THE DUTCH HARNESS HORSE
The Dutch Harness Horse, known in the Netherlands as Tuigpaard, was originally developed by Dutch farmers as a "Sunday outing" horse to pull the family carriage to church, to go on business trips, and to attend social functions. The higher the horse stepped, the more prestige the farmer earned. Today, it might be comparable to "being seen " driving a Cadillac or a BMW. Originally it was the farmers who controlled breeding standards and developed local shows in the summer to make certain that their horses were seen in Fine Harness and Driving classes by important people.
In the last hundred years the Dutch Harness Horse (DHH) registry is handled by the Dutch governmental agency known as the KWPN. It is the same agency that regulates the registration of Dutch Warmbloods. Since the DHH is an open registry based on performance standards, horses of many different breeds may be acceptable for registration, which involves branding, as long as they meet several rigorous tests. DHH's must be at least 15.3 hands when the KWPN inspects them at age 2 1/2. Inspection involves both X-rays to prove outstanding conformation and a 70-day training test to determine willingness to perform. Thereafter, the 3% that are approved for breeding must constantly be campaigned in show competitions if they are to remain approved by the KWPN. Those that achieve the highest honor for "improving" the DHH breed in show competitions are awarded the title of "keur" and "preferent." In recent years imported American Saddlebreds and Hackney horses have been used to create a high stepping, showy performer that is also shown today In-Hand with several handlers. DHH stallions like Fabricius, Majesteit, Harmonie, and Jonker now stand in the United States as crosses to produce high-stepping English-pleasure riding and carriage horses for the show circuit. The DHH is also being used to produce carriage horses for Amish families who take pride in using a high-stepping beautiful horse for Sunday functions--- exactly the purpose for which it was originally bred!