The Westphalian or Westfalen horse is a breed of German warmblood
that is similar in physique to the Hanoverian Warmblood on
which it has been based since 1920. The Westphalian stands
15.2 to 17.2 hands high, but averages 16.1 hands and like
most warmbloods, is always presented in a solid color such
as brown, black, gray, chestnut, or bay. Other colors exist,
but they are rare, though not discriminated against. They
weigh between 1000 and 1300 pounds.
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The Westphalian horse is probably one of the most well-known
warmblood breeds, next to the Hanoverian Warmblood. Its studbook
population is second only to that of the Hanoverians in size,
and like the Hanoverian, it features only those horses which
meet its exacting standards. After Hanover, the region of
Westphalia has the largest number of registered broodmares
in Germany. Second to Lower Saxony, Westphalia is the second
most important horse breeding region in Germany with 10,000
broodmares, approximately 120 state stallions and many private
stallions available. Also, like its bordering state of Hanover,
Westphalia has a jumping horse on its coat of arms, and in
both states, horse breeding has been a long-standing tradition.
The roots of the Westphalian go back to the 1700s, when the
German nobility, most notably, King Frederick Wilhelm I established
several breeding programs under the Prussian Stud Administration
in 1713 to improve Germany's horse stocks, while creating
several state-owned studs which were maintained for the benefit
of Germany's citizens.
Many random attempts by breeders were made to create a new
breed, and these wasted efforts to form a unique or stable
breed lasted until the turn of the 19th Century. It was not
until the founding of the state stud that a planned breeding
program actually began. The state stud at Warendorf, "Landgestuet
Warendorf" was founded in 1826 to serve the North Rhine-Westphalian
region. The first stallions to stand at Warendorf were from
East Prussia, and were similar to the Trakehners of the time.
This was when the form of the modern Westphalian began to
emerge in the stud at Warendorf, in western Germany. They
were originally bred as working animals, testing under saddle
and in agricultural pursuits. The annual stallion parade at
Warendorf has since become a traditional gathering point for
thousands of horse enthusiasts.
By 1888, the first studbook for the horses in Westphalia was
founded, and the following year the first evaluations of stallions
and mares were carried out. Horses which met the strict breed
standard were branded as foals with the Westphalian crest:
a crowned shield containing the letter "W" which they receive
when they are awarded their registration papers at a foal
The Westphalian Warmblood was based on Oldenburg blood and
also on Anglo-Normandy stallions starting in 1900 when the
noble East Prussian Trakehners stallions were replaced with
the heavy warmbloods from Oldenburg and East Frisia. In 1905
the first performance tests were held, and now stallions had
to not only fit a conformation model, but also had to prove
themselves under saddle and in front of a plow before being
allowed to breed.
But those breeding efforts ended with World War I, since those
breeds were not suitable for the Westphalian soil. After the
war, in 1920, warmblood breeding was started again and the
Westphalian Warmblood became based on the Hanoverian Warmblood
with some Thoroughbred and Trakehner influence. This turned
out to be very successful, but sadly, many of the old breeding
records that had been kept so carefully were destroyed in
the political turmoil in Germany during World War II. Today,
the exterior of the Westphalian Warmblood is very similar
to the Hanoverian.
They are large horses, and typically have long necks, high
muscular withers, long sloping shoulders, and noble, intelligent
heads. Their legs are strong with massive joints. Like other
German warmbloods, Westphalians are very calm and quiet tempered
and do well in training. They perform dependably under saddle
and are well known for having a naturally bold, expansive
and elastic springing gait. The breed has evolved from a working
animal into a sport horse, with finer boning than its predecessors,
and is bred to be naturally friendly and athletic.
In the United States, Rhinelander Warmbloods are sometimes
misrepresented as Westphalian Warmbloods to buyers. While
the two studbooks have the same standard, the same approval
process, and share a state stud facility, they remain as two
distinct studbooks, and the brand on the left hip should help
to distinguish the difference between them.
The Westphalian Warmblood is an outstanding general-purpose
sport horse that excels at driving and riding, both for pleasure
and for competition. They are well suited to equestrian sports,
especially dressage and jumping, three-day eventing, hunt
field, and the Westphalian horses have shown their high quality
with many of the breed's members competing in Olympic events.
A well trained Westphalian Warmblood is suitable for riders
at all skill levels and for young riders who are considering
the pursuit of equestrian sports as a career; a Westphalian
can be a valuable and dependable companion.