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How to Feed Friesian Horses

Updated April 17, 2017

Although it is used worldwide, the Friesian horse is native to the Netherlands, excelling at carriage driving, showing and dressage. It is considered a medium build horse -- heavier than Arabs and Thoroughbreds, and lighter than Shires and Percherons. The breed is characterised by an attractive head, feathers on the legs, an extravagant action and glossy black coat. A true Friesian has no white markings, and those who show this breed aim to keep the colour of their coat black by careful feeding and management.

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  1. Determine daily food intake required by calculating 2 per cent of the horse's body weight. For example, if a horse weighs 544kg., its daily food requirement is 10.9kg. To discover body weight, either weigh your horse on a weigh bridge or use a weigh tape around its middle girth area. Friesians are generally "good doers" and keep their condition easily, so they need less feed per body weight than other breeds.

  2. Understand your horse's workload, and decide whether it is involved in light, medium or hard work. If it is not working, you will need to feed a maintenance diet of 100 per cent fibre forage feed, such as grass, hay and unmolassed sugar beet. If it has light work, its feed requirement is 10 to 20 per cent concentrates, such as grains and fats; medium work requires about 30 per cent concentrates; and feed up to 40 per cent concentrates if it is involved in hard work. Friesians do not need large amounts of grain or protein, as forage makes up the majority of their diet.

  3. Include a vitamin and mineral supplement, or a feed balancer containing all the essential minerals. In particular, ensure your horse is receiving adequate amounts of copper, as a deficiency in this mineral can lead to its coat turning red and orange.

  4. Feed your Friesian a good source of fat, such as flaxseed oil, to keep its coat shiny and glossy. Supplements that contain paprika are particularly good at preventing the coat colour from fading in the sun if fed before any onset. Paprika contains capsaicins, which are listed as a banned substances, so remember to stop feeding paprika-based supplements at least two weeks before any competition.

  5. Tip

    Monitor the weight of your Friesian on a monthly basis; if it loses or gains weight, adjust your feeding schedule accordingly. Always feed more forage than any other types of feed as horses are designed to eat grass, shrubs and herbs.


    Overfeeding any horse, particularly good doers such as Friesians, can cause health problems such as obesity.

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Things You'll Need

  • Weigh tape

About the Author

Chrissie Mayes began her career as a freelance writer in 2010. She has also been working in the equestrian field since 1986 as a teacher, trainer, assessor and verifier and has written and designed course material and training. She is pursuing a master's degree in equine science at Aberystwyth University.

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