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Use and characteristics of the East Friesian
East Friesians, known in German as Ostfriesens, stand between 15.2 hands (62 inches/152 cm) and 16 hands (64 inches/165 cm) high. Their coat colours are generally described as “conservative”, being mainly black, dark bay and brown. These reflect the popular colours for coach and carriage horses in the early twentieth century, which is the goal of the breeders who sell an East Friesian. While other coat colours including grey and chestnut do occur, the horses tend to have few white markings other than a star or small sock. Their combination of elegance and power is a winner for carriage drivers and equestrians who buy an East Friesian.
Origin and history of breeding East Friesians
Both East Frisia and the Duchy of Oldenburg have horse breeding histories that reach far back into the past. East Frisia bordered on what is now the Netherlands, while Oldenburg bordered and once incorporated the region now known as Schleswig-Holstein. For centuries, East Frisia and the Duchy developed different types of horse according to the needs of the time, from riding horses to cavalry horses. To do this, aristocratic and non-aristocratic breeders chose from an eclectic range of breeds and types in order to develop exactly the right type for requirements. Indeed, one of the notable things about breeding in this area is the willingness of the breeders to experiment. By the 1860s, both regions had developed a type of horse with registries and a well-established breed profile. Eventually, the Ostfriesland and Oldenburg horses were virtually identical, so the East Friesian today also goes under the name of the Alt-Oldenburg, to distinguish it from the modern Oldenburg sports horse. The great days of private carriage driving were towards the end of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century when Oldenburg horses, in particular, were in great demand. They were of the type known as “Karossiers”; excellent, handsome all-rounders that were strong and reliable. Cleveland Bays, Hanoverians and Anglo-Normans all helped to develop the type. As carriage driving gave way to cars, the East Friesian became a larger and stronger draught type, losing some of its elegance. The breed was nearly lost after WWII, but with the rise of recreational horse riding after the war, there was an unsuccessful attempt to produce lighter riding horses using Arabs. From the 1980s onward, a concerted effort began to restore what had been lost, registering in the Weser-Ems Studbook and using stallions of half-Ostfriesen, half-Hanoverian and Alt-Oldenburg breeding. Other heavy warmbloods of Polish and Saxon-Thuringian breeds were used, and later, Dutch Groningen and Tuigpaard harness horses.
East Friesians in equestrianism
Today, the breed association, the Zuchtverband für das Ostfriesische und Alt-Oldenburger Pferd e.V., strives to produce all-rounders that equestrians prior to WWI would recognise. These willing horses are also renowned for their temperaments.