As a general rule of thumb, it is fairly safe to say that when a horse gets bigger, it will become more difficult to handle if it is not a draft or coldblooded breed. One of the exceptions to that rule is the Oldenburg. As a breed, these horses were initially developed to be a coach horse that could take on some farm work if called upon. This required the temperament of the horse to be balanced, flexible, and accommodating, which are the key personality traits that you’ll still see in the modern Oldenburg.
Because this breed is a warmblood, there is still a certain fire to their personality that comes out from time to time. Oldenburgers like to be active, so a horse without an activity is going to be a horse that causes trouble. They are a tall sport horse, with an excellent jumping ability and lengthy gait, so it is often necessary to work this breed every day to maintain the evenness of their temperament.
Why Do the Personalities of Oldenburgers Vary So Much?
As a breed, the Oldenburg horse is expressive and willing to work. The breed societies have a very liberal approach to developing the modern Oldenburg, however, so there are varying degrees of “hotness” that come into play with this breed. For this reason, identifying the temperament of an individual horse often means looking at the lineage and parentage of each specific animal.
Because the Oldenburg is such an excellent sporting horse in regards to show jumping, there has been a movement within this breed to transition it from being a warmblood to a hotblood. This has caused a certain sensitivity to come into the breed, where the horse will not tolerate an inexperienced rider.
This has led to specific temperament testing requirements as part of many breed association registrations. Stallions and mares are scored on their character, constitution, willingness to work, rideability, and temperament. Each is given a score so that owners can know what they are getting with their Oldenburg since temperaments exist with such a great variety.
That variety does create a certain amount of uncertainty, but it also means that finding an Oldenburg horse with the right elements for an owner’s specific needs is not a difficult process.
Loyalty is the Trademark of the Oldenburg Breed
There is a certain honesty to the Oldenburg personality that is present, no matter how hotblooded the horse may be. They are extremely loyal to their owner, trainer, and herd. This loyalty can present itself through protective actions, especially for stallions, and this can be mistaken for a negative behavior by someone who might be targeted by the animal.
These horses also enjoy social activities, especially with their human counterparts. They may be bred to be an exceptional animal and have high levels of energy, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a desire to have laid-back moments, like a lazy trail ride with their favorite person. As long as you can manage the energy of this breed in some way, you’ll have a horse that is supportive and willing to work.
Their willingness does have some limits. Oldenburg horses tend to prefer familiar environments or circumstances. If you put them into a new environment or situation, it becomes much easier to spook them because their self-awareness senses are extremely high. It is not uncommon for a spooked Oldenburg in a new situation to throw their rider, then get spooked again because they threw their rider.
Because there is such variability within the registry, it is necessary to look at the papers of the horse to determine what you’re likely getting in terms of temperament. Because there are several cross-breeds brought into the Oldenburg line, including Thoroughbred blood, you have access to almost coldblooded personalities to extremely hotblooded personalities that seem to borderline on mania.
How to Get the Most Out of an Oldenburg Horse
Oldenburg horses prefer to have a daily routine that is followed exactly. They do not like having disruptions. They are happiest when they can do the same thing every day. This desire for “sameness” has made them one of the most successful dressage breeds in the world today. Only Dutch Warmbloods and Hanoverians have consistently higher standings in dressage compared to the Oldenburg breed.
From a home environment perspective, consistency means following the same feeding, turning out, and exercise rituals. Oldenburgers like having the same stall mates next to them, having the same amount of time out in the pasture, and working in the same way with their owners or trainers. You just need to watch out for the development of boredom, however, because you can be doing everything right and maintaining your routine and then suddenly the horse becomes rebellious.
How can you have a backup plan for a horse that likes to have the same routine, but then suddenly doesn’t want the same routine? By having have some variations available. If you’re working the lunge, trying going in the other direction to add some variety for the horse. You can change out the stall toys from time to time. You can also let the horse stay out a little later or go out a little earlier to satisfy the need for variety.
Stubbornness in the Oldenburg Breed and What It Means
Oldenburgers are generally even-tempered and easy to control, especially for their size, but there is a certain stubbornness that you can find within this breed. The horse may suddenly not want to train any more. There may be a rejection of the tack. There may even be a certain aggressiveness that targets other horses or the owner which appears suddenly.
When this occurs for a horse that has been owned for some time, then it is generally an indication that there is a health problem present. Check the horse for cuts, bruises, and skin conditions that the coat may be hiding. You’ll also want to check on the health of the hooves, especially if an active horse becomes inactive and aggressive.
Colic can also be a concern within this breed, especially if nothing seems wrong and there is a sudden personality change.
If you’ve just obtained the horse, then the aggressiveness may be due to the change in environment. Aggressiveness can also be present for horses that are used to being in an Alpha role and feel like they need to establish or re-establish that role.
To get the most out of an Oldenburg, focus on consistency. This breed prefers to interact with experienced owners, riders, and trainers and they can have little patience for beginners or novice riders. Over time, when a relationship is formed with the horse, you will be able to see the positive traits of the Oldenburg horse temperament.