Since the end of the 19th century, it has been the practice of those interested in preserving the lines and conformation of different breeds to keep a record of all horses that are considered purebreds in what is called a Studbook, and the Friesian is no exception. The first Friesian Studbook, started in 1879, was the first Studbook in The Netherlands. But because the fashion was to cross the Friesian with other breeds and also include other horses from nearby provinces, the Friesian was nearly lost. In 1913 the Friesian Horse Society (Het Friesche Paard) was created started working closely with the Studbook to improve and preserve the Friesian Horse. Since that time, all horses eligible to be entered into the Studbook must participate in a keuring, which literally means judging.
In a keuring, horses are judged at sixty percent for performance and forty percent for conformation. The majority of Friesians will be judged twice in their lifetimes: once as a foal and once after the age of three. Foals are supposed to appear with their dams within the first year of life. At their first keuring, foals can be awarded a "preemie," or premium, which is a sign that the foal has very good characteristics. A First Preemie is considered to be the very best and only the top five percent of foals receive this honor, while the most common is the Third Preemie, with as many as fifty percent. Some foals do not receive any preemies at all, and many times they are judged the following year in hopes of getting a better result.
Mares and geldings are also judged at the keuring, in order to be accepted to the Adult Studbook. They too are judged on movement, performance and conformation. While many will find themselves being accepted into the Studbook, only the best of the best will qualify for additional honors. "Steer" or star mares and geldings are those that have received a First or Second Preemie. Steer mares are eligible to be awarded the title of Model Mare. Mares also are usually over seven years old and have birthed and nursed a foal and must also complete a performance test. Preferential Mares are those that proven to be worthy by the quality of their offspring. Mares are eligible if they have had four offspring that have been awarded or been Stallion Studbook approved.
Finally, stallions must also undergo strict testing. Stallions are usually presented at three or four years and must meet certain criteria in areas such as height, conformation and movement. But the judging of the Friesian stallion is much more intense than for other horses and includes a thorough veterinary exam, x-rays, saddle tests, pulling and driving tests, and even are judged by their stall behavior and overall temperament. Stallions will also continue to be keured until their offspring reach the age of being able to be judged themselves. Those stallions that produce quality offspring are designated as "qualified on offspring" and are no longer required to be keured, while those that do not produce quality offspring are in danger of losing their breeding privileges.