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  1. Trakehner History ... ?
  2. Selective Breeding ... ?
  3. What is the Trakehner ... ?
  4. Who is ... ?
  5. What is ... ?
  6. When is ... ?

Trakehner History ... ?

By H. Zimmermann

The Trakehner is a warm-blooded horse whose roots go back to the twelfth-century and the knights in shining armour.

The knights who conquered the area that was later known as East Prussia brought with them their heavy war horses that had been bred to carry a man and full suit of armour into battle. Heavy mounts where in fashion.

In 1503, at the battle of Naples, Condottore Saguo de Cordova used more agile, light horses of Spanish-Oriental origin and turned the battle to his advantage. A new era began.

In 1732, King Frederick the Great chose the best horses from his royal breeding farm in order to establish a new stud farm at Trakehnen. The objective was a program of selective breeding of horses with endurance and a long covering gait.

In the 1800's, a few top quality English Thoroughbred bloodlines were introduced with the goal of refining the Trakehner, yet preserving the nerve and endurance of the Thoroughbred. Care was taken to maintain the even temperament, substance and other quality of the Trakehner. Further refinement and elegance in the breed came from the introduction of a few carefully selected Arabian stallions. The Trakehner was used as a military horse in time of war, and as a sport horse in time of peace.

Before World War II the State Stud Director in East Prussia had the foresight to export breeding stock to West Germany. This probably kept the entire breed from extinction in the coming war. The main industry in Prussia was the breeding and riding of cavalry horses. Many independent breeders in the area who took their mares to the Government Stallion Station developed this industry. It was considered imprudent for an individual breeder to stand a stallion.

When the Soviets closed in on Trakehnen, the Prussians gathered their precious horses and fled towards the safety in the west. The horror story, which followed, became known as the TRACK. It was mid–winter, the snow was deep and broodmares were heavy in foal. The Soviet troops were burning their homes behind them and the Russian Planes were machine gunning from the air. The Prussians could not stop when the mares foaled or horses went lame. The nightmare continued for two and one half months and 600 miles.

When they finally arrived at the shores of the frozen East Sea and the only escape was across the treacherous expanse of ice, they forged ahead, at times galloping to stay ahead of ice breaking behind them. Thousands perished.

At last they limped into West Germany, 2400 beautiful horses reduced to less than 800 skeletons, with open wounds from shrapnel and with burlap bags frozen to their feet. Only the hardest survived. The remnants of a once royal breed had undergone the greatest endurance test of all times. The writer’s parents left their homeland with eight.

Trakehner horses and three wagons. They arrived in West Germany with a broken down carriage and one lame gelding.

The post war years were spent rebuilding and re-establishing the Trakehner breed. Because every Trakehner carried the brand of the double elk shovel on the left hip, it made the task easier. The Trakehner soon began to reappear as a winner at the Olympics and international Competitions.

Again the Trakehner movement, coupled with its presence and temperament set it apart from other breeds.


When several weeks after the German capitulation mail and travel services where resumed it soon became apparent that a number of Trakehner mares were stranded in an area whose future was uncertain. Dr. F. Schilke, Manager of the East Prussian Mare Registry of warm-blooded horses of Trakehner origin contacted local Farmers Union Committees and Managers to enlist their support in the effort to keep the mares and small number of stallions confiscated by the British army and sold very cheaply to local farmers by their desperate owners.

With the help of the Committees and Government stallion depots, he proceeded to register what was left of the Trakehner breed.

On the fourteens of August 1974 a small group of breeders, with the help of Mr. H. Zimmermann of Dundas, Ontario, received Ministerial approval for the incorporation and registration of the CANADIAN TRAKEHNER HORSE SOCIETY pursuant to the Live Stock Pedigree Act.

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Selective Breeding ... ?

By H. Zimmermann

It takes years of experience based upon principals that have been proven to be able to judge and select. Over 1000 books have been written since 380 before Christ about judging of horses.

Selective breeding is the culmination of centuries of research, tests, and tradition.

GENETICS play the most important role in selective breeding. One of the known works published in Latin in 1462 – Liber Marescalsie Equorum, - by Laurentius Rusius, teaches how to evaluate a horse. In modern times the English translation of –Exterieur de Chaval, - by Gohaux and Barrier, is being widely used in veterinary schools in England and all over Europe.

Selective breeding starts when one decides to bring her or his mare to a stallion for mating. Just because your friend or neighbour owns a stallion, and you are offered a good deal, does not mean that the mating will produce the offspring of your dreams

It is the result of mating that counts. While inspecting horses for registration and branding for the Canadian Trakehner Horse society in Canada I was often asked why the Europeans where so successful with their horses.

Selective breeding, dedication, passion and pride of achievement are the answers. A short fad, or the outlook for a fast buck will not do it. If this is what you are looking for, do not start, you will be disappointed. Always make sure the stallion you are breeding to has been approved and is registered with the breed association of your choice.

Stallion Approval in the Federal Republic of Germany
Approximately 1500 Trakehner colts are born each year. The first inspection took place when the foals where branded while still with the mare. As three year olds at selection # 2 they where judged for impulsion, elasticity of movement, conformation, temperament, and overall impression. The most I have seen approved in one year where 24. The following performance test reduced the approval to 11.

The Influx of Nature and Feeding on the Development of the Horse
Atmospheric changes in the different regions we are living in have a great influence on the development of our horses. Temperature, humidity and altitude influence the solid matter in their blood. The lower the solid matter, the larger the cellular tissue of flesh, bone and organs of the animal. The higher the solid matter, the tighter the cellular tissue.

Warm or high lying regions - high solid matter
Cold or low lying regions – low solid matter
High humidity – thin blood
Low humidity – thick blood

The quality and quantity of fodder and water is also a factor in the development of the horse. Many a breeder or owner has ruined a good horse by wrong feeding.

Temperament and Character can be Influenced by the Horses Upbringing
Real horsemen expect good character and spirit from their horses to be able to depend on them in difficult situations. This is only possible if they have patience are compassionate and do not demand the impossible. To whip them or punish in whatever way, will only make things worth.

The eye of the horse is the mirror of its soul.

The head should be lean, preferable with a straight nose line or as an Arab, slightly dishpan, finely chiseled with prominent bones and the lines clear cut. Intelligent horses usually have their eyes well set apart. A horse which carries his head alertly, ears pricked forward will rarely be mean and of bad temperament. Divergence of the lower jaw and adequate space between them testify of good development of the molars.

The shape and carriage of the horse’s neck varies with his breeding, conformation and training it has received.

The neck should be slender, flexible and long, wide in the gullet and thinning down as it approaches the head, with a slightly curved top line and a straight bottom line, set on a broad shoulder at approximately 90 degrees. There are different ways a horse will carry his head and neck naturally:

1. By stretching his head forward and lengthening the neck horizontally as far as possible enables the horse to increase his propulsion of the hindquarters to the maximum, resulting in a fairly straight top line.

.2. Carrying his head nearly vertical, shortening and arching the neck, the horses vertebrae becomes compacted, allowing for more side movement and resulting in a slightly sway back.

3. Carrying his head and neck slanted downward and low is the most natural and relaxed way of walking, resulting in slightly curved top line upwards.

The horse is also using its head as a balancing tool.
The shoulder should be long, sloping and well muscled. Although the length of the shoulder has little to do with the movement of the horse, it should be 52.5 to 55.3% of the total length of the leg.

The development of the neck, shoulder and chest muscles, and the angle of the attachment of the arm to the shoulder blade (90) degrees are the deciding factor, provided the impulsion and thrust reaching from behind the hindquarters is adequate. Without the latter, the most splendid shoulders are worthless. Large posterior projections of the ulna in the elbow joint are desirable. The bony processes should be slicked down and separated from the chest by at least 1.5 cm.

The foundation of the upper arm is the humerus, connecting the shoulder bone to the knee. The triceps muscle group has the biggest influence on the position of the humerus. The movement of the arm should be parallel to the wall of the chest. The curvature of the ribcage is of utmost importance. A wrong curvature of the ribs can result in a narrow or to wide a position of the legs at the brisket.

The length of the humerus can very from 30.3 to 30.9% of the length of the leg.

The forearm should be fairly long compared to the front cannon. Approximately 2:1. and like the latter should be extensive. Though it should not be hefty muscled, the tendon must be well marked and the impression of leanness must not be impaired.

The front knee and the fetlock should be large enough to provide favourable points of attachment for ligaments and tendons. A long and elastic pastern should make the connection between the cannon and the hoof.

Too steep a pastern can make a horse practically useless. Horses with upright pasterns take short steps because the swing to their gait is missing, and because of no phase of suspension. If one should have the choice between a soft pastern and one whose angle exceeds 45 degrees, one should not hesitate to choose the soft one. The softer pastern ensures a natural mitigation of the impact and promotes the coffin joint and assists the mechanism of the hoof when landing on hard ground.

The perpendicular taken from the shoulder should half all joints to the hoof. A hoofs space should be between hoofs.

The withers should be high, expressive and long, gently flowing to the back.





The hoofs should be symmetrical, broad, with a hard but flexible horn and with well developed bars and frog. The frog is nature’s shock absorber. If the frog is poorly developed, the outside edges of the hoof will have to take the shock and the horse cannot be expected to stand up under hard going. In shape the bottom of the front hoof is almost round, while the hind is slightly elliptical.

The chest of the horse should be deep and long, well arched, with great curvature in the lower ribs towards the flanks. The girth should be 15-to 20 cm. More than the height of the horse at the withers. If the breadth and the depth of the chest are out of proportion to the rest of the body, the horse will display a lack of maneuverability and insufficient speed.

The back should be moderately long, wide and fairly straight, and must be stiff. One should remember that only a certain length of the back makes an unconstrained interaction through the ring of muscles from the crop through the back, the neck and the belly possible, and allows the entire mechanism of the horse to swing freely. The length of the back should be the combined result of long withers, long straight breastbone and a loin of moderate length.

The hindquarters should be relatively long, especially at the distance between the hips and the point of the buttocks, the hip joint, the hip joint and the hock. The latter joint should be as close to the ground as possible, to provide the desired shortness of the hind cannon bone. If the angle between the ileum and the thigh and the thigh bone at the hip joint is less than at a right angle, the stifle joint will lie far in front as a visible sign of the bone structure and the gluteus maxim us muscle will act at a right angle upon the great trochanter of the thigh

Stretching and bending then occur under the best circumstances, without any loss of power, and thus promote the gait.

To open a stifle angle interferes with an otherwise excellent freedom of movement at the hock, renders long strides in the direction of gravity impossible, and the hindquarters drag. The hock joint is one of the most important parts in the structure of the horse, particularly for galloping and jumping. A horse jumps from the hock, he or she receives the necessary spring and propulsion from this joint. Viewed from the side, the hock joint should appear large and flat. A line dropped from the buttock should fall one or two inches (2.5 or 5 cm) to the rear of the point of the hock and back line of the cannon should be parallel to this line. The inside angle of the hock should be wide viewed from the back or front. The hock should appear thick. The cannon should be straight, not curved, nor should the chocks bend in towards each other.

The horses tail is a most useful appendage as an indication of his breeding and a plume of beauty. The tail also furnishes us with information concerning the horses character, verve, constitution and degree of natural tension.

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What is the Trakehner ... ?

By Margaret Lima

The Trakehner is the oldest of the German warmbloods. Its pedigree dates back to 1732 when Friedrich Wilhelm I established the famous stud at Trakehnen in East Prussia.

The breeds name and bloodlines are traceable to this Trakehnen stud. The objective was a program of selective breeding for horses with endurance and long, ground covering gaits. But the really important and decisive development of the breed occurred in the early 1800's. At this time top quality English Thoroughbred bloodlines were introduced in small quantities with the goal of refining the Trakehner, while retaining the nerve, nobility and endurance of the Thoroughbred. Care was taken to maintain the even temperament, substance and other qualities of the Trakehner. Further refinement and elegance in the breed came from the introduction of a few carefully selected Arabian stallions. The Trakehner continued to be used as a military horse in times of war and also as a working horse of East Prussian farms during times of peace.

Before World War II the State Stud Director in East Prussia had the foresight to export breeding stock to Western Europe. This probably kept the entire breed from extinction in the coming war. The main industry in East Prussia was the breeding of riding and cavalry horses. Many farmers in the area who took their mares to the government Stallion Stations developed this industry. It was considered very imprudent for an individual breeder to stand a stallion.

When the Soviets closed in on Trakehnen in January 1945, some East Prussians fled towards West Germany taking many horses with them. Nearly three months of hardship, a journey of 600 miles through deep snow and across the frozen Baltic Sea - a horror story known as the "Trek" - reduced the Trakehner contingent to about 800 mares; skeletons with open wounds from shrapnel and burlap bags froze n to their feet. Only the hardiest survived.

The post war years were spent rebuilding and reestablishing the Trakehner breed. Because every Trakehner carried the brand of the double elk antler on the left hip, it made the task of locating them somewhat easier. In 1947 the Association of Breeders and Friends of the Warmblood horses of Trakehner Origin (Trakehner Verband) was established in West Germany.

Since World War II in many countries around the world Trakehner breeder associations have been established after breeding stock was imported from West Germany. In Canada, the Canadian Trakehner Horse Society (CTHS) represents Trakehner owners and breeders. The first Trakehners came to Canada in the mid 1950's when the late Gerda Friedrichs imported four Trakehner stallions (Slesus, Tscherkess, Prusso and Antares) and twelve mares to her farm on Lake Simcoe, Ontario.

The Trakehner of today is a large horse, standing generally between 15:3 and 17 hands. The breed is characterized by great substance and bone, yet displays surprising refinement, perhaps more so than any other European warmblood breed. It is a superb performance horse with natural elegance and balance. The Trakehner excels in dressage because of its light, springy "floating" trot, and soft canter, made possible by a deep, sloping shoulder and a correct, moderately long back and pasterns. With powerful hindquarters, the breed also produces outstanding jumpers. However, perhaps the most outstanding characteristic of the Trakehner is its temperament. Trakehners are keen, alert, intelligent, yet very stable, accepting and anxious to please.

The Trakehner has been used to refine other warmblood breeds such as the Hanoverian, Holsteiner, Oldenburg, Swedish Warmblood, Westphalian, Rhinelander and the Dutch Warmblood.

TRAKEHNERS OF INTERNATIONAL RENOWN include: ABDULLAH, Olympic champion , born in Ontario; the dressage horse FABIAN (Dr Reiner Klimke), MARZOG (part-Trakehner ridden by Anne Grete Jense) and ULTIMO (Gabriella Grillo, Gold Medal Dressage Team '76), PIAFFE (individual gold at '72 Olympics - Lislott Linselhoff), GASPANO and TRUE NORTH (geldings) under Christilot Boylen and Lorraine Stubbs

BIOTOP (Dr. Limke, Ingrid Klimke), PARTOUT (Anke van Grunsven), reserve silver team Atlanta, PERON (Michelle Gibosn), bronze medal Atlanta, SAINT CLOUD (Karin Rehbein), RENAISSANCE FLEUR (Monica Theodorescu), FRIEDENSFUERST (Nicole Uphoff), MERLIN (Caroline Hatlapa), Atlanta.

ALMOX PRINTS (A. Timoschenko/Elmar Gundel) 2x Olympics, AIRBOURNE MONTICELLO (Rodrigo Pessoa), WAITAKI (Holger Hetzel).

JAEGERMEISTER ll (Andrew Nicholson), bronze medal Atlanta, BOETTCHER LONGCHAMPS (Marina Loheit), Sidney, WHITE GIRL (Peter Thomsen)< WINDFALL (Ingrid Klimke), Sidney, BAROLO TSF & FONTAINBLEAU (Andreas Dibowski), LARISSA (Bruce Mandeville, CAN) successful in Sidney

Four black Trakehners (Karen Bassett) bronze medal World Championships 96

Links to other Trakehner Information:

The Trakehner Horse
The Trakehner Brand


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