Friesian Sport Horse: Breed Profile

Training, Grooming, and Care Tips

A black Friesian horse jumping.

Murmakova / Getty Images

Friesian Sporthorses are sleek, elegant horses that are specifically bred for sporting events, hence their name. They are a Friesian crossbred of the sport horse type. Friesian horses, originating in the Netherlands and Germany, are graceful and nimble horses that are typically used for recreation, while their athletic Friesian Sporthorse relatives are often used for competitions and performances. 

But, although Friesian Sporthorses are athletic enough to perform well in jumping competitions and the like, the breed is also sought out for recreational purposes by individuals, especially trail riders. They are gentle and careful enough to accommodate riders of all ages.

Breed Overview

Weight: 1300 pounds on average

Height: 14.2 to 17 hands (58 to 68 inches)

Body Type: Heavy, sturdy stature with a high, arched neck and a thick mane and tail

Best For: Sport, show, family

Life Expectancy: 16 years

Frisian Sporthorse History and Origins

The practice of crossbreeding Friesian horses has been common since the late 19th century when Friesians were quite popular in the Netherlands and Germany. Even so, registries did not recognize the offspring of these crossbred individuals for decades to come.

In 2007, a studbook for Friesian Sporthorses was founded by the Friesian Sporthorse Association, also known as the FSA. The FSA trademarked the name “Friesian Sporthorse” the following year.

The FSA was initially founded in the United States, but shortly thereafter a branch was added in Australia, and the Friesian Sporthorse Association now registers Friesian Sporthorses worldwide.

Friesian Sporthorse Size

The average height of a Friesian Sporthorse is about 16 hands high, or about 64 inches, but Friesians typically vary between 15.2 and 17 hands in height, which is equivalent to 58 to 68 inches.

Friesians, with their muscular physique, can weigh as much as 1,400 pounds or as light as 1,200 pounds, meaning they are quite a large horse breed.

Breeding and Uses

Throughout their history, Friesian Sporthorses were extensively used as workhorses in the agricultural sector due to their strength and temperament. 

But as the need for such agricultural workhorses declined, the breed became popular for recreational uses and competitions, notably dressage. In general, these horses can excel in almost any area—from the show ring to casual family rides. This breed is very well-rounded.

Friesian Sporthorses can often also be seen pulling wagons or dressed up for all sorts of events. Because of their strength combined with their gentle, family-friendly attitude, the breed is a great choice for those looking for a low-risk horse to incorporate into an elaborate event.

Colors and Markings

Typically Friesian Sporthorses are solid black. The FSA does not consider a pure black coat part of the breed standard, however. Their organization recognizes all colors and markings, though some cannot be achieved without the use of non-approved non-sport breeds, which isn’t recommended. 

Friesians are usually found with chestnut, white, and black coat colors and markings, with chestnut being a relatively rare color variant.

A brown Friesian Sporthorse with a long mane.
Meagan Jenkins / Getty Images
a black Friesian Sporthorse looking away.
kondakov / Getty Images

Unique Characteristics of the Friesian Sporthorse

While the Friesian Sporthorse is athletic and muscular, individuals are sometimes built more baroque in appearance compared to other sporthorses. Similar to other baroque breeds, Friesians have strong, muscular hindquarters, thick necks, and full manes and tails. This is quite a unique appearance among sport breeds, making the Friesian Sporthorse stand out.

Diet and Nutrition

In order to keep the Friesian Sporthorse’s coat sleek and shiny, it’s important to feed them plenty of vitamins and minerals regularly.

Because they are athletic sporthorses, they must get enough energy through their food to increase stamina. Protein is also important to maintain this breed’s muscular stature.

Consult with a veterinarian before you decide on the best food for your Friesian Sporthorse.

Common Health and Behavior Problems

These horses are generally calm with a gentle disposition. They behave well around people of all ages and do not spook easily.

Unfortunately, Friesian Sporthorses do have a relatively high rate of genetic disorders as compared to other breeds. This likely stems from inbreeding. Some of the common health problems include:

  • Digestive system disorders
  • Dwarfism
  • Pastern dermatopathy
  • Aortic rupture

Grooming

Friesian Sporthorses are relatively high maintenance due to their glossy coat and long, thick tail and mane. Be prepared for a lot of brushing and regular baths

Friesians also have chronically dry skin, so grooming them daily is important.

This breed is not a fan of warm weather. In addition, the sun can bleach their beautiful coat, so avoid grooming them in direct sunlight, especially in the summer.

Pros
  • Gentle and friendly temperament

  • Good for beginners and children

  • Athletic

Cons
  • Requires extensive grooming

  • Not suitable for warm weather

  • Genetic disorders common

Is the Friesian Sporthorse Right for You?

Because Friesian Sporthorses are relatively high maintenance in terms of grooming, they may not be suitable for first-time horse owners. Those more experienced with the responsibilities that come with regular, consistent grooming may love owning a Friesian, however. 

These horses are gentle and well-behaved, so they would do well with a family who loves riding together. They are also excellent for people who need a great competitive horse.

This breed does best in a cold-weather climate. They do not do well in the heat and direct sunlight may be harmful to their solid, sleek coat.

How to Adopt or Buy a Friesian Sporthorse

Friesian Sporthorses can sometimes have genetic disorders, so it’s very important to be sure the breeder you buy them from is reputable. Start out by visiting the Friesian Sporthorse Association to find more information on approved breeders, DNA testing, and registration protocols.

You should also always consult with a veterinarian before you purchase a horse to be sure it's happy and healthy.

More Horse Breeds

If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out the:

Otherwise, feel free to check out all of our other horse breed profiles.