Tag Archive: horse breeds

  1. The world’s 11 rarest horse breeds

    4 Comments facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    There are hundreds of horse breeds in the world, but many of them are in danger of dying out completely — including some of Britain’s best-loved horses and ponies. Here are eleven of the world’s rarest.


    A plain little creature, the Konik is the closest link extant with the Tarpan, a primitive forest dweller that died out in the late 19th century and was officially extinct by 1910. Herds of Koniks were brought to Kent in 2002 in a venture by the Wildwood Trust. They benefit ecosystems and are helping to restore national nature reserves.

    Akhal Teke

    Cleveland Bays in harness,Sheri via FlickrCC BY-SA 2.0

    akhalteke stallion

    Some believe the striking Akhal Teke to be even older than the Arabian, although almost certainly related. It is certainly an ancient breed and now very rare. HM The Queen was gifted one in 1956 and the royal grooms, thinking the animal had been polished with some substance to produce its iridescent gleam, bathed it — making it shine all the more.

    Przewalski’s Horse

    The last truly wild horse left in the world, the Przewalski — also known as the Asiatic Wild Horse — is on the brink of extinction, despite several breeding programmes to save it. There are thought to be no more than 1,500 left. On a brighter note, though, a Przewalski filly was born at Port Lympne Reserve in Kent in December 2015.

    Black Forest Chestnut

    Black Forest Chestnut, Monika Kind via PottokCC BY-SA 3.0

    Schwarzwaelder kaltblut

    With its striking liver-chestnut coat and flaxen mane and tail, this breed — also called the Schwarzwälder Kaltblut — was used for forestry work in the Baden-Württemberg region of south-west Germany. Today there are thought to be fewer than 50 stallions left.


    The Hackney horse and pony, renowned for their flashy, high-stepping action, are listed as critical by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST). This means that there are fewer than 300 adult breeding females registered. The Hackney — the name comes from the French haquene — was developed as a general purpose ridden and driven horse, with soundness and stamina. In the 1700s, Arabian blood was added to refine the breed, and it became popular as a flashy, good-looking carriage horse. The Hackney pony was developed in the latter half of the 19th century.


    Sorraia herd, Lynne GerardCC BY-SA 3.0

    Sorraia herd

    The Iberian expert Dr Ruy d’Andrade discovered these wild horses in Portugal in 1920 — the name comes from the river basis of the Rio Sorraia, where the horses were found. They are small horses, rather than ponies, and their mouse-dun colour suggests a primitive breed. DNA testing indicates a close relationship to the Tarpan. It is thought that only about 200 remain.

    Cleveland Bay

    Cleveland Bays in harness,Sheri via FlickrCC BY-SA 2.0

    cleveland bays at Buckingham Palace

    The Cleveland Bay is Britain’s oldest native horse breed, its history extending beyond when records were first kept. It was developed in Yorkshire in the Middle Ages, a clean-limbed, general-purpose horse that was always bay in colour. It was used by the travelling salesmen of the time, known as chapmen, so was originally called the chapman horse. It too is on the RBST critical list.


    Suffolk Punch,Martin PettittCC BY 2.0

    East Anglia’s handsome breed is another listed as “critical”. The Suffolk — also known as the Suffolk Punch because of its four-square stance — is always chesnut (correctly spelled without the middle T) and is one of the best-looking “heavies”. All Suffolks today trace their male lines back to one stallion, called Crisp’s Horse of Ufford, who was foaled in 1768.


    Caspian stallion, Chrisfluskey28CC BY-SA 3.0

    caspian horse

    Like the Sorraia, the Caspian is considered a horse rather than a pony, despite the fact that it stands barely higher then 12.2 hands. We know that tiny horses existed as early as 3000 BC because they have been depicted in various writings and artefacts. They were thought to be extinct until they were rediscovered by Louise Firouz on the edges of the Caspian Sea in Iran in 1965.

    American Cream Draft

    Caspian stallion, Jean via FlickrCC BY 2.0

    American cream draft horse

    The only breed of draft horse that can claim to be native to the United States, the roots of this rare breed go back to the early 1900s and a cream mare called Old Granny. She had a cream-coloured coat, pink skin and amber eyes. Those traits were passed on to her offspring, which were sought after for their beauty.


    Yorkshire’s native pony breed, like the Cleveland Bay and Hackney, is on the RBST’s critical list. The north’s “black pearl” is enjoying something of a renaissance in the show ring, as more and more people fall in love with its dark beauty and sweet nature. Its close cousin, the Fell, is listed as “vulnerable”.

    Top image: Konik horse by Hans Pama via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

  2. Great horse breeds: The Holstein

    Leave a Comment facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    The Holstein has a huge reputation as a jumping horse and, this year, the Holsteiner studbook (Verband der Züchter des Holsteiner Pferdes — the association of breeders of Holstein horses) is (once again) the number one in the WBFSH rankings for jumping.

    Because of their power, Holstein horses are normally the choice of professional showjumpers. The prolific competition and breeding stallion Casall Ask (Caretino-Lavall I), the number one in the world, Nick Skelton’s former ride Carlo (Contender-Cascavalle) and Robert Whitaker’s current grand prix winner Catwalk VI (Colman-Corleone) are Holsteiners.

    More recently, eventing horses have also started coming out of Holstein: Leonidas (Landos-Parco xx), sixth at Burghley last year with Sir Mark Todd, is a Holsteiner and the studbook holds fourth place in the studbook rankings.

    By contrast, Holsteiners are not common in dressage. However, there are several well-known dressage horses that have been bred in Holstein. All time legends Granat and Corlandus were both Holsteins as was Carl Hester’s former ride Leibling, with whom he won team silver in 2009, although he too was originally bred for jumping.

    A powerful horse breed

    One of the reasons for the success of the Holstein is because it has been selectively bred to produce a strong, powerful, athletic horse with a relatively high knee action. These traits are the remnants of the Holstein’s ancestry as a prized cavalry horse and later a strong coach and artillery horse whose high, ground-covering action gave them the ability to pull whatever the terrain.

    The Holstein region is situated in Germany’s northern-most state and the history of the horse goes back to the 14th century when monks at the monastery of Uetersen were given the rights to graze horses. From the small native horses, the monks bred up to produce larger horses more suited for agriculture and, later, the cavalry. The Holstein became a prized possession even by royalty — King Philip II of Spain (1527-1598) bought Holsteiners for his stud at Cordoba. In 1735, the newly founded Celle State Stud in Hanover procured 13 Holstein stallions, which contributed to the foundation lines of the Hanoverian.

    One of Germany’s great horse breeds, the Holstein was much in demand to pull artillery wagons during the two World Wars. Holstein breeders had to give their best stallions to the State Stud (founded in 1867), to assist farmers in breeding the horses required for the war. By the end of the WWII, however mechanisation began to take over and many Holstein mares were sent to slaughter, no longer needed, while many farmers gave up breeding. By 1961, only about 1300 mares remained and the Government dissolved the State Stud. The board of Directors of the Verband bought the remaining 33 state-owned stallions, becoming the most important stallion owner in Schleswig-Holstein. Stallions are still owned by the Verband and they now reside at the central stud in Elmshorn, which was founded in 1894.

    The Thoroughbred influx

    As elsewhere in Europe, Holstein breeders began to use thoroughbred blood to lighten the breed in order to produce riding horses. The English-bred Cottage Son (1944) and Ladykiller (1961), and the Irish-bred Marlon (1958) all played an important role in remodelling the Holstein. Ladykiller, so revered by the Verband that his statue now stands at the stable entrance in Elmshorn, sired 35 approved stallions, among them ‘stallion of the century’ Landgraf I, while daughters of Cottage Son produced the influential sires Lord and Ramiro.

    Another crucial import was Cor de la Bryere (1968), by the French-bred Thoroughbred Rantzau. Bought from France as a three-year-old, he died in 1999 at the age of 31 leaving more than 60 approved sons and many premium mares. Subsequently, many Holstein stallions have names beginning in the letters ‘C’ or ‘L’ due to the dominance of male lines perpetuated by Ladykiller and Cor de la Bryere and many of the C-line horses are grey.

    The Holstein today

    The Holstein Verband operates a ‘closed’ stud book, meaning it rarely takes in stallions from other studbooks and only grades stallions based on proven ability. Stallions owned by the Verband still cover many of the 6,000 Holstein broodmares, which currently breed a modest 4,000 foals a year.

    In the UK, the Yorkshire-based Millfield Stud breeds Holstein horses with several of its mares from Holstein C lines. The Billy Stud’s popular jumping and event sire Cevin Z, (Coriall-Carthago) is also of well-known Holstein bloodlines — and he is grey.

    Image: Casall Ask, ridden by Rolf-Goran Bengtsson, is a Holsteiner, by Ailura via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-Sa 3.0

  3. Great horse breeds: The Hanoverian

    Leave a Comment facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    The Hanoverian is perhaps the best known of all the warmblood horse types and breeds and its studbook (The Hannoveraner Verband) is the oldest and largest of the European warmbloods. It is currently the world-number-two horse in dressage and eventing.

    In dressage especially, Hanoverians have long dominated the international stage; Gigolo the former Olympic, double World and four-time European Champion with Isabell Werth was Hanoverian, as is the German dressage team stallion Desperados (pictured above with rider Kristina Broring-Sprehe), who was a close second at this year’s FEI European Championships behind Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro.

    Closer to home, the British-bred phenomenon Farouche, bred by Lynne Crowden of the Woodlander Stud and ridden by Michael Eilberg to consecutive World Young Horse Championships and the current intermediaire I national champion is Hanoverian, as is the successful, British-bred former team horse Half Moon Delphi and her sire, the British-owned stallion Dimaggio, winner of the World Young Horse Championships in 2000.

    These British horses are registered with the British Hanoverian Horse Society (BHHS), a daughter society of the German studbook, which means it follows the same rules and regulations, especially regarding the grading of stallions and mares and registration of foals.

    The history of the Hanoverian horse breed

    The Hanoverian was simply the name given to horses bred and registered in the German district of Hannover, originally at the state stud at Celle. This famous stud was founded in 1735 by George II to provide stallions for local breeders, so they could breed strong, fit-for purpose agricultural horses. The stud still stands around 150 stallions and every year, during September, attracts hundreds of visitors to its renowned displays, which are well worth seeing.

    In 1922, 54 local breeding clubs joined together to create the studbook that is known today.
    This is now the largest breeding area in Europe, with around 18,000 broodmares and over 400 hundred stallions, and each year will register around 12,000 foals. The best horses are sold at the Hanoverian Elite auctions in Verden, the home of the studbook. Recently, they held their annual stallion licensing at which 106 pre-selected two-year-old colts – from around 700 candidates – were presented, with 60 of them being licensed. The sale afterwards saw one of them – an un-named colt by Rocky Lee – sell to Denmark for 1.2 million euro, setting a new sale price record in Verden.

    Hanoverian breeding today

    Hanoverian breeding is strictly controlled and all mares and stallions must be approved for it. Stallions have to pass a strict assessment and before being granted full approval must also pass a performance test at a specific test centre where they are continually assessed for a month. Not all stallions pass the performance test. The verband also updates the type of horse they are breeding by selecting the model and pedigree of the stallions it approves. For example a stallion may fail simply because they already have many stallions of the same bloodlines or they consider the pedigree old-fashioned.

    In recent years the Hanoverian, which, because of its agricultural origin, was quite a heavy horse, has become more elegant and lighter in the frame and type – thus becoming more suitable for eventing. This was achieved by using thoroughbreds in the breeding programmes, many of which were sourced in the UK. These thoroughbreds also had to pass the grading and performance testing.

    One particular influential British thoroughbred was Lauries Crusader who, despite a moderate career on the British racetrack, became a successful sire in Hannover – one of his important attributes was a trainable temperament. He stood at Celle for 23 years, during which time he sired over 2,700 foals, 264 state premium mares and left 55 graded sons. In 2006 he was proclaimed ‘stallion of the year’ — the first non-Hanoverian to be awarded the title.

    What you need to know about buying a Hanoverian

    However, prospective buyers do not have to go to Germany to buy a Hanoverian as there are many breeders of Hanoverians in the UK. Studs such as Westoak (Derbyshire), Witcham House (Cambridgeshire), Woodlander (Leicestershire), Hawtins and Court Farm (both in Gloucestershire) breed Hanoverians and there is a list of breeders on the website of the British Hanoverian Horse Society.

    Hanoverians are suitable for all disciplines – although, these days, they are often specifically discipline-bred using proven bloodlines, which also will determine the suitability of the horse for different levels of rider. Not all Hanoverians are suitable for novices as they have been bred to be sharper and more responsive for the experienced rider. It is therefore important to know what you are looking for and seek help and guidance from a breeder when looking to buy a Hanoverian horse.

    For more information, visit:
    Celle State Stud

    The Hanoverian Verband

    The British Hanoverian Horse Society

    Image: Kristina Bröring-Sprehe and the Hanoverian horse Desperados FRH at the FEI European Championships in Aachen 2015, by Hippo Foto – Dirk Caremans, courtesy of the FEI

  4. The best horse breeds for young and beginner riders

    Leave a Comment facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    It never fails to amaze me how many people plump (pun definitely intended) for a Shetland as their child’s first pony. You see these poor little tots perched on the saddle like a pea on a drum with their little legs sticking out at right angles because the pony has a back like a table top. Plus, consider the fact that Shetlands, while they can be delightful, can also be stubborn and argumentative. Hardly the right ingredients for a confidence-giving first pony.

    Best horse breeds for kids

    I learned to ride on a New Forest and if I were to recommend any breed for the ideal child’s pony, it would be the Forester.

    The New Forest pony

    Almost invariably sweet-tempered, willing and patient, the New Forest also tends to be quite narrow so perfect for short-legged people. Indeed, there’s no reason why a light adult shouldn’t ride a Forester.

    Best horse breeds for beginners of all ages

    Practically all Britain’s mountain and moorland breeds have something different to offer to the beginner or nervous rider. Having been made redundant in 2014, I had a lovely long break from working, and very nearly bought myself a Fell pony. Thank goodness I came to my senses, because I now find myself working full-time again so it would hardly have been practicable, but my instincts were correct.

    Fell and Dales ponies

    The Fell, and its close cousin, the Dales, can easily carry an adult and has a rock-steady temperament, which makes it suitable for a nervous rider or someone who, like me, hasn’t ridden for some years. The Dales is perhaps more suited to a competent adult. Not sure I would place myself in that category…
    The other large M&M breed, the Highland, is also suitable for beginners, being generally even-tempered and sweet-natured. While they are certainly kind enough for a child, like the Shetland they can be somewhat broad across the beam.

    The Dartmoor

    It is no surprise that the Dartmoor has one of the most successful records in mixed breed sections across the showing calendar. Willing and genuine, their small size makes them ideal for children and they can turn their hoof to almost any discipline for a ambitious child. Much the same applies to its West Country neighbour, the Exmoor, although they can have a stubborn streak.

    Welsh ponies

    The Welsh breeds are probably suited to more competent jockeys, although I used to ride a section A who was the kindest, sweetest pony alive. A respected M&M producer once described the section B as being like a “rubber ball”, because of its versatility. It can do practically anything you want to it do — and its charming nature means it will do it with enthusiasm. You will get enthusiasm in bucket loads from the larger Welsh breeds, the section C and section D, but they can be sharp. Likewise, the Connemara makes a superb hunting or competition pony, but its many talents are possibly wasted on a true beginner. But as a second pony for an improving rider? Perfect.

    Image: New Forest pony by Jans Canon via Flickr, CC BY 2.0