Black beauty is heart stealer

W. Jordan family's Friesian is now an 'approved' stallion

Published: Sunday, Oct. 7 2001 12:00 a.m. MDT

Brilliantly black, strikingly beautiful, the rare Friesian easily impresses equine fans with its regal presence.

It was that way with West Jordan resident Annette Coester, who was at a horse fair in Kentucky six years ago when she saw her first one in the flesh and decided then she'd do whatever it took to get one.

Six months later, she met up with a stranger in Atlanta who accompanied her to the Netherlands and helped her broker a deal.

These horses, however, aren't something to purchase on a whim.

Coester has been offered a half million dollars for her prize stallion Feike, who stands nearly 17 hands high and is one of 75 of his kind in the world.

For Coester, it wasn't nearly enough money, because not only does Feike own her heart, he represents an achievement she never dreamed she'd call her own.

In June, Feike became an "approved" stallion, the first in North America in five years to achieve the designation and one of only 13 worldwide to earn it this year.

Dutch judges spent a couple weeks this summer in South Jordan at the county's equestrian park at an intense evaluation for the 8-year-old stallion.

This judging for stallions subjects the animal to rigorous testing, including 18 X-rays, reproductive evaluation, conformation and stable manners. A problem in any area, and the horse is rejected.

The testing is designed to preserve the purity of the Friesian, which originated in a province of the Netherlands some 500 years ago and was nearly cross-bred out of existence.

Although exported from Europe to what is now New York City in 1625, a mere 39 years later it was no longer found as a purebred in the United States.

Worldwide, by 1913, only three approved stallions remained, leading fans of the breed to take action to preserve the breeding.

It wasn't until 1974 that Friesians once again returned to the United States, where approximately 2,000 are today. The breed was popularized by the movie "Ladyhawke."

For Coester, to have an "approved" stallion remains an unbelievable achievement.

"The rarity of the whole thing — I keep pinching myself," she said. "It's almost like disbelief. We're not Dutch people, not big-time Friesian farmers who have been in the business for 15 years. We go to keurings every year and meet people who have been working at this their entire lives and never get approved."

The work, however, doesn't end with the designation. Four years after the approval, the offspring of the stallions must demonstrate that the stallion has made a positive impact on the breed, or the designation is withdrawn.

Coester, who has become increasingly smitten with the breed, now owns six of the horses.

In the past month, she imported two geldings from Europe. They will sell for $25,000 each.

Friesians like Coester's command a lot of money, because their pedigree is documented in a worldwide registry called Friesch Paarden Stamboek founded in 1879.

Other organizations may register the horses, but the animals may not have met the standards of FPS.

As stunning as they look, Coester said, Friesian horses are also in hot demand because of their gentle temperament.

"They're a little bit more laid-back than many horses," she said. "How many horses do you know that will stop eating to come greet you?"

The two geldings she just purchased provide her entire family with entertainment.

"They play like dogs. They toss sticks around and play tag with each other."

In Irish folklore, the hero Connor rides a black Friesian into the forest to gather the souls of the evil. Hungarian King Louis II used the steeds in battle against the Turks.

Their imposing stature, muscular build and coat of ebony give the Friesian a look of fearlessness.

Bert Coester says Feike fits that bill.

"He commands the center of attention, he puffs up twice his size in shows and knows he looks good. He dares people to look away."

For Annette, Feike exemplifies a lifelong love affair that brings tears to her eyes.

"Within the first five minutes of seeing him, he had this certain presence that overpowered me. I'm probably never going to get over that part of him."


E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com

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