Thoroughbreds and Arabs are considered "hot-blooded" horses -- sensitive, energetic breeds who pass these qualities on when crossed with other breeds. Draft horses are cold-blooded, strong and large, used for plowing and hauling freight. Breed the two types together and you get a warmblood, a large, refined horse with athletic ability. The studbooks of warmblood breeds go back hundreds of years, breeding top specimens to other outstanding horses to create the best-performing equines. Today, warmbloods of various breeds excel in dressage, showjumping, carriage driving and other equine sports.
Modern European warmblood registries must approve stallions and mares as breeding animals. In Germany, unapproved stallions are not allowed to stand at stud. Stallions go through extensive testing, showing their skills in jumping, dressage and cross-country, as well as judgement on their conformation and temperament. Depending on the registry, mares might be judged under similar criteria or primarily on conformation. Some registries permit approved thoroughbred, Arabian or Anglo-Arab mares into the registry if they pass the testing.
Modern warmblood prototypes were used as military mounts, coach horses, farm horses and basic transportation. Different breeds came into being because of needs of people in a specific area. The thoroughbred blood gives the horse refinement and athleticism, while the colder blood contributes strong bone and size. As the Canadian Warmblood Horse Breeders Association puts it, "Warmblood horses combine the athleticism of the Thoroughbred with the movement, substance, power and trainability of the early military horse."
Many of the best-known warmblood breeds originate from Germany, where they are generally named after the region in which they were developed. Many of the breeds are fairly similar in size and appearance, but the Holsteiner and the Hanoverian are larger and heavier-boned than others. Oldenburgs are especially prevalent in dressage. Other sporthorse types include the Westphalian, Rhinelander and the Trakenher. The latter is named after an area that is now part of Poland, but was once considered East Prussia. The Trakenher is somewhat lighter than other German warmbloods, with more of a thoroughbred appearance.
Germany isn't the only country breeding warmbloods for competition and pleasure. France boasts the Selle Francais, a breed that particularly shines in show jumping. The heavy-boned Irish draught horse is found in both the show ring and the hunt field. The Dutch warmblood evolved from two native Netherland breeds, the Groningen and the Gelderlander. Other well-known breeds include the Swedish, Belgian and Danish warmbloods. The Budenny, a former military horse, hails from Russia. While it's an old breed, it's relatively new to international competition.
- Horse Show Central: Warmblood - Horse Breeds and Info
- Horsetopia: Warmblood Horse
- Oklahoma State University: Dutch Warmblood
- Benny De Ruiter Stables: German Warmblood Horses
- Canadian Warmblood Horse Breeders Association: CWHBA History
- Oklahoma State University: Selle Francais
- Belgian Warmblood Breeding Association: Mares and Foals
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.