The Hanoverian Horse. How Good Is It?
The German Hanoverian horse was a rather coarse looking animal with a ham head but had many good qualities, particularly in its temperament. It was also very strong, and was mainly used for pulling carriages and carts and agricultural work. In 1735, George II of England and Elector of Hanover founded the ‘State Stud’ at Celle in the North West in Germany. He wanted a horse which could be multi purpose. He wanted to have them to be strong enough to continue to work in agriculture, to be a smart looking horse for the cavalry and an ordinary riding horse. The Celle Stud was owned and run by the state as it still is. The king wanted to inject quality into the Hanoverian breed, and he achieved this by crossing stallions with thoroughbreds and other prettier looking breeds. This worked really well. The Hanoverian horse looked sleeker and had much more quality, but still retained its obedience and strength.
In 1844, a law determined that only approved breeding was allowed and in 1867, the Hanoverian Stud Book society came into being with the first stud book registrations produced the following year. In the mid 1900s, the horse generally became mostly redundant with the introduction of tractors and other machines doing the work of the horse. However, demand grew for the Hanoverian to become more of a riding horse, The better looking quality Hanoverian had proved itself to be reliable, obedient and strong, particularly with the continual rigorous selection and breeding; an ethos which still exists most strongly today.
Years of selected breeding and annual breed shows where each animal is assessed for its characteristics to keep the breed in line with the rules set down all those years before has made the Hanoverian horse the ‘must have’ for many professional dressage riders and show jumpers. They recognise that the modern Hanoverian has excellent train-ability, obedience and strength, all attributes needed to produce a top class equine for today’s high class international competition.
The main breed characteristics are that the Hanoverian horse can be any solid colour. It should stand no less than 15 hand 3 inches high and no larger than 17 hands 1 inch. It should have a well balanced head on a long strong neck, powerful body with a deep girth and strong hindquarters. It should have a powerful action with a long stride and can jump. Its temperament should be calm, malleable, sensible and disciplined. A healthy Hanoverian should have a life expectancy of 24 years plus.
Over the years, the Hanoverian bred horse has had unrivalled success in the major world international events. In the Olympics, Hanoverians are always in the fore front of the list of winners. In more recent years in top dressage events, Bonaparte, Satchmo, Gigolo, Salinero, Bretina and British bred Dimaggio have wowed the world with their beautiful paces. In showjumping, the Hanoverian has been equally successful in major competition. Notable winners over the jumps have included Shutterfly, For Pleasure, Deister, Gold Fever etc.
The breed characteristics and regulations are all controlled by the Celle State Stud in close association with the Hanoverian Verband. Countries outside Germany have their own affiliated breed societies and are closely monitored, for example The British Hanoverian Horse Society. All the satellite breed organisations have to abide by the rules set down by the Verband in terms of what horses they can register. In order to keep the breed consistent, a breeder has to present each and every horse for inspection by a committee, which if approved, allows the horse to be officially recognised as a Hanoverian Warmblood and is marked on its hind quarter with the Verband brand mark. As a result of this rigorous regime from Germany, the breed ideals have been kept as uniform as possible thus keeping the breed very popular for breeders and riders throughout the world.
The Verband conducts an auction once a year in Germany of top Hanoverian horses where there are on occasions eye watering prices paid. Each country affiliated to the Verband have their own annual show where breeders present their young stallions, mares and foals for evaluation. There are many breeds of sport horses of which the Hanoverian is just one. But it is the oldest sport horse breed and is also one of the most successful if not the most successful at the top end of competition. In the months to come we will look at other breeds and their particular claims to history.
The British Hanoverian Horse Society’s annual show is at Morton Morrell in Warwickshire on September 8th 2019.
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