What is a Warmblood Horse?

Anyone familiar with Sporthorses and English riding has heard of a “warmblood horse.” Warmbloods dominate the equitation, hunter, and jumper rings, and they are also used for dressage and three-day eventing.

But, what does “warmblood” mean? Does it actually have to do with a horse’s blood temperature? These questions and more will be answered in this article.  I will be discussing the two meanings of “warmblood/ warm-blooded” as well as the different breeds of warmblood horses seen today.

Biological Meaning of Warmblood Horse

Biologically speaking, horses are mammals, which means they are warm-blooded.  They are not like reptiles, who are cold-blooded.  Being warm-blooded, biologically means that horses can regulate their own internal body temperature.

In other words, even when external temperatures change, a warm-blooded animal will maintain the same internal temperature.  But, a cold-blooded animal’s internal temperature is dependent on the external temperature.

While this is useful information, this has nothing to do with the term “warmblood” in the Sporthorse industry. Instead, a warmblood is considered a horse “type,” in addition to coldbloods and hotbloods.

Biological Meaning of Warmblood Horse

Warmblood Horse Type

Leave it to the horse industry to use confusing terms to describe simple concepts! The terms warmblood, coldblood, and hotblood, in reference to horse types, actually have nothing to do with the temperature of a horse’s blood.

Instead, they describe general temperaments of groups of horse breeds.  Certain groups of horse breeds have shared characteristics that place them under either the category warmblood, coldblood, or hotblood.

Coldblooded horses are draft horses.  They are known for the calm, “cool,” and gentle personalities.  These horses are easy to handle, and they are strong and surefooted. They are frequently used for farm work and as children’s horses. Coldblooded horses include Belgians, Clydesdales, Percherons, and more.

Hotblooded horses are high-energy, light riding horses, such as Thoroughbreds and Arabians.  These horses are known for being somewhat difficult to handle and high-strung. They are traditionally used for racing and other speed-related events.

Warmblood horses are where these two categories meet in the middle.  Warmbloods are more calm than hotbloods but more light-footed than coldbloods.  They are the ideal combination between sporty and surefooted. Warmblood breeds include, but are not limited to the Trakehner, the Selle Francais, the Holsteiner, the Hanovarian, and the Oldenburg.

Warmblood Horse breeds

Trakehner

The Trakehner is a popular warmblood breed that originated in Germany.  They are known for being athletic, intelligent, kind, and loyal.  They are a great horse for competitors and people with horse experience. But may not be a good option for someone looking for a first horse, or a horse to keep as a pet, due to their athletic abilities.

Trakehners are especially skilled in jumping and have had great success in the showjumping ring, as well as the equitation ring.  Trakehners come in most solid colors, as well as roans and pintos. They are known for being tall, 16-18 hands, and muscular.

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Selle Francais

The Selle Francais is another popular warmblood breed that originated in France.  They are also called the French Saddle horse and came into being when Norfolk Trotter and Thoroughbred stallions were bred with native French horses.

The Selle Francais is known for being quiet, brave, and friendly.  They are often tall like Thoroughbreds, but muscular like other warmbloods. They come in all solid colors and roans but are not seen in many pinto variations, although leg markings are acceptable.

Holsteiner

Like the Trakehner, the Holsteiner is a warmblood breed that originated in Germany.  Though the Holsteiner breed has taken several changes due to changes in demand throughout the centuries, it is a popular warmblood for sport today.

The Holsteiner is known for being easy-going, laid back, and sometimes even lazy. Despite this, they are also known for being top performers in the show ring.  Holstieners are seen in all jumping rings (equitation, jumpers, and hunters) as well as being used in dressage, three-day eventing, and foxhunting.

Holsteiners only come in solid colors and are preferably seen with little or no white markings, though marked chestnuts, greys, and bays occur.  The Holsteiner continues to be a favorite after 700 years of existence.

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Hanoverian

The Hanoverian breed was developed in England in the 1700s but officially begun in Germany in the 1800s. It is considered to be the oldest warmblood horse breed in existence.  Similar to the Holsteiner, the breed went through many changes and developments as changing times created changing demands.  

Today, the breed is known for being athletic, sophisticated in build, and easy-going.  Hanoverians are popular in all English disciplines, including hunter/jumper, equitation, eventing, dressage, and foxhunting.

Also similar to the Holsteiner, the Hanovarian can come in all solid colors, and white markings are frowned upon unless they are small in size. 

Oldenburg

The Oldenburg came out of the Fresian breed in the 1700s.  This breed also evolved over time as the demand for certain characteristics changed.  Today they are light, athletic, and surefooted horses, valued by equestrian athletes and professionals around the world.

Oldenburgs are known for being easy to train, athletic, and good-natured. They are known for being tall, but muscular, and they come in all solid colors (white markings are acceptable).

Oldenburgs can be seen in all English disciplines, in national and international rings.  They excel at jumping (jumpers, hunters, and equitation), as well as dressage, eventing, and foxhunting.  

Warmblood Horse breeds

Conclusion

Warmblood horses have the same temperature blood as all other horses! They are simply a cross between the calm coldblooded horses and the energetic hotblooded horses.  They were bred to be an easy-going and athletic partner. Today, warmbloods are favored in all English disciplines.

I hope this article helped you better understand what a “warmblood” horse is, what the term “warmblood” means, and what warmbloods exist today! If so, please share this article, and share with us your experiences with warmblood horses!

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