What to Know About the Hanoverian Horse

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on January 12, 2023
5 min read

The Hanoverian is a warmblood horse bred to excel in many equestrian disciplines, including show jumping, dressage, and driving. The breed has earned more than 25 Olympic gold medals in tournaments. The Hanoverian came from Lower Saxony, a state in northern Germany, and is named after the capital, Hanover. The origins of this breed have been well-documented for over 300 years. The Hanoverian horse has a natural balance characterized by an elegant trot and a ground-covering gait. They are a spirited breed that is very easy to work with, which makes them excellent candidates for equestrian sports. 

After reading this article, you will know more about the Hanoverian horse, including its characteristics, temperament, and uses. Read on to learn more interesting Hanoverian horse facts.

The first breeding of Hanoverians began in Celle, Lower Saxony, in 1735. George II, who was the King of England and the Elector of Hanover, initiated this breeding program. As such, the Hanoverian has one of the longest traceable genetic lineages of all horses in the world. 

The Hanoverian breeding program crossed Thoroughbreds with domestic mares so that their offspring would be better suited for cavalry and farming. Through the years, the purpose of Hanoverian breeding has changed to one calling for a more athletic riding horse. Thus, other breeds were introduced to make what became the modern-day Hanoverian horse. In 1888, the official Hanoverian Studbook was introduced. 

The Hanoverian breed has gone through many refinements to its genetic pool, transforming it from a farming horse to a sport horse. The modern-day Hanoverian is much lighter and more athletic than its predecessors. Today, the Hanoverian is best suited for equestrian sports such as dressage, show jumping, and eventing. The breed is also a favorite for leisure riding.

The Hanoverian horse size can range from 15.7 to 18.2 hands (about 63 to 73 inches). A hand is a unit of length primarily used to measure the height of horses. The proper way to measure a horse's height is to start from the ground and end at the top of the shoulders. The Hanoverian horse lifespan usually ranges from 25 to 30 years. The coat of the Hanoverian is typically bay, black, brown, chestnut, or gray.

Over the years, the Hanoverian horse has been bred to withstand tough and demanding conditions. Originally, Hanoverian horse uses predominantly included pulling carriages and military tasks. As such, they have a sturdy bone structure and incredible stamina. The breed is naturally athletic and energetic with a light and elastic gait. Their movements are characterized by a floating trot, a rhythmic canter, and a ground-covering walk. 

The desired Hanoverian horse characteristics include a noble head with expressive eyes. The neck is long and noble, connecting to sloping shoulders and a strong, well-padded back. Their legs are straight with a long forearm and short cannon bone to allow for a ground-covering walk.

The Hanoverian horse temperament is typically calm, attentive, and eager to learn. They are easy to work with in training and can stay level-headed in difficult situations. Their friendly nature and good temper make them a great choice for new and young riders.

Additionally, the Hanoverian can be very spirited while still staying balanced and in control. The Hanoverian listens well to its rider and has the courage to take on challenges. These qualities, added to their natural agility and elegance, make them an excellent breed for equestrian sports.

The Hanoverian breed can be traced back to three founding stallions. The first was the Byerley Turk, a dark bay stallion captured by Captain Robert Byerley in 1686 at the Battle of Buda. The horse became Captain Byerley’s war horse and stood by his side three years later in the Battle of the Boyne. 

The second stallion was Darley Arabian. Thomas Darley bought the horse in 1704 in Aleppo, Syria, and transported it back to England. By 1722, Darley Arabian became the leading sire in Great Britain and Ireland. This one stallion may be the parent for an estimated 95% of all modern Thoroughbreds.

The last of the founding stallions was Godolphin Barb, named after his last owner. The stallion was born in 1724 and became a gift to Louis XV of France. No one realized its potential as a breeding stallion then, and the French court eventually sold it to Edward Coke. When Coke died, the 2nd Earl of Godolphin bought the horse and kept it at a stud farm in Cambridgeshire.

The original Hanoverians were used for farm work and military tasks due to their willingness to learn and trainable temperaments. They had a heavy frame, which made them suited for pulling a plow or cart. However, modern warfare and the increasing need for carriage transportation drove the need to breed horses that could be suitable for a variety of uses, including harness and cavalry mounts. 

In 1735, George II founded the State Stud at Celle, Lower Saxony, to breed Hanoverian horses to be better harness and cavalry mounts. The area has been a horse-breeding center for nearly 400 years. A German law was passed in 1844 making requirements more stringent to qualify a stallion for breeding purposes. An inspection commission was tasked to examine all the horses. 

In 1867, the first official Hanoverian breed society was established. Its purpose was to produce both coach and military horses. The Hanoverian became the most popular breed for this work until after World War I, when the use of horses shifted to more agriculture and riding. When new machines took over farming work once done by Hanoverian horses, they became sport horses. Today, the Hanoverian has become a widely popular horse and one of the most notable breeds of riding horses in the world.

Habitat. When setting up your Hanoverian horse’s stable, make sure to keep it on high ground and with good natural lighting and ventilation. Use disinfectants to regularly clean the horse table and the surrounding areas. Additionally, provide adequate protection for your horse from flies and insects.

Grooming. The Hanoverian requires daily grooming and care and weekly baths for its coats to remain clean and glossy. Make sure to clip its mane and tail periodically as well. 

Diet and nutrition. Provide your Hanoverian with a standard diet of corn, barley, gram, what bran, and other grains. Additionally, include an adequate amount of fodder like green grass and hay. You may choose to give your horse supplements after consulting with your vet. 

Common health and behavior problems. The Hanoverian is less likely than many other breeds to develop diseases common among horses. Generally, their bones are healthy, but their joints can be affected by Ostreocondrosis dissecans (OCD). This causes a small segment of bone to begin separating from its surrounding region, causing the bone and cartilage in the area to crack and loosen. The Hanoverian can also be affected by Wobbler disease and navicular syndrome.