A touch of desert Arabian blood makes them specially tuned Friesians: Arabo-Friesians find more and more enthusiasts among equestrians.
Some 400 years ago, during the time of the Spanish occupation from 1568 to 1648, the local Friesian farmers were forced to use Spanish stallions with Arabian blood on their mares. The result was an immensely athletic breed of horse which is found in the ancestry of the Orlov trotter and the Morgan, among others.
Then around 1900, to save the Friesian from extinction, the horses had to be made suitable for agricultural work. Unfortunately, this development cost the breed its lung and heart volume.
When during the 1960s, Friesian horses disappeared from international driving and dressage arenas, some breeders decided to return to the roots. These experts began to search for the best desert Arabian blood, which had already been introduced into the breed 400 years ago, to use on carefully selected Friesian mares. They chose the well-known elite stallion Gharib, a straight Egyptian stallion at Marbach State Stud, in order to improve the following characteristics: endurance, toughness, lung and heart volume. This means a quick return to a normal pulse and a better ability to give off warmth through a finer skin and different muscular structure. The result in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation have been horses that have been very successful in sports.
For eight successive years, a team of Arabo-Friesians (with only 6-25% Arab blood and all the rest pure Friesian blood) have won the Belgian four-in-hand championships; for many years they have been regularly placed among the Top Ten in international driving competitions, including world championships. More recently, Arabo-Friesians have also competed successfully in dressage.
It was of great advantage for the breeding of Arabo-Friesians, that the pure Friesians had been rigorously selected for beauty and movement. This meant that in breeding Arab-Friesians, the main emphasis could be placed on athletic ability. As a result, the horses uniformly look like Friesians and are very athletic.
Most buyers of Arabo-Friesians are former warmblood owners, so that pure Friesians and Arabo-Friesians do not compete against each other.
Arabo-Friesians are not just simple crosses between Friesians and Arabians. They should carry around 10% selected desert Arabian blood and look like pure Friesians, with slightly less fetlock hair and finer heads. They have smooth gaits and enjoy moving. They have great endurance and toughness and are thus suitable for the toughest sport competitions. One of the most important aspects is their disposition: it is the “golden character” of the old, proven Friesian bloodlines.
Most breeding stallions come from the Ritske and Age lines, the old Friesian sire lines known for their athleticism. Since 90% of today’s Friesians are descended from the new Mark sire line, which is only rarely found among Arab-Friesians, all 231 Friesian dam lines can be used for breeding to Arabo-Friesian stallions.
The breeding goal is 6 to 20% Arabian blood, so that the horses look like Friesians with their typical way of moving, and have the endurance and toughness of the Arabian. The foals receive full papers and equine passports. Foals that promise to be particularly athletic, receive the “sport certificate”. The sport certificate is the highest accolade in Arabo-Friesian breeding and a necessary prerequisite for a potential breeding stallion.
These horses are bred specifically for performance. Arabo-Friesians should be able to compete against the best warmblood horses.
The first breeding stallion Yk Dark Danilo competed for years as the leading horse in a four-in-hand team among the world elite, in the world championships and in the indoors, until he was trained for dressage in 2005. In the same year, he was Reserve Champion in his class in Belgium. Yk Dark Danilo has sired four stallions, who are all very homogenous sires. His son Dark Ynte was constantly placed in novice dressage classes at the age of four years. Arabo-Friesians are equally suited for dressage and for driving.
One of the youngest approved stallions is a half-brother of Dark Danilo, called Dark Laes, who’s frozen semen is available throughout the world, including USA and Canada. His first year foals are looking very promising.
The European Arabo-Friesian Society today has daughter societies in France and in Germany. There is also great interest in these baroque sports horses in the USA, Canada, Spain, Switzerland, and Britain. Not only for competition sport, but also for those who like to work with horses that have on the one side a marvellous gentle and cooperative character, but on the other hand have less limits in performance if it would be required.
Truly, Arabo-Friesians give a lot of satisfaction and fun to their owners………..
Breeding and promotion: European Arabo-Friesian- Association, (EAFA)