The Trakehner Horse – The Legacy of a Lost Nation


With one of the oldest registries, the Trakehner horse is considered the most refined and lightest warmblood horse. To preserve these highly appreciated features its studbook only allows registration of Trakehners and, very selectively, of some Anglo-Arabians, Shagyas, Arabians, and Thoroughbreds.

The breed shows commendable physical and psychological traits. It is one of the most resistant to harsh environmental conditions and stress. However, they are not free of health issues on neither of these plans.

History and Origins

Trakehner horses are descendants of work and military horses from central and southeastern Europe. The breed was originally developed in 1732’s East Prussia and takes its name from the Trakenhen town where its developing state stud farm was located. In 1944, after the region was annexed by Russia, its stud farm discontinued its operation.

The Trakehner breed was enhanced in the 1800s when breeders introduced Thoroughbred, Arabian, Turkish, and Turkoman blood into their breeding stock. Most modern Trakehners can be traced back to 2 stallions, one a Thoroughbred and the other a Trakehner himself, sired by the aforementioned Thoroughbred. Arabian stallions also played a crucial role in developing this breed, offsetting any flaws that might have been inherited from Thoroughbreds.

Although initially bred as army remounts, Trakehners were repurposed for farm work after 1919 when Germany’s army was drastically reduced. Thus, breeders became focused on heavier individuals. Given the extensive breeding performed in the subsequent decades, many Trakehners today still show significant substance and larger bones.

Starting with the 1920s, Trakehners enjoyed the admiration of horse enthusiasts during equine competitions and won several gold and silver medals at the Olympic games. However, their time of glory quickly came to an end when World War II started. They were among the many breeds used by European troops when fighting the Soviet ones, which brought them to the brink of extinction. Their travel across the Vistula Lagoon during winter and with little rations and no shelter still is considered one of the toughest tests a horse breed surpassed.

Breed Particularities

Trakehner horses are athletic and sure-footed. Their high endurance is inherited both from their working ancestors and from those used in war. Even though subsequent generations have not been subjected to the same type of treatment like their abovementioned predecessors, their endurance has been preserved.

Physical Characteristics of the Trakehner Horses

Taller and heavier than most breeds, Trakehners take up after their ancestors – the Thoroughbreds. Therefore, they have a rectangular build with a strong, medium-length back and noticeable hindquarters. Their shoulders are long and sloping, leading to strong legs with short cannons. A Trakehner’s neck is well-set and crested, leading to a finely chiseled head which narrows down at the muzzle. Its broad forehead is considered a remain of its ancestors from hundreds of years ago.

Height: 15.2 – 17 hands.
Weight: 1,100 – 1,200 pounds.
Colors: Black, chestnut, bay, and gray are the most common. However, roan and tobiano pinto are also permitted – sometimes even encouraged.

Breed-Specific Diseases

Equine colic, a common digestive disorder, affects Trakehners significantly more than other breeds. This can appear in foals and adults alike and is characterized by pain, usually caused by an obstruction along their digestive tract. Colic can either appear because of a gas accumulation or because of parasites, dehydration, lipoma, or sand and stone ingestion.

Laminitis, the inflammation of the laminae areas in their hooves, is also common in Trakehners. It causes tenderness (later pain) and progresses into the horse’s inability to walk, sometimes with increased pulse and temperature in the hooves. If not treated, the disease can progress into perforated coffin bones through their soles. Abscesses, pedal osteitis, seromas, or fractures of the coffin bone’s solar margin can also be caused by this disease. If laminitis progresses and does not respond to aggressive treatment, euthanasia is considered to end the horse’s suffering.

But the Trakehner breed can be affected by behavioral issues, too. Cribbing is a type of compulsive behavior that can be considered a vice. It is mainly caused by an improper diet, but can also be a consequence of anxiety and boredom because of confinement. Horses who suffer from cribbing grab solid objects with their teeth and pull on it, which can often lead to teeth deterioration, stomach ulcers, and colic.

Weaving, another stable vice, can be observed in horses who suffer from stress, isolation, or are eager to get more exercise and grazing time. When weaving, a horse sways side to side repetitively by shifting his or her weight from the left to the right feet. It is also accompanied by a back and forth head and neck movement. It is supposed these movements imitate the view a horse has when running. Thus, weaving can be considered a coping mechanism.

A Trakehner Horse’s Temperament

Trakehners are spirited but easily trainable. Their upbeat and playful attitude makes them a pleasure to own. They are intelligent and level-headed, being able to perform intense work and various task without a breakdown. In fact, they are very eager to work and perform. They are fast learners and show confidence no matter the discipline they compete in. However, they can only thrive under the guidance of a good trainer or owner.

Trakehners are also good problem solvers and reliable working companions if rewarded properly. When using a horse of the Trakehner breed for work, it’s important to reward him or her properly and make the tasks fun and enjoyable.

Common Uses for Trakehner Horses

In equine sports and competitions, Trakenhers are most known for their “floating trot” – an elevated and unique gait. This, together with their intelligence and sensitivity makes them strong competitors in most disciplines, particularly dressage. However, they compete well in eventing and show jumping, too, thanks to their light build and surefooted way of carrying themselves. Everest Lastic of the Trakehner breed broke the world record in jumping with an outstanding 7.62 feet high jump. Other uses include general riding and, in many areas, they are still used for work.

Trakehners are also used to upgrade other warmblood breeds since they provide most of the Thoroughbred and Arabian traits without the risks.

Image sources: 1, 2, 3.

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