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Westphalian Horses

Nicole Cosgrove

If you’re thinking about purchasing a horse, you may know that it can be an expensive and overwhelming process. With about 400 different breeds to choose from, it may be difficult to decide which breed of horse is right for you. As with any large purchase, it’s important to do your research before you make a commitment.

If you’re thinking about buying a Westphalian horse but you want to learn more about this breed, you’ve come to the right place! Keep reading to find out whether a Westphalian would be a good fit for you, your needs, and your riding experience level.

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Quick Facts about Westphalian Horses

Species Name: Equus ferus caballus
Family: Equidae
Care Level: Moderate
Temperature: 99º-101.5º Fahrenheit
Temperament: Spirited, courageous, docile
Color Form: Gray, black, bay, chestnut
Lifespan: 25-30 years
Size: 15.2-17.2 hands tall; 1,000-1,300 pounds
Diet: Herbivore
Compatibility: Compatible with other horses, potentially other livestock

Westphalian Horse Overview

The Westphalian is a warmblood breed of horse originating in Westphalia, a region of northwestern Germany. This breed was created in 1826 and is descended from German wild horses. They were originally used as cavalry horses. Although the Trakehner was the Prussian army’s pick, in Germany there was a need for horses that could also do farm work. As a result, Westphalians were originally crossed with heavy breeds to create a light draft horse that could be driven or ridden.

The Westphalian breed has since evolved to include lighter horses such as Hanoverians in the Westphalian’s ancestry. Today, Westphalians are physically similar to Hanoverians and are used for riding, eventing, and sporting. Although these horses are very athletic, they are considered gentle enough for amateur riders.

How Much Do Westphalian Horses Cost?

If you’re interested in purchasing a Westphalian horse, there are a few different routes you can take. One option is to go with a breeder specializing in Westphalians in the United States. A Westphalian from a breeder or trainer is likely to cost at least $15,000, but experienced horses can go for $30,000 or more.

The other option you could consider is importing one of these horses from Germany. For obvious reasons, this option is more complicated and it is also likely to cost more. The cost of shipping alone can range from $8,000-$30,000. However, some people prefer to import horses so that they can have access to horses from specific bloodlines.

Typical Behavior & Temperament

Westphalians are known for a high level of athleticism coupled with a docile and obedient temperament. Their easy-going temperament also makes them relatively easy to train. Because Westphalians are so easy to work with, these horses are highly desirable for all levels of riders. However, they may not be the best option for casual riders or total beginners because they are big movers, which can make them more difficult to control.

Appearance

There are a variety of Westphalian horse coat colors and patterns; indeed, any coat color may be registered. However, the most common coat colors are gray, black, bay, and chestnut. Westphalian horses that are registered will have a brand with the letter “W” on their left hip, which makes them very easy to recognize. They are athletic, muscular horses with noticeably strong legs and forearms. Westphalians look similar to their cousins, the Hanoverians, and usually have a deep chest and a long neck.

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How to Take Care of Westphalian Horse

If you are going to buy a horse, you need to ensure that you have the ability to adequately house and care for your animal. In some ways, buying a horse is much more like buying a car than buying a dog or a cat because they require much more physical space and upkeep than other animals. Let’s discuss what kind of living space and grooming your horses need.

Living Space

Your horse will need ample space to graze and roam outdoors and an adequate indoor shelter to protect them from the elements. Ideally, the outdoor area where you intend to keep your horse should be at least 2-3 acres; the space should be bigger if you intend on having multiple horses. Make sure you fence in your outdoor space and ensure that the fence cannot be easily knocked or jumped over by your horse. Your fence should be at least 5 feet high; since Westphalians are excellent jumpers, you may want to consider going even higher.

What your indoor space should look like ultimately depends on the climate where you live. One of the best choices for horses in just about any climate is a pole barn that is fully enclosed and provides ample ventilation. If you live in a particularly warm climate, you may opt for a three-sided barn instead. The structure should be big enough for your horse to comfortably sit, stand, lay down. Plus, there should be space to move away from any other horses you may have. It’s a good idea to choose a floor that is covered in dirt or another material that will prevent slippage; a slip or fall could cause serious damage to your horse’s joints and ligaments. Make sure to provide your horse with dry straw that they can use as bedding. In the winter, you should give them extra straw or other bedding material to help insulate their barn area.

Stud of bay Westphalian horse in meadow at summer
Image Credit: Alexia Khruscheva, Shutterstock

Grooming

If you purchase a Westphalian, prepare to groom them regularly. You should curry or comb your horse frequently if you want his coat to shine. If you want to use him as a show horse, keep in mind that horses are typically shown with braided tails and manes. Regular conditioning and detangling can keep your Westphalian’s mane and tail looking good.

Do Westphalian Horses Get Along with Other Pets?

Like other horses, Westphalians are herd animals. That means that your horse will feel safer, be less bored, and overall be less likely to engage in repetitive and undesirable behaviors such as wood chewing if they live with at least one other horse.

That being said, not everyone has the space or money for multiple horses. If your Westphalian seems bored, you might consider trying to get creative about finding him companionship. If you have the space but not the money for another horse, you could consider offering boarding services for other horse owners. Not only can you make a little bit of extra money, but you can also provide your horse with companions. Another option is to call your local horse rescue. Sometimes it’s difficult for rescues to find homes for horses that are older or otherwise can’t be ridden for one reason or another. Not only are these horses usually much more affordable, but they will provide your horse with a companion. You will also be doing a good service by providing an unwanted horse with a home. Do keep in mind that older horses may have special needs and require more medical attention than your younger, active racehorses.

What to Feed Your Westphalian Horse

Westphalian horses’ diets are made up primarily of foraging, which includes grass and hay. Remember that horses are large animals, and as such, they need a large amount of food: at least 25 pounds of hay or other roughage per day. Depending on how strenuously your horse is working on a regular basis, it may be appropriate to supplement their diet with a high fat and high protein grain or pellet feed.

Keeping Your Westphalian Horse Healthy

Westphalians are generally healthy horses, but like all animals, they are prone to certain health conditions that you should be aware of.

Like their cousins the Hanoverians, Westphalians are prone to a disease called osteochondrosis. Osteochondrosis is a common disease that impacts the bone and cartilage of a horse’s joints. In horses with this condition, the cartilage essentially forms abnormally, causing both the cartilage and the bone to be weaker than they would be in a normal joint. Diet, genetics, exercise, hormonal imbalances, and rapid growth can all be contributing factors to the development of osteochondrosis. Pretty much any joint can be affected by this condition, but it is most frequently seen in the horse’s stifle (upper hind), fetlock (ankle), hock (the joint between the horse’s tibia and tarsal bones), and neck vertebrae.

Horses with osteochondrosis may present with swollen joints or an inability to stand or move altogether. The best way to prevent this condition is to ensure that your horses are getting a balanced diet that contains the minerals and vitamins they need. Growth spurts can occur after a foal is weaned, but should try to prevent overly rapid growth rates because this can lead to complications.

Regular exercise is very important for the development of young horses, but you should also make sure you aren’t overexercising them. If you suspect your horse may be showing signs of osteochondrosis, make sure to rest it so that exercise doesn’t cause additional damage.

Breeding

If you are interested in breeding your own Westphalian horses, there are a few things you should know before you begin the process. Firstly, while there are no regulations for breeding horses, you should be knowledgeable about every aspect of horse health and behavior. Breeders tend to specialize in one particular breed, so if it’s the Westphalian you’re looking to breed, you’re off to a great start! You should be an expert on the breed you choose to work with.

Secondly, if you are going to breed horses, you should do so responsibly. The overpopulation of horses is already an issue. In order to cut down on the number of unwanted horses and ensure that every new foal has the opportunity to live a healthy life, breeders should consider selective breeding instead of mass breeding. As mentioned, selective breeding requires the breeder to be extremely knowledgeable, which means you should be able to identify mares and stallions that are not up to your standards. At the end of the day, selective breeding takes more precision and expertise than mass breeding, but it is both more ethical and financially advantageous.

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Are Westphalian Horses Suitable For You?

Ultimately, there are many different factors you should consider before buying a horse, such as the initial cost, the horse’s ancestry, and its grazing and shelter needs. If you have absolutely no experience caring for or riding a horse, even the docile Westphalian may not be a good fit for you. However, if you have some experience with horses and are looking to buy a horse that is athletic but relatively easy to train and care for, this could be the perfect riding companion for you.


Featured Image Credit: Brasilchen, Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.