Throughout the 1800s, many Europeans were busy classifying and organizing animals into breeds. Studbooks were set up to record bloodlines and ensure that a Welsh Pony always looked like a Welsh Pony and a Shire always looked like a Shire. But in various places, the function of the horse was more valued than its bloodlines. And types of horses rather than specific breeds were being developed. Some types are random and a horse is classified well after it is matured. Examples are cobs and hunters. There aren’t any hard and fast standards for these types. But one type that did develop very stringent standards are the warmblood types.
Lots of people, including myself think that a warmblood is a hot and cold blood cross.
So if you cross and Arabian with a Clydesdale, you get a warmblood. Not so, while you might get a really nice horse, it isn’t technically a warmblood. Under that definition Thoroughbreds, Morgans and Quarter Horses would be considered warmbloods, but they are not.
Breed registries only need to know the sire and dam. Warmbloods must qualify to be entered into the studbook. During inspections, done when the horse has matured, and the minimum age at which an inspection is done depends on whether the horse is a colt or filly. For the American Warmblood registry, a colt must be at least 2 years old to be inspected and must be inspected again at five years of age. At five years of age, the horse will then be inspected while being driven or under saddle. A mare must be breeding age.
This doesn’t mean that a horse whose parents are both approved in the registry will automatically be eligible for registration. The offspring of all warmbloods must be approved if they are to be used as breeding stock. So a warmblood is not just a cross between a cold and hot blooded horse. Under that definition Thoroughbreds, Morgans and Quarter Horses would be considered warmbloods, but they are not.
Throughout Europe, warmblood horses were being bred specifically to be all-purpose riding and driving horses. Before the World Wars, many were used as military horses. These horses had to be somewhat larger and stronger than a light riding horse, and they had to have a very placid temperament. In programs developed by a country’s or area’s national stud farms, horses with the best size, conformation and temperament were chosen to create not a breed, but the ideal type of horse. An open stud book meant that a horse of any breed with the desired traits could be used in the breeding program. Most warmblood registries still have an open studbook policy. For example, Arabians are occasionally used to refine Traekhners. Thoroughbreds are introduced into the bloodlines of many warmblood breeding programs.
There are certainly some differences between the warmbloods. You may be able to tell the difference between an Oldenburg and an Irish Sport Horse. But the differences might not be as obvious as between some actual breeds.
Warmbloods were developed for a specific purpose. One important difference between these breeding programs and ‘breeds’ is that it can mean that the type, conformation, temperament and gaits, are more tightly controlled than in many breed registries. And, the horse must demonstrate its suitability to the sports it will be used for. Once accepted into the studbook, some Warmbloods are branded.
In North America, the stud books are much newer, and they can be mixtures of various European warmblood bloodlines with the addition of breeds like Thoroughbred or Anglo-Arabian. These horses may be finer and ‘racier’ than some of their European cousins, and their primary purpose as a sport horse in dressage, jumping or eventing.
Here is a list of the Warmblood type registries out there:
American Sport Horse
Canadian Sport Horse
Some consider Baroque type horses like Lippizaners, Andalusians and Lusitanos to warmbloods, but these breeds existed before the development of the warmbloods. Their studbooks are closed.
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