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Talk to me about fresians and fresian crosses

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  • Talk to me about fresians and fresian crosses

    I have the opportunity to work with two green Fresian crosses and wondered what my fellow cothers have to say about their temperment, quirks, trainability, willingness, etc. I realize this will be a blanket statement but I still welcome them. Both youngsters are going along well under saddle w/t/c but still very green. They are half brother and sister both 4 years old.
    lookinf forward to your experiences and insight!

  • #2
    Generally speaking, friesians are known for their awesome minds and kind hearts. They are often recommended for amateurs because of their kind nature. I have a friesian...and he is 'all that' and then some. I will say, they are not the easiest of horses to ride (for an amateur). Hard to say with a cross though...it's a roll of the dice...


    • #3
      I have a cross (with DWB) I bought as a 4 1/2 yr old, just started under saddle. The relationship I have with this horse is unlike any other horse, he's much more MY horse. He responds to me personally (as opposed to just "a human I recognize as someone who often brings me food" ) to a degree I've never experienced before.

      Dressage wise, he's one of the hardest horses I've ever ridden. He's easy to just ride around but hard to ride well. Very sensitive mouth, just finding a bit he didn't hate took me over a year (he works well in a Myler comfort snaffle wide barrel loose ring) and I now alternate between riding him in this bit, and in a spanish cavesson. My seat has to be spot on to get him to work correctly and give a good connection on the bit. On the other hand, he's by nature not at all sensitive to the legs, so keeping him light to the leg aids is something I'm constantly working on in a way I've never had to with other horses. I know 2 Friesians, and their riders describe them to be very similar to ride, and from the ground I can see they're battling with the same issues - getting them quick off the leg, over the back and a stable connection on the bit.

      He does spook on occassion, and when he does he'll spin and bolt. By now I'm able to catch him before it gets out of hand, usually I'll have him turning back around before he's even done spinning, but it is something I experience a few times a week. Just saying they aren't necessarily born bomb proof just because they have pretty feathers

      He's grown 2 inches between 4 1/2 and 6, and filled out A LOT (has gone from a black to a white Bates gullet), something worth keeping in mind. My guy has grown to be quite a bit larger than I ideally wanted (I'm a small rider with short legs).

      I love this horse, and am convinced he'll turn out really awsome, but it is a long hard road to start out on (always is with youngsters, but this one is very different from the WB's I've worked with before).


      • #4
        You might want to do a search in COTH since I remember seeing a lot of people talking about Friesians in the past. I am not very familiar with the breed other than they are pretty, but not particularly well suited for dressage IMO. I knew one person who loved her Friesian and had him for years before selling him for a huge profit and another person who imported one from Holland and did not have a very good experience and ended up selling him.

        I remember some of the more experienced posters on this board discussed such things as Friesians having heart issues (or something to do with the heart) that affected their ability to work, they don't do well in the heat, they can be very spooky and unpredictable at times, unsuitable conformation, and it is difficult to get them to move correctly for the show ring. There are also posters on this board who have had success with Friesians so it is difficult to make blanket generalizations, which is why I suggested you do a search and see what people have said.

        However, I really like the Friesian crosses - especially when crossed with Morgans or Thoroughbreds - and some COTHers have some very nice horses of that breeding. I think the crosses have less issues and I would definitely consider buying a cross before I would buy a full-blood. Then again, if I had the money to buy a Friesian I would rather spend it on a super nice warmblood or schoolmaster. I like a pretty horse but not at the expense of everything else.
        Most friendships in the horse world are just an opinion away from doom.


        • #5
          I am training a cross who has wonderful conformation for dressage. He started as a bit of a slug but has come along beautifully. What I've found with mine is to not be fooled by them "nearly" being on the bit (that's fine at first but eventually isn't enough). They must be asked to reach more forward and down (the falling down neck) as it's hugely important to bring up his back and access that powerful hind end. It's very common for the breed and crosses to fake out riders (and judges as I saw at a schooling show) into believing they are fully accessing their bodies when they aren't (there was a great article in DT about it by Shute-Kerry). This can be a struggle as my guy went through a "I don't wanna work" phase and suddenly started running through his neck (the upright neck, hollow back issue). Once we got through that and back to reaching forward and down, his movement improved by leaps and bounds - and he started with nice movement but it became stunning once I got him truly through. He can now do a lovely stretchy circle and likes long and low.

          My guy also fell into the lazy boy catagory and we worked through that as well. No playing games, when I ask for forward, I mean it. Had to really get after him with the whip for a bit. That also went away and he's becoming more and more forward, working nicely off my leg. Btw, leg yield is easy for him now that he understands it which cracks me up as he can be such a moose at times.

          Some pure Friesians do suffer from heat as their heavy bodies don't cool well. They also have smallish hearts for the size of their bodies and so don't get a second wind as easily as say a TB. Don't know how these translate to crosses but I keep it in mind when working my guy. He's shown himself to be strong enough though as he can work for an hour and barely break a sweat even in warm temps.

          Hope you enjoy the ones you're training.


          • #6
            I own a friesian/arab cross and I can relate with many of the above statements. My guy was kind of a late bloomer, I just bought him last year but he boarded at my farm for a year previously and he was a pretty difficult horse. He's now 5, and came to my farm as a 3 year oldstarted but extremely nervous, unsettled, and spooky. He regularly bolted with his rider, and when you rode him you could never focus on one thing for more than 10 seconds.. you always had to switch up what you were doing to keep his attention and to keep him from bolting!

            But, within the last six months he has turned into a completely differant horse. I'm not really sure what triggered this change but he seems at peace now, where as before he always had this nervous, concerned look in his eye. I feel such an incredible connection to him, which surpasses, by far, anything I have ever experienced with a horse before. I feel like we have a dialogue when I am with him. Both of my guys are kept in the same pen and when I catch the other one and bring him in, I really feel like the friesan cross gets upset.

            I have had the same issues undersaddle as some others. I think friesans are typically built where it is easy to fake being round and upright. My biggest challenge with him is stretching his neck out so his head can "hang" onthe vertical rather then being jammed upright and being tense in the neck.
            He is actually pretty lazy although he could have fooled me when I first met him as he was always taking off!
            He is incredibly sensitive and intelligient. He still gets distracted by things going on around him, but I feel like he is an excellent "multitasker". He can listen and respond to me and still keep an ear or two tuned onto some distraction! He tries his heart out and is incredibly honest. He also picks things up very quickly.

            Have fun with your training projects!


            • #7
              I'm a big fan of the crosses.... when crossed well. I've known a few full Friesians and at one time tried very hard to pull together the $$ to buy one that was trained through 4th with plenty left for FEI. I really clicked with the horse and he was more talented that most for sport.

              I have a saddlebred cross that I love. Personally, I have an affinity for saddlebreds and always thought the two breeds would complement each other very well particularly for sport.

              In general though, the purebreds and crosses seem to have a few things in common:

              * slower reaction time- they can be a bit dull to the aids. You really have to train for a quicker reaction. However, take your time. They don't mean to be dull or lazy sometimes, just not as 'thin skinned' as some others.

              * engagement- being a carriage breed, some move very out behind themselves, some less so, and rarely do they come under like a warmblood.

              * tight and short in the neck - forward down and out has to be a mantra with many of them, but it starts in the hind end. I work on the response being quick, which helps the hind leg step under better, then supple the horse through the body and neck to get the stretch all the way out to the hand. Then you have to be very careful that the neck is reaching from the base at the wither.

              * Really watch that those inside rein aids don't block the inside hind leg. You have to maximize engagement to get the front end to begin to lift especially if the horse is at all heavy in front and/or light in the hind end some crosses are a bit light or not well conformed to have a hind end that can carry the front.

              ..... a few thoughts....

              To show off, here is a bit of vid. I caught today of my friesian/saddlebred mare at liberty.



              • #8
                I own a Friesian and absolutely agree with the restrictions stated by PiaffeDreams:

                * slower reaction time- they can be a bit dull to the aids. You really have to train for a quicker reaction. However, take your time. They don't mean to be dull or lazy sometimes, just not as 'thin skinned' as some others.

                * engagement- being a carriage breed, some move very out behind themselves, some less so, and rarely do they come under like a warmblood.

                * tight and short in the neck - forward down and out has to be a mantra with many of them, but it starts in the hind end. I work on the response being quick, which helps the hind leg step under better, then supple the horse through the body and neck to get the stretch all the way out to the hand. Then you have to be very careful that the neck is reaching from the base at the wither.

                * Really watch that those inside rein aids don't block the inside hind leg. You have to maximize engagement to get the front end to begin to lift especially if the horse is at all heavy in front and/or light in the hind end some crosses are a bit light or not well conformed to have a hind end that can carry the front.
                I answered this poster's question in the Driving forum, but then read GreekDressageQueen's comment:
                I like a pretty horse but not at the expense of everything else.
                Ouch! A harsh comment from someone with no direct experience with Friesians! They are not for everyone, granted, but they are so much more than just a pretty horse! Add the combination of power, grace and wonderful temperament to "pretty" and you just might find them worth the price of admission!


                • #9
                  PiaffeDreams, your Breanna is GORGEOUS! What a fabulous mover, and such a NICE canter!

                  Another Friesian cross owner chiming in. Friesian crosses tend to be really nice or really bad IMO! Of course, when you cross them with completely opposite types, you can end up with a wierd looking/moving horse, and there are plenty of them out there!

                  I have a Friesian/SWB cross, and absolutely LOVE him. He is EVERYTHING that everyone else has already said. You must ride absolutely correctly to get him truly connected from back to front. He will get behind your leg, curl up and not truly be on the aids very easily. But when it's right, it's AMAZING. But I LIKE that about him, he's really making me a better rider. It's strange how they can be sensitive in one way (about your position and aids being 100% spot on) yet such slugs at the same time (very hard to get in front of the leg)!

                  He is definitely a one-person horse--I've really had to earn his trust. He still isn't 100% sure about me yet, I've had him since November but we've come a long way and it gets better all the time.

                  Here is my boy:

                  Videos (bear in mind he was only 45 days under saddle here:

                  Pictures are at the link in my signature line:


                  • #10
                    And another FX owner - and breeder. Piaffe dreams makes some good points - although I disagree on the carriage comment to some degree. With Friesians, much as with some other Dutch sport horses, there are carriage lines and riding lines. For one who has done a lot of research into the bloodlines, you learn to recognize whether the horse was bred more along one line or the other. Not all who are cross breeding recognize those differences - but not all who cross breed are breeding specifically for dressage riders.

                    Generally (generalities never hold true to all, there is not an "always" and "never" when talking about horses), what I'd say about the Friesians (I have three purebreds, and know many others, and have a friend who specializes in training Friesians) is that they are more "into" their people than any other breed. They will look to you as their friend and leader and will bond in a way that is just incredible. I rode WBs and Morgans for years, and my first Friesian cross experience was really eye opening because I'd never felt such a bond with a horse. Also, in general, they will give you everything they have - they are a horse who wants to please and do right for their people. Generally, they are not a spooky breed (although there are, apparently, a few bloodlines that are much spookier), although they are a "looky" breed - they will go hollow and peer at something. I've never dealt with one who does much more than that though - generally, they aren't bolters, buckers, etc (that would take too much energy). Again, those are generalities - and certain lines may NOT follow that pattern.

                    Several people in this area have bought Freisians because of their VERY kind minds - they make great lower level dressage horses because just about anyone can make them look "good", but as Piaffe says, getting them really through, and fit, and quick behind for the upper levels can be a challenge. However, if you get that from them, the collected work becomes quite easy for them - typical Baroque horses in that way.

                    All in all, I don't think they are more difficult than a WB to ride and train, they just have some different challenges. In general, they are less reactive, which means they feel safer, but they need to learn to be more reactive. It takes longer to get them fit, and hot weather can be tough on them. If you are in a hot climate, you may want to clip year 'round. They tend to have a dense coat and of course, they are BLACK. And some lines have problems with anhydrosis (I'm sure I slaughtered that spelling, anyway, problems sweating). My experience with WBs is, generally ( generalities don't hold true for all) they are a bit stubborn, more likely to say "up yours, you have to MAKE me do it", they are standoffish to people, and are reactive - more likely to spin, bolt, buck, etc.

                    Now, I love the breed - but I'm NOT into hair. That can lead to maintenance issues - so, another thing I do is clip the "extra" hair. The lovely tail can stay, and I've learned (it took a while) to appreciate the long mane as long as it is always in a braid, but the feathers - not! So I do take those off.

                    OK - the crosses - my preference. Not all crosses are created equal. Not all Friesians that are used for crossing are created equal. It is hard to make any kind of generality in this area. If someone breeds a low quality Friesian stallion to a downhill short strided Quarterhorse or Tbred reject (or any other low quality mare/stallion combo), your odds of getting a nice cross are not good. Period. And you can't really make any generalities about the crosses because there is so much variability. Similar to a WB cross or an Arab cross - some are nice, some are not. So, I'll discuss what you HOPE to get - there are breeders who have carefully planned breeding programs.

                    Generally, the nicer crosses for dressage are the WB crosses (there seems to be a natural quality control process here as the WBs are pricier, so in general, the whole breeding process becomes a bit more researched), some of the Tbred crosses, and some of the Morgan and Saddlebred crosses. Another cross that can work well, but is pretty darn rare is the Andalusian cross.

                    My personal favorites are the WB crosses - to add elasticity and stamina to the Friesian side, and to improve the temperment, personality, and rideability of the WB side. I find this cross tends to get a nice middle ground, less reactive, more tuned in to people, but quicker to the leg and more athletic (easier to condition, etc). Generally, this cross LOOKS like a WB but will often have more of an arch to its neck, WAY better feet, and good bone (so many of the WBs have become light and Tbred looking, and have foot that is a bit small for their body mass). They tend to have more mane and tail, but often lose the feathers or have very light feathering. Most people who look at them will think, Wow, nice Warmblood. They tend to have some charisma too - a "look at me, I'm special" thing, a nobleness that seems to come from the Baroque blood.

                    Training with these guys is not much different than working with a WB, but you will have to work on making them reactive to the leg. And you'll probably find they are much easier to start. I recently took a 3 year old up to a place that starts a lot of WBs, and they said they plan on 90 to 120 days to get a WB comfortable in their own skin (they use to do only cutting horses, but found there were a lot of the sport horse people looking for help starting horses, and so they do a lot of those now). My response was, let's see how you feel after the first 30 days And in 30 days, they were pretty blown away with the gentle nature and ease of starting him. At 30 days he was already a babysitter on the trail for some of the other horses!

                    Anyway, this is getting to be a really long post - but hopefully it will help. If you want to see some examples of Friesian crosses - feel free to visit my webpage as well. Most are WB crosses. On the sales page are links to photo galleries of many of the youngsters, and on the stallion page are links to a photo gallery of a Friesian cross stallion - browse the galleries if you want to see lots of fun pictures. I also have a performance photos page with just a handful of favorite pictures of several different WB (and one Morgan) crosses going under saddle.
                    www.MysticOakRanch.com Friesian/Warmblood Crosses, the Ultimate Sporthorse
                    Director, WTF Registry


                    • #11
                      Hi FriesianX we both have crosses with Sempatico. I love my guy. I show him something once and he gets it. I have never worked with a horse this quick in learning things. He is adorable. With the cross I have he's got a longer reach in front then a friesian which makes his movements quite stunning. He's not really started yet but I've been on him a few times and he'll do whatever you want as long as he knows hes "OK". He loves attention and will spend most of the day grooming me if I let him. I spent years saving money for my "dream horse" and I'm so glad I got him. Sooo happy.


                      • #12

                        I have had my Friesian for 6 years. I've trained him from First level through Grand Prix. He has a fabulous work ethic, is hot off the aids, and is the sweetest horse I've ever known.

                        If I knew how to post pictures, I would, but I do have an album of pictures of him on my Facebook page (Jane Savoie)
                        jane savoie
                        dressage mentor


                        • #13
                          Oh, yeah. There's also a slide show of him at www.horseofkings.com/hoktv.htm
                          jane savoie
                          dressage mentor


                          • #14
                            I've had my FriesianX since he was a yearling. He's now 7 and an absolute blast! I had NO experience working with youngsters but my trainer convinced me that I had enough horse knowledge to at least try. So I bought him, and with my trainer's help, backed him myself and we're now working on all the second level movements.

                            It has not always been easy. In fact, my trainer has many nicknames for him, the latest being "The Big Black Bratwurst"! Going straight is SO easy for him. Bending his body however takes a lot of work. He takes a bit longer to warm-up but I think that's more because of his size than anything else. He's a VERY sensitive horse and he often looks to me as his security blanket.

                            Others have said how bonded they are with their Friesians and he's no exception. He's really more like a big black lab than a 17.1 hand horse! I did a lot of groundwork with him and as a result I can take him anywhere and do anything with him. He has been the babysitter on the trails for the past 2 years. His body has gone through many changes as he's grown but most people ask what kind of warmblood he is when they see him. That is until they look at his size 5 feet and then wonder if he's part draft which of course he is (Percheron). I realize it's an odd mix but his movement is surprisingly good.

                            All-in-all, I have LOVED the whole experience of working with him and though he may not be super competetive in the dressage world, his great brain and gentle nature are worth their weight in gold!


                            • #15
                              i' not a HUGE freisan fan if your wanting to go up the levels- (but i'll take Janes boy anyday wow that canter WOW!) but there are some that are FABULOUS...

                              Their minds though WOW we have one cross in our barn (1/2 trak) who is really lovely- but he does have the tendancy to go 'carty' when he's nervous/stressed... i think some of the WB cross ones (or TB cross ones) have some very nic emovement. And some of the purebreds now being bred specificially for sport have lovely movement. . .

                              I had actually looked into finding one 8 years ago (when i ended up getting Texas) and i couldn't find one who's movement was 'sporty' enough for me- even with the crosses and the prices on some of the crosses back then OY! but now? they are alot easier to find VERY nice one.

                              All of them have been real puppy dogs that i have delt with.
                              Qualified Saddle Fitter with the S.M.S.


                              • #16
                                If you can PM Dukesmom, it might be worth your while (not sure how often she checks in).

                                She successfully took her Fresian TB cross to Grand Prix, ranking on the HOY list at FEI on the way and helping her earn her her silver and gold medals. He was 9 or so at the time he performed his first GP test just last year, I think (and scores in the mid-60s). She frequently commented that he was very tight in the neck and a little "on the edge", but boy, her horse's piaffe/passage was NICE! And he's only 9. Wow! They have a serious future.

                                Proud member of the Colbert Dressage Nation


                                • #17
                                  Wow Jane, I got on HOK and listened to your interview, and you really stated SO PERFECTLY what I've been trying to explain to people about the Friesian mind. Getting off after every ride with a smile. Enjoying the journey. The partnership you achieve with these horses. Their fabulous work ethic. The joy of riding them. The puppy dog personality.

                                  And the training challenges - granted, I'm no FEI trainer, but the struggles and triumphs all sound so similar! My boy (Cadence In Color, a Friesian/WB cross who looks like a pinto Friesian) is so easy in the piaffe and passage too! And we struggle with the changes. And "faking it through 2nd level" - so so so easy with these guys!

                                  There is just no comparison, sure, they may not get a rider to the Olympics, but they sure make the journey of riding and training so much more JOYFUL. Thank you for that - I'm going to pass that link on to some of my friends!
                                  www.MysticOakRanch.com Friesian/Warmblood Crosses, the Ultimate Sporthorse
                                  Director, WTF Registry


                                  • #18
                                    Friesians and 1l2 Friesians

                                    Hello everyone, I wanted to add my 2 cents, well sort of speak about the whole Friesian and Friesian crosses. I am presently riding and getting ready to compete a Friesianl thoroughbred mare. Let me tell you, this mare is just the best I have EVER ridden. I have ridden my fair share of Friesians and half Friesians. But this cross is the best! Isabeau, Isi for short is so intuned with me and my every thought! She is always there for me and will NEVER let me down. However, on the other side of the same coin, she can have a attitude when it comes to somethings. THere are times and days that I call her every name in the book, but usually after we have a 'TALK' she is sooooooo much more willing to preform for me. If anyone is in the northern FL area, Isi and I are going to be at Canterbury on November 22nd. I am inviting anyone to come see me and my big black beauty perform!


                                    • #19
                                      It's hard to make general statements about Friesian crosses, because they are so varied, based on the quality of the horses crossed, and based on what the other half of the cross is. There are quite alot of crosses, from Moriesians to Friewalkers, and just about as many registries.

                                      My favorite Friesian crosses are Friesian Sporthorses. Friesian Sporthorses are generally Friesians crossed with Warmbloods and Thoroughbreds, and have strict guidelines for registration, performance books, breeding approval, etc. They are selectively bred as sporthorses, and tend to excel especially in dressage. (For anyone who is interested in learning more, the registry website is www.FriesianSporthorseAssociation.com, and Friesian Sporthorses will also be the featured Breed of the Month in the upcoming Stallion Issue of USDF's Connection magazine.) I came from a Warmblood background, and I love the Friesian Sporthorses. I think they are a wonderful option for people to consider when looking for a dressage horse.

                                      Friesian Sporthorses are relatively rare, even in the grand scheme of Friesian crossbreeding, but there are some notable ones. Someone already mentioned "Duke", a Friesian Sporthorse competing at Grand Prix (he is also the 2008 USDF All-Breeds winner for Grand Prix for the Friesian Sporthorse Association -- huge congrats to "Duke's Mom"!) My own stallion Lexington is 19th for USDF Horse of the Year for 2008, and scored consistently in the 70's at Training Level as a 4YO. (He'll soon be making his First Level debut, as a 5YO.) Another of mine showed successfully thru Fourth Level and now, as testament to his temperament, is being "schoolmaster" for one of my aspiring YR students (and he is only 8 years old!) The pinto stallion Nico is another really well known Friesian Sporthorse, he is stunning. I could keep going, but it's been a long day and my brain is tired, lol. Also, because people have really only begun to specialize in Friesian Sporthorses more recently, alot of them are still young, but I think we will start seeing alot more of them in years to come.

                                      I love the temperament that comes from the Friesian, plus the added expression the Friesian adds to the gaits, and the subtle Baroque look which so many of the Friesian Sporthorses have. Beyond that, so much relies on the other half of the equation. With the Friesian Sporthorses, the breeds such as Wbld and TB add qualities like athleticism, elasticity, and stamina.

                                      Dressagerider27, I think I may know of your horse! (I may know you -- hello if you are "P" -- or you may be a new owner?) She is another lovely example of a Friesian Sporthorse!

                                      Flygchng -- I'm expecting a Sempatico baby in the Spring, out of a Friesian Sporthorse mare, it's good to hear you're so happy with the cross!
                                      River Oaks Farm - home of the Elite Book Friesian Sporthorse Grand Prix dressage stallion Lexington - sire of four consecutive FSA National Inspection Champions. Endorsing the FSA.


                                      • #20
                                        TeQuiero, I've just realized this thread is more than a month old! (See, I said I was tired! lol) Did you end up with the two crosses in training, and/or did you find out what the other half of the cross was?
                                        River Oaks Farm - home of the Elite Book Friesian Sporthorse Grand Prix dressage stallion Lexington - sire of four consecutive FSA National Inspection Champions. Endorsing the FSA.