Belgian Warmblood

Infobox Horse
name=Belgian Warmblood

image_caption=A Belgian Warmblood at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics
features = Modern riding horse type especially suitable for show jumping.
altname= in error, "Belgium" Warmblood
country= Belgium
group1= Belgisch Warmbloed Paard vzw (BWP)
group2= BWP-North American District
note= |

A Belgian Warmblood is a warmblood type of horse registered with the Belgisch Warmbloed Paard vzw (Belgian Warmblood Studbook (BWP)). The traits given the greatest importance in the breeding aim of the Belgian Warmblood are performance in show jumping and dressage, as well as subjective conformational correctness and robust health.cite web |url = |title = Interstallion Questionnaire: Belgisch Warmbloedpaard |accessdate = 2007-10-31 |format = PDF |work = Interstallion |publisher = WBFSH ]


Horse breeders in the Netherlands, Germany, and France had been producing elegant saddle horses for hundreds of years. However, because the Belgian government was concerned about protecting the bloodlines of the Brabant (Belgian draft horse), it wasn't until the 1950s that breeders in Belgium were allowed to breed lighter saddle horses.cite web |url = |title = Belgian Warmbloods |accessdate = 2007-11-01 |author = Chris Hector |publisher = The Horse Magazine |quote="'As late as the 50’s in Belgium we had the heavy horses – the Brabants – and to protect the breeding of the heavy horses, it was not allowed to breed anything else.'"]

The foundation stock of the Belgian Warmblood included jumping horses from France and the Netherlands, as well as Hanoverians and Holsteiners from Germany. Through studbook selection, Belgian breeders were able to direct breeding towards their own goals.

The first stallion show for riding horses in Belgium took place, illegally, in 1953; the BWP was founded in 1955. Without native riding horses or all-purpose heavy warmbloods, Belgian breeders had to import stallions and mares. Over the course of 50 years, the BWP accrued a mare base of over 3,500 broodmares and produced a significant number of international-quality show jumpers. In 2006, the BWP was ranked 5th in the FEI/WBFSH International Show Jumping standings, below only the KWPN-Dutch Warmblood, Selle Francais, Westphalian and Holsteiner studbooks, each with a mare base exceeding the BWP's by two to four times.cite web |url = |title = FEI/WBFSH World Ranking List - Jumping Horses by Studbook 2006 |accessdate =2007-11-01 |format = PDF |publisher = WBFSH ]

Breed characteristics

As a warmblood horse, the Belgian Warmblood is characterized not by uniformity of coat color, appearance or pedigree, but by uniformity of purpose. Like other warmbloods, Belgian Warmblood breeding horses are subjected to rigorous studbook selection.

Between the ages of three and four years old, Belgian Warmblood stallions are presented to a jury in a "Hengstenkeuring" or stallion licensing test. The licensing test consists of a veterinary inspection, subjective evaluation of the stallion's conformation and jumping ability without a rider, and evaluation of the stallion's qualities under saddle. Stallions that do not achieve the desired marks in the licensing test are not eligible for the studbook. To retain status in the studbook, stallions must participate in competitions for young show jumping horses called the "Classic Cycle." Mares take part in similar conformational evaluations, however judgement of a mare's qualities as a riding horse are elective.

The published breeding aim for the Belgian Warmblood reads as follows:

"A noble modern and correctly-built warmblood horse with a rectangular frame, big outlines and good basic paces. The horse should be pleasant to ride and have an unobjectionable character, so that it can be used by any rider, both as pleasure horse and as a performance horse on national and international level. There has to be a balance between conformation, performance and health."

Belgian Warmbloods range in size and substance, but the ideal size for a stallion is between 16 and 17 hands high at the withers. Mares are not eligible for breeding rights unless they exceed 15.1 hands high.cite web |url = |title = Belgian Warmblood Book 2007 |accessdate = 2007-11-01 |author = BWP-NAD] In type, the Belgian Warmblood is similar to the Holsteiner, Selle Francais, Dutch Warmblood, and Hanoverian, and less like the Trakehner.

The BWP does not hold any regulations barring horses of certain coat colors; however, the most common coat colors are chestnut ("vos"), bay ("bruin"), brown ("zwartbruin" or dark bay), black ("zwart"), and grey ("schimmel"). The modifier "donker" means a dark shade, "licht" means light. Modifiers on "schimmel" often indicate the horse's color at birth, for example "bruinschimmel" means a grey born bay. There are also tobiano patterned pinto ("bont") Belgian Warmbloods, though they are uncommon.

Belgian Warmbloods present a unique case in that there is no indigenous warmblood mare base. Of the 181 approved stallions listed, half were themselves Belgian Warmbloods. The remaining half were primarily Holsteiners, Selle Francais, Dutch Warmblood, or Hanoverian; there were a handful of Oldenburg, Zangersheide, Thoroughbred, Westphalian, Belgian Sport Horse and Rhinelander stallions as well.

Of the Belgian stallions, about a quarter had a Belgian sire. Another quarter had a Selle Francais sire, while a further 42% had Dutch, Holsteiner, or Hanoverian sires. The remaining sires were Westphalian, Rhinelander, Swedish, Belgian Sport Horse, Oldenburg, or Thoroughbred.


The slogan of the BWP is "Bred to perform," which accurately describes the aim of the registry. Belgian Warmbloods are best known for their jumping abilities. Olympic show jumpers with the BWP brand include "Big Ben" (1984), "Darco" (1992), "Egano" (1992), "Jus De Pomme" (1992), "Joli Couer" (1996).

Over the past 20 years, research has supported observations regarding the high heritability of jumping ability compared with that of dressage-quality gaits.cite web |url = |title = Specialists or All-rounders? Degrees of heritability and genetic correlations in the Hanoverian breed. |accessdate = 2007-11-01 |last = Christmann |first = Dr. Ludwig |year = 2003 ] Therefore, horse breeders may reliably produce exceptional jumpers in few generations, which is exactly what occurred in Belgium. The aim of the BWP has been, from day one, "'always jumping horses'".quote]

The influence of French horses has also given the Belgian Warmblood the ability to be competitive in eventing. "Britt" was a Belgian Warmblood Olympian in eventing in 1992. In 2006 the studbook as a whole was ranked 15th in eventing by FEI results.

Belgian Warmbloods also appear increasingly in dressage. The FEI and World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses ranked them 11th in 2006. There are strong numbers of Belgian Warmblood show hunters in North America, though their suitability for it depends very much on the individual horse.

Medical issues

The BWP is known for its progressive attitude towards eradicating osteochondritis (OCD) from their population. Stallions undergo radiographing of the feet, fetlocks, knees, hocks, and stifles as a part of the approval process, and are not permitted to breed if they may become unsound. Furthermore, any stallion that later showed signs - through his offspring or otherwise - of carrying a genetic disorder would lose his breeding approval.

As a result, Belgian Warmbloods are not subject to the disorders that affect closed-studbook registries, and progress is being made to make Belgians Warmbloods - as other warmbloods - more sound than ever.

ee also

*Show jumping


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