Use and characteristics of the Swiss Warmblood
Standing between 15.1 hands (61 inches/152 cm) and 16.2 hands (66 inches/168 cm) high, the general impression of a Swiss Warmblood is of power in a compact form. Stallions may be even taller than 16.2 hands high. The head is distinctive, with a convex or straight profile. They have broad chests and a hint of crest, probably inherited from Anglo-Norman ancestors, and their withers are notably prominent. Riders can buy a Swiss Warmblood of any colour, as all coat colours are acceptable apart from spotted and pinto (piebald or skewbald). As well as purchasing from individuals who sell a Swiss Warmblood, buyers can approach the Swiss Federal Stud at Avenches which is the major centre for the breed.
Origin and history of breeding Swiss Warmbloods
The earliest documented horse breeding in Switzerland was in the eleventh century at the monastery of Einsiedeln. Here, as at many medieval religious foundations, the monks bred quality horses that were renowned further afield. This is clearly the origin of the breed name Einsiedler, which provided some of the foundation stock for the Swiss Warmblood. There appears to have been a tradition of small, hardy black horses that were known and used throughout Switzerland until the eighteenth century. However, the breed went through many changes. The first of these may have occurred when Switzerland began to supply cavalry horses for the French army, and breeding cavalry horses became a national effort. The use of Anglo-Norman mares along with an imported Yorkshire Coach Horse stallion brought about significant developments in the nineteenth century. However, despite a substantial horse population after WWII, horse breeding in Switzerland was heading for decline. Further development came through the use of Norman, Holstein and Irish mares at the National Stud in Avenches. The modern breed is greatly influenced by the stallions that were used during the 1950s. The three most influential were the Normandy horses Ivoire, Que d'Espair, and Orinate de Messil. Today, the primary influence is believed to be Anglo-Norman (so much so, that at one point the developing warmblood was known as the Swiss Anglo-Norman). Aladin, a Swedish warmblood, was also influential in the 1950s. 500 Swedish warmbloods were acquired by the Swiss government when the Swedish cavalry disbanded after WWII. Holstein stallions, Thoroughbreds and other breeds have also been used in the development of the Swiss Warmblood.
Swiss Warmbloods in equestrianism
Swiss Warmbloods are bred to be practical, good-natured riding horses. They are also used in harness. Potential breeding stock is tested, the stallions first at 3 ½ years old, and then at 5, when their jumping, cross-country, dressage and driving potential is assessed. The mares are tested at 3 years old. The performance of the parents is important to selection, too. Mares must have both parents registered as Swiss Warmbloods.