After 32 years in his capacity as the Holsteiner Verband breed director and executive director, Dr. Thomas Nissen will leave office by the end of 2020 and retire. He was given a farewell ceremony at the 50th Holsteiner stallion licensing and elite auction.


Dr. Thomas Nissen grew up at a farm in Schleswig-Holstein. After his secondary school examinations he trained as a farmer prior to studying agronomy at the Christian-Albrechts-University Kiel where he eventually received a doctor’s degree on the subject of “mare performance testing and fertility in the Holsteiner horse” in 1986 supervised by Prof. Dr. Ernst Kalm at the department for animal breeding and husbandry. He held a post as a trainee at the ministry of agriculture in Kiel for two years. Upon completing his second state examination in 1988, he succeeded Gerhard Gramann as breed director of the Holsteiner Verband. Dr. Thomas Nissen’s advocating the targeted use of outside-blood stallions, in particular English Thoroughbred and French sires, has had a massive influence on the refinement and modernisation of the Holsteiner breed. The reform of the stallion selection process, including the transition from state to Verband stallion grading as well as the various adjustments to stallion performance testing procedures were part of his job. Thomas Nissen has set standards by establishing a Verband stallion grading committee, developing a new mare registration system and introducing mare performance testing.

Sought-after advisor
Having been vice president of the WBFSH for 13 years, Dr.Thomas Nissen was appointed honorary member of the World Breeding Federation for Sporthorses for his services to the world breeding federation by president Jan Pedersen, who had come from the north of Denmark to join the send-off. He has always been considered a sought-after and competent contact and advisor on current debates and developments by the German Equestrian Federation (FN), and has been involved for example in association rule change policies and stallion performance test reforms. In addition to his activities as Holsteiner Verband breed director and executive director, Dr. Nissen has always been involved with many scientific research projects. Since 1983 he has been imparting his knowledge on horse breeding to Kiel university students within the scope of a teaching assignment and as a supervisor of master and doctor theses.

Due to the Corona situation, only a limited number of friends and colleagues of Dr. Nissen’s was able to join the emotional farewell presented by Harm Sievers in Neumuenster, expressing words of appreciation and acknowledgement, with words like “competent, visionary, loyal, reliable, kind and fair“ pervading the speeches. Neither did horses fail to appear. Representing the countless Holsteiners having accompanied the outgoing breed director’s career, the iconic Holsteiner studs Casacadello I, Calido I and Casall stepped into the arena.
Dr. Thomas Nissen will hold the office as Holsteiner Verband breed director and executive director until the end of the year. He does not intend to cut his Holsteiner ties and has already indicated to continue in an advisory capacity, even though he is planning on spending more time on family activities and hobbies like classic car rides or swimming.

Dr. Thomas Nissen at his surprise farewell celebration at the Neumuenster stallion grading and elite auction. The outgoing breed director was accompanied by his wife, Hilde, and his son, Christian. (Photo: Janne Bugtrup)