The Estonian Native Horse, earlier also called klepper, is one of the last survivors of the horse breeds belonging to the Northern forest horse group that used to live in the forest areas of Northern Russia and were the horses of the local Finno-Ugris nations. Others (viatka, petchora, mezeni, obvinka, obi, tavda etc.) have disappeared and the nations that created and were using them are also disappearing. Or they have been developed into more or less cultural breeds (the Finnish horse).
Estonian Native Horses' head is proportionally small, wide and deep. The neck is wide and thick. The chest is wide, buttock round, limbs strong and clean, and feet hard. Temperament is lively, character good. As a fault, there is sometimes incorrect standing and sway back.
Analyse showed that the Estonian Native Horse is one of the few breeds, which has retained the characteristic features of the native horse and were not significantly influenced by crossing with other breeds.
The average measurement (in cm) are: stallions - height at withers 144.2, oblique body length 145.4, chest girth 169.8, cannon bone girth 18.9; mares 142.1-145.4–178.0–18.4 respectively. The measures of two-year-old young mares were 137.2-137.8-164.1-17.8 cm; and those of three-year-olds 139.3-141.8-172.0-18.4 cm and those of four-year-olds 141.0-143.9-172.5-18.3 cm.
The predominant colours are bay, chestnut, black and grey; there also occur dun, cream and mouse-dun. The changes in coat colours show, that the colour of a horse has become more important to the owner. A hundred years ago, most important was considered horses’ ability to work, but today a colourful horse is considered most “beautiful”. The number of grey horses is increasing and chestnut colour is decreasing (from 34.0% to 17.9%).
The number of Estonian Native Horses decreased years ago and the breed has been entered in the Watch list of endangered domestic animals. Presently, the total number of Estonian Native Horses is around 1000, less than half of mares are used for breeding. The genetic diversity is attempted to maintain in breeding, preserving the existent 6 lines.
Industrial, one-time crossing with Shetland pony or Arab Horse produced numerous ponies. Fortunately, we carried out strict selection among thoroughbreds and thus we succeeded to keep our breeding horses. To keep our unique Estonian Native Horse breed, must the horse breeders decide, what is the purpose of this breed and stick to this breeding plan.
Due to its inexpensive price and low maintenance, Estonian Native breed is a suitable simple domestic horse, a companion at a suitable simple farm. Estonian native horses are kept as tourism horses in several tourism farms. On their backs or in their pull-carts, archaic villages, ruins of strongholds and natural sights are visited.
The preservation of the Estonian Horse is conducted in co-operation with environment protection programmes, for example, maintenance of heritage ensembles (especially meadows and coastal pastures). Owners are paid subsidies by environment funds for pasturing the horses on these areas. A preservation area for the Estonian Native Horse has been created (officially Laidevahe bird preservation area).
Estonian native horse has found a developing field of activities in sports as a horseback riding pony. They participate in races and show jumping.