What to Know About the Friesian Horse

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on January 09, 2023
5 min read

Adopting a new pet is always a big commitment. This is particularly true when the animal is a horse. 

Friesian horses are one of many popular horse breeds. They are noble, hard-working creatures that make excellent pets. Just make sure that you thoroughly do your research before you decide to bring one of these large mammals home with you.

The Friesian horse is one of the oldest domesticated European breeds. 

All breeds of horses are members of the modern species Equus caballus, but experts believe that Friesians are actually descended from an ancient European species called Equus robustus.

Unlike most breeds, this line doesn’t include any English Thoroughbreds in its ancestry. Friesian horses were developed in a place called Friesland — one of 12 provinces in the kingdom of the Netherlands. 

To create the modern version of this breed, people bred ancestors of Equus robustus with Arabian lines in the 1500s and 1600s. Pure breeding of the Friesian only began within the past two centuries.  

Friesian horses were imported to the U.S. as early as 1625. Over time, the pure breed was entirely lost in the U.S. due to cross-breeding. It was re-introduced in 1974 and became incredibly popular.

Friesian horses perform well in harnesses, and experts consider them to be excellent trotters. They’re typically still used: 

  • For agricultural work
  • In circuses
  • In driving competitions

Friesian horses are known for their long, luxurious mains and tails. They also have long hair down near their feet. Unlike other breeds, the Friesian standard frowns upon any amount of tail docking or hair trimming. 

Another unique Friesian horse characteristic is the distinct way that they hold their heads — up high with well-arched necks. This gives them a proud appearance and was one of the reasons that royals used to prefer them. 

Color is an important trait of the Friesian horse breed. A purebred horse should be black with no white markings except on their heads.

These horses have very natural gaits and prefer to move along at a steady trot. The average Friesian horse size is between 15.2 and 16 hands at the withers, meaning they’re typically 63 inches or taller at their shoulder. The average female weighs 1,300 pounds, while males tend to be heavier.

Friesian horses, like most breeds, has an average lifespan of 25 to 30 years. The oldest recorded age for an individual horse is 61 years.

Friesian horses are a quality breed that has coexisted with humans for centuries. They have a lot of strength and energy, which gives them spirit.

Overall, each individual horse has their own personality. It’s always a good idea to meet a particular horse before you bring them home to determine whether they have the right temperament for your needs.

Horses are grazers. This means that they eat lots of small meals throughout the day. They feel uncomfortable when they’re forced to eat a lot of food at one time. 

You should have a supply of hay and grass on hand at all times so that they can casually pick at their food when they feel like it. Make sure that these foods are clean and free of mold, especially if you've been storing their food for an extended period of time. Also provide them with a constant source of clean water.

The amount that Friesian Horses eat and drink may vary depending on their size and activity levels. On average, they eat an average of 20 pounds of food a day and drink eight gallons of water. Keep these figures in mind when you’re creating your budget. 

Horses can also get a lot of micronutrients from a salt lick or a mineral block. Make sure that your horse has access to one on a regular basis.

All breeds of horses are incredibly expensive pets. You're likely to pay more in the first year of caring for a horse than for the initial cost of the horse. They are large pets that need to be housed and fed on a daily basis, and — unlike a cat or dog — you can’t simply make room for them in your own home. 

Housing. Horses need comfortable accommodations. This is typically a stall within a stable. If you don't have a stable of your own, you’ll need to use a friend’s or rent out a year-round space at a local stable. 

Your horse also needs a protected outdoor space where they can roam and graze. If you don't have this, you’ll need to make sure to take them out on walks or treks more often.  

Grooming. Horses have important grooming needs that can be dangerous if ignored. Besides brushing and maintaining their coats, you also have to take regular care of their teeth and hooves, which grow constantly. 

Farriers and blacksmiths can help you take care of their hooves. These need to be trimmed every 6 to 8 weeks. Your horses may also need shoes made by blacksmiths, depending on the breed and what activities you plan on doing with your pet. 

An experienced veterinarian should check their teeth on a regular basis and shave down any that are too long. They can also check for signs of infection, such as bad breath.

Extreme weather care. Horses are well adapted to spending most of their lives outdoors. But they still don’t like extreme weather conditions, including temperatures that are too hot or cold. 

Make sure that your accommodations are suitable for your horse all year long. For example, be careful about how much you ride your horse in extreme heat and make sure to provide lots of water. In extreme cold, you have to make sure that their water source doesn’t completely freeze.

There are lots of changes that you can make in response to extreme weather conditions. Do your research and find out the best way to take care of a horse in your local environment. 

If you’re willing to make the commitment, you’ll likely find that the reward of this animal’s friendship is well worth all of the costs.