About Mecklenburger Horses
Mecklenburgers are warmblood horses from the
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern region of north-eastern Germany. They have been closely
linked to the State Stud of Redefin. Historically influenced by Arabian and
Thoroughbred blood, today's Mecklenburger is an athletic riding and driving
horse similar to the neighboring Hanoverian. They are bred to the same
standards as the other German Warmbloods, and are especially suitable for
dressage and show jumping, though they are used for combined driving, eventing
and show hunter competition as well.
The region today known as Mecklenburg-Vorpommern was, until
1934, composed of the duchies of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburg-Strelitz.
However, the region was united by virtue of being under the rule of the House
of Mecklenburg, so the histories of Schwerin, Strelitz and the other
Mecklenburg duchies are intertwined. The history of warmblood horse breeding -
that is, a horse that was neither draft horse nor Arabian nor Thoroughbred - in
Mecklenburg is similar to that in the rest of Germany.
Mecklenburgers prior to World War II were all-purpose
utility horses. Individual sires, families or breeders might specialize, but
the most economically efficient horse was one that had many uses. Primarily,
these uses were cavalry, transport, and agriculture.
The requirements for a cavalry horse were affected by three
major changes: the decline of the Knight after the 16th century, the
popularization of firearms in the late 19th century, and mechanization in the
early 20th century. Between the Middle Ages and mechanization, the ideal
cavalry horse was athletic, agile and highly obedient. Cavalry horses were
typically bred for the nobility, but horses belonging to other residents were
trained as "remounts." Following mechanization, the role of the
cavalry horse in Europe was diminished to ceremonial use.
What was required of horses as part of transport was
affected by similar advances: the advent of long-distance public stagecoach
travel in the 16th century, the invention of the steam engine, and
mechanization. Pulling stage coaches did not necessitate beauty, but endurance,
efficiency and soundness. Large-scale train transport in Germany took hold late
in the 19th century and significantly reduced the need for stage horses. More
elegant carriage horses with high-stepping gaits became more popular for
short-distance traveling, as did saddle horses. Once again, mechanization all
but negated the horse's role in transport.
The agricultural niche filled by the horse was also affected
by technological achievements. While plows became increasingly lighter and more
efficient over time, the primary factor in determining the qualities of a
region's plow horse was the soil. Throughout the ages, the demand for
agricultural horses was also affected by the local populations, fluctuations in
which altered the demand for food. Periods of high growth meant higher food
demands, and more demand for plow horses. Yet again, mechanization following
World War II ousted the horse from this role.
During the 18th century
when many of Germany's noble houses were establishing expansive stud farms to
supply their courts with horses suitable for riding, driving, and cavalry
purposes, horse-breeding in Mecklenburg was chiefly motivated by large, private
stud farms. Residents had some access to stallions owned by their rulers, but a
state breeding program did not yet exist.
Breeding efforts of renown were, however, taking place under
the Counts of Plessen by the houses of Bassewitz and Hahn. Indeed, the
versatile horses bred in the region were of distinctive eastern ("oriental")
type and were well-known as coach, saddle, and utility horses. In horse
breeding, the term "oriental" suggests the influence of horses from
the Middle East, including Arabian horses and Turkoman horses. Another
characteristic of Mecklenburg breeding is the early involvement with the
English Thoroughbred racehorse. The first-ever race track in Germany was
created in 1822 at Bad Doberan, the summer retreat of the court of Schwerin.
The Royal Principal Stud, which kept a herd of mares in
addition to standing stallions, was founded in 1810 and was followed in 1812 by
the State Stud of Redefin. The breeding efforts of these two facilities were
combined in 1819 by Joachim von Bülow, Senior State Equerry. In addition to the
noble warmblood horses for which Mecklenburg was known, Joachim von Bülow
populated the stud farms and their outposts with elegant Thoroughbred
stallions. While the unusual affinity for part-Thoroughbred horses did not
always suit the needs of farmers in the region, Redefin supplied the State Stud
of Celle with stock year after year, including stallions like Jellachich and
Norfolk that would become founders of the Hanoverian. Less than fifteen years
after being founded, Redefin was composed of over 134 stallions at 26 outposts.
In The Three Musketeers, written in the 1840s, d'Artagnan is given a
"vigorous Mecklenburg horse" to ride.
By 1847, less than a fifth of the Redefin stallions were
without at least one Thoroughbred grandparent, a trait that began to affect the
soundness and longevity of their offspring. In an effort to correct this, draft
horse stallions were put to use, but the result was merely a loss of the
identifiable type. To regain the utilitarian warmblood type, which differed
from the older coach horse type due to the advent of the steam locomotive,
suitable horses were purchased from Hannover. As a result of the regular
exchange of breeding stock, Mecklenburgers and Hanoverians remained similar to
one another, and distinctly different from the heavier Oldenburgers and Holsteiners.
Mecklenburgers at the turn of the 20th century were bred
much the same as their Hanoverian counterparts: stylish carriage and saddle
horses, still suitable for plowing. As the locomotive replaced the stage coach
for long-distance travel, less efficiency of movement was required of driving
horses, resulting in higher action. During World War I, however, horses were
used to pull artillery wagons and as remounts. In response, the horses were
bred to be heavier and calmer. By 1920, Redefin's roster of 176 state-owned
sires served over 10,000 mares at over 30 covering stations. But as the demand
for horses faded, so too did their numbers: in 1930, only half that number
remained. The stock of Redefin were influenced by a merger with Neustrelitz
State Stud, reflecting the unification of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and
World War II produced a second upsurge in breeding of heavy
horses suitable for pulling artillery wagons, so that in 1945, there were 151
Mecklenburg stallions at 44 covering stations. After the end of the war, during
Russian occupation of the region, most of the Mecklenburger stallions were sent
Redefin continued to function as the region's state stud
farm, with a herd of mares and over 100 warmblood stallions. The market began
to turn towards the production of riding horses in the 1960s. This target was
standardized in 1971 and by 1987, 100 state-owned stallions served the region.
The mare herd was sold, and Redefin lost the title of "Principal"
state stud in 1993, following German reunification. Today Redefin is composed
of 8 covering stations and stands 64 stallions, not all of which are
warmbloods. Behind the grand entryway of Redefin now stands an
international-caliber riding facility.
The modern Mecklenburg warmblood is best identified by the
presence of the region's brand on the left hip, which is in the form of the
letter "M" topped with a stylized crown. Coat color and pattern are
not part of the standard, but most Mecklenburgers are modestly-marked bays,
chestnuts, blacks, or grays. Like other German Warmbloods, the ideal height for
Mecklenburgers is between 15.3 hands high (hh) or 160 centimeters (cm) and 17hh
or 170 cm at the withers. Breeding stock that deviate to the extreme may be
excluded from the stud book.
Mecklenburgers, as warmbloods, are middle-weight, athletic
animals rather heavier than Thoroughbreds. Since German reunification in 1990,
breeders have pursued standards similar to those of the Hanoverian breeders.
The modern Mecklenburger can be called a "noble" warmblood (edles
warmblut), distinguished from the older Heavy warmbloods by the influence of
Thoroughbred and Arabian blood and specialization for riding.
The breeding goal is a hardy, fertile horse with mental and
physical stamina, a good character and lively, balanced temperament. Horses may
be suited to any type of riding or driving sport due to expansive, regular
paces, a flat-footed walk and vibrant trot and canter. The best heads are fine,
dry, and expressive, with a tapering neck and strong topline, withers
pronounced and well-laid back, the back strong but flexible, and the croup
long, sloping and muscular. The chest and shoulder should have depth and
length, respectively. The foundation should be dry on prominent, correct joints
and well-shaped hooves.
With international jumpers like Antik (Azarro), Chacco-Blue
(Chambertin), Luisa and Lady Like (Lord Kemm), Royal Beach Farao and Galan
(Golden Miller), this small studbook is producing international competitors as
well as leisure riding horses and driving horses.