The Hanoverian is a German breed of royal lineage. It dates back to 1714, when George I, Elector of Hanover, was crowned king of England. Both George I and his son George II shared an interest in horses, and their position as rulers of both England and Hanover presented them with a unique opportunity: They were able to send horses back and forth between Britain and Germany quite readily. This was particularly an advantage to Hanover, since it provided the duchy with access to the English Thoroughbred.
The royal stud began in earnest in 1735 under George II. His goal was to strengthen the military power of Hanover by developing a superior breed of horse, versatile enough to provide either a cavalry mount or a means of locomotion for heavy artillery. However, George II did not neglect the agricultural interests of his native home. The horse he envisioned would also be a useful source of power on the farm, performing everything from plowing to transporting a farmer and his family.
George II began with 12 stallions from the Holstein region of Germany, but Holsteiner horses were not the only influence on the new breed. Thoroughbreds frequently came into play to add a degree of refinement. Cleveland Bays, Yorkshire Coach Horses, and other British breeds also contributed their useful qualities.
The new Hanoverian breed was quite successful, particularly in the military. It played such a prominent part in the Napoleonic Wars that the royal stud was nearly depleted and more Thoroughbred influence was necessary to revitalize the breed.
Gradually, however, the original uses for the Hanoverian became obsolete. After the mid-1800s, trains greatly reduced the need for coach horses. Farmers slowly began to rely on machinery to carry out their work, and the cavalry became just a memory. The Hanoverian might have died out in obscurity had its breeders not adapted it for a new purpose.
Military officers introduced several new equine sports to the world in the early 1900s, such as show jumping and eventing. Originally, these exercises tested the suitability of horse and rider for cavalry work, but as the military evolved the tests became sports. Civilians were eventually allowed to participate in the competitions, and equestrian sports began to draw spectators.
With the rise in popularity of equestrian sports came an increased demand globally for horses bred for the task. The cavalry background of the Hanoverian made it an obvious choice. Careful crossbreeding with Trakehners and Thoroughbreds added some necessary refinements, but it was a particularly energetic promotional effort that carried the breed forward into the modern world.
Today, the Hanoverian is the most popular warmblood worldwide and is usually represented in the Olympic games. While the recent economic downturn has affected it somewhat, the breed still thrives wherever equestrian sports are enjoyed, including the United States.
The Hanoverian is first and foremost a sport horse. It comes in two types: a heavier type for jumping and a lighter type more suited for dressage. It also thrives on eventing and driving competitions. However, the Hanoverian is suitable for pleasure riding.
The temperament of the Hanoverian is exactly what one would expect of a horse bred and born for competition. It is endued with a bold presence and the ability to stay calm under pressure. On the other hand, it is also highly sensitive to the wants of the rider, willingly obeying subtle cues. The Hanoverian is generally mannerly and does particularly well with children.
Thorough testing across the breed has eliminated most health problems. Unfortunately, however, many Hanoverians suffer from osteochondrosis dissecans, in which cartilage fragments and causes joint pain and lameness.
- Reliability—breed-wide testing ensures that purchasers know what they are buying.
- Jumping ability.
- High purchase price.
- Need for frequent exercise.
- High feed requirements.