Monday, March 30, 2015

Horse Breeds: Lipizzan

Some breeds have a more aristocratic beginning than others. The Lipizzan is one of them. Sometimes called the Lipizzaner, this elegant breed has its roots in the time when Spanish-bred horses were considered perfect cavalry mount, especially in Austria. Because just about any Spanish-bred horse was prized, several came together to form the Lipizzan as the breed emerged. Let us not forget, however, that there is certainly some Arabian blood in this brilliant mount.

In 1562, Maximillian II brought several Spanish horses to the Austrian court and founded a stud at Kladrub. All were lovely. His brother, Archduke Charles II, created a similar studfarm at Lipizza in 1580. It was at Lipizza, which lies near the Adriatic Sea, where the breed finally started to flourish, mostly because of the introduction of the native Karst horses to the Lipizza and Kladrub bloodlines. So it should come as no surprise that the Lipizzan was named after this picturesque location.

Though the Lipizzan was named after Lipizza, Kladrub produced two of the foundation sires for the Lipizzan breed. Maestoso and Favory were Kladrub horses, while Conversano, Neapolitano, Pluto, and Siglavy all came from Lipizza. Today, these six horses are considered the foundation for the entire Lipizzaner breed.

If there is one horse that was bred for grace and power, it is the Lipizzan. They are the very picture of the perfect dressage horse because they were specifically bred for it. This may seem odd, especially since the Lipizzan was originally a cavalry horse, but consider the history of dressage for a moment. Dressage began as a way to train cavalry mounts in the finer points of high movements and collection. Since this is what the Lipizzans were bred for, they are naturally better at it than most other breeds.

Standing from 14.3 to 15.3 hands high, the Lipizzan is not actually white. Instead they are genetically grey. They are all born a brown or dark grey, but this gradually lightens until they reach have their 'white' coat at between 5 and 10 years of age. The 'white' horse is the most common color in the breed, mostly because the Austrian nobility preferred white horses and so selectively bred for that color, but the occasional bay or black adult does appear. Two hundred years ago there were Lipizzans of all colors, but this is almost unheard of now.

An ancient but relatively rare breed, The Lipizzaner is agile, lovely, and sweet. Registries around the world, such as Lipizzan Association of North America, are engaged in protecting and promoting this elegant breed so that future generations will get to enjoy them.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Horse Breeds: Knabstrupper

Back in 1812 Major Villas Lunn, who resided in Nordsealand, Denmark at the time, put a Fredricksborg stallion to a chestnut blanketed mare (who may have been of Spanish breeding). The resulting colt was colorful and spotted. He would be the foundation for what would eventually become the Knabstrupper.

This unique breed was once favored by kings and dukes across Europe. Frequently used for festivals and pleasure pursuits, the cavalry eventually started using them in Denmark for officer's horses. They were even used in breeding programs on the continent and beyond. One of the founding stallions of the Lipizzaner was a Knabstrupper by the name of Pluto. The end of World War II saw the Knabstrupper used in circus shows throughout the world.

Though the most popular pattern for a Knabstrupper is certainly the full leopard, which involves a full white background covered with bay, black, or chestnut spots, there are other acceptable patterns as well. These include the blanket, the snowcap, and the snowflake. There is also a pattern called the few spot, which is a horse that is almost solid white. When bred, the few spot always produces a spotted foal of some kind.

Standing from 15.2 to 16 hands high, the Knabstrupper actually has three varieties. The Baroque is the traditional horse; it reminds many of old circus horses because many old circus horses were indeed Knabstruppers. The Sport Knabstrupper resulted from a cross with European warmbloods and excels in all of the English sports. The Knabstrupper Pony is just a smaller version of the Baroque and is often used as a children's mount. All of these have great personalities.

Today, the Knabstrupper is primarily seen in dressage, eventing, and show jumping throughout the world. There were no Knabstrupper foals in North America until 2002, but it wasn't until 2003, when the American Knabstrupper Association was formed, that the Knabstrupper had anyone in North American to preserve and promote the breed.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Horse Breeds: Kerry Bog Pony

Though the exact origins of the Kerry Bog Pony are a bit of a mystery. But it is likely this hardy pony is a descendant of the Celdone ponies used by the Celtic settlers in northern Spain. As trade expanded across Europe, these ponies ended up in Ireland where they tended to roam free. Like many other Irish horses, they were used as pack and cavalry animals in the early 19th century. By the late 19th and early 20th century they were being used to haul peat from the bogs in Kerry, which is where the modern name of Kerry Bog Pony comes from.

The problem with this is that the horses were taken off the moors where they bred and put in stalls all alone. This meant there wasn't much in the way of breeding happening. For the Kerry Bog Pony the end was very near. In fact, by the 1980s they were very nearly extinct. Lucky for the Kerry Bog, John Mulvihill of County Kerry in Ireland decided to intervene. He gathered a small herd of ponies and began breeding them, keeping records all the while. He even gave them their modern name. With the help of a few other enthusiasts he formed the Kerry Bog Pony Society.

Despite all his efforts, it wasn't until 1995 that a breed standard was written by Timothy Clifford. Even after that standard was written it was another ten years before it was adopted by the Kerry Bog Pony Co-Operative Society Ireland. Once this standard was accepted, a studbook could also be established. At least the Kerry Bog Pony had a fighting chance. Its longevity was assured when it was imported into the United States. The breeding in America is overseen by the American Kerry Bog Pony Association, which ensures the European standards are strictly adhered to.

Since this breed evolved on the harsh moors of Ireland, it is a hardy breed with a sturdy body. Its compact body gives it good balance and its small head gives it a sweet appearance. The coat is long and dense, allowing the pony to survive the cold and damp so common to Ireland in the winter. Most ponies are bay or brown, but chestnut, dun, and gray are also acceptable.

Used today for riding and harness work, the Kerry Bog Pony isn't seen all that often outside of Ireland. Its sweet disposition and hardy nature makes it the perfect pony for children, however, so its worth taking a look at this cute little breed.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Horse Breeds: Kathiawari

Like many breeds, the Kathiawari is named for its place of origin. This sturdy breed was first found on the Kathiawari peninsula in western India and though we don't know exactly how it got there, it's probably a mix of Arabian and other desert breeds. Their ancestors probably wandered in from other parts of India, but we'll never really know for sure.

There is some confusion between the Marwari and the Kathiawari. They're sometimes even considered the same breed, but the Kathiawari is stockier and has finer facial features than the Marwari. Crosses between the two breeds are common, but they're not the same horse. The are indeed separate breeds.

This breed is on the smaller side as horses go, standing no more than 14.2 hands high. The Kathiawari is a sturdy little horse that is far stronger than it seems. Like the Marwari, it has the classic tipped-in ears, though the Kathiawari's are just a little shorter and a little more curved. They also have a less 'Roman' appearance than its sister breed.

Most colors and many patterns are acceptable. The Kathiawari can be found in all solid colors with the exception of black (who knows why). Almost all variations of cream, including cremello and palomino, are common in the Kathiawari. Probably the most unexpected (and most interesting) pattern you might find in this breed is pinto. A pinto horse of this side is just really cute.

The Kathiawari was mostly used as a utility horse on the farm, but they were also used for riding, driving, and even carrying mounted police officers. Most of these uses continue today. For more information on this cute little breed, visit The Indigenous Horse Society of India.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Horse Breeds: Irish Draught Horse

There are two breeds truly native to Ireland, and the Irish Draught Horse is one of them. Because this breed has been around for so long, it's really not clear where the Irish Draught Horse originally came from. One theory is that Thoroughbred stallions were put to Irish mares, and those mares were a curious mix of whatever horses swam ashore after shipwrecks and the stock brought over by Anglo-Norman invaders. It is likely that from these horses a strong workhorse was developed, though we'll probably never know for sure. This workhorse would eventually become the Irish Draught Horse.

Originally, the Irish Draught Horse was probably a farm horse used for just about any farm job that needed a horse. They pulled ploughs, served as mounts, and carried loads wherever necessary. Today it is more common to see crossbreeds such as the Irish Draught Sport Horse (the Irish Draught Horse crossed with a Thoroughbred), the Irish Hunter, and other mixes competing and winning in show jumping and eventing competitions around the world.

Standing from 15.1 to 16.3 hands high, the Irish Draught Horse is a powerful breed that is strong and bold. Its movements are commanding and sure, its jump nearly perfect, and its nature kind and intelligent. These traits combine to produce a horse that is easy to train and excels in many areas. Just about any color is acceptable in this noble breed.

Though this horse is found throughout the world, many horsemen can go their entire lives without actually seeing an Irish Draught Horse (though they are likely to see the Sport or Hunter varieties at competitions). Today the Irish Draught Horse Society of North America is one of several associations trying to preserve and protect this rare breed.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Horse Breeds: Icelandic Horse

The Icelandic Horse is an ancient breed, so we cannot be truly certain of its origin. It was probably brought to Iceland by the Vikings in either the 9th or 10th century, but we can't know this for sure. This noble breed has many characteristics in common with the Mongolian Horse, but so little is known about its ancestry that it is impossible to say if these horses have a common ancestor.

Regardless of where the horse originally came from, the Icelandic Horse has spent the better part of a millennium isolated from other horse breeds. This has resulted in a pure horse with a hardy constitution. They were, and are, prized in Iceland for their well-rounded abilities and were used as both workhorses and for transportation. Today, this sweet horse is used for sheepherding, transportation, and competition.

Standing from 12 to 14 hands high, the Icelandic Horse can come in practically any color or pattern except for the spotted patterns. The hooves tend to be feathered and some horses have a slight beard on the chin, but only in the winter. These traits are common in breeds that have developed in cooler climes independently of other horses.

The most defining trait of the Icelandic Horse is the distinctive gait. Like most breeds, it can trot and canter, but it also has a more unusual gait called the tolt. This gait, which is similar to a rack, involves a four-beat gait with a high-stepping movement. The tolt is smooth and beautiful and can range in speed from a walk to a gallop. Many Icelandic Horses move with a flying gait, which is a two-beat gait where both legs on the same side move as one. Like the told, this gait is lovely to behold.

With its sweet face and cheery disposition, the Icelandic Horse is a fun and expressive companion. For more information on this unique breed, see The United States Icelandic Horse Congress.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Horse Breeds: Highland Pony

Of all the breeds of pony native to Great Britain, the Highland Pony is both the largest and the strongest. This surefooted little horse hails from the north of Scotland, one of only two breeds to truly originate in this area. The Highland Pony evolved naturally, with very little input from humans. It was shaped entirely by the harsh environment so characteristic of northern Scotland. This resulted in a strong breed with few natural flaws.

The Highland Pony was prized by farmers (also called crofters) in Scotland as an all-purpose horse. It could haul the plow one day and bring home a hunter's kill the next. Able to haul up to 200 pounds of deadweight, this larger pony was a favorite as a pack animal and trail horse. Today the Highland Pony is popular as a family pony, especially for young children.

Standing from 13 to 14.2 hands high, the Highland Pony is typically a dull dun in color. Other acceptable colors include black, brown, chestnut, and even gray. Most ponies have a flaxen mane and tail, especially the darker coat colors.

Because of its natural origins, this breed usually sports some primitive markings. This can include a dorsal stripe, zebra patterning on the legs, and feathering at the base of the legs. There may also be a short beard on the chin.

With a muscled neck and a broad forehead, these little horses have a strong and muscular appearance. They are popular for pulling smaller carts and are great with children and other animals. They also make an appearance in the show ring, particularly in driving and other sporting events. Today, The Highland Pony Society is the society most concerned with the breeding and preservation of this strong pony.