How long do Friesian horses live?

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The Friesian horse is a majestic black horse with a sturdy build; moviemakers, carriage owners, and equestrians love their striking appearance. Yet, the subject of the typical lifetime of a Friesian horse is often raised.

Purebred Friesian horses often live just 16 years, compared to 25 – 30 years for the majority of other horse breeds. Friesians are prone to four hereditary abnormalities, and the skin behind their leg feathers often develops rashes.

Many people choose to own a Friesian based on the breed’s appearance and neglect some essential facts. The average longevity of the horses is an important factor to consider.

Picture of a Friesian mare with her foal.

Friesian horses have short lifespans.

Horses are an investment in money and time, and a short lifespan means a brief period to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Friesian horses, like most other horses, require time to grow, years to train, and age swiftly.

Physical maturity and a short lifespan

Horses do not reach full physical maturity until they are five or six years old. Even if you merely employ the horse for basic equestrian tasks, this leaves little time for Friesians to master their skill.

Horses’ physical maturity is determined by the development of their growth plates. Growth plates start out as cartilage and fuse into bone as the horse ages.

Provide enough time for the horse’s knees to fuse before you begin riding. You can feel a horse’s legs if you are experienced and get an idea, but to confirm a horse’s legs are developed enough to ride, it’s best to have the knees x-rayed.

Putting extra weight on a horse’s back before its knees are fused can injure a young horse. Between the ages of 18 and 24 months, a horse’s knees are normally closed.

A Friesian is completely developed at five or six years old and cannot be ridden until the age of two. The short lifetime of this horse breed puts you on the fast road to training. A research on the limited lifetime of several European breeds may be found here.


Special care is needed for old horses.

A short-life span means fewer good years, and you will need to address equine aging issues sooner in a Friesian than in most horses. Some Friesians seem like older citizens at 14 years old, with a swayed back and little spring in their stride.

Horses aren’t likely to become senile or as physically frail as elderly humans, but their bodies do go through physical changes as they grow old. Their muscles shrink and weaken, exactly like an older adult’s.

The aging process causes ligaments to lose strength, lips to sag, and hollows above the eyes. Additional gray hairs will appear, and their coat may grow dull.

You can also expect problems with older horses’ teeth, joint arthritis, GI tract maladies, skin tumors, immune disorders, and heart problems. Caring for an elderly horse requires maintenance.

They must be thoroughly monitored and evaluated by a veterinarian on a regular basis. You should make sure he has a proper diet and food that is easily digestible, along with regular visits from your farrier.

Friesian horses’ short lifespan can hinder them in dressage and other events.

Friesians have a certain amount of years in which they are physically capable of competing in dressage. Three or four years old is the normal age to begin dressage instruction on a horse. Horses typically need to reach this age to be psychologically and physically capable of doing the labor.

It normally takes five years without any setbacks for a horse to be effectively trained to the Grand Prix level. It requires this amount of time to develop their physical and mental strength to perform the movements needed for that level.

If no setbacks occurred, a completely trained dressage horse would be 8 to 10 years old. And only the most exceptional athletes trained and ridden by skilled riders will ever reach the Grand Prix level.

Is it worth the time, effort, and price to train Friesians in dressage when they have such a short lifespan?

Picture of a Friesian horse standing in a pasture.

Why Friesian horses die young.

Friesian horses die at a younger age than most other breeds. This has been a problem for breeders for years, but do you know why they have such a short lifespan?

Friesians die at an early age because selective breeding has reduced bloodlines. This practice led to increased inbreeding and a higher than usual percentage of genetic diseases within their breed, such as dwarfism and hydrocephalous.

Contemporary horse producers utilize modern breeding methods to lessen hereditary illness risks, yet the Friesian still dies early.

Friesian horses have a high rate of dwarfism. 

Dwarfism is an abnormal development that affects growth.
of the legs and ribs. While it’s rare in most horse breeds, congenital dwarfism within the Friesian breed has been noted for many years.

Some studies found that certain sire bloodlines produced a higher rate of dwarfism than the general Friesian population. Congenital dwarfism has been reduced by selective breeding procedures.

Genetic disorders play a significant role in the life expectancy of Friesian horses. Learn more about the Friesian horse breed by clicking here.

Friesian mares often retain their placenta.

When a mare foals, a retained placenta is a serious issue. It is due to the mares’ inability to evacuate the fetal membranes after birth. Mares that do not discharge the placenta within three hours of birth start absorbing toxic poisons and germs into their system.

If the problem is not addressed, it might cause uterine irritation and laminitis. Friesians have a greater retention rate than other horse breeds. It is hypothesized that the cause is connected to the prevalence of inbreeding.


Friesian’s feathers need special attention. 

Friesian horses are known for having long, flowing manes, tails, and feathers. The feathers on a horse aren’t actual feathers of a bird but rather long hair on the lower legs covering the hooves. To avoid skin irritations behind the feathers, special attention is required.

Scratches, often known as pastern dermatitis, are a prevalent problem in the Friesian breed. It’s a skin irritation, found on the lower legs, beneath the pastern and fetlock, and sometimes running up the cannon bone.

The major cause of pastern dermatitis is feathers, however the reason might vary. Some factors that lead to the condition are wet climate, poor pasture hygiene, alkaline soil, sand, poor grooming habits,
and irritating topical products.

Pastern dermatitis may be moderate, with dry skin and scabs, or severe, with blisters.
includes oozing scabs and open sores, as well as discomfort and swelling throughout the leg.

Dermatitis beneath the feather may be caused by allergies, mite infestation, or fungal development in the fetlock owing to wet, unclean circumstances.
hair. Moisture and heat are trapped by the dense hair surrounding the lower thigh.

To properly care for your horses’ feathers, wash the area with a quality antibacterial shampoo and blow-dry. Blow-drying is required to reduce moisture. It is also a good idea to examine the region as part of your regular grooming routine.

Picture of friesian horses in a paddock.

Friesian horses aren’t always black.

All registered Friesian horses must be black in color, with the exception of exceptionally dark brown and black-bay animals. White marks are likewise limited to a little white star in the studbook. Under exceptional situations, purebred Friesians may deliver a chestnut foal.

Friesian horses are named after Friesland province.

Friesland is a northern province in The Netherlands, and it’s where the Friesian horse breed originated. Friesland is a chilly rural province on the North Sea coast.

The inhabitants of Friesland played an important role in the preservation of the Friesian horse breed. On farms, large draft horse breeds quickly supplanted Friesian horses. By 1913, the breed had been reduced to three breeding stallions.

To save the breed from extinction, Friesland citizens bought the remaining purebred colts and established a breeding program. Their efforts were fruitful, and the breed is still alive and well today.

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Friesian horses have been in the USA since the 1600s

In the 1600s, Dutch immigrants brought the first Friesian horses to the United States. These horses were used to work the fields and also were crossed with some of the local mares.

Either because of the limited numbers of Friesians brought over or its poor suitability, the purebred Friesian became extinct in America. Yet, early Friesian horses influenced subsequent American breeds like the Morgan and Standardbred.

Below is a YouTube video about Friesian horses.

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  • What Is the Purpose of Friesian Horses? 5 Uses That May Surprise!
  • Statistics and Features of the Andalusian Horse
  • Click here to read about Palomino horses

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I really adore animals! Especially horses, I’ve been around them most of my life but I am always learning more and enjoy sharing with others. I’ve purchased, sold, and trained racehorse yearlings. I have raised some winning horses and had some that didn’t make it as racehorses, so we trained them in other disciplines.

Related Questions

  • Why did Friesians almost go extinct?

    The Friesian nearly became extinct in the 1900s when the market for multi-purpose horses disappeared. By the mid-nineteenth century, the population had dwindled to about 500 people. To promote the breed, a riding organization named De Oorsprong (The Source) was founded.

  • Why are Friesians always black?

    As their coats shed or they get sun or perspiration bleached, many Friesians seem black bay. Selective breeding minimizes white markings and the only white marking allowed on a studbook-registered horse is a small star.

  • Are Friesian horses smart?

    The Friesian is a horse for all types of riders including dressage, trail, sport, pleasure, and drivers. Friesians are very clever dogs that need a devoted handler to keep them focused.

  • What is so special about Friesian horses?

    The breed is distinguished by a quick, high-stepping trot. The Friesian is known for being eager, lively, and energetic, but also mild and submissive. A Friesian has a strong presence and carries itself elegantly.

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