warmblood horse breeds

15 Warmblood Horse Breeds That Every Rider Should Know

Welcome to the exciting world of warm-blooded horse breeds. If you’re just starting out, an avid horse enthusiast, or a professional rider (or just love “horsing around”), you’ll find this guide an interesting read!

Horses have been our loyal companions for centuries and the legacy of these creatures continues to mesmerise us today. Each of these breeds brings its own unique characteristics, temperament and talents to the equestrian stage.

Saddle up and join me as I highlight 15 warmblood horse breeds that have captivated equestrians throughout the ages!

What is a Warmblood Horse?

First off, warmblood horse breeds are groups of horses that combine the best traits of both light and heavy breeds. “Light” refers to breeds mostly used for riding or light work. “Heavy” – also known as draught horses – are breeds that are taller, heavier and stronger; originally developed for working on farms or carrying heavy loads.

But before we delve more into warm-blooded horses, you need to understand the difference between the two types of horses that make up the breed. Essentially, a warmblood horse is a mix of hot- and cold-blooded horses (think of it as mixing hot and cold water to get ‘warm’ water – a similar scenario for horses!)

Hotblood breeds

Also known as “light” breeds.


  • Light-bodied
  • Nervous or skittish
  • Excitable
  • Energetic
  • Often used for racing

Breed examples

  • Arabians
  • Anglo-Arabian
  • Barbs
  • Thoroughbreds

Thoroughbreds are hot blooded

Coldblood breeds

Also known as “heavy” or “draught” breeds.


  • Heavier body weight
  • Strong and sturdy
  • Calm nature
  • Docile temperament
  • Used for hard labour, such as farm work

Breed examples

Clydesdale horse nose

Clydesdales are a cold blooded breed

Warmblood breeds


  • Medium body weight
  • Athletic
  • Versatile
  • Even-natured
  • Used for equestrian sports

Breed examples

  • Hanoverian
  • Dutch Warmblood
  • Holsteiner
  • Tennesse Walker
  • Oldenburg

Warmblood horses have been carefully developed through selective breeding programs, incorporating foundation breeds such as Thoroughbreds, Arabians, and local European carriage horses (meaning; a horse that is groomed and trained to pull carriages).

These breeding programs aim to produce horses with desired traits of athletic ability, even temperaments, and good conformation (which means a healthy and well-proportioned build).

Most warmblood horses strike an excellent balance between power, agility and skillfulness; as a warmblood horse is definitely no “one-trick-pony”.

A Brief History of Warmblood Breeds

These types of horses have a rich history originating in Europe, as they were selectively bred to create versatile sports horses. The goal was to achieve a breed of horse that would be suitable for and excel at equestrian sports.

Combining a hotblooded horse, such as a Thoroughbred or Arabian breed, with the cold-blooded stockier horses of Europe, resulted in the true breed of warmbloods that we know and love today.

Types Of Warmblood Horse Breeds

1. Hanoverian

The Hanoverian horse, an exceptional riding horse with an average height of 16 – 16.2 hands has a gentle-spirited temperament; a great choice for those new to riding. With their elegant – almost regal – conformation and smooth movements, Hanoverians offer an enjoyable riding experience for all.

Particularly favourable in equestrian sports such as dressage and show jumping, Hanoverians are among the most popular warm-blooded breeds.

Hanoverian horse

2. Dutch Warmblood

The Dutch Warmblood, often referred to as KWPN horses, are known for their calm temperament and friendly nature; making them one of the popular warmblood breeds. They are suitable for riders of different experience levels.

With their excellent work ethic and versatility, the Dutch Warmblood breed can be a reliable choice for beginners – those new to dressage, show jumping, and eventing.

Dutch Warmblood breeds have an average height of 16 – 17 hands and are rated one of the most successful competition breeds developed in Europe, having competed at the Olympic Games and winning numerous gold medals over the years; definitely solidifying their performance!

Fun fact: The famous The Lord of the Rings movie featured a Dutch Warmblood stallion!

Dutch Warmblood

3. Holsteiner

These warmblood breeds are thought to be one of the oldest breeds, dating back to 13th century Germany. It is another horse with an average height of 16 – 17 hands. Think of this horse as a forgiving friend: with its strong work ethic and forgiving nature. This makes Holsteiners popular amongst beginners.

Known for their elegant appearance, power, dependability and athleticism, Holsteiners excel in show jumping and offer a comfortable companion for beginners in the show jumping arena.

Holsteiner horse

4. Cleveland Bay

The Cleveland Bay is a warmblood horse deeply rooted in England and is one of the oldest and rarest of the warmblood breeds within the UK; with an average height of 16 – 16.2 hands. It takes its name from the Cleveland area in Northern England, where it was originally used for agricultural work and carriage driving.

Now this is interesting: it is the only native British horse to be classified as a warmblood breed. Their calm and willing temperament makes them ideal for a variety of disciplines.

Clevelands excel in driving, dressage and shows and have often been seen in the equestrian sport of combined driving; where they showcase their strength and athletic ability.

Fun fact: The Cleveland Bay breed faced near extinction in the 60s but was ‘saved’ by the late Queen Elizabeth II, an avid horse lover who played a pivotal role in preserving this rare beauty!

Cleveland Bay horse

5. Irish Sport Horse

The Irish Sport Horse is one of the most versatile horse breeds, combining the athleticism of Thoroughbreds with the even temperament of native Irish draught horses. With an average height of 16 – 17 hands and known for its kind, gentle nature and willingness to please; the Irish Sport Horse makes an excellent choice for beginners.

6. Bavarian Warmblood

We bet you can tell where the Bavaria Warmblood horse originated; if you said Bavaria in Germany, then you would be correct! This versatile warmblood horse has an average height of 15.2 – 17 hands and is highly esteemed for its athletic talent, rideability, and beauty. It is another popular warmblood breed in equestrian circles.

Whether in the dressage arena, over show jumping fences, or on the event course; Bavaria Warmbloods consistently demonstrate their ability to shine. These magnificent horses have a gentle temperament and have achieved notable success in national and international competitions.

Bavarians truly showcase their natural capabilities and willingness to succeed!

Fun fact: Did you know that the Bavarian Warmblood traces its roots back to the Rottaler breed, an older line of warm-blooded horses native to the Bavarian region?

7. Oldenburg

Originating in Northern Germany, the Oldenburg horse has been traced back to the 16th century. It is praised for its remarkable strength. Oldenburgs have an average height of 16 – 17 hands and this horse’s temperament is gentle and friendly; making it ideal for beginner riders.

With their trainable nature, solid foundation in dressage and jumping and dashing good looks, an Oldenburg horse provides the perfect platform for beginners to develop their riding skills.

The Oldenburg breed – like many warm-blooded breeds – has its own registry and breeding standards, ensuring the preservation and development of its desirable traits.

Oldenburg Horse

8. Trekehner

Originating in East Prussia (part of modern-day Poland and Russia) Trekehners were bred for their elegance and athletic ability and are one of the oldest horse breeds. They were initially developed as calvary horses and later refined through selective breeding; making them highly sought-after and respected in the equestrian world.

This breed has an average height of 15.2 – 17 hands and is known for its ‘floating’ or elastic-like gaits, particularly in trots, making them a popular choice for dressage events.

Trekehners have a trainable and intelligent nature, often forming strong bonds with their riders. They are renowned for their resilience, making them a suitable choice for endurance events and sporting activities.


9. Belgian Warmblood

The Belgian Warmblood is a versatile sports horse that originated in Belgium (we thought as much) and was carefully bred by crossing cold-blooded local draught horses with hot-blooded Thoroughbreds.

With an average height of 16 – 17 hands and a strong, muscular build; the Belgian Warmblood is known for its athletic ability, versatility, and competitive nature.

The Belgian Warmblood excels in dressage, show jumping, driving, and eventing and is suitable for novices as well as professional riders.

Belgian warmblood

10. Swiss Warmblood

Originating in Switzerland, the Swiss Warmblood is a relatively young breed that was established in the late 20th century. It combined the local Swiss horse breeds with various warmblood types.

Known for their athletic ability, versatility, and easy-going temperament; they are prized for their rideability, agility, and willingness to perform.

This breed has an average height of 15.2 – 17 hands; making Swiss Warmbloods ideal for both competitive and recreational riders.

11. Danish Warmblood

Danish Warmbloods are strong sport horses from Denmark with an average height of 16 – 17 hands. They’re selectively bred to produce high-quality horses for equestrian sports.

Not only are they refined and elegant in appearance, but their excellent show-jumping abilities and versatility are also impressive.

Whether you’re new to riding horses or an avid enthusiast, the Danish Warmblood’s trainable nature and willingness to learn make it a wonderful choice for riders of any level.

Danish Warmblood

12. Swedish Warmblood

With an average height of 16 – 17 hands, Swedish Warmbloods are versatile equestrian sport horses known for their athleticism, elegance, and strong performance in disciplines such as dressage, show jumping, and eventing.

Their unified conformation, refined appearance, and powerful movements, coupled with cooperative and trainable natures, make them an excellent choice for novices and professionals alike.

This warmblood horse is highly regarded for its competitive spirit, rideability, and success in international competitions.

Swedish Warmblood

13. Andalusian

Also known as the Pure Spanish Horse or Pura Raza Española (PRE), the Andalusian is a distinct breed with a long and storied history. Originating in southern Spain, in the Andalusian region, this horse is renowned for its beauty, strength, and versatility.

It’s characterised by its thick mane and elegant appearance and has an average height of 15 – 16 hands. Andalusians have been prized throughout history for their suitability in various equestrian disciplines.

They have a calm temperament, a willingness to work and are highly intelligent; making them sought after by both professionals and equestrian enthusiasts.

Andalusian horse

14. American Saddlebred

Moving onto a distinct breed that originated in the USA, this horse is commonly referred to as “the horse that America made”. The American Saddlebred, also known as the Saddlebred or the American Saddle Horse, is known for its elegant appearance and smooth gaits, with an average height of 15 – 16 hands.

With their gentle, spirited nature and graceful movements – particularly in the “slow gait” or “rack” gaits – these warmbloods are popular amongst riders who appreciate their versatility. This versatile breed is used for various equestrian sports, such as showing, driving, and recreational riding.

Fun fact: These horses were exclusively used as mount horses during the Civil War.

American saddlebred horse

Photo courtesy of wikimedia commons

15. Appaloosa

The Appaloosa horse breed is a unique and distinctive breed, known for its colourful coat patterns and versatile nature. Originally war horses from the Nez Perce Native American tribe in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, Appaloosas were highly valued as trusted companions.

Since then, Appaloosas still possess their strong “warlike” physique and distinct coat patternings in the form of spots, speckles, mottled skin and striped hooves. They excel in activities such as trail riding and ranch work and have competed in dressage and Western riding events.

With their gentle nature and average height of 14.2 – 15.2 hands, this intelligent breed is ideal for riders of all levels – from beginners straight through to experienced professionals.

Note: The Appaloosa breed is not to be confused with the American Paint Horse even though they look quite similar. A paint horse is a separate distinct breed with its own origin and breeding programmes.

Appaloosa horse


What is a quarter horse?

A quarter horse is an American breed known for its versatility and speed. “Quarter horse” originated from its ability to outpace other breeds in races of a quarter mile or less, hence its name. Dash For Cash was a famous Quarter horse in the 70s and became a popular sire – father horse – in the breed.

While Quarter horse breeds are highly valued for their speed and athletic ability, they are not considered warmblood horses, in the traditional sense, and are more aligned with a hotblood horse.

White quarter horse barrel racing

Is the Clydesdale a warm-blooded horse?

No, Clydesdale horses are not warmblood horses, but rather a breed of cold-blooded draught horse. Draught breeds are known for their strength, power and bigger build, as opposed to the athletic abilities of their warm-blooded buddies.

Not a warmblood horse

Ally the Clydesdale – Not a warmblood!

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