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Trakehner: Get to Know Your Equine Breeds

Updated: Jun 18, 2018


The Trakehner breed is one of the oldest riding horse breeds in the world, originating from Schwaike horses in East Prussia. King Friedrich Wilhelm I established the royal stud in Trakehnen in 1732 with the goal of developing an ideal cavalry mount possessing the characteristics of being light and fast with power and endurance.

These horses needed to be attractive enough to serve as an officer’s mount and concurrently tough enough to remain sound through the harsh conditions of war. The original stud book, still continuing today, is restricted to Trakehner, plus a few selected Thoroughbred, Anglo-Arabian, Shagya and Arabian bloodlines.


The Trakehner breed was almost destroyed during World War II and endured one of the most difficult tests to which an entire breed of horses has ever been subjected. The famous ‘Der Treck’ (“The Flight”) was a massive exodus of people and nearly a thousand Trakheners from East Prussia, fleeing the advancing Soviet army in a desperate attempt to reach safety in western Germany.

Forced to travel across the frozen Baltic Sea, horses galloped forward to stay ahead of the cracking ice. The Soviets bombarded the fleeing East Prussians, shattering the ice and drowning many in the frigid water. Only around one hundred horses made it to safety. Ultimately, of the eighty-thousand Trakehners, one thousand made it to what was soon to be known as West Germany, and became the foundation for the modern breed. Those left behind were used to form the Russian Kirov, Polish Mazury (also known as the Masuren) and Pozan (or Poznan), which developed into the Wielkopolski breeds.


The modern day Trakehner possesses an elegant appearance with great lines. Their overall appearance is one of expressive nobility. Of note, they are recognizable by an evocative head, large eye, well shaped neck, and sculpted muscles, as well as correct limbs.


The ideal conformation consists of a medium long neck that tapers towards the head; freedom in the throat latch; a large, sloping shoulder; well defined withers that extend far into the back; strong and balanced back; a long, slightly sloping, powerfully muscled croup; as well as a harmonious division of the body into forehand, mid-section and hindquarters. The limbs should be proportional to the body with correct, large joints; medium long pasterns; and well-shaped hooves.

Average Height

The average horse of the Trakehner breed is of medium to large size and stands 15.1 – 16.2 Hands high.

Typical Colors

Although Trakehners can be any color, they are most commonly bay, gray, black or chestnut.


Trakehners are uncomplicated, calm, friendly horses that are willing to work and be ridden.


An attractive horse with an elegant and refined head featuring eyes that are large and expressive. The neck is long and crested leading into a back that is straight and short. The forehand features a deep chest. All legs are muscular with broad, clean joints ending in solid hooves.

Modern Use

Today the Trakehner is considered a sport-horse, bred for competition in the Olympic disciplines of Eventing, Dressage and Show Jumping.

Famous Faces

Adbullah – One of the most beloved Trakehner stallions to compete in Show Jumping.

Windfall – The most prominent advanced level eventing stallion in the world, second in scoring success only to Winsome Adante.

Downlands Cancara –Cancara was the stallion made famous as the Black Horse in the Lloyds Bank advertisements.


Additional Information



Trakehner (Eberhard von Velsen)

Flight of the East Prussian Horses (Daphne Machin Goodall)

Breed Organizations


Sharable Infographic

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