Tuesday, March 10, 2009

GOV, ISR, OBHS, WTF? (Pardon my french) Part I

A BTB reader suggested a good topic for the "warmblood series." We've all heard of the Oldenburg horse, but why so many registries? What is the difference between the German Oldenburg Verband, the Oldenburg Horse Breeder's Society, and the ISR/Oldenburg North America registries?

The organizations
The German Oldenburg Verband (GOV) is the original Oldenburg registry -- it has been around since the 1920's and is based in Germany. This bloodlines in the GOV date back to the 1600's in the region of Germany by that name. The Count Anton G√ľnther von Oldenburg, an avid horseman and breeder in the region, guided the early development of the Oldenburg horse. Understandably there is quite a bit of history and prestige associated with the GOV.

The Oldenburg Horse Breeders Society (OBHS) started around the year 2000 (give or take a few years), and it is presently the North American branch/division of the GOV. The GOV assigns a North American breeding director and the OBHS follows the philosophy, principles, and practices of the GOV. In short their programs are in total alignment. Horses that are part of this registry get pink German registration papers. They do not, however, get a brand -- more on this later.

The Oldenburg Registry of North America and International Sport Horse Registry (ONA/ISR) was founded in 1983, and its past is, well, let's say colorful as far as the Oldenburg side. From about 1988 to 1997 (I think) the ONA/ISR was the American division of the GOV, and the GOV appointed a breeding director for the ONA. There was a falling out in the late nineties, though. The brief explanation is that the GOV separated from the ONA/ISR when it appeared that the GOV policies and practices were not being followed.

GOV brand
ONA/ISR brand adds the letters NA)
Breaking up is hard to do. Like a bad divorce, there was the question of who gets what -- what Bob calls "the toaster wars." The ONA/ISR secured the trademark for the Oldenburg brand and continued to use the Oldenburg name that had belonged to the GOV for hundreds of years. Litigation ensued over the identity and ownership of these things, and the court decision was surprising. The ONA/ISR won the right to use the word "Oldenburg" in their title and the Oldenburg brand, even though the name and brand didn't originate with them, and even though they are no longer affiliated with the original owners, the GOV.

The ONA/ISR states on its Web site that it follows international breeding standards. I'm not sure who sets international breeding standards, so I can't speak to that. But there are some differences between the practices of the ONA/ISR vs. the GOV...

  1. The ONA/ISR provides approval for mares that do not have official registration documents or proper documentation of their pedigree (most registries require a four generation pedigree). In the U.S., a lot of nice mares don't have paperwork -- we're just not as cognizant of bloodlines as they are in Europe. The ONA/ISR has different mare books depending on a mare's pedigree, conformation, and performance.

  2. The ONA/ISR uses a different inspection scoring system than the GOV.

  3. ISR brands its horses; the American division of the GOV does not.

A note about ISR vs. ONA: Although they are one organization, the ISR and ONA serve different purposes. Stated simplistically, the ISR has the lower mare books and is the registry for mares lacking in pedigree. ISR has its own brand. Oldenburg NA has the higher mare books and offspring can be eligible to become stallions.

Part II will talk more about the events of the late nineties -- where the GOV and the ISR/ONA parted ways...


  1. Thank you for your very informative post. We have a mare who is purportedly half Oldenburg (sire Fascination by Furioso II), the other half is Quarter Horse - an odd combination, but she certainly could jump before being retired due to heaves. I'll look forward to your further clarifications on the breed.

  2. Ahhh! There is a quarter horse "tie in" in Part II of the Oldenburg story. How old is your mare?

  3. Stacey - she is late teens, perhaps 20. I believe she came from Minnesota. She's a massive thing - about 16 hands, although very dominant and "hot". My daughter, who was just learning to ride jumpers, jumped her 5' and our trainer's daughter jumped her 5'6"! We were sorry to have to retire her - she could have gone a long way, we think.

  4. Is there a link to part II? I'd like to read it. Thanks.

  5. Laurie, see http://www.behindthebitblog.com/2009/03/gov-isr-ohbs-wtf-pardon-my-french-part.html


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