The Holsteiner is one of the oldest, if not the oldest warmblood horse breed in the world, tracing back to the 13th century. Its country of origin is Germany, at the Schleswig-Holstein region. This area was rich with coastal marshes that had wet soil, which could turn cement-like in couple of hours. Small horses were well suited to those conditions and lived there. The monks from the Middle Ages were the most literate members and they kept valuable records of the society. Thus the first organized horse breeding was in the Uestersenís monasteries. They crossbred small native horses with larger that had to fulfill the demand for riding horses in war and for the needs of the agriculture at that region.
In the period of the 18th century the Holseiner horse was influenced by the popular Neapolitan and Spanish horses, as many other European breeds. They were at high demand for the cavalry needs in the military, due to their endurance and agility. The Holsteiner from this time had high-set neck, Roman nose and was not extremely tall. Monks didnít have the responsibility for the breed anymore, yet Holstein farmers owned and bred the finest stallions of the breed. The Celle State Stud bought twelve stallions and founded the Hanoverian breed. The Holsteiner breed was also used to improve and refine many other breeds.
During the 19th it came to other changes in the horse breeding throughout Europe. The strong bodied Baroque horses were replaced and influenced by the Thoroughbred horses that were tall, slim and more athletic. The road improvements and the development of the railway didnít lead to a decline among the Holsteiner breed, but breeders concentrate to the improvement of the breed, maintaining its even temperament. Bloodlines that influenced the Holsteiner included the English Thoroughbred, Cleveland Bay, Yorkshire Coach Horse and the result was a handsome, well balanced, refined and powerful carriage horse with strong bone structure, refined Roman nose, possessing all the qualities as a heavy riding horse, with nice movement and even disposition.
In 1891 was established the first Holsteiner stud book by Georg Ahsbahs, who 5 years later also helped in the founding of the Elmshorn Riding and Driving School. In 1950 the mare popularity increased to a number of 10,000 and in 1961 it decreased to approximately 3,300 mares.
The improvement of the breed was noticed during the World War I and II, due to the demand of powerful horses for pulling artillery wagons. By the end of the 20th century the need for an ideal horse in equestrian riding led to adding more Thoroughbred, Selle Francais and Anglo-Arab blood. Therefore, by 1976 the majority of the Holsteiners were Thoroughbred or half-Thoroughbred. The new Holsteiner distinguished from the old, being faster, taller, spirited, more refined and with great jumping qualities.
The average height of the Holsteiner horse is approximately 16-17 hands high at the withers. To be eligible for registration in the studbook stallions must be at least 16 hands and the mares 15.2 hands. Only solid coat colors with minimally markings are acceptable and most common are grey, bay, brown, chestnut and black.
The overall look of the breed is an athletic riding horse with a large and heavy frame. They have a straight and plain head with well set eyes that are large, alert, expressive and kind. The neck is high set, strong, arched and muscular with good length of rein and itís one of the distinguished features that describe the breed. The other feature that makes them well known is their hindquarters, which are long, well muscled and very powerful. Shoulders are long and sloping; forearms well muscled; back is short and strong; and withers are clearly defined. Legs are large boned and proportioned to the body; hooves are rounded, strong and large; and the tail is well set, smoothly rounding off the rump.
The Holsteiner is deep bodied, long boned, muscled and bred to be highly suitable as competition horse. Today the breed hasnít large population number, but is dominating in international show jumping and is very successful in dressage, combined driving, show hunters eventing and general riding. Gaits are smooth, expressive, elegant and fluid. The best quality of the breed is its jumping capacity, exhibiting great power, scope and correct technique.Rearrange the pieces of the jigsaw to solve this wonderful puzzle and see a final image of an obedient, intelligent, even-tempered, curious, friendly and spirited Holsteiner horse, which has temperament encouraged by selective breeding. It is calm, cooperative, known for its solid work ethic, reliable, sensible and bold with noble nature.