The Swedish Warmblood is a breed of horse that originated from the Flyinge and Stromsholm regions of Sweden. The foundation of this breed comes from stock that was imported to these areas, incorporating bloodlines from all over Europe and Asia. Horses from Turkey, Russia, Germany, and Spain all helped to establish the breed.
Swedish Warmbloods are used today as a riding horse because of its straightforward pacing. They excel in dressage and in jumping competitions. They are excellent driving horses as well, which has created an export market for the breed throughout Europe and North America.
Most Swedish Warmbloods in the early days were destined to be carriage horses, with some of the larger individuals transitioning into agricultural work. Once the military discovered how rideable they were, however, the breeding programs transitioned their focus on riding characteristics instead of working characteristics.
Even farmers would work on breeding offspring that would pass military inspection so they could benefit from a sale of the horse.
The Swedish Warmblood Association was founded in 1928 to help support the breed, based on support received by the military.
What Is the Origin of the Swedish Warmblood?
The first breeding operations in Sweden were established in the 12th century. Bishop Absalon of Denmark worked to establish a breeding program that could produce horses capable of serving in the cavalry. This program continued to serve southern Sweden for nearly 500 years, until Charles X acquired the area and established a royal stud.
In the 17th century, breeders in Sweden saw the athleticism of Friesian and Spanish horses and wanted to bring those traits to their local herds. Imports helped to improve the strength and activeness of the local stock, so breeders looked throughout the rest of Europe and Asia for horses and breeds that had similar traits.
Thoroughbreds, Arabians, Trakehners, and Hanoverians were introduced to the local stock over time as well. This helped to smooth out the roughness that was seen in the local bloodlines and brought some extra height to the smaller horses.
Over the next two centuries, breeders continued to focus on bringing in the best horses from powerful horse breeds to their local stock. In the 1920s, three stallions helped to shape the Swedish Warmblood into more of a formal breed, named Hamlet, Tribun, and Hamplemann. In 1945, four Trakehner stallions helped to stabilize the genetics of the breed as well.
One of the stallions, named Heristal, was a descendent of Hyperion.
Until 1982, the breeding programs for the Swedish Warmblood were managed by the government. A private foundation with a charter was established to give the program in Flyinge independence of government oversight.
Some exports still occur, but the primary goal of the Swedish Warmblood breeding programs is to continue improving this national horse.
What Are the Characteristics of the Swedish Warmblood?
A Swedish Warmblood horse can be any solid coat color. There are specific coat colors with this breed that are associated with lethal foaling factors, so horses with such a coat are excluded from receiving breeding approval. Chestnut, seal brown, and bay coat colors are the most common. Gray and roan coats are uncommon, while a true black coat is possible, but extremely rare.
Most Swedish Warmbloods stand between 16 and 17 hands. Some stallions may be slightly taller because of the varied genetics of the breed, while some mares may be slightly smaller. Their reputation, however, is based on their flowing gait. It is predictable, manageable, and nearly as stable as an ambling gait.
What makes the Swedish Warmblood such a unique European horse is that the breed always had an emphasis on riding. When most of Europe was trying to breed heavy draft horses for agriculture and war, the Swedes were working on producing a calm, intelligent horse that loved to ride. The studs in Sweden were still selling horses to the local cavalry in the 1970s because of the effectiveness of their program.
Each horse is judged in-hand once they reach a minimum age of 3. They are judged in several different categories, such as their walk, trot, physical conformation, and type. A score of 5 in each category is considered a passing score, while a score of 10 is being ideal. Based on the combined score of each category being judged, each horse will be approved into two different classes.
Class I horses score 38 or more points out of a possible 50 points. Stallions must be able to score a minimum of 38 and have no individual score under 7 in any category to be recommended for breeding. Stallions must also be able to pass a performance test before receiving full approval.
A stallion which reaches the point and performance thresholds will also have a radiograph performed to evaluate their soundness before full approval is awarded.
Class II horses for the Swedish Warmblood will score either 36 or 37 points. Mares are still approved for breeding with this score, but not stallions.
A mare will be approved with a minimum score of 34.
Stallions will also be judged on the soundness of their offspring, with all progeny inspected and graded accordingly.
Stallion performance tests are held once per year by the Swedish Warmblood Association, usually in February or March. The testing takes place at the Swedish Equestrian Center. The first day of the performance testing is dedicated to veterinary inspections. Jumping under rider, free jumping, dressage, and test riding are all part of the evaluation process.
3-year-olds are tested separately from stallions that are 4 or 5 years old. The entire performance evaluation takes about a week to complete.
The Future of the Swedish Warmblood Breed
Compared to the rest of the world, Sweden has few native horse breeds. Their focus on maintaining the strength of the Swedish Warmblood takes advantage of the country’s large areas of land and emphasis to socialize local herds to create horses that are strong physically and mentally.
There is an emphasis within the breed to treat each horse as an individual and that point of view demands respect for each horse. Every horse has natural abilities and traits that help to paint a picture of what the individual can do. Even if a horse doesn’t score well enough to be approved for breeding, that doesn’t reduce the importance of the horse’s individuality.
Only the best horses are selected for breeding to ensure the long-term survivability of the Swedish Warmblood. That may create a more conservative approach to breeding than some other horse breeds, but it also means that there is a stronger likelihood of achieving high-quality results on a repetitive basis.
The Swedish Warmblood is a calm, but forthright, horse that loves to go for a good ride. Those traits make it one of the most popular breeds in the world today.