The Society of Hanoverian Warmblood Breeders

There can be no question that the Hanoverian Horse represents today one of the most prominent breeds of riding horses in the world. The stud-book comprises close to 19,000 active brood mares and 450 approved breeding stallions and covers the largest homogeneous breeding area in Europe. In fact, Hanoverian are found in all five continents.

The Historic Development of the Hanoverian

The customary process is that breeders of like interests and breeding aims unite and form an association, start a stud-book and establish rules and regulations governing registration. That is, however, not the way it happened in Hanover. There, it all started with the foundation of the Landgestuet in 1735, the State-operated stable of stallions. Since its inception the Landgestuet has kept careful records of pedigrees of their stallions and the mares bred to them, so that when in 1888 the Royal Agricultural Society officially created the “Hanoverian Warmblood Stud-book” it had already an excellent basis on which to build. In 1899 the Chamber of Agriculture took over as keeper of the stud-book, and it carried on until 1922 when it passed these duties on to the Verband hannoverscher Warmblutzüchter (the Society of Hanoverian Warmblood Breeder), which came into existence that same year and is the governing body today. So the “Verband” came into being in 1922 through the unification of 54 local breeding clubs, which at that time existed in Hanover, and of which some were over 50 years old. Combined, they accounted for more than 10,560 breeders. The idea was not so much to rob these clubs of their independence and their individual, peculiar character but rather to co-ordinate their activities for the good of all.

These local clubs, most of which still exist today and even have increased in number, are the main pillars of the Verband they determine to a far reaching extent the choice of state stallions sent to their district and they organize the annual mare grading shows. The constitution of the Verband provides that in Lower Saxony each individual member must also belong to one of 7 district societies, which in most cases cover the area of a country or similar governmental unit. The structure and organization of the Verband are shown on page 4.

The aims of the Verband

The purposes of the Verband were and still are to advise the breeders in all questions of breeding, keeping and feeding horses whereby the union of the breeders is, above all, supposed to induce homogeneous breeding measure for the Hanoverian horse. Moreover the Verband furthers the sale on behalf of the breeders through the auctions taking place at Verden. At these auctions riding-horses, stallions, brood mares and foals are sold. Riders and horses can be trained at the “Hannoversche Reit- und Fahrschule” which is affiliated to the Verband.

The Hanoverian breed originates from the state of Lower Saxony in Northern Germany. From here the Hanoverian horse has dispersed throughout the world. Now breeders and admirers of the Hanoverian can be found in many European countries, in North- and South-America, in Southern Africa, in Australia, New Zealand and even in South East Asia. The two main centres of the breed are Verden with the main office of Verband hannoverscher Warmblutzüchter, its training and marketing centre and Celle with the state stud.

The evolution of the Hanoverian

According to Schlie and Löwe, the evolution of the Hanoverian can be broken down into four main periods. To this we must say, however, that none of these epochs constitutes a clear cut, abrupt end in breeding policy; rather the transition from one to the other took place gradually:

  1. The period extending from the establishment of the Landgestuet Celle in 1735, to the wars of liberation from Napoleonic domination, 1812-1813.
  2. 1815-1870, increased use of privately owned thoroughbred and English half-bred stallions.
  3. 1870-1945, the breed was genetically being consolidated.
  4. 1945-present, refining of the type with the aim of producing exclusively a superior riding horse.

It is not possible in this article to discuss each period at length. We will, however, try to portray the thinking of those days by citing the breeding aim as it changed through the years.

The first two periods aimed at producing a large, robust carriage horse, which was also suitable for military service. About 1900, General von Troschke defined the breeding aim as follows:

“a suitable cavalry as well as artillery horse with straight, ground covering gaits. Horses used on the farm must be able to pull a plow making a furrow at least 30 cm deep.”

Toward the end of the 3rd period which coincided with the end of World War II, the goal was:

“a strong Warmblood horse, able to do all kinds of work on the farm but possessing enough blood, zest and quality gaits to be usable as a riding and carriage horse.”

At the beginning of the 4th period the goal was changed to:

“a noble, strong Warmblood horse equally well suited as a riding horse as for work on the farm.”

During this period, however, mechanization made heavy inroads on the farms, rapidly displacing the horses as a work animal. More and more it was being used exclusively as a riding horse. Responding to the changed conditions, a new breeding policy had to be formulated again. This is the policy now in force:

” .a noble, big-framed and compact Warmblood horse with good rideability. A horse which, on the basis of its natural abilities, its temperament and character is suitable as a performance horse as well as a pleasure horse.
On this basis, the Verband strives for the breeding of talented sport horses in the disciplines of dressage, show jumping, eventing and driving.” 

Throughout these changing times, versatility of the horse has always been stressed and this policy has paid off. On international scene, be it in dressage, jumping or eventing, the Hanoverian has long belonged to the top performers.

State Stud Celle

The impact of the State Stud at Celle

Outsiders – people who do not know the Hanoverian breed – frequently think that the State Stud at Celle and the Verband hannoverscher Warmblutzüchter e.V. belong together, are a unit. This is, however, not correct. Both are separate organizations which are, nevertheless, working in close co-operation to the benefit of the Hanoverian horse.

The Verband hannoverscher Warmblutzüchter e.V. is a private co-operation financed by its members’ dues, whereas the State Stud Celle is a wholly state-owned institution.

The state stud was founded in 1735, at a time in which the individual reining sovereigns wanted to be independent of importing horses for, finally, horses were of prime importance in the conduct of war. Thus, the foundation of the state stud was based upon the idea of offering food stallions at low fees to the mainly rural individual breeders.

This is still the goal of the state stud today although the use of the horses has fortunately changed.

About 130 stallions are stationed at the state stud in Celle. During the breeding season (February until July) two to ten stallions are stabled at each breeding stations of which about 42 are existing. These are spread all over the breeding area.

The great import of this institution gets evident when we consider that, out of 12,060 services which were registered with the Verband in 1997, about 7,444 were carried out by state-owned stallions.

The stallion performance test institution at Adelheidsdorf is connected to the state stud. Potential state-stallions are tested there during a period of eleven months, and privately owned-ones for 70 days before being admitted to breed. Through the state stud and the Stallion Performance Testing Station horse breeding is, to a large extent, furthered by the State of Lower Saxony.

The Famous stallion parade in the state stud Celle

Private stallions

More than 100 year ago the number of privately owned stallions in the Hanoverian breed exceeded that of state owned stallions, but then decreased again. In the past years the number of privately owned stallions increased constantly. Meanwhile private stallion owners all over the world offer about 390 stallions. Some of these stallion owners founded the Verein hannoverscher Privathengsthalter e.V. (Club of private Hanoverian stallion owners) in 1989. Their abbreviation, “P.B.” has become a well-known “trademark” and they offer interesting sires many of which have made a name for themselves in sports.

Every year in the beginning of February the great show of privately owned Hanoverian stallions is held in the Verden Niedersachsenhalle.