The Freiberger, also known as Franches-Montagnes, is a horse breed from Switzerland, from the Jura region, described as either a "heavy warmblood" or a "light coldblood". It was widely used as draft and pack horse in the Swiss army. It has a good disposition and is versatile, suitable for both driving and riding. Each year at the Marché Concours in Saignelégier in the Franches-Montagnes district of the Swiss canton of Jura, on the second weekend in August, a variety of shows and competitions are held.
The presence of an autochthonous horse breed in the Jura traces to the year 1619. The modern breed developed during the 19th century when these native horses were crossed with Thoroughbreds, Anglo-Norman horses, Ardennais and Arabians.Valliant, a crossbredhorse of Norfolk Roadster, Anglo-Norman horse, and some field hunter breeding, was one foundation sire of the breed. Another stallion with Norman ancestry who contributed to the breed was named Urus.
By the early 19th century, there were active breeders in the district of Franches-Montagnes. In 1817, there were 4,000 breeding mares on record. The horses were bred for use in agriculture and by the army as pack animals and artillery draft horses. There are records of imports of Anglo-Norman horses for the year 1821, and of other horses from England, France, Hannover and Oldenburg for the year 1830, with the goal to overcome the faults of the landrace breed, which was viewed as inferior due to its heavy and thick head, short neck and sloping rump, though its frame was considered excellent.
The name Freiberger appeared in the late 19th century, used for the three types of horse previously named after the districts of Franches-Montagnes, Porrentruy, and Delémont. These types were called cheval de Jura and later Franches-Montagnes regardless of which district from which they originated. They also had been called race welsche.
Until the early 20th century, it was also common to use names for the sub-types, such as Anglo-Jura for animals with Thoroughbred admixture, Normand-Jura for those with Anglo-Norman ancestry. It was only in the late 20th century that the name [Cheval des] Franches-Montagnes became official.
The Marché-Concours des Chevaux in Saignelégier, a combined show, race and market dedicated to the breed, has been held annually since 1897.
The breed was crossed with Swedish Warmblood in the 1970s, especially in Alsatian studs. By 1985, about half of the breeding population were descended from these Alsatian types, with the more traditional types becoming increasingly scarce. The last admixtures to date took place in the early 1990s, with Swiss Warmblood, with the intention of increasing the breed's suitability for the saddle. Since 1997, the breed's studbook has been closed to any external admixture. In the same year, a Swiss federation of breeders was established, Schweizerischer Freibergerverband (FM) / Fédération suisse d’élevage du cheval de la race des Franches-Montagnes (FSFM). Today they are bred with strict regulation at the Avenches federal stud.