The breeding goal for the Westfalen was a large riding horse with a quiet temper that excels as a prized dressage horse and show jumper!

The Westfalen, also known as the Westphalian horse, originates in Westphalia; the North Rhine area of western Germany. The Westphalia region is between the Rhine and Weser rivers. Here, in the marshy lands not suitable for farming, were bands of wild horses roaming free during the time of the Romans. There is still one band of (semi) wild horses roaming there today, and the annual catching and auctioning of the young stallions is quite an attraction.

Descended from these free roaming herds comes the graceful, refined Westfalen (Westphalian) horses. Anglo Norman and Oldenburg blood, and later Hanoverian and Thoroughbred blood have been used in the breeding program. Today this German warmblood, which is always a solid color, has a physique similar to the Hanoverian. They are bred to be suitable for competitive and pleasure riding in dressage and show jumping.

The Westfalen is highly prized as a dressage horse and as a show jumper. The Westfalen is a warmblood breed known for its talent in dressage and show jumping. An elegant horse of good character, it is prized for its trainability. It is an athletic horse with a good work ethic and expressive movement.

The Westfalen Horse Association was formed in 1999 by a group of dedicated enthusiasts. The focus is to support and promote the breed in the United States. The Westfalen Horse Association is an affiliate of the German Association which handles records and breed registrations. In 2007 there were approximately 150 members of the Westfalen Horse Association. There are many owners who are not current members of the organization, and the breed is commonly seen at USDF (United States Dressage Federation) and USHJA (United States Hunter and Jumper Association) sanctioned events.

Scientific Classification

westfalen horse galloping
Image Credit: Sabine Hagedorn, Shutterstock

Horse Breeds

The Westfalen, also known as the Westphalian horse, are a light horse breed and a large warmblood. Light horse breeds generally weigh under 1,500 pounds. They are typically used as riding horses for leisure and trail riding. Being agile and swift, many are also used on the racetrack, in the show ring, and for work on the ranch.
Light horses are grouped in a couple of different ways, one being the continent or country where they originated from. They are also grouped according to training, classified as either a stock type, hunter type, saddle type, or ‘other’. A body type is generally attributed to each class, with the ‘other’ classification being a bit of an odd ball. It includes those that are color breeds or those that may fit a body type of one of the training classes, but not be used for that type of training. In some cases the ‘other’ types can also include those that may fit into more than one of the type groups.
The horse class the Westfalen horse primarily fits into is the hunter type class as it is well adapted to dressage and show jumping.

Horse Backgrounds

In the time of the Romans, there were bands of horses roaming free in the marshy lands of Westphalia, one of which still exists today. Descended from these herds comes the graceful, refined Westfalen breed. Breeders established a consistent breed standard in the late 1800’s and in 1904 the Westfalisches Pferdestammbuch e. V. or westfalen studbook was formed.
Anglo Norman and Oldenburg blood was used in the breeding program, and later Hanoverian and Thoroughbred blood was added as well. Today the breed closely resembles the Hanoverian in looks and temperament.


Westfalens are a large breed ranging from approximately 15.3 to 17.3 hands high. The breed can be any solid color, and should have an attractive head with a long, well set on neck. This breed has a deep chest, sloping shoulder and straight back. The powerful body and muscular quarters give it great suspension and an elegant way of moving.

Horse Care and Feeding

This breed eats a large amount of hay, often over 25 pounds of roughage per day. If the horse is showing or being ridden strenuously it should have a high protein high fat grain or pelleted supplement.
The Westfalen requires attention, discipline, and exercise to thrive in a showing or riding environment. Its large size demands that it is allowed access to pasture or turn out and it will likely not do well when confined to a box stall unless it is on a regular program of work and exercise.
Biotin or other hoof supplement is also recommended in excessively wet or dry climates.

westfalen horse on the meadow
Image Credit: Sabine Hagedorn, Shutterstock

Horse Training and Activities

The Westfalen, or Westphalian horse, possesses a composed and relaxed nature. It is known for its trainability and rideability. It is highly valued by both professional and amateur riders in the show jumping and dressage disciplines. It is a big mover, and as such may not be suited to the casual rider.
Their excellent work ethic and athleticism have brought them high accolades on the world stage in competition. Many world famous Olympic champions are Westfalens. Among these are Ahlerich, Rembrandt, Goldstern, and Floriano.

Common Health Problems

The Westfalen has an average susceptibility to colic and founder so intelligent husbandry should be practiced to prevent these problems. Being a big moving horse, it is also wise to provide leg protection when riding to prevent tendon, suspensory, and foot injuries. With regular grooming and daily care they are relatively easy keepers.


The Westfalen, or Westphalian horse is fairly available. Prices range anywhere from five to ten thousand for an untrained foal or yearling to six and seven figure amounts for horses competing at the international levels.


Featured Image Credit: Sabine, Hagedorn, Shutterstock