The Trakehner is a European warmblood horse that is the oldest and most highly-bred of all the German warmblood breeds. It is today's only purebred riding horse breed that was systematically created from the indigenous Prussian horses. The breed's name comes from the world-famous royal main stud farm that was established in 1732 in Trakehnen by King Friedrich Wilhelm 1 in what used to be East Prussia (Germany) but is now part of Russia. This was where the foundation for the breed was laid and all bloodlines can be traced back to this source.
King Frederick Wilhelm I of Prussia wanted his soldiers to have reliable transportation that was faster, sounder and with more endurance than that of his contemporaries, so he opened the stud farm in 1732 where he established the Trakehnen stud by using the indigenous Schweiken horse as a base. In the beginning, these Prussian horses were plain, stocky, yet strong and hardy, but they needed some added size and refinement. This Schweiken, or Schwaike, is a larger descendent of the Konik pony which is a direct descendent of the primitive Tarpan and the Schweiken, which flourished for many centuries in the region, shows the Tarpan's extraordinary natural vitality, hardiness, strength and powers of endurance.
When Count Lindenau took over the stud management in 1787, he eliminated 2/3 of the stallions and 1/3 of the broodmares and began allowing private breeders to bring their mares to be serviced by the royal stallions. Later, during 1817 to 1837top quality English Thoroughbreds and purebred Arabians were introduced in small quantities to the small native Schweiken mares; a practice that is still followed today under strict approval conditions by the West German Trakehner Verband. Various other breeds were tried, but eventually the breeding directors limited themselves to Thoroughbred and Arabian crosses to the Schweiken since the results were exactly what the King Wilhelm I was looking for: a balance between the size, nerve, spirit and endurance of the Thoroughbred to the bulk, stability and nobility of the native breed with further refinement coming from the Arabian. The selection process for the King's cavalry mounts was strict and allowed only the best to be bred, while the average horses, the culls, was sold as riding horses.
Before World War II, the Trakehners were the most successful sports horses and hunters and the 1936 Olympics saw Trakehner Warmbloods win six gold medals and one silver medal. But by the end of 1944, horse breeding in East Prussia came to a sudden end when families fled westward in the face of the Russian invasion and the survivors owed their lives to their Trakehner horses carrying them there. From the main stud Trakehnen only 27 broodmares could be saved ahead of the invasion, but fortunately the breed continued to live on with the primary breeding area now in West Germany.
The Trakehner was first introduced into North America only in the late 1950s when the breed was first imported to Canada and later into the United States. By 1956, there were only 602 mares and 45 stallions left in the world and the Trakehner population had reached rock bottom.
Trakehner Warmbloods were then imported into Great Britain in 1960 by the Muschamp Stud and have steadily gained in popularity since. In fact, Trakehner Breeders Fraternity (TBF) is licensed by the Trakehner Verband GmbH in Germany to brand registered horses with the distinctive double Elk horn emblem with an inverted ' V ‘beneath it to denote “British Bred ".
Today however more than 5000 broodmares and 300 stallions are registered with the Trakehner Verband GmbH in Germany which makes the Trakehner one of the most significant German riding horse breeds.
American Trakehner Association, (ATA) was founded in 1974 and not only registers the American bred Trakehners, but also brands them. Purebred Trakehners are eligible to receive the double moose antler and curved under-bar, while part-bred Trakehners are eligible for the ATA design. If the horse already has a brand from another registry, however, it cannot have ATA brand. Branding is optional, but is encouraged as a way to showcase the Trakehner breed and as both identification and as a theft deterrent.
The Trakehner Warmblood Horse is a large equine, standing 15.3 to 17 hands, with the average at 16-16.2 hands. It has great substance and boning, yet shows a surprising refinement; more so than any other European Warmblood. It has an attractive head perched on a long neck with high withers and a deep chest. It is a superb performance sport horse with a natural elegance and balance that excels in dressage because of its elegant way of moving. It has a light, springy, "floating" trot and soft, balanced canter, both made possible by its deep, sloping shoulder, a moderately long back and medium length pasterns. The breed also produces excellent jumpers due to the powerful hindquarters, good feet, strong joints and muscling. The Trakehner is bred in only solid colors.
The Trakehner horse has grace, power, magnificent movement with natural balance and fantastic athletic ability, but the most outstanding characteristic of the Trakehner is its friendly, accepting, eager-to-please temperament. They are keen, alert and intelligent and have a level headed ability to undertake intense work and concentration when asked. With all these characteristics, the Trakehner Warmbloods continue to excel in most equine disciplines, though most especially in show jumping and dressage.
However, the European Trakehner Warmblood should not be confused with the Russian Trakehner Warmblood, which is a slightly different breed. The Russian Trakehner is rangier and lighter in weight and its legs have generally cleaner lines, especially the cannons and the fetlocks. It is an excellent mover, and since the Russian Trakehner Warmblood horse is used to being kept in herds, it is more economical to keep. Although it is not as enduring as the endemic Russian horse breeds, the Russian Trakehner Warmblood horse does compares favorably with its European warmblood cousin.