This warmblood breed is relatively new, having been developed in the last century. The studbook was born from one founded by the cavalry in 1937 in order to breed a sport horse for rural riders, who until 1954 were legally only allowed to ride workhorses. In 1955 the National Breeding Association of the Saddle Horse studbook was created and efforts to breed an athletic leisure horse began. The name Belgische Warmbloed Paard (Belgian Warmblood Horse) is now known worldwide as BWP.
Over the decades the Belgian Warmblood has been improved with Anglo-Arabs, Thoroughbreds, and established European warmbloods from Gelderland, Normandy and Hannover. This careful mixture of the best European blood with 1,000 select broodmares laid the foundation for some of the top athletes in the world of horse sport today.
Spotting the distinctive horse-head pinwheel brand on an animal’s left thigh is the best way to positively identify a true Belgian Warmblood horse, as the foals receive this brand during their foal inspection when they are given a passport and deemed free of obvious defects.
Belgian Warmbloods range in size and substance but should be correctly-built, with a rectangular frame, big outlines and good basic paces. They are courageous and spirited, yet should be pleasant to ride and have a willing character to suit both pleasure riders and international competitors. Stallions range between 16-17 hands, while mares may not be bred unless they are at least 15.1 hands. The most common coat colors are chestnut, bay, brown, black, and grey. Pinto markings can occur, although they are rare.
Belgian Warmbloods are subjected to rigorous studbook selection if they are to be bred; for example, the licensing test for a young stallion consists of a veterinary inspection and conformation, free-jumping and under-saddle evaluation.
Belgian Warmbloods are an athletic breed with good jumping abilities, which was the aim of the breeding program. They also do well in eventing and dressage, and are increasingly seen in the hunter ring in North America. A well-known BWP was the legendary Canadian Olympic show jumper Big Ben, ridden by Ian Millar.