The Knabstrup or Knabstrupper is a horse breed of Danish origin. It has a big framed, well balanced body with an elegant, expressive head. The eyes are clear and relaxed and the ears small. The neck is well set and strong. Knapstrups have sloping shoulders and strong backs. Their limbs are strong, muscular and well defined; similarly, their hooves are well formed and sturdy. They have a light, rhythmic movement. Their overall appearance and movement is full of elegance and grace.
There are three types of Knabstrups; the Knabstrup horse, the Knabstrup pony and the miniature pony. The average height of Knabstrups is 15.1 to 16 hands high, although some ponies are as short as 14.2 hands high.
Some individuals are born in solid colors, usually black, bay or chestnut, but most are spotted. The most famous pattern is the leopard pattern on a white background. The spots can be black, bay or chestnut.
The Knabstup is a friendly, well mannered breed. It is energetic and willing to perform any task. It is a spirited and agreeable breed, very popular among riders and especially children.
Knabstrups are popular in many disciplines. In sports they are used in dressage, eventing and show jumping with great success. They are often used as circus horses and are very popular for pleasure riding. When it comes to riding, they are children's favorites.
Like other horse breeds, they require a steady supply of grass, hay and water, a safe shelter and frequent outdoors access so that they can exercise. Feeding should not take place right before or after exercise as it can lead to digestive problems.
The Knabstrup breed was developed in Denmark approximately 300 years ago. Its parent breeds were of Spanish and Italian origin, while it has often been compared to the Appaloosa breed for its distinct markings. Knabstrups were traditionally used as carriage horses. During the Schleswig war, Danish officials used them as mounts; their unique patterns however made them easily spotted by the enemy and many ended up killed. This, along with inbreeding, caused Knabstrup numbers to decline dramatically during the late 1870's. Fortunately, the interest A. F. Rasmussen took in the breed, led to its restoration by him in the 1930's.
In recent years there has been more interest in breeding Knabstrups for their unique patterning than for their physique. As a result, these horses have been carelessly crossed and there is not a single individual today to be like the Knabstups of old. These horses live on average 25-30 years.