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The Trakehner is the most elegant and refined of all warmbloods, highly successful performing in any number of disciplines.
The Trakehner is a specified and selectively bred type of Warmblood. Trakehnen, in what was East Prussia, was a world-renowned stud farm founded in 1732 as the Royal Stud Office. The founding of this stud farm was the decision of Wilhelm I. Foundation stock came from other Royal Studs and on the maternal side from the Schweiken horses, native to East Prussia. Selected Polish Arabians also played a role. The name of the stud farm gave rise to the horse that was then bred there.
King Whilhelm’s son Frederick the Great maintained avid interest the Royal Stud Office of Trakehnen and the Trakehner horses. When this Royal Stud was founded, and for many years in the future, horses were of great importance to the country’s cavalry and to life in general.
After Frederick the Great’s death the stud farm was taken over by the state and initially managed by Count Lindenau, who dramatically culled the breed stock and retained only one third of the stallions and two thirds of the existing mares.
For the original stud farm, desirous of producing the best horses for the dragoons and hussars, the lighter horse of a square frame was the ideal. Trakehner horses of rectangular frame and more massive, with a longer stride came to the fore after World War I. No endurance qualities were allowed to be lost, however.
Between World Wars I and II, this breed pretty much dominated in world’s sports from dressage world events to endurance, jumping and even steeplechasing, while still being used in the fields for needed farm work.
WWII almost caused extinction of these marvelous horses. Like the Lipizzan horses, the East Prussian breeding stock was forced to flee, but unlike the Lipizzans, no one came to their rescue. The most select Trakehner stock, including mares in foal, were hitched to any kind of wagon with minimal supplies and, along with human children and the elderly, fled for their lives, desperately trying to cover over 600 miles to safety in the West.
The Trek is an historical fact and was filled with horror, both human and equine. From 800 strong, less than 100 horses arrived in West Germany, dangerously thin and wounded from shrapnel and galloping over breaking ice trying to flee the harassing planes overhead. Of the many thousands of registered horses, only about 1200 reached the West.
Those interested in the Trakehner preservation slowly began trying to locate what registered horses they could find and rebuilt the breed. The West German “Trakehner Verband” was formed. In the mid 1900’s the German government began to assist and the breed is again well established today.
TYPE AND INFLUENCE
Outcrossing with Thoroughbreds and Arabians in the Trakehner breed was acceptable from the beginning and still is, but with very strict guidance and over-sight. In type, this horse was always an Anglo-Arab. This practice has maintained the elegance and refinement in a sport horse that so often gives this breed the edge in competitions. When an influx of new blood from either Thoroughbred or Arabian is deemed desirable, it is carefully done, while the breed standards of bloodline characteristics are rigidly maintained.
Any inclusion of Thoroughbred or Arabian blood is tempered by the fact that the decision to add to the stud book is made by the breed association only, and not by private breeders. Further, each stallion and mare must be extensively tested over time, and this approval by the Trakehner Verband is claimed to be the strictest of any in the country since the breed became nationally recognized. The horses are tested in the province of Schleswig-Holstein in the north of Germany, and are managed by the breed association.
Most of the other warmbloods are a bit heavier of bone compared to this breed, which is known for its endurance and stamina. Their lighter, but very sound bone plus their elegance, combined with their high intelligence, has proven itself in varied competition over and over.
With their elegance, their over-all ability and their energetic action that shows great freedom of movement at all paces, the Trakehner has been used to improve and has influenced several other warmblood breeds. They have been imported to any number of countries world-wide. Look carefully at the pedigree’s of other warmblood champions and you can frequently find a registered Trakehner sire!
There exists even a type of cross-country jump which was named after this breed of horse. When the first Royal Stud was built, a lot of swamp land had to be cleared and drained and there were many ditches. Jumping these natural but fierce ditches was used in the training of the early Trakehner horses and the style of jump was later incorporated into world-wide cross-country courses. It used to be even that the landing was uphill, after the horse had cleared the big log jump and the ditch underneath, but that part at least has now been altered, as it was considered too severe and too dangerous. However, the naming of this obstacle after the breed is surely a testament to the courage and endurance of this famous horse.
Since this breed’s earliest days, registered and proven breeding stock has been branded with a double moose antler on the left hindquarter. Sometimes on Trakehner pedigrees, one will see a notation that this or that individual’s ancestors are unknown, but that the animal carried the brand and so its registration status was clearly stated and accepted by all. Many papers were lost in war time, but the brand proved the status and quality of the animal.
In the old days, the Royal Stud had its horses divided in herds according to their colors. There was a sorrel herd, a bay herd, a black herd, etc. Those days were glorious for the breed, the horses were actually used, and known for their hardiness, nerve and stamina. Today the breed’s future lies in equestrian sports. The homeland of the Trakehner is now Poland, and what was left of them there became the foundation of the Wielkopolski breed.