Hanoverians are like the Rolls Royce of riding horses. They are bred to excel at all horse sports and also have the substance to help improve other horse breeds. Originally bred in the Hannover area of Germany (hense the name), there are now thriving Hanoverian societies in Europe and North America.
Hanoverians are in demand for dressage, eventing and jumping horses. However, they are also good in harness and are strong enough for trail riding, foxhunting or pulling a plough. Although they are far more refined than they were when the breed originated in the sixteenth century, they are still more than capable of many tasks assigned to light draft horses.
Hanoverians were originally white horses (born dark and then fading to light grey as they matured). White (grey or diluted palomino) Hanoverians were often called Hanoverian Creams and were in great demand for royal harness teams. According to author Judith Dutson in “Storey’s Illustrated Guide to 96 Horse Breeds of North America” (Storey, 2005) the first stud that concentrated on Hanoverians was located in Memsen, Germany which was founded in 1653.
Then, in 1714, Ludwig George, Elector of Hannover, ascended the English throne and became King George I and the Hannoverian Cream was the horse to have in both Germany and England. This was just a tad bit annoying to King George’s brother-in-law, Freidrich Wilhelm I who established the stud that founded another famous German Breed, the Trakehner.
Breeders concentrated on a horse’s ability rather than appearance. Eventually the cream coloration was mostly bred out for unknown reasons. A liberal dash of English Thoroughbreds created a superior cavalry horse that was still docile enough for an inebriated lord to ride on a hunt. Other breeds thought to have contributed to the Hanoverian include Spanish breeds such as the long-gone Neopolitan, the Yorkshire Coach horse, a probably-extinct Polish breed called the Pommern and the endangered Cleveland Bay.
The breed, like all hose breeds, suffered tremendous losses in World War II, but has now picked up.
Hanoverians now come in any solid color found on horses, with various shades of bay being predominant. Sometimes a cream still pops up. They often have white markings on the legs or head. They are big, solid horses that average 16 hands. Their heads are often long with straight, convex or even slightly bumpy profiles.
They have powerful hindquarters, long legs and a deep chest. Although they are immensely strong, they are also very nimble and have smooth gaits. They also have a ground-eating gallop that will not win them races, but will get them over hill and dale. They are very intelligent – more so than people. They have a kind expression and often seem to be gazing at something far away, as if plotting something.
“The Official Horse Breeds Standards Guide.” Fran Lynhaug. Voyageur Press; 2009
“Storey’s Illustrated Guide to 96 Breeds of North America.” Judith Dutson. Storey Publishing; 2005.
“International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds.” Bonnie Hendricks. University of Oklahoma Press, 1995.
“The Ultimate Horse Book.” Elwyn Hartley Edwards. Dorling Kindersley; 1991.