Dutch law has made branding illegal, so today only the oldest Dutch Warmbloods still bear the lion-rampant brand on the left hip. Instead, the horses are microchipped. To become a breeding horse, mares must stand at least 15.2hh and stallions at least 15.3hh at the withers. There is no upper height limit, though too-tall horses are impractical for sport and not desirable.
Most Dutch Warmbloods are black, brown, bay, chestnut, or grey, and white markings are not uncommon. The population also has a number of tobiano horses from the influence of the approved stallion Samber, though a second tobiano stallion has not been approved since. The roan pattern is also to be found occasionally through the approved stallion El Rosso.
For the past 15 years, the breeding direction has called for a horse suitable for the Grand Prix level. Strict selection procedures ensure that bad-tempered stallions and mares do not go on to produce unmanageable horses, however, the Dutch Warmblood is significantly more sensitive than its Gelderlander and Groningen ancestors. Performance test results allow breeders and buyers to identify horses with amateur-suitable temperaments. All Dutch Warmbloods are selected to be uncomplicated to handle and ride. Among the dressage horses, cooperativeness is paramount as an element of the submission required in that sport. From the show jumpers, a level of courage and reflexivity is required to effectively navigate a course.
Since the turn of the millennium, Dutch Warmblood breeding has shifted from breeding a "riding horse" to further specialization into dressage type and jumper type horses. To protect against losing canter quality in the dressage horse and conformation, gaits and rideability in the jumper type, genetic material continues to be freely exchanged between the two types. Specialization depends on the abilities of the horse.
The Dutch Warmblood is long-legged but substantial with a smooth topline and dry, expressive head. They are built level to uphill in a rectangular frame. A number of traits are desirable in both directions, such as "long lines" or a rectangular frame, "balanced proportions" and attractiveness. The requirements for the two types differ in the desired interior qualities, but also in form. The exact outline of the Dutch Warmblood varies depending on the pedigree.