The Dutch Warmblood is a horse of international repute, perfected in a comparatively short space of time. In essence, the Dutch Warmblood is an outstanding example of how existing but largely redundant stock can be adapted and improved by selective breeding to fulfill a new requirement. The success of these horses might also be seen as a prime example of the results that can be obtained from positive promotion and marketing policies.
Making use of the Gelderlander and the Groningen the one having a good forehand overall and the other being especially powerful behind the saddle, Dutch breeders, as it were, put the two ends together. The resultant progeny was then refined, in line with the classic warmblood breeders’ precept, by the use of the all-important Thoroughbred.
The introduction of this element resulted in horses with more sloping shoulders, and thus a flatter, longer, and more economical action. It also added length to the short, thick neck inherited from the native Dutch breeds, shortened the long back typical of carriage horses, gave a different emphasis to the croup, and produced a more compact outline. Additionally, the Thoroughbred influence improved the Dutch horses’ scope and speed, as well as giving them increased mental stamina and courage. At that point the product was seasoned by a return to related warmbloods such as the Oldenburger, Trakehner and Hanoverian. This was a way of adjusting minor points of conformational detail and in particular, it was a means of counteracting any deviation from the characteristic calm temperament that may have been caused by the Thoroughbred element.
The result is an athletic stamp of horse, of good riding conformation with a straight, elastic action, good limbs, and good feet – the latter not always being an outstanding feature of warmblood horses. The Dutch Warmblood stands on average something over 1.63 m (16 hh), and is usually bay or brown in colour. The temperament is even, and behavioral problems rarely arise.
The breed excels at show jumping, and several world-class international jumpers, such as Milton, a son of the famous jumping stallion Marius, are either Dutch or Dutch crosses. The Dutch horses have also made their mark in the dressage arena, largely as the result of the prominence given to the breed by the English rider, Jennie Loriston Clarke, who won a world championship bronze medal on the stallion Dutch Courage, from whom she bred extensively at her New Forest stud. Like many warmbloods, the Dutch horses are less good as cross-country rides, but this failing can be countered in part by out crossing to Thoroughbreds.
THE SELECTION PROCESS
Horse-breeding in Holland, where horses are classed as agricultural animals and their owners benefit accordingly, is strictly controlled by the State-aided Warmblood Paardenstamboek Nederland. This body pursues a rigorous selection policy based on physical assessment and performance testing. Stallions, all of which are privately owned, may not be used for breeding until they have undergone a comprehensive performance test. This test includes jumping, cross-country trials, and sometimes harness work (the Dutch also breed a warmblood carriage horse, in addition to the Gelderlander). Particular attention is paid to the reports on an individual’s temperament.
More than 14,000 mares may be mated each year; they are also tested, and great emphasis is placed on conformation and movement as well as temperament. Finally, the breeding value for both stallions and mares is established by monitoring the performance of their progeny – a critical feature of European warmblood breeding that finds increasing acceptance world-wide.