The Trakehner horses takes its name from the state in East Prussia where the original stud farm was located for this breed. Called Trakehnen, the state stud farm was first established in 1731 and continued to operate until 1944. Although the farm is still in operation at some level, it was annexed into Russia and no longer emphasizes the development of the Trakehner breed.
Today, the region is called Yasnaya Polyana.
Responsibility for the breed has shifted to Germany. Inspections for the breed are held annually in Neumunster every October. The jumping, temperament, ability, gait, and more of each stallion is full evaluated. If the horse passes, then a full breeding license is awarded.
What makes the Trakehner such a unique breed is that it is often used to refine other breeds. You can find Trakehner bloodlines in Arabians and Thoroughbreds because there are fewer risks to the offspring of these first-generation horses. At the same time, influences from Hanoverian, Oldenburg, and Dutch Warmblood breeds have helped to refine the Trakehner.
Trakehner horses compete in almost every discipline. They are particularly skilled at dressage and perform well in eventing due to their unique characteristics for a warmblood breed.
History of the Trakehner Horse
During the Middle Ages, the Prussia and the Baltics were known for producing horses that were very hardy. Many of these horses made their way into the cavalry ranks or were used for carriage horses. As war spread around Europe in the 13th and 14th centuries, these horses came along with their crusaders and conquerors.
Many of these first horse would be considered small and primitive by today’s standards, but the military horses would become the foundation of the Trakehner breed.
In the 14th century, the Teutonic Knights worked to breed their own military horses. Their offspring were coveted by farmers in Ostsiedlung and Masovia because of their intelligence and willingness to work. Their fame soon began to spread throughout the region, so by the 17th century, Royal Prussia was using these horses for a wide variety of tasks throughout the region.
King Frederick William I was particularly fond of the characteristics that these horses provided, so in 1732, he established the Trakehnen stud. Forest land was cleared by the Pissa River to establish the stud and it was kept under royal guidance until 1786, when it transitioned into being state property.
When the state took over the stud, they looked to refine the breed further. Over a 20-year period, beginning in 1817, Turkoman, Thoroughbred, and Arabian horses were brought to the stud. These efforts eventually brought about the foaling of Tempelhuter, who was the son of the Thoroughbred Persimmon, and almost all Trakehner horses can trace their lineage back to these two stallions.
Some of the faults of the Thoroughbred breed began to creep into the Trakehner during this period, which is why the Arabian bloodlines were added. To encourage regional breeding, farmers were encouraged to bring their mares to the stud as well. In 1918, more than 60,000 mares were being bred annually through the state stud program.
At that point, the modern Trakehner began to take shape. After the end of the first world war, treaties limited troops in Germany to just 100,000. Breeders began creating heavier horses that were better suited to farm work instead of war. That created a heavier build, but retained all the traits and characteristics that made the Trakehner such a refined breed in the first place.
After the second world war, the official progress of the Trakehner was dissolved and the Trakehner Verband was created. The stud book is currently closed.
Expected Characteristics of the Trakehner Horse
A typical Trakehner horse will stand anywhere between 15.2 hands and 17 hands in height. Some mares may be a little smaller and some stallions may be a little taller and still be considered in conformation. Only extreme variances are typically faulted and that usually occurs on the shorter end of the height spectrum. Mares are preferably under 16.1 hands.
Trakehner horses grow rapidly and matures quickly compared to other warmblooded breeds, but should not be saddle-broken until at least the age of 3.
A Trakehner horse can be of any coat color. Black, gray, bay, and chestnut coats are the most common that are seen in this breed. There is an occasional roan horse and the rare tobiano pinto horse that can be seen within this breed as well.
Because of the refined breeding that has occurred with this breed from a centralized stud, combined with its closed stud book, the Trakehner is the lightest warmblood breed in the world today. Many would argue that it is the most refined warmblood breed as well. Although the stud book is closed, certain Arabian and Thoroughbred bloodlines, including subtype Arabian bloodlines such as the Shagya or the Anglo, are also permitted.
Trakehner horses tend to have a rectangular build to their body frame. They are known for having a shoulder that is long and sloping. The cannons are shorter than average compared to other breeds, but the next is longer in length, crested, and should be set well. The hindquarters should be powerful and defined.
The Trakehner has a head that tends to be defined to the point that it seems to be chiseled. The face is narrow down by the muzzle, but slopes upward to create a forehead that is broad.
What the Trakehner horse is most famous for, however, is its floating trot. There is a high level of suspension that occurs within the trot and it should be full of impulsion.
As for temperament, Trakehner horses tend to be more spirited than other warmblood breeds. This is due to the influences of Arabian and Thoroughbred bloodlines. Some individuals within this breed have a personality and temperament that are closer to being hotblooded than warmblooded by nature.
The Trakehner should be trainable, athletic, and have a noticeably strong endurance. They are bred true to type because of bloodline purity, which is why it is such a valuable breed today for upgrading other breeds.
The Future of the Trakehner Horse
By the time the second rebuilding process occurred after World War II, only a few hundred purebred Trakehner horses remained. As Germany was separated into East and West nations, about 1,000 horses were able to cross the border safely, but most were either sacrificed or set free because of the economic hardships that farmers and breeders faced in the years directly after the war.
For the next 30 years, preservation of the breed was an informal priority. It wouldn’t be until the late 1980s when the processes of private, selective breeding were re-established that the exclusivity that this breed has long enjoyed were able to become influential one again.
That process continues still to this day.