Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Hanoverian Horse- In 12,000 words or less

(Satchmo with Isabell Werth)

So, in case you missed it, on Friday I discussed open vs closed book registries and how warmblood registries tend to stay open.... to varying degrees. My point in doing so was to demonstrate one of the many ways that Warmblood breeders tend to keep their objective focused on creating a functional riding horse (with a specific purpose in mind) rather than trying to preserve a breed label by recording the offspring produced from within its "purebred" ranks with little to no selection or restrictions.

To provide an example of a breed registry who take the qualification of their breeding stock to an extreme I focused on the Hanoverian as the subject of todays post, specifically because of government involvement of State owned studs.

Lets get started, shall we? You didn't have any plans this week did you? 'Cause this is going to take a while. I could keep this really short with something like...
"The Hanoverian- the dominating force in the world of Olympic level dressage, show jumping and eventing. Created and governed (to this day) by a very dedicated group of people with a serious OCD like control complex and a zealous-like dedication to "the process" of selective breeding. These horses are big, yet athletic, have the grace and fluid movement of a prima ballerina, combined with the formidable strength of Hercules crossed on the temperament of Bowinkle. "

The end.
(Bonaparte with Heike Kemmer)

But for all you information junkies like me... lets get a little more in depth....

Hanoverians are solid in color (registry exludes dilution genes) and a preference for minimal white or at the very least even markings (two hind socks but never just one) is given.

They are usually between 15.3-17.2HH (but most commonly in the 16.2HH range).

The predominant breed found in Olympic Dressage events, also common in Grand Prix and Olympic level Show Jumping and Eventing.

History of the Breed:

The Havoverian is named for the state of Hanover in Germany (now Lower Saxony) in which it originated and where the Hanoverian Verbrand registry exists today.

At its beginning Hanoverian simply meant a horse from "The kingdom of Hanover" or more specifically the state run stud farm at Celle (created in 1735) that created a book registry of the regionally located broodmares (known for their ability in heavy work and as war horses.) The royalty of the time, in England and Germany, took part in the process of keeping meticulous records and selectively breeding these mares on English Thoroughbred stallions with the intent to create a good all purpose driving and riding animal also capable of farm work.

As with many other breeds, the Hanoverian had to adapt to find a suitable use for what the people required at the time- first as a farm horse, then as a carriage horse, as an army horse during WWI and WWII and finally, by the late 1940's, as a sport horse. The incorporation of Trakahner, Holsteiners, Cleveland Bays, Neapolitan, Prussian, Andalusian and Mecklenburg and more thoroughbred blood was added to further define the elegance of a riding and sport (jumping, dressage and eventing) horse.

It wasn't until 1888 that the official Hanoverian Stud Book would be created and not until 1922 that The Society of Hanoverian Warmblood Breeders would take shape after the 54 regional breeding clubs, largely still in existence, combined to form the registry and control the some 19,000 broodmares and 450 approved stallions that exist today. Their intent is to produce:

"... a rideable, noble, big framed and correct warmblood 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."

The registration process of Hanoverians today continue to be rigorously selective and one practically needs a masters degree to figure out the intricate layers of the registration process. This is the extreme sport version of a breed registry. Germans take their shit seriously :)

(Elvis VA with Nadine Capellmann)

The most important aspect of which is IMHO, their selection process for mares and stallions to be included in their stud book. Just because a horse is born from a Hanoverian sire and dam does not automatically mean that that horse, once mature, will be eligible to produce recognized Hanoverian foals. ALL mares and stallions, whether of pure Hanoverian blood or not, must pass an examination process in order to be sanctioned by the registry to produce Hanoverian foals.

(Salinero with Anky van Grunsven)

All Hanoverian foals born to approved parents are branded on the left hind with this logo:

Some have "GB" for Germany, or "US" for USA or "CD" for Canadian, "NZ" for New Zealand etc. recognizing which registry they were born under.

I copied and pasted, edited and reworded (for the sake of getting in under my 12,000 word limit) the information offered on the German Verbrand website in order to give a brief and simplified (yes, I swear this is the shortened version) of some of their registration processes just to give you a basic idea of how involved it is....

Evaluation Process for Mares:

A simple test for Hanoverian born fillies includes test of conformation, free jumping, trot and overall structure.

In the mare performance test the basic gaits, jumping talent in free jumping as well as the mare’s rideability (by a test rider) are judged. This is either done in the course of a station test (26 days, only in Verden and Dillenburg) or in a so-called field test (one day) depending on the level of classifcation or entry to the studbook being tested for.
The results of this test also include information on the mares’s disposition.

Marks from 0 (=not performed) to 10 (=excellent) are given. The final certificate contains an overall final score as well as subscores which result from the individual scores for the basic gaits, rideability and jumping talent.
In order for:

Thoroughbred mares
Arab mares
Anglo-Arab mares....

To be made eligible to produce Hanoverian foals:

They must receive a:

Minimum total score of 7 with no subscore below 5 and a trot score of 7.

They can be upgraded into the main stud book with a performance record in dressage, show jumping or eventing or a good mare performance test result.

A trot score below 7 can be compensated through such a good performance record.
Of course they need approved papers.

In order for Warmblood mares of another breed to be eligible to produce Hanoverian foals they must meet the following criteria:

-four generations of approved populations:
-both, sire and dam must be entered into the studbook of a breed society whose breeding programme is approved.
-Grading requirements: studbook inspection with a minimum total score of 7 and no subscore below 5.

Non-Hanoverian mares with less than 50% Hanoverian blood need to be bred to a Hanoverian stallion or a stallion with at least 50% Hanoverian blood."

Studbook Section of Stallions:

The first step for potential stallions occurs just before weaning, at roughly six month of age. Foals which display outstanding qualities will be reared by the state stallion or private breeders.

At the age of two these stallions will be brought before a commission of the Verband, which makes a pre-selection for the main licensing. At this stage selection will be very rigorous and out of the 700 or so two year olds brought forward, only about a hundred will be chosen to go on the main stallion Koerung or licensing at two and a half years of age.

The remainder will, eventually, be gelded and sold as riding horses.

Of those selected they must then go through the "Procedure of Licensing":

The annual Stallion Licensing and Stallion Sales is held at the Breed Society headquarters in Verden, over a three day period. When they arrive the young stallions first go to a veterinary inspection to be sure they are free of:

-hereditary deceases

-defects of genitalia (e.g. cryptochidism, small or unilateral testes)

-abnormalities of teeth

-heaves, cribbing, moon blindness, roaring, glanders, mental disorder

-operations or treatments to correct any defects or deficiencies

They are then marked for conformation, presence and masculinity as well as for correctness of paces together with a supple, ground covering stride. A total score of "seven" is required for a stallion to pass. On the second day the young stallions are tested in the free-jumping.

Of the hundred or so colts sent for Licensing, only about half will pass the judges scrutiny. Colts which fail the Licensing are not allowed to stand as stallions. Even so, being very high quality animals, most "failed" colts will have, when gelded, an important future as riding and competition horses.

For the successful, "licensed", stallions the selection process is not yet over. They are only licensed on condition that they pass by the age of four a 70-day-test: a stallion performance test at a specially created testing centre like Adelheidsdorf, just outside Celle. The test itself is, in fact a form of "two day event" where the stallions are examined in dressage, show jumping and cross country performance as well as having their galloping paces carefully measured.

(Lauries Crusador 2006 Stallion of the Year)

(Stukkato 2007 Stallion of the Year)

The vital aspect of the whole procedure is that, before the actual Performance Test, the private stallions have to remain at the Testing Centre for 70 days, stallions of the State Stud even for 11 month, during which time they undergo carefully controlled and standardised training by professional riders. This ensures that the test is a true and fair comparison of the stallions. The training and testing is backed by the highest standards of horsemanship and really does give a profound insight into the capabilities and potential of each stallion.

After successful completion of a stallion performance test (at least 70 days, stallions owned by the State Stud Celle are tested for 11 month) at a sanctioned stallion testing station and if he earns the required score the stallion will receive his breeding license.

A Hanoverian stallion successfully completes his performance test, if he receives a score of 90,

A non-Hanoverian stallion must receive a score of 120,
In addition a stallion form Holstein must receive a score of at least 130 in the jumping index.

A refining stallion (English or Arabic Thoroughbred, an Arab, an Anglo-Arab), which has not fulfilled the racing requirements, must complete the test either with an overall score of 100, or with an overall score of 90 plus a score of 110 in either the dressage or the jumping index.

The stallions which fulfills the requirements are always published in the December – issue of the magazine "Der Hannoveraner". Only foals of these stallions are eligible to be registered.
Another important aspect of the process are the auctions:

The Verden auctions started in 1949. As of 1972, the today's Niedersachsenhalle has been the venue of all sales events.

Twice a year a selection commission goes on a tour through the whole breeding area and selects the best horses at places which have been stipulated in advance. 700 to 800 horses are regularly shown for each riding horse auction. For the Elite Foal Auction there are frequently no less than 500 foals presented for selection.

I didnt spend much time reading about the auction process but wanted to at least note that they are an important part in buying and accessing the German bred horses.

Registered Hanoverian horses in the US are controlled by The American Hanoverian Society, who work closely with the German Verbrand. Their basic description of their rules for registrations are:

Mare inspections take place at age three or older. German and American inspectors evaluate mares for type, conformation and gaits. The Mare Performance Test (MPT) scores a mare’s rideability, gaits and jumping talent. Eligible high-scoring Main Studbook mares that pass this performance test to become Elite Mare Candidates (EMC). Once they have completed the final requirement of producing an AHS-registered foal within three years they are awarded the prestigious title of Elite Mare (EM).

All stallion candidates must be presented for physical inspection. If scores on conformation, movement and jumping ability are sufficient, a temporary breeding license is granted. Stallions must then either complete the 70-Day (formerly 100-day) Stallion Test which evaluates their gaits, trainability and athletic ability in dressage, show jumping and cross country, or they must meet specified performance requirements. Breeding eligibility is verified annually.

Only foals from AHS inspected and approved parents may be register with the AHS. Foals with only one approved parent can receive a Certificate of Pedigree.
Non-Hanoverian Eligibility"

There are British, Canadian and other counterparts as well that regulate unders simular guidelines but the "truest" of Hanoverians are bred, classified and selected by the Verbrand in Germany.

That is only a very simplified explanation of their registration and breeding eligiability process. Is it extreme? Yes! Is it a perfect system? No. But it works because....

The govering organization puts the proformance of the Hanaverian above the genetic labeling of the breed. They facilitate, through regulation, the development of a valuable and specialized horse with an inherent ability in Dressage, Show Jumping and Eventing.


It is very possible that I have made more than one mistake in this post with respect to the breed or the registration process. It is also possible that I have missed something of importance or mischaracterized some aspect of it. It was very difficult to break down the amount of information out there into manageable pieces so if there is anything here you feel is incorrect or that you feel needs clarification, please do let me know.


  1. *standing applause*

    I'm suprised just how much I learnt from your post, never think you know all about horses!!!!

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. This is an excellent post. I applaud your tenacity in the research and writing of this article. There is a lot of information in here that I had no idea about, and although I'm not a horse owner, I've done a lot of reading about horses and have friends with horses. Thank you for writing this and sharing with all of us horse crazy people.

    Helen G.

  4. Thank you SOOOOO much!!! I am rediculously happy to know that even two people took the time to read this post and by some miracle actually understood it! LOL

  5. I learned alot also, and will come back and re-read it again, to make sure I read it all correctly!
    Thanks for putting in the time to let us non-warmblood owners to get to know them!

  6. I love me some Hanoverian Horses!!! They are so beautiful. I know a lady here that imports them. They are so regal and majestic horses. She does dressage. Amazing horses. And I loved this part, "These horses are big, yet athletic, have the grace and fluid movement of a prima ballerina, combined with the formidable strength of Hercules crossed on the temperament of Bullwinkle". So true!!

    Great post!!

  7. Great post Chelsi, and from what I can tell, pretty accurate. Now when are you going to get to the nitty gritty of this whole topic and attack closed book registries???? Come know you want!!! :)

    Don't you hate to admit that most of our closed book registries wouldn't be able to breed half of what they do, if they adopted a similar stance as the open booked ones?

  8. Nicely done! I really appreciate the time you must have put into this. I now have a better appreciation for the price tags attached to these guys!

    I told my husband I wanted a horse with "one of these" as I pointed to the 'H' brand on the screen (hey, you never know!) He asked me if it was like the Honda of horses! :-/

    I did like your brief description too!

  9. BTW....your mom says "I want one". Great post hon....

  10. Hi – will you please post your Blog at The Hanoverian Community ay Our members will love it. They include: Owners, Breeders and Lovers.
    It's easy just cut and paste the link and it automatically links back to your website… You can also add Classifieds, Photos, Videos, Discussions and more.
    We are just getting started and could really use your help. It’s easy.
    Email me if you need any help or would like me to do it for you.
    The Hanoverian Community:
    James Kaufman, Editor

  11. Here you can sell and buy both new and used products.
    Free classified sites are perfect for selling just about anything at all.
    More at