The Dutch Warmblood is a sport horse breed that is managed by the Royal Warmblood Horse Studbook of the Netherlands (KWPN). The breed is highly regulated to ensure the quality and performance of registered horses.

The KWPN distinguishes horses between five breeding directions in North America: dressage, jumping, hunter, harness, and Gelders horses. All breeders aim to produce horses that can perform at the top level of their discipline.

Strict selection procedures and new bloodlines from approved outside breeds helped the KWPN grow into one of the largest and most successful sport horse stud books in the world. Veterinary standards and inspections also keep the breed healthy, but Dutch Warmbloods still need good management to prevent common health problems observed in performance horses.

This breed profile discusses the history, characteristics, conformation, health problems, and nutritional needs of the KWPN breed. Keep reading to learn more about feeding and caring for your horse from a fellow Dutch Warmblood owner.

Dutch Warmblood Horse History

Dutch Warmbloods descend from two historic horse breeds from the Netherlands. The modern KWPN studbook is relatively young compared to other warmblood registries, but was one of the first to pioneer specialized breeding.

Origin

Before World War II, two distinct types of utility horses predominated in the Netherlands: the Groninger and the Gelderlander.

Groningers bred in the north were heavy warmbloods similar to the Ostfriesen and Alt-Oldenburger. The Gelderlanders of the south were lively, elegant horses with Thoroughbred and Hackney blood. [1]

Imported stallions transformed Dutch breed types in the mid-20th century as breeding directions shifted from producing utility horses to modern sport horses. These stallions included the Selle Francais L’Invasion, the Holsteiner Amor, and the Hanoverian Eclantant. [2]

After local breed registries merged to form the KWPN in 1970, the Dutch government and breeders began an organized effort to modernize warmblood breeding in the country. Queen Beatrix gave the royal title to the KWPN in 1988.

Despite foreign influences, KWPN horses still have strong Dutch roots. Studies of Dutch horses report limited genetic differentiation between KWPN horses and the modern Groniger and Gelderlander breeds. [3]

Historic Use

Early breeders valued the Groningen and Gelderlander for their pulling power. Dutch farmers used the Groningen for agricultural work and plowing the tough marine clay soil of the northern part of the country. The sandy soils of the Gelderland region allowed breeders to develop a more refined horse for carriage driving and light draft work. [1]

While tractors and automobiles replaced their utilitarian roles in Dutch society, these horses remained popular as carriage horses. Breeders primarily focused on preserving the harness talents of Dutch horses until the demand for riding horses led to new breeding directions. [2]

The KWPN pioneered specialized breeding for jumping and dressage horses when most German warmblood societies still focused on producing all-around horses. Specialized harness and Gelder horse lines continue today, in addition to a hunter specialization in North America. [4]

Research into the genetics of show jumping and dressage traits suggests specialized breeding programs are more effective at achieving breeding goals for different equestrian disciplines. [5]

Breed Registry

The Koninklijk Warmbloed Paard Nederland (KWPN) is the Royal Warmblood Studbook of the Netherlands, which is the primary registry and governing body for the Dutch Warmblood breed. The KWPN plays a crucial role in maintaining the breed standards, overseeing breeding practices, and promoting the breed internationally.

The KWPN of North America (KWPN-NA) is the official organization for Dutch Warmbloods in North America. It serves as a bridge between North American breeders and the KWPN, ensuring that the breeding and registration processes align with the practices established in the Netherlands.

Outside studbooks recognized and approved by the KWPN, known as Ekend studbooks, include all warmblood studbook members of the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses (WBFSH).

KWPN horses have four registration options depending on their pedigree and inspection results. [6] KWPN books and registers include:

  • Foal book (vb)
  • Register A (reg A)
  • Register B (reg B)
  • Studbook (stb)

KWPN Keurings

KWPN keurings are inspection events organized by the KWPN to evaluate Dutch Warmblood horses for breeding and sport purposes. These keurings, or inspections, are a critical part of the KWPN’s breeding program, ensuring that only approved individuals are selected for breeding.

During a keuring, horses are assessed based on a variety of criteria, including conformation, movement, jumping ability (for those intended for show jumping), and dressage aptitude (for those intended for dressage). The process and criteria can vary slightly depending on the age and sex of the horse, as well as its intended discipline.

Foal Book and Register A mares and stallions are eligible for studbook inspections at keurings after the age of three. Register B horses can participate in keurings but cannot move into the studbook.

Stallions must complete additional requirements for studbook approval, including meeting performance standards and passing a veterinary examination with radiographs and endoscopy.

KWPN inspectors also evaluate foals, yearlings, and two-year-olds for premium grading at keurings. Young KWPN horses earn premium gradings based on inspection results:

  • 1st Premium: Awarded to highest quality horses that exceed breed standard
  • 2nd Premium: Meets breed standard but has some faults or lack of quality

KWPN Predicates

KWPN predicates are titles or designations awarded to Dutch Warmblood horses that meet specific criteria of excellence. They are valuable for breeders and owners as they highlight the quality and potential of the horses.

Mature horses can earn predicates at a keuring based on the scores they receive and other accomplishments. Here are some of the key KWPN predicates and their meanings:

  • Ster (Star): Awarded to mares, geldings, and stallions based on superior conformation and movement or jumping ability. Horses must achieve a minimum score of 70 for conformation and 75 for movement or jumping.
  • Keur: Awarded to Ster mares with eligible conformation who have completed IBOP (one-day performance) tests or met equivalent sport requirements. Also awarded to stallions based on the proven quality of their offspring.
  • IBOP: Awarded to horses from the foal book, studbook, or register A that complete the IBOP test, which evaluates their aptitude in riding or driving disciplines.
  • PROK: Awarded to horses that have passed a radiographic examination, indicating that they meet requirements for bone quality and joint health with an absence of conditions such as arthritis and OCD (Osteochondritis Dissecans).
  • D-OC: A predicate for riding-type horses identified through DNA testing as having a low genetic predisposition to OCD.
  • Elite: Granted to Keur mares that also possess the D-OC or PROK predicate, indicating higher standards of health and genetic quality.
  • Preferent: Awarded to KWPN mares that have produced at least three Ster predicate offspring. Also awarded to stallions as the highest recognition for the quality and abilities of their offspring.
  • Prestatie (Performance): Granted to KWPN mares whose offspring meet standards for exceptional sport success.
  • Sport: Earned by horses in North America based on their success at recognized shows. In Europe, this predicate is awarded only to mares.
  • Kroon (Crown): Awarded by KWPN-NA to horses competing at the FEI levels and within the top 300 in final year-end FEI / WBFSH dressage or jumping rankings

Breed Characteristics

Warmbloods are generally known as middle-weight horses, characterized by a balance of the agility and speed of lighter “hot-blooded” breeds and the calm, gentle disposition of heavier “cold-blooded” breeds.

KWPN inspectors evaluate Dutch Warmbloods based on breed standards for their breeding direction. This system has helped the KWPN remain a leading producer of top sport horses for dressage, show jumping, hunter, and harness disciplines.

Conformation

While different breeding directions have additional objectives, general KWPN breeding goals aim to produce horses with the following:

  • The ability to perform at Grand Prix or equivalent top level of respective discipline
  • Sound constitution for long-term usefulness
  • Functional builds and correct movement
  • Correct, attractive, refined, noble, high-quality conformation

KWPN horses must have a minimum height of 15.3 hands to earn a ster predicate. Taller heights are preferred in stallions, and the average Dutch Warmblood stands 16.2 hands tall.

There are slightly different standards for conformation and movement evaluated at KWPN-NA keurings for each breeding direction. [6]

Conformation Traits

Most Dutch Warmbloods have the following conformation traits:

  • Rectangular-shaped frame
  • Well-proportioned and long-lined body
  • Light head/neck connection
  • Long, arched neck and muscled topline
  • Strong, well-muscled back and loin formation
  • Correct and clean legs
  • Attractive overall impression

Desirable Movement

Desirable movement can vary by discipline, but most KWPN horses should show:

  • Pure, active, rhythmic gaits with suppleness and impulsion
  • The ability to lengthen and shorten stride without losing rhythm or balance
  • An elevated forehand
  • Good self-carriage
  • Light-footed movement
  • Demonstrated flexion in joints, engaged hindquarters, free shoulder, and elevated knees

Colours

Typical coat colours in Dutch Warmbloods include:

  • Black
  • Bay
  • Brown
  • Chestnut
  • Grey

White markings are frequently seen in the breed. The KWPN has also accepted and approved horses with tobiano pinto patterns.

Temperament

Warmblood breeds are renowned for their calm, even-tempered, and cooperative nature, making them suitable for a variety of equestrian disciplines.

The KWPN breeding goals aims to produce a horse with a good character, a strong willingness to perform, and a friendly disposition towards people that makes them easy to handle.

To succeed at the