A Dutch Warmblood is a type of horse that is registered with the Koninklijk Warmbloed Paardenstamboek Nederland which translates to the Royal Warmblood Studbook of the Netherlands. It is this organisation that governs the breeding of competitive dressage and show jumping horses as well as the show harness horse and Gelderlander, and a hinter studbook in North America.
The Dutch horse was developed through a breeding programme that began in the 1960s and they are some of the most successful horses to have been developed in postwar Europe. The Dutch Warmblood is also known as the Dutch Riding Horse.
Before World War II there were two varieties of utility horse in the Netherlands. They were Gelderlanders which were bred in the south under the Gelderlander Horse Studbook (1925) and the Groningen bred in the north under the NWP (1943). The Groningen is a large, heavy weight warmblood horse which is very similar to the East Friesian and the Alt-Oldenburger. The Gelderlander was a far more elegant variation on the same horse and they were often used as a high-quality carriage horse as well as being used as a useful agricultural horse.
And, even though the Groningen were almost unwaveringly solid black, brown, or dark bay, the Gelderlanders were more often chestnut with flashy white markings. These two registries merged to form the Royal Warmblood Horse Studbook of the Netherlands (KWPN).
It was after the Second World War that horses in Netherlands became a luxury rather than a necessity. This was mainly due to the Groninger and the Gelderlander being replaced by tractors and cars and it was as early as the 1950s, stallions like the French-bred L'Invasion and Holsteiner Normann were imported to encourage a change in the type of Dutch horses. Then the carriage-pulling foundation stock contributed their active, powerful front ends and gentle dispositions to the Dutch Warmblood. Nowadays the KWPN comprises four sections: the Gelderlander, the Tuigpaard or Dutch Harness Horse, and riding horses bred for either dressage or show jumping.
Due to modern Dutch laws making branding illegal, it is only the oldest Dutch Warmbloods from the Netherlands that still bear the lion-rampant brand on their left hip. Instead, these days, the horses are microchipped, however, North American Dutch Warmbloods may still be branded.
In order to be a breeding horse, the mares must stand at least 15.2hh and stallions at least 15.3hh at the withers. Even though horses that are too tall are impractical for sport and are undesirable, there is no upper height limit.
When it comes to color, most Dutch Warmbloods are black, brown, bay, chestnut, or grey, and it is not uncommon for them to bear white markings. The population of Dutch Warmbloods also has a number of tobiano horses from the influence of the approved stallion Samber, but a second tobiano stallion has not been approved since. The roan pattern is also to be found occasionally through the approved stallion El Rosso.
Strict selection procedures ensure that bad-tempered stallions and mares do not go on to produce unmanageable horses, however, the Dutch Warmblood is significantly more sensitive than its Gelderlander and Groningen ancestors. Performance test results allow breeders and buyers to identify horses with amateur-suitable temperaments. All Dutch Warmbloods are selected to be uncomplicated to handle and ride, which makes them good for dressage and show jumping. They are also required to have a level of courage and reflexivity in order to navigate a course.