Friesian health issues

Does anyone have knowledge of health issues associated with Friesians? I am somewhat interested in a Friesian gelding which is for sale, but many people I know are warning me off the breed due to inherent health problems and limited lifespan. Can anyone elaborate on this? Are there particular lines that should be avoided? Any lines which are generally healthier? Thanks for any input!

You can Google this. I understand they can have shorter lives and are not heat tolerant. Also in order to be so identical in color and look the gene pool is very small. There was a bottleneck after one of the world wars and I think they were down to one sire.

Good news is they aren’t superb dressage horses. They look good standing still but actually don’t collect that well. If you want flash and dressage talent try an Iberian cross.


The one breed-specific health problem I’m aware of is mega esophagus. I believe it’s quite rare but a friend lost her Friesian to it

Not a big deal, but you should be deliberate about heading off scratches


You may want to contact Iron Spring Farm in Pennsylvania and ask them. They have a breeding program and develop young horses.

Heat, heart and breathing issues are what I’ve heard. I’ve only seen heat issues myself and know a few that passed from heart issues but were mid 20’s already.

If the horse is currently doing the job you want, I wouldn’t go to crazy with the PPE.

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Hydrocephalus, megaesophagus, inability to sweat, heart issues, nasty skin stuff under their feathers. I personally would never own one.
However, we have a Friesian cross in the barn right now who is quite wonderful, And I have known several other crosses that were very nice.

My co-worker and his wife lost their grand prix mare to megaesophagus last year after battling it for a year. She would have been 15 years old + and looking back they wish they had put her down when she was diagnosed with it.


Can they be more susceptible? Yes. Have I owned and known many who have been very successful and worked into old age? Yes. Honestly, for all the friesians I know, most of them end up retired in old age due to the usual suspects - injuries, OA, regular old age issues, etc. If I liked the horse, I would not rule it out because it were a friesian (though I would never buy a friesian if I were serious about dressage, but that’s for another thread).


I also knew 2 Friesians with megaesophagus and they’re honestly the only horses of any breed I’ve ever know with the issue. I think there’s a pretty large genetic component to it in certain dog breeds too.

I live in a tropical climate and my inlaws breed them. They’re no more or less susceptible to heat intolerance than any other horse.

Any breeder worth their salt is very careful with inbreeding these days as the gene pool has expanded over the years. I know we don’t personally touch anything with higher than 10% inbreeding.

As for not being superb dressage horses, you need to look at the modern types. They are sporty and nothing like the heavier baroque types. They can actually move and don’t suffer from the “cart horse” syndrome problems with the baroque types. Like anything, you need to find one suitable for the job you want.


Friesian horse on xrays show very often OCD, loose bone fragements, if you x ray 10 friesians, 1 of them is 100 % good. cause there were aproved KFPS stallions who had OCD loos bonefragments, and that is very heriditary!! and lots of people who breed with the friesian horse here, dont have the dams xrayd, so there are a lot of friesians with problems in the bones.

also a big thing in friesian horse is known as :
This is called the hoof cartilage. When a horse has hoof bone cartilage ossification, the cartilage on the branches of the hoof bone is ossified. This means that the elasticity of the cartilage is gone and the cartilage becomes hard. This can be due to old age, heredity, soil, overload or an external trauma.

and this is is heriditary in friesian, some 3 yr old have the beginning already.

also in combination with ossification of hoof cartilage, with 15 yr old the friesians that i know, are old, walking stiff, and are only god for recreation riding, and then not for hours. also their weak backs, with 15 yr old you have an old friesian horse, and comes with lots of vet prices to keep them comfortable living. . Here in the netherlands and i live in the provence friesland, were the friesian horse comes from.

The friesian horse that are very good quality, and 100% good on xrays clinical exam, are most of the the time 2 on 70-100 friesian horses. the rest is just only for 2/3th level dressage, cause they can work on higher level because of how they are in conformation, and if you do it, then they will 12 yrs old and completly broken, and have to be put down, cause of injurys and pain.

I love the old type friesians, they have i big ribcage, are more build in harmony, so not the most weight between the shoulder, as all the modern frisians have, small ribcage, so not a lot of air in hteir luns, are lazy, and they have slopping cross, so they never can collect! and if they do, they will be broken in a few years.


I love my Friesians. They are very smart and affectionate. Oh, yes, add beautiful in romantic, Baroque way.

And in order to accomplish this (sportier type) with the breed - they had to change the breed.

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Beautiful horses, very friendly “people” types, but for me, too many health issues, too much hair to manage, and the one Friesian I had the chance to ride would destroy your spine. Maybe not all are like that, but if someone wanted to give me a Friesian – I’d pass.

I’m just not that into big black hairy horses.

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