Despite an exalted and turbulent history, the Trakehner has emerged in modern times as a premiere athlete!
The Trakehner is an elegant warmblood horse from East Prussia. Its beginnings can be traced back to 1264 AD and the spread of Christianity. Teutonic horses were bred with the small utilitarian Schweiken horses of the locals. These were further developed by King Frederick William I in the 1700's, to be lighter, more attractive, and of good temperament. After his death the State took over and continued to develop them with the infusion of more Schweiken horses as well as a variety of other breeds. It won many Olympic Gold Medals in the Olympics in 1924, 1928, and 1936; but it barely survived near extinction during WWII.
Generally lighter and more refined than other warmbloods, the Trakehner is known for its "floating" trot, displaying balance and suspension.This sport horse is competitive and spirited in world class competition. It is equally skilled as a dressage horse and a show jumper, with individual horses displaying a talent for one the other. It is also fast and agile enough to be successful in the highest levels of Three Day Eventing.
The Trakehner has a good work ethic and is eager to please. Being quite intelligent, it thrives on exercise and discipline. It is athletic and big moving so may not be suited to the casual or beginning rider. However, with the aid of a good professional, it may make a successful competition horse for the serious amateur.
The American Trakehner Association was founded in 1974. Today they have close to 15,000 registered horses. The breed is commonly seen at sanctioned dressage shows, Hunter and Jumper shows, and three day events.
The Trakehners are wambloods and a light horse breed. Light horse breeds generally weigh under 1,500 pounds. They are typically used as riding horses for leisure and trail riding. Being agile and swift, many are also used on the racetrack, in the show ring, and for work on the ranch.
Light horses are grouped in a couple of different ways, one being the continent or country where they originated from. They are also grouped according to training, classified as either a stock type, hunter type, saddle type, or 'other'. A body type is generally attributed to each class, with the 'other' classification being a bit of an odd ball. It includes those that are color breeds or those that may fit a body type of one of the training classes, but not be used for that type of training. In some cases the 'other' types can also include those that may fit into more than one of the type groups.
The horse class the Trakehner primarily fits into is the 'hunter' type class as it is strong in Show Jumping, Dressage, and Three Day Eventing.
In 1264 AD, during the spread of Christianity, The Knights of the Teutonic order established a stud farm in East Prussia. They ordered the landowners to begin breeding horses for use by the army. The Teutonic horses were interbred using the small, utilitarian Schweiken horses of the locals.
By the 1700's, as gunpowder changed the way warfare was fought, King Frederick William I ordered the breeding of a lighter, faster, more attractive horse for his army. He picked the best horses from his studfarms and moved them to a new 15,000 acre studfarm at Trakehnen. The horses were sorted by traits and color. The black mares were strong workers, chestnut mares were chosen for elegance and performance, and bay mares for their good temperament.
When in 1778 King William I died, the state took ownership and used the stud to improve the local population of horses. They selectively eliminated 2/3 of the stallions and 1/3 of the mares. They then brought in more Schweiken blood along with Thoroughbred, Mecklenburg, Danish, Turkish, and most particularly a strong influence from Akhal-Teke stallions. The official Trakehner studbook started in 1878. The Trakehner went on to win many Olympic Gold Medals in the1924 Olympics, 1928 Olympics and particularly 1936 Olympics.
WWII almost caused extinction of the breed when in 1944 soviets closed in on the area around Trakehnen. Eight hundred horses from the royal stud fell into advancing soldiers lines and were shipped off to Soviet Union. Private breeders were forced to flee for their lives. In horrible conditions, women, children, and old men took approximately eight hundred horses. They evacuated some six hundred miles east, enduring cold hard ice and snow for months while pursued by soldiers across the frozen Baltic shore. Only about 100 of the horses survived, and they were in pitiful, starving and injured condition.
Of approximately 80,000 registered and branded Trakehner horses before war, less than a thousand ever made it to West Germany. Some 800 to 1,000 others survived in Poland, and the breed was now divided by political turmoil. In Poland, herds were gathered and identified by brands and registration papers. Poland reestablished east Prussian studs and began breeding for somewhat heavier, sturdier horses. The West Germans bred for the lighter and more elegant type, and the West German Trakehner Association was founded in 1947.
By 1950, many of the evacuated Trakehners were located, often identified by the distinctive and well known moose antler brand. The Federal Government and Lower Saxony committed to use these horses to breed future generations. The first Trakehners were brought to North America in 1957. They were brought to Canada by Gerda Fredrichs, and their presence there and in US has grown steadily ever since. The American Trakehner Association was founded in 1974, and today they have close to 15,000 horses registered.
The Trakehner has a rectangular build, fronted by a long sloping shoulder and a medium-long, well-set neck. This horse has short cannons bones, and flatter hindquarters with a gently sloped croup. The head is often finely chiseled, narrow at the muzzle, and large, kind eyes are set on a broad forehead which should convey a look of nobility and intelligence. It is known for its "floating" quality of movement; the trot in particular should be balanced and full of impulsion.
Typically standing between 15.3 and 17 hands high, Trakehners can be any color, with bay, chestnut, grey and black being the most common. The breed also includes some roan and pinto colored horses. It is considered to be the lightest and most refined of the warmbloods, due partly to its closed stud book which only allows breeding to other Trakehners and selected Thoroughbred and Arabian horses.
Trakehner horses are relatively big eaters who tend to have a quick metabolism, so plenty of hay and roughage should be made available. They grow very rapidly, but can be somewhat slower to mature and develop than other breeds, and should not be started to work until at least three years of age.
Attention to exercise and discipline is of the utmost importance when caring for a Trakehner. This athletic horse must be allowed to work regularly, or boredom will quickly lead to discipline and maintenance problems in this intelligent and active breed. They do well in a pasture or stall, providing they are lavished with attention.
The Trakehner breed is equally skilled as a dressage horse and a show jumper. Individual horses will display a particular talent for jumping or flat work. They are also fast and agile enough to be successful in the highest levels of three day eventing.
They are athletic and big moving, and may not be suited to the casual or beginning rider, but with the aid of a good professional, may make a successful competition horse for the serious amateur.
Because they are a big moving horse, providing leg protection to prevent tendon, suspensory and foot injuries is advised. Cribbing, weaving, and other stall vices are common in Trakhner horses deprived of a stimulating environment. Boredom can also lead to stress related health issues such as laminitis or colic.
Trakehner horses are available through many breeders. The prices range upwards starting at approximately $5,000.00, easily reaching seven figures for successful international competition horses.
Judith Dutson, Storey's Illustrated Guide to 96 Horse Breeds of North America, Storey Publishing, LLC, 2005
Corinne Clark, A Pocket Guide to Horses and Ponies , Parragon Inc., 2007
American Trakehner Association, Newark, Ohio Author: Joan Childs