What is a Warmblood?
No matter where you look, you will see them advertised: Warmblood horses for sale. But what exactly is a Warmblood and what makes them different from the other breeds?
There are two different definitions for the term. One is commonly referred to as Warmbloods, while the other is not capitalized: warmbloods. Technically a warmblood is any horse that is a crossbred between a “cold blood”, such as a draft horse, and a “hot blood”, such as a Thoroughbred.
Many people who crossbreed drafts with Thoroughbreds will call their offspring warmbloods. While this upsets many Warmblood breeders, they are technically correct. The thing is, most draft crosses are not of the same quality and type as a Warmblood, and most are not suited to the upper levels of performance. Draft crosses tend to be inconsistent in type, and the second generation crosses may show any range of draft or non-draft qualities. The also tend to be heavier in type than is considered best for performance.
While Warmbloods were developed from similar crosses, this development started hundreds of years ago. In recent years there is rarely any addition of heavier bloodlines. Instead, many Warmblood breed registries have chosen to add some lighter blood from select Thoroughbred bloodlines to refine the breeds and produce horses with even better performance ability.
It takes many generations to produce an animal that is genetically sound and will consistently produce the same quality and type generation after generation. Since Warmbloods have been produced with specific goals in mind for so many years, it is possible to expect a consistent level of quality and type from Warmblood breedings.
Warmblood breed registries have stringent testing programs to select only the best stock for the breeding programs, culling animals that cannot make the grade. This allows the registries to maintain a consistent level of quality, and to make improvements to the breed.
Another thing you may come across when shopping for a horse is an animal advertised as “warmblood type”. This means that the horse has a solid, yet refined build and is athletic. This may be applied to any breed of horse and has nothing to do with bloodlines at all.
So, if you are looking for a performance horse, be aware that a horse advertised as a warmblood may in fact be any combination of bloodlines that makes it a cross between a cold blood and a hot blood. A horse who is of “warmblood type” may not have any actual warmblood bloodlines in it at all, and could even be grade. If a horse is advertised as a Warmblood, it should have European Warmblood bloodlines such as Hanoverian, Holsteiner or Oldenburg in it. It should be registered with one of the recognized Warmblood registries.
While you can find a perfectly good warmblood or horse of “warmblood type” who will be successful in the ring, not all will have been bred for the purpose. It is possible to find a higher level of consistency of type of quality from a Warmblood from a recognized registry. A Warmblood may cost more, but often the price difference is worth it.