Breeds Endemic to the Netherlands
The Netherlands do not have a huge number of horse breeds endemic to their shores but the breeds they have are of very high quality and are fast making a name for themselves around the world.
Dutch breeds include the Gelderlander, the Groningen, Dutch Warmblood, Dutch Draft and the Friesian.
The Gelderlander and the Groningen have existed in the Netherlands and surrounding areas since prior to the Middle Ages.
The Groningen was really just a heavier version of the Gelderlander. The old pure type was used as a heavyweight riding horse, draught animal and as a steady, slow carriage horse. It was based on Oldenburg and East Friesian blood along with pure Friesian mares. There were also some evidence of Suffolk Punch and Norfolk Roadster influence. The Groningen had an elegant action with some elevation. It stood between 15.2hh and 16hh. The breed had good conformation and was economical to keep. It also had a docile, kindly temperament. Today the Groningen has been almost completely absorbed into the warmblood competition horse.
The Gelderlander is probably best known as a stylish carriage horse. Breeders were looking to produce a marketable carriage and riding animal. Oldenburg, East Friesian, Thoroughbred, Holstein, Hackney and Anglo-Norman stallions were all used to upgrade the local horses. The Gelderlander is still bred as a type but has been incorporated into the Dutch Warmblood stud book.
The Dutch Draft
The Dutch Draft is a massive animal reaching to 17hh in height and with legs like pillars. It is the heaviest draft horse for its height and was officially registered in the early 20th century with the formation of the Royal Association of the Netherlands Draft Horse and associated stud book. From 1925 on, only those horses from registered parents were admitted to the stud book. The Dutch Draft came about when farmers were looking for an animal stronger than the draft oxen which they were using. Zeeland-type mares were crossed with Brabants and Belgian Ardennais. It is a docile but willing horse and surprisingly active for its massive size. It is very fertile, tough, strong and intelligent.
The head is squarish with prominent massive jaws and a flat forehead. The ears are short and straight with kind but smallish eyes. It has an enviable reputation for heavy draft work, especially for pulling brewers' drays.
The Dutch Warmblood
The Dutch Warmblood is a mix of the Gelderlander and the Groningen. Although the original aim was to produce a world-class show-jumper, the Dutch Warmblood is also a superb dressage horse. Most have excellent dispositions. Although quiet and willing, they have spirit and energy which make them a joy to own and a pleasure to watch. Their paces are free and elastic producing a pleasing spectacle when in action.
The Friesian is revered in the Netherlands and rightly so. It is one of the old baroque breeds with an elevated action and wonderful trotting ability. It is highly prized as a harness horse. It has a proud but gentle bearing with a high head carriage. It is energetic with a charisma and presence that stops the public in its tracks when it appears. It is always black with a profuse, long and often wavy mane, tail and forelock. It is often featured in films in harness or as a war horse particularly in period dramas.
Friesian blood can be found in heavy breeds such as the Clydesdale and Shire. It has also had some influence in the Swedish Warmblood, Frederiksborg and Dole-Gudbrandsdal breeds.
Most of the breeds from the Netherlands have now dispersed over much of the world and are gaining an enviable reputation.
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