What is a Warmblood ?

Synopsis from the 1/8/00 presentation  on “What is a Warmblood?” 

     To give an accurate answer, one must first look to history.  Equus evolved sub species from two main ancestral types-the Tarpan and the Przewalski one million years ago to adapt to their own environmental conditions.  The three sub species were Proto Arabian located in Africa, Valley of the Tigris, Euphrates, Iran and Afghanistan.  The breeds descending  were the Barb and the Arabian.  The Proto Warmblood was found in Europe.  Note that the warmblood was actually a “wild” sub species and not of man made origin.  The Cleveland Bay, Friesan and Groningen  were descended from the Proto Warmblood.  Proto Draft was in the area of the British Isles.  The Celtic pony and the Noriker descended form them.  Man made mixtures or “breeds” are horses that have been selected by man with characteristics that meet man’s criteria.  They are mixtures of our original, wild subspecies.  Since horses went extinct in North America after migrating through Alaska into Siberia,  there weren’t any native subspecies there to breed from so they relied on importation and Proto Warmblood was not used.   The first warmblood came to the U.S. in  1970.  Europe had use of the 3 distinct types, however.  Thoroughbreds, for example,  were a mix of  Proto Arabian  (Darley Arabian, Byerly Turk, Godolphin Arabian) x Proto Draft (Suffolk Punch) and a bit of Tarpan and were culled for speed.  The American Quarter Horse was originally Proto Draft x Proto Arab and a bit of Tarpan.  The Morgan was the same with a different dilution.  The Hanoverian was originally bred by using Thoroughbred Stallions  on native Proto Warmblood mares.  After 1900, Trakehner and Arabian blood was used.  They would be Proto Arab x Proto Draft x Proto Warmblood with a dash of Tarpan.  Sub species adapted for their region.  For example, the Proto Arabs had dished heads for a cooling of air into the lungs and were fine boned and light for easier going through the sands.  The  Proto Drafts had large hooves and bodies for easier navigation of boggy ground while the Proto Warmbloods were large bodied with Roman Noses for warming the colder European air for their lungs.  It is interesting to note that the ponies of the British Isles were a descendant of the Proto Draft. Shetlands and Norwegian Fjords were originated from large draft types!  When the Islands were formed, the large horses  got smaller.  They shrunk from 1/2 to 1/3 their size ensuring ample food and being able to find breeding partners.

     So you see that Warmbloods were here before man started riding horses.  They have since been selected for various reasons through the centuries to meet the needs of man.  Early years bred heavy horses for farm work and war, i.e. pulling artillery or carrying men with armor.  The Trakehner Breed is one exception, however.  It has always been bred for a riding horse and has had a closed stud book which does not allow other breeds except Thoroughbred and Arabian. Some warmblood breeds have open books that include other  European warmblood breeds, Thoroughbreds and Arabians that exhibit the characteristics desired creating a meshing of breeds.   Today, Warmbloods are SPECIFIC DILUTIONS of time honored recipes for  sport.  A little hot and a little cold does not produce warm in the Warmblood Horse.  Remember that the special ingredient was the native Proto Warmblood mares with appropriate mixes to come up with our modern “Warmblood”.  The Europeans are masters at breeding their beloved horses and have had a system of intense record keeping, testing and culling in their breeding for hundreds of years.  The Hanoverian Breed is “Dedicated to the Development of a Superior Riding Horse”.  We have many warmblood registries worldwide with new American ones popping up every day and American affiliates of  the European counter part.  All registries have different criteria for inclusion in their studbooks but welcome inquiries and interest.   First importations into the U.S.  were a large, heavier type and now look more elegant and show the refinement of more Thoroughbred  influence due to market demands.  In Europe they have preserved the movement of the warmblood and it is paramount that we strive for this also in the United States in our breeding programs.  Warmbloods excel and predominate in 3 out of the 4 Olympic equestrian sports  which are show jumping, dressage and driving.  3 day eventing is still dominated by Thoroughbreds or crosses because of the need for galloping speed. 

     As with all sports, an animal bred for a particular endeavor will usually possess more of the attributes mentally and physically  that predispose him for that use.   He will perform with less injuries, progress faster in his training, have a happier attitude and seem to almost have an inherent understanding for his work which can all help create  that human/horse bond  we  hope for.  He should have the natural abilities that make it easy for him to meet our requests with a  generous attitude, besides.  One must always keep in mind what our animals are bred for,  physically and mentally predisposed for,  their previous training and be thoughtful in how and what we ask of them. 

     The warmblood market is booming.  It seems like everyone is buying or breeding them these days.  Be a knowledgeable consumer and remember that all breeds have their few exemplary members and many average and a few poor members.  Breeding is like that from even one mare.  Spending a lot of money on a “Warmblood”  is not a guarantee for anything-just the same as breeding your favorite non-warmblood mare  to a “Warmblood” isn’t.  The market has expanded to the point of having many “Warmbloods” on the market from many breeders with different goals. breeds and breeding criteria.  The wise one will always select the breed of horse on its own merits of  movement, conformation and attitude for the sport to be performed. 

     This material was taken from articles written by Deb Bennett, Ph.D. in  “Equus”, “The Warmblood Guide Book”, articles from Hanoverian and Trakehner publications and some is just my opinion!

     Dorene Schuette


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