Breed Organization Information
(Royal Warmblood Studbook of the Netherlands)
3700 AJ, Zeist, Holland
Tel: +31 30 6934600
About the Breed
The Dutch Warmblood is a “warmblood sport horse” breed. Warmblood simply distinguishes this type of horse from the “cold bloods” (draft horses) and the “hot bloods” (Thoroughbreds and Arabians). Sport horse refers to the intended use of the breed — as a competitive and recreational horse for the major international equestrian disciplines of dressage, jumping, three-day event and driving.
Most warmblood breeds are continuing to evolve. In fact, they are not “breeds” in the sense that Thoroughbreds, Arabians, Morgans and Saddlebreds are breeds. They do not have closed studbooks. Other breeds are often introduced to the gene pool to reap the benefits of hybrid vigor, and to speed and improve the evolutionary process of attaining the “Breeding Goal” of the particular studbook. The Dutch Warmblood is no exception.
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 two areas of Netherlands soil — Gelderland and Groningen. In Gelderland, located in the central Netherlands, the soil is sandy, and here the lighter type of horse developed. In Groningen on the other hand, where the soil is heavy clay, a much heavier and denser horse was produced. The two remained genetically compatible and to refine their horse Groningen breeders used Gelderlanders, while in order to add more mass to the Gelderlander, Groningen blood was used.
Dutch farmers earned their living with horses, so strict breeding practices have long been used. Faults in soundness and character were quickly eliminated, along with horse that lacked intelligence. This severe culling made a great contribution to the Dutch Warmblood of today. As mechanization of equipment gradually caused the horse to become superfluous on farms, riding clubs became more popular and interest in the sport horse increased steadily.
Using the fine 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, with breeders taking care to retain time-tested farm horse qualities of the old Dutch breeds. Hackney horses were also introduced in order to produce a stylish harness horse. Other breeders continued to breed the traditional Gelderland light draft horse. As a result, the modern Dutch Warmblood horse is designated into three categories within the KWPN Studbook: sport horse, harness horse and traditional Gelderland type.
These horses are high achievers, but achievements are not permitted to overshadow the good conformation, beauty or charm that have made the Dutch horses famous. In a relatively short time the modernized Dutch sport horse has rocketed to international competitive importance. Dutch Warmblood horses, famous for their character, soundness and athletic ability, are exported to all corners of the globe, and are international winners under the flags of many different nations in international competitions and Olympic Games.
Dutch Warmblood horses average about 16.2 hands with some reaching 17 hands. Coat colors are chestnut, bay, black or gray 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 withers, which are fairly prominent. The back is straight and fairly long, with the croup short, broad and flat. The tail is set high. The chest of this horse is deep and full and the shoulder is well sloped. The legs are strong with a long forearm. Hind quarters are powerful and highly muscled, a characteristic inherited from the original and powerful farm horses of the Netherlands and a feature necessary for strong movements.
Dutch Warmbloods are bred to perform in dressage and show jumping at the highest level. These horses are appealing modern horses, with great eagerness, reliability and intelligence.
The unique Dutch harness horse is bred to perform in driving competitions and in harness horse classes. This harness horse displays a long moment of suspension in the trot, a broadly moving foreleg with high knee action and a powerful carrying hindleg, in combination with a proud, high carriage, enhanced by the long, vertically set neck. The Dutch harness horse is principally harnessed in front of a light show carriage to enhance its unique action.
With the merging of the local studbooks into one organization, some breeders decided not to follow the modern trend and continued to breed the traditional farm type of light draft horse — the Gelderlander. The KWPN created a special breeding direction for these breeders who wished to preserve this original type. The classic lines with the rich front and the enthusiastic performance of the Gelderland horse appeals to a large group of people. Because of its conformation, capacities and its willing and reliable character, the Gelderlander can perform equally well in harness and under saddle. This versatility give the Gelderlander high practical value.
A rigorous selection system and continuous evaluation of breeding stock, as well as a high-tech research, statistical and records department bring the latest developments in science and technology to bear on the improvement of the Dutch Warmblood. In addition, the long horse-breeding history and agricultural heritage of the Dutch, bring generations of nearly inborn expertise to the production of top quality Dutch horses.
The main tools in the ongoing evolution and improvement of the Dutch Warmblood are the Keurings, or inspections, which are held in the Netherlands and in North America every year, at which horses are evaluated and rewarded according to their quality and fulfillment of the Breeding Goal. Unlike some warmblood registries, Dutch horses are not branded as foals based on the fact that they are “registered.” Instead, in order to be branded with the proud Dutch lion, they must be presented for Studbook Inspection at the age of three or older. If they are of sufficient quality they are inscribed in the Studbook, and can be branded.
The selection system includes a testing system for breeding stallions, one of the most selective and rigorous in the world. Dutch Warmblood stallions, even after being admitted to the studbook, must undergo a reevaluation each year to assess whether each one fits the picture of the continually developing breed. Only stallions demonstrating a decidedly positive effect on the breeding of the Dutch Warmblood come under consideration for the classification keur (choice). The highest classification is preferent (preferred), an honor awarded to famous stallions such as Amor, Doruto, Joost, Lucky Boy and Nimmerdor.
Mares must are also designated according to their contributions to the breed. The special predicates for mares include star for mares of especially good quality, keur for star mares who have produced a foal and that have demonstrated their ability in jumping and dressage in a performance test. Preferent is awarded for mares who have produced at least three foals considered superior in both conformation and gaits. A mare is awarded the honor of prestatie if three of her progeny are also top performers.
The Royal Warmblood Studbook of the Netherlands (KWPN, Koninklijke Vereniging Warmbloed Paardenstamboek Nederland) is the registry and studbook for Dutch Warmblood Sport Horses, and has a history dating back to early in the last century. It deals with breeding goals and rules, inspection and evaluation, promotion, research and administrative matters for breeders of Dutch horses. Dutch horse breeders have been united for more than 100 years. King Willem III recognized the first studbook organization in 1887 and so laid the basis for regulated warmblood horse breeding in the Netherlands. The KWPN studbook originated in 1969 from a combination of various regional books and was granted the royal title (K) in 1988 by Queen Beatrix.
The North American Department, Royal Warmblood Studbook of the Netherlands was established in 1983 to promote the breeding and enjoyment of the Dutch Warmblood Horse in North America. The NA/WPN has been charged with two major responsibilities, first to preserve, promote and develop the Dutch Warmblood horse to the highest possible standard in North America, and second, to serve its subscribers and breeders through a continuing program of services. In 1997, the name of the NA/WPN was “Americanized” to The Dutch Warmblood Studbook in North America.