The Dutch Warmblood Sport horse is one of the more modern breeds of horse, specifically for dressage and show jumping. There’s not much history to these rather elegant horses, but they have had spectacular international success over recent years.
At the end of World War Two, there were two main breeds of horse in the Netherlands, The Gelderlander, a lightish horse in stature, and was used mainly as a carriage horse and The Groningan, a heavier and stronger beast used mainly in agriculture. When the car and the tractor took over duties, both breeds were rather redundant so a stud book was opened which allowed the two breeds to be mixed with a small amount of blood from the thoroughbred and Hanoverian – thus the Dutch Warmblood was born. After a year or two of trials, the Dutch Warmblood really came to the fore in the 1960s, when the breeders of the time in Holland felt that they had produced a horse capable of great international competition and longevity.
The stud book was formalised and now all Dutch Warmbloods which qualify, do so under the KWPN banner. (Konigkliijk Warmbloed Paardenstamboek Nederland). Since then, breeders have continually refined the bloodlines and rules on what makes a good individual and as a result, have successfully bred and commercialise the breed throughout the world. There are few events now where the breed has not got a representative. That is about the sum total of history of this breed, thoroughly modern but now, a who’s who of famous international horses over the past thirty or so years among their lists.
They are normally a single strong colour, usually bay but can be other single colours as well. They quite often have white on their legs and a white blaze on the face. The breed standard insists that licensed breeding stallions are at least 15.3 HH (63cms) and the mares must be no smaller than 15.2 HH. (60 cms) They tend to be slightly shorter coupled than other breeds, for example the Hanoverian, but they do have the strength of leg for sustained movements.
A stallion cannot be registered until he is at least three years old and has to undergo a series of evaluations before being accepted. They can be licensed at any age, and even when they are, they are continually re-evaluated depending on their own and their off-spring’s performances on the international stage. Stallions can be rejected for bad foot structure and hoof status as well as nonaligned stifles. The shoulders should be sloping and it is desirable for them to have a deep girth and heart room. Their hocks should be near to the ground which facilitates their power for piaffe passage for example in the dressage horse. Finally, great emphasis is put on the breed’s rideability and good temperament. Bad tempered or difficult horses are immediately ruled out of any sort of licensing. Keurings, as they are called, (the licensing procedure) are held every year, but only in The Netherlands and also in The USA. In the USA, the Dutch Warmblood is used particularly for Hunter Show classes, with great success!! No other country has the right to hold any licensing procedures. All licensed Dutch Warmbloods, whether stallions or mares were branded with a rather smart lion rampant on the left hip, but the Dutch government decided that branding was cruel and so banned it. Now they just have a piece of paper which corresponds to a chip in the neck.
In 2010, the Dutch Warmblood really proved itself as the only breed ever to be awarded first and the best horses for both dressage and showjumping in the same year by the WFBSH. Some of the more recent Dutch Warmbloods which have made a mark for themselves include Moorlands Totilas, who held the record for the best score in a dressage test for some years until another Dutch Warmblood came along, Valegro who beat the record and still holds it today. Udan and Ferro were also prolific winners in the dressage arena. The most recent notable showjumping Dutch Warmbloods were Hickstead who won individual gold at the Beijing Olympics and Royal Kaliber, another Olympic success story. Probably the biggest stud producing Dutch Warmbloods in the world is the VDL Stud in the north of the Netherlands. Their foundation stallion, Nimmerdor was the maternal sire of the current Olympic individual winner Big Star. One could go on about brilliant performers, but it would become rather boring – but one final thought on how the breed are beginning to have real longevity, is the stallion Ferro was the sire of Negro who was the sire of none other than Valegro! Point made?
The editor Bernard Simpson has been involved with horses and the industry for over 40 years. Together with his wife, he bred many flat racehorses including some which were Royal Ascot winners. He is also experienced in equine media using video, photography and journalism. Bernard currently lives in Wiltshire. He and guest authors now present this blog and hope you like our articles.
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