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The Black Pearls of Fryslan*

Majestic jet-black horses running across green pastures. Long dark manes and tails flowing in the wind. Huge strong-feathered hooves pound the ground as these graceful creatures glide along the hillsides. Anyone who sees them is in awe. It takes your breath away and captures your heart. You feel as if you have entered the presence of royalty. Meeting one of these elegant equines stirs your emotions and starts a quest in many to own one of these magnificent horses.

Friesians have a long and romantic history. The formation of the breed goes back many centuries. They were developed before Roman times. Friesian horses carried knights in the crusades and were war horses during the middle ages. They are depicted in many European paintings.

The Friesian horse originally came from Friesland, a province in the northern part of The Netherlands. The Netherlands is a small country also known as Holland. Friesland is an old country bordering the North Sea. It has its own culture and language dialect, which can be difficult to understand by people from other parts of The Netherlands. The Fries view their province as a country of its own. They have their own horse breed, as well as its own breed of dogs. The people are proud and attached to tradition. They are sensitive and passionate about their horses. The Friesian Horse is a part of Friesland's history and culture. The Fries lovingly refer to them as their Black Pearls.

At one time the breed was threatened with extinction. In the 1960's, only about 500 Friesians were registered, which affected breeding. With the development of tractors and cars, fewer horses were needed to work the land and the carriage was a thing of the past, resulting in a vast decrease in the horse population. It is only to the credit of some committed breeders that the Friesian horse are available as a purebred today. Breeders stayed loyal and did not crossbreed them to other breeds.

The Friesian breed has been purebred for the last two centuries. In the 16th and 17th century, Friesians were crossed with the Andalusian horses from Spain and the Arabian, thus giving them the high stepping knee actions, and swan like neck. Friesians are considered warm-blooded horses because of their disposition.

Friesians have an impressive stature that sets them apart. With the impressive long mane and long thick tail they make people stop and stare. Friesians love attention and truly are hams. They love to show off. Especially in the show ring. The more people watch and cheer the more animated they become. They are natural born stars.

Their manes and tails will grow to the ground. Friesians are bred exclusively black. In the past the Friesian was bred as a heavier draft type for farming but today the modern taller, lustrousness type is preferred. The very best part of the Friesian is its easy going disposition, making it a great horse for riders and drivers of all ages. They are always willing to please, work hard, and try whatever their owner wishes. They are quite clever and delight in surprising their owners with stall opening tricks.

Friesians were first imported to the States in 1625. The Dutch love to travel and trade. They founded a providence called New Amsterdam where they imported the first Friesian. In later years this city was taken over by the English and the name was changed to New York. Friesians are now found in areas all over the United States and the World.

They also found their way to Hollywood. Several years ago the Friesian horse made its film debut in the movie Lady Hake with Michelle Puffer, Matthew Broader, and Rutgers Her. Your heart is riveted with awe as you watch the Knight Navarre ride his mythical stallion Goliath to rescue the beautiful maiden Isaboux. The world now is in love with the magical Black Beauty!!!!!

If you are interested in knowing more about this stunning, unique breed you can join the Friesian Horse Association of North America [1-541-549-4272].

The Friesian horse can be seen every year in the Rose Parade. They show in California at the Del Mar Fairgroundsin June, the Ventura County Fair(first weekend in August), the Draft Horse Classic in Grass Valley at Nevada County Fairgrounds in September and at the California Pomona County Fair in September. Call for exact dates and times.

*Written by Joca van der Veen DVM, published by Lesa Bobbit, North American Friesian Journal Magazine, October 2001, (252) 257-1618, with minor modifications by Gloria Muscarella.

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