by Crystal A. Eikanger
The Friesian Horse, one of Europe’s oldest domesticated breeds, originated in Friesland, a province of The Netherlands. It is considered to be a Warmblood because of its easy-going temperament with a companionable nature. The Friesian horse is also a talented show horse when it comes to dressage. This is due to its intelligence, willingness to learn and to please, and readiness to perform.
It is difficult to date the precise origin of the Friesian but it is believed to be descended from the ancient Equus robustus (big horse). Frisian horsemen served in the Roman Legions, e.g. the Equites Singulares of Emperor Nero (54-68), and in Great Britain near Hadrian’s Wall which was built in 120 AD. There is certainty that the horse was well-known in the Middle Ages since it is found in art work of that era. Breeding horses was very important for the Frisians and before the reformation, the monks in Friesland monasteries did a lot of horse breeding.
In the 1600’s it was adopted to carry heavy weight under saddle. During the 16th and 17th centuries, and maybe earlier, Arabian blood was introduced through the Spanish Andalusian horses. This gave them the high knee-action, the small head and the craning neck. The Friesian horse has had no influence from the English Thoroughbred and during the last two centuries it has been bred pure. Read more
Horses are mammals, and as such are “warm-blooded” creatures, as opposed to cold-blooded reptiles. However, these words have developed a separate meaning in the context of equine terminology, used to describe temperament, not body temperature. For example, the “hot-bloods”, such as many race horses, exhibit more sensitivity and energy, while the “cold-bloods”, such as most draft breeds, are quieter and calmer. Sometimes “hot-bloods” are classified as “light horses” or “riding horses”,with the “cold-bloods” classified as “draft horses” or “work horses”.
“Hot blooded” breeds include “oriental horses” such as the Akhal-Teke, Arabian horse, Barb and now-extinct Turkoman horse, as well as the Thoroughbred, a breed developed in England from the older oriental breeds. Hot bloods tend to be spirited, bold, and learn quickly. They are bred for agility and speed. They tend to be physically refined—thin-skinned, slim, and long-legged. The original oriental breeds were brought to Europe from the Middle East and North Africa when European breeders wished to infuse these traits into racing and light cavalryhorses.
Muscular, heavy draft horses are known as “cold bloods”, as they are bred not only for strength, but also to have the calm, patient temperament needed to pull a plow or a heavy carriage full of people. They are sometimes nicknamed “gentle giants”. Well-known draft breeds include the Belgian and the Clydesdale. Some, like the Percheron and Friesian are lighter and livelier, developed to pull carriages or to plow large fields in drier climates. Others, such as the Shire, are slower and more powerful, bred to plow fields with heavy, clay-based soils. The cold-blooded group also includes some pony breeds.
“Warmblood” breeds, such as the Trakehner or Hanoverian, developed when European carriage and war horses were crossed with Arabians or Thoroughbreds, producing a riding horse with more refinement than a draft horse, but greater size and milder temperament than a lighter breed. Certain pony breeds with warmblood characteristics have been developed for smaller riders. Warmbloods are considered a “light horse” or “riding horse”.
Today, the term “Warmblood” refers to a specific subset of sport horse breeds that are used for competition in dressage and show jumping. Many warmbloods are selectively bred through careful cross breeding. Strictly speaking, the term “warm blood” refers to any cross between cold-blooded and hot-blooded breeds. However, if registered, reputable organizations will judge them based on the quality of the offspring, inspections, and/or performance results. Examples include breeds such as the Irish Draught, Cleveland Bay, Canadian Warmblood, Dutch Warmblood or American Warmblood.
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