Farm Talk

March 2, 2010

Childhood dream of owning a rare breed now a reality

by Nora Cleland

Pamela (Pam) Schian-Gish began riding Appaloosa horses when she was three years old, but she liked the baroque breeds, including Lipizzans and Friesians. No one she knew had those breeds.

Later, when she was a teenager, she saw a magazine picture of a Friesian, a beautiful all-black stallion with a long flowing tail, feathers on its legs and a long mane. It renewed her interest in the breed. She asked her Dad, Rick Schian, if they could breed his Morgan mare to a Friesian stallion, but nothing came of her request.

Several years later the family went to the Dolly Parton Dixie Stampede Show in Branson, Mo., and the announcer was riding a Friesian. “I have to get one,” she declared.

In 2001, Pam and her husband Matt Gish, bought a four month old Friesian stallion colt and a short time later a young Friesian filly. The rest is history.

Today they own 31 Friesian mares, several other young mares, foals, geldings, one approved stallion and a couple of other stallions yet to be tried for approval which are housed in an outstanding barn complete with an indoor arena and a club house. Nine mares are expected to foal this year. The Gishs sell horses for breeding, cooled and frozen semen and horses for dressage, carriage, saddle-seat and even trail riding. They are in partnership with B. Bosma in Makkum, The Netherlands. Two of their mares are presently in Makkum. All of their horses are included in the international registry Komnklijke Vereniging “Het Friesch Paarden-Stambock” (KFPS) and the FHANA (Friesians Horse Association of North America).

The Gishs travel to Holland two or three times a year and regularly send horses back and forth by plane from Kansas to Makkum. The Gishs' new stallion is now in the required quarantine in Kentucky after his flight from Holland. “We will go to Kentucky to pick him up after the required 45 day quarantine period,” Pam explained.

They have created an Internet Website for their principal advertising and communication center for the their business, named Signature Friesians.

They soon learned about the restrictions on breeding practices for Friesians. Crossbreeding is strictly forbidden. Stallions and mares alike are not to be crossbred.

“The physical characteristics of this breed to be preserved are the black coloring with no other color on their coats, the long flowing tail, the long mane and forelock, the feathers on their lower legs, swan-like necks,” Pam said. “They are particularly noted for their powerful rapid trot which features long strides. In fact the standard judging for them is 60 percent movement for their walking and trotting and 40 percent conformation.”

She also stressed the breed's temperament is gentle and not only are they intelligent, but easily trained. The mares are usually about 15.2 hands tall and upward, while the stallions are at least 16 hands tall with some a little taller. Originally the breed was used as war horses in the Middle Ages and later became farm work horses. The horses' strength was an asset in carrying the knights clad in their heavy armor, and later as farm horses, to pull heavily loaded wagons.

“We try to go to local and Midwestern shows a few times each year,” Pam said. “It is lots of work and training, but well worth the effort.”

Each fall, the Gishs also host a Keuring (inspection) for FAUNA{Friesian Horse Association of North America). Inspectors and runners come from Holland to judge the classes of foals, mares, a geldings and stallions. Ratings are called premie. The top 5 percent are graded premie 1; the top 15 percent premie 2; the top 25 percent premie 3 and below that no premie. In addition some mares may achieve the Kroon rating reserved for the top 3 percent.

Stallions can try for the approval rating, Pam said, but it is difficult to achieve - “It is like winning the lottery to reach an approval rating.”

Sape 381, one of their stallions, has received high ratings–2001 KFPS World Champion Stallion, and 2002 and 2004 KFPS Reserve World Champion Stallion.

“Our goal is to continue to breed for the best pedigree and individual animals that we can,” Pam said. “We have added an approved stallion Sape 381, which we feel will improve our breeding program.”

Pam' credits the fulfillment of her dreams and accomplishments to the support of her husband and parents.

“Matt is not a rider,” she explained. “But as a building contractor his expertise and professional help made this facility possible. He also enjoys working with the horses and taking care of them. He says it is relaxing and recreational for him to work around the animals.

“I also am very grateful to my parents for all of their continuing help. Without the three of them this would not have been possible.”

But she admits that she still has her first Appaloosa, a 29-year-old named Moose–“The first love of my life.”