The stunning Knabstrup, with its varying patterns of spots and colors, has long been admired for its beauty. Once the playthings of nobility and royalty, the Knabstrup has earned its keep by being the carriage horses of the rich, the impressive steed of military leaders, and the prancing performer of the stage and circuses. In today's times, the Knabstrup is still called upon to catch the eyes of judges all while enjoying the tasks that competitive showing brings.
The potential for these horses to become show animals were evident from the start. The immediate descendents of the original Knabstrupper breedings were first called upon to perform in the circus and on the stage. Still true today, the Knabstruppers were quite intelligent, and delighted in learning the tricks that would amuse audiences. Also early on in the horse's lineage, as early as the nineteenth century, Knabstrups were found to be adept at learning and succeeding at high school dressage. This showiness even lead to careers as military mounts much to the detriment of their riders. While their beautiful coats shine brightly in the show ring, it's not such a good idea to stand out on the battlefield. Many a Danish officer fell because their Knabstrup was easily spotted by eagle-eyed sharpshooters who could easily pick out the (usually) white horse with spots.
It's important to note the downfall of the breed in the early part of the twentieth century, as it helped earn the breed a place in the show ring. A fire at the Knabstrup Hovendgaard stables credited with creating and honing the breed in the Napoleonic era caused a shortage of the breed. Attempts at breeding the Knabstrup for agriculture and racing fell by the wayside. They fell out of fashion as carriage horses because aristocrats expected a match set of horses, and this was quite difficult, as spotting patterns are never the same. However, the rare pure white Knabstruppers were still sought for this chore. It's for these reasons that reputable breeders are honing in developing the Knabstrup's versatile riding abilities. And the other horse breeds that helped revitalize the Knabstrup have provided its versatility.
All three types of the Knabstrup found today are adept at the various show events available to horse and rider. The Sport Horse variety shines in the ring, in both dressage and show jumping events. This is primarily due to the Knabstrup's breeding to Warmblood horses, especially the Trakahner and the Danish Warmblood. The Pony variation, because of its smaller stature and its calm and steady demeanor, is a perfect horse to introduce children to the show ring, or for shorter adult riders. The Baroque Knabstrup also possesses a smaller stature, but more resembles the original carriage horse. Again, there are many events in the ring that can show off these more utilitarian attributes.
There are many resources available to horse enthusiasts on how to acquire a Knabstrup or how to become involved in show events. However, as of today, there are no official associations dedicated to the Knabstrup on North America, as the parent organization in Denmark has refused to extend official status. However, for more information (in English) about the breed, visit the International Sport Horses of Colors Web site at www.shoc.org