Skip to Content

Why Are Some Horses Called Warmbloods? Definition & Breeds.

Any links on this page that lead to products on Amazon are affiliate links and I earn a commission if you make a purchase. Thanks in advance – I really appreciate it!

 

I recently watched a rider on a large warmblood horse gracefully leap an obstacle during an eventing competition. The horse’s controlled athleticism was breathtaking to witness and made me want to learn about warmblood horses.

Horses with a pedigree that includes cold and hot-blooded horses are warmbloods. The original warmblood breeds were offspring of large coach horses crossed with smaller Arabians and Thoroughbreds. Warmbloods are typically intelligent, have calm temperaments, and are exceptional athletes.

Most people that follow horse competitions are familiar with warmbloods. They are always at the top of the contender boards, but there is a lot more than athletic prowess that makes these horses special.

picture of a warmblood in a showjumping competition,

Why Some Horses Called Warmbloods?

Horses are called warmbloods because they are a mix of hot and cold-blooded horses. There are three “blood” forms of horses, hot, warm, and cold-blooded.

The classification has little to do with their body temperatures. In fact, it is their temperament rather than the temperature of their blood that is instead linked to the classification.

Warmblooded horses trace their roots to healthy, high-strung horses that were typically hard to handle. These hot horses had desired athletic ability but needed a calmer demeanor, so a cold-blooded horse, often large draft breeds, was introduced to their bloodline.

The result is a larger athletic horse with a calm temperament that is smart and easy to train. Thus, over centuries of selective crossbreeding, you end up with a horse with the best of all forms of “blood.”

These crossbred horses have good bone mass, solid muscles, cold-blooded and hot-blooded speed, and capacity in competitions such as show jumping, etc., Warmbloods shine.

This is not to suggest that purebred horses may not be successful at any sport in question. For example, there are Clydesdales in dressage. It is just; usually, the warmbloods perform exceptionally well, having been specially geared to perform well in such operations.

But also note that horses are individuals, and some hot-blooded horses can have a calm nature, and a cold-blooded horse may be hard to handle. I’ve known some Arabians, that were level-headed enough for you to bring around children without worry.

For Draft horses, it is the same. You will find those that are cool, laid back, convenient; then again, you will also find others that are quickly irritated, tough to manage. Due to the overly generalized perception of such breeds, many horses are bred to make them warmblooded.

One of the earliest warmbloods is the Trakehner, derived by crossing Thoroughbreds, Arabians, and Schweiken horses. This new horse was versatile and became the foundation for many successful warmblood breeds, including Hanoverians.

In certain instances, the local breeds, including the ride-and-drive breeds like the Gelder warmblood, developed in the Netherlands, were of the ‘canter’ type. With the addition of a little polish by Thoroughbreds and occasional Arabian enhancement sires, the Dutch Warmblood came into existence.

picture of a warmblood blood horse jumping an obstacle,

Breeds of Warmbloods

If you look at the sporting horses around the world, you’ll notice some trends regarding warmbloods. A few dominant foundation breeds and several others frequently used to produce them are variations of these base breeds.

The base breeds are Hanoverians, Holsteiners, Selle Français, and Trakehner (in chronological order). Furthermore, the so-called refining race breeds, English Thoroughbreds, and Arabs have a heavy influence.

Dutch Warmblood, American Warmblood, and Irish Draft comprise some examples of crossbreeding hybrids to produce athletic warmbloods but are not restricted to the Warmblood breeds.

Demand for warmblood breeds is increasing.

There has been a steady rise in equestrian activities over the last 50 years. Because of the warmblood’s dominance in equestrian events and increased activities, warmbloods are in high demand. They have also gained popularity because of their exposure during Olympics competitions.

New breeding projects were introduced, and all were using the same formula: a mixture of the four Warmblood traits foundations as mentioned, mixed with the dominance of Thoroughbred. At the same time, the Arab has shed certain ground.

The foundation horse breeds used for local forms of strong warm blood often came from the Oldenburg in the Netherlands. Others started with a Thoroughbred mare base, like those bred in Australia and New Zealand.

There is also no question that certain species of Warmblood are closely connected. Still, it should not be denied that there are base breeds with distinct genes, variations in livestock, different breeding philosophies, and mating practices.

Warmblood foundation breeds

picture of a knight in armor riding a  warmblood horse,

Hanoverians

In 1735 at the Landestuet stables in Germany, the Hanoverian breed was established. These horses were bred to be stout workhorses used to pull carts, farming, and the military.

Machines eventually took over the duties the original Hanoverians were bred to perform, so breeders adapted to the times and began crossing their Hanoverians with lighter horses.

The inclusion of the hot blood horses created a faster, more refined animal with strength and stamina. As a result, today’s Hanoverians are versatile horses with a big frame and exceptional athletic ability, a calm disposition, and a comfortable gait.

With the rising use of artificial insemination, researchers also see a more significant genetic variability of global factors in the Hanoverian breed. The success of selectively crossbreeding has produced a modern Hanoverian that competes at the highest equestrian sports levels but is calm enough to be a family riding horse.

picture of a holsteiner warmbloods in competition,

In several other breeding grounds, the Hanoverian influenced sports horse reproduction to no small degree and grew into the modern sports horse model in the 1960s.

Holsteiner

The Holsteiner breed claims to be the first warmblood breed. They began in Northern Germany over 700 years ago by monks. These monks selectively bred the small native horses to increase their size and strength.

The result was a robust thick horse suitable for carrying a heavy load and working the land. In addition, their breeding program produced the perfect steed to carry a knight ladened with armor.

However, as time passed, quick striking cavalries became more popular, so as warfare changed, so did the Holsteiner breed; they evolved into lighter, faster horses with great strength.

Modern Holsteiners are bred precisely toward leaping. As a result, the Holsteiner is one of the world’s top showjumping breeds today, and with its use of international blood, Holsteiner breeders are very picky.

Trakehner

The Trakehner horse is credited with being one of the earliest warmblood breeds. They developed in the 18th century because of the need for a cavalry mount that was fast and lighter than the traditional heavy and big-boned horses of the times.

The horses, though, not only needed to be fast, but they had to be strong enough to carry knights wearing heavy armor or pull a plow if required. Thus the Trakehner warmblood was created to meet these needs.

Before the start of World War II, the Trakehner was perhaps Germany’s primary horse-riding breed. It was a very common army horse and was effectively used at horse shows to dominate equestrian events in the early days by military officers.

Because this was more efficient to be used in the army, the way of travel was flatter. The Trakehners lost their base during World War II when their native nation went to Russia and Poland.

Warmblood Definition

A warmblood horse is an athletic horse derived by crossbreeding cold large draft breeds with smaller, quicker hot horse breeds. They typically exhibit a calm temperament inherited from the cold-blooded breeds and their hot-blooded ancestors’ athletic ability.

Warm-blooded horses excel in many equine sporting event competitions such as showjumping, dressage, and eventing.

Etymology of warmblood

“In Germany, the various horse breeds are categorized by the phrases Vollblut, that involves English Thoroughbreds and Arabs; Kaltblut, which means all draught horse races. The term “Warmblood” has been adapted from the German word “Warmblut.

History and Origin

The first warmbloods trace back at least three hundred years; some equine historians believe warmblood goes much further back in history to the 13th century with the Holsteiner breed.

But there seems to be a clear path from the 18th-century warmbloods to modern-day horses. Tectonic knights in East Prussia bred local horses to English thoroughbreds and Arabian stallions. This early warmblood breed was named The Trakehner horse, and it was primarily used as a warhorse.

Through the years, warmbloods evolved into versatile horses used in farming, riding, and pulling carriages. As the age of the machine, advanced warmbloods were bred with an emphasis on sports and recreation.

Modern warmbloods are fierce competitors and excel in athletic contests. They are best known for their superior performances in showjumping, dressage, and eventing. To see how Warmblood breeds perform in dressage and showjumping check out this article: The Best Horse Breeds for Dressage and Show Jumping. Top 5

Conclusion

Warmblood horses possess the exact blood temperature, just like all other horses! They are merely a fusion between some of the stable horses of cold blood and the active horses of hot blood. They have been bred to be an athlete with a good temperament making them a treasured steed.

So the next time you are asked about warm-blooded’ horses, you’ll understand the meaning, and if you have a chance to own one, consider yourself blessed.

FAQ

What is the difference between a warmblood horse and a thoroughbred?

Thoroughbreds are a distinct breed, while warmblood horse breeds result from crossbreeding to produce calm yet athletic animals. This makes them better suited for activities such as dressage which requires intense concentration.