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Is a Warmblood a member of a specific breed of warmbloods, or is it only a type of horse that carries certain distinguishable characteristics in performance and in general genetics?
ORIGINAL MEANING OF THE TERM
Once upon a time, the term was used to separate and distinguish animals from the so called hot blooded, or purebred horse like the Arabian for example, or to separate and distinguish animals from the so called cold blooded Draft horses. Hot blood simply meant pure, and cold booded meant not pure, with warm meaning to have one hot blooded parent and one cold blooded parent.
“Warmblood” for a certain kind of horse is a term that emerged in Europe and was designed to define something between a hot blood and a cold blood according to the first definition, usually a cross between a Thoroughbred stallion and a heavier mare of more work horse type, sometimes with an Arabian stallion and such a mare.
At one point in time, some could have called the Thoroughbred a warmblood because the breed originated from crossing local British stock with imported foundation stallions of pure or hot blood. And that may have been a good term for a budding new breed , yet no one today thinks of the Thoroughbred as anything other than an established breed.
MEANING OF BREED vs WARM
You may buy a talented or untalented Thoroughbred, but registration within a breed means you are buying certain physical and genetic characteristics within a group of horses that have been selectively bred for just those characteristics and which determine to a very large extend that horse’s conformation, performance and temperament.
There are many types of warmblood horses, but one expects a Thoroughbred to look and act like a Thoroughbred within a wide range, but a range that still defines that one breed of horse. Most warmbloods in today’s world are breeds in the making, like the Thoroughbred was a breed in the making at one time in its history.
All warmbloods came into being because of local or geographic needs -- the need for a horse that could work certain terrain; a riding horse; a warhorse; a coach or carriage, transport horse. The requirements of each type of horse varied and local stock was improved by blood of other more established types or breeds to meet the needs of a local people.
A warmblood horse is often named for the local region of a country where serious breeding for a type first began.
The basis of most Warmblood breeds were work horses, and as recently as World War II, the horses earned their keep pulling plough and wagon. Only after the advent of the tractor and the simultaneously emerging show jumping and dressage circuit did the breeding programs change.
The Warmbloods we have today could be characterized simply as a modern sport horse, with as little differences in the populations of the separate stud books as in some single breeds.
European Warmbloods are separated into numerous breed associations, defined by the region the horses are bred in, and in former times, most of them indeed had distinctive traits. These days interbreeding and common goals have led to a situation with one and the same type being present in all breeding regions.
Today, it is next to impossible even for experts to recognize a Warmblood’s origin, be it a Hanoverian, Westphalian, Oldenburger, Holsteiner, Rhinelander, etc.
Even within Europe, the breeds/breed associations get closer and closer related, with French stallions used in Holstein. Dutch, Swiss, and Austrian Warmbloods are carrying lots of German Warmblood. Continental Europe’s Warmbloods are being used in Great Britain, etc. They all got a huge dose of Throroughbred blood over the last so many decades, and a trickle of Arab blood.
The Trakehner breed originated in Eastern Germany on a somewhat individual basis and was bred typewise as an Anglo-Arab, but is today not much different in phenotype than other Warmblood breeds.
With some right, the classic Iberian horses, Andalusian and Lusitano, could be considered warmbloods, and they were greatly influencial in the development of all warmblood breeds, but because they still represent a typ all their own, they are not usually encompassed when one speaks of “Warmbloods”.
Horses are used mainly for sport and recreation. The competitive sport horse disciplines have been growing in popularity for a long time now. Warmbloods from many countries have been refined by adding Thoroughbred or other blood and have proven to be stupendous sport horses. The market has determined the value of breeding horses for success in competition. It is undisputed that many have proven to be highly successful in international competitions, but it is also true that those competitions have been tailored to the abilities and shortcomings of the Warmblood.
While success in show jumping is measured in a straightforward manner, the modern dressage sport was tailored for the modern sport horse – hardly any of those can rival the Iberian horse in brilliance and artful, dancing-like, classical dressage, instead, emphasis was placed on huge strides at the trot, which the Iberian cannot match, compromising maneuvers like piaffe and passage.
The international success of once local horses is really a story of dedicated study of bloodlines, characteristics that breed on, and compatible crosses. It is only fair that these horses also carry forward a local pride in accomplishment as well as generation of revenue.