What to Know About the Dutch Warmblood Horse

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on January 09, 2023
5 min read

The athletic Dutch Warmblood horse is a common sight at international show jumping competitions and the Olympic Games. This flashy breed originated on European farms, but today it’s become one of the best sport horses in the world. The Dutch Warmblood also excels as a harness and light draft horse. Learn everything you need to know about Dutch Warmblood horse facts, traits, and more.  

The Dutch Warmblood Horse is also known as the Koninklijk Warmblood Paardenstamboek Nederland horse (KWPN) or the Royal Dutch Sport Horse. This breed has many unique characteristics. 

Dutch Warmblood horse conformation. According to the Royal Dutch Sport Horse in North America (KWPN-NA) registry, this warmblood should have an attractive and elegant appearance. 

The breed has a well-proportioned, rectangular body. The horse’s long, arching neck and powerful topline contribute to its athleticism. The front end is taller than the rear, and the horse has clean legs with dense bones. The Dutch Warmblood has a deep chest, well-sloped shoulders, and very muscular hindquarters. 

Dutch Warmblood horse colors. This breed comes in a variety of colors, including bay, black, chestnut, and gray. The horse can have white markings on its face and legs. 

Dutch Warmblood horse height. This tall horse stands 16.2 hands tall on average, but it can reach up to 17 hands. 

Dutch Warmblood horse weight. This breed has an average weight of 1,210 to 1,320 pounds.

Generally, the Dutch Warmblood is a smart, trustworthy horse with a strong work ethic. Its eagerness and resilience help it to reach the highest levels of competition. 

The breed is easy to handle and responds quickly to the rider’s signals. It also has a calm temperament. These traits can make the breed suitable for both novice riders and top competitors.

As the name suggests, the Dutch Warmblood was developed in the Netherlands. A warmblood is a sport horse created by combining heavy, cold-blood draft horses with lighter hotbloods like Arabians and Thoroughbreds. 

Equestrians consider warmbloods as types of horses, not true breeds. The Dutch Warmblood has an open studbook, so other breeds are frequently added to the gene pool. This crossbreeding gives the Dutch Warmblood hybrid vigor and allows breeders to develop better competition horses. 

The Dutch Warmblood descends from two Dutch breeds: the Gelderlander and the Groningen. The Gelderlander is a light, attractive horse from central Holland. The larger Groningen comes from northern Holland and was bred to work in heavy clay soil. 

Originally, Dutch farmers created the powerful Dutch Warmblood to pull heavy loads. In the 19th century, they crossed native Gelderlander and Groningen mares with the Cleveland Bay, the Hackney, the Norfolk Trotter, and the Yorkshire Coach. The result was a versatile farm horse that could pull carriages, plow, and carry riders. 

The mechanization of agriculture after World War II led to a decline in farm horses. Breeders gave the Dutch Warmblood a new purpose by developing it into a riding horse. They bred the farm horses with Thoroughbred stallions and riding horses from France, Hanover, Holstein, and other European regions. These crosses refined the Dutch Warmblood and transformed it into an athletic sport horse. 

In 1983, Dutch Warmblood enthusiasts founded the North American Department of the Royal Warmblood Studbook of the Netherlands, which was later renamed as the KWPN-NA.

Breeders of the Dutch Warmblood have developed several specialized bloodlines. Today, the breed is divided into three breeding populations:

  • Gelder horses. These horses were originally used as farm horses. They’re lighter in build than some other farm horses because Gelderland has sandy, easily workable soil. Gelders are enthusiastic and trustworthy horses that can be ridden or used as harness horses. They have widespread popularity because of their versatility. 
  • Harness horses. Gelder horses were bred with American Saddlebred and Hackney horses to create harness horses. This variety typically performs in driving competitions, showing off its unique, eye-catching gaits while harnessed to a light show carriage. The harness horse has suspension while trotting and moves with high, flashy steps. 
  • Riding horses. Breeders crossed Gelder horses with German and French stallions and Thoroughbred horses to produce more athletic sport horses. This strain is known for its intelligence, physical prowess in the show jumping ring, and willingness to work. 

Today, 85% to 90% of all Dutch Warmblood horses belong to the Riding group. This category is divided into three subtypes based on the horses’ intended use: dressage, hunter, and jumper.

The Dutch Warmblood horse is one of the most expensive breeds. The cost of one of these horses can range from $10,000 to $75,000. 

Breeders produce around 10,000 Dutch Warmblood foals yearly. These offspring are highly sought after because of the breed’s ability to perform at the top levels of international competitions. Other factors influencing the price include the horse’s bloodlines, conformation, show performance, and training.

The Dutch Warmblood is a generally healthy breed with an average lifespan of 25 to 30 years.

The KWPN-NA requires breeding stallions to have a blood test for Equine Viral Arteritis (EVA) and records horses who shed the virus. This contagious disease can cause severe side effects like abortion in pregnant mares and the deaths of young foals. Breeders can vaccinate mares for EVA before breeding them to carrier stallions. 

Warmblood types can also inherit fragile foal syndrome type 1. Foals born with this autosomal recessive disease are born with abnormally thin, hyperextensible skin. They may have floppy ears, hyperextensible limb joints, skin lesions, and other symptoms. There’s no treatment for this syndrome, and affected foals are euthanized after birth.

A Dutch Warmblood requires a healthy diet that includes at least 1% of their body weight in roughage. Active horses may also require concentrates like corns and barley, which provide more calories than roughage. 

You can house your Dutch Warmblood indoors or outdoors depending on your location and routine. A warmblood horse housed indoors should have a box stall measuring 12 feet x 14 feet or 14 feet x 14 feet. Outdoor horses should have appropriate shelter, like a three-sided building. 

The Dutch Warmblood is a powerful athlete that thrives in the show ring. This breed could be a great fit if you’re looking for a talented dressage, harness, or show jumping horse. While the high price tag may deter some horse lovers, the investment may be worth it if you aim to compete at a high level.