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A Warmblood is a horse bred somewhere between the hot bloods of the Arab and Thoroughbred and the cold bloods of the Draught horse. So it follows that a British Warmblood is a warmblood horse that has been bred in Britain, doesn’t it? Well theoretically yes but it is a bit more complicated than that.
Whilst the UK used the English Thoroughbred to lighten Draught breeds to produce riding horses and hunters during the middle of the last century, continental Europe imported English Thoroughbreds and used other breeds of their near neighbours to achieve the same influence over their heavy working horses. The result was the production of modern sports horses called warmbloods whereas in the UK, our horses tended to be referred to as three quarter bred or 7/8 TB or simply, Irish Draught crosses.
Woodcroft Garuda K. Iimage curtesy of Woodcroft Stud
The modern warmblood horse is really a product of continental Europe and there are several well known and successful breeds such as the Hanoverian and the Holsteiner from Germany, the Dutch Warmblood of KWPN and the Selle Francais from France come to mind although there are many more.
Although some of these breeds are named after their geographical areas of origin, they are actually a mix of many different breed influences. Acceptance by a breed Studbook is based more on inspection and performance testing than strict breed lineage although pedigree must be known by and large. Thus a Hanoverian Warmblood for example could potentially be accepted in other “breed” studbooks and registers. This is a reflection of the fact that the modern European sports horse is a fusion of many different influences and what interests the breeders most, is not the strict protection of breed identity but more the desire to breed the ultimate sports horse, hence the premium placed on inspection and performance testing.
The British Warmblood Society now known as the Warmblood Breeders Studbook was founded in the UK in 1977 and follows almost identical aims to its European counterparts and that is to breed pedigree horses specifically for modern equestrian sports. In a similar fashion to the European organisations, the Warmblood Breeders Studbook run twice yearly inspections and gradings which follow the European model, even bringing across experts from the continent for these events. There is also an organisation called the Anglo European Studbook or AES which started life in the UK in 1985, ostensibly as a venue for British breeders to register their British bred warmblood sports horses although this organisation has since altered its remit in more recent years.
Woodcroft Garuda K. Image curtesy of Woodcroft Stud
So, if you take the example of a Hanoverian horse bred in the UK. This horse could be eligible for registration with the main Hanoverian Studbook in Germany through the auspices of the British Hanoverian Horse Society which is actually a daughter association of the German Hanoverian Warmblood Breeders Association. This horse could also be considered for registration with the Warmblood Breeders Studbook in the UK. So what’s the difference between the two or even three organisations? Well the Warmblood Breeders Studbook aims ultimately to mount British riders on British bred horses and so the principal distinction must be the fact that this organisation seeks to promote British breeders and British bred horses.
So is there such a thing as a British Warmblood? Well yes there is, providing that you always remember that a Warmblood is actually a fusion of several different breeds and that even if your Warmblood has a breed name, there will doubtless be several different continental breeds in its pedigree.