Friesian Sporthorse

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Friesian Sporthorse
Country of origindeveloped initially in Europe (primarily Germany and the Netherlands) but revitalization and development as a unique breed has been primarily in the United States and Canada
Distinguishing featuresFriesian crossbreds, minimum 25% Friesian. Can be nearly all colors and sizes, but maintaining a sport horse type. Light feathering is common, as well as thick manes and tails.
Breed standards

The Friesian Sporthorse is a Friesian crossbred of sport horse type. The ideal Friesian Sporthorse is specifically bred to excel in FEI-recognized sport horse disciplines. Thus, "sporthorse" refers to the phenotype, breeding, and intended use of these horses.[1]

While some consider the Friesian Sporthorse as a breed [2] and others consider the Friesian Sporthorse as a type,[3] others sometimes use the term "Friesian Sport Horse" as a generic all-inclusive term to describe any Friesian cross horse.


Different registries have different standards that define what is considered to be a Friesian Sporthorse. One registry regards Friesian Sporthorses as a breed, with strict breeding requirements in addition to performance recognition. In this case, Friesians are crossbred primarily with warmbloods and Thoroughbreds, although limited percentages of American Saddlebred, draft and Arabian breeding are also acceptable into lower books of the studbook.[2]

Other registries contend that "sporthorse" is a type, and rather than breed-specific requirements, they require that horses meet certain performance requirements before the registry will deem them a Friesian Sporthorse.[4] Either way, the goal is to produce animals suitable for the sport disciplines of dressage, eventing, show jumping, and combined driving. Most registries agree that Friesian Sporthorses also must be a minimum of 25% Friesian.[2][3] Although the crossbreeding of Friesians with many different types and breeds is popular, it is worth noting that the resulting offspring are not always considered Friesian Sporthorses.


Friesian Sporthorses can come in a variety of colors and sizes, with no limitations on acceptable colors or markings. Their body type can range from a sport horse build to a heavier more Baroque build. A higher-set and more arched neck is also common among Friesian Sporthorses. They tend to have the gentle temperament and striking appearance of the Friesian, but with an increased athleticism, stamina, and hybrid vigor, when responsibly crossbred.[5] They are most commonly used for dressage and carriage driving, but have also been successful as jumpers and eventing horses, as well as for all-around riding. They are also valued as pleasure and trail horses.


People have been crossbreeding Friesians for more than a century. In 1879 the Friesian registry created two books for registration, one book for purebred Friesians, and another book for crossbreds. Crossbreeding had become so common by 1907 that the rules were again changed, combining the two books into one book again. This changed again in 1915, with concerns over the potential extinction of the purebred Friesian, and two books were again created. Eventually two separate Friesian registries were created, Dutch and German.[6][7][8][9]

Today the Dutch Friesian registry (FPS, Friese Paarden Stamboek) and its American counterpart (FHANA, Friesian Horse Association North America) prohibit their registered horses from being used to create crossbred horses.[10] However, the German Friesian registry (FPZV, Friesenpferde Zuchtverband e. V.) and its American counterpart (FPZV USA) do allow their registered horses to be crossbred with other breeds, but they will not register the crossbred offspring.[11] Both the Dutch and German registries have recognized the severe risks of inbreeding this has created in the breed,[12] and have created policy committees to try to reduce these risks.[13]

In the last decade, the popularity of the Friesian crossbreds has increased, and additional registries have been formed specifically to register and recognize Friesian cross horses and Friesian Sporthorses as separate breeds.[6][7][8][9]

The studbook for Friesian Sporthorses was founded in 2007 by the Friesian Sporthorse Association (FSA) and in 2008 the FSA trademarked the name "Friesian Sporthorse". The Friesian Sporthorse Association was initially founded in the United States, but shortly thereafter a branch was added in Australia, and the Friesian Sporthorse Association now registers Friesian Sporthorses worldwide.[9][14]

Georgian Grande[edit]

The Georgian Grande horse was initially introduced as sport horse cross between the Friesian and the American Saddlebred, and was first developed in 1976 by a horse breeder named George Wagner, Jr. from Piketon, Ohio in the United States. Wagner was one of the wealthiest and largest landowners in Pike County, Ohio, owning almost 1,800 acres of land, was well as the 300-acre Flying W Farm. The land and its buildings were valued at just over $4 million in 2018.[15]

While formally recognized as a "breed" by some sources - including the United States Dressage Federation (USDF) and the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) - the Georgian Grande is now considered to be a subtype of Friesian Sporthorse and the American Warmblood, as opposed to its own horse breed.[16][17]

While other draft horses were used in Wagner's breeding programme - including horses of the Shire, Percheron, Clydesdale, Belgian Draught, and Irish Draught horse breeds[18] - Wagner primarily used Friesian stallions to cross to Saddlebred mares as the foundation stock for the Georgian Grande. Wagner wanted to bring back the "heavier boned, bigger Saddlebreds of the historic past...ridden by officers of the United States Cavalry in the American Civil War". Wagner claimed, "The American Saddlebred of today has changed a good deal from its original appearance, and tends to have much less bone. Occasionally, an 'old fashioned' or Baroque-style Saddlebred can still be found, but most have disappeared from the equine scene."

To this end, Wagner co-founded the International Georgian Grande Horse Registry (IGGHR) in 1994 alongside his wife, Fredericka Wagner, and their daughter, Robin Wagner.[19] IGGHR became a member of the United States Dressage Federation All Breeds' Council, as well as a member of the American Horse Council, and Georgian Grande horses began to compete internationally in dressage, eventing, and show jumping. A few Georgian Grande cross horses were registered in the United Kingdom (UK), Norway, and Australia, with some Georgian Grandes being registered as Shire and Saddlebred, as well as Percheron and Saddlebred, crosses.

However, in November 2018, four members of the Wagner family were arrested in Ohio and Kentucky, and were charged with the murder of eight members of the Rhoden family in the Pike County shootings. Also arrested was Fredericka Wagner, who was charged with perjury and obstructing justice for allegedly misleading investigators. However, the charges against her were dropped in June 2019.[20][21] While not charged with a crime, Robin Wagner continues to be involved in the case by supporting her brother and one of the accomplices in the Rhoden family murders, George “Billy” Wagner III.[22] George "Billy" Wagner III is the son of George Wagner, Jr. and Fredericka Wagner.

The Pike County murders have called into question the future of the Georgian Grande cross and the International Georgian Grande Horse Registry (IGGHR), especially with the arrest of registry co-founder Fredericka Wagner in the case. However, as of 2020, Georgian Grande crosses were still participating in the United States Dressage Federation (USDF) events and championships.[23] Some Georgian Grandes are instead being registered as Friesian Sporthorses, Baroque Pintos, and American Warmbloods.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Breed Standard
  2. ^ a b c Friesian Sporthorse registration guidelines
  3. ^ a b "Friesian Sport Horse & Heritage Horse General Registration Rules".
  4. ^ "Friesian Sport Horse & Heritage Horse General Registration Rules".
  5. ^ USDF Connection, December/January 2009 issue, Volume 10, Number 8, "Breed of the Month: Friesian Sporthorse", pg 67
  6. ^ a b FHANA
  7. ^ a b Friesian horse society
  8. ^ a b NEFHC History page Archived 2007-11-08 at the Wayback Machine, accessed Nov 4, 2007
  9. ^ a b c Friesian Sporthorse History
  10. ^ KFPS (See framelinked sections on breeding regulations), Retrieved August 16, 2011
  11. ^ FPZV, Zuchtbuchordnung 2009 Archived 2012-03-30 at the Wayback Machine, Retrieved August 16, 2011
  12. ^ Sevinga, Vrijenhoek, Hesselink, Barkema, Groen (April 2004). "Effect of inbreeding on the incidence of retained placenta in Friesian horses", Journal of Animal Science, volume 82, number 4, pages 982-986. American Society of Animal Science
  13. ^ KFPS (See framelinked section "Plan Breeding committee"), Retrieved August 16, 2011
  14. ^ Warmbloods Today, July/August 2012 issue, "Friesian Sporthorses: An Emerging Breed for the 21st Century", pg 45-46
  15. ^ Graves, Chris. "Fredericka Wagner: A look at her property and assets". The Cincinnati Enquirer. USA Today. Retrieved 30 June 2023.
  16. ^ Wagner, Robin. "Brief History of the Georgian Grande". International Georgian Grande Horse Registry. Retrieved 30 June 2023.
  17. ^ Sederstrom, Jill (29 March 2019). "Who Is Fredericka Wagner And Why Was Her Arrest Such A Shock To Piketon?". Oxygen: True Crime. NBCUniversal. Retrieved 30 June 2023.
  18. ^ "Georgian Grande Horse". 26 December 2015. Retrieved 30 June 2023.
  19. ^ Levy, Angenette (31 August 2022). "What to Know About the Locations Pike County Massacre Jurors Will Visit in George Wagner IV's Murder Trial". Law & Crime: A Dan Abrams Production. LawNewz. Retrieved 30 June 2023.
  20. ^ Dykes, Todd (28 August 2019). "Rita Newcomb, charged in Pike County homicide case, avoids returning to jail". WLWT. Retrieved 13 September 2022.
  21. ^ "State drops charges against Fredericka Wagner in Pike County family massacre". WCPO. June 26, 2019. Retrieved January 5, 2022.
  22. ^ "Accused killer Billy Wagner asks Pike County judge to let him speak to his sister". WLWT NBC 5 News. NBCUniversal. 17 January 2019. Retrieved 30 June 2023.
  23. ^ Putfark, Elizabeth. "Lennox Has Big Dreams With Her Georgian Grande". The Chronicle of the Horse. Retrieved 30 June 2023.

External links[edit]

  • Warmbloods Today, July/August 2012 issue, "Friesian Sporthorses: An Emerging Breed for the 21st Century", pg 45-46