A Short on German Sport Horses
...and on the eighth day God created the horse in perfect image, to romp, graze, gallop, play and make manure wherever it darn well pleases, in divine grace.
A French writer by the name of Michel Tournier, born in 1924, won the 1970 Prix Goncourt, the top French literary award, when he published his novel “The Ogre.”
He was a scholar and philosopher, and in the novel, describes, “an enormous black gelding, rippling with muscles and with rump and hair as ample as a woman’s.”
The hero of the story, Abel Tiffauges, takes riding lessons on this horse, and one day his instructor decides to give him some philosophy on the truth about horses.
The riding instructor, a true Master called Pressmar, says, “Compare the dynamics of the horse with that of the deer, for example.
“All the deer’s strength is in his shoulders and neck.”
So be it for the hart or stag, nimble and lithe.
However, all self-respecting Dressage fans know that all the horse’s strength is in his crupper ( croup, or rear end).
A horse’s shoulders are fine and flat, just as a deer’s crupper is thin and tapering.
“A horse’s weapon is his kick, which comes from the crupper; a deer’s is his antlers, the force of which comes from the neck.”
A deer moves by a sort of front-wheel drive while the equine impels himself forward by the motion of his hindquarters.
In fact, “a horse is a crupper with organs attached in front.” (1)
This description became famous within horse riding circles and French literary collections.
The horse being described is a Trakehner, pronounced Trah--kay--ner.
The Trakehner originated in East Prussia, in Trakehnen, a stud farm founded during the 1600's by King Friedrich Wilhelm I, (1688- 1740) and later expanded by his son Friedrich II (1717-1786), better known as Friedrich the Great.(2)
In 1945, the Soviets seized control of East Prussia.
As the Red Army marched across the land, managers at the royal stud farm were able to take away with them a good number of brood mares during the harsh winter of 1944-45.
However, the Russians managed to keep some of the horses for themselves, and put stallions and mares together in a continued breeding program of their own.
They developed the breed by starting various stud farms throughout their vast new territory.
In 1970, Russian rider Elena Petushkova won the Olympic gold medal and became the world Dressage champion atop “Pepel,” a black Trakehner.(3)
The original East Prussian farm is no longer in existence and Trakehners are now bred around the world.
The Germans regard it as an international breed, due to the fact that over the past one hundred years it has been genetically necessary to introduce new blood by breeding it with Thoroughbreds or Arabs.
They compare it to breeds such as American trotters (Standardbreds), English Thoroughbreds and purebred Arabians, all which are bred in Germany on a wide scale.
Trakehners come in any solid color and the breed are considered a Warmblood, coming in at 16HH to 16.2HH.
They are strong and muscular, with a well-made and elegant neck set on nicely sloping shoulders.
With a wide chest and short back, their very powerful hind quarters have a high tail set, which adds to their overall presence.(4)
The Germans owe their well-earned reputation as exceptional horsemen and breeders to more regional breeds and less to the more popular standby’s such as Arabs and Thoroughbreds.
The French, even though they meant well, just after the close of World War II, combined only local types of a single major breed, such as the French Saddle Horse, while the Germans promoted the development of breeds from each state or republic.*
This breeding theory has produced outstanding results in equine structure and refinement of the species, with the Germans producing the foremost sport horses in the world; they are the leading producer in Europe. (5)
Some of these breeds include: Bavarian Warmblood, Wurttemberg, Hessian, Rhineland Heavy Draft, Westphalian, Oldenburg, Mecklenburg, Holstein and Hanoverian.
For an example, the Hanoverian is the result of methodical crossbreeding of English Thoroughbred x Holstein x Trakehner, along with a rigorous curing and selection process.
Hanoverians come in at 16.1HH to 17.1HH and are powerful jumping horses as well as exceptional dressage animals.
The Hanoverian, “Deister,” ridden by Paul Schockemohle, was voted “Horse of the 20th Century.”
They are not too high strung, but have the right amount of energy to stay springy and elastic while performing. They would be considered more elegant than flashy, as required by dressage standards. (6)
The Holstein, or Holsteiner, is a sturdy breed hailing from northwest Germany, and was once a dual purpose or all purpose horse.
It has been lightened by introducing Thoroughbred blood, making it the outstanding sport horse it is today.
The famous Holsteiner, “Corlandus,” ridden in Dressage by the French-German rider Margit Otto-Crepin, is a fine example of this breed.
They come in at 16HH to 17HH high and are mostly bay or chestnut, but do come in any solid color and get their name from the Schelswig-Holstein area of Germany. (7)
They are nicely proportioned and are talented at both dressage and jumping.
While Thoroughbred blood had been introduced during the 19th century to improve its conformation, the Yorkshire Coach Horse was also added into breeding programs for extended trotting motion and temperament.
Reading about German sport horses always makes me want to go for beer, brats and sour dough pretzels.
Enjoying the above to the immortal words of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, “Happy Trails to You.”
1,2,3,5,6: “Horses,” by Yann Arthus-Bertrand and Jean-Louis Gourand
4, 7: “The Encyclopedia of Horses and Ponies,” by Tamsin Pickeral
* See my article, “Frenchies,” in the Community News or on our website.