Carriage Horses in Britain

Cleveland Bay Horses

Some of the following information comes from Jane Scott at the CBHSNA web site.



The Cleveland Bay originated in the Cleveland area of Northern Yorkshire in England. It is the oldest of the indigenous breeds of English horses. Yorkshire is known as the source of two horse breeds, the Thoroughbred and the Cleveland Bay. The Cleveland Bay breed is thought to have begun with the crossing of native bay colored mares with Oriental stallions during the 17th century. Thirty-two of the original animals were the first offspring of the founding Thoroughbred studs. Since 1750 there has been no further addition of thoroughbred blood into the purebred Cleveland Bay. The harsh environment honed the breed to a horse of durability, longevity and quiet disposition. These characteristics, combined with the uniformity of bay color, size, and heavy bones and muscle, developed a versatile breed used as hunt horse, coach or pack horse, and as an agricultural powerhouse. Originally the breed was known as the Chapman horse, after the merchants who used Cleveland Bays exclusively to pack their goods when poor roads made wheeled traffic difficult.

During the 19th century, some Cleveland Bays were bred to Thoroughbreds to produced the Yorkshire Coach Horse, a longer-legged carriage horse with unmatched ability for a combination of speed, style, and power.


  • Height: 16-17 hands
  • Weight: 1225-1500 lbs
  • Girth: 82-86"
  • Bone: 9"
  • Color: Bay - black points, mane and tail, a small white star is permissible


  • Great substance.
  • Clean-legged with excellent feet and flat cannon bones.
  • Immensely powerful quarters that contribute to jumping ability and dressage.
  • Strong powerful shoulders allow movement with ground covering power, which is ideal for carriage work and dressage.
  • Long lived.
  • Prepotent, transmitting uniformity in type and substance.

Friesian Horses

Most of this information comes from an excellent Friesan Horse Assoc. site quoting a Dutch book titled "Het Friese Paard" by G. J. A. Bouma, 1979.


The Friesian is truly an ancient breed. The Friesian horse descends from the Equus robustus of cave painting fame. The breeding of this black horse began in a province of the Netherlands once known as "Friesland". Used as a war horse by Friesian armies and as a Crusading Knight's war steed to the Middle East, the Friesian was known to be a lighter and more refined "draft-type" horse.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, but probably also earlier, Arabian horses, especially Andalusian horses from Spain were bred into the Friesian bloodline. This has given them their high knee-action, the small head, and craning neck. Because of his temperament the Friesian horse is considered warm blooded. The Friesian horse has been kept free from the infusion of English Thoroughbred blood. During the last two centuries it has been bred pure.

Breeding horses and dealing in them was a very important occupation for the people of Friesia. The monks in the many monasteries in Friesland, before the reformation, influenced by Iberian and Andalusian horses, developed a horse with a refinement and extravagant motion not seen in the heavier breeds before. Because of their popularity and versatility, Friesians were often cross-bred with other horses to improve horse stock and bloodlines.

Physical Characteristics...

  • Black coat (early in the breed grey and brown coats were recognized as well)
  • Small white spot allowed on forehead or upper lip but no where else.
  • Refined head
  • Mares at least 14.3 hands; Stallions at least 15.3 hands
  • Pronounced crest
  • Thick neck with a gentle slope to the shoulder
  • Overall thick boned
  • Short cannons
  • Feathering on leg can range from heavy to sparse. Normal feathering occurs from knees down along the back of the cannon bone and around the ankles and pasterns.
  • Thick and solid hooves

Hanoverian Horses


The Hanoverian is a warmblood horse that was originally bred to serve as a robust carriage and military horse.The Hanoverian horse originated with the establishment of the State Stud of Lower Saxony in 1732 by George II at Celle in the kingdom of Hanover Germany. Thoroughbreds, were crossed with domestic mares to improve the quality of horses for cavalry, carriage, and farming. Through the years the Hanoverian breeding program has adapted to the need for a more athletic riding horses, introducing other breeds as appropriate. The result is the modern Hanoverian show horse.

Holsteiner (Holstein)

A heavier German breed than the Hanoverian, the Holstein has a history dating back to the 14th century in Schleswig-Holstein, the northernmost province of Germany, when it was a weight-carrying war horse. Originally the horse was valued for his strength, steadiness and reliability, and by the military for his courage and agility. It is a bay with no or few white markings between 16 and 17 hands at maturity. The Holsteiner is a heavily muscled saddle horse, and has been used extensively as a carriage horse. American Holsteiner Horse Association


The heaviest of the German warmbloods, the Oldenburg often has many characteristics of the draft breeds: flat hooves, heavy head and neck. It lacks the endurance of some other warmbloods, but makes a good coach horse, especially when crossed on Thoroughbreds. It is coal black or dapple grey in color and stands 16 to 17 hands high.


Graf Johann XVI von Oldenburg (1573 - 1603) started the breeding farms in the Oldenburg region for the purpose of producing war horses. He bred his Friesian horses with Turkish, Neopolitan, Andalusians, and Danish stallions. Graf Anton Gunther von Oldenburg (1583 -1667) purchased stallions in Naples, Spain, Poland, England, Tartary, and Barbary during his travels. He also allowed locally owned horses to be bred to his stallions. By the 17th century, Oldenburgs were serving as carriage horses throughout Europe. Leopold I, King of the Holy Roman Empire, rode through the streets of Vienna on his wedding day astride a black Oldenburg stallion. His wife rode in a splendid carriage pulled by eight ermine colored Oldenburgs. Anton Gunther was famous for his traditional dressage riding on his famous Oldenburg stallion, Kranich. After becoming King of England in 1714, George I and his successors, sent over Thoroughbreds to improve the local stock, thus refining the Oldenburg horse.

Trakehner Horses

Thanks to Patricia L. Goodman at the American Trakehner site for the information on the History of the breed.


The correct name for the Trakener breed is "the East Prussian Warmblood Horse of Trakehner Origin." It is one of the oldest European warmblood breeds with a history that reaches back more than 400 years. The breed is based on a small stocky local East Prussian horse, the "Schwaike", of phenomenal endurance and versatility which, throughout the years, had been crossed with various larger "imported" stallions to provide mounts for warfare, for general transportation, and for agricultural work.

In the early 18th century, the "Soldier-king" King Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia, the father of Frederick the Great, began to see the need for a new type of cavalry mount for the Prussian army. War tactics for calvary had changed and now required a lighter horse with a comfortable gait and more endurance and speed than the heavier horses previously needed to carry armored riders. The king wanted horses for his officers to ride, attractive enough to make them proud, hardy enough to stay sound, with a comfortable, ground-covering trot that would enable them to travel quickly and efficiently. Wilhelm I chose the best horses from seven of his royal breeding farms, and in 1732 moved them all to the new royal stud at Trakehnen and began selective breeding among them developing the Trakehner breed.

The Royal Stud farm at Trakehnen covered 5000 hectares of land and consisted of 16 farmsteads, employing 3400 people. It accomodated some 1200 horses, including 300 broodmares and 15 sires. It became famous for its fine horses known as Trakehner.

When General Count Lindenau (1755-1842) was appointed manager of the Royal Stud by Frederick William II in 1787, he instituted even stricter selection, eliminating two-thirds of the stallions and one-third of the broodmares. He also began to allow private breeders to bring their mares to be serviced by the royal stallions.


The Trakehner is a European warmblood horse of East Prussian origin, bred as a horse with endurance and a smooth gait. In the early 1800s, top quality English Thoroughbred and Arabian blood began to be introduced into the bloodline in small quantities. The goal of the breeding programs was directed toward breeding a better endurance horse which would prove itself not only highly efficient as a riding horse during wartime, but also as a working horse on East Prussian farms during times of peace. The object was to add the size, nerve, spirit and endurance of the Thoroughbred to the bulk, stability and nobility of the native breed. Trakehners are any solid color and stand between 16 and 17 hands tall.

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