Dutch Harness Horses
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About Dutch Harness HorsesAbout Dutch Harness Horses



Dutch Harness, or Tuigpaard, horses are a warmblood type ofrnfine driving horse that has been developed in the Netherlands since the end ofrnWorld War II. Their studbook is kept by the Koninklijk WarmbloedrnPaardenstamboek Nederland (Royal Warmblood Horse Studbook of the Netherlands)rnor KWPN. They are based on native Groningen and Gelderland horses, which werernformerly indispensable in agriculture and transportation services. Strictrnselection procedures and a clear breeding aim enabled breeders to produce arnrefined, high-stepping horse within a few decades. While with 40 sires andrnfewer than 2,000 broodmares the population is not large, Dutch Harness Horsesrnare highly recognizable. In the past few years, a handful have come to NorthrnAmerica, where they are owned by devotees of sport horses and Saddle seatrnhorses alike.rnrn 

rnrnThe Dutch have a strong tradition of breeding drivingrnhorses, and during the late 19th century and early 20th century, these horsesrnwere known as "luxury horses." They consisted of two separate breeds:rnnorthern Groningens which were heavier and primarily dark colors, andrnGelderlanders from the south which were taller, leggier, and usually chestnut.rnThey were elegant, though heavy, carriage horses which could work on the farmrntoo. Naturally, horse owners felt competitive about whose horse or horses werernthe finest and most showy. This was not forgotten when mechanization madernagricultural horses obsolete and the driving horses needed a new occupation. rnrn 

rnrnMuch of the development from heavy carriage horse to finerndriving horse was completed within the native horse populations, however therninfluence of the Hackney stallion Cambridge Cole significantly helped the genernpool. Also influential was the chestnut American Saddlebred stallion, Immigrantrn(American Saddlebred Horse Association name Callaway's Mardi Gras), born inrn1990. In comparison to his Dutch peers, his gaits were not consideredrnimpressive, but he did contribute his good character and dry type to the genernpool. Other Hackneys to cover Dutch Harness Horse mares were Marfleet Rafflesrnand his son Grants Hornet, and Brook Acres Silversul. Currently the HackneyrnHorse stallions GTF Maker's Mark and Plain's Liberator are approved for use inrnDutch Harness Horse breeding. A palomino American Saddlebred stallion,rnoriginally named Denmark's Golden Playboy, stood in the Netherlands asrnHolland's Golden Boy.rnrn 

They are a fine carriage breed produced by strict selection,rnknown for their high natural action, substance, and engagement of the hind end. Theyrnare distinctive among warmbloods for their high action, and gaining popularityrnamong those saddle seat aficionados who seek a larger, more substantial horse.rnThey are traditionally shown with a braided mane and natural tail, and whenrnshown in-hand often wear a white bridle without a cavesson. Their hooves arernusually allowed to grow longer than a riding horse's feet, but are never shodrnwith weighted shoes.

rnrnWhile the colors black, brown, bay and chestnut are mostrncommon, there are greys, true roans, and creme dilutes. Tuigpaarden are oftenrnvery well-marked, and many have extensive sabino or rabicano markings. Therernare even some tobianos, though they are rare. rnrn 

rnrnThey have an expressive head with straight lines andrndistinctly warmblood in type. It is usually narrow, long and quite dry, similarrnto the Saddlebred. Their neck is set on quite high, and their shoulders arernuniformly long and powerful. The longer back, more open loin, and flatter crouprnenable the hindlegs and forelegs to work independently and with great action.rnBy comparison, the harness horse appears to stand higher off the ground.rnrn 

rnrnStrict selection procedures mean that the Dutch HarnessrnHorse is reasonably uniform in type and motion, and also means that the gaitrnqualities of the horses are inherent. As the show horses are not asked torncanter in harness, this gait receives less attention. The walk is diligent, butrnthe trot is the true show gait. The forelegs are typically longer than thernhindlegs - by design - and as such the horse will "sink" in the backrnand rise in the front. This quality is responsible for the powerful, activernhind end and the great freedom in the forehand. These horses usually have arnmetronomic trot and ample suspension.rnrn 

rnrnIn comparison to the riding horse type, the Tuigpaarden arernmore hot and sensitive to the energy of a crowd. However, with the control ofrnthe stallion inspections, bad-tempered horses or those with poor constitutionsrnare at the very least identified, if not culled outright. A dangerous stallionrnwould never obtain breeding permission in the first place, and so the breed isrnreactive and courageous, but pleasant and kind.rnrn 

rnrnThe letter which begins a Dutch Harness Horse's namerncorresponds to his year of birth. Daughters are often given only a very slightrnvariation of the dam's name, for example: 1988 was the "G" year, sornthe daughter of a mare named "Zilvia" was "Gilvia."rnrn rnrn 

rnrnPrior to licensing, Tuigpaard stallions must undergo arnthorough vet check. Any horse with defects of the genitalia or bite, sub-parrnsemen analysis, or any evidence of a congenital disorder or defect is notrnpermitted to breed. A horse which has had surgery to correct a congenitalrnabnormality is likewise culled. Furthermore, the stallions and eliternperformance mares must undergo a thorough radiographic exam of their joints.rnHorses with evidence of OCD lesions do not pass. For these reasons, the breedrnis healthy, sound, and long-lived. The primary concern facing the breed is inbreeding,rndue to the small size of the gene pool.rnrn 

rnrnThe vehicle that the Dutch Harness Horse pulls is light andrnis often referred to as a "show trap."rnrn rnrn 

rnrnWhile most Tuigpaarden are shown in special fine harnessrncompetitions, they have also made their mark in combined driving. Several ofrnthe teams at the 2006 FEI World Equestrian Games were Dutch Harness Horses. Arnfew have distinguished themselves in sport, rather than show, though they arernthe exception. Some of the successful sport Dutch Harness Horses includernConstance Menard's Lianca and Anneke Muilwijk's Atuur, both of which compete inrndressage.rnrn 

rnrnThe Dutch Harness Horse is unique from other high steppingrntrotting breeds in that it has strict shoeing rules for competition, the shoesrnmust be within a certain width and thickness and no pads are allowed. Thisrninsures that the breed is sound and able to trot so spectacularly on its ownrnaccord, not because of special shoeing.rnrn 


rnrnOf late, Dutch Harness Horses have been crossbred withrnArabians in the United States to produce a more powerful horse for half-ArabianrnSaddle seat-style English pleasure, fine harness and "park" classes.

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