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Home > Horses > Westphalian Horse: Info, Pictures, Temperament & Traits

Westphalian Horse: Info, Pictures, Temperament & Traits

Westphalian Horse

With more than 400 breeds of horses in existence, it can be overwhelming deciding which is the right one for you. Although they can be fun and exciting, horses are a great deal of hard work. You owe it to yourself and your new horse to do the research and make sure you’re ready for such a commitment.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Westphalian horse, here’s what you should know about this beautiful breed.

Care Level Moderate
Temperature All climates
Temperament Gentle, easy-going, independent
Colors Black, chestnut, gray, bay
Lifespan 25-30 years
Weight 1,300 lbs (stallions), 1,000 lbs (mares)
Height 17–18 hands (stallions), 15–17 hands (mares)

What’s unique about the Westphalian horse breed is that they are courageous, docile, easy for equestrians to work with, yet eager enough to be viable contenders in the competition arena. These adaptable horses can handle a wide range of climates and habitats.

They eat a variety of grass, grains, and hay as their main diet. Their willing nature makes training remarkably effective, and they have a gentle personality that makes them easily approachable. However, these are fast-moving animals with large gaits, so they may not be ideal for truly beginning riders.

Westphalian Horse Characteristics



What Are These Horses Used For?

Today’s Westphalian horses are bred for one reason: companionship. That said, they are still used as farm workers in certain parts of the world. They are suitable for riding, dressing, and showing. Some equestrians enjoy nothing more than joyriding with their horse companions, while others prefer to work on competitive skills and enter shows.

These horses are not bred for their meat or hair. They are calm companions that serve no other purpose than to provide their owners with rewarding partnerships, whether for fun or sport. Westphalians perform well at the Olympic level and have even won gold medals.

westphalian horse walking
Image Credit: Sabine Hagedorn, Shutterstock

Where Did These Horses Originate From?

These horses originally came from a region called Westphalia in Germany, hence their name. In the early 1800s, efforts were taken to breed cavalry horses, and people in the Rhain area wanted a heavier horse for farming too. So, the existing Westphalian horses were bred with heavy cold-blooded horses, which resulted in a hardy breed that was suitable for the cavalry, riding, and drafting.

As times changed throughout the 20th century, so did demands. People wanted Westphalians that were suitable solely for riding, which meant they needed to be lighter and more agile. Breeders decided to lighten the Westphalian’s build by breeding them with the Hanoverian bloodline.

Although the stud records had been destroyed at this point, breeders relied on their memories and insights to guide the choice of stallions and mares for breeding. Breed inspections resumed in 1946, at which time, new stud records were established.

The modern Westphalian horse has a lineage that includes many horse breeds, including the Hanoverian, the Oldenburg, and the Anglo-Norman. Today, these horses are bred to be highly athletic and sociable, making them great riding companions for intermediate and experienced horse owners.

This horse is bred for riding and competing today, but they have retained many of the abilities and characteristics that they had when they were used for farming. Therefore, this horse breed can be a helpful addition to small-scale farms. They can pull a plow, round up cattle, and help transport lumber when necessary.

That said, many people choose to own a Westphalian simply for companionship or to enhance their equestrian skills. These horses can be kept on private property or housed in rented stables. This makes it possible for people to have a horse even if they do not own a home or have enough property to house them on.

Temperament & Intelligence of the Westphalian Horse

The Westphalian horse is highly athletic and obedient, making them excellent for those who want a riding companion that can confidently compete and show in the ring. These horses are typically simple to train due to their high intelligence. Their docile nature also makes them easy for equestrians of all experience levels to work with. However, they have large strides that create a great deal of movement, which can be tough for beginners to control at first.

Appearance & Varieties

The Westphalian horse comes in a variety of different coat colors and patterns, so there is no set standard to reference. In fact, any color of Westphalian horse can be registered in Germany and North America. However, most Westphalians have black, chestnut, bay, or gray coats. Branding is optional and not required for registration.

These stout, athletic horses have long, strong legs and muscled backs. Their deep chests and long necks give them a noble look. They have straight, short ears, and many have white markings between their eyes. Their tail hair lays long and low, sometimes almost touching the ground.

westphalian horse with foal
Image By: kyslynskahal, Shutterstock

horse shoe divider

Things to Know When Owning a Westphalian Horse

Habitat & Stable Requirements 🌾

The Westphalian horse prefers to spend their days roaming open areas instead of being kept in a stable. They can even spend their nights in open areas if they have access to shelter from the sun, wind, and rain. A basic structure just needs to have a roof and walls and to be big enough for your Westphalian to move around and lie down in. Your horse should live within a fully fenced paddock that’s at least 1 acre in size for their comfort and safety.

You’ll need to inspect the fencing once a month or so to ensure that it remains escape-proof. If your Westphalian horse will be stabled even part time, their stable should be at least 12 feet by 12 feet in size and be draft free. The stable stall should be outfitted with high-quality, dust-free bedding that is changed frequently.

Food & Diet Requirements 🥕

Fortunately for owners, the Westphalian is an opportunistic eater, which makes feeding them affordable, even for the budget minded. They forage for their food and eat grass for the most part. They can be fed hay and feed concentrate as supplements when necessary. It’s important to make sure a variety of grasses are continually growing in their paddock.

Exercise 🐎

Westphalian horses are athletic animals, but they can get enough exercise by roaming their large, enclosed paddocks. However, they thrive on running and jumping, which is why they’re such great riding companions. They can also get exercise doing tasks like pulling carriages and hay trailers and completing jump courses.

gray westphalian horse
Image By: Sabine, Hagedorn, Shutterstock

Training 🐴

This horse breed is highly intelligent and tends to take well to training sessions. They can learn competitive jumping, dressage, and showing. They can also learn companion riding on trails, in the mountains, and on the beach. It’s best to work with a professional trainer to begin with, to ensure that proper training techniques are being used.

Grooming 🧽

Like all horses, the Westphalian does best with regular grooming help from their human companions. It’s a good idea to use a currying comb on your Westphalian once or twice a week to keep their coat shiny. Their mane and tail can be braided to keep the hair from tangling. Conditioning the hair occasionally can help keep it manageable and healthy.

Lifespan & Health Conditions 🏥

Westphalian horses have a lifespan of 25 to 30 years, making them a long-term commitment for any owner. They are generally healthy animals but can be predisposed to the following health issues:

Serious Conditions
  • Osteochondrosis
  • Navicular
Minor Conditions
  • Swollen joints

Male vs Female

A female Westphalian typically has a slightly lighter build than her male counterpart. Otherwise, there is not a noticeable difference between the two sexes. They are both independent yet attentive, they both have docile temperaments, and they both do great in the ring and on riding trails. Every horse has their own unique personality, so it comes down to the individual rather than the sex when comparing horses.

3 Little-Known Facts About the Westphalian Horse

1. Germany Leads in Westphalian Horse Breeding

The second largest breeding program in Germany is for the Westphalian horse, after the Hanoverian. Unfortunately, it is tough to know how many Westphalian horses reside in the United States and other parts of the world. Some breeders try to pass off the Rhinelander horse as the Westphalian, which confuses the studbooks.

These horses are domesticated, so you won’t find them (purposefully at least) living in the wild. They live on farms of all sizes and can do well in a pasture with a shelter to rely on during inclement weather.

2. Westphalians Are Warm-Blooded Animals

This is a classification of horses, not a reference to their physiological ability to retain heat (all horses are mammals, which means they are endothermic). The Clydesdale, Belgian, and Shire breeds are perfect examples of cold-blooded horses, which means they are larger than the average horse and have thick coats to protect against harsh (usually cold) climates. Other horse breeds are warm blooded, which is the case for the Westphalian. These horses are generally lighter and smaller than cold-blooded horses, though they are still quite robust.

3. Westphalians Are Great With Kids

The docile nature of Westphalian horses makes them great companions for children, even if they are hard for little ones to ride. They enjoy spending time near children and will eat things like carrots and apple slices from their hands.

Westphalian Horse
Image By: brasilchen, Pixabay


Final Thoughts

The Westphalian horse is an awesome breed that should be considered by anyone looking for a riding companion and/or thinking about managing a show horse. This breed is light on their feet and ready for action at almost any time.

Featured Image Credit: Alexia Khruscheva, Shutterstock

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