The Holsteiner horse is a warmblood breed from the Schleswig-Holstein region of northern Germany. Also known as the Holstein horse, this is one of the oldest warmblood breeds in the world.

Despite belonging to one of the smallest warmblood studbooks in Europe today, Holsteiner horses continue to excel at the elite levels of equestrian sport. The breed is best known for its show-jumping ability, but is also well-regarded in eventing and dressage.

Holsteiners owe their success in part to a century of selective breeding based on maternal lineages. While intensive selection reduced genetic variability, the approval process in the Holsteiner breed has also maintained high health and performance standards.

This profile will discuss the history, breed characteristics, health problems, and nutritional needs of the Holsteiner horses. Keep reading to learn more about feeding and caring for these impressive horses.

Holsteiner Horse History

The history of the Holstein horse began approximately 800 years ago, long before the emergence of official breed organizations in the 19th century. Over time, these horses have transformed from working animals to high-performance sport partners.


Monasteries first oversaw early horse breeding programs in Medieval Germany. In 1225, Count Gerhard I of Schleswig-Holstein and Stormarn allowed the Uetersen monastery to graze horses on the uncultivated land of the region.

By the late 15th century, Holstein had a state stud department overseeing local horse breeding. Rural breeding programs crossed local stock with imported Arabian and Spanish horses. Crossing with Thoroughbreds later shaped the breed into a distinct type.

One study of pedigree data found Thoroughbreds had the most significant foreign influence on Holsteiners, followed by Anglo-Normans and Anglo-Arabians. Hanoverian warmbloods provided the most significant contribution from a separate German breed. [1]

Documentation of local maternal lineages began in the 19th century. Mares in the Holstein breeding districts were assigned lineage numbers. The total number of lineages was once over 8,900, but today only 437 lineages have been preserved. [2]

Historic Use

Medieval monks bred horses for transportation between churches and monasteries. Horses in Holstein needed hardiness to traverse the difficult marshlands of the Elbe River and the coast.

When demands for war horses increased, monks in Holstein began developing larger, stronger horses as cavalry mounts. Farmers in the region used the horses for agricultural work and started breeding horses for their personal use in the 18th century.

Holsteiner horses soon began attracting attention from outside of their local region. The Holstein horses of the time were primarily bay, with impressive type and high-striding gaits. This increased demand for the Holsteiner as a driving horse. [1]

In the 19th century, several breeding organizations merged to form the first association for all Holstein horses. The Holsteiner horse population declined significantly after World War II when maternal lineages were lost and the state stud dissolved. [2]

The consolidated mare families provided the foundation for the modern breed when breeding practices shifted to producing sport horses for leisure use. Today, Holsteiner horses are also often found in the pedigrees of other successful sport horse breeds. [3]

Breed Registry

The Holsteiner Verband maintains the official breed registry and oversees approvals for mares and stallions seeking to enter the studbook. Stallions must fulfill additional testing and performance requirements to maintain their approval status.

The Verband operates the Office of the North American Breeding District of the Holsteiner Verband, which manages registrations of Holstein horses in North America. Foals with registration papers can receive a hot brand on their left hip.

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Breed Characteristics

Holsteiner Verband approvals evaluate horses based on the sport breeding goals of the modern Holsteiner. Horses are scored based on co