A guide to the "Care and Feeding
Written/compiled by Leeandra Wesley
of Legacy Stable
anything with a *added by Sue Zoltner
of legacy friesians
I have people interested in getting their first
friesian talk to me all the time. Many come out and see our wonderful horses
and fall in love. Some come out interested in our current foals/in-uteros
for sale, and I've sold mostly to first time friesian owners. My conversations
with them are not light. Friesians are not for the weak of heart, and AFTER
I've told them all the problems and specifics with friesian care and they're
still standing there not scared out of their minds, THEN I will sell them
a horse! LOL!
I will preface my suggestions here for a "Care
of Friesians manual" with IT WILL NOT APPLY TO EVERY SITUATION. Some people
will read what I write and say "My friesian doesn't have that problem...."
I am writing what the breed in general is prone to. Some people, as with
all breeds of horses, get lucky. Some buy horses and never, ever, ever
have a problem with them even though they're kept in barbed wire fence,
fed tons of grain a day by throwing it down in the sand, don't feed hay
etc. They throw their mare in a pasture with their backyard stud colt and
11 months later they come out and find a foal standing next to the mare.
I'm not talking about anyone in particular, just giving you the idea of
what I mean. You get the picture. Some people who either are completely
uneducated or uninterested just get lucky. Then there are people like us--people
who put the care of their horses generally above themselves, do exhaustive
research, do everything possible to make sure their horses have the best
of everything, proper care, proper nutrition, proper training, proper tack,
proper turnout, and still our horses tend to be taken from us way too early
and for unimaginable reasons that are rarely any fault of our own. It seems
terribly unfair. But, to that end, if I can help anyone else out there
enjoy their friesian for one more day than they would have otherwise, I'm
all for writing it down.
Were someone to be given a manual with a friesian,
this is what I would want it to say:
Health Problems to look out for:
Scratches/Mud Fever/Dew Poisoning
Chronic Progressive Lymphedema
* Lymphangitis aka Lymphangectasia or Lymphedema
Sensitivity to Sedatives
Complications with General Anesthesia
Difficulty Getting Mares in Foal
Mares not carrying to Term
FFA ("Full Friesian Alert")
Stoic with Pain
Supplementing for Coat Enhancement
Mane and Tail Care
Lack of Endurance
Health problems to look out for:
Hooves: Friesians have great,
hard feet. They are normally best kept barefoot unless medically necessary
to shoe. Some people's terrain and use (i.e. constant unusually rocky turnout/riding,
trail use, driving often on hard roads) will mean shoes are necessary.
Overall, most can be kept barefoot easily. The Dutch like to see a higher
heel, and the horse in general tends to naturally grow a higher heel. I've
found a horse has better dressage movement when trimming more "traditionally".
By trimming with the higher heel, you get more carriage-driving like movement
. (There was just discussion on the lists about this and what judges like
to see trim-wise for the keurings, with the higher heel etc). In addition,
friesians try to grow a higher heel, and you need to let them exist in
a higher heel than most other breeds. There's a happy medium between the
heel angles needed---too upright with too tall of a heel makes for very
jarring movement in a friesian and percussive damage on their legs, taking
too much heel off makes them appear underslung and has been confirmed on
x-rays to start reverse rotation of the coffin bone angle, plus it also
puts tension on the deep digital flexor tendon. Having had the need to
trim according to x-rays, I've had the unique ability to see the various
style trims on friesian feet and their direct impact on the coffin bone
orientation and movement, sometimes x-raying and lunging before and after
trims. Overall advice: keep barefoot if your sport and turnout/riding allow.
If only used occassionally for "harder" surface/impact uses, consider hoof
boots for those times. Find a farrier who has worked on light drafts before--don't
let one allow the various flares etc that friesian feet get too out of
control and "trim like a draft". At the same time, I've had farriers that
have trimmed the hoof capsule too small and "trimmed them like a pony".
Also be aware of the pointy hooves that adolescent friesians get on their
hind hooves. You can round them out cautiously, but they SHOULD mature
out of it around 4-5 years old.
Legs: Before (or directly
after) purchasing your friesian, get baseline leg and hoof x-rays of anything
1 year and older. (less than one year is arguable, but if you're not suspcious
of anything, I personally don't see a need). Try to x-ray at least hooves/lower
legs annually. Friesians are prone to extensor process fractures and lower
leg bone chips in general, due to their size and generally high-kneed,
high impact movement. It's best to monitor your horse's front legs for
any coffin bone changes/chips and hocks/stifles for OCD, especially in
younger horses. ALWAYS get x-rays before you buy. ALWAYS. If a seller does
not allow you to do so, WALK AWAY. Friesians are hard on their legs and
hooves due to their movement, so if you are buying a middle aged or older
friesian, you are more likely to find a chronic problem that will not show
up in a standard vet exam and will need to be addressed later to maintain
Weak/Locking Stifles: Some
lines are known to pass on weak/locking stifles. Leffert is known for this,
though we personally have a Heinse daughter in the barn that has a terrible
locking stifle. Targeted exercise, detailed later on this page, to strengthen
the area and keeping excess weight off the horse is best treatment for
this. For breeders, if your mare has a weak stifle, be aware for pregnancy
purposes and also in choosing a suitable stallion--you need one that has
a track record of specifically improving the hind end and stifle. See above
regarding x-rays for monitoring stifle degredation and looking out for
early signs of OCD etc.
Anhidrosis: Friesians are
big and black. It's no secret they can be very heat intolerant. Some individuals
can stand in the middle of a desert all day long and not care, but as a
whole, heat intolerance is a problem. Anhidrosis (non-sweaters) do not
have the ability to sweat so they can't release heat from their bodies
and are at serious risk for heat stroke. For these horses, keep out of
the sun during the day. We keep our horses in the barn during the heat
of the day, under temperature controlled box fans, and the one anhidrosis
friesian we have has a mister set up in her stall to cool her off in extreme
temperatures---we just poked pinholes in a regular hose, hung around the
top of her stall and it works great!. One A.C. is known to help with anhidrosis,
along with cautious exercise--USUALLY the fitter the horse the better they
deal with it, but you have to be careful to not overheat the horse in the
exercise! If stalling is unavailable, make sure the horse can get to a
protected shaded area during the heat of the day. Monitor temps during
hot weather and cold hose if resting temp is over 102. (already knowing
the baseline temp for your horse is helpful here). Flysheets that are white
and reflective of sunlight but not heavy or clingy fabric help during turnout
as well. Anhidrosis is common in young friesians in their "teenage" years,
and many of them develop it at 2-3 years old and "grow out of it" around
5-6 years old.
Genetic faults in Friesians:
Waterhead/ crown head foals (hydrocephalus) is
the accumulation of fluid in the brain, resulting in damage to brain cells.
This problem can cause damage to the mare during foaling and possible death,
as the size of the head can make it so the foal cannot pass through the
Mesocolic Rente (hole in the mesocolon of a horse
that opens up and allows waste from the intestines into the horse's body)
Colic: Friesians anecdotally
are more prone to gas, impaction, and tortion colic, stomach rupture, and
Mesocolic Rente colic (when the horse colics and the intestines twist and
go through the hole in the mesentary, get stuck, and the tissue dies.)
Article here: (this horse did fine, but many colics are due to this genetic
fault where there is a hole in the intestines--many are categorized as
"tortion colic" but are actually this problem). Additionally (again, anecdotal
evidence) I have had several vets comment that there is a general belief
in the vet world that friesians have less dorsal body wall attachments
than other breeds, making them more prone to tortion colic. This information
comes from surgeons who have performed colic surgeries on friesians. Specified
feeding, turnout management and worming can help prevent colic incidence
Scratches/skin maladies of the feathers:
due to their feathering, are prone to getting mites, bacteria, Chorioptic
mange, and infections in their feathers. Good grooming, drying feathers
and/or trying to limit turnout in constantly marshy and wet conditions
is best. Mites/mite infections, known to the Dutch as "mok" can be treated
with topical or injectible treatments.
Several possible treatments, depending on the
One common treatment is to use Frontline spray
on the horse's legs to kill the mites. Although Frontline is a product
approved only for ticks and fleas on cats and dogs, it is effective in
treating these mites. Lyme sulphur dip is effective in killing the mites
as well. Many vets will mix ivermectin in with an antibiotic paste and
apply this to the affected areas. The most important point is to clip the
hair, kill the mites, and treat with a topical antibiotic and anti-inflammatory
ointment. Some horses with deep secondary infections will also require
oral antibiotics. SEBACIL is another COTS (commercial-off-the-shelf) product
known to effectively treat the mites. Dectomex, Doramectine (not Ivermectine)
injectable is also used in Holland to treat the most stubborn of mite infections.
The dosage is 1cc per 100 pounds (for Friesians usually about 12cc) in
the hindquarters muscle. As always, CONSULT YOUR VET for diagnosis and
treatment before trying any of this. The chorioptic mites can be identified
by scraping skin and looking under a microscope for identification. They
can live for a long time off the host body of the horse, can live in stalls,
and can "jump" from horse to horse, even being carried on horses that are
non-symptomatic. There is a commonly known "mok recipe" that friesian owners
use as well:
1/2 jar Nitrofuazone...use this jar to mix everything
Add 1 tube Desitin...microwave the furazone and
desitin in the jar just enough to turn to liquid so that it mixes easily
Then add 40 mg Dexamethasone
10 ml Gentamycin
and 10 ml DMSO (90% liquid)
Stir and let cool, it will return to a pasty
compound that is easy to smear on the "mok"
*BE SURE TO WEAR GLOVES WHEN APPLYING...THE DMSO
IS WHAT ALLOWS THE MEDICINE TO PENITRATE THE SKIN AND IT WILL PENITRATE
YOUR SKIN ALSO!
You will need to get some of the ingredients from
your vet or have your vet mix up this "recipe"
Scratches/"Mud Fever"/"Dew Poisoning":
For this, a topical antifungal/antibacterial
wash is best. While washing/moisture is the enemy with mok, it can be helpful
with scratches. Washing/hosing the feathers, scrubbing with antibacterial
soap, picking off any loose "scabs", drying as thoroughly as possible and
then treating with a topical antifungal/antibacterial agent is the best
course of action. Treatment with products such as Shapley's M-T-G is one
of the best treatments. Keeping your horse out of the morning dew/wet marsh
areas is also helpful in getting this condition cleared up quicker.
* Editor's note- I like using petroleum jelly
all over the area (you need a lot), and then use Shapley's M-T-G.
This saves you a lot of money because you can use up a lot of cheap petroleum
jelly and then a much smaller amt of M-T-G is required. The vaseline
will soften the area and allow the scabs to fall off so the M-T-G can get
to the fungus.
Chronic Progressive Lymphedema:
This is a very serious condition, and one not
commonly found in friesians specifically, but something that "very bad
scratches" can be misdiagnosed as. If your friesian has/develops large
nodules around their pasterns, talk to your vet about getting a biopsy
done to check for this disease. At this time, there is no cure, but research
is ongoing. Recently it has been linked to being a genetic problem, so
it is something that should be looked into and reported when a friesian
turns up with this condition.
Some helpful links regarding the above condition,
with pictures and more information:
* Lymphangitis aka Lymphangectasia
Associated with inflammation of the lymphatics
of the hind legs and ventral abdomen. It can be caused by bacteria (usually
with fever) or be non-infectious (no fever). In both cases there is stiffness,
lameness, pain, heat. It is typically treated with antibiotics, diuretics,
antiinflammatories (usually a steroid), and hydrotherapy. It is typically
a chronic condition and will occur repeatedly over an animal's lifetime.
Late term pregnancy may exacerbate the condition because of pressure of
the fetus on the lymphatics in the abdominal wall. One must be careful
not to use steroids to treat in later pregnancy or the mare may abort from
High fevers of short duration can certainly result
in early embryonic death, however later in pregnancy it takes a longer
duration to severely impact the fetus (i.e. after 3 - 5 months gestation
and the placenta has started to form).
We at Legacy Friesians have a mare that gets
an outbreak every year. She can get 105 fever! Very scary.
With Banamine, the fever goes down, and then Sulfamethoxazole antibiotics
are started.. As far as anti-inflammatory, Naquasome is one we have used
(you have to get it compounded now) - which is a diuretic and steroid combination
- its safe during non- pregnancy OR Banamine or ketofen if the mare is
pregnant, especially in late pregnancy, when steroids may induce abortion.
Worming: Not much
friesian-specific here, just good horse practice. There are many ideas
on horse care regarding daily wormers vs paste wormers. Consult your vet
for the best worming practice and realize that friesians do weigh more
than most horses than the paste tubes are made for, so you may need to
use more that one tube. Using this equation will help to estimate your
horse's weight better than a weight tape (realize that this does NOT take
into account bone density, so if you have a particularly baroque friesian,
you will want to add on a couple hundred pounds to account for the bone
1. Measure the circumference (heart girth) of
the animal (distance C).
2. Measure the length of body (distance A-B,
point of hip to point of chest).
3. Take the values obtained in Steps 1 and 2
and apply the following formula to calculate body weight: Heart girth x
heart girth x length divided by 300 + 50 lb. = weight.
This formula is accurate to +/- 3%.
Also, Panacur Power Paks/Safe-Guard (Fenbendazole)
10x wormings in the winter and spring are highly suggested to remove any
encysted small strongyles in the gut. Be aware if you just buy the Panacur
Power Pak, there's a good chance it will NOT be enough wormer for a heavier
friesian, so you will likely want to go with buying a large tube of Safe-Guard
instead and measuring it out dose by dose. As friesians are prone to colic,
making sure your worming program is as effective as possible will ward
off any blockages due to worm loads. Additionally, make sure your worming
program contains praziquantel to eliminate tapeworms. Brand names like
Quest Plus, Zimectrin Gold, or a double worming of Strongid paste is effective
in killing tapeworms. Consult your vet for the best times of the year to
worm for particular worms in your area.
not much friesian-specific here, just good horse practice. Teeth should
be checked at 2-3 years old and monitored every 6 months until they are
about 6 years of age. Wolf teeth will come in during that time and often
warrant removal, as they tend to interfere with the action of the bit.
As a friesian reaches 6 years old, you can reduce to annual checkups. After
they are in their late teens, they should be checked every 6 months again.
Some people believe in power tools only, some
people believe in hand-floats only. Some people believe only vets should
float their horse's teeth, some feel only specialized dentists should.
Personally, we have a wonderful vet that comes onsite and sedates any horses
necessary for our dentist to hand-float. Some of the horses with specialized
teeth issues (parrot mouth, "wave mouth", diagonal wear due to chiropractic
issues etc) go to a vet clinic for a different dentist to work on with
power tools and very high level sedation and monitoring from the vet. So,
we combine all of the above :-) The one steady piece of advice I will give
here pertains to both and is a completely seperate issue (see below):
Friesians are resistant/sensitive to anesthesia/sedatives!
Many friesians require many more shots of sedative to get them truly "maleable"
for the dentist (or any difficult procedure that requires sedation, i.e.
gelding). If they are in pain/scared/uncomfortable and require sedation
from the vet, do not be surprised if the vet has to give several shots.
Start with the standard dose--NEVER ASSUME your friesian will be one that
"needs more" and just start out with that!!! With the standard sedative
dose, however your friesian will seem quite "out of it" until you actually
go to do something. Then they will WAKE UP! and tell you that they are
still quite aware of the situation and are not happy. For some of the hand
floats, our vet has carefully metered out 3 sedation shots, taking breaks
and going slow, over the course of the float. While not under stress and
resting, they seem so out of it they can barely stand. While under stress,
they're quite capable of taking you and the rest of the medical team out
of the picture. Some friesians have the exact OPPOSITE problem as above
and require the SMALLEST amount of sedative possible, sometimes up to 1/4
the standard dose. Advise your vet to proceed with caution when sedating
your friesian for the first time!
Post recovery in a stall with water, no hay, no
access to food is important to ward off any possibility of choke as they
regain their awareness and muscle/esophogeal control.
Recumbancy: Friesians put under anesthetic can have neurological
problems after recovery, often resulting in fatal complications. The condition
is called Hemorrhagic myelomalacia. Friesians have historically had problems
with recovery from general anesthesia, especially when needing surgery
requiring full/dorsal recumbancy. The general concensis is to try for partial
recumbancy if possible during a surgery, and move the horse around as well
during dorsal recumbancy to avoid a "soft spot" forming in the spinal cord
that will result in post-anaesthetic myelomalacia and require the horse
to be euthanized. The heavier (pregnant, baroque) horse will be at a greater
risk of this due to their weight. While more common in draft horses, friesian
horses are seceptible to the complication as well. Some articles with more
information to read are here:
Again, this will not apply to all mares/stallions
etc. Overall, friesians have a very high incidence of breeding complications,
dystocias, and foaling/post foaling complications. Quick points to know
do not always have the best motility and/or keep the best motility as they
age in relation to other breeds. Some remain wonderfully fertile throughout
their lives, but many have marked decreased motility as they age. Frozen
semen is a hit-or-miss due to this--some mares catch fine, but overall
freezing already decreased motility semen in older stallions does not give
an owner the greatest chances of getting their mare bred. Some questions
to ask stallion owners are their stallion's motility count, and, specifically
when looking to purchase frozen semen, ask when it was collected. As is
routine with most vets, have them do post-shipping motility counts during
Retained Placentas: Friesian
mares have an EXTREMELY high incidence of retained placentas. We thought
it was normal when we were foaling out, we were so used to it! Studies
have shown that most mares of other breeds will only retain their placentas
2-10% of the time, versus 54% in friesians. Studies have linked inbreeding
to the problem. http://jas.fass.org/cgi/content/full/82/4/982
and http://jas.fass.org/cgi/content/abstract/82/4/982 . Retained placentas
are causative of toxicity, laminitis, and colic (problems in the gut in
general from the toxicity of the RP), along with all of the post-foaling
reproductive issues that come with manual removal of a retained placenta
if deemed necessary (though this study shows that there are no differences,
FYI). They do acknowledge the high incidence of RP in friesians, though,
and were easily able to use them for their study!
Difficulty getting mares in foal:
is more anecdotal evidence gathered from various sources, from friesian
breeding facilities (including ourselves), vet schools (New Bolton, Leesburg,
VTU Blacksburg), equine thorongologists like Nandi Vet Clinic (Dr Hurtgen
et al) etc. Some mares are very fertile and get in foal first time every
time (we are lucky enough to have one in our barn) but many others are
bred repeatedly, with ideal conditions and take repeated breedings to settle,
if they ever do. In addition, friesians are notorious for growing larger
follicles than most other breeds, making it difficult to get the timing
correct for AI. They tend to not ovulate until 40-50mm versus many other
breeds that ovulate in the 30s. It causes many inexperienced vets and owners
to ship/breed more often than necessary and friesian mares typically can
hold onto their follicles through an HCG shot when others would have given
up and ovulated already. There's a great article on Iron Spring Farm's
site talking about this very topic. Add that to the (typically) already
decreased motility of many stallions and you have a very hard to reproduce
Not carrying to term:
Again, anecdotal evidence from the previously mentioned sources. You have
to watch friesian mares in foal like hawks. Placentitis, general bacterial
infections, mares colicking, hormone irregularity etc tend to take out
the foals that were successfully conceived. Maintenance ultrasounds often
(monthly!) to measure fetus size, placental thickness and regularity are
often needed to head off any problems. Regumate and TMZ is an oft-used
protocol to keep mares healthy and hormonally regulated to carry to term
and add dramatically to the cost of breeding a friesian.
anecdotal evidence from the previously mentioned sources. Friesians seem
to tend to have more dystocias than other breeds. They can range from minor
(one leg hooked back etc) to the worst possible nightmare (we had that--foal
presented with all 4 feet and no head--had to do a C section to remove,
and then she retained her placenta for FOUR days!). Be vigilant on your
marewatch and know to CHECK THE FOAL'S POSITION as soon as the mare is
in Stage 3 labor.
Neonatal Isoerythrolysis: Due
to the limited gene pool that friesians have, the incidence of this is
higher than in most breeds. It can be prevented by bloodtesting your mare
prior to breeding to a desired stallion and comparing the blood types.
If not discovered within the first 8-48 hours, the foal will likely die
from injesting the colostrum of the mare that contains the antibodies to
fight the foal's bloodtype. A good article to read on prevention is here,
and a more detailed article is here. An article specific to Friesians and
NI has just been published by Laurie Kasperek
here as well!
Temperaments are highly individual. In this case
I will give sweeping generalizations about the breed.
Pushiness: While adults are considered
very friendly and usually docile (moreso than many other breeds of horse)
young friesians can be overly pushy, to the point of being dangerous to
an inexperienced handler. They are very friendly, but do not respect/have
to be taught the idea of personal space. If left to their own devices,
many young friesians will run over their handlers, push them over, drag
them to food (they are very food motivated horses) and/or will choose to
jump in the lap of/hide behind their person during stress. If not corrected,
this can result in a very obnoxious and occassionally dangerous adult animal.
They generally do not understand their own size and think they are large
black labradors that can mug you, walk over you, sit in your lap and otherwise
roughouse/ignore the space requirements of a handler. Teaching them personal
space between the ages of 6 months-3 years is extremely important and will
ensure a life of a well adjusted, well behaved, enjoyable and safe companion
Food Motivation: While it is considered
"cute" by some, and harnessed by some trainers, food motivation can lead
to behavioral quirks and problems. Friesians love their food, which means
they will drag their handler in their stalls, get very pushy at feeding
time in the open, and be generally rude about food. We teach our young
friesians when coming into their stalls for feeding time to:
Wait and STAND AWAY from the pasture gate.
Stand quiet for the halter
Walk in quiet, side by side to their handler,
Stop and wait at their stall door
Stand quiet for unhaltering before allowed to
turn to their feed pans and eat
In stalls, friesians can be very aggressive about
eating, destroying their feed buckets, pawing the wall, climbing on the
feed buckets/up the wall while waiting for the grain to be put in their
buckets etc. It takes time and training with young friesians to have them
stand quiet, not rush their handler when opening the stall door with feed,
stay at a respectful distance and not crowd you when trying to put the
feed in their buckets. In addition, young friesians can hurt themselves
on the bucket/feed pan hardware. Be aware of sharp edges, unstable mounting
of the bucket/pan etc. We put baling twine "fuses" on the plastic corner
feed buckets we use and hang them. That way, if a horse gets too agressive
nosing/pawing the bucket and gets stuck, the baling twine will break before
the hardware/snaps/horse do! If all else fails, when we have a horse repeatedly
breaking buckets, we use a rubber ground pan for feeding.
When going into a field with food, use great caution
and teach your friesian to STAND BACK when you have food and not crowd
you. Teach them to stand away from you for treats (not on top of you, mugging
your pockets/hands/pushing you over/etc) and WAIT at a reasonable distance
for their dinners if being fed in a field.
known as "Full Friesian Alert", this is when a friesian spies something
interesting/spooky and does a "four on the floor" jump and leg plant, head
craned high, ears perked, totally tense and stares at something. Most friesians
just stand, stare, and snort. Some dance away, and a rare group of others
bolt right after. While the bolting is not as common in a friesian and
most are docile enough to just stare down and snort at what scares them
and listen to the reassurance of their handler, it is a distinct possibility
and the rider/handler should be prepared for this.
Friesians are not typically great for lesson horses. They will often do
as asked very willingly, but will normally only perform best for "their
person". They usually bond deeply with their owner, look for them ( i.e.
watch the driveway, know your car, come when called like crazy), become
depressed if they haven't seen them for a while, and have even been known
to exhibit jealousy when seeing their "person" handling another horse.
Stoic with pain: Friesians are typically
stoic horses when it comes to pain. It is one of the things that makes
diagnosing severe colic in a friesian so difficult and often means that
vital time is missed in the beginning stage of a colic episode. They can
be stoic to the point of not even having very elevated vitals (BPM, temps
etc). Any sign of gut discomfort in a friesian needs to be taken very seriously
and a vet should be called/treatment begun immediately and aggressively.
Often times the "wait and see if they seem better" attitude means the horse
sits there and munches on hay, looking fine but passing nothing while the
colic worsens. If your friesian has not passed any manure/very watery but
not productive manure for 24 hours, BE AGGRESSIVE in treatment and get
to a hospital if you can. Friesians typically do not show their true pain
levels until much further into a surgical colic than "normal" horses. The
same is true for heat/swelling in the coronary band and any suspected laminitic
issue. Get X-rays immediately to confirm coffin bone orientation when there
is heat in the coronary band and bilateral (multi-hoof) sensitivity noted.
Blanketing: Friesians are typically hardy
horses that do not require blanketing to be kept in colder climates. Unless
you have a need to keep your friesian trace-clipped/performance clipped
for show, the most blanketing typically needed is a sheet for cold/freezing
rain and/or VERY low wind chill. Of course, this varies climate to climate,
but overall frieisians handle cold, wet, and snowy conditions with relative
ease. They grow very fuzzy winter coats and fluff them up against the cold,
leaving their underfluff intact.
Turnout: This varies climate to climate,
but generally friesians (and any horse really) do best with the most turnout
possible in the largest rock/sand-free area as possible. They do need access
to shade in warm temperatures, and should have access to shelter for rain/sleet/snow/wind.
Stalling is not necessary, but excessive stalling ( i.e. only 1 hour of
turnout, no exercise) can cause behavior/temperament issues in the mildest
mannered friesian. Keep your horse's happiness in mind and err on the side
of turning out more often than not. Braids and hoods can help keep manes
from snagging on things in the pasture (or being pulled on/chewed on by
companions) and tails can be braided up to keep them out of the mud and
from being stepped on.
Companionship: As always, individual temperaments
may vary, but overall friesians are social animals and seek companionship.
Young colts/stallions are best kept socialized with a bachelor herd. Again,
personal preferences and individual situations may vary, but overall the
stallions do better being out with other stallions or geldings so they
can play and socialize. As stallion temperaments go, they are typically
more mild mannered than other breeds, but it all has to do with the proper
environment, upbringing, and socialization as well as genetics. Fillies
typically are happier around other fillies close to their age, and mares
make great "babysitters" of the fillies and great disciplinarians of rambunctious
youngsters in general. Oft times an alpha mare or an alpha gelding can
keep your rambunctious youngster humble (without harm) and respectful.
Diet: Fiber, fiber fiber! Keep the gut
active with roughage, (free choice grass hay if at all possible), soaked
beet pulp with no molasses, low sugar/low starch food (i.e. Triple Crown
Low Starch), and you do NOT need to over-protein a friesian! Friesians
not in heavy training do not NEED more than 10% protein in their overall
feed. Friesians under the age of 3 can have a little extra protein (i.e.
2-4% more), but DO NOT overprotein a friesian or you will risk OCD. Stay
away from a heavy grain diet, fortify with mostly soaked beet pulp, stabilized
rice bran, and/or essential oils (like soybean or cocasoya oil) for overall
health. If concerned about essential vitamins and minerals due to a lack
of grain, you can balance the ration using a balancer pellet like All-Phase
(made by Kentucky Equine Research, also known as Micro-Phase and available
worldwide), or Platinum Performance or Omega Horse Shine.
For coat enhancement: To "keep the black
horse black" and a shiny overall coat, you can use various suppliments.
Ground flax is best for overall shine and a natural source of omega fatty
acids in the diet. Paprika is the main ingredient in "Black-as-Knight"
and helps some horses retain their coat color when fed before the sunfade
starts ( i.e. early spring). It does contain capsacians, though, and will
cause a horse to test positive for them and most be taken out of feeds
2 weeks prior to recognized competition. Black Oil Sunflower Seeds are
also helpful, but come with a few caveats. Copper deficiency has a lot
to do with black horses turning red/orange, especially during time of the
year when coat fade is not typical. I've found that feeding the All-Phase
balancer pellet, the friesians get the proper copper content without overloading
on selenium, which can have serious if not fatal complications. Be aware
of the selenium content of your grass before choosing any suppliment. http://www.ansci.cornell.edu/plants/toxicagents/selenium/map1.html
is an example of a selenium map.
More on BOSS: (Black Oil Sunflower Seeds,
for those not familiar with the acronym) Many "friesian people" feed it
with great results. Between that and the paprika, a black/dark horse is
less likely to fade. The cons are that it is a REALLY high fat, high calorie
food, and my friesians are already butterballs as it is. It also is a bit
pricey, depending on what grade of seed you get. If you don't get better
milled seed, you get bin run sunflowers that often contain sticks, dirt,
cocklebur and other debris. In addition, they often contain up to 20% hulls
with no sunflower meat. So it's inconsistant and filler if you get the
cheap stuff, and expensive to get the better grade sunflower. It does have
a lot of the same properties as the All-Phase, to include a high natural
copper content, so that's likely why it works so well to fight the fade.
It does the same thing as All-Phase and offers many of the same trace mineral
content, to include selenium (we're on the border of a low selenium grass
content area, so it's ok to feed SOME selenium in the diet--just have to
be careful not to overdo it in the total feed content, as horses can suffer
from selenium poisoning) and phosphorus. You have to be careful not to
feed too much of it and throw off a horse's calcium to phosphoros ratio.
Remember you want at LEAST a 1:1 ratio of calcium to phosphorus. Sunflower
seeds (and most cereal grains) are VERY high in phosphorus and very low
in calcium. What this means is that for every gram of phosphorus ingested
in the diet, the body must match that with another gram of calcium before
the phosphorus can be absorbed through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream.
If the required calcium is not available from the diet, the body will obtain
it from wherever it can---such as from the storage deposits in the bones.
So, feeding something so high in phosphorus can be detrimental to a horse's
bone health later down the road. While you can balance alot of it out with
grass, grass based hays and beet pulp, for those horses who are on rice
bran and regular grain (which usually inverts a calcium to phosphorus ratio)
it can be just enough to push the ratio under 1:1. You can balance out
an inverted calcium to phosphorus ratio by feeding alfalfa (I feed soaked
cubes), beet pulp, grass hays, and vegetable oils.
Mane/Tail Care I've
already written a whole step-by-step page on this on this page
Lack of Endurance While friesian endurance
can be worked on and strengthened (to the point that I have an "energizer
bunny friesian" in the barn), overall it is not a strong point of the breed.
Judicious conditioning can be done to increase the endurance of a friesian,
but typically the purebreds are not the horse of choice for sports requiring
long/high levels of endurance, such as endurance riding, combined driving
etc. It's not completely out of the realm of possibility, and individuals
in the breed vary, but overall friesians typically have lower than standard
endurance and/or require more often conditioning to improve or maintain
it to more athletic levels.
Tack: Friesian backs can be harder to fit,
especially due to the connection of the base of the neck to the shoulder/wither.
Pay special attention to the make of your saddle and its impact on your
horse's back. Take note of wear patterns on your saddle pad and any pinching
at the wither/sitting of the pommel on the scapular bone. Shoulder movement
can be greatly restricted by this and will reflect in your horse's work/gait.
If you have any doubts about your horse's performance or movement, have
your saddle fit checked.
This is real simple stuff. Those of you who have
worked a horse in lines for preparatory piaffe have definitely done this
exercise.... This can be done with just a halter and leadrope,just a bridle
and leadrope, a bridle and surcingle with lines, or even a bridle, surcingle/saddle
with sidereins and your choice of what to hold the horse with (lines, leadrope
etc). Sometimes I don't even use a leadrope and if I have a horse "soft"
enough I'll just put my index finger through the ring of their snaffle
in a bridle. Your choice of equipment determines how "hard" the exercise
is--and DON'T USE SIDEREINS UNLESS YOUR HORSE ALREADY HAS FRAMEWORK AND
GIVES TO PRESSURE. Sidereins are NOT to hold a horse into a frame--they
are there to give you an outside rein to control the other shoulder and/or
to softly encourage them to round their backs. Anyway, with any of the
above equipment configurations, set the horse on a SLIGHT downhill slope,
up against a fence or something that will keep them from swinging away
from you. Use an in-hand whip (or long dressage whip) and whip up and brush
them on their point of hip to ask them to walk up--you can give a big verbal
command with this too to help. The point of this is that you want them
to round/drop their croup a bit and walk forward underneath themselves
enthusiastically. Walk a few steps, then ask them to stop. Then ask the
horse to stretch their back by putting their head down to about chest level
and, while in frame with their back lifted, ask them to back a few steps.
Look for a "rock" back on the hind--this is really what you want. Also,
you can use your whip to have them lift each hind leg individually several
times as well. I break that up in between walks and backs so the horse
doesn't get bored or fall into a pattern. You're looking for the horse
to begin to collect in their walk as they walk down the slope, drop their
croup a bit and start supporting more weight in the hind. Obviously, you
can do trot work with this too, and once the horse begins to really round
their back to this exercise and support collection from their lowered,
weight-supporting hindquarters, you'll see them begin to take "piaffe-y"
steps in their trot.
Another exercise is putting cavelettis in a slight
circular pattern. Put the ends of all of them together, then fan out the
other ends of them to be about 3 feet apart. You can start this as just
ground poles and then raise the height of them (the beauty of cavelettis)
to graduatated heights, first in the middle, then all 4 so the horse REALLY
begins to lift using the stifle and gaskin. The 3 foot apart designation
is for walking strides. It should be 5 feet and the "heads" of the cavelettis
further apart for trotting.I do this in walk with Dolly, put her in a bridle
and surcingle, stand to the outside of the obstacle and ground drive her
back and forth over it. The point to this is that the horse should ideally
have themselves in a frame (not just a headset, but a whole body experience--encourage
them to put their heads down and raise their backs) and make sure they
stretch across the outside of their body in the semi circle. This can be
done in hand or ridden. The complexity of the exercise increases as you
start from the outside, where the poles are 3 feet apart, and move to the
inside where the horse REALLY has to activate that hind and deal with shortened
striding and closer together poles.
You can work your horse in hand in a shoulder
in circle. While asking for shoulder in on the ground (make sure you're
not just pulling the horse's head to the inside....you have to keep control
of that outside shoulder.....ground driving lines help with this), tap
on the inside hind to encourage it to step under the horse and be weight
bearing. Watch the outside hind for swinging action. Horses tend to evade
this exercise by stepping OUT of the track with the outside hind. Again,
driving lines HELP contain this, but are limited in their power. If you're
REALLY coordinated, ask for slight counterflexion in the poll during this--it
will help a weak horse who is "one sided" strengthen the side they tend
to protect. I.E. Dolly is "left handed". Most horses are built concave
to the right, convex to the left. It's why it's easier to longe your horse
counterclockwise, easier to get the right lead vs the left etc. Well, Dolly's
special and she's the opposite :-). I always joke it's because she was
imported and they drive on the other side of the street over there... So,
when I do this exercise with Dolly, since she LOVES to bend left and HATES
to bend right, I will ask, when I do the shoulder-in circle counterclockwise,
for slight counterflexion to the right (I at least keep her straight over
her shoulders and don't let her bend left) and then ask that right hind
to step up under her and bear weight, careful not to let the LEFT hind
escape by duckwalking outside the circle. For most of you, read the above
and fill in right for left and it's how you'll treat your horse. On the
ground in hand, this is a very complex exercise. In the saddle, it's a
little easier. The circle, btw, is only about 5 meters. Under saddle, I
do larger 10-15 meter circles.
Also, you can longe on a slope as well. This asks
the horse to bend across their outside and really step up under themselves
to support with their inside AND outside hinds, depending on where you
ask for your transitions ( i.e. as the horse is going up the slope ask
for an up transition, as they go down, ask them for a down transition etc).
Even walk/trot/halt is good with this--and again, sidereins are better
at keeping the topline muscles active. They're not necessary, but they
DO help keep the hind engaged and help keep the horse working through their
backs vs going to easier subtle evasion tactics with their balance.
Under Saddle Exercises:
The simplest is the half-halt on a hill. On a
slope, WALK the horse in frame (this is important) up the slope. Every
few strides, half halt or halt, immediately following up with leg to ask
them to take off from their collected hindquarters and push off up the
slope. If the horse is NOT in frame, they will PULL themselves up the hill.
I do do this sometimes to work the shoulders, and also to give relief to
the hindquarters for a moment too. Count how many hills you do. Start with
a few and get to 20. If your horse is weak on a particular stifle/gaskin/hip/what-have
you, you can shoulder in up the hill. Basically, you're looking for a 3
track movement. Where's the wall??? The wall is in your mind, unless you
actually have a fenceline nearby. If you're concentrating on the right
hind, do a right shoulder in. It makes the inside hind more weight bearing.
This is an INTENSE exercise,so be judicious with it. Don't overdue, and
don't let the horse turn this into a 4 track movement.Travers up a hill
is helpful for working a particular shoulder. It's no slouch on hind ends
either, but depending on the frequency of your half-halts, will target
either end of the horse. If the left shoulder is weak, a left travers (left
haunches in) will help them. Again, don't let the horse turn this into
a 4 track movement. Keep it to 3, else the horse wiggles so much and twists
themselves to the point that it does more harm than good and unbalances
them. Keep the slope gentle. Only do this on a steeper slope once the horse
really masters this--and don't overface the horse or do this for too many
repetitions. Just like doing curls, no pain, no gain, but trust your horse
when they tell you enough is enough. Some days they will tire faster than
Lumbar Strengthening: Another
weak point in a friesian. It is easy to make the mistake of "riding the
neck" of a friesian (or andalusian!) while allowing them to move around
uder you with a falsely round back. The above exercies are meant for getting
the horse to accept and offer to support more weight on their hindquarters
and PUSH. While these exercises do work for this, I would actually use
different techniques for "back" muscles ( i.e.the lumbar) that involve
compaction and extension of the frame, long loose, round and low work etc.
(not rollkeur, specifically, though in limited applications for short periods
it can help gymnasticize that area as well, but BOY do you have to ride
it right to know if you are targeting the right muscle group!). Just simple
"long and low" work on the verticle, while paying attention to the hocks
to make sure you have true hock engagement. It's hard to tell from the
saddle unless you're experienced, so "eyes on the ground" with lessons
from an experienced trainer and/or even taping yourself doing this exercise
and reviewing it with a trainer would be helpful to connect the "yes that's
right!" to the feel in the saddle that true hock engagement creates. Exercises
like backing (making sure the horse remains in frame, rounds their back
and drops their croup....tie those long tails up!!) can also help with
this as well. Backing a straight line is extremely important, though, as
your legs help to guide the hindquarters and keep them from swinging or
"waddling" backwards. You need to truly keep the horse between your aides
to back effectively. Play with it to perfect it, and see if you can build
up steps. Once you've got that down reliably, try backing a 10m figure
8! Learning how to "steer" in reverse is downright challenging---try it
sometime!! (and don't let your horse cheat and turn it into a turn on the