Meet the Belgian Warmblood – Europe’s Pride and Joy

A certified Belgian Warmblood is, by definition, a noble, modern and well-built horse with a rectangular frame, good basic paces, and big, noticeable outlines. They are a pleasure to ride and have a malleable, easy-going attitude towards both the rider and the tasks they are given. They are meant to be used both for leisure riding and as a performance horse. Even though they are generally recommended for experienced riders, their attitude makes them perfect for amateurs as well.

The Belgian Warmblood’s origin officially started with the foundation of the Belgian Warmblood Studbook, which was founded in 1955. However, the foundation stock began years before the ‘50s, when jumping horses were imported from France. These were mixed with middle-weight Hanoverian and Holsteiner bloodlines from Germany, as well as other jumping horses from the Netherlands or Belgium, in order to create the famous breed.

No breed-specific diseases or health weaknesses have been registered. The fact that breeding is more about performance and less about the selected breeds also helps diversify the breeding pool and drastically decreases the risk of genetic anomalies. If properly taken care of, a Belgian Warmblood will live a long and healthy life.

This breed has no indigenous warmblood mare base. Half of the approved stallions were Belgian themselves, with a quarter of them having Belgian sire. The others were direct descendants of Selle Francais, Dutch, Holsteiner, or Hanoverian bloodlines.  The other half of approved stallions were either Holsteiner, Selle Francais, Dutch Warmblood, or Hanoverian.

A certified Belgian Warmblood can be easily identified by the studbook brand, a pinwheel of horse heads pointing towards the 4 cardinal points, placed on the left thigh. This symbolizes the Studbook’s philosophy for breeding the majestic race: incorporating only the best bloodlines from all of the corners of the Earth.

Size: 16-17 hands (about 68 inches) high at the withers usually, although this may vary
Weight: 1,300 pounds
Colors: pinto, tobiano, gray, black, chestnut, bay; no barring horses of certain hair color has been registered
Body traits: strong limbs and hooves, rectangular frame, big outlines, good basic paces, muscular, usually dark eyes

A Belgian Warmblood’s tail, mane, and coat consist of fine, thin, and smooth hairs that make them more sensitive to cold weather than other breeds.

Belgians usually have good character, although this mostly depends on each individual and is mostly related to its sire and the line it came from. Some horses can be extremely nurturing towards children and seek affection, while others can be very competitive and eager to learn, having hotter personalities. Nonetheless, a member of the breeding society would never certify a horse if he had any reason for concern regarding its temperament.

Belgian Warmbloods will always obey and expect their rider to be in charge, a trait they no doubtly inherited from their docile cold-blooded ancestors. They are intelligent, calm, and sweet, although they tend to mature slowly. However, they are always easy-going and malleable, traits that make them an excellent choice for dressage, eventing, or other sporting activity. Moreover, a BW horse will always be loyal to his owner and rider, with whom it will become comfortable in a very short timespan.

Although not at all pretentious, having a Belgian Warmblood does involve certain costs. When first buying such a horse, you will need to pool some money for:

  • A Trailer – anywhere from $1,500 to $50,000 or more
  • Riding equipment – starts off at about $600 but can go as high as $6,000
  • Vet check – highly recommended, $250 – $600
  • Grooming supplies – from $25 to $150

Yearly expenses can start from $5,000 and go as high as $30,000, depending mainly on:

  • Boarding – pasture, stall, deluxe board, etc.
  • Training – dressage, riding or jumping training, etc.
  • Food – prices mainly vary in terms of location and tie of the year

Other yearly expenses that have minimal to no variations in terms of cost no matter the location, time of the year or other factors are:

  • Pasture maintenance
  • Farrier (Grooming)
  • Insurance
  • Bedding
  • Medical care

A BW’s diet mainly consists of hay, fresh grass, grains, or fruits and vegetables. They are not known for being picky eaters, but they will require more feeding during the winter months because of their superficial coat. This also means they need a well-insulated and possibly heated shelter if the temperatures considerably drop.

Registering a foal in the BWP Studbook

Although their Studbook is located in Belgium, BWP districts also exist in North America and Hungary. These local secretariats are responsible for the verification and registration of new foals after a specialized Studbook representative will log the identification of the foal.

Breeders that do not live in Belgium, North America, or Hungary can either bring the mare and the foal near the Belgian border, where they will meet with the foal inspector, or send a set of information, pictures, and DNA evidence (hairs with roots) to the BWP secretariat in Belgium.

Belgian Warmblood Studbook’s motto is “Bred to perform” and their horses do live up to this standard, being considered multi-talented equines. They are great for events like dressage and riding or jumping competitions.

Ever since Big Ben made its first Olympic appearance in 1984, they have been present at most of the specialized competitions and races. The Studbook always intended to make jumping horses out of the Belgians, and they managed to do that quite well. However, Belgian Warmbloods score very well in eventing competitions, too. Ten years ago, the Studbook managed to take the 15thplace in eventing, which is an admirable score.

Although not intended for dressage, Belgians are used more and more for this purpose, too. They are among the 15 most appropriate breeds for this activity thanks to their tenacity and loyalty.

Belgian Warmblood is a relatively young breed, but one that made a powerful impact from its first few appearances into equestrian sports and activities. These equines are a perfect combination of cold-blooded features and hot-blooded potential: they have the optimal balance of performance and strength, therefore being extremely adaptable to everyday employment. With an imposing and glorious appearance, they truly are bred to perform and continuously surpass their opponents in competitions.

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