The Friesian is a horse breed originating in Friesland, in the Netherlands. Although the conformation of the breed resembles that of a light draught horse, Friesians are graceful and nimble for their size. It is believed that during the Middle Ages, ancestors of Friesian horses were in great demand as war horses throughout continental Europe. Through the Early Middle Ages and High Middle Ages, their size enabled them to carry a knight in armour. In the Late Middle Ages, heavier, draught type animals were needed. Though the breed nearly became extinct on more than one occasion, the modern day Friesian horse is growing in numbers and popularity, used both in harness and under saddle. Most recently, the breed is being introduced to the field of dressage.
Friesland is the province in the far north of the Netherlands where the Friesian horse originated. Friesland took its name from the Friesian Sea, now known as the North Sea, which lapped its shores. Before the Reformation there were many monasteries in the province and the monks were enthusiastic breeders of the early Friesian horse. The history of the Friesian horse is a checkered one as it nearly disappeared on two occasions but fortunately was saved each time by enthusiastic and devoted breeders who appreciated the character and beauty of this wonderful breed.