History of Trakehner Horse

The Trakehner horse is the oldest warmblood breed in the world and the original modern European war horse, with a history spanning amost 300 years to the foundation of the main stud Trakehnen in 1732. The official name, "The East Prussian Warmblood Horse of Trakehner Origin" hints to the roots of this magnificent breed: the region of East Prussia once belonging to Germany, but lost during World War II to Russia. The origin of the breed is a small horse - bred locally in East Prussia - known as the "Schwaike". The Schwaike was known for its 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. The original purpose of the Trakehner was for use as calvary mount. 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 posessed 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 was always heavy and deep, and from today's point of view it might seem strange that noble Trakehner horses were pulling ploughs through thick mud, but from the standpoint of breed selection, it is a major reason the Trakehner soon had the reputation of a hard-working animal with little need for maintenance. 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  ike 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. Here mares of all colors including the gray horses 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 are the most prominent names in the history of Trakehner horses. 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, rideability and temperament. Only the very best of these magnificent animals were chosen to contribute to the prestigious gene pool at Trakehnen.


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