POPSUGAR Celebrity

Sporty Steeds: Olympic Sport Horses From A to Z

Aug 10 2012 - 4:00am

Just like the humans breaking world records on the track at Olympic Stadium, on the courts of Wimbledon, and on the pitch at Wembley, the horses who competed in the Olympic equestrian events at London's Greenwich Park are finely tuned athletes who have trained rigorously for their big day in the arena. Historically, the mounts of choice for most riders at the Olympic level have been warmbloods, a group encompassing a number of breeds and types originally bred for farm work, cavalry, and pulling carriages but, in modern times, tuned for sports like jumping, dressage, and eventing. However, at this year's Olympic games, competitors also sat astride Andalusians, Hungarian chargers, and horses registered with Studbook Zangersheide. Get a glimpse of the alphabetic assortment when you check out our slideshow!


Spain's Fuego was the sole Andalusian to compete at this year's Olympics. The breed is also known as the Pura Raza Española (Spanish purebred) thanks to its long history in the Iberian Peninsula and its influence as foundation stock in developing other breeds.

Anglo European Studbook

Ireland's Tinka's Serenade is a member of the Anglo European Studbook [1], a British-based registry that accepts pedigreed horses based primarily on performance.

Bavarian Warmblood

Ireland's Coryolano carries the preferred dark bay color of the Bavarian Warmblood type. This horse draws its bloodlines from several different German Sport Horse breeds.

Belgian Sport Horse

Brazil's Alvaro Affonso de Miranda Neto leaped astride Rahmannshof's Bogeno, a Belgian Sport Horse. Founded as the Society for the Encouragement of Breeding Army Horses in 1920, today's Studbook sBs uses primarily French bloodlines to influence the athletic nature of these warmbloods.

Belgian Warmblood

Registered under the Belgian Warmblood Studbook, which was founded in 1955, Belgian Warmbloods — such as Belgium's Bufero Van Het Panishof — were developed like postwar Belgian Sport Horse stock but always with a sport usage in mind.

Brazilian Sport Horse

Proudly representing her country, Brazil's Josephine is a Brazilian Sport Horse, which incorporates warmblood bloodlines as well as the small, hardy Criollo horses of South America.

Canadian Sport Horse

Canada's Riddle Master represents the Canadian Sport Horse, a type combining English Thoroughbred with local farm stock for a broad-chested horse that excels in jumping and eventing.

Danish Warmblood

Princess Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein of Denmark brought her trusty steed Digby to London as a representative of Danish Warmbloods. Though imbued with other warmblood bloodlines, this sport horse originally resulted from a cross between Thoroughbreds and Denmark's oldest breed, the Frederiksborger.

Dutch Warmblood

Thirty-two Dutch Warmbloods competed in this year's Olympic Games, and it's no wonder: the breed's registry, the Royal Warmblood Studbook of the Netherlands, ranked first in jumping and dressage by the World Breeding Federation For Sport Horses last year. Pictured here is Ravel, a member of the US Equestrian Team and Steffan Peters's loyal dressage companion.

Finnish Warmblood

While some other breed registries allow parentage from just about any other breed so long as it improves their own horses, the Finnish studbook requires that horses be 50 percent Finnish Warmblood, just like Donnperignon of Denmark.


The Hanoverian was once a carriage horse, but breeders employed Thoroughbred bloodlines to lighten the horse's frame. Today, Hanoverians like Campino make excellent jumpers, dressage horses, and eventers.


Holsteiners like Japan's Chippieh are considered to be the oldest of the warmbloods, dating back to 13th-century Germany. Today, they make excellent show jumpers.

Hungarian Sport Horse

Native breeds like the Furioso, Gidran, Nonius, and Kisber Felver helped develop the Hungarian Sport Horse. They were also instrumental in contributing to the popular Dutch Warmblood. Hungary's O-Feltiz represents this athletic horse.

Irish Sport Horse

Also known as the Irish Hunter, the Irish Sport Horse is the result of a cross between the Irish Draught and the Thoroughbred. Royal cousin Zara Phillips's eventing silver medal mount, High Kingdom, shows off the breed's sturdy underpinnings.

Italian Saddle Horse

Italy's Eremo del Castegno is an Italian Saddle Horse, a breed influenced primarily by Sardinian Anglo-Arabian bloodlines.

La Silla Studbook

Alfonso Romo founded Mexico's Studbook La Silla to develop the ultimate jumping horse. While it's not a breed, La Silla has its own registry to ensure bloodlines and to help promote La Silla-bred horses in competition. The appearance of Colombia's Sancha at this year's Olympic Games speaks to the studbook's success.


Closely related to the Spanish Andalusian, Lusitanos come from Portugal but are also popular among Brazilian breeders. Brazil's Sancha is one such horse and a great representative of the Lusitano's compact body and noble Roman nose.

Mexican Sport Horse

A relatively new entry into the warmblood world, the Mexican Sport Horse owes much of its success to Mexico's La Silla breeding operation. Though not a La Silla product, Brazil's Eleda All Black is an athletic example of this type.


Owned by Ann Romney and rider Jan Ebeling, Rafalca represents the Oldenburg, a breed with old roots in Germany. Stallion inspections were held as early as the 18th century while records of Oldenburg breeding efforts date back even earlier.

Polish Halfbred

More a type than a breed, the Polish Halfbred combines Polish bloodlines with foreign ones in a horse that is ideal for jumping or dressage. One such steed is Poland's Randon.


Derived from the Rhineland draft horse, the Rhinelander benefited from Thoroughbred, Trakehner, and Hanoverian breeding to develop the horse's long-lined body. Japan's Pretty Darling was the only Rhinelander to compete in this year's Olympic Games.

Selle Français

Though it's not a closed registry (requiring two purebred parents), the Selle Français studbook is much more selective than other registries, allowing very few horses of foreign blood. Germany's Opgun Louvo, a Selle Français, carried Sandra Auffarth to a bronze medal in the individual eventing competition at this year's Olympics.

Spanish Sport Horse

New Zealand's Nereo is an example of a Spanish Sport Horse. Registered as a Caballo de Deporte Español, the horse is usually a cross between a warmblood and a native Spanish horse like the treasured Andalusian.

Swedish Warmblood

Taking home a silver medal in the individual eventing competition, Sweden's Wega is an ideal Swedish Warmblood.

Swiss Warmblood

The Swiss Warmblood was first bred at the Benedictine monastery in Einsiedeln, Switzerland, and was later refined at the Swiss federal stud with Anglo-Norman and Yorkshire Coach Horse blood. Today, horses like Belgium's Gazelle de la Brasserie compete at the highest levels of equestrian competition.


Though they're best known as racehorses, Thoroughbreds like New Zealand's Flintstar have made a name for themselves in other equestrian sports as well. Their speed and agility make them great cross-country mounts.


The only warmblood considered a true breed as its registry permits only purebred horses, the Trakehner — like Great Britain's Opposition Buzz — is often used to upgrade other warmblood types.


Westphalians like Sweden's Allerdings are closely related to Rhinelanders and actually share residence at the Warendorf state stud farm in Germany's Westphalia region.


Though the Württemberg breed registry was not founded until 1895, the development of the breed began in 1573 with the founding of Germany's first state-run stud farm in Marbach. Germany's Sam, winner of the individual eventing gold, is a Württemberg.

Zangersheide Studbook

Though not a breed, Studbook Zangersheide is a breeding operation-turned-studbook that specializes in show jumping horses and was founded in 1992. Last year, Zangersheide placed 10th in the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horse's ranking of studbooks in jumping. HRH Prince Abdullah al Saud of Saudi Arabia rode his Zangersheide mount, Davos, to a bronze medal in this year's team jumping competition.

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