The Belgian Warmblood has achieved considerable success in a relatively short period of time, considering it is a “new” breed. It has been purpose-bred for competitive dressage and showjumping, and excels at both. The Bavarian Warmblood, not one of the most well-known of Germany’s competition horses, is based on the Rottaler, one of the oldest breeds in Europe. It thus traces back to the 11th century.
Belgium has traditionally specialised in the production of big, powerful, heavy agricultural horses such as the Brabant. However, the emphasis has now shifted to equestrian competition and many Belgian breeders concentrate on warmblood riding horses, producing over 4,500 foals every year. The breed has a good performance record in international competition and is sold all over Europe.
The history of the breed begins in the 1950s when the lighter, cleaner-legged Belgian farm horse was crossed with the Gelderlander , to produce a heavyweight riding horse. This cross to a predominantly coldblood background was reasonably successful, producing substantial, everyday animals that were strong and reliable although neither overly talented nor particularly gymnastic.
The Gelderlander cross was discontinued about 10 years later, once it had provided a good base for improvement. It was replaced by the Holsteiner and the more athletic Selle Francais both of which are noted for their straight, rhythmic action.
It became more and more apparent that if the quality, scope, and freedom of action were to be improved it would be necessary to bring in Thoroughbred blood The Anglo-Arab and a Dutch Warmblood cross both sound horses with calm dispositions, were also introduced. This has produced a powerful, straight-moving horse of about 1.68 m (16.2 hh), possessed of great agility, good limbs, sound feet, and a calm temperament, well able to cope with the stress of competition. The coat can be any solid colour.
Whilst rarely seen in Australia and without their own breed association, the Belgian Warmblood has been used by a small amount of Australian Sport Horse Breeders in the breeding programmes.
THE BAVARIAN WARMBLOOD
The Bavarian Warmblood’s ancestor, the old chestnut Rottaler, was bred in the fertile valley of the Rott, an area that was noted for the excellence of its horses in the past. By the time of the Crusades in the 11thcentury Oldenburgers were used to give the Bavarian more substance and the foundation was laid for the modern competition horse.
With the introduction of Thoroughbred blood later on, the heavily built Rottaler gave way to a lighter, though still strongly built, horse averaging about 1.63 m (16 hh). The modern Bavarian (“Rottaler” was discontinued in the 1960s) is an attractive horse, with the traditional Rottaler chestnut colouring. He is deep through the girth and stands on short, strong legs with well-proportioned bone measurements. As usual, emphasis is placed on temperament and the horses undergo performance tests.
Bavarians are well-suited for dressage and jumping competitions at international level, but like many other warmbloods they are not great gallopers and in consequence are less good as cross-country
They are yet to be seen in Australia either in competition or as part of any sporthorse breeding programme.