of four and mares and geldings must be at least 1.54 M (15.0 hands) to enter the adult studbooks. The height of 15.2 to 16.0 hands is average, although many horses are taller or shorter. Average weight is 1300 + pounds.

Q. How many Friesians are there?

A. There are currently more than 45,000 Friesians registered worldwide in the Dutch Friesch Paarden Stamboek. Approximately 8,000 of those horses are in North America.

Q. What colors do Friesians come in?

A. The only color a studbook-registered Friesian comes in is black, however this may range from very dark brown or black-bay to true black. Many Friesians appear black bay when their coats are shedding or when they have become sun or sweat bleached. Selective breeding minimizes white markings and the only white marking allowed on a studbook-registered horse is a small star.

Q. Is cross breeding allowed?

A. The rules of FHANA strongly discourage the breeding of KFPS registered Friesian horses with other breeds.

Q. What is a judging?

A. A judging (keuring, in Dutch) is an evaluation of horses here in North America, by officials from the Netherlands. Once a year, teams of officials qualified by the Friesch Paarden Stamboek are sent to North America to inspect or “judge” our horses. This is a thorough evaluation process that helps us to upgrade our breeding programs. The horses are judged in-hand and 60% of the evaluation is based on the quality of movement and 40% is based on conformation.

Q. What is a “star”?

A. When a mare or gelding enters the adult studbook, the best 25 to 30% are awarded “Star” status. This designation appears on the horse’s registration certificate. The very, very best of the Star Mares can be awarded the designation of “Model”. Mares can receive the designation preferent (“Preferred”), if four of their offspring achieve star status or better. And mares with three offspring performing at the top levels in competitive sport can receive the designation of prestatie, or “Performance Mother”.

Q. How many stallions get breeding approval?

A. In the registry of the Friesch Paarden Stamboek, only Approved Studbook Stallions can sire horses that are eligible for entry in the main studbook registers. There are approximately 100 Approved Stallions in the world today and about a quarter of those are in North America.

Q. Where can I get a Friesian and how much will it cost?

A. The Friesian breed is becoming quite popular in North America with reputable breeders across the continent. You can find a list of some of those breeders listed under our “Breeders & Sellers” list found under “Horses for Sale”. Our online classified section is also a great place to begin your search for the perfect Friesian and see the going rates for these fine animals. Prices vary according to age, gender, inspection status, and levels of training.