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About Trakehner HorsesAbout 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 possessed 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, ride ability and temperament. Only the very best of these magnificent animals were chosen to contribute to the prestigious gene pool at Trakehnen.
 
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 air force, 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 operations.

Stallion inspections are held in Neum√ľnster, 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 licenses.

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 medalist at the 1994 World Equestrian Games.

Due 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/Trakehner ).


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