The KWPN is a modern association with a rich history. It was founded at a time when the horse was valued exclusively for its pulling power. That practical function has long since been replaced by others. Nowadays, the Royal Dutch Sport Horse represents a completely different set of values: the ability to impress enthusiasts around the world with top performances in show jumping, dressage, and spectacular driving events. With the original farm workhorse as the starting point, four different breeding directions emerged over the years, each with its own breeding goal and breeding council. Depending on its bloodlines, conformation, and abilities, a KWPN horse is registered as a jumper, dressage horse, harness horse, or Gelder horse. This last type has remained closest to the common foundation horse and has proven to be the most versatile under saddle as well as in harness.
Registered warmblood breeding began more than a century ago. At that time, several regional and local studbooks were in existence, and these focused on breeding horses specifically for farm work. The kind and size of the farms as well as their soil composition determined the type of horse bred. For example, the marine clay soil found in the northern part of the country around Groningen demanded a heavier farm horse than was needed to work the sandy soils indigenous to parts of the Gelderland province. Gelderland farmers wanted a horse with more refined breeding, a livelier temperament, quicker movement, and better stamina. As a result, Gelderland province saw the creation of a beautiful carriage-type horse with English blood in its background (Thoroughbred, Hackney, and Yorkshire Coach Horse), which came to the Netherlands through Germany and France.
After World War II, many good Gelder bloodlines were branched off to specialize in harness horse breeding or the current internationally famous KWPN jumper and dressage horse breeding. However, a group of breeders who were partial to the original Gelder horse opted not to join the reformation and instead chose to preserve the original type. For this reason, the KWPN accommodated the Gelder horse breeding direction. The Gelder horse captivates many people with its classical conformation, lively disposition, and well-developed front end. Because of its conformation, abilities, willingness, and reliable temperament, the Gelder horse is well suited for work both under saddle and in harness. This versatility has also made the Gelder horse very popular around the world.
Warmblood horses have been bred in the Netherlands for more than a century, and throughout this period, the Dutch have continually adapted their breeding goal to a changing market. Over time, the need for a strong horse with lots of pulling power for use on the farm changed to the desire for a “Sunday horse” with more elegant conformation and a proud bearing. With the rise of mechanization, the horse lost its function as pulling power on the farm, but its popularity as a carriage show horse remained intact. For this reason, a group of enthusiastic Dutch breeders decided to preserve and perfect the harness horse. A special breeding program was implemented, and special selection methods for mares and stallions were developed. A dash of Hackney in the bloodlines further strengthened the constitution and noble presence of the harness horse.
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