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Horse Breeds of Germany - The Trakehner

By Edited Aug 28, 2016 0 0

Warmblood Horse Breeds

The Trakehner

A warmblood breed is the result of crossing a 'hot-blooded' horse such as the Arabian and Thoroughbred with a more docile, heavier breed such as the Shire or Percheron. The Trakehner is a warmblood and dates back over 400 years to the 'Schwaike', a small local East Prussian horse. The Schwaike, crossed with larger stallions, produced versatile military steeds and general farm horses which had enormous stamina.

Trakehner - Trot

Early in the 18th century, a lighter and faster army horse was needed. The day of the armoured knight had passed and horses were needed that could cover long distances at a good trot. King Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia moved his best horses to Trakehnen in East Prussia, thus setting the foundation for a new breed.

In 1787, a new manager was appointed. Count Lindenau culled a third of the mares as well as many of the stallions. Private individuals were allowed to mate mares to the stud's stallions providing the mares were of an approved standard. Thoroughbred and Arab stallions were introduced between 1817 and 1837 and this further improved the quality of the local horses.

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Top quality outside stallions are still used today and the modern Trakehner has an elegance and style that may be lacking in some of the other European warmbloods.

The first stud book appeared in 1877 with the East Prussian Stud Book Society publishing its own stud book in 1890. Up until World War II, the Trakehner excelled as a dual purpose animal, used for light draught work on farms and as a military mount.

A major event in the history of the Trakehner occurred in 1945. This event became known as 'the Trek'. The Russian army was closing in on the area around Trakehnen and the decision was made to evacuate the stud. The East Prussians fled taking around 800 horses. Most of the horses were hitched to wagons loaded with fodder and personal possessions. The wagons were under the control of women, children and the elderly as most of the able-bodied men were at the front. It was the middle of a bitterly cold winter and the mares were heavily in foal.

The Prussians fled for around ten weeks. They were strafed by the Russian airforce and they knew Russian troops were in pursuit. Many horses died or had to be abandoned. When the party eventually reached the frozen Baltic, they were forced to cross the lake. Many fell through the ice while others attempted to gallop ahead of the ice as it broke up. Around 100 horses staggered into West Germany with their traumatised carers. Some of these surviving horses were eventually found and identified. These were to become the foundation of a new generation of Trakehners.

It took some years before the Trakehner recovered from the devastation of World War II but the breed slowly re-established itself in West Germany. In 1947, the East Prussian Stud Book Society was replaced by the West German Association of Breeders and Friends of the Warmblood Horse of Trakehner Origin (the Trakehner Verband).

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A small breeding farm was set up near Hunnesruck and selective breeding continued with English thoroughbreds and Arabians being introduced. The use of outside stallions is under the strict control of the Trakehner Verband and continues to this day. Despite the numerous outcrosses, the Trakehner retains its own character. Other warmbloods such as the Hanoverian and the Westphalian have used infusions of Trakehner to add 'breediness' and refinement into their own horses.

There is a rigorous stallion testing and approval program with strict protocols and guidelines to ensure only the best are granted membership in the stud book. After the testing of the young stallions, an auction of both approved and non-approved stock draws crowds from all over the world.

Approved stallions must exhibit excellent conformation, paces and temperament. These traits are assessed before training. Over the next two years, further tests assess many factors including feed utilization, willingness to learn and attitude. Potential brood mares are assessed at three years of age with conformation, type, action and overall impression being some of the traits noted. Because of such stringent inspections, the Trakehner shows remarkably consistent features of elegance, size and substance.

The Trakehner stallion averages around 16.3hh with the minimum set at 15.3hh. Mares range from 15.1hh to 16.1hh. The breed is quick to grow but slow to mature. Young horses should not be asked to carry a rider until around three years of age. During these early years, much useful work can be done on the ground so the time need not be wasted.

The Trakehner has a refined head and a slightly concave profile. The large, kind eyes are wide apart, and have an intelligent expression. The throat is clean, the neck long and graceful blending nicely into a sloping shoulder. The body is solid with a deep barrel which allows plenty of room for the heart and lungs. The legs are straight and the cannons relatively short. The croup is long and sloping. Powerful hindquarters and hocks that are well let down help give the Trakehner a powerful thrust. The paces are soft and balanced. The trot is springy with strong impulsion pushing the animal forward in a ground-covering stride.

The double moose head brand on the left hindquarter has been in use since the beginnings of the breed in Trakehnen. This brand is only used for those horses that have originated in West Germany and can therefore trace their bloodlines back to East Prussia.

Trakehner - Brand

Trakehners were imported into Canada in 1957. The American Trakehner Association (ATA) has a number of members, all of whom are devoted to the promotion of the Trakehner. The ATA now holds its own yearly inspections.

The Muschamp Stud imported the first Trakehners into Great Britain in 1960. The Trakehner Verband has now licensed the Trakehner Breeders' Fraternity (TBF) to register, grade and brand horses.

The first Trakehner went to Australia in 1972. Trakehners are now firmly established in the dressage, show-jumping and eventing arenas and have been among the medal winners in all three disciplines

The Trakehner is patient and tractable whilst retaining his keenness. His reputation is sure to enhance his popularity in the years to come.

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