Name of breed: Groningen
Country of origin: The Netherlands
Breed origin: A Dutch horse breed developed for light draft and agricultural work, the Groningen is closely related to heavier warmblood breeds including the Friesian, East Friesian and Alt-Oldenburger. Horses like England’s Cleveland Bay were also used during the breed’s initial foundation, ultimately producing a horse that was tall and elegant, with deep, wide haunches and a thick, high-set neck.
The breed was nearly lost in the mid-20th century because a significant number of mares were used for cross breeding to create the Dutch Warmblood, leaving few purebreds. However, in 1978 the last remaining Groningen stallion, Baldweijin, was saved from the butcher and a small group of breeders pooled their genetic resources – 20 mares and the stallion – and formed a private association to save the breed. Today there are 25 approved stallions and over 400 mares.
Distinguishing features: Known for their even temperaments, the Groningen is described as ‘sober’ with an excellent work ethic. Predominately dark in colour, almost 90% of the breed are black or at least some shade of bay. Only a small percentage are chestnut or grey.
The Groningen standard calls for a heavy horse, with the legs about half their height, and a rectangular frame, with the body from point-of-shoulder to point-of-buttock about 10% more than the height of the horse at the withers. Ideally, the Groningen stands between 15.3 and 16.1 hands high.
Modern day Groningen: Their calm nature and easy maintenance makes the Groningen ideal horses for leisure. They have found their niche as combined driving horses, where many compete internationally. There are also several Groningen horses competing in the dressage arena at the Dutch national Z-level or higher, and some compete in show jumping (although this is less common).
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