The Dutch Warmblood is a sport horse breed that is managed by the Royal Warmblood Horse Studbook of the Netherlands (KWPN). The breed is highly regulated to ensure the quality and performance of registered horses.

The KWPN distinguishes horses between five breeding directions in North America: dressage, jumping, hunter, harness, and Gelders horses. All breeders aim to produce horses that can perform at the top level of their discipline.

Strict selection procedures and new bloodlines from approved outside breeds helped the KWPN grow into one of the largest and most successful sport horse stud books in the world. Veterinary standards and inspections also keep the breed healthy, but Dutch Warmbloods still need good management to prevent common health problems observed in performance horses.

This breed profile discusses the history, characteristics, conformation, health problems, and nutritional needs of the KWPN breed. Keep reading to learn more about feeding and caring for your horse from a fellow Dutch Warmblood owner.

Dutch Warmblood Horse History

Dutch Warmbloods descend from two historic horse breeds from the Netherlands. The modern KWPN studbook is relatively young compared to other warmblood registries, but was one of the first to pioneer specialized breeding.


Before World War II, two distinct types of utility horses predominated in the Netherlands: the Groninger and the Gelderlander.

Groningers bred in the north were heavy warmbloods similar to the Ostfriesen and Alt-Oldenburger. The Gelderlanders of the south were lively, elegant horses with Thoroughbred and Hackney blood. [1]

Imported stallions transformed Dutch breed types in the mid-20th century as breeding directions shifted from producing utility horses to modern sport horses. These stallions included the Selle Francais L’Invasion, the Holsteiner Amor, and the Hanoverian Eclantant. [2]

After local breed registries merged to form the KWPN in 1970, the Dutch government and breeders began an organized effort to modernize warmblood breeding in the country. Queen Beatrix gave the royal title to the KWPN in 1988.

Despite foreign influences, KWPN horses still have strong Dutch roots. Studies of Dutch horses report limited genetic differentiation between KWPN horses and the modern Groniger and Gelderlander breeds. [3]

Historic Use

Early breeders valued the Groningen and Gelderlander for their pulling power. Dutch farmers used the Groningen for agricultural work and plowing the tough marine clay soil of the northern part of the country. The sandy soils of the Gelderland region allowed breeders to develop a more refined horse for carriage driving and light draft work. [1]

While tractors and automobiles replaced their utilitarian roles in Dutch society, these horses remained popular as carriage horses. Breeders primarily focused on preserving the harness talents of Dutch horses until the demand for riding horses led to new breeding directions. [2]

The KWPN pioneered specialized breeding for jumping and dressage horses when most German warmblood societies still focused on producing all-around horses. Specialized harness and Gelder horse lines continue today, in addition to a hunter specialization in North America. [4]

Research into the genetics of show jumping and dressage traits suggests specialized breeding programs are more effective at achieving breeding goals for different equestrian disciplines. [5]

Breed Registry

The Koninklijk Warmbloed Paard Nederland (KWPN) is the Royal Warmblood Studbook of the Netherlands, which is the primary registry and governing body for the Dutch Warmblood breed. The KWPN plays a crucial role in maintaining the breed standards, overseeing breeding practices, and promoting the breed internationally.

The KWPN of North America (KWPN-NA) is the official organization for Dutch Warmbloods in North America. It serves as a bridge between North American breeders and the KWPN, ensuring that the breeding and registration processes align with the practices established in the Netherlands.

Outside studbooks recognized and approved by the KWPN, known as Ekend studbooks, include all warmblood studbook members of the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses (WBFSH).

KWPN horses have four registration options depending on their pedigree and inspection results. [6] KWPN books and registers include:

  • Foal book (vb)
  • Register A (reg A)
  • Register B (reg B)
  • Studbook (stb)

KWPN Keurings

KWPN keurings are inspection events organized by the KWPN to evaluate Dutch Warmblood horses for breeding and sport purposes. These keurings, or inspections, are a critical part of the KWPN’s breeding program, ensuring that only approved individuals are selected for breeding.

During a keuring, horses are assessed based on a variety of criteria, including conformation, movement, jumping ability (for those intended for show jumping), and dressage aptitude (for those intended for dressage). The process and criteria can vary slightly depending on the age and sex of the horse, as well as its intended discipline.

Foal Book and Register A mares and stallions are eligible for studbook inspections at keurings after the age of three. Register B horses can participate in keurings but cannot move into the studbook.

Stallions must complete additional requirements for studbook approval, including meeting performance standards and passing a veterinary examination with radiographs and endoscopy.

KWPN inspectors also evaluate foals, yearlings, and two-year-olds for premium grading at keurings. Young KWPN horses earn premium gradings based on inspection results:

  • 1st Premium: Awarded to highest quality horses that exceed breed standard
  • 2nd Premium: Meets breed standard but has some faults or lack of quality

KWPN Predicates

KWPN predicates are titles or designations awarded to Dutch Warmblood horses that meet specific criteria of excellence. They are valuable for breeders and owners as they highlight the quality and potential of the horses.

Mature horses can earn predicates at a keuring based on the scores they receive and other accomplishments. Here are some of the key KWPN predicates and their meanings:

  • Ster (Star): Awarded to mares, geldings, and stallions based on superior conformation and movement or jumping ability. Horses must achieve a minimum score of 70 for conformation and 75 for movement or jumping.
  • Keur: Awarded to Ster mares with eligible conformation who have completed IBOP (one-day performance) tests or met equivalent sport requirements. Also awarded to stallions based on the proven quality of their offspring.
  • IBOP: Awarded to horses from the foal book, studbook, or register A that complete the IBOP test, which evaluates their aptitude in riding or driving disciplines.
  • PROK: Awarded to horses that have passed a radiographic examination, indicating that they meet requirements for bone quality and joint health with an absence of conditions such as arthritis and OCD (Osteochondritis Dissecans).
  • D-OC: A predicate for riding-type horses identified through DNA testing as having a low genetic predisposition to OCD.
  • Elite: Granted to Keur mares that also possess the D-OC or PROK predicate, indicating higher standards of health and genetic quality.
  • Preferent: Awarded to KWPN mares that have produced at least three Ster predicate offspring. Also awarded to stallions as the highest recognition for the quality and abilities of their offspring.
  • Prestatie (Performance): Granted to KWPN mares whose offspring meet standards for exceptional sport success.
  • Sport: Earned by horses in North America based on their success at recognized shows. In Europe, this predicate is awarded only to mares.
  • Kroon (Crown): Awarded by KWPN-NA to horses competing at the FEI levels and within the top 300 in final year-end FEI / WBFSH dressage or jumping rankings

Breed Characteristics

Warmbloods are generally known as middle-weight horses, characterized by a balance of the agility and speed of lighter “hot-blooded” breeds and the calm, gentle disposition of heavier “cold-blooded” breeds.

KWPN inspectors evaluate Dutch Warmbloods based on breed standards for their breeding direction. This system has helped the KWPN remain a leading producer of top sport horses for dressage, show jumping, hunter, and harness disciplines.


While different breeding directions have additional objectives, general KWPN breeding goals aim to produce horses with the following:

  • The ability to perform at Grand Prix or equivalent top level of respective discipline
  • Sound constitution for long-term usefulness
  • Functional builds and correct movement
  • Correct, attractive, refined, noble, high-quality conformation

KWPN horses must have a minimum height of 15.3 hands to earn a ster predicate. Taller heights are preferred in stallions, and the average Dutch Warmblood stands 16.2 hands tall.

There are slightly different standards for conformation and movement evaluated at KWPN-NA keurings for each breeding direction. [6]

Conformation Traits

Most Dutch Warmbloods have the following conformation traits:

  • Rectangular-shaped frame
  • Well-proportioned and long-lined body
  • Light head/neck connection
  • Long, arched neck and muscled topline
  • Strong, well-muscled back and loin formation
  • Correct and clean legs
  • Attractive overall impression

Desirable Movement

Desirable movement can vary by discipline, but most KWPN horses should show:

  • Pure, active, rhythmic gaits with suppleness and impulsion
  • The ability to lengthen and shorten stride without losing rhythm or balance
  • An elevated forehand
  • Good self-carriage
  • Light-footed movement
  • Demonstrated flexion in joints, engaged hindquarters, free shoulder, and elevated knees


Typical coat colours in Dutch Warmbloods include:

  • Black
  • Bay
  • Brown
  • Chestnut
  • Grey

White markings are frequently seen in the breed. The KWPN has also accepted and approved horses with tobiano pinto patterns.


Warmblood breeds are renowned for their calm, even-tempered, and cooperative nature, making them suitable for a variety of equestrian disciplines.

The KWPN breeding goals aims to produce a horse with a good character, a strong willingness to perform, and a friendly disposition towards people that makes them easy to handle.

To succeed at the top levels of their sport, these horses also have to be intelligent, honest, and reactive. Some Dutch Warmbloods are more sensitive and reactive. While these traits can benefit high-performance careers, they can also make horses more spooky.

Certain bloodlines have reputations for passing particular temperaments and quirks. However, personalities vary between individual horses. Always work with a trusted trainer when horse shopping for help finding a horse suitable for you.


Most modern registered Dutch Warmbloods are riding horses, but the KWPN’s breeding directions for harness and Gelders horses preserve the breed’s carriage-driving roots.

Dutch Warmbloods frequently compete in international dressage and jumping disciplines, which are the primary focus of KWPN breeding programs.

Current world records in dressage belong to Valegro, the famous Dutch Warmblood ridden by Charlotte Dujardin. Valegro broke records previously set by the well-known stallion Totilas, another KWPN horse.

At the 2016 Olympic games, the KWPN stallion Big Star captured the individual Olympic gold in show jumping with his rider Nick Skelton. And in 2021, the KWPN horse Explosion W won the same medal in Tokyo with Ben Maher.

Some North American breeders produce Dutch Warmbloods for competition in the hunter ring, where the breed can also excel. While these horses rarely competed in eventing in the past, Dutch Warmbloods are becoming more popular in the sport today.

Health Profile

The KWPN considers health as important as conformation, temperament, and movement for reaching breeding and sport goals. Strict veterinary requirements help preserve the breed’s health, but Dutch Warmbloods are still susceptible to common performance horse issues.

Genetic Diseases

With advancements in equine genetics, the KWPN has incorporated genetic testing into their veterinary inspections. Genetic testing helps breeders make informed breeding decisions and reduces the risk of inherited diseases.

Fragile Foal Syndrome

Warmblood fragile foal syndrome (WFFS) is the primary genetic disease found in Dutch Warmbloods. This fatal autosomal recessive disorder causes connective tissue abnormalities and hyperextensible skin in affected foals. [7]

Carriers of the genetic mutation responsible for WFFS do not show clinical signs of the disease, but may exhibit increased joint laxity. Selective breeding for elastic movement likely contributed to the prevalence of the WFFS gene in warmblood populations. [8]

DNA testing for WFFS is mandatory for KWPN breeding stallions to help breeders avoid mating two carriers, but carrier status does not disqualify stallions from approval.


Dutch Warmblood horses are also prone to osteochondrosis (OCD), a developmental disease affecting the joints and cartilage, particularly in growing animals. While many OCD lesions are minor, some can have significant impacts on future soundness. [9]

A study examining 811 Dutch Warmblood yearlings revealed that 70% of these horses had indications of developmental orthopedic diseases in at least one joint. This finding was based on x-rays of key joints, specifically the stifle, hock, and fetlock.

OCD has a recognized genetic component, meaning that the likelihood of a horse developing this condition can be influenced by its parentage.

The KWPN uses DNA testing to give genomic breeding value scores for OCD risk in the offspring of their breeding horses. Horses with a genomic value of 95 or higher are eligible for the D-OC predicate, indicating a lower risk of passing on OCD to offspring.

Health Problems

Dutch Warmbloods are generally known for their robust health and longevity, traits that make them desirable for high-level competition. However, like all breeds, they are susceptible to certain health issues that require careful management and attention.

Stallions and mares undergo thorough veterinary inspections before being approved for breeding. These inspections are critical in identifying and excluding animals with hereditary health issues.

Radiographic Screening

Stallions in the KWPN breeding program undergo detailed radiographic examinations, including imaging of the spine, legs, and joints to identify skeletal abnormalities. Mares may also undergo radiographic exams, depending on their breeding program.

These examinations also screen horses for arthritis and navicular syndrome, a painful hoof condition that can lead to chronic lameness.

Endoscopic Examination

Stallions are also required to undergo endoscopic examination of the respiratory system as part of their health assessment. This involves using an endoscope to visually inspect the horse’s breathing apparatus.

The endoscopic exam primarily checks for laryngeal hemiplegia, also known as “roaring”, which disqualifies stallions from approval. [6] This condition, characterized by collapse of cartilage in the larynx, leads to noisy breathing, reduced airflow, and impaired exercise tolerance.


Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (PSSM) is a muscle disorder that can affect various horse breeds, including Dutch Warmbloods. There are two types of PSSM:

  • Type 1 PSSM is caused by a genetic mutation leading to the excessive storage of glycogen in the muscles.
  • Type 2 PSSM, whose cause is less clearly understood, is also characterized by abnormal glycogen storage or location but does not involve the same genetic mutation as Type 1. Some of these horses actually have myofibrillar myopathy with glycogen deposited between damaged muscle fibers.

In warmbloods, PSSM2 is much more common than PSSM1. Only 8% of warmbloods diagnosed with PSSM have the known genetic mutation. [10] Dutch Warmbloods with PSSM typically show signs of muscle soreness and an abnormal gait. Warmbloods are less likely to experience typing up compared to non-warmblood breeds affected by PSSM2. [10]


Limb and hoof conformation significantly impact the duration of performance careers in Dutch Warmbloods. While all performance horses have a higher risk of injury and lameness due to intense training, selecting for good conformation reduces these risks. [11]

Interestingly, studies indicate that Dutch horses used for recreational riding or instruction tend to experience higher rates of lameness compared to competition horses. [12]

This could be attributed to differences in the intensity of veterinary care and monitoring. Competition horses generally have earlier veterinary interventions for minor lameness.

However, performance horses also have an elevated risk of athletic injuries and gastric ulcers due to the increased stress of training and competition. [12]

Care and Management

Elite performance horses need attentive care and management to keep them healthy and performing at their best. Ensure that your horse’s lifestyle matches their their physical, mental, and behavioural health needs.

Work together with your veterinarian and other equine health practitioners to develop a preventative health program that includes the following:

  • Veterinary Visits: Protect your horse’s health with routine veterinary check-ups to detect issues promptly. Regular lameness exams can identify early signs of injuries in both recreational and competition horses.
  • Vaccinations: Follow your veterinarian-recommended vaccination schedule to protect against infectious diseases.
  • Dental Care: Regular dental exams with tooth floating are crucial for maintaining optimal chewing and supporting oral health.
  • Parasite Control: Implement a strategic deworming program to protect your horse against harmful internal parasites.
  • Farrier Care: Consistent hoof care by a skilled farrier is key for maintaining hoof balance and preventing lameness. Long toes and incorrect angles increase loading forces on distal limb structures and predispose horses to injury, even if they have good natural hoof conformation. [13]
  • Grooming: A thorough daily grooming routine enhances the natural beauty of Dutch Warmbloods, promoting a shiny coat and healthy skin.

Some Dutch Warmbloods may need additional veterinary maintenance to feel and perform at their best. Joint injections and other therapies can help manage pain and existing joint disease.

Performance horses frequently live in stalls, but prolonged stall confinement can increase stress levels in your horse. Follow a daily turnout schedule appropriate for your Dutch Warmblood to provide an opportunity for free exercise, grazing, and social interaction. [14]

These athletic sport horses do best with regular exercise and mental stimulation. Work with your veterinarian and trainer to develop a consistent training program suitable for your horse’s fitness level. Thoroughly groom your Dutch Warmblood before training sessions to monitor for signs of health issues.

Nutrition Profile

The feeding program for your Dutch Warmblood depends on their workload, body condition and individual health needs. All horses need a balanced, forage-based feeding program that provides adequate macronutrients and micronutrients, but some Dutch Warmbloods may also benefit from additional supplements.

Weight Maintenance

Most Dutch Warmbloods are easy keepers with an efficient metabolism. This means that healthy warmbloods should easily maintain weight on a balanced diet. Unexplained weight loss could indicate an underlying digestive health issue in these horses.

Easy keepers can quickly become overweight when fed diets consisting of high-energy feeds. Research also shows that dressage horses have higher rates of obesity compared to other disciplines due to owners mistaking fat for muscle. Since many Dutch Warmbloods are used for dressage, it’s possible owners aren’t recognizing obesity in the breed. [16]

Horses with equine metabolic syndrome may be more prone to becoming overweight. This is a metabolic disorder characterized by insulin resistance and a higher risk of laminitis. [15]

To determine if your Dutch Warmblood is at a healthy weight, you should regularly assess your horse’s body condition score and adjust your feeding program if necessary. The ideal body condition for a horse is a score of 5 on the 9-point Henneke scale.

Sample Diet

The following sample diet is intended for a mature 600 kg (1300 lb) Dutch Warmblood horse with normal body condition at maintenance (not exercising).

Feed Amount per day
Mid-Quality Hay (8% crude protein) Free-choice
Salt 30 g (2 tbsps)
Omneity Pellets 250 g (2.5 scoops)
Diet Analysis
Digestible Energy (% of Req) 105%
Protein (% of Req) 125%
HC (ESC + starch; % Diet) 8.6%


Dutch Warmbloods in light work can typically meet their energy and protein requirement on a forage-only diet, but performance horses with heavy workloads may need extra calorie sources.

However, hay is deficient in several essential nutrients required in the equine diet. [17] Feeding a vitamin and mineral supplement can help fill these nutritional gaps and ensure your Dutch Warmblood receives a balanced diet.

Mad Barn’s Omneity is a vitamin and mineral premix expertly formulated to balance a forage-based diet. Omneity provides optimal levels of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids to support hoof health, coat quality, performance and more in KWPN horses.

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The equine digestive system evolved to thrive on a constant intake of low-calorie roughage. Providing your Dutch Warmblood with free-choice forage enables the expression of natural grazing behaviours and support optimal digestive function.

When pasture grazing isn’t feasible, grass hay can be an excellent substitute, ensuring your horse gets adequate fiber in their diet. Monitoring the quality and quantity of forage is key to prevent overfeeding and the associated health risks.

Mature horses in light exercise are expected to consume 2% of their body weight in forage dry matter per day. A 600 kg (1300 lb) Dutch Warmblood should eat approximately 12 kg (26 lb) of hay dry matter per day.

Mid-maturity grass hay that is low in starch and sugar is the best choice for most Dutch Warmbloods. Sugar (ESC) and starch are collectively known as hydrolyzable carbohydrates, and represent the component of NSC that are digestible in the small intestine and contribute to insulin release. Horses with PSSM should have HC in the diet restricted to under 12%.

Easy keeper Dutch Warmbloods need low-calorie forages so they can get enough roughage in their diet without gaining weight. KWPN horses with performance careers sometimes need higher-quality hay to meet their energy requirements.

Some Dutch Warmbloods benefit from incorporating alfalfa hay into their daily ration. This high-protein legume hay also contains high levels of calcium, which can buffer stomach acid to reduce ulcer risks. [18] A mash made of 2 parts alfalfa or beet pulp and 1 part wheat bran, by weight, has a balanced calcium : phosphorus ratio and excellent palatability.

Unrestricted pasture access may be inappropriate for Dutch Warmbloods with weight concerns due to the high sugar or starch content of some fresh grasses. Consider using a grazing muzzle to limit grass intake while on pasture or provide turnout on a dry lot with hay. Spring pastures may also aggravate PSSM because of the high HC and low magnesium.

For overweight Dutch Warmbloods that require rationed hay, use a slow feeder to prolong their access to forage and prevent long periods with an empty stomach.

Feeding Recommendations

If your horse needs additional energy in their diet, avoid commercial grain-based feeds, which increase the risk of digestive upset and metabolic problems. [20] Instead, choose fiber-based forage alternatives, such as soaked hay pellets or beet pulp. Fat is another beneficial source of concentrated calories for exercising Dutch Warmbloods.

Commercial concentrates often add excess calories to the diets of easy keepers. Instead of using complete feeds or ration balancers, provide vitamins and minerals from a concentrated supplement to avoid unwanted weight gain. If you choose to feed grain, split your horse’s daily ration into multiple small meals to prevent digestive issues.

Exercise and appropriate feeding practices are critical for warmbloods with PSSM2. Dutch Warmbloods with PSSM2 benefit from a low starch and sugar diet with extra energy supplied as fat. Research suggests PSSM horses can safely get up to 20% of their dietary energy from fat. [19] However, this feeding strategy works better for horses with PSSM1 than PSSM2. Horses with PSSM2 should be screened for myofibrillar myopathy.[19]

Feeding a balanced diet is important at all stages of life, but is especially crucial for growing horses to support healthy skeletal development. Work with an equine nutritionist to ensure your Dutch Warmblood’s diet is appropriate for their age, growth, and activity level.

Provide your horse with free access to fresh water and salt. Our nutritionists recommend adding 1 – 2 tablespoons of plain loose salt to your horse’s daily ration to help them meet their sodium requirements. Exercising horses need more salt to replace the sodium and other electrolytes lost in sweat.

Nutritional Supplements

Feeding a balanced, forage-based diet with adequate vitamins and minerals is important for the health and performance of your Dutch Warmblood. After balancing the diet, you may consider additional nutritional supplements for extra support.

  • W-3 Oil is an energy and essential fatty acid supplement suitable for Dutch Warmbloods that need extra calories in their diet. This oil also contains high levels of vitamin E and the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, which supports joint health and exercise performance.
  • MSM is a natural joint supplement that can help maintain healthy connective tissue in exercising and aging Dutch Warmbloods. MSM can also support collagen synthesis and cartilage in growing horses.
  • Visceral+ is a comprehensive gut supplement with natural ingredients that helps to maintain stomach and hindgut health, and supports the immune system. Visceral+ is veterinarian-recommended for competition horses to keep them in top shape.
  • Vitamin E is an antioxidant nutrient that plays a key role in muscle function and neurological health. Warmbloods engaged in heavy exercise need higher levels of this vitamin in their diet.
  • Acetyl-L-Carnitine is a naturally occurring derivative of carnitine which is an antioxidant and enhances the efficiency of metabolism in muscle cells.

Not sure if your Dutch Warmblood’s diet is meeting their needs? Submit your horse’s information online for a free evaluation and get help from our experienced equine nutritionists to formulate a balanced diet.

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  4. Rovere, G. et al. Effect of specialization on genetic parameters of studbook–entry inspection in Dutch Warmblood horses. J Anim Breed Genet. 2015.
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  13. Kummer, M. et al. The effect of hoof trimming on radiographic measurements of the front feet of normal Warmblood horses. Vet J. 2006.
  14. Werhahn, H. et al. Competition Horses Housed in Single Stalls (II): Effects of Free Exercise on the Behavior in the Stable, the Behavior during Training, and the Degree of Stress. J Equine Vet Sci. 2012.
  15. Durham, A. et al. ECEIM consensus statement on equine metabolic syndrome. J Vet Intern Med. 2019.
  16. Pratt-Phillips, S. et al. Impacts of Adiposity on Exercise Performance in Horses. Animals. 2023.
  17. National Research Council. Nutrient Requirements of Horses: Sixth Revised Edition. National Academies. 2007.
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  19. Williams, Z. et al. Muscle glycogen concentrations and response to diet and exercise regimes in Warmblood horses with type 2 Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy. PLoS One. 2018.
  20. Cipriano-Salazar, M. et al. The Dietary Components and Feeding Management as Options to Offset Digestive Disturbances in Horses. J Equine Vet Sci. 2019.