Use and characteristics of the Westphalian
Power, scope and elasticity are the strengths of the Westphalian. Breeding has concentrated on producing a superior riding horse, long-lined and active with outstanding paces. Even-temper and willingness are other features of the breed that are highly-rated among equestrians who buy a Westphalian. The horses are between 15.2 hands (62 inches/157 cm) and 17.2 hands (70 inches/178 cm) high. They weigh up to 1300lb (512 kg). No colours are debarred, but their coats tend to be solid bay, black, chestnut or grey. Youngstock that are accepted at the official show will be branded with a shield and letter “W”, making their origin clear when breeders sell a Westphalian.
Origin and history of breeding Westphalian horses
As the location of not only the state stud of Warendorf, but also of many major equestrian centres, Westphalia is one of Germany’s most important producers of warmblood horses. In fact, the Westphalian Stud Book is second only to that of Hanoverians in numbers of registered horses. The Prussian King Frederick William I founded a stud at Warendorf to improve horse breeding in Westphalia and Rhineland. The foundation stallions were Trakehner types, a breed created by Frederick William I from Thoroughbreds, Arabs and other strains of horse at Trakehnen in East Prussia. These were some of the finest cavalry horses of the time. During the 19th century, Warendorf, now a state stud, began to produce medium and heavyweight draught horses with strong input from East Friesian and Oldenburg stallions. For a time in the 20th century, the Rhenish Cold Blood dominated the stud at Wickrath and was also influential on the horses produced at Warendorf. During the 1950s, with increasing interest in sports horses, stallions and mares of the neighbouring Hanoverian breed, as well as Thoroughbreds, were used to begin the breeding of the Westphalian horse as it is known today. This excellent all-rounder is somewhat larger and heavier than the Hanoverian. Rigorous testing of potential breeding stock begins at a young age, to ensure the quality of the Westphalian horse is maintained. This is a long-established process, since it has been going on since the creation of the first Westphalian studbook in 1888, and the breed organisation began even earlier, in the 1820s. The standards are based on proven performance, just as they were in the early 1900s when stallions of the breed were expected to prove their worth as both saddle and plough horses! Today, however, the stallions prove their potential as all-round sports horses.
Westphalians in equestrianism
The first major success for the breed was in the 1978 World Show Jumping Championships, which were won by the Westphalian Roman. In the 1980s, the Westphalian Fire won international show jumping events, while Ahlerich, possibly the most famous representative of the breed, excelled at dressage, winning the dressage gold medal at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. Since then Westphalians have been consistent winners of both individual and team Olympic gold medals.