Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Trying to make sense of German Warmblood "breeds"

When told that a horse is a Rheinlander, people don't understand that this horse's full brother can be called a Dutch Warmblood. The brand that he received at birth is simply a designation of where he was produced (and approved). It has very little to do with specific bloodlines.

Most warmbloods are associated with countries (e.g., Dutch, Danish, Swedish), but an important exception is Germany, where registries are associated and named for regions from which they are bred and where the studbooks are managed, as Germany as a nation did not really emerge until modern times. Regions such as Han(n)over and Westfalia are about the size of a county in the U.S. Thus to call something a Hanoverian or a Westfalen horse was the equivalent of calling one of ours a San Diego [County] or a Los Angeles [County] horse. If a Los Angels horse moved to San Diego County, it's offspring would become San Diego horses. Each would be approved for breeding as long as it fit within the breeding goals of its new San Diego County breeding director.

In Europe things are very different than the US. For the past few hundred years, European breeding has been strictly controlled. There is no such thing as a "grade" horse. According to German law, all stallions to be used for breeding of warmblood and Arabian horses have to undergo a test between the age of 3 1/2 and 5 1/2 years before they are allowed to breed.(Note: there has been a recent loosening of some restrictions along these lines.) All horses are registered with the local breeding director, and the bloodlines are carefully recorded. The local breeding director maintains a great deal of control over the kind of horse that is produced in his area by selecting and approving a certain type of breeding stock. The director also makes strong recommendations to the mare owner as to what stallion should be chosen for a certain mare. Traditionally, the State has owned and supplied the stallions to each area, selected under the recommendations of the area director. The director, therefore, wielded a great deal of power over what was done within his boundaries. However, these various districts are actually all in one big gene pool. State owned stallions were moved from one region to another as needed, and when a mare owner moved from one area to another, his mare band would move with him. Because mares could only travel a few days to a stallion by foot, these breeding regions were thus quite small about the size of one of our counties.

Because the directors had so much control over the local population and they stayed in their positions for many, many years, they could control numerous generations within the area's breeding stock. These various areas would take on a very definite "flavor" as defined by one man's vision. A "type" became identified with the breeding area. However, new blood was continually infused from other regions to improve the quality of the local stock, direct its evolution along the director-chosen path, and continue to keep the small gene pool from becoming in-bred. Breeding stock has always been and continues to be traded throughout Europe. But even though you cannot say that the blood is "pure", all bloodlines have been carefully documented and studied.

In Europe, any out crossed bloodlines come from the stallion line. They use Thoroughbred stallions, Anglo Arabian Stallions, and other Warmblood stallions to improve, refine, or enhance the particular breed. European horse breed organizations have followed, studied, and scrutinized every “improvement” stallion entered into the breeding book and have closely followed their progeny. Their breeding successes and failures have been documented, to excruciating details.

Most warmblood breeds are continuing to evolve. In fact, they are not "breeds" in the sense that Thoroughbreds, Arabians, Morgans and Saddlebreds are breeds. Other breeds are often introduced to the genetic pool to enhance desired characteristics. Except for the Trakehner, while a warmblood horse from Germany, has a closed stud book and thus, like the Thoroughbred and Arabian, is considered a "true" breed.

The original warmbloods were bred to be an all purpose agricultural, riding, carriage and cavalry horse. As the internal combustion engine replaced the horse , European breeders began to refinie their horses to produce a large, correct horse with excellent movement and temperament. The results are apparent in the leading warmbloods which include the Irish Sports Horse, Hanoverian, Holsteiner, Trakehner, Oldenburger, Selle Français, the Dutch, Danish, and Swedish breeds. The major difference in the breeding of warmbloods, is the documentation, selection, and testing for breeding stock. A mare or stallion can only be registered with one breeding registry, but can be approved for breeding by any number of registries by going to an inspection by that organization and being approved for breeding.

State Studs have generally been placed under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Agriculture. As in the past, the primary task of the state studs is to enable farmers wishing to breed quality horses, access to selected and performance tested stallions for a moderate covering fee.

In contrast to the so-called principal studs, provincial studs do not operate their own breeding, but rather make their high-quality stallions available to private mare owners. Principal studs, by contrast, operate direct breeding, as they keep mares and stallions at the same time and use their own progeny again for breeding.

The eleven German state studs are:

The Lower Saxon State Stud of Celle - Hanoverian Founded in 1735 by order of George II, King of Great Britain, Elector of Hanover and Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg. Its purpose was to make high-quality stallions available to local breeders. Celle's history is intertwined with the history of the Hanoverian horse breed, but the breed registry (The Verband hannoverscher Warmblutzüchter e.V.) is privately owned and is an entity independent of the stud. Since 1945, many Thoroughbreds and Trakehners, and some Anglo-Arabians, have occupied stalls at the State Stud at Celle. Today, 140 stallions including 10 Thoroughbreds, 2 Anglo-Arabians, 2 Trakehners, and 3 ponies serve approximately 8000 broodmares per year. Since the 1980s, private stallion ownership in Hannover has steadily increased, however over 60% of Hanoverian mares are still served by the state-owned stallions of Celle.

Provincial Stud of Warendorf in North Rhine Westaphalia - Rhinelander and Westphalian. The stud has an average stallion stock of 80 warm-blood stallions, two Thoroughbred and 17 cold-blood stallions. The Federal Riding School was incorporated to the state stud in 1968. It is the site of the training and examination of nationally-licensed professional riders and instructors, and is also home to the German Equestrian Olympic Committee. Westphalian breeding has produced a number of sires very influential to sport horse breeding, including Polydor and his descendant Pilot, and Rubinstein.
Hessian Provincial State Stud of Dillenburg - Today Hessen is the 4th ranking warmblood breeding region with 4000 broodmares and 60 state stallions. Stallions used in breeding the Hessen horses are mainly from the Hanoverian, Holstein, Thoroughbred, and Trakehner breeds.

Principal Stud of Neustadt a.d. Dosse in Brandenburg. Following reunification with the former German Democratic Republic (East Germany) , stallions from Hanoverian bloodlines and lines which came via Redefin gained a big influence on the Brandenburg breed. The current number of stallions utilised for covering duty exceeds 60 and is recruited from stallions from the breeding regions of Brandenburg, Saxony-Anhalt, Hanover, Westphalia, Holstein and Oldenburg. Breeders furthermore have access to first class thoroughbreds and Trakehners, but Arabians, Haflingers and draught horses are also at the disposal of the breeders.

Provincial Stud of Zweibrücken in Rhineland-Palatine is under the jurisdiction of the Horse Breeders' Association of Rhineland-Palatinate-Saar (PRPS). Hanoverian, Westphalian and Holstein stallions, but Trakehners and thoroughbreds are also utilised.

Provincial Stud of Saxony in Moritzburg As a result of the German reunification of 1990, Moritzburg was once again bestowed with the title of a state stud and today houses more than 40 competition sport stallions of diverse population in its historical walls, including Thuringian and Saxon breeds, but largely stallions from the North German selective breeding areas and Trakehner stallions.
The spectrum of horse breeds includes not only the heavy warm-bloods, but also Haflingers, draught horses, thoroughbreds and a number of riding ponies of a stock of more than 100 stallions.
Principal Saxon Stud of Graditz - thoroughbreed racing. After German reunification, Graditz in the Free State of Saxony remains the Country’s only Equestrian breeding program. By 1992, the Free State of Saxony decided to privatize thoroughbred breeding. The race horses run in classical black and white colors. The Saxon Stud Administration maintains a herd of broodmares comprising of about 30 head. These are of noble blood and kept for the breeding of potential stallion contenders. Trakehner stallions are generally utilised as premium stallions.

The Radegast-Prussendorf State Stud of Saxony-Anhalt Of the approximately 25 stallions currently stationed there, the Hanoverian World Cup III by Woermann and the Verden stallion approvals winner Fontainebleu by Wanderer are especially significant, Donnerhall and Rubinstein progeny are however also represented in the stock of stallions.

Bavarian Principal and Provincial Stud of Schwaiganger Currently, the stallion roster is 45% Bavarian Warmblood stallions. Holsteiner stallions make up a further 42%. Other German warmbloods - Hanoverians, Oldenburgs, Westphalians, Wuerttembergers, Rhinelanders, Thuringians, and German Warmbloods, (Zuchtverband fur deutsche Pferde or ZfDP) - make up the remainder.
State Stud of Redefin Mecklenburg. Redefin now has 45 breeding stallions which are used for coverings at five main breeding stations. These 45 breeding stallions include one thoroughbred stallion, one Trakehner stallion, 33 warm blood stallions, three heavy horse breed stallions, three Haflinger stallions and four riding pony stallions.

Principal and State Stud of Marbach in Baden - Württemberg is the oldest state stud. The first written recording dates from 1514 during the reign of Duke Ulrich. Most of the popular German Riding Horse breeds are well represented, as well as the Württmberger. They also have one English Thoroughbred stallion, four Altwürttemberger/Schweres Warmblut (heavy warm blood) stallions, Arabian stallions, Schwarzwälder Kaltblüter (Blackforest cold blood) stallions, Süddeutsche Kaltblüter (Southern German cold blood), and a Haflinger stallion. Marbach is very well known as the home of the Weil-Marbach Arabians.

Other German Warmbloods:

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. 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. 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.

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. By 1960, the government dissolved the State Stud. The Holstein breeders federation took over 30 Holsteiner stallions, and three Thoroughbreds. “Instead of simply giving up and allowing the breed to wither away as a victim of economic development, the dynamic Board of Directors decided to totally reshape the horse which had been entrusted to them." Currently, there are breeding stations all over the country, but nearly 50 stallions are based at the Holsteiner Verband Stallion Barn at Elmshorn.

*Disclaimer: All data and information provided on this site is for informational purposes only. I did my best to complile accurate inflormation, but make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors or omissions.


Anonymous said...

I have a TB/Trakehner mare, and an Oldenburg/QH mare, both bred in the U.S. Thanks for all the information - your post was very informative!

Springfield Stables said...

Great blog! Very informative!

fernvalley01 said...

Very interesting .Thanks for sharing

kippen64 said...

Thank you for your blog entries. They are a highlight of my day.

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