Join us on an exclusive first hand account of dressage riders, owners, and breeders and their unique mounts! This series will explore the dressage experience across a full spectrum of unconventional breeds, both large and small, with some familiar faces and some potentially unknown. These are the real life stories, from the humans that know and love them best.
Owner and breeder Regine Brockway gives us a taste of what it’s like to love and show this black beauty.
How did you get started with the breed & what drew you to them?
My love for the Friesian Breed goes back to my childhood years in Germany. I started horseback riding at a young age on a large variety of school horses, which gave me an advantage to try out a variety of different breeds. The one that stuck always in my mind was a Friesian I used to ride. I think every horse crazy little girl has read Black Beauty at some point. The dream of a shiny black steed, that over time becomes a young girl’s partner and best friend. Mine wasn’t any different. However, life took over and I quit riding altogether, until I met my husband and moved to the USA 27 years ago.
Because of him, I was able to acquire my first Friesian, a yearling filly. I found her through word of mouth, since that was before the Internet and Google. Next, I found out that I have a Friesian addiction. Soon, I acquired more. I learned a lot about the breed over the years as far as breed history, health, conformation, and athleticism was concerned.
What is important to mention is the character of this breed. They connect with people in a way that no other breed does. (I can hear the mumbling of other breed owners here…lol). All I can say is that they want to be with their person. And they show so much heart
Does this breed have any health or conformational issues that create challenges for you?
As far as health issues, there are quite a few of them. Research is done here in the US as well as over in Europe to figure out genetic markers for a variety of health concerns. Hydrocephalus, dwarfism, mega esophagus, chronic progressive lymphedema, aortic rupture to name a few. More info can be found at www.fenwayfoundation.com.
As far as conformation is concerned, the Friesian horse has changed a lot over the last 20-30 years. Back in the day, the majority were built heavier, more on the forehand, a little longer in the back. My first Friesian, Jinke, was gorgeous and received a 1st premium and Reserve Champion at the annual KFPS breed inspection. She had a great walk, big powerful trot, but the quality of the canter was not there.
I think at this point, my breeding goals changed. I was looking for sires with a great canter in order to produce a good riding horse with three good gaits. Several of the horses that I bred are now very successfully competing in the dressage ring.
What dressage movement do you find the most difficult with this breed?
I would say that biggest struggle with the Friesians is the flying changes. Partially it may be their conformation, with a very upright neck, but it also takes quite a bit of effort to make them honest in the bridle, use their back properly, and bring the hind end under. Once they get the idea of the single changes, they anticipate, and the changes can be HUGE! But the tempi can be a hit and miss for a long while. There are days when they are close to perfect and days when they are not there at all…
On a trainability & temperament scale, where would you rate this breed?
I would rate the trainability and temperament of the Friesians somewhere between an 8 and a 10. They truly want to please and will work their hearts out for you. They pick up quickly what is asked of them and are willing to work with you. They also get bored with too much repetitive exercise.
And please don’t forget, most Friesians are very forgiving!
Is there specific show ring attire or considerations regarding this breed?
The dressage attire is the same in the dressage ring. If you take your horse to the annual breed inspection (Keuring), the runner always wears white and white bridles or halter are favored.
There are Friesian Breed shows that offer other disciplines than just dressage – saddle seat, hunter, or driving. Each of the disciplines has their own dress code.
Are there any challenges when it comes to tack fitting for this breed? What about shoeing?
The shoeing is the same with every other breed. As for the saddle fitting, most Friesians don’t have prominent withers. They are also fairly wide. Some saddles can accommodate a Friesian back better than others. I found that Trilogy saddles fit all my Friesians very well, but there are other brands out there that will fit their backs.
What’s the best part of owning & showing this breed?
There is a certain fascination. Horse people, as well as non-horse people, are often drawn to the Friesian. There is almost a guarantee that there will be spectators, and these horses live for that moment.
People want to come and talk to you about your horse and the breed, etc. Of course, there are also people who snub their noses and loudly declare that they don’t like them. Some dressage judges are the same. But the majority of the people are just absolutely fascinated. And that makes me happy and keeps me smiling.
Tell us a little about your successes & triumphs with this breed.
As a breeder, I have had my successes at the annual inspections. Several of my horses received star status with a high 2nd or 1st premium. Two of the stallions I bred have received their stallion license by the FPZV (Friesen Pferde Zucht Verband). One of the two is competing Grand Prix and the other one will be competing FEI next year. Several other JRB Friesian offspring are successfully competing Training Level – 4th Level.
I earned my USDF Bronze and Silver medals on my horses, which makes me also extremely proud. Now we have our sights set on the Gold Medal. It may take a few years, but it’s the journey that counts.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to get involved with this breed?
That’s a tough one! Above all, educate yourself about the Friesian. There is a lot to learn, and luckily, other owners love to help! That is the fun part.
I would think that there is a Friesian for every discipline out there. Just make sure you get the one that fits your sport the most. Or just buy the one that grabs your heart. Either one works!
Be aware that Friesians have some health issues and educate yourself about them. Friesians are very stoic.
Enjoy your horse. Their life span seems shorter than other breeds.
Do you compete on a Friesian? USDF’s Particitpating All Breeds Organizations currently features six Participating Organizations for Friesians! For more information about Canadian Horses, visit the Friesian Horse Association North America website.
Join us in May for the next installment of The Many Faces of Dressage!