Early 20th century
Performance is the only thing that counts
Initially, production of horses for the cavalry was the main task of horsebreeding in East Prussia. State Equerry von Oettingen already pinned his hopes on thoroughbreds, for example Tempelhüter’s father Perfectionist xx.
His successor Graf Sponeck continued this breeding strategy. The horses’ virtues – toughness and willingness to work – later turned out to be important advantages when equestrian sport was thriving after the First World War.
At the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936, Trakehner horses won six gold medals and one silver medal. When gelding Nurmi (born in 1925, breeder: Hans Paul, Rudwangen) won the gold medal in military, ridden by Oberleutnant Ludwig Stubbendorf, a legend was born.
In 1944, 15 000 members were registered at the East Prussian Studbook Society (ostpreußische Stutbuchgesellschaft). 750 stallions were approved for Trakehner breeding. The number of breeding mares totalled 14 000. In Königsberg, 160 stallions per year aspired to the title gekört (approved). When the Trakehner population was in full bloom, it was estimated to include 25 000 mares and 1 200 stallions – a figure that seems almost incredible, even today!
However, on October 17th, 1944 the situation changed dramatically:
At five o’clock in the morning, the highest authority gave orders to vacate Trakehnen.
In January 1945, if not earlier, even the last people had understood that East Prussia would have to be surrendered. People and horses left the area, while many were already gone, on a 1000 kilometre flight westward.
Losses during the much-remembered trek over the frozen Frisches Haff (Vistula Lagoon) were severe. At times, the horses would draw wagons through icy water deep enough to reach their bellies. Of a population that once numbered 30 000 horses, only 1 500 animals remained, spread throughout the whole of Germany during the turbulent post-war time.
The declared aim of East Prussian breeder families was to rescue their best mares. Names such as the privaPhoney-owned Kassette or Gundula as well as Main Stud mares such as Donna and Herbstzeit were to contribute to conserving a breed consolidated over centuries, by becoming foundresses of mare dynasties. Altogether, only 27 mares from the Trakehnen Main Stud were saved.
Unparalleled in his commitment, Dr. Fritz Schilke, director of the East Prussian Studbook Society in Königsberg, together with the organisation’s chairman Siegfried Freiherr v. Schroetter, saw to it that the breeding institution’s work was continued: Stallions had found a place in the State Studs and mares were important helpers in Germany’s devastated agriculture in the new era after 1945.
On 23. October 1947, the Registered Association of Breeders and Friends of the Warmblood Horse of Trakehner origin (Verband der Züchter und Freunde des Warmblutpferdes Trakehner Abstammung e.V. referred to in short as Trakehner Verband) was constituted in Hamburg.
In 1962, the first Trakehner stallion market took place in Neumünster.
after the end of the war
There were around 660 Trakehner horses in the territory that was later to become the GDR, among them 489 mares and four stallions with full documentation. While Schleswig-Holstein was one of the most important regions for Trakehners in the West, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern held the same position for the soviet-occupied zone (sowjetisch besetzte Zone or SBZ), since some of the refugee treks had ended their flight there.
At the Institute for Animal Breeding Research in Rostock Dummerstorf, pure breeding continued to be pursued. The Graditz and Ganschow studs also held an important position in this context. Trakehner stallions succeeded in providing riding sports in the GDR with many extremely talented horses, some of whom even competed in the Olympic Games. Although the SED regime applied the same uniform approach to horsebreeding as to many other areas of life, horses of pure Trakehner descent received a “T” added to the uniform branding of a snake with an arrow – an important manifestation of individuality in “real existing socialism”!
Importance for the State breeding programmes
Because of their early orientation towards endurance (military) and, later on, sport, Trakehner horses have always been able to provide important momentum for State breeding programmes. As both a real alternative and a good complement to thoroughbreds, Trakehner stallions assisted in firmly rooting the position of riding horses in the State breeding programmes after the war.
In Hannover, it was Abglanz who, via the Abhang brothers, Archimedes – a genitor of sport horses – and especially through his son Absatz passed on an unprecedented flair. This line is still very much alive today with horses such as Akzent II/Alabaster and Argentan/Argentinus.
Lateran made an excellent name for himself in Hanover and Westphalia during the 1960ies. Even the Hanoverian S-line with the jumping prodigy Staccato as a showcase is based on Trakehner Dampfross’ son Semper idem, via Sender.
The Westphalian State Stud Warendorf saw horses such as Humboldt, Cyklon and Abschaum, with the latter being the founder, via Aar, of a line of stallions that was very popular in the 1970ies. Julmond also stood at Warendorf but did not become a founder of modern riding horse breeding until later, after moving to Baden Württemberg. Other breeds such as the Rheinland, Zweibrücker or Hesse breeds are also based on these Trakehners.