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KWPN stands for Koninklijk Warmbloed Paarden-stamboek Nederland which in English means a Dutch Warmblood registered with the Royal Warmblood Studbook of the Netherlands. Most people know what KWPN means but not many know what it actually stands for so a great one for the equestrian quiz at your yard or local riding club, correct pronunciation would merit a bonus point or two as well!
KWPN represents the modern Dutch Warmblood which has found huge favour and ultimately success as a modern sports horse. KWPN as a register came into official being in 1969 but was actually preceded by several more fragmented organisations and studbooks. Recognition of the Dutch Warmblood actually dates back further to around 1887 when King Wilhelm recognised the first Dutch studbook organisation. Royal approval was awarded to the KWPN around a century later in 1987 by Queen Beatrix.
Like many other warmblood groups, the KWPN follows a process of inspection and testing of eligible stock but where it differs from other warmblood breeds, is that it does not permit branding of horses until they are three years old. In fact under Dutch law, branding is no longer permitted but nevertheless, horses are only considered for registration when they are considered to be sufficiently mature and can therefore be accurately assessed. But this is not the only reason that the KWPN is considered to have one of the most rigorous selection systems in the world. All horses accepted for registration must be of breeding quality and there are different levels of quality, hallmarks if you like to distinguish the stock but nothing falls below their baseline.
The stated aims of KWPN are to produce performance horses that can perform at Grand Prix level, that have a sound constitution with a character that is well disposed towards people and capable of supporting a sports career. A large premium is also placed on good and correct movement which is not only required by the competition rider but is also necessary of course to promote soundness and longevity. Last and by no means least, is the standard that the horses should be attractive to look at, offering quality and nobility. This attention to health, soundness, conformation and performance has resulted in an athletic horse with a good temperament and an impressive soundness record.
A further distinction between KWPN and other warmblood registries is that horses are also registered based on type. There are four groupings, dressage, jumping, fine harness and gelders, the latter meaning a more basic type of animal.
The Dutch Warmblood is the result of combining two Dutch breeds, the Gelderlander which was a carriage horse and the Groningen which was more of a draught animal. The mix was lightened over time by the use of other selected European warmbloods and with Thoroughbred blood which changed the high carriage gait of the Gelderlander and softened the flat topped back. The result has been a highly successful modern sports horse noted for its soundness, good conformation and temperament due in no small part to the very rigorous inspection and testing procedures of the KWPN.
KWPN regularly tops the studbook leagues in dressage and show jumping and famous Dutch warmbloods fill the competition results. There is Marius the legendary show jumper ridden by Caroline Bradley and the sire of John Whitaker’s famous grey, Milton. And Dutch Courage ridden to such success by Jennie Lorriston-Clarke and the founder of a great breeding dynasty. It was Jennie who really brought the breed to prominence in the UK during the seventies with her great Catherston Stud and forged the early path for Britain in the dressage arena. Nimmerdor, Vivaldi, Krack C, Lingh the list goes on. And of course Charlotte Dujardin the doyenne of the current British dressage scene with Valegro who is KWPN sired by Negro.
As a riding horse and sports horse at all levels, the Dutch Warmblood remains a popular and enduring choice. Plenty can be found for sale in the UK and there are studs which breed and register to KWPN standards. The Dutch Warmblood offers the conformation and paces to succeed at top level but the character and temperament to accept a role at the lower levels of competition quite happily.