Buying a Friesian Horse


The rules of any studbook are complex and the rules of Het Friesch Paarden-Stamboek (FPS) which is the parent studbook of the Friesian Horse Association of North America (FHANA) are no exception. The purpose of these complexities is to differentiate between the Registry and status/grade levels of horses in order to achieve our primary goal of preserving and improving the breed. To evaluate their quality, foals and adult horses are inspected by an FPS judge from The Netherlands based on a combination of their movement (60%) and conformation (40%).

The following is a brief description of the Friesian studbook system to enable first time or inexperienced buyers to recognize the grading of a Friesian horse from its brand markings and its registration papers.

The Main Studbooks

Breeding Friesian horses within the FPS studbook system is strictly controlled. A foal can only be registered in the Foal Book register of the main studbook if its dam is in the main studbook (Mare Studbook or Foal Book) and was bred to a studbook stallion with FPS approved breeding privileges (an Approved Stallion). At the beginning of 1998 there were 17 such stallions available for live covers or artificial insemination in North America; in addition several other stallions were available in The Netherlands for artificial insemination using frozen semen.

If you are considering buying a Friesian colt for eventual use as a stallion you should be aware that the chances of getting him approved for breeding are very small. There are very stringent requirements placed on Approved Stallions. If, however, you wish to pursue this possibility, carefully review FHANA’s Rules & Regulations concerning the requirements for the Studbook for Stallions.

B-Book I

In some countries, there is a scarcity of Approved Stallions. In order to promote breeding in those countries, there is a subsidiary registry within the studbook system called the B-Book I (in Dutch, bijboek-I). Foals can be registered in B-Book I when the sire is a registered Foal Book stallion that has been given approval by the FPS for limited breeding under specific predefined conditions.

Breeding for the B-Book I was allowed in North America until 1992. A horse, particularly a filly or mare, registered in B-Book I may therefore cost a bit less than an equivalent horse registered in the main studbook and a potential buyer should be aware of this fact and be able to recognize such a horse’s registration paper.

Unfortunately it is difficult to distinguish between the main studbook and B-Book I horses registered in 1992 or earlier based on the outward appearance of their papers. In this case you must look for a Foal Book-registered stallion in the horse’s pedigree.

For both the white paper and laminated plastic certificates, look for a V.B., Vb or vb. (referring to veulenboek, Foal Book) following any sire’s name or registration number on the upper branches of the ancestral tree. If any such sires appear within three generations in the sire’s or dam’s line, then the horse should be considered equivalent to horses registered in B-Book I. (Although such horses born in the 1980’s, prior to the establishment of the B-Book, were registered in the main studbook, as are their descendants.)

B-Book II

In addition to the B-Book I, there is a second subsidiary registry within the studbook system called the B-Book II. This registry is intended for all purebred Friesian horses that were bred using Foal Book stallions without the approval of the FPS.

Both the FHANA and the FPS strongly discourage B-Book II breeding and, within North America, any such horses born after the end of 1994 will not qualify for registration. Therefore a buyer might expect to pay somewhat less for B-Book II horses—all other things being equal. B-Book II horses can be identified by their distinctive blue and blue/pastel-red laminated plastic papers.

Promotion of B-Book Descendants

There is a set of rules whereby the offspring of a B-Book II mare can be registered in B-Book I if that mare is bred to an Approved Stallion. Likewise the descendants of B-Book I mares can be elevated to the main studbook after three generations of similar Approved breedings.

A B-Book horse may be an excellent individual and may fit your budget and future requirements even though it may not be in the highest FPS register. Of course the final judgment is yours as every horse is different. We hope you make a positive decision to buy a Friesian and enjoy our remarkable breed!

Status of Horses Within the Register

The table that follows illustrates how to identify a registered Friesian horse from its papers. Within each Registry, the top horse listed would usually be more costly than the second, and so forth—age, soundness, reproductive status and similar factors being equal. For example, you would expect to pay more for a Model Mare than a Star Mare, more for a Star Mare than a Studbook (normal) Mare, and more for a Studbook Mare than for one that could not be promoted from the Foal Book (because of a white leg marking, for example).

Horses in the Foal Book usually move up to the Studbook at the age of three or four; however, some owners– particularly of geldings, do not bother to have them judged and a mature Foal Book horse may still be a good buy if it has potential.

There is no category for stallions that have not been approved for breeding. A male horse must either be approved, gelded, or remain in the Foal Book.


Foals, yearling and two year old mares, stars and the higher quality studbook mares and geldings can receive premiums (in Dutch, premie) when they are judged. On judging day, a first premium horse demonstrated better movement and conformation than a second premium horse, which demonstrated better movement and conformation than a third premium horse.

“No premium” foals can result from many factors including genuine faults, poor quality, temporary unsoundness on judging day, unacceptable white markings, or beginning with 1997 foals—horses that were registered without being judged by the FPS.

Among adult horses, Approved Stallions and younger Star Mares and Geldings are eligible to receive a first or second premium. The higher quality studbook (non-star) mares and geldings may receive a third premium. The premium system for adult mares and geldings was changed in 1998; until that time only the higher quality stars could receive a premium.

In the case of multiple premiums, the most recent is the most important. Foal premiums may or may not be relevant indicators of a horse’s quality as an adult.

Organizations That Register Friesians

The FPS (of which FHANA is the only recognized North American representative) is the original Friesian studbook founded in 1879 in The Netherlands. The FPS currently has about 8,000 members in more than a dozen countries and now has approximately 30,000 horses registered. The largest numbers of FPS-registered horses are in The Netherlands and Germany, followed by North America.

Although the majority of Friesians are in the FPS registry, you should be aware that there is at least one other organization in the world that registers Friesian horses. Its guidelines and breeding policies are not identical to those of the FPS and it has its own judges who judge the horses to a different standard than the standards of the FPS.

Some horses registered by the other organization were originally registered with the FPS and those horses would be eligible for FPS registration again, although dual registry is not permitted. Other non-FPS Friesian horses may or may not be eligible for FPS registration and an inquiry must be made to FHANA to determine any specific non-FPS horse’s eligibility for FPS registration.

For More Information

We appreciate that this is very complex but if you have any doubts or questions concerning a specific registration document, please contact the FHANA .

Good Luck with hunting for YOUR ideal Friesian horse!

The FHANA Resource Book

THE FHANA Resource Book is now available for order. This publication is good for all NEW and SEASONED members alike. Contact FHANA to obtain your copy today.