How to Train a Friesian

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The Friesian horse has a long history, with its ancestors dating back to the war horses of the Middle Ages. As the breed developed, individuals were bred for being light on their feet while at the same time able to handle significant workloads as urban carriage horses and rural agricultural animals. Today, the Friesian is popular for a range of activities, including harness work and dressage. Regardless of what you want to train your horse to do, you need to take care in training a Friesian.

  • Allow your Friesian a longer time for reacting to your command than you would another breed of horse, as Friesians have a naturally slow reaction time. This slow reaction time can strike those unfamiliar with the breed as laziness, but Friesians are anything but lazy.

  • Offer verbal praise and petting whenever your Friesian does something correctly. Because Friesians are so focused on pleasing the people that they trust, they need to be rewarded immediately so they know that they're interpreting your cues correctly. Without praise, your Friesian can doubt his interpretations of your cues.

  • Stay engaged during your entire training and riding session so you can provide consistent cues to your Friesian. She will constantly be monitoring your behavior and body language for guidance about what to do next. If you give her mixed signals---even subtle ones---she can become confused.

  • Use your voice to help your Friesian understand what you are asking for, gradually teaching him a full range of verbal commands, such as "whoa," "back," "trot" and "canter." Friesians tend to pick up verbal commands quickly, as long as you're consistent. Though you won't always use these for riding, these commands are excellent for lunge line work.

  • Improve your Friesian's fitness levels gradually. This breed of horse gets winded easily, so monitor him for labored breathing or any other indication that he's getting tired. Stop your training session before he is exhausted. Again, this can look like laziness to someone unfamiliar with the breed, but Friesians need conditioning to reach their full fitness capacity.

Tips & Warnings

  • Be prepared for your Friesian's movements before you start your first riding session with her. Being a larger breed, the Friesian has more power in the trot than you might be used to. Even experienced riders have been known to be knocked out of the saddle when they experience a Friesian's trot for the first time.
  • Avoid punishing your Friesian. Withholding praise is generally enough punishment for this sensitive breed. Taking a whip to your Friesian even once can destroy his confidence and his trust in you.

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