Warmblood Horse Breeds
The Oldenburg was famed as a coach and carriage horse in days gone by. These early Oldenburgs were remarkably consistent in appearance. They had exceptional strength and were a magnificent coal black in colour. A proud appearance accompanied by high knee action was required of the carriage horse and the Oldenburg had both. Under saddle or in harness, the Oldenburg was a willing worker with an enviable reputation.
The breed takes its name from Count Anton Gunther von Oldenburg, a great horseman with a particular interest in dressage. He lived from 1603 to 1667. The Count continued the work of his predecessor, Count Johann XVI von Oldenburg. An old monastery in Rastede on the outskirts of Oldenburg became the centre for a Royal Stud. Count Johann had crossed his Friesians with Neapolitan, Turkish, Andalusian and Danish stallions to produce large and powerful war horses. In his turn, Count Anton encouraged the local farmers to use his stallions over the local mares. By the 17th century, the Oldenburg was in great demand as an elegant carriage and saddle horse.
From the 16th to the 18th centuries, Oldenburgs were mostly bred by private breeders. The wedding procession through Vienna of Leopold I, King of the Holy Roman Empire, featured the King astride a black Oldenburg stallion followed by his wife riding in a carriage drawn by eight dark bay Oldenburgs.
In 1820, the use of any but government approved stallions was forbidden by state decree. In 1861, the studbook was founded. Registered horses were branded on the hip and neck. In 1897, two horse breeding societies were founded. These were to merge in 1923, becoming the 'Verband der Zuchter des Oldenburger Pferdes'. By 1922, there were over 37,000 horses registered in the Oldenburg studbook.
Following increasing mechanisation in all areas of transport and agriculture, focus shifted to breeding sport horses. The best bloodlines from many breeds - Thoroughbreds, Anglo-Normans, Hanoverians, Anglo-Arabs, Trakehners, Westphalians, Cleveland Bays – have been introduced to the Oldenburg, resulting in a more refined animal. The Oldenburg is the heaviest of the German warmbloods. The horse is active and athletic and well suited for most equestrian disciplines. It has had remarkable successes in dressage, show-jumping and eventing. It also excels in competitive driving trials.
The modern Oldenburg is compact. They may grow to over 17hh and have large barrels but relatively short legs. The legs are heavily-boned with short cannons and broad joints. The tendons are well-defined and the hooves are sufficiently large to support the weight of this very solid animal. The hindquarters are powerful and the croup flat and broad. The tail is set high.
He has a large, kind eye with the face having a straight or convex profile and flared nostrils. The neck is long and strong as it was in his heyday as a carriage horse. The back is broad and straight and the chest is deep. The withers are quite pronounced and the shoulder sloping. He has a calm, tractable disposition. They are generally black or brown in colour and greys are seen as well.
Only the best of the Oldenburg colts are passed as suitable for breeding. Testing is rigorous with hundreds of horses being inspected firstly for conformation and type. The character and temperament are then assessed during a training period followed by performance trials to assess endurance, speed, calmness and jumping potential.
The breed has come a long way since its days as a war horse and agricultural worker. In 2008, an Oldenburg stallion was sold to Denmark for 1.1million Euro. Such is the value of the breed in today's market.