European Warmbloods

This page is only intended to give a brief overview upon the subject of  European Warmbloods.

For those seeking detailed knowledge, you are advised to contact the respective Breed Society. A good starting point is to go to the British Horse Society web site who have a breed index with appropriate links to the web sites of varies societies.

So what exactly is a Warmblood Horse ?  The term ” Warmblood ” is a comparatively recent addition to the British horse breeders vocabulary, and when a newcomer to the equestrian scene asks, ” What is a Warmblood  ? ” the chances are that the English reply will be ” one of those soft and gutless things from the continent ! “, or a similar derogatory comment like it.

The true answer is far more complex and interesting.

It is true that the word ” Warmblood ” has its derivation on the continent of Europe, from an exclusion of two very different types – the ” Cold Blood “, or very heavy draught horses such as the Suffolk Punch  or Clydesdales equivalent here in the UK and the ” Pure Blood ” for the Thoroughbred or Arab horses.

Everything in between would be called a ” Warmblood “. These horses were not called ” Hunters ” as they would be here in Britain because the continentals did not hunt on horseback a great deal, so they found a general description to cover their many breeds of riding and driving horses.There is however a significant difference between hunters and warmbloods. Studbook registration and interference in the breeding process — i.e. selection !!

Most warmblood breeds are therefore continuing to evolve. In fact they are not ” breeds ” in the sense that Thoroughbreds, Arabians and Morgans are breeds. They do not have closed studbooks. Other breeds are often introduced to the gene pool to reap the benefits of hybrid vigour, and to speed and improve the evolutionary process of attaining the ” Breeding Goal ” of the particular studbook.

The history and importance of the Trakehner has its own page upon this site. What follows is the history and  characteristics of other prominent ” Warmblood Breeds “.

 The Dutch Warmblood

The Dutch Warmblood is a modern sport horse derived from the selective breeding of German, French, and English horses crossed with the native Dutch stock. The roots of the Dutch Warmblood are deep in 2 areas of the Netherlands : Gelderland with its sandy soil, the lighter type of horse was developed here  and Groningen with its heavy clay soil, a much heavier and denser horse was produced.The 2 breeds were genetically compatible. Groningen breeders used the Gelderlander to refine their horses and the Gronigen was used by Gelderlander breeders to add more mass to their horses.

Strict breeding practices by the Dutch farmers had always been used so that faults in soundness, character  and horses lacking in intelligence were soon eliminated.

Warmblood 1This ‘ culling ‘ made a large contribution to the Dutch Warmblood of today. With the decline of the working horse upon farms, riding clubs became more popular and interest in the sport horse increased steadily. Using old established bloodlines, the

Dutch changed direction in their horse breeding to develop a true riding horse. Thoroughbred stallions were used as well as ‘ riding – type ‘ stallions from France , Holstein, Hanover and elsewhere. Hackney horses were introduced in order to produce a stylish harness horse.

The traditional Gelderlander was also continued to be bred. As a result, the modern Dutch Warmblood horse is designated into three catagories in the KWPN  Studbook ( Royal Studbook of the Netherlands) i.e. Sport Horse, Harness Horse and the traditional Gelderlander type.


  Breed Characteristics

Dutch Warmblood horses average about 16.2 hands with some reaching 17 hands. Coat colours are chestnut, bay , black or grey with white markings often on the face and legs. The head is well shaped, usually with a straight profile and the neck is arched and well muscled merging neatly into the fairly prominent withers.

The back is straight and fairly long with the croup short, broad and flat. The tail is set high. The chest is deep and full and the shoulder well sloped. The legs are strong with a long forearm.

Hind quarters are powerful and highly muscled (Inherited from the original powerful Dutch farm horse).

Sport Horse :  Bred to perform in dressage and show jumping at the highest level. Appealing horse with great              eagerness, reliability and intelligence.

Harness Horse : Displays a long moment of suspension in the trot. A broadly moving foreleg with high knee action and a powerful carrying hind leg. The Dutch harness horse is principally harnessed in front of a light show carriage to enhance its unique action.

Gelderland Type : Because of its conformation, capacities and its willing and reliable character, the Gelderlander can perform equally well in harness and under saddle. This versatility gives the Gelderlander high practical value.


This well – known German Warmblood was a result from the interest of the Kings of England and Hanover  in the horses of the region. King George I had a lot of Thoroughbred stallions crossed with various Hanoverian mares, some of which were descendants of the medieval heavy horse. King George I I  founded the state stud (” Landgestuet “) at Celle in 1735, keeping Holstein and Thoroughbred Stallions.

For many years, the purpose of the stud was to produce all – purpose horses for riding, driving and agricultural ploughing. After World War 2 the breed changed over to create elegant riding and sports horses with the help of the Trakehner and Thoroughbred blood.

In 1888 the Hanover breed registry was founded and in 1922 its functions were taken over by the ” Provincial Society of Hanovarian Horse Breeders ” which in turn is the predecessor of todays Hanovarian horse breeders society.

The zenith of state breeding was reached in the first half of this century. In the 1920’s, 500 and in the 1940’s, 560  state stallions were breeding with over  35,000 broodmares. A number of high quality Trakehner stallions which had been evacuated from East Prussia to Lower Saxony just in time, refined the Hanoverian breed after the war. At the low tide of breeding  around 1960, only 4200 broodmares and 180 state stallions were left but at the end of the 60’s, sport and pleasure riding took an unforeseen rise. According to the demand, the Hanoverian changed to today’s light and elegant riding horse.

Breed Characteristics

The different  ground conditions in the breeding regions create a rather large bandwidth in the type. There are heavy types with great jumping ability as well as noble, light Hanoverians well suited for dressage or pleasure riding.

The coat colours are mostly bay and chestnut but there is also a growing number of black and some grey horses.

Their size averages 165 – 175 cm,   The head is sometimes a bit heavy although of a noble outline and with a well set long neck.

Usage :  All -purpose horse.    (In Europe, the Hanoverian horses dominate show jumping by quantity as well as quality.)



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