A Hanoverian is a warmblood horse, which is often seen in the Olympic Games and other competitive English riding styles, and have won gold medals in all three equestrian Olympic competitions. It is one of the oldest, most numerous, and most successful of the warmbloods. Originally a carriage horse, infusions of Thoroughbred blood lightened it to make it more agile and useful for competition. The Hanoverian is known for a good temperament, athleticism, beauty, and grace.
Country of Origin: Germany
Breed History: In 1735, George II, the King of England and Elector of Hanover, founded the State Stud at Celle. He purchased stallions suitable for all-purpose work in agriculture and in harness, as well as for breeding cavalry mounts. The local mares were refined with Holsteiner, Thoroughbred and Cleveland Bay, Neapolitan, Andalusian, Prussian, and Mecklenburg stock. By the end of the 18th century, the Hanoverian had become a high-class coach horse.
In 1844, a law was passed that only allowed stallions that were passed by a commission to be used for breeding purposes. In 1867, breeders started a society aimed at producing a coach and military horse, with the first stud book being published in 1888. The Hanoverian became one of the most popular breeds in Europe for coach and army work.
Breed Characteristics: The horses are elegant, strong, and robust. They are bred to be willing and trainable, and have a strong back, powerful body, athletic movement, and strong limbs. Chestnut, bay, brown, black, and gray are found the most often. Regulations prohibit horses with too much white, and buckskin, palomino and cremello horses from being registered. The horses can be 15.3-17.2 hands high, but most are in the range of 16-16.2 hands.
The Holsteiner is a breed of horse originating in the Schleswig-Holstein region of northern Germany. It is thought to be the oldest of warmblood breeds, tracing back to the 13th century. Though the population is not large, Holsteiners are a dominant force of international show jumping, and are found at the top levels of dressage, combined driving, show hunters, and eventing.
Country of Origin: Germany
Breed History: The Holsteiner breed has been bred in the northernmost region of Germany, Schleswig-Holstein, for over 700 years. The windswept coastal marshes where the breed originated are characterized by rich, wet soil that could dry out and turn cement-like in a matter of hours. Since the 1st century, these fertile marshes were said to be home to an autochthonous horse that was small and suited to the climate.
Organized horse breeding in Holstein was first conducted in the monasteries of Uetersen. Monks were frequently the most literate members of Middle Ages societies, and so accurate record-keeping depended on them. From the small native horses of the Haseldorf marshes, the Uetersen monks began to develop larger horses suitable for riding in times of war, and for agriculture in the demanding environment.
By the 16th century, the horses of Holstein had a distinct reputation, and the breed remained in high demand until the 18th century. As knightly combat gave way to the cavalry, horses used in warfare required more endurance and agility. Similar to other quality European horses of the time, the popularity of Neapolitan and Spanish horses were reflected in the Holsteiner. While not exceptionally tall, they had thick, high-set necks, animated gaits and Roman noses. King Philip II of Spain routinely purchased Holsteiners to populate his stud at Cordoba. Following the Protestant Reformation, the breeding of horses was no longer the responsibility of the monks, but of local officials and individual farmers. As early as 1719, the state offered awards to the finest stallions bred by Holstein farmers. To qualify, the stallion had to be between 4 and 15 years old, stand at least 15.2hh and have sired at least fifteen foals in the previous season. Twelve black Holsteiner stallions were purchased in for the foundation of Celle State Stud in 1735. These horses became the foundation of the Hanoverian breed.
The 19th century brought a change to European horse breeding: compact and powerful Baroque horses were replaced by the fleet English Thoroughbred as the primary animals used to improving local horse breeds. Improvements in roads and the development of the locomotive meant that long coach rides were less often required. As a result, the emphasis fell on producing elegant, attractive carriage horses. Cleveland Bays and their Thoroughbred-infused cousins, Yorkshire Coach Horses, were imported from Britain to refine the Holsteiner, but the breed still maintained an even temperament. The same organizational efforts that enabled the construction of railways and better roads also affected horse breeding. In the 1860s, the state-owned stud farm (Landgestüt) at Traventhal was established under the Prussian Stud Administration. Traventhal, like other state studs, provided local private horse breeders with affordable access to high-quality stallions. The Duke of Augustenburg was particularly influential, importing fine Thoroughbred stallions and encouraging locals to use them. In 1885, Claus Hell Senior authored a breeding goal for the Holsteiner horse:
A refined, powerful carriage horse with strong bone structure and high, ground covering strides, which at the same time should possess all the qualities of a heavy riding horse.
The Holsteiner stud book was founded by economic advisor Georg Ahsbahs in 1891, and within five years he helped to found the Elmshorn Riding and Driving School. This establishment, which is today home to the Verband sires, was the first such school in the world. Assignment of each mare family a stem number (stamm) was practiced even in the very beginning, and has allowed breeders to track the performance of female families. So well-organized and well-protected were the 19th century Holsteiners that one of the Thoroughbred sires imported by the Duke of Augustenburg is represented by several modern descendants.
The early 20th century brought about significant changes for the Holstein horses and their breeders. World War I and World War II resulted in increased demand for powerful horses to pull the artillery wagons. In 1926 the Federation of Horse Breeders of the Holsteiner Marshes were made to turn over their stallions to the state stud, which redistributed the sires. These stallions were soon supplemented by those belonging to another regional breeders’ association, as two local societies merged in 1935 to create today’s Holsteiner verband.
After World War II, the mare population in 1950 was near 10,000; eleven years later, this number fell by over a third. In that decade, farmers had abandoned the breeding of horses, and the State Stud of Traventhal was dissolved. Instead of allowing the agricultural horses to die out as a breed, the Board of Directors of the breeders’ federation purchased 30 Holsteiner stallions and 3 Thoroughbreds and completely reshaped the breeding direction. Former state stallions were now owned by the breeders’ association, a completely unique arrangement among German warmblood breeding societies. To accomplish the updating of the Holsteiner, several Thoroughbred and French stallions were imported. By 1976, most of the top Holsteiner stallions were Thoroughbred or half-Thoroughbred. The new style Holsteiners were more agile, quicker, taller, and had better jumping technique. These changes have been especially important over the 15 to 20 years, as riding sport has left the realm of male professionals and soldiers and become dominated by women and girls who ride as a leisure activity. To meet the needs of this new market, today’s Holsteiners have been made more rideable, more beautiful, and more refined.
Methods of arriving at this goal have changed, too. In the past, sires were assigned to stallion depots to bring them closer to the mares that would benefit from them. Today, most breeders use artificial insemination, and so the Verband-owned stallions reside at the central stud in Elmshorn. The mares, though, have often remained with small farmers who do not derive their income solely from horse breeding.
Breed Characteristics: Holsteiners are medium-framed horses averaging between 16 and 17 hands high (64 to 68 inches (163 to 173 cm)) at the withers. Approved stallions must be a minimum of 16hh and mares a minimum of 15.2hh (62 inches (157 cm)). The type, or general appearance, exhibited by Holsteiners should be that of an athletic riding horse. As a breed, Holsteiners are known for their arched, rather high-set necks and powerful hindquarters. The heavy neck was perpetuated even in modern Holsteiners with the help of Ladykiller xx and his son, Landgraf. In centuries past, Holsteiners retained the hallmark Roman nose of the Baroque horse, but today it has been replaced by a smaller head with a large, intelligent eye. These conformational characteristics give most Holsteiners good balance and elegant movement.
Before the onset of mechanization, these horses were used in agriculture, as coach horses and occasionally for riding. The closed stud book and careful preservation of female family lines has ensured that in an era of globalization, the horses of Holstein have a unique character. While the active gaits, arched neck, and attractive manner in harness of the early foundation bloodstock have been retained, the breed survived because of the willingness of its breeders to conform to changing market demands. The high-headed jump and leg faults were corrected with supple, basculing jumping technique and structurally correct improvement sires. The past 15 or 20 years have seen even more pronounced refinement and aesthetic appeal.
The easiest way to identify a Holsteiner is by the hot brand on the left hip, which is given to foals when they are inspected for their papers and their passport. Foals outside of the main registry can receive an alternate brand. In most cases, the last two digits of the life number are part of the brand. Many male Holsteiners have names beginning in the letters “C” or “L” due to the dominance of male lines perpetuated by Cor de la Bryére, Cottage Son xx, and Ladykiller xx. However, it should be noted that since Holsteiners from those families are used to add jumping ability to other warmblood breeding programs, non-Holstein warmbloods also often have those initials. Fillies, on the other hand, are named by year with I and J being the same year and Q and X not being used. For example, fillies born in 2008 and 1986 had names beginning in the letter “A”. The use of the sire’s name as part of the name of his offspring is discouraged.
Holsteiners in general have round, generous, elastic strides with impulsion from the haunches and natural balance. In motion, Holsteiners retain the character of their coach driving forebears, often exhibiting more articulation of the joints than is common among other warmbloods. The acknowledged specialization for jumping capacity in the breed sometimes means that the quality of the walk and trot suffer, though this is not the rule. The canter, which is typically light, soft, balanced and dynamic, is the best gait of the Holsteiner.
The strongest asset of the Holsteiner breed is their jumping capacity. Even the average Holsteiner will usually exhibit great power and scope, and correct technique. The scope and power were inherited from the heavier old Holsteiners, but they lacked carefulness, speed, tact, adjustability, bascule and technique. Improvement sires like Ramzes AA, Cor de la Bryére and Ladykiller xx successively eliminated these flaws, making the Holsteiner breed internationally known for Olympic-caliber jumping. Werner Schockemöhle, a leading breeder of warmblood sport horses in neighboring Oldenburg said that no breeding community in the world has a better knowledge of the show jumping horse than the breeders of Holstein.
Similar to horse breeds in the nearby areas of Oldenburg, Groningen and Friesland, traditional Holsteiners were dark-coloured and minimally-marked. This tendency has evolved into a preference for black, dark bay, and brown, though lighter shades such as chestnuts and grays are also permitted. Horses with large white spots suggestive of pinto patterning or any of the traits associated with leopard-spotting are excluded from the registry. Despite the fact that palomino and buckskin are not acceptable colours for the Holsteiner, the Thoroughbred improvement sire, Marlon xx was himself a dark buckskin who left the registry with a number of palomino and buckskin offspring.
There are unflappable, lazy Holsteiners and sensitive, spooky Holsteiners. Some families, like that of Capitol I, are known for an uncomplicated temperament. Amateurs can find uncomplicated, cooperative, steady mounts and professionals can find bold, sensitive rides; there is no one perfect temperament. Many Holsteiners are well-balanced, strong-nerved, reliable and bold. Some critics of the breed, or particular lineages within it, find that strong selection for jumping performance results in capable high-level jumpers, but at the cost of rideability.
The Oldenburg is a warmblood horse from the north-western corner of Lower Saxony, what was formerly the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg. The breed was built on a mare base of all-purpose farm and carriage horses, today called the Alt-Oldenburger. The modern Oldenburg is managed by the Association of Breeders of the Oldenburger Horse, which enacts strict selection of breeding stock to ensure that each generation is better than the last. Oldenburgers are tall sport horses with excellent gaits and jumping ability. The breeding of Oldenburg horses is characterized by very liberal pedigree requirements and the exclusive use of privately owned stallions rather than centralization around a state-owned stud farm.
Country of Origin: Germany
Breed History: Up until the 17th century, horses in the region of Oldenburg were likely small and plain, but strong enough to be used to work the heavy soil of the Frisian coast. These horses would become the foundation of the Oldenburg’s neighbors from Holstein to Groningen. One of the first to take a vested interest in organized horse breeding was Count Johann XVI (1540–1603). Johann XVI purchased high-class Frederiksborgers from Denmark, refined Turkish horses and powerful Neapolitan and Andalusian horses for use with his own breeding stock. His successor, Count Anton Gunther (1583–1667) not only brought back from his travels the most desirable horses of the time, but made the stallions available to his tenants.
Rigorous stallion inspections were held beginning in 1715 in Ostfrisia, and spread to Oldenburg in 1755. Such inspections became mandatory under state regulation in 1820. These processes enabled breeders to mold the horses quickly to suit the market. In time, the Oldenburg and its neighbor the Ostfriesen became “luxury horses,” stylish, high-stepping carriage horses, though they were practical farm horses as well. What set the Oldenburg and Ostfriesen apart was the lack of a state-owned stud farm. As private breeders, mare and stallion owners had and retain greater freedom in purchasing breeding stock, and as a result Oldenburg and Ostfriesen horses were exported far and wide. In 1923, the Ostfriesen studbook and Oldenburg studbook merged to form today’s Oldenburg Horse Breeders’ Association (GOV).
All the roles that the Alt-Oldenburger played – carriage horse, artillery horse, farm horse – were overtaken in succession by mechanization during the 1940s and 50′s. However, increased leisure time and expendable income set the stage for recreational riding to come into its own, which it did. Oldenburg breeders changed direction, moving towards producing riding horses of the same renown as their carriage horses.
The first foreign stallion imported to improve the riding horse qualities of the Oldenburg mares was Condor, a dark bay Anglo-Norman. He was followed by Adonis xx in 1959, this time a full Thoroughbred. A veritable slew of Thoroughbred sires were approved for Oldenburg mares over the next 15 years: Manolete xx, Miracolo xx, Guter Gast xx, More Magic xx, Makuba xx, and not least of all, Vollkorn xx. Vollkorn xx produced one of Oldenburg’s first international sport horses: Volturno, out of a Manolette xx daughter, was a member of the Olympic silver medal-winning Eventing team in 1976.
Condor’s success encouraged the Oldenburg breeders to choose French sires over German ones. Prominent among these were Furioso II in 1968 and Futuro in 1969, both by Furioso xx, Tiro, and Zeus, who was by French Anglo-Arabian Arlequin x. There was also the Trakehner, Magister, though Trakehners were not used in Oldenburg to the same extent that they were in neighboring Hannover. In 1972 added flair came to the Oldenburg from the French Anglo-Arabian stallion, Inschallah x, who donated his expressive gaits and dry features to his offspring.
And technology continued to change the Oldenburg. Advances in artificial insemination techniques meant that stallions did not have to be nearby to be part of the breeding population. Since the 1970s, use of horses from all over Europe has increased exponentially. German Warmbloods like the Hanoverian, Holsteiner, Westphalian, and Trakehner, in addition to Dutch Warmbloods and Selle Francais continued to modernize the Oldenburg.
The slogan of the German Oldenburg Verband is that “Quality is the only standard that counts,” evidenced by their liberal acceptance of a wide variety of pedigrees and colors. Unlike other registries that are limited to locally bred horses, or which prefer one color to another, the modern Oldenburg selects stallions and mares based only on their quality as dressage and jumping horses.
Today the Oldenburg Association or Verband has over 220 approved sires and 7000 mares in addition to the 96 sires and 1300 mares that are part of the “Oldenburg International” breeding program for show jumping. These figures make Oldenburg one of the largest studbooks in Germany. Oldenburg is the largest studbook in terms of breeding area.
Each autumn, the Oldenburg Verband holds the “Stallion Days” in Vechta, during which the young stallions undergo their licensing evaluation. After the results of the licensing are announced, many are auctioned off to new homes at stallion stations, or as gelding prospects bound for performance homes. The “Old Stallion Parade” occurs on the last day, showcasing all the fully approved, performance tested stallions. However, this event is not just a pageant, as the offspring of mature stallions are subject to intense scrutiny. The best stallions of their age class, based on their offspring, receive a “premium” or award for their achievements in breeding.
There are several other auctions throughout the year in Vechta featuring selected youngsters, köraspirants, elite riding horses and broodmares. The price-toppers at the elite sales regularly fetch over 100,000 Euros. At the mixed sales there are a wider range of horses available. The verband also puts on free jumping competitions for young horses.
The Oldenburg Verband places special emphasis on mare lines, many of which trace back to the Alt-Oldenburg ancestors. Selected from the mare inspections throughout the year, the best young mares are invited to the Elite Broodmare Show in Rastede. There they compete not only for the States Premium – originally a bribe to keep breeders from exporting high-quality broodmares – but for the title of Champion Mare.
Breed Characteristics: The modern Oldenburg can best be identified by the “O” and crown brand on the left hip. Products of the “Oldenburg International” program have a similar brand, with an “S” within a crowned, incomplete “O”. Underneath the Oldenburg brand are the last two numbers of the horse’s life number. The official brand can only be placed on Oldenburg horses prior to 2 years of age. A digital micro-chip implanted in the crest of the neck is another identification method used.
The appearance of an individual Oldenburg can vary, and it is usually better to describe any warmblood by its actual parentage. However, Oldenburg is known for producing among the most “modern” examples of riding horses: expressive heads and long legs. Otherwise, they are selected to fit the model of a sport horse, generally built uphill with a reasonably long neck and a long, moderately sloped pelvis. Ideally, they stand between 16.0 and 17.2hh.
Oldenburg has, as part of its liberality, been very forward-thinking about unusually coloured warmbloods. Between the United States and Germany, no fewer than 8 tobiano pinto stallions are included in the roster. Most Oldenburgers are black, brown, bay, chestnut, or grey.
Even among warmbloods, most Oldenburgers have expressive, elastic gaits with a great deal of suspension. The quality of the walk, trot, or canter is highly individual, but their gaits are selected to be suitable for sport. All three gaits are straight when viewed from the front or back, and rhythmical at all times. The walk is diligent and open, the trot is active and elastic, and the canter is uphill and adjustable. Over fences, even most dressage-bred Oldenburgers show some talent. The jumper-bred individuals are capable with great technique.
Several breeding societies have lately come under scrutiny for breeding their horses too “hot”. This movement has come about as show jumping has exploded in popularity: sensitive, independent horses, in general, make better show jumpers. However, highly sensitive, independent horses are not suitable for most amateur riders, who make up the majority of the horse-buying market. This is when the importance of the performance test is clearest. The stallions and elite mares are scored on their interior qualities: temperament, character, constitution, and willingness to work, as well as rideability. Therefore, within the Oldenburg Verband, breeders have the tools to choose the route of high-performance horse, or one more suitable for the amateur rider. While a variety of temperaments exist within the population, finding one with the right elements is not difficult.
According to the verband rules, colts are to be named patrilineally, that is, the first letter of the son’s name is the same as the first letter of the sire’s name (Dream of Glory by Donnerhall). Fillies are named matrilineally (Fabina out of Fiesta). This practice makes it easy to trace female families.
Dutch Warmblood is a warmblood type of horse registered with the Koninklijk Warmbloed Paardenstamboek Nederland (Royal Warmblood Studbook of the Netherlands (KWPN), which governs the breeding of competitive dressage and show jumping horses, as well as the show harness horse and Gelderlander, and a hunter studbook in North America. Developed through a breeding program that began in the 1960s, the Dutch are some of the most successful horses developed
Country of Origin: the Netherlands
Breed History: Prior to World War II, there were two types of utility horse in the Netherlands: Gelderlanders bred in the south under the Gelderlander Horse Studbook (1925) and the Groningen bred in the north under the NWP (1943). The Groningen was, and still is, a heavy weight warmblood horse very similar in type to the Alt-Oldenburger and East Friesian. The Gelderlander, by the same token, was a more elegant variation on the same theme, being often a high-quality carriage horse in addition to a useful agricultural horse. And, while the Groningen were almost unwaveringly solid black, brown, or dark bay, the Gelderlanders were more often chestnut with flashy white markings. These two registries merged to form the Royal Warmblood Horse Studbook of the Netherlands (KWPN).
After the Second World War, the Gelderlander and Groninger were replaced by tractors and cars, and horses began to become a luxury rather than a necessity. As early as the 1950s, stallions like the French-bred L’Invasion and Holsteiner Normann were imported to encourage a change in the type of Dutch horses, followed soon after by the Holsteiner Amor and Hanoverian Eclatant. The carriage-pulling foundation stock contributed their active, powerful front ends and gentle dispositions to the Dutch Warmblood.
Today the KWPN comprises four sections: the Gelderlander, the Tuigpaard or Dutch Harness Horse, and riding horses bred for either dressage or show jumping.
Breed Characteristics: Dutch law has made branding illegal, so today only the oldest Dutch Warmbloods from the Netherlands still bear the lion-rampant brand on the left hip. Instead, the horses are microchipped. However, North American Dutch Warmbloods may still be branded. To become a breeding horse, mares must stand at least 15.2hh and stallions at least 15.3hh at the withers. There is no upper height limit, though too-tall horses are impractical for sport and not desirable.
Most Dutch Warmbloods are black, brown, bay, chestnut, or grey, and white markings are not uncommon. The population also has a number of tobiano horses from the influence of the approved stallion Samber, though a second tobiano stallion has not been approved since. The roan pattern is also to be found occasionally through the approved stallion El Rosso.
Breeding goals calls for dressage and showjumping horses to be suitable for Grand Prix level riding, while hunter and harness horses should be able to perform at the highest level in their sport. Strict selection procedures ensure that bad-tempered stallions and mares do not go on to produce unmanageable horses, however, the Dutch Warmblood is significantly more sensitive than its Gelderlander and Groningen ancestors. Performance test results allow breeders and buyers to identify horses with amateur-suitable temperaments. All Dutch Warmbloods are selected to be uncomplicated to handle and ride. Among the dressage horses, cooperativeness is paramount as an element of the submission required in that sport. From the show jumpers, a level of courage and reflexivity is required to effectively navigate a course.
Since the turn of the millennium, Dutch Warmblood breeding has shifted from breeding a “riding horse” to further specialization into dressage type and jumper type horses. The reason behind the choice for specialisation is the negative genetic correlation between the ability for dressage and show jumping. By dividing the whole population in two subpopulations, faster genetic progress can be achieved in both traits compared to simultaneous selection in the whole population.
To protect against losing canter quality in the dressage horse and conformation, gaits and rideability in the jumper type, genetic material continues to be freely exchanged between the two types.
The Dutch Warmblood is long-legged but substantial with a smooth topline and dry, expressive head. They are built level to uphill in a rectangular frame. A number of traits are desirable in both directions, such as “long lines” or a rectangular frame, “balanced proportions” and attractiveness. The requirements for the two types differ in the desired interior qualities, but also in form. The exact outline of the Dutch Warmblood varies depending on the pedigree.
Country of Origin: Germany
The Zweibrücker (pl. Zweibrücken) is a type of German warmblood horse bred in Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland. Traditionally, the breeding of Zweibrücken was centered around the onetime Principal Stud of Zweibrücken but since 1977 has been under the jurisdiction of the Horse Breeders’ Association of Rhineland-Palatinate-Saar (PRPS). The modern Zweibrücker is an elegant, large-framed, correct sport horse with powerful, elastic gaits suitable for dressage, show jumping, eventing and combined driving.
The Rhineland-Palatinate state-owned stud facilities of Zweibrücken house the smallest number of state stallions in Germany, but the region’s horse-breeding history is rich. The modern city of Zweibrücken, meaning “two bridges”, was a county throughout the Middle Ages and then later on became a duchy of the Holy Roman Empire. The state stud was founded in 1755 by Duke Christian IV following a visit to England. While abroad he admired the refined, spirited English Thoroughbreds, as a breed less than 100 years old at the time. When Christian IV returned to Zweibrücken, he financed the establishment of “royal facilities” throughout the region, populating them with noble stallions and mares.
Christian IV’s successor, Charles II August, continued to improve horse-breeding in politically influential Zweibrücken by decreeing that the horses bred there ought to be “good, handsome and useful”. This goal was achieved to the effect of gaining the admiration of the King of Prussia, who purchased over 150 Zweibrücken stallions. These sires were sent to the Principal Stud of Trakehnen where the Trakehner was bred for use by the Prussian nobles.
In 1801, Zweibrücken was annexed by France, and the noble horses were moved to Rosiers aux Salines. However, Napoleon saw the stallion and mare herds at Zweibrücken Principal Stud re-established in 1806. The central facility and its many outposts and stallion depots were populated with more than 250 stallions and a herd of over 100 mares purchased from notable German breeding outfits, as well as fashionable Spanish horses and products of the formidable Austro-Hungarian empire. Less than a decade later, Zweibrücken was given to Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria, and Zweibrücken was retitled in 1890 as the Principal Royal Bavarian State Stud. During this period, large numbers of Anglo-Normans – Thoroughbred-influenced agricultural horses from France – and Arabians were stationed in Zweibrücken. The first organized breeding of Anglo-Arabian horses occurred at Zweibrücken during this time period. The region became widely known for its refined cavalry horses which combined the size and speed of the Thoroughbred with the more tractable temperament of the Arabian. By 1900, the Principal Stud of Zweibrücken comprised more than 250 head of breeding stock and young horses, 74 of which were state-owned stallions.
The first half of the 20th century was marked by increasing demands for a heavier all-purpose farm horse, which were used extensively in the first World War for pulling artillery wagons. Consequently, the refined riding horses were replaced by heavy warmbloods from Oldenburg. During World War II, the entire city was evacuated and the horses brought to Bavaria. Much of the city was destroyed, and the state stud facilities came under the jurisdiction of the newly formed German federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate. Nearly a quarter of the 58 stallions standing at Zweibrücken were draft horses.
Zweibrücken lost the status of Principal Stud – which keeps a herd of mares in addition to standing stallions – in 1960. As the demand for an athletic riding horse blossomed, the draft horse stallions were replaced by Trakehners. From 1966 to 1976, Trakehner stallions comprised half the stallion roster. Unlike most of the State Studs of Germany, the period for which Zweibrücken stood heavy warmblood stallions was brief; the chief focus of this region has been steadily focused on an elegant riding horse since its construction. Gradually, sires from Hanoverian and Holsteiner bloodlines joined the noble Trakehners, accelerating the local horse-breeding efforts towards the production of a warmblood riding horse.
Today many of the stallion depots and outposts lie in France, while others were purchased by separate entities. Most notable among these was the facility at Birkhausen, which was bought by the Trakehner verband and from which Abiza, dam of the Canadian-born Trakehner Abdullah, was sold. The grounds of the state stud host stallion parades and the month-long stallion performance test for the regional breeding association.
Breed History: Organized breeding through much of the history of Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland was managed by the State Stud. The Horse Breeders’ Association of Rhineland-Palatinate-Saar (PRPS) was formed in 1977 and directs the breeding of almost all horse breeds within the region. The breed with the largest population within the studbooks is the German Riding or Sport Horse, called the Zweibrücker. The PRPS cooperates with similar associations in Bavaria, Bad-Württemberg, and Saxony-Thuringia, collectively licensing and approving breeding stock.
Like other German Warmbloods, the breeding of Zweibrücken is characterized by stringent inspection criteria. Foals do not receive their papers until they are presented at a local foal show, at which judges may exclude any foal if it is markedly off-type. Along with their papers, the foals receive a brand on the left hind leg, just behind the stifle. Foal inspections also give an early indication of the quality of the sire, as well as which mares match best with him. At the age of 3, fillies may be upgraded from the foal register to the herd book through a process called Stutbuchaufnahmen or “Marebook Recording”. There are several levels of mare book based on the quality of the mare and the completeness of her pedigree, which allows mares of unorthodox breeding to eventually become part of the breeding program. To be written into the herd book and thereby have registered foals, the mare is evaluated on her conformation and gaits. Mares which fail to meet the criteria may be placed in a lower mare book, or be denied altogether. Only mares in the highest mare books can produce breeding stallion sons.
While mares can be entered into the studbook at local shows, the process of having a young stallion approved for breeding is lengthy. Stallion candidates are often identified as foals, and at the age of 2 and a half the best colts attend the licensing in Munich, Bavaria. There they are evaluated along with stallion hopefuls – köraspirants – branded Bavarian Warmblood, Württemberger and Saxony-Thuringian, along with some representatives from other regions. As all of these regions have a common goal in warmblood breeding, they are judged to the same standard. They are evaluated in terms of their conformational correctness, type, gaits and ability free-jumping. The best young stallions receive a temporary license which is accepted by all of the south-German breeding associations. The stallion has a period of a few years during which he must prove himself in performance, and in this way he earns full approval.
This process is common to all German Warmbloods, and is quite similar to the studbook selection process used for other Warmbloods, as well.
Breed Characteristics: The best way to identify a Zweibrücker is by the brand on the left hind leg. It features the two bridges of the city of Zweibrücken topped by a representation of the duke’s crown. Otherwise, it is not possible to distinguish a Zweibrücker from a German Warmblood bred elsewhere based solely on appearance. All German Warmblood registries exchange genetic material in an effort to continuously improve their own horses.
Most Zweibrücken are middle-weight horses with “old style” examples heavier set than those deemed “modern” in type. The ideal height is 160 to 170 cm or 15.3 to 16.3hh at the age of 3, but deviations in either direction are not uncommon nor are they disqualifying. The most common colors are bay, chestnut, gray, and black, however several breeders of colored warmbloods have chosen to register their horses as Zweibrücken, so there are tobiano pintos and colors such as palomino, buckskin, and cremello.
The Anglo-Arabian ancestry of the Zweibrücker is found primarily in what remains of its old female families. Today, the Horse Breeders’ Association of Rhineland-Palatinate-Saar is known for its liberal pedigree policies, accepting breeding stock from most other warmblood studbooks which are members of the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses.
The breeding objective, based on market demands, is currently a horse suitable for dressage, jumping, and eventing, though combined driving is also mentioned. In North America, the breeding objective includes suitability for show hunter competition, as well.
Zweibrücken share the standard of German Riding or Sport Horse with their parallels in other regions. Ideally, the horse is characterized by a noble expression, with long-lined and correct conformation. The head is dry, expressive, and aesthetically appealing though need not have out of the ordinary refinement. The topline is long, generous, and slightly curved featuring a medium-length neck set on rather high, a stark, laid-back wither and long sloping shoulder. The loin is well-muscled, the croup is long, slightly tilted, and muscular. The horse stands on a foundation of dry, large joints and correct limbs ending in correct, hard hooves of sufficient size.
In motion the gaits are correct – no deviations when viewed from the front or rear – and expansive with a pure rhythm and suggestive of great work ethic. The qualities of freedom, elasticity, and power are paramount. The walk swings through the neck and back, while the trot is cadenced and powerful. Suspension and elasticity are effects of the ability of the horse’s joints to store energy and absorb shock, thus are influential in soundness. The canter is important as an indicator of jumping suitability, and should be cadenced, balanced and powerful.
Zweibrücken, especially stallions, are typically evaluated over fences through free jumping, where the horse is let loose in a chute with specifically measured obstacles. This allows judges to draw conclusions about the horse’s jumping abilities without pushing them too fast under saddle. Judges look for a horse which is capable of jumping, having an appearance of ease and confidence as he jumps, without any carelessness. The rhythm of the canter should remain unchanged while the horse adjusts his stride length to leave the ground from the correct place. The fore and hind limbs should be drawn up close to the body, which should pass close to the obstacle, while the spine forms a convex arc over the jump called “bascule”.
As part of the approval process, stallions and often mares are evaluated in controlled conditions on their personality traits or “interior qualities”. This information allows breeders to choose mates properly. The horses with the best marks for interior qualities have kind, personable temperaments, are uncomplicated to ride, strong-nerved and reliable but alert and intelligent. Another quality, called “rideability”, is a measure of how comfortable and simple the horse is to ride. High rideability is coveted by amateur riders in particular.