American Warmblood

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American Warmblood
Christian Brühe on Cinco de Mayo
Country of originUnited States of America
Distinguishing featuresSport horse type, can be any size or color, but are primarily 15-17 hands and solid colored
Breed standards

The American Warmblood is a horse of warmblood type, intended primarily for the traditional sport horse disciplines of dressage, show jumping, eventing and combined driving.


The American Warmblood is usually between 15 and 17 hands (60 and 68 inches, 152 and 173 cm) high and may come in any color, though the solid colors are the most common. Horses of nearly all bloodlines are eligible for registration as American Warmbloods, as long as they are of a sport horse or warmblood type, and are able to meet the appropriate studbook selection or performance criteria.

The emphasis is on the quality of each individual horse, for both registration and breeding approval. While the ideal horse for registration is already a warmblood type, there are no breed restrictions for American Warmbloods. Horses which are 100% hot or cold blooded are not typical, but can be registered if they are able to meet the registry's performance standards (this would include draft horses, Arabians, and Thoroughbreds).[1] Gaited horse breeds (like the Tennessee Walker, Missouri Fox Trotter, or Icelandic horses) are also non-typical, though if they are able to perform walk-trot-canter in the appropriate levels of the accepted disciplines, they too can be eligible for registration.

Horses which fail to meet or have yet to meet these performance criteria may still be issued recording papers, but are not considered registered American Warmbloods until they satisfy performance or inspection standards.[1]

Breeding stock must be approved for breeding through studbook inspection, which requires mares and stallions to meet even more stringent inspection and/or performance criteria.[2]

Breed history[edit]

The origins of the American Warmblood date back to when the English Thoroughbred - Bulle Rock - was first imported to the American Colonies in 1730, and covered 39 mares of various breeds and backgrounds. Later on, two important English Thoroughbred racing stallions were imported shortly after the American Revolutionary War: Messenger in 1788, and Diomed in 1798.[3] Messenger left little impact as a sire on the American Thoroughbred, but is considered a foundation sire of the Standardbred breed. Diomed, who won the Epsom Derby in 1780, had a significant impact on American Thoroughbred breeding through his son, Sir Archy.[4][5] John F. Wall, a racing historian, said that Sir Archy was the "first outstanding stallion we can claim as native American".[6] He was retired from the racetrack because of lack of opponents.[6]

From the late 1700s through the 1800s, the Thoroughbred would not only become the most popular horse breed in the United States, but also be used to improve or refine various other American and imported horse breeds, including the Narragansett Pacer, Morgan horse, Spanish horse, and various draft horse breeds. This led to the foundation of many modern-day American horse breeds, including the American Quarter Horse, the American Saddlebred, the Standardbred, the Tennessee Walking Horse, and others. During the U.S. Civil War, Thoroughbreds were also the breed of choice for the U.S. Cavalry, with "half-bred horses" also being in high demand. Robert E. Lee, the famous Confederate general, rode a "half-bred horse" by the name of Traveller, who was by a Thoroughbred stallion out of a Saddlebred mare.

As early as 1911, "half-bred horses" - known as warmblood horses today - were stated to be ideal cavalry mounts by some in the United States Army Remount Service. There was also a determined attempt to engage professional horse breeders in the Remount Service, beginning in 1918 with the approval of a breeding plan for cavalry horses that combined the efforts of the Remount Service with the Bureau of Animal Industry.[7] A 1921 issue of the Cavalry Journal contained an update from the "American Remount Association" calling for owners of "high-class registered Thoroughbreds" to add their stallions to the program. The author also mentioned a reduced-cost registry for "half-breed" Thoroughbreds.[8]

The number of horses involved in the program remained high even into the final years of the Remount Service. As late as 1945, between 450 and 500 stallions owned by the government and over 11,000 civilian-owned mares produced 7,293 foals.[9] Thoroughbreds predominated in the stallion rolls, although a few Morgans, Arabians, and Standardbreds were also used. The number of Arabian stallions increased greatly in 1943 with the addition of the Kellogg Arabian Ranch (renamed the Pomona Remount Depot) to the program.[10]

In 1942, the Remount Service (then called the Remount Division) printed a breakdown of its breeding program in the Cavalry Journal. According to the article, the primary breeding horse was the Thoroughbred (17,983 mares and 688 stallions), followed by Arabians (375 mares and 16 stallions), followed by Morgans, Saddlebreds, Anglo-Arabians, and the Cleveland Bay (trailing with 8 mares and 1 stallion). Of the foals born in 1941, 11,028 of the 11,409 reported were Thoroughbreds.[11]

By the end of World War II, the need for war horses had declined, but the need for mules had risen. By 1948, when the Remount Service was disbanded, it was raising and training mules almost exclusively.[12] Mechanization, the cessation of using horses in war, and the disbanding of horse cavalries saw a shift from breeding warmblood horses for combat towards breeding them to compete in equestrian sports instead.

In France, this led to the creation of the Selle Français breed in 1958, and Germany also saw a rise in popularity with German warmblood breeds in horse shows and competitions. In the 1960s, Oldenburg breeders in Germany began producing a modern version of the breed, with the goal of creating a marketable sport horse. Thoroughbred stallions were bred to Oldenburg mares, and the resulting mares were then bred to Trakehner, Anglo-Arabian, Hanoverian, Holsteiner, and other warmblood horses.[13]

The American Warmblood Registry was created in 1981, and the American Warmblood Society (AWS) was founded in 1983, to promote the new idea of an "American Warmblood" sport horse,[14] resurrecting the original goal of the U.S. Cavalry to create an American-bred sport horse type.[15] There are two registries in the United States which recognize American Warmbloods - the American Warmblood Society & Sporthorse Registry (AWS) and the American Warmblood Registry (AWR), both of which are recognized by the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses (WBFSH).

The American Warmblood is more of a "type" than a "breed". Like most of the European warmbloods, the American Warmblood has an "open" book. There is more emphasis on producing quality sport horses, rather than the preservation of any particular bloodlines, which allows for much diversity in the bloodlines of American Warmbloods.[1][16]

The American Warmblood has been influenced by the European warmbloods, the Thoroughbred, the Arabian, and the Anglo-Arabian, as well as some draft horse breeds, such as the Belgian Draught, Clydesdale, Percheron, and Shire. Of these breeds, the Belgian and the Percheron are most popular for warmblood crosses.[17]

Both registries have also begun sport pony books, creating similar performance registries for North American ponies.


  1. ^ a b c "Eligibility". American Warmblood Society & Sporthorse Registry. 2017-05-31. Retrieved 2017-06-15.
  2. ^ "AWR Rulebook" (PDF). American Warmblood Registry.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ Robertson, William H.P. (1 January 1964). The History of Thoroughbred Racing in America. Prentice-Hall. ISBN 978-1199048448.
  4. ^ Montgomery The Thoroughbred pp. 131–136
  5. ^ "Turf Hallmarks: Epsom Derby Stakes". Turf Hallmarks. Thoroughbred Heritage. Archived from the original on 2008-03-02. Retrieved 2008-02-17.
  6. ^ a b Wall Famous Running Horses pp. 114–115
  7. ^ Cederwald.
  8. ^ Hawkins, C.E. "The American Remount Association" Cavalry Journal v 30, no 123 (April 1921). pp 192-194.
  9. ^ Miller, Everett. United States Army Veterinary Service in World War II. pp 512-513. Accessed online June 21, 2012
  10. ^ Miller, Everett. United States Army Veterinary Service in World War II. pp 512-513. Online June 21, 2012
  11. ^ "Army Horse Breeding Program Progresses." Cavalry Journal July-August 1942, p. 76.
  12. ^ Wolfe, Martha (6 July 2018). "War Horses Remembered". Middleburg Life. Retrieved 23 August 2023.
  13. ^ Pavia, Audrey (15 September 2021). "German Warmbloods". Horse Illustrated. Retrieved 23 August 2023.
  14. ^ "About AWSSR". American Warmblood Society & Sporthorse Registry. Retrieved 23 August 2023.
  15. ^ Fitzpatrick, Andrea (2016). The Ultimate Guide to Horse Breeds. Chartwell Books. p. 295. ISBN 978-0-7858-3467-0.
  16. ^ "About American Warmbloods". American Warmblood Society & Sporthorse Registry. 2017-05-31. Retrieved 2017-06-15.
  17. ^ Benner, Dana. "Types of Draft Horses on the Homestead". Grit: Rural American Know-How. Retrieved 23 August 2023.

See also[edit]