Today, the Hanoverian is among the most important Warmblooded breeds in the world. This breed is considered to be one of the most winning breeds, having won gold medals in all three Olympic equestrian disciplines, and is world renowned for its unparalleled temperament, agility and grace. Hanoverians have become synonymous with dressage, so it might surprise a lot of people that this breed has very humble beginnings as carriage horses, although rather prized ones by the end of the 18th century. Unlike other breeds with traditional driving backgrounds that have stuck close to their roots, the Hanoverian made the successful switch from driving to competitive riding.
The Hanoverian comes to us from the area in northern Germany called Lower Saxony and is named after the former kingdom of Hanover. This area has been known for its excellence in horse breeding for over four hundred years, but it wasn't until the beginning of the 18th century that the Hanoverian as we know it today began to take shape. The King of England and Elector of Hanover, George II, established the state stud at Celle in 1735 with the goal of producing horses for both carriage and agricultural work. Many of those stallions were available to local farmers for breeding a practice that still exists today. Breeders developed the Hanoverian using a wide variety of both local and imported breeds, such as the Holstein, Thoroughbred, Andulusian and Mecklenburg. By the end of the century, the horse was in high demand as a high class carriage horse, no doubt thanks to its proud carriage and wonderful trotting gait.
In order to help preserve the conformation of the breed, a law was passed in 1844 that said that stallions must be approved before breeding, while the first society dedicated to the Hanoverian horse was created in 1867 to promote the production of the horse for both carriage and military work. By the time the stud book was created in 1888, the Hanoverian was among the most popular breeds in Europe for military and carriage work.
Unfortunately, things would change with the beginning of the 20th century and the end of World War I as mechanization took over and the need for carriage and military horses declined. Enthusiasts and breeders recognized that the breed would have to change in order to stay relevant. First the breeding goals changed in order to develop a horse that would be used for farm work but would also be suitable for riding or driving. But the Hanoverian saw its most dramatic change after World War II, when sport horses became higher in demand. Infused with the refining traits of the Thoroughbred once again, the Hanoverian became the horse as we know it today among the highest ranked in the competition world for its intelligence, agility, athletic ability and beauty.
It is largely thanks to the breeders at the original stud in Celle that the breed was able to adapt itself to demand and survive rather than sticking to its original purpose and risk falling out of favor or even becoming extinct. Despite the fact that the Hanoverian must undergo testing in order to be eligible for registration today, it is thanks to this flexibility in the past that the breed is as popular as it is today.