Last week's column on Holsteiner horses near Union Bridge caused lots of consternation.
My use of the term "European Warmblood" threw a spanner into the works. It seems the closest any of the reference books came to the term was "warm-blooded," lowercase, used as an adjective.
Editors and copy editors are not the only ones who have become confused when hearing this term. Even experienced horsemen are sometimes not quite sure what constitutes a breed of horse called a "Warmblood."
For the edification of one and all, here is an explanation of the term.
For the last decade or so, there has been a great deal of attention focused on European Warmbloods. These are such breeds of horses as the Trakhener, Hanoverian and Holsteiner from Germany; the Iberian Warmblood from Portugal and Spain; the Dutch Warmblood; and the Swedish Warmblood.
But what exactly is a Warmblood? The simple answer is that it is one of several breeds of horses with a mixture of blood from both hot-blooded and cold-blooded breeds and types of horses.
So then the question becomes -- what are hot-blooded and cold-blooded horses? What are the differences between them?
The original hot-blooded horses are the Middle Eastern horses: the Arabs, the Barbs and the Turkish horses.
These hot-blooded horses are small, light and fast and have short, fine hair and clean legs.
These lighter horses were introduced to Europe directly from Arabia and also via the Iberian peninsula of Spain and Portugal. Their characteristicsdistinguish them from the cold-blooded horses -- those who are descended from the heavy, draft-type horses of Europe.
Cold-blooded horses were the type used by medieval knights to carry the great weight of armor. Horses from Flanders were particularly suited as knights' horses, and their blood was found in the English "Great Horse." These horses are distinguished by their great size, massive bone structure and very broad feet. They also typically have long hair or "feathers"on their lower legs.
Our modern breeds of heavy coaching and draft horses, such as the Clydesdale, Percheron, Shire and Belgian draft horse, carry the blood of these great horses. Breeds such as these form the group of modern cold-blooded horses.
There are other differences besides those of conformation and structure between hot-bloodedand cold-blooded breeds. The hot-blooded breeds are, in general, energetic, lively and quick. The cold-blooded breeds are, in general, slower, more deliberate and more phlegmatic.
The hot-blooded breeds are acutely aware of their environment and constantly show an interest in what is going on around them. The cold-blooded breeds are more accepting of their environments.
The various breeds of Warmbloods have been developed by a very deliberate crossing of these two types of horses. The breeders of Warmbloods hope to have the best of both worlds in their horses.
They try to keep the good bone, calmness andaccepting temperament of the cold-blooded horse and to add the refinement, alertness and speed of the hot-blooded horse.
This is how the Thoroughbred breed was developed a few centuries ago in England --by crossing the hot-blooded Middle Eastern stallions with the cold-blooded, heavy English "Great Horse" types. All horses of the Thoroughbred breed are descended from three sires of Middle Eastern blood -- the Godolphin Barb, the Byerly Turk and the Darley Arabian.
So a case can be made that the Thoroughbred breed was the first of the European Warmblood breeds. Note that Thoroughbred is a specific breed of horse; the term does not denote any special level of quality or purity of breeding.
A horse that is of a particular breed, and is registered with that breed, is a purebred, regardless of his breed.
Modern breeders of European Warmbloods infuse Thoroughbred blood with their breeds of horses to develop horses of lighter bone and more refinement. The emphasis with the modern Warmblood is on producing a sporthorse rather than a carriage or working horse, which was the original use for most European breeds.
The Arabian horse was introduced into Spain in the eighth century by the Muslim conquest. The Spaniardsbrought their horses to America, and these horses found their way into favor with North American Indian tribes. The horses owned by the Cherokees and Chickasaws were, then, just as "thoroughly bred" -- and just as hot-blooded -- as were the English horses imported into the Colonies.
American quarter horses, Appaloosas and Paint horses are all descendants of hot-blooded breeds. The American quarter horse is considered by many to be the original American Warmblood.