Freiberger

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Freiberger
A Freiberger stallion
Country of origin Switzerland
Equus ferus caballus

The Freiberger, also known as Franches-Montagnes, is a heavy warmblood horse breed from Switzerland. It was widely used as draft and pack horse in the Swiss army, and still is in small quantities. Breeding used to be heavily subsidized in Switzerland. It is the last representative of the light cold blood horse in Europe. Each year at the Marché Concours in Saignelégier, on the second weekend in August, Freiberger demonstrate how versatile they are in a variety of shows and competitions. Due to its character, willingness, and versatility, suitable for both driving and riding, it is a popular mount.

Breed Characteristics[edit]

Freiberger horses in harness competition

Typically, they have a heavy, although small, head with a pronounced jaw line and a broad forehead. The neck should be arched and muscular, with a good sloping shoulder, broad and pronounced withers, and a straight and powerful back. They invariably have good clean legs, strong joints, and hard feet. Traditionally, they had a very small amount of feathering at the fetlock, although modern breeding has largely bred this out, and they also have a somewhat finer head now, which sometimes shows Arabian character in the facial expressions. Characteristically, they are only bay or chestnut in colour and stand at between 14.3-15.3 hands( high, with a weight between 550-650 kg(1200-1400 lbs) .

History[edit]

The breed developed by crossing the native Bernese Jura horse with the English Thoroughbred type and Anglo-Norman, and also with the Ardennais and the Arabian Horse. There are two distinct types within the Freiberger breed: a broader, heavier stamp of horse with more muscle development and a lighter, finer type. Nowadays, there is a trend towards breeding the lighter type, as interest in competitive riding and leisure riding increases.

These days found in Italy as well as all over Europe, the Freiberger is a highly versatile horse, used for light draft, farm work, riding, and competitive riding. They are a mountain horse and do very well in hilly and mountainous areas, being naturally sure-footed and tough and, in many cases, far better equipped for working this type of land than a tractor. They were widely used by the upland farmers of the Jura region and are also popular with the Swiss army, who favour them as pack animals and for use during patrols. Many Freiberger trace back to one stallion, called Valliant, who had a mix of Norfolk Roadster, Anglo-Norman, and English Hunter blood in him. Another influential stallion was Urus, who also contained Norman blood. They are bred at the Avenches stud, the Federal stud, where their breeding is strictly regulated. They mature quickly into well-balanced, active, and calm animals making them easy work companions.

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