By Amber Wiseman
Renowned for its floating trot, the Trakehner is one of the lightest & most refined warmbloods. We are celebrating this breed as our March Breed of the Month on #YourDressage! Here are a few things you may not know about this breed.
Dressage riders who choose Trakehners as their mounts are eligible for special awards through the Adequan®/USDF All Breeds Awards program – the American Trakehner Association and the Trakehner Association of North America (TANA) are both participating organizations.
The Trakehner breed is one of the oldest European breeds, tracing back 400 years, and correctly being called “the East Prussian Warmblood Horse of Trakehner Origin”, based on the local “Schwaike”. The Trakehner breed evolved from selective breeding by King Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia in the early 18th century when he dedicated himself to developing a new cavalry mount for the Prussian army – one with more endurance and speed than previous war horses. From here, select English Thoroughbreds and Arabian stallions were added to the breed – which is still governed by the West German Trakehner Verband.
The early 20th century saw the Trakehner become a highly successful competition horse, with Trakehners medaling in multiple events in the 1924, 1928, and 1936 Olympics, the 1936 Prix des Nations, and nine Great Pardubice Steeplechases between 1921 and 1936.
The breed was almost wiped out by the end of World War II, and a decade was spent trying to revive it – a population which had been 80,000 strong had been decimated to a mere few hundred. Spearheading the attempt at revival was the newly formed West German Association of Breeders and Friends of the Warmblood Horse of Trakehner Origin (the Trakehner Verband).
Trakehner stallions have influenced several highly sought after performance horse bloodlines, including Abglanz (resulting in the dam line of the De Niro Hanoverian line) and Condus (sire of Westphalian stallion Chrysos). Trakehner stallion approval is the strictest of any in Germany, drawing spectators and buyers from around the world. Only about 20-25 of the colts inspected each year are approved, but approval is not indefinite – over the following two years, the approved young stallions are re-evaluated and their breeding license may be revoked for a myriad of reasons. This licensing method ensures only the best of the breed are passing their genes on and maintaining the breed’s integrity. Broodmares must also be evaluated before entering the studbook.
Due to the very strict breeding approval, the Trakehner breed is easily recognized. The studbook looks for a striking, elegant presence, a refined head with a broad forehead and smallish muzzle, a large solid rectangular-framed body with deep sloping shoulder and short cannon bones, large powerful hindquarters, and broad solid hocks. Heights range from 15.3 to 16.2 hands for stallions and 15.1-16.1 hands for mares. Trakehner lines are notated through the naming practice of giving the foal a name which begins with the first letter of the dam’s name.
There are two Trakehner studbook inspections held annually in the United States by the American Trakehner Association – one in California and one east of the Mississippi – where breeding stock is held to a similar standard as the German inspected studbook entries to continue to preserve this majestic breed.
The official Trakehner Verband brand is a double moose antler, while the American Trakehner Association has been granted use of the double moose antler brand with a mark underneath it to identify North American foaled horses.