Friesians in Texas

By Anneke van den Ijssel

Trainer, Christy Raisbeck of Fulshear, TX (Region 9),
and Sjolling was ranked USDF #2 for 3rd Level Musical Freestyle in 2005.
Owner: Karen Borne.  Photographer: David Re from Austin, Texas.

The Friesian horse is an ancient breed and is the oldest remaining native breed in The Netherlands, originating from the northern province of Friesland.  The oldest studbook of The Netherlands, est. 1879, governs them and is represented by its affiliate the Friesian Horse Association of North America (FHANA) est. 1984.
There are scriptures dating back to around 150 BC talking about the Frisian army and their horses.  There are references from around 1000 AD describing and depicting actual Friesian horses, with the first use of the term “Friesian horse” in reports from 1544.  There is the very famous etching dating from 1568 of Phryso, the stallion owned by Don Juan of Austria in Naples. Although never proven, it is highly plausible that with the crusades and the eighty-year war with Spain in the 16th century some Arab and Andalusian blood entered the Friesian on occasion, as was the case with other European breeds. In the 17th century Friesians were found along with Spanish breeds in the various riding schools but in the 18th and 19th centuries the use was mostly limited to the province of Friesland, probably due to the decline
in nobility after the French Revolution. 

From the nineteenth century to present, the Friesian in Friesland was mostly owned by wealthy landowners to take them to church on Sundays and for entertainment in popular trotting races. It is thought Friesians were used for breeding Orlov Trotters and American trotters. At the end of the 19th century the Friesian could not compete with the heavy breeds for agricultural work. “The country gentleman’s horse with a talent for dancing” as it was described was of little use and many farmers switched to heavier breeds or crossbred their Friesians.
On May 1, 1879 the KFPS studbook was born thanks to a group of people who recognized the importance of saving a national treasure, however, the Friesian’s popularity was still low and there were few stallions in the early 20th century. That’s when the selection and breeding of stallions became organized and regulated. The horse had to compete with the heavier breeds and it became heavier and shorter to compete with the market. Luckily its nobility and luxurious lines remain deeply anchored and we have now returned to those lines.
Training Level Limited Division 1st place winners
Rebecca McKeever (driver), Kathleen Bowen (groom) with Brando.  Photo by Stephanie Roberts.

First there was one more crisis to weather. In 1965 the numbers sank to an all-time low when horses were no longer needed and practical. Devoted Friesian lovers and an improving post WWII economy saved the day. The Friesian’s character, intelligence, disposition, and qualities have made it a perfect mount for our times. Meanwhile it has been bred back to nobility, long lines, and power with its ever present pleasant nature and flash, making the Friesian perfect for the dressage ring, leisure rides, driving, circus acts, and movie roles.
As with all growing groups and growth in popularity some people split off, starting in the 1990s, to do things differently, which is the reason there are now various Friesian groups and crossbreeding organizations. As the original and worldwide studbook, KFPS and its regional affiliate
FHANA treasure and honor the purebred Dutch Friesian and its long heritage with proven, ever adapting and increasing research projects, over 125 years of studbook experience, statistics, tests, stallion selection, and strict guidelines, ensuring our horses have valuable papers and guiding the Friesian breed into the future.
SOUTH CENTRAL FRIESIAN HORSE ASSOCIATION (SCFHA) is a chapter of the FHANA for the southern states, with the main focus on Texas, promoting the purebred Dutch KFPS/FHANA Friesian and its studbook.  

Douwe and Maaike Plantinga with their Friesian
2-in-hand at a North Texas Whip playday.
Photographer: Tim Branam.
It can be difficult to enter a new breed arena and we know the Friesian world has become confusing. Our mission is, therefore, to inform those who have questions as we can shed light on it all.
At the Equine Expo of Texas (  on Saturday May 6 and Sunday May 7 SCFHA will have ten Friesian horses demonstrating and educating about  “Beginning Dressage, various types of Driving, and Jousting as a Sport”.  You will learn about the history of the sports, the organizations that govern it, the various ways you can get involved, groups to join, how to get started, where to learn, what levels there are, and how competitions work.

For more information please visit or e-mail We look forward to meeting you at the Equine Expo of Texas.(2006)

(Back to Feature Stories)