About Trakehner Horses
Trakehner Horses (official name: "The East Prussian
Warmblood Horse of Trakehner Origin" ) are the oldest warmblood breed in
the world, with a history spanning amost 300 years. They originated from a
small horse, bred in East Prussia , known as the "Schwaike". The
Schwaike was known for his versatility and endurance. When this breed was
crossed with imported English thoroughbred and Arabian stallions, the resulting
horse was named after the main stud it came from: Trakehnen. They originally
were bred as calvary mounts.
In the early 18th century, King Friedrich Wilhelm I realized
that a new type of cavalry mount was needed as war tactics had changed and
demanded a faster, lighter horse that also posessed power and endurance. In
1732, he moved the best of his cavalry horses to the new royal stud farm
Trakehnen and began to systematically breed a horse that would meet many
criteria. The new cavalry mounts had to be attractive enough to be a
representative horse for his officers, but additionally had to be tough enough
to survive harsh situations and come out sound. Through his efforts, the
Trakehner breed evolved.
At the same time, East Prussian farmers were breeding the
same base of horses, but for the daily work in the fields. Soil in East Prussia
is heavy and deep and farmers needed tough, hard-working, low-maintenance
horses to help plough their fields.
East Prussia therefore had two separate, but equally
outstanding sources for riding horses. The military and civilian herds were
mixed often, further consolidating the best possible traits. The main stud
Trakehnen was a huge compound, a city of its own, covering some 15.000 acres.
Apart from the main complex, sixteen "Vorwerke" (more distant barns)
were home to the famous mare herds. The Trakehner horse was bred depending on
its color; which may sound strange but made perfect sense once one takes into
consideration that the differently colored herds also showed certain traits
that were useful for the population. The black herd at Gurdzen for example
consisted of mares that had the most substance and were very strong and
outstanding "workers". Famous stallions like Ararad and Jagdheld were
crossed with these mares, mainly to maintain a balance to the otherwise very
refined Trakehners. Even today, these "heaviers" genes can come
through in the descendants of this great herd.The chestnut mares were collected
at Trakehnen itself. Descending from famous thoroughbreds like Thunderclap xx,
the chestnut mares were elegant, sensitive and exhibited the greatest
performance potential. One of the most successful dressage lines of all times
in warmblood breeding, the Hanovarian A-line, founded by the Trakehner stallion
Abglanz, originated from the chestnut herd. Bay and brown mares were collected
at Kalpakin. They were known for outstanding temperament and again, excellent
rideability. And at Bajorgallen, the "mixed herd" was stationed. There,
mares of all colors including gray were bred to many of the Arabian stallions.
Foundation mares like Kassette and Donna came out of that exquisite group of
horses and even today, 60 years after their time, they are the most prominent
names in the history of Trakehner horses.
A chief sire at Trakehnen lived like a king. Each stallion
had a huge paddock that was fenced by trees and bushes. The stall was a stone
house, open to one side, built like a round pen with a luxury roof and
beautiful steel ornaments. Each stallion was assigned a private groom, always
older and proven men that had spent their lives at Trakehnen and had that
special "6th horse sense" built in.It must have been a special view
each morning when the men opened the giant barn doors at Trakehnen and waves of
gleaming horses made their way along the paths to the pastures. There were no
fences at Trakehnen, the horses were guarded by a man on a horse, watching over
"his" friends every day. Weanlings were kept in large herds and had
all the freedom a young horse could dream of. At three-years-old colts were
started under saddle and thoroughly tested to determine their future: cavalry,
riding horse or future sire for Trakehnen and the East Prussian local studs.
Obviously with so many high-quality horses, only the very best were chosen as
potential future sires. These - the cream of the crop - next underwent the
stallion performance test. Performance testing lasted a full year and was held
at Zwion, the state's stallion test station and the first of its kind in the
world. The colts were driven, raced, used for hard fox hunting and eventing,
trained in dressage and tested over jumps. All colts were evaluated thoroughly
on character, rideability and temperament. Only the very best of these
magnificent animals were chosen to contribute to the prestigious gene pool at
By far more mares were distributed among the smaller
breeding farms of the East Prussian farmers than at Trakehnen. This resulted in
an indigenous breed, which was the great advantage of the East Prussian as
opposed to other breeds, since it made for a great consistency. Their quality improved
as Trakehnen and the bigger private studs raised a large number of their foals.
The state stallion depots and the riding and driving clubs formed their
backbone. At local and national shows, they competed with larger breeders.
Many Trakehner horses were used in World War II which, at
the end, nearly destroyed the breed as Soviet troops advanced from the East,
causing flight and expulsion of Germans during and after WWII. The main Stud
and local residents were given permission to evacuate on 17 October 1944. Their
journey West, known as Der Treck ("The Flight"), sent the horses on a
dangerous journey in frigid conditions across the frozen Vistula lagoon without
proper rations or shelter. It is considered one of the toughest tests to which
an entire breed of horses has been submitted.
Refugee convoys were bombed while on the ice by the Soviet
airforce, so only a small number of horses made it to safety. 700 surviving
horses were accounted for. The horses left behind in East Prussia became
important in the breeding of Russian breeds such as the Kirov as well as the
Polish Mazury (also known as the Masuren) and Pozan (or Poznan), which
developed into the Wielkopolski. After the war, the breed, which once numbered
tens of thousands, was reduced to approximately 600 broodmares and 50 stallions
in West Germany. The last original Trakehner was Keith, born there in 1941, who
died in November 1976 in Gilten shortly before his 35th birthday. On 23 October
1947 the East Prussian Studbook Society was dissolved and the Association of
Breeders and Friends of the Warmblood Horse of Trakehner Origin, known today as
the Trakehner Verband, was created. Among the greatest obstacles the
organization faced was that unlike other German breeds, the Trakehner had no
mother state and could not depend on government funding. The re-establishment
of the breed originally depended on the determination of its members and the
largesse of others.
Today, in Germany, the breed is considered a federal
responsibility, with its governance falling under both the Trakehner Verband
and the Trakehner Gesellschaft mbH; the latter handling all business
Stallion inspections are held in Neumünster, Germany, each
October and approved stallions are required to complete extended performance
tests, which rate the horses' gaits, temperament, jumping ability, and
suitability over a cross country course, before being given full breeding
The Trakehner is used as a "refiner" of other
breeds, allowing an infusion of Thoroughbred and Arabian blood without the
risks often involved in first generation outcrosses. Influential stallions
include Abglanz for the Hanoverian, Herbststurm who influenced the Oldenburg,
Marco Polo for the Dutch Warmblood, the stallions Ibikus and Donauwind for the Danish
Warmblood, and Polarstern for the Swedish Warmblood.
While Trakehner horses compete in nearly all equestrian
disciplines, they are particularly prized as dressage mounts, due to their
sensitivity, intelligence, and way of going. Peron anchored the United States
team to an Olympic Bronze in 1996 at Atlanta. Abdullah, by Donauwind, is
particularly famous for his show jumping team gold and individual silver medals
at the 1984 Olympics and 1985 World Cup win. Heuriger was the 1994 show jumping
team silver medallist at the 1994 World Equestrian Games.
to their very light build, Trakehner horses tend to do better in the eventing
than most other warmblood breeds. One such example is the USA 2004 Olympic team
bronze medallist Windfall II.
Source: Trakehners International (www.trakehners-international.com) and Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trakehnerrn).