Use and characteristics of the Hanoverian
Strength combined with elegance is the hallmark of the Hanoverian. These intelligent, willing animals can stand between 15.3 hands (63 inches/160 cm) and 17.2 hands (70 inches/178 cm) high, the majority being between 16 hands (64 inches/163 cm) and 16.2 hands (66 inches/168 cm) high. Hanoverians excel in all three major equestrian disciplines, dressage, show jumping and eventing, and most riders buy a Hanoverian to participate in one or more of these activities. There’s certainly no shortage of interest when anyone decides to sell a Hanoverian with competition experience. Coat colours are mainly bay, black, chestnut and grey. Some colours are disbarred from registry.
Origin and history of breeding Hanoverians
The origins of the Hanoverian (or Hannoveraner, as it is known in Germany) lie in the 17th century, when Neapolitan and Spanish stallions were used with local mares to produce coach and carriage horses of exceptional quality. By 1700, the famous “cream-coloured” coach horses of Hanover were a desirable commodity for European royalty. However, the story of the modern Hanoverian began in earnest in 1714 when the Elector of Hannover was created King George I. This encouraged equine trade between Britain and Hannover. His successor George II, who kept the title Elector of Hannover, founded the state stud at Celle in 1735 with black Holstein stallions and local mares. The intention was to breed good all-round horses for farm and harness work, and to provide cavalry mounts. Local farmers were encouraged to use the state stallions to produce better horses for farm work and other purposes. Some of George II’s early breeding programme was perhaps fuelled by sibling rivalry, since his brother had laid the foundation for the Trakehner breed in Prussia. Over time, there would also be contributions from Thoroughbreds, Cleveland Bays, Mecklenburg and Prussian stallions to the Hanoverian stock. The Hanoverian horses suffered badly during the Napoleonic Wars and many were lost, but the stock at Celle was replenished with Thoroughbred and Mecklenburg stallions. The first approval programme for stallions began as early as 1844, and the stud book was set up in 1888. Throughout the late nineteenth century, attempts were made to maintain the strength and versatility of Hanoverian horses, without making them too much of a light riding horse by using Thoroughbreds. After WWII, with the rising global interest in competitive and pleasure riding, Trakehner and some Anglo-Arab stallions were used to establish the modern Hanoverian sports horse that is known today. The Trakehners themselves had only just been saved from destruction at the end of the war.
Hanoverians in equestrianism
A list of successful Hanoverians would fill several volumes! All three horses in the Olympic gold medal-winning team at Beijing 2008 were Hanoverians. The breed also excels at show jumping, having been members of six Olympic gold medal-winning teams. These long-lived and hardy horses often have lengthy careers. The principal organising body in Germany is the Hannoveraner Verband, or Hanoverian Society, and on registration, foals receive the Hanover brand.