The HOLSTEINER horse is the oldest of the German warmbloods and as one of the world’s best performing showjumping horses is unsurprising they have made their way to Australia with a bred for exactly that purpose.
Their name stems from the place of their creation, the Elmshorn district of Holstein which retains an influential breeding program to this day. As far back as the 14th century this area was famous for breeding of horses suitable as cavalry mounts and heavy warhorses.
The native heavy mares of the region were crossed with Spanish horses to improve their stammer conformation and bone structure. They quickly became popular throughout Europe and re-exported to Spain, Italy, France, Denmark and other European countries.
Typical of a breeding program that has had six centuries to get it right there are a magnificent horse, powerfully built an extremely athletic.
Initially bred as a warhorse by the 17th-century they were also being used as a general purpose riding horse but also as a carriage horse of nobility. The infusion of Spanish blood had modified their gate into a higher more flashy action making them impressive coach horses.
It was this combination of strength, endurance, excellent conformation and showy action had made an ideal horse to develop as a sports horse from the middle of the 19th century when the popularity of horse sports really took off. With the decline of the popularity of the horse as a means of transport of the combustion engine took over the one of the few breeds to prosper during this time.
Paramount to the breeding of the Holsteiner was maintaining within the breed of tractable temperament, breeding for temperament not always being such an important factor in other breeds breeding programs it was in the Holsteiner considered desirable to the point of essential selecting the best animals to pass on their genes. That said, the creation of a highly pliable horse in terms of the did not necessarily result in an elegant horse capable of a turn of speed with good conformation.
These were added to the breed with an injection of thoroughbred genes at the beginning of the 1800s. The refining influence of the thoroughbred was dramatic in affecting their appearance as well is the performance. Gone was the trademark Roman nose their movement became more flashy and free and certainly the galloping speed was increased.
The thoroughbred however did not bring with the ample bone required of the heavy cavalry horses(and later sport horses) – this was gained by the introduction of Yorkshire Coach Horse stallions(essentially Cleveland Bay crossbreeds). The Yorkshire Coach Horse a large, powerful yet still fast with a free movement. Like the Holsteiner though also even tempered and they had a dampening effect on the somewhat flighty temperament brought in by the thoroughbred.
The end result of the breeding program was a tough, handsome horse equally capable as an artillery draught horse, a carriage horse is a heavy cavalry remount.
The Holsteiner in Modern Times
The traits that had been bred into the whole style made an ideal as a base for the creation of a high quality showjumping horse. The Holsteiner focus up until the 1940s was more geared towards power and speed so after World War II the breeds all a new injection of thoroughbred blood to increase their speed and athleticism and their build became less heavy.
What quickly developed was a multipurpose riding horse standing 16 to 17 hands high(162 to 172cm) that was capable in almost all sporting events that was required to gallop and jump. The date there have been numerous champion Holsteiners in showjumping, eventing and hunter classes.
The Arab influence has all but been bred out of the Holsteiner other than they retain a slightly high knee action or the in an otherwise free flying long and rich nickel movement.
One of the world’s greatest showjumpers was Fritz Thiedemann’s Holsteiner, Meteor. Thiedemann always favored Holsteiners above any other breed. Other famous Holsteiners include Granat, the world champion dressage horse, and the good international eventers Albrant, Madrigal, and Ladalco.
The Holsteiner in Australia
With Australia’s love of horse sports that involve jumping is not surprising that the Holsteiner has made its way here in the breed is developed its own right as a pure brads sporting horse as well is a crossbred with thoroughbreds in other programs to develop an even more dynamic sporting horse.
Australia has its own Holsteiner horse Association, the website you can visit here Holsteiner Horse Association Australia