Evaluation Horsebreeding KWPN

(The Royal Warmblood Studbook of the Netherlands)

sport horses

The Gelderlander horse and Groninger horse, warmblooded farm horse breeds that used to be bred in Holland, were excellent horses for general use, which were highly thought of all over the world.
It was thought, however, that a riding horse should have entirely different qualities altogether. In 1964 the "Sportregister" was introduced, which marked the beginning of the repression of the Gelderlander/Groninger bloodlines, in favour of blood from English thoroughbreds and other foreign riding horses. The aim was to transform the workhorse into a horse with all the properties of a riding horse. (See nevertheless the letterpress accompanying the photo of Olympic Sunrise.)
The first breeding results were encouraging and the performances of the animals exceeded expectations. Dutch horses were prominent during the Olympic Games in Montreal in 1976, in both jumping and dressage.
Why these half-breds (F1-products) were better than the breeds with which the Gelderlander/Groninger mares were crossbred has never been evaluated. The breeding direction was of the opinion that this was merely due to the fathers of other bloodlines, previously approved by them. The results of the next generation of horses with less than 50% Gelderlander/Groninger blood were very disappointing, except for one or two exceptions. The KWPN board never pointed this out to the breeders, but maintained that KWPN-breeding was in good shape. The international sporting performances of the KWPN-horses, however, were much less remarkable than before. Furthermore, they are still largely due to the remaining Gelderlander/Groninger bloodlines (which has almost disappeared now). Also in the international driving sport Gelderlander/Groninger blood has proved itself superior.

Apart from the above the KWPN-horse has lost much of its performance-potential by selection on the basis of "theoretical breeding policies": selection criteria are thought up behind desks and generally implemented without introductory testing in practice. If , after a certain period, there are no positive effects evident, or there are even clear negative influences visible, many good horses will be lost from the breeding schemes. This applies, for instance, to the selection criteria: "a bend hind leg is better for a riding horse" or "a negative score on x-rays of the sesame bones renders a horse unsuitable for breeding". These selection criteria are now no longer applied by the studbook jury committee. The KWPN-breeders, however, have never been informed of these misconceptions by the breeding direction, which means that the effects will be felt for a longer period than necessary. (This is the usual procedure, as the KWPN has never been prepared to admit its mistakes.) Many other "theoretical selection criteria" instituted by the KWPN may be called into question.

The KWPN continually thinks up new selection criteria for very young horses and maintains that this enables selection for suitability for sporting performance at a later age. The actual practical results, the real performance at a later stage in life, are never checked nor communicated. This is the reason for my programme with details of over 800 international sporting horses, which have been published stating their father and mother's father in horsemagazines during the last 15 years. The conclusions are remarkable: many studhorses which have been highly praised by the breeding direction, which have had major chances in the breeding schemes, are hardly present on this list, if at all. Stallions that have been rejected, however, have performed frequently very well. For instance the preferent stallion Kristal (national champion on exterior and also performance champion of his year) with 1208 descendants, only features 3 times as father of an international sporting horse. The rejected stud stallion Vindicator, who produced only 135 offspring, however, is 4 times father of such a successful horse.

The aim of this homepage is to achieve a public and objective evaluation of the KWPN-policies, which has to clarify first of all what went right and what went wrong in the past. On the basis of this information it will then be possible to define the modifications that will be needed for the future and the means with which they may be achieved. The preservation of good attainments is as important in this search as is the removal/revaluation of wrong decisions and guidelines. As long as matters are not dealt with professionally, the KWPN will remain an amateurish institution.

For interesting information about the KWPN-breeding see the British website: The Origins of Warmblood.

E-mail: lijssel@iae.nl