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Warmbloods are definitely the predominate english performance horse breed of the modern time. There are a ton of warmblood breeds from all over the world, and, as a rule, they crush the competition in the english based performance disciplines; namely: dressage, eventing, hunter and jumper.
Clare Long competing successfully on "Titan", a Friesan gelding.
Warmbloods came about simply by crossing the hot breeds, Arabian and Thoroughbred, with the cold breeds, the draft horses; such as the Belgian, Clydesdale, Percheron, and Shire. This was done for the obvious reason to create a better and more able performance horse. Most of every country has produced their own version of warmblood, which is usually named after the country of origin, thus, the Danish warmblood, Irish Sport Horse, Swedish Warmblood, etc.
There are specific characteristics that go along with the different warmblood breeds, stereotypically, and in general. The Hannoverians are generally wonderful and very rideable performance horses. The Swedish Warmbloods tend to be a bit hot and difficult, and move with very little knee action (a lot like the style of movement preferred by the modern, competitive hunter). The Dutch Warmbloods tend to have a lot of knee action, and also tend to be a bit argumentative and difficult. The Trakhener is the most refined, 'hottest' of the warmblood breeds, with an abundance of influence from the two 'hot' breeds: the Arabian and Thoroughbred. Holsteiners are a lovely, very athletic, very rideable German breed, known predominately for their awesome jumping skills. They also tend to be a bit more refined than the average Hannoverian. All the German breeds are outstanding, and they all tend to excel in the assorted english, performance horse disciplines.
The American counterparts to the rest of the world's warmbloods would be the Quarter Horse, Morgan, and Saddlebred, among others. The general rule is: if it's not one of the 2 hot bloods (Thoroughbred and Arabian), and it's not a cold blood draft horse (such as the Belgian, Clydesdale, Percheron, or Shire), than it would fall into the warmblood category. So, sure enough, all those western riders are actually riding warmbloods! Who knew!?!
And what about the alternative breeds? These are almost always an exciting topic, and their popularity seems to be governed often by the fad of the year. For dressage, in the last 25 or so years, it has been the Lipizzaner, the Andalusian, the Friesan, and now, the Lucitano, respectively.
In Jerez, Spain, the world famous Andalusians have 'The Royal Andalusian School' (really...palace!). Amazing stuff, and a glorious breed! The Lipizzaner, as most people probably are aware, have their own world renowned Royal Lipizzaner 'Palace' and school in Vienna, Austria. Also spectacular! Interesting to compare these two but, in short, the Lipizzaner comes from a more strict and military based program, and the Andalusian's background is more full of flair and fire. This makes sense, in that the Lipizzaner was developed for warfare, and the Andalusian for bull-fighting. Think German vs. Spanish...you'll get the picture.
The Friesan is actually not a warmblood, but a light Draft Horse. Obviously much lighter and more refined then what we commonly think of when we think of the Budweiser Clydesdales, or a Percheron pulling a cart. The Friesans come from the Netherlands, Holland in particular. They were bred to be fancy carriage horses (you see them often in the movies pulling ornate carriages by two or four). Friesans are known for their very animated and pronounced knee action in the trot, and their abundance of hair (mane, forelock and leg feathers).
. The Lucitano was developed in Portugal, and is the Portuguese answer to the Spaniard's Andalusian. Some say that there is very little difference between the Andalusian and the Lucitano, but in fact these two breeds are quite different. Case in point, the Lucitano tends to be more like the standard version of the modern warmblood than the Andalusian; in type, attitude, movement and conformation. Interesting note: Did you know that in Portuguese bull fighting, the bullfighter does not kill the bull, as they do in Spain? Instead, the Portuguese 'tag' the bull at the base of his neck, to show that the bullfighter has emerged victorious. The Portuguese are definitely some of the best horsemen and women in the world, bar none. It is wonderful that the Lucitano is finally getting it's 'time in the limelight' in America's dressage world; a very nice breed, deserving of the recognition.