The Freiberger horse, also called the Franches-Montagnes, was originally developed by crossing mares native to the Jura area of Switzerland with Thoroughbred and Anglo-Norman stallions around the end of the 19th century.
There are actually two distinct types of Freiberger with the heavier draft type strain being further crossed with Ardennais and Comtois horses as well as the Shagya Arabians. This balanced cross increased the size and strength of the heavier line of Freiberger while still keeping the refinement and spirit that defines the breed.
The lighter Freiberger makes an excellent all round house for any type of riding. They are now used in show jumping and dressage with excellent overall results. Usually these Freibergers are crossed with the Swiss Warmbloods or Swiss Half Bloods to add height and jumping ability and to make them more in keeping with competition style horses.
Every year in September there is a Horse Fair in the area of Avenches in the canton of Freiberger. Freiberger horses compete in many different disciplines for championship status. The different categories of competition include western and English pleasure classes, show jumping, dressage, driving, gymkhana, and heavy pulling. Freiberger horses may compete in several every diverse events in the show.
Winter horse shows or competitions featuring the Freiberger will include sled type races and many events are outdoors, meaning that the horse and riders or drivers will be competing on snow.
All Freiberger horses have to pass a rigorous field test to be entered into the studbook and registry. There are several components to the test including driving, riding and temperament. In the temperament test the Freiberger horse must be ridden close to an open umbrella or by a large ball that is being rolled, and for the driving test they have to walk over a plastic tarp or under plastic strips that are moving in the breeze. This assures the testers that the horse is calm and not nervous or flighty.
There are three different levels of studbooks and the basic registry for the Freiberger depending on the placement in field testing and the horse's overall performance in competitions.
Many Freiberger horses can trace their heritage back to two influential studs, Valliant, born in 1891 and Urus, who was not used until after World War II. Both of these stallions had a mixture of different breeds however they both had some Anglo-Norman and Norfolk Roaster blood.
All Freiberger horses in Switzerland are now bred at the Federal Stud in Avenches. The breeding of this type of horse is very controlled to ensure the highest possible standards for the breed.
The Freiberger, like most mountain bred horses, is extremely sure footed and is an ideal pleasure riding horse or trekking horse. Although not often used as a packhorse today, originally the breed was an essential horse in getting supplies in and out of the mountainous area around Jura.