The Holsteiner horse originated 750 years ago in a region in northern Germany known as Schleswig-Holstein. The Holsteiner is one of 16 different warmblood breeds in Germany. With 5,500 registered mares, the Holsteiner is the 5th most numerous breed.
In the decades since the tractor and automobile replaced the horse in pulling plow and carriage, a new future emerged for the Holsteiner horse – to become the ideal horse for pleasure riding and competition. As the Holsteiner became more prevalent in equestrian sport, there was a move to change the body type of the horse from the heavy bodied to a lighter, more refined sport horse model. During the 1950’s and 60’s, a select group of Thoroughbred stallions was brought to Holstein from England and France. Some of these achieved enormous success crossing with Holsteiner mares. The most successful of these were Cottage Son, Ramses, Ladykiller, Marlon, Sacramento Song, and the Stallion of the Century: Cor de la Bryere. Cor de la Bryere was imported from France in 1971 he produced 85 approved stallions and 570 registered mares. We still find “Corde” in 80% of Holsteiner pedigrees. Ladykiller was imported from England in 1965 as a four year old stallion. He produced 35 approved stallions one of them is the Legendary stallion Landgraf.
One of the reasons to the success of the Holsteiner in equestrian sport has been the consistent purity and high quality of the mares. Unlike some breed associations, the Holsteiner mare books do not accept other warmblood mares for registration. The Holsteiner Verband places a strong emphasis on the genetic contribution of the mare. During the first mare inspections and registration in Holstein in 1885, each mare was assigned a stamm number to record the ancestry of the mares and these numbers are passed on from mares through their daughters from one generation to the next.
The Holsteiner Verband is responsible for all aspects of breeding, registering and grading foals, mares and stallions in Germany. The approval of breeding stock is a tightly controlled process. In order to produce registered offspring a stallion must first be inspected for quality before receiving a breeding permit. The standards for these inspections are quite high, of 3,000 Holsteiner colts born each year only 80 to 90 are selected in November as 2 ½ year old stallion candidates to be graded on movement, conformation and free jumping. Of these, only approximately 30 are selected for the next phase of inspection, which is a 70 day performance test. On successful completion of this test a stallion will receive a breeding permit.
The mares are also evaluated before being entered in the mare books. In the spring of each year, 3 year old mares are judged on conformation and movement and will receive scores in 7 categories: type, topline, front legs, back legs, walk, trot and canter. Mares receiving the highest scores receive the status of “premium mare,” which is highly coveted by breeders.
In America, the American Holsteiner Horse Association holds annual inspection tours in 15 to 20 different states. Foals, mares and stallions are inspected by the same standards as are used in Germany. Over the past 20 years the quality of American bred Holsteiners has improved tremendously. The Holsteiner horse is not only known for his jumping ability he is also known for this great temperament and willingness to work.
Both the German Verband and the American Holsteiner Horse Association have the same rules for naming horses. Colts are named with the same first letter as the sire’s name. Fillies are named with the first letter according to the year of birth. For example, all fillies born in 2018 are named starting with the letter “L.”
For over 100 years, Holsteiner breeders in Germany have marketed their offspring at foal auctions beginning in June and riding horses in the spring and fall auction. In November the largest of these, the sporthorse auction and stallion approval, is held in Neumunster. Over the course of 3 days this exciting event features 90 stallion candidates and 45 riding horses shown free jumping and under saddle. Approximately 100 horses are sold each year in the auction. This annual event offers a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the Holsteiner horse.
Holsteiners make up only 6% of the European warmblood population but there is a large number of Holsteiner we see succeeding in worldwide competition.
To cite a few examples of Hosteiners succeeding in international competition, at the 2010 World Equestrian Games, of the 4 horses on the winning German team, 2 were Holsteiners and one was half Holsteiner. At the 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong, 9 medals went to Holsteiners: 4 gold, 1 silver and 4 bronze. The Holsteiner is dominating the sport of international show jumping.
For additional information contact:
American Holsteiner Horse Association
29605 Grandpointe Lane
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275
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