Friesian Conformation and Performance

Conformation – At a time when many breed registries have experienced a decline in registrations and memberships, the FPS has continued to grow. This is due, in part, to the appearance and charisma of the Friesian horse. The attraction exerted on devotees by the appearance of the Friesian horse cannot be jeopardized when breeding for specific performance qualities. A description of ideal Friesian conformation follows:

The head is relatively short and the width is proportional to the length. The ears are small and alert with the tips pointing slightly toward each other. The eyes are large and shining. The nasal bone is slightly hollow or straight; nostrils are wide. The lips are closed and the teeth meet properly. The jaw bones are not heavy and are spread wide apart to allow the horse to breathe easily while at work. The head is set gracefully on the neck with adequate space for the throat. Overall, the head is dry and expressive and blends smoothly into the neck.

The neck is lightly arched at the crest. It is long enough for the horse to bend properly and is adequately muscled. The neck is set on high and the lower neckline does not bulge between the throat and the chest.

The withers are well developed, prominent and, in particular, blend gradually into the back.

The back is not too long and is well muscled. A slightly low back is allowed.

The loin is wide, strong and well muscled and makes a smooth transition into the croup.

The croup is of good length and slopes slightly downward; it is wide and muscular. It neither forms a point nor is overly rounded. The tail is not set on too low. The gluteal muscle is long and well developed.

The shoulders are long and sloping and are set widely enough apart to form a good chest, which is neither too wide nor too narrow.

The ribs are long and curved, supplying ample space for the heart and lungs, without being rotund. The belly maintains sufficient depth towards the rear.

The legs – The forelegs are properly positioned and when viewed from the front, are set parallel with a hoofwidth of space at the ground. Viewed from the side, they are perpendicular down through the fetlock joint. The cannon bone is not too long; the forearm, however, has good length. The pastern is resilient, of good length and is at a 45 degree angle to the ground. The hoofs are wide and sound.

The hind legs, viewed from the rear, are straight. Viewed from the side, the legs are set directly under the hind quarters and are strong with good, sound hoofs. The hind cannon is a little longer than in front; the gaskin is long, with well developed muscle. The angle at the hock is approximately 150 degrees; the rear pasterns are at a 55 degree angle to the ground.

The joints in the legs are dry, well-developed, and provide a good foundation for the tendons and ligaments.

The overall appearance of the horse’s body is more nearly a rectangle than a square. When the shoulder is long and sloping, the back is not too long, and the croup is of adequate length, the ratio of fore-, middle- and hind quarters can be an ideal 1:1:1. The horse is neither too massive nor too light.

The walk is straight, vigorous and springy. There is good length of stride and the hind quarters swing forward with power.

The trot is a reaching and forward movement with power from the hind quarters. It is elevated and light-footed with a moment of suspension. The hock flexes as the horse moves forward and the inside angle of the hind leg closes during each stride.

The canter is well supported and lively with sufficient power from the hind quarters and flexion in the hock.

Breeding for Performance – The Friesian horse is used in various equestrian sports: show driving, combined driving, dressage under saddle and recreation. As driving horses, Friesians perform well, but to become more competitive in all sports, attention should be given to the following points:

* strong, powerful hind quarters
* a luxurious horse that is not too heavy, but has ample power
* a long, sloping shoulder
* hard, dry legs
* light-footed movements with a moment of suspension
* size neither too small nor too large; the ideal range of height is 1.59 – 1.63 meters (15.2½ to 16.0 hands)
* sufficiently long and well muscled forearm and gaskin
* strong, smooth transition from loin to croup; long and well developed gluteal muscle
* good, wide hoofs with proper heels
* good head/neck connection
* an honest character, eager to work
* stamina

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