The Holsteiner is a German horse breed that originates from the Schleswig-Holstein region in the north of the country. It is widely believed to be the oldest of the warmblood breeds and its history traces back to the 13th century. Even though the population of Holsteiners isn’t that big, they are still a hugely dominant force in the international show jumping world. They are also regularly seen at the top levels of dressage, show hunters, eventing and combined driving.
These horses are medium-framed and stand between 16 and 17 hands high at the withers. For a stallion to be approved they must be a minimum of 16 hands high and mares must be at least 15.2 hands high. They should be athletic riding horses and they are known for their arched and high-set necks and powerful hindquarters. In years gone by, Holsteiners retained the hallmark Roman nose of the Baroque horse, but today it has been replaced by a smaller head with a large, intelligent eye.
These horses tend to have good balance and elegant movements, however, their strongest asset has to be their jumping capability. Even the average Holsteiner can show great power and scope and fantastic jumping technique.
When it comes to the color of their coats, traditional Holsteiners were dark and minimally marked which made them resemble other horse breeds in the nearby areas of Oldenburg, Groningen and Friesland. However, more recently there is a preference for black, dark bay and brown Holsteiners, though lighter shades such as chestnuts and grays are also now permitted. Horses with large white spots suggestive of pinto patterning or any of the traits associated with leopard-spotting are excluded from the registry.
There are two types of Holsteiners; unflappable, lazy Holsteiners and sensitive, spooky Holsteiners. Amateurs can find uncomplicated, cooperative, steady mounts and professionals can find bold, sensitive rides; there is no one perfect temperament. Many Holsteiners are well-balanced, strong-nerved, reliable and bold. Some critics of the breed, or particular lineages within it, find that strong selection for jumping performance results in capable high-level jumpers, but at the cost of rideability.
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