The 7 greatest Dutch Warmblood horses of the decade

By Carla Passino on |


The spectator's guide to dressage

The equestrian teams for Rio have just been announced and, once again, Valegro will spearhead Britain’s campaign for Olympic gold. The gelding is a Dutch Warmblood — and so are three other horses that will represent Britain at the Olympics: Carl Hester’s Nip Tuck, Nick Skelton’s Big Star and Kitty King’s Ceylor L A N.

Dutch Warmbloods are not only the most represented breed on Team GB with four horses but also one of the most successful breeds in top equestrian competitions across the world. The KWPN studbook ranks first in the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses for dressage, second for showjumping and fifth for eventing. Here are seven of the horses that have made the studbook proud in the past decade.


Charlotte DUJARDIN riding Valegro GBR

Valegro (by Negro out of Maifleur) first made the headlines when he smashed Totilas’ grand prix special record at the CDI4*, in Hagen, Germany, where he and Charlotte Dujardin achieved 88.022% in April 2012. The partnership between Dujardin and the dark bay gelding started when the Enfield-born rider joined Carl Hester’s stables as a groom in 2007 and was asked to bring on the then five-year-old horse.

Together, the pair won individual and team gold at the London Olympics in 2012 and a host of World Cup, World Equestrian Games and European titles. They also set new records for the grand prix (first at the 2014 Reem Acra FEI World Cup Finals in Lyon, with 87.129%%, then at the Olympia CDI-W, also in 2014, with 87.460%) and the freestyle (first at the Olympia CDI-W in 2013, with 93.975%, then a year later in Olympia with 94.30%), alongside the grand prix special record of 2012. They now head to Rio to defend their title.
Image: Valegro and Charlotte Dujardin at FEI European Dressage Championships in Herning in 2013, by Kit Houghton, courtesy of the FEI

Big Star

Nick Skelton and Big Star

Big Star (by Quick Star out of Nimmerdor) had a shaky start when he was rejected by the KWPN licensing commission but he has more than made up for it with a spectacular career. Nick Skelton’s bay stallion made his top-level debut in 2010 at the CSI 5* GTC in Chantilly, France, and the pair went on to win or place towards the top of the leaderboard at several competitions in 2011. May 2012 saw them win the Grand Prix in Hamburg—and a spot at the London Olympics.

Big Star was part of the team that won the gold medal—and placed fifth in the individual competition. As a result, he and Skelton were named horse and rider combination of the year by the FEI, and the stallion won the accolade of KWPN Horse of the Year.

Fourth at the Olympia leg of the FEi World Cup in December of 2012, Big Star scored big again in 2013 when he and Skelton claimed the Rolex Grand Prix in Aachen. Unfortunately, Big Star was then plagued by a series of injuries which took him off competitions for several months in the past three years. Thankfully, he has now made a full comeback and looks set to take the Olympics in his stride.
Image: Nick Skelton and Big Star at the London leg of the Longines Global Champions Tour in 2013, Stefano Grasso/Longines Global Champions Tour, courtesy of the Longines Global Champions Tour



Carl Hester first spotted Uthopia (by Metall out of Odelia) in 2005, when he thought he’d be a perfect horse for Irish eventer Sasha Stewart. Eventually, though, the KWPN stallion made his way to Hester’s yard and the two began competing very successfully together in 2009. In 2011 they went on to win individual silver in the grand prix special and the freestyle at the European Championships in Rotterdam. This paved the way for the London Olympics, where the pair were part of the team they won the gold medal. Since 2015, Uthopia has also partnered Charlotte Dujardin, with whom the stallion achieved first place at the Olympia grand prix and second place in the freestyle.

Uthopia has been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately, when he was sold at auction as the result of the then owners’ bankruptcy. Luckily, Hester has managed to secure the KWPN stallion’s future in the past few weeks and Uthopia can look forward to remaining at his rider’s Gloucestershire yard.
Image: Carl Hester and Uthopia at Hickstead in 2011, by Judy Sharrock via Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0

Vindicat W

Jessica Springsteen on Vindicat W

Vindicat W (by Guidam out of Oklahoma II) will go down in history as the horse that nearly lost, then won an Olympic gold medal. When he first stepped out on the arena at Greenwich, the bay gelding was frightened by the noise and the crowds, and seriously underperformed, collecting many faults. He and rider Peter Charles were the team’s drop score in the initial rounds and didn’t qualify for the individual competition.

However, when the British team tied with The Netherlands and went into the final jump off for first place, Charles and Vindicat rose to the challenge. The last pair to go for Team GB, they had to incur no more than four faults to win gold — and they jumped clear, claiming Britain’s first showjumping gold medal since the 1952 Olympics.

Charles has since sold Vindicat W to US rider Jessica Springsteen. Tendon injuries in 2015 meant that Springsteen couldn’t compete Vindicat for most of last year, and the pair has unfortunately not been selected for Rio.
Image: Nick Skelton and Big Star at the London leg of the Longines Global Champions Tour in 2013, Stefano Grasso/Longines Global Champions Tour, courtesy of the Longines Global Champions Tour


Edward Gal and Totilas

Totilas (by KWPN-approved Trakehner stallion Gribaldi out of Lominka) first wowed the crowds in July 2009, when he and Dutch rider Edward Gal broke Anky Van Grunsven’s freestyle record at Hickstead where they scored 89.50%. It was a figure they would go on to smash again and again, first at the European Championships in Windsor in August 2009, then at Olympia in December, where they achieved 92.30%. They also set a new grand prix special record of 86.460% at Aachen in July 2010 (all of which were later broken by Valegro).

Sold in 2010 to Schockemöhle and Linsenhof to partner German rider Matthias Alexander Rath, Totilas unfortunately suffered from a series of injuries and was eventually retired from competition in August 2015.
Image: Edward Gal and Totilas at the Amsterdam leg of the FEI World Cup in 2010, courtesy of the FEI


eric lamaze and hickstead

Hickstead (by Hamlet out of Jomara) was the Olympic partner of Canadian rider Eric Lamaze between 2004 and 2011. Shorter than your average international competition horse, he was an unlikely hero — yet he went on to win the title of Best Show Jumping Horse in the World (at the World Equestrian Games in Lexington in 2010) and several millions in competition prizes.

Together, Hickstead and Lamaze claimed individual bronze and team silver at the Pan-American Games in Rio in 2007, individual gold at the World Equestrian Games in Lexington in 2010 and individual gold and team silver at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

On November 6, 2011 — just two months after winning his second $1 million Canadian International at the Spruce Meadows Masters Tournament in Calgary — Hickstead collapsed at the end of a round of the World Cup Grand Prix in Verona, Italy, and died of an aortic rupture. A life-size statue of the bay stallion now graces the grounds at Spruce Meadows.
Image: Eric Lamaze and Hickstead at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, by WiNG, CC BY-ND 2.0


Friends Arena Adeline Cornelissen NED and Jerich Parzival were on the 2nd place in the Reem Acra  World Cup Dressage Photo: Roland Thunholm Code: 718 35

Often second in the KPWN studbook rankings behind Totilas or, more recently, Valegro, Jerich Parzival (by Jazz out of Fidora) could be easily seen as the eternal runner up. But the chestnut gelding is a star performer that has never let down his rider, Dutch stalwart Adelinde Cornelissen.

Together, they won two gold and two silver medals at the FEI World Cups (in 2011 and 2012 and 2010 and 2013 respectively), several gold, silver and bronze medals at the Europeans in 2009, 2011 and 2013 and team bronze and individual silver (behind Valegro and Charlotte Dujardin) at the London Olympics in 2012.

In 2013, however, disaster struck: Parzival was diagnosed with cardiac arythmia and had to undergo surgery. Thankfully, he made a full recovery and the pair once again enjoyed success in international competitions, claiming bronze at the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Caen.

Recently, Parzival and Cornelissen were second in the grand prix special at the Rotterdam leg of the Nations Cup but with Parzival now 19 years old, Cornelissen has announced he will retire at some point this year.
Image: Adeline Cornelissen and Jericho Parzival at the Reem Acra World Cup Dressage in 2015, by Roland Thunholm, courtesy of the FEI


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