Photo Credit: Horse Source Ltd KWPN North America
The KWPN Harness Horse (Tuigpaard)

The KWPN harness horse (Tuigpaard) is uniquely bred to perform in driving competitions and harness horse classes. In combination with his proud, high carriage, this harness horse displays a long moment of suspension in the trot, broad foreleg movement with high knee action and powerful carrying ability. 


Warmblood breeding in the Netherlands is over a century old, during which period the breeding objective was constantly adapted. Dutch breeders produced as the market demanded. In earlier days, there was a high demand for agricultural horses, but many farmers wanted to own a ‘Sunday’ horse as well - a more noble type of horse that would move proudly and impressively in harness - which they could show off on their way to the market, church or on family visits. This competitive inclination was carefully preserved in KWPN harness horse breeding.

Although mechanization made the horse redundant as an agricultural power source, this form of competitive driving continued to be popular. When warmblood breeding in general moved toward the breeding of modern riding horses, a group of enthusiasts moved to preserve this special type. A breeding program was developed, selection methods applied on both mares and stallions, and some hackney-blood was added to enhance hardiness and nobility. 


In the Netherlands, there are 40 KWPN harness stallions, which annually serve about 1,700 mares. KWPN harness horse stallions must pass the internationally famous KWPN Stallion Selection as well as a stiff performance test. Selection criteria include not only pedigree and conformation, but especially show performance. KWPN harness horse stallions must meet high standards of temperament, sperm quality and soundness. The stallions are further evaluated on the performance of their offspring. In the Netherlands, harness horse stallions are required to compete in the NHS/KWPN National Stallion


Sires that have clearly improved the breeding program over several years qualify for the ‘keur’ predicate. The highest predicate is ‘preferent’, an honor that has been bestowed on such famous stallions as Renovo and Cambridge Cole. 


Three-year old KWPN harness horse mares presented at studbook inspections throughout the country are registered in the main studbook and branded with the KWPN lion. The best then show at provincial selections, with only the very best mares going on to qualify for presentation at the National Mare Selections. National Foal Championships have also recently been introduced.


A KWPN mare registered in the main studbook has met the minimum requirements for conformation and movement. The better mares earn the ‘ster’ predicate, and the higher-ranking ‘keur’ predicate is only awarded to mares that have produced offspring and have passed a performance test with good results. 

The ‘elite’ predicate is awarded to keur mares that pass radiographic examination. Mares that have produced at least three offspring of ‘star’ quality receive the ‘preferent’ predicate. If a minimum of three of her offspring perform to a certain level in sport, a mare will receive the ‘prestatie’ predicate, and if she performs well herself in single horse driving classes, a KWPN mare may be awarded the ‘sport’ predicate.

Show horse

The KWPN harness horse is generally harnessed in front of a light show carriage in order to show its spectacular trot. Ideally, it should bring the hindquarters under causing the front to rise and make the horse appear taller and taller. It should carry most of its weight behind, generating forward and upward power from its hindquarters, in order to display its remarkable front action. It lifts the foreleg high from the shoulder and then places it well forward. The ideal action combines the long moment of suspension, good balance and rhythm and fine coordination between fore- and hindquarters with the lifted front - an unforgettable sight.


Harness horse competitions in the Netherlands have very strict rules, with categories based on age and/or winnings. Such categories include single horse, pairs, tandem, randem (three horses harnessed in front of each other), quadrem (four horses harnessed in front of each other), four-in-hand (2 x 2) or ‘three-leaf clover’ (two behind, one in front). There are also special non-competitive harness show classes, such as those featuring traditional dress. 

  The KWPN website ( offers additional information about the harness horse competitions such as the National Harness Horse Day in August and the UTV (Dutch National Show) in September.

Please contact the KWPN-NA Office or René van der Kuil at the KWPN for more information.

See theList of Approved and Licensed stallions for names of Harness Horse stallions standing in North America.

For questions or comments contact the editor, KWPN-NA.