of the Trakehner Breed
Written by Maren Engelhardt
and Kim Hunter, http://www.trakehners-international.com/.
Reproduced with permission.
Trakehner horse is the oldest warmblood breed in the world,
with a history spanning over 400 years. 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 & 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 hard situations and come
out sound. Through his efforts, the Trakehner breed evolved.
At the same time, East Prussian framers were breeding the
same base of horses. East Prussia therefore had two separate,
but equally outstanding sources for riding horses. The military
& 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. 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. 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"
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, rideability 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.
But Trakehnen was much more than horses and people, operating
one of East Prussia's biggest agricultural farms with 900
cows, 600 sheep and other farm animals. At this agricultural
farm, a stock of 500 Trakehner horses was only used for farm
With the addition of English and Arabian thoroughbreds the
Trakehner achieved the great beauty, legendary soundness as
well as the wonderful floating way of going and great jumping
abilities that makes the Trakehner horse world-famous. Today,
quality Thoroughbred and Arabian horses are allowed into the
otherwise closed studbook. This consistency of breeding helps
maintain the "Trakehner look", "freshens" the bloodlines and
adds great rideability and sensitivity.
The Trakehner horse was the most successful sport horse in
the world between the two World Wars. Olympic gold in dressage
went to Piccolomini in 1924, and the silver medal went
to Sabel. In 1936, the dressage gold medal was won
by the 7-year old Kronos, the gold medal in eventing
was won by the Trakehner Nurmi and the winning German
eventing team was made up of two Trakehners and one Thoroughbred.
The East Prussian warmblood horse was exported not only to
Europe but all over the world. In 1938 some 478.000 horses
lived in East Prussia with 1.289 stallions covering 89.628
East Prussian mares. Trakehners were used for all purposes:
hard-working farm horses in the fields, courageous & sound
cavalry mounts, for fox hunting, driving and last but not
least for horse racing. Between 1921 and 1936, the hardest
steeplechase in the world, the Pardubice steeplechase, was
won 9 times by East Prussian horses.
influential sire lines
Over the years,
such careful breeding & selection of breeding
stallions created some legendary sire lines. These
Chief Sires had a dominant influence on East Prussian
breeding, which is still felt today.
Perfectionist xx: 1899 foaled in UK, chief
sire in Trakehnen 1904-1906. He was most influential
through his sons Tempelhüter, Jagdheld,
Irrlehrer, and his daughter, Posthalterin,
dam of the foundation sire Parsival.
Tempelhüter: Chief sire in Trakehnen 1916-1931.
At that time, considered the perfect example of the
Trakehner. As illustration of his unrivaled significance,
a statue of this magnificent stallion was erected
in front of the State Stud at Trakehnen where it remained
until being taken as war booty to Russia after World
His line is still very popular today, with many leading
Trakehner stallions representing his bloodline.
Pythagoras: by Dampfroß out of Pechmarie by
Tempelhüter. Chief sire 1933-1944. Combining the blood
of the two "Century Sires" Dampfross and Tempelhüter,
Pythagoras was Trakehnen's leading sire prior to WWII.
His son Totilas and daughter Tapete were instrumental
in revitalizing the breed after the war.
Cancara: Representing the idea of combining
Arabian and English TB, Cancara was one of Trakehnen's
leading sport horse producers. His daughters Donna
and Kokette are among the most prominent Trakehner
mares of all times.
Fetysz ox: Fetysz is the foundation
stallion of today's best dressage lines in the Trakehner
breed. Tragically shot by the invading Russian Army,
Feytsz ox nevertheless left his legacy as even Olympic
competitors today carry his valuable blood. Harun
al Raschid: He influenced the breed especially through
his outstanding daughters, most importantly the famous
Kassette. The blood of Kassette continues to amaze
all over the world, from Australia's former event
champion Kassiber to the latest Trakehner champion
stallion of 2001: K2, the quality of the Kassette
line cannot be denied.
During World War I, the population of the Trakehner horse
was halved and it took great efforts of the breeders to bring
the breed back to its former numbers and famous standard of
quality. But in 1944, in the closing days of WWII, it seemed
these heroic efforts would have been in vain.
In the harsh winter, as the Russian Army broke across the
front lines and invaded East Prussia, people were forced to
leave their land and belongings behind to save not much more
than their lives. In October 1944 it was decided to evacuate
the main stud Trakehnen. A total of 800 of the best mares,
stallions and young colts were loaded on trains and driven
to the West. Most of these horses were lost to the Russians.
The private breeders and their horses were not allowed to
leave until January of 1945, when there was almost no time
to escape. In the terrible and cold winter, the "Trek" began;
a gathering of tens of thousands of people and some 18.000
East Prussian horses bundled their most precious belongings
in wagons and began walking and driving westbound. Mares were
heavy in foal and sometimes there wasn't food for days. Thousands
of lives were lost, horses that wouldn't make it any further
had to be left behind, the horror of these months is hard
to describe in words. Eventually, most East Prussians reached
the safety of the West, but at a terrible price. By the end
of World War II, Trakehnen was no more. This "Horse Pardise",
once a virtual "City of Horses" was laid to waste, and only
a handful of Trakehner horses survived the horrific performance
test that forever after would be referred to in hushed tones
as "The Trek". From the legendary, great mare herds of Trakehnen
- once grouped by color - only the strongest survived . .
a mere 21 original main stud mares.
Trakehnen and its horses seemed to have been lost forever.
It is only because of a few dedicated individuals, totally
committed to saving this great treasure, that today the Trakehner
is not a footnote in history. The most important stallions
were lost during the trek. Some - like Feytsz ox -
were shot by the army, others were captured and taken to Kirov,
where they established one of today's most powerful sport
horses, the Russian Trakehner.
Of the 1.100 once beautiful and proud horses from the main
stud Trakehnen, only around 100 individuals survived, many
with tremendous injuries. Additionally, the East Prussian
horses that belonged to the private breeders and had made
the trek were scattered all over what remained of Germany.
The following years were spent trying to relocate and collect
and catalog these few Trakehners. In October 1947, the "West
German Association of Breeders and Friends of the Warmblood
Horse of Trakehner Origin", today known as the "Trakehner
Verband", was established, replacing the East Prussian Stud
Book Society. Together with the Trakehner horses of private
breeders from East Prussia, a few hundred Trakehners were
available for rebuilding the breed.
The Verband's first president, Baron von Schrötter
and his manager, Dr. Fritz Schilke, spent most of their time
in the years following the war finding and relocating the
horses. In 1950, the state government of Lower Saxony and
the German government stepped in to help, providing the Trakehner
Verband with a central breeding facility in Hunnesrück, Lower
Saxony. Together with the Trakehner stud farms Rantzau and
Schmoel, Hunnesrück soon became famous. The last original
Trakehner brood mares from the main stud were collected here
and used to breed future generations. Great foundation mares
like Kassette, Polarfahrt, Donna, Tapete,
Halensee and others found a last home in these Trakehner
farms, together with some of the last sires rescued from the
main stud, like the Pythagoras-son Totilas,
who was most important to establish the Trakehner breed in
West Germany. Smaller private breeders were given the opportunity
to board their mares there, the resulting foals belonged to
the "Trakehner Gesellschaft", a corporation founded to preserve
and promote the Trakehner in West Germany and later the whole
In the former German Democratic Republic (GDR), the situation
was much the same. After the Soviet forces had closed the
borders, the Trakehner horses that were stranded in the GDR
were scattered all around the country and again, Trakehner
lovers and enthusiasts, many of them East Prussian breeders
that had lost everything, started to collect and breed these
horses and maintained a high quality Trakehner population
until the reunification of Germany in 1991, when not only
the wall came down and Germany grew together again, but when
also this fine breed was unified.
It was due to yet another outstanding personality, Dietrich
von Lenski, who originated in one East Prussia's biggest private
stud farms, Kattenau, that the "Trakehner Förderverein" was
established. The Förderverein is an organization that helps
to promote the Trakehner in the international sport world
by providing exceptional horses to internationally successful
riders. Also, young talents are spotted and the owners are
funded to maintain a high training standard for these horses.
The most prominent example of such a Förderverein-owned horse
was the black Trakehner stallion Habicht (by Burnus
AAH out of Hallo, by Goldregen). Habicht
was given to the Trakehner Verband stud at Hunnesrück for
breeding purposes and yet, at the same time, the Förderverein
provided the young German rider Martin Plewa with this incredible
stallion. The results on both sides were outstanding: Habicht
won the international CCI*** at Achselschwang and also established
a famous stallion line, today represented for example by his
elite son Sixtus (out of Stradelle by Ibikus)
and the German premium stallion Windfall, Germany's
horse of the year in 1999 and now an approved ATA stallion
in North America.
In the 1980s, the Trakehner Verband owned three breeding
operations: Hunnesrück, Rantzau and Birkhausen, a wonderful
farm in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. From stud Birkhausen,
the Trakehner conquered the world. It was in Birkhausen that
in 1970 the gray mare Abiza was covered by the bay
stallion, Donauwind. She exported in foal to Canada
and the resulting colt later became the internationally famous
Abdullah. In addition to Birkhausen, several private
breeders established new breeding farms, some of them gaining
world stature. Webelsgrund for example, founded by Fritz Bähre
in the 1950s, was home to the legendary sire Impuls.
Also, Hämelschenburg of the Langels family in Emmerthal must
be mentioned here, they provided several high studbook and
elite mares and outstanding stallions like Kostolany.
Gottfried Hoogen's Vogelsangshof was the origin of the best
Trakehner dressage sire of all times, Mahagoni, who
later moved to yet another famous farm, Hörem of Hubertus
Poll, who in later years stood such incredible individuals
as Consul, Rockefeller and today, Buddenbrock.
And of course Hörstein, founded by Adam Dreßler in 1962 and
today run by his daughter Christa and her husband Wolfgang
Diehm always stood out, both nationally and internationally,
and was Habicht's home for many years. Hörstein also
has to be named as one of Germany's top event horse breeding
farms. National and International competitors like Konvoi,
Grand Prix, Starway and Windfall came
(American Trakehner Association)
In 1957, the German born Gerda Friedrichs, a breeder who
had left Germany for Canada began to import West German Trakehner
horses. Four stallions came with the first transport: Antares
by Kobalt, Prusso by Totilas, Slesus
by Tropenwald, and Tscherkess by Tropenwald.
Still today, offspring of these individuals are present in
the ATA books and the first three of the stallions were highly
important for the establishment of Trakehners in North America.
But Gerda Friedrichs not only imported stallion, she also
bought mares. A total of 23 Trakehner mares were imported
from 1957 to 1963. Also in 1963, the approved Carajan II
by Carajan was imported. The last stallion - Mikado
by Impuls - came in 1968. With the breeding program
expanding, the interest in these horses grew. Soon, the numbers
of enthusiasts, riders and breeders was big enough. But just
like the West German counterpart in the early 1950s, the American
Trakehner friends faced the problem of having many people
interested in the breed, but scattered throughout a country.
These future ATA members had little knowledge of each other
and lacked of centralized organization for guidance. Nevertheless,
these individuals had a strong devotion to the horses in which
they believed and eventually the American breeders and owners
of Trakehner horses grew together. On May 23, 1974, the "American
Trakehner Association" was incorporated in Ohio as a public,
nonprofit corporation and in 1979, an Agreement of Cooperation
was signed between the ATA and the German Trakehner Verband,
assuring the ATA the help and support of the German association
according to its own guidelines.
This agreement also granted the ATA use of the double
moose antler, this world famous symbol of East Prussia and
its people, as the official brand for all purebred Trakehner
horses in North America. It is since these early days that
Trakehner horses in North America are registered, approved
and inspected according to the West German standards. Additionally,
the ATA publishes an educational magazine and newsletter,
hosts a large annual convention, produces Trakehner exhibitions
and provides a central office for information and advice for
Trakehner friends. One of the highlights the ATA has to offer
is an exciting annual awards system for member-owned, registered
Besides America, the Trakehner Verband has several international
secondary registries, the most influential ones in Denmark,
England, the Netherlands and Austria. Trakehner horses are
bred on all continents of this world, in North and South America,
in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Africa and Asia, often
also improving the local riding horse breeds in these countries.
| Windfall | Halimey | Songline | About
For Sale |
Amethyst | Trakehners
| Odds n Ends | Credits
and Cheryl Holekamp
New Spring Farm
7901 Highway 63 South
Columbia, MO 65201
Sales horses: email@example.com
Breeding to Windfall: firstname.lastname@example.org