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dutch warmblood horse

Dutch Warmblood Breed

Distinguishing features

Modern warmblood horse suitable for dressage and show jumping.

Alternative names

Dutch Riding Horse

Country of origin


Common nicknames


A Dutch Warmblood is a warmblood type of horse registered with the Koninklijk Warmblood Paardenstamboek Nederland (Royal Warmblood Studbook of the Netherlands (KWPN)), which governs the breeding of competitive dressage and show jumping horses, as well as the show harness horse and Gelderlander, and a hunter studbook in North America. 

Developed through a breeding program that began in the 1960s, the Dutch
are some of the most successful horses developed in postwar Europe.

warmblood horses


Prior to World War II, there were two types of utility horse in the Netherlands: Gelderlanders bred in the south under the Gelderlander Horse Studbook (1925) and the Groningen bred in the north under the NWP (1943).

The Groningen was, and still is, a heavy weight warmblood horse very similar in type to the Alt-Oldenburger and East Freisian. The Gelderlander, by the same token, was a more elegant variation on the same theme, being often a high-quality carriage horse in addition to a useful agricultural horse. And, while the Groningen were almost unwaveringly solid black, brown, or dark bay, the Gelderlanders were more often chestnut with flashy white markings. These two registries merged to form the Royal Warmblood Horse Studbook of the Netherlands (KWPN).

After the Second World War, the Gelderlander and Groninger were replaced by tractors and cars, and horses began to become a luxury rather than a necessity. As early as the 1950s, stallions like the French-bred L’Invasion and Holsteiner Normann were imported to encourage a change in the type of Dutch horses, followed soon after by the Holsteiner Amor and Hanoverian Eclatant. The carriage-pulling foundation stock contributed their active, powerful front ends and gentle dispositions to the Dutch Warmblood.

Today the KWPN comprises four sections: the Gelderlander, the Tuigpaard or Dutch Harness Horse, and riding horses bred for either dressage or show jumping. Indeed, the KWPN was the first studbook to regulate such specialization amongst its sport horses.


Dutch law has made branding illegal, so today only the oldest Dutch Warmbloods still bear the lion-rampant brand on the left hip. Instead, the horses are microchipped. To become a breeding horse, mares must stand at least 15.2hh and stallions at least 15.3hh at the withers.There is no upper height limit, though too-tall horses are impractical for sport and not desirable.

Most Dutch Warmbloods are black, brown, bay, chestnut, or grey, and white markings are not uncommon. The population also has a number of tobiano horses from the influence of the approved stallion, Samber, though a second tobiano stallion has not been approved since. The roan pattern is also to be found occasionally through the approved stallion, El Rosso.

For the past 15 years, the breeding direction has called for a horse suitable for the Grand Prix level. Strict selection procedures ensure that bad-tempered stallions and mares do not go on to produce unmanageable horses, however, the Dutch Warmblood is significantly more sensitive than its Gelderlander and Groningen ancestors. Performance test results allow breeders and buyers to identify horses with amateur-suitable temperaments. All Dutch Warmbloods are selected to be uncomplicated to handle and ride. Among the dressage horses, cooperativeness is paramount as an element of the submission required in that sport. From the show jumpers, a level of courage and reflexivity is required to effectively navigate a course.

Since the turn of the millennium, Dutch Warmblood breeding has shifted from breeding a “riding horse” to further specialization into dressage type and jumper type horses. To protect against losing canter quality in the dressage horse and conformation, gaits and rideability in the jumper type, genetic material continues to be freely exchanged between the two types. Specialization depends on the abilities of the horse.

The Dutch Warmblood is long-legged but substantial with a smooth topline and dry, expressive head. They are built level to uphill in a rectangular frame. A number of traits are desirable in both directions, such as “long lines” or a rectangular frame, “balanced proportions” and attractiveness. The requirements for the two types differ in the desired interior qualities, but also in form. The exact outline of the Dutch Warmblood varies depending on the pedigree.

Medical issues

Dutch Warmbloods are sound and long-lived due to the stringent requirements placed on stallions and elite mares.

While mild navicular changes, sesamoids, pastern arthritis and bone spavin may be permitted on radiographs, osteochondrosis in the hock or stifle is not allowed. Horses are disqualified from breeding for the following flaws: congenital eye defects, over- or underbite, lack of symmetry in stifles, hocks, hooves, or movement.

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Oldenburg brand

Oldenburg Breed

Distinguishing features

Modern riding horse type particularly suitable for dressage and jumping.

Alternative names


Country of origin


The Oldenburg is a warmblood horse from the north-western corner of Lower Saxony, what was formerly the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg. The breed was built on a mare base of all-purpose farm and carriage horses, today called the Alt-Oldenburger.

The modern Oldenburg is managed by the Association of Breeders of the Oldenburger Horse, which enacts strict selection of breeding stock to ensure that each generation is better than the last. Oldenburgers are tall, correct sport horses with three excellent gaits and jumping ability. The breeding of Oldenburg horses is characterized by very liberal pedigree requirements and the exclusive use of privately-owned stallions rather than centralization around a state-owned stud farm.

Oldenburg images


Up until the 17th century, horses in the region of Oldenburg were likely small and plain, but strong enough to be used to work the heavy soil of the Frisian coast. These horses would become the foundation of the Oldenburg’s neighbors from Holstein to Groningen.

One of the first to take a vested interest in organized horse breeding was Count Johann XVI (1540-1603). Johann XVI purchased high-class Frederiksborgers from Denmark, refined Turkish horses and powerful Neapolitan and Andalusian horses for use with his own breeding stock. His successor, Count Anton Gunther (1583-1667) not only brought back from his travels the most desirable horses of the time, but made the stallions available to his tenants.

The Oldenburg stallion Kranich was bred by Anton Günther in around 1640. His Spanish-influenced type was the style of the time. Rigorous stallion inspections were held beginning in 1715 in Ostfrisia, and spread to Oldenburg in 1755. Such inspections became mandatory under state regulation in 1820. These processes enabled breeders to mold the horses quickly to suit the market. In time, the Oldenburg and its neighbor the Ostfriesen became “luxury horses,” stylish, high-stepping carriage horses, though they were practical farm horses as well. What set the Oldenburg and Ostfriesen apart was the lack of a state-owned stud farm. As private breeders, mare and stallion owners had and retain greater freedom in purchasing breeding stock, and as a result Oldenburg and Ostfriesen horses were exported far and wide. In 1923, the Ostfriesen studbook and Oldenburg studbook merged to form today’s Oldenburg Horse Breeders’ Association (GOV).

Post-war era
All the roles that the Alt-Oldenburger played - carriage horse, artillery horse, farm horse - were overtaken in succession by mechanization during the 1940s and 50’s. However, increased leisure time and expendable income set the stage for recreational riding to come into its own, which it did. Oldenburg breeders changed direction, moving towards producing riding horses of the same renown as their carriage horses.
The first foreign stallion imported to improve the riding horse qualities of the Oldenburg mares was Condor, a dark bay Anglo-Norman. He was followed by Adonis xx in 1959, this time a full Thoroughbred. A veritable slew of Thoroughbred sires were approved for Oldenburg mares over the next 15 years: Manolete xx, Miracolo xx, Guter Gast xx, More Magic xx, Makuba xx, and not least of all, Vollkorn xx. Vollkorn xx produced one of Oldenburg’s first international sport horses: Volturno, out of a Manolette xx daughter, was a member of the Olympic silver medal-winning Eventing team in 1976.

Condor’s success encouraged the Oldenburg breeders to choose French sires over German ones. Prominent among these were Furioso II in 1968 and Futuro in 1969, both by Furioso xx, Tiro, and Zeus, who was by French Anglo-Arabian Arlequin x. There was also the Trakehner, Magister, though Trakehners were not used in Oldenburg to the same extent that they were in neighboring Hannover. In 1972 added flair came to the Oldenburg from the French Anglo-Arabian stallion, Inschallah x, who donated his expressive gaits and dry features to his offspring.

And technology continued to change the Oldenburg. Advances in artificial insemination techniques meant that stallions did not have to be nearby to be part of the breeding population. Since the 1970s, use of horses from all over Europe has increased exponentially. German Warmbloods like the Hanoverian, Holsteiner, Westphalian, and Trakehner, in addition to Dutch Warmbloods and Selle Francais continued to modernize
the Oldenburg.

The slogan of the German Oldenburg Verband is that “Quality is the only standard that counts,” evidenced by their liberal acceptance of a wide variety of pedigrees and colors. Unlike other registries that are limited to locally-bred horses, or which prefer one color to another, the modern Oldenburg selects stallions and mares based only on their quality as dressage and jumping horses.

Modern Oldenburg
Today the Oldenburg Association or Verband has over 220 approved sires and 7000 mares in addition to the 96 sires and 1300 mares that are part of the “Oldenburg International” breeding program for show jumping. These figures make Oldenburg one of the largest studbooks in Germany. Oldenburg is the largest studbook in terms of breeding area.

Each autumn, the Oldenburg Verband holds the “Stallion Days” in Vechta, during which the young stallions undergo their licensing evaluation. After the results of the licensing are announced, many are auctioned off to new homes at stallion stations, or as gelding prospects bound for performance homes. The “Old Stallion Parade” occurs on the last day, showcasing all the fully approved, performance tested stallions. However, this event is not just a pageant, as the offspring of mature stallions are subject to intense scrutiny. The best stallions of their age class, based on their offspring, receive a “premium” or award for their achievements in breeding.
There are several other auctions throughout the year in Vechta featuring selected youngsters, köraspirants, elite riding horses and broodmares. The price-toppers at the elite sales regularly fetch over 100,000 Euros. At the mixed sales there are a wider range of horses available. The verband also puts on free jumping competitions for young horses.

The Oldenburg Verband places special emphasis on mare lines, many of which trace back to the Alt-Oldenburg ancestors. Selected from the mare inspections throughout the year, the best young mares are invited to the Elite Broodmare Show in Rastede. There they compete not only for the States Premium–originally a bribe to keep breeders from exporting high-quality broodmares - but for the title of Champion Mare.


The modern Oldenburg can best be identified by the “O” and crown brand on the left hip.

Products of the “Oldenburg International” program have a similar brand, with an “S” within a crowned, incomplete “O”. Underneath the Oldenburg brand are the last two numbers of the horse’s life number.

Oldenburg brand showing the “O”-and-crown and last 2 digits of the life number
The appearance of an individual Oldenburg can vary, and it is usually better to describe any warmblood by its actual parentage. However, Oldenburg is known for producing among the most “modern” examples of riding horses: expressive heads and long legs. Otherwise, they are selected to fit the model of a sport horse, generally built uphill with a reasonably long neck and a long, moderately-sloped pelvis. Ideally, they stand between 16.0 and 17.2hh.

Oldenburg has, as part of its liberality, been very forward-thinking about unusually-colored warmbloods. Between the United States and Germany, no fewer than 8 tobiano pinto stallions are included in the roster.

Most Oldenburgers are black, brown, bay, chestnut, or grey. Even among warmbloods, most Oldenburgers have expressive, elastic gaits with a great deal of suspension. The quality of the walk, trot, or canter is highly individual, but their gaits are selected to be suitable for sport. All three gaits are straight when viewed from the front or back, and rhythmical at all times. The walk is diligent and open, the trot is active and elastic, and the canter is uphill and adjustable. Over fences, even most dressage-bred Oldenburgers show some talent. The jumper-bred individuals are capable with great technique.

Several breeding societies have lately come under scrutiny for breeding their horses too “hot”. This movement has come about as show jumping has exploded in popularity: sensitive, independent horses, in general, make better show jumpers. However, highly sensitive, independent horses are not suitable for most amateur riders, who make up the majority of the horse-buying market. This is when the importance of the performance test is clearest. The stallions and elite mares are scored on their interior qualities: temperament, character, constitution, and willingness to work, as well as rideability. Therefore, within the Oldenburg Verband, breeders have the tools to choose the route of high-performance horse, or one more suitable for the amateur rider. While a variety of temperaments exist within the population, finding one with the right elements is not difficult.
According to the verband rules, colts are to be named patrilineally, that is, the first letter of the son’s name is the same as the first letter of the sire’s name (Dream of Glory by Donnerhall). Fillies are named matrilineally (Fabina out of Fiesta). This practice makes it easy to trace female families.


Unless directly sired by a Thoroughbred, most Oldenburgers are too slow for eventing.

 All the same, in 2006 the Oldenburg Verband was #11 in the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses (WBFSH) ranking of studbooks with the greatest prevalence in international eventing. One of the earliest Oldenburg horses to reach the highest echelons of sport was Volturno, a black stallion born in 1968, member of the 1976 silver-medal German Olympic eventing team.

Especially with the implementation of the Oldenburg Jumper Studbook in 2001, Oldenburgers have been very successful in the sport of show jumping. Bred to be courageous, cautious, powerful, scopey, and correct over fences, the Oldenburg Verband was #7 in the WBFSH ranking of studbooks in show jumping. Thanks to the likes of 2006 World Cup champion Sandro Boy and Arko III, only the Westphalian, Hanoverian, Dutch Warmblood and jumping-focused Holsteiner, Selle Francais, and Belgian Warmblood had stronger showings in international sport.

The Oldenburg has become particularly successful in dressage, owing much of its continued success to sires like Donnerhall and now Sandro Hit, who top the rankings in the production of dressage horses. In 2006, Oldenburgers were the third most successful breed in the dressage ring, with only the Hanoverian and Dutch Warmblood breeds having higher WBFSH standings. Oldenburg horses who have competed in Dressage at the Olympics include Relevant, Gestion Bonfire, and Ranier.

Medical issues

Oldenburgers are selected to be sound, long-lived, and free of congenital disorders.

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Brandenburg brand

Brandenburg Breed

Country of origin



Horse breeding was first mentioned in documents in the Brandenburg March in the 15th century although at that point, there was not a uniform or standardized breed.

The development of the modern Brandenburger sport horse during the mid-20th century was achieved by utilizing Trakehners, Hanoveranians and English Thoroughbreds. The national and state stud of Neustadt/Dosse, which was founded by King Frederick Wilhelm II in 1788, had substantial influence on the development of the Brandenburger.

The Brandenburger is a well-balanced horse with a lively temperament, an easy to get along with character and little tendency to nervousness.
Brandenburg image

The Brandenburger brand
Following reunification with the former German Democratic Republic (East Germany), stallions from Hanoverian bloodlines and lines which came via Redefin gained a big influence on the Brandenburg breed. These included inter alia the:
•    Detektiv line (via Duell by Duellant, Dollarprinz by Dollart, Dispondeus by Direx)
•    Goldschaum xx line (via Gottland by Goldstein)
•    Adept line (via Abendwind by Adept, Akzento by Arzano)

The stallion Komet who came from Mecklenburg, and who miraculously escaped the enforced castration that was the rule for unapproved stallions in East Germany at that time, later became a great sire and produced a series of successful showjumping sires such as Kolibri by Kobold and Kogani I by Kobold I.

A comprehensive blood rejuvenation has taken place since 1990, through the newly-founded breeders’ association. Since then, mainly Holsteiners from the Ladykiller xx line and the Cor-de-la-Bryère-SF lines, but also stallions from Oldenburg have gained predominance.

In 1999, the breeding stock encompassed 1,927 registered broodmares and 76 sires. The Neustadt/Dosse state stud is the breeding centre. This is where the stallion approval takes place in October every year.


Brandenburgers are to be found in all spheres of riding and driving sports as well as in pleasure riding. Poetin, a Brandenburger mare, was a successful dressage horse and sold for a record amount at auction - 2.5 million Euros.

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Thoroughbred Breed

Thoughts About the Influence of Thoroughbred Stallions and Mares
in Germany’s Oldest Riding Horse Breed - READ ARTICLE

Distinguishing features

Tall, slim horse, most notably used for racing

Country of origin


Common nicknames


The Thoroughbred is a horse breed
best known for its use in horse racing.

Although the word “thoroughbred” is sometimes used to refer to any breed of purebred horse, it technically refers only to the Thoroughbred breed. Thoroughbreds are considered a “hot-blooded” horse, known for their agility, speed and spirit.
Thoroughbred image
The Thoroughbred as it is known today was first developed in 17th and 18th century England, when native mares were crossbred with imported Arabian stallions. All modern Thoroughbreds can trace their pedigrees to three stallions originally imported into England in the 1600vs and 1700s, and to 74 foundation mares of English and Oriental (Arabian or Barb) blood. During the 1700s and 1800s, the Thoroughbred breed spread throughout the world; they were imported into North America starting in 1730 and into Australia, Europe, Japan and South America during the 1800s. Millions of Thoroughbreds exist worldwide today, with over 118,000 foals registered each year worldwide.

Thoroughbreds are used mainly for racing, but are also bred for other riding disciplines, such as show jumping, combined training, dressage, polo, and fox hunting. They are also commonly cross-bred with other breeds to create new breeds or to improve existing ones, and have been influential in the creation of many important breeds, such as the Quarter Horse, the Standardbred, the Anglo-Arabian, and various Warmblood breeds.

Thoroughbred racehorses perform with maximum exertion, which has resulted in high rates of accidents and other health problems. Racing has been proven to have a higher fatality rate than all other legal human and animal sports. Also, Thoroughbreds are prone to other health complications, including bleeding from the lungs, low fertility, abnormally small hearts and a small hoof to body mass ratio. There are several theories for the reasons behind the prevalence of accidents and health problems in the Thoroughbred breed, and research continues into how to reduce the accident rate and treat those animals that are injured.


The Thoroughbred is a distinct breed of horse, though people sometimes refer to a purebred horse of any breed as a “thoroughbred”.

The term for any horse or other animal that is derived from a single breed line is “purebred”. While the term probably came into general use because the English Thoroughbred’s General Stud Book was one of the first breed registries created, in modern usage, horse breeders consider it incorrect to refer to any horse or other animal as a “thoroughbred” except for horses belonging to the Thoroughbred breed. Nonetheless, breeders of other species of purebred animals may use the two terms interchangeably, though the term “thoroughbred” is not used as often for describing purebred animals of other species. The term is a proper noun referring to this specific breed, although it is often not capitalized, especially in non-specialist publications, and outside the US; for example, the Australian Stud Book, the New York Times, and the BBC do not capitalize the word.


Beginnings in England

Early racing
Flat racing existed in England by at least 1174, when four mile races took place at Smithfield, in London. Racing continued at fairs and markets throughout the Middle Ages and into the reign of King James I of England. It was then that handicapping, a system of adding weight to attempt to equalize a horse’s chances of winning as well as improved training procedures, began to be used. During the reigns of Charles II, Queen Anne of Great Britain, King William III, and King George I the foundation of the Thoroughbred was laid. Under James’ grandson, Charles II, a keen racegoer and owner, and James’ great-granddaughter Queen Anne, royal support was given to racing and the breeding of race horses. With royal support, horse racing became popular with the public, and by 1727, a newspaper devoted to racing, the Racing Calendar, was founded. Devoted exclusively to the sport, it recorded race results and advertised upcoming meets.

Foundation stallions
All modern Thoroughbreds trace back to three stallions imported into England from the Middle East in the late 17th and early 18th centuries: the Byerley Turk (1680s), the Darley Arabian (1704), and the Godolphin Arabian (1729). Other stallions of oriental breeding were less influential, but still made noteworthy contributions to the breed. These included the Alcock Arabian, D’Arcy’s White Turk, Leedes Arabian, and Curwen’s Bay Barb.  Another was the Brownlow Turk, who, among other attributes, is thought to be largely responsible for the gray coat color in Thoroughbreds. The addition of Arabian bloodlines to the native English mares ultimately led to the creation of the General Stud Book (GSB) in 1791 and the practice of official registration of horses.

Each of the three major foundation sires was, coincidentally, the ancestor of a grandson or great-great-grandson who was the only male descendant to perpetuate each respective horse’s male line: Matchem was the only descendant of his grandsire, the Godolphin Arabian, to maintain a male line to the present; the Byerly Turk’s male line was preserved by Herod (or King Herod), a great-great-grandson; and the male line of the Darley Arabian owes its existence to great-great-grandson Eclipse, who was the dominant racehorse of his day and never defeated.

One genetic study indicates that 95% of all male Thoroughbreds trace their direct male line (via the Y chromosome) to the Darley Arabian. However, in modern Thoroughbred pedigrees, most horses have more crosses to the Godolphin Arabian (13.8%) than to the Darley Arabian (6.5%) when all lines of descent (maternal and paternal) are considered. Further, as a percentage of contributions to current Thoroughbred bloodlines, Curwen’s Bay Barb (4.2%) appears more often than the Byerly Turk (3.3%). The majority of modern Thoroughbreds alive today trace to a total of only 27 or 28 stallions from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Foundation mares
The mares used as foundation breeding stock came from a variety of breeds, some of which, such as the Irish Hobby, had developed in northern Europe prior to the 13th century. Other mares were of oriental breeding, including Barb, Turk and other bloodlines. The 19th century researcher Bruce Lowe identified 50 mare “families” in the Thoroughbred breed, later augmented by other researchers to 74. However, it is probable that fewer genetically unique mare lines existed than Lowe identified. Recent studies of the mtDNA of Thoroughbred mares indicate that some of the mare lines thought to be genetically distinct may actually have had a common ancestor; in 19 mare lines studied, the haplotypes revealed that they traced to only 15 unique foundation mares, suggesting either a common ancestor for foundation mares thought to be unrelated or recording errors in the GSB.

Later development in Britain
By the end of the 18th century, the English Classic races had been established. These are the St. Leger Stakes, founded in 1776, the Epsom Oaks, founded in 1779, and the Epsom Derby in 1780. Later, the 2,000 Guineas Stakes and the 1,000 Guineas Stakes were founded in 1809 and 1814. The 1,000 Guineas and the Oaks are restricted to fillies, but the others are open to racehorses of either sex aged three years. The distances of these races, ranging from 1 mi (1.6 km) to 1.75 mi (2.82 km), led to a change in breeding practices, as breeders concentrated on producing horses that could race at a younger age than in the past and that had more speed. In the early 18th century, the emphasis had been on longer races, up to 4 mi (6.4 km), that were run in multiple heats. The older style of race favored older horses, but with the change in distances, younger horses became preferred.

Selective breeding for speed and racing ability led to improvements in the size of horses and winning times by the middle of the 19th century. Bay Middleton, a winner of the Epsom Derby, stood over 16 hands high, a full hand higher than the Darley Arabian. Winning times had increased to such a degree that many felt further improvement by adding additional Arabian bloodlines was impossible. This was borne out in 1885, when a race was held between a Thoroughbred, Iambic, considered a mid-grade runner, and the best Arabian of the time, Asil. The race was over 3 mi (4,800 m), and although Iambic was handicapped by carrying 4.5 stone (29 kg) (63 lbs) more than Asil, he still managed to beat Asil by 20 lengths. An aspect of the modern British breeding establishment is that they breed not only for flat racing, but also for steeplechasing. Up until the end of the 19th century, Thoroughbreds were bred not only for racing but also as saddle horses.

Soon after the start of the 20th century, fears that the English races would be overrun with American-bred Thoroughbreds because of the closing of US racetracks in the early 1910s, led to the Jersey Act of 1913. It prohibited the registration of any horse in the General Stud Book (GSB) if they could not show that every ancestor traced to the GSB. This excluded most American-bred horses, because the 100-year gap between the founding of the GSB and the American Stud Book meant that most American-bred horses possessed at least one or two crosses to horses not registered in the GSB. The act was not repealed until 1949, after which a horse was only required to show that all his ancestors to the ninth generation were registered in a recognized Stud Book. Many felt that the Jersey Act hampered the development of the British Thoroughbred by preventing breeders in the United Kingdom from using new bloodlines developed outside of the British Isles.

In America
The first Thoroughbred horse in the American Colonies was Bulle Rock, imported in 1730 by Samuel Gist of Hanover County, Virginia. Maryland and Virginia were the centers of Colonial Thoroughbred breeding, along with South Carolina and New York. During the American Revolution importations of horses from England practically stopped but were restarted after the signing of a peace treaty. Two important stallions were imported around the time of the Revolution; Messenger in 1788 and Diomed before that. Messenger left little impact on the American Thoroughbred, but is considered a foundation sire of the Standardbred breed. Diomed, who won the Derby Stakes in 1780, had a significant impact on American Thoroughbred breeding, mainly through his son Sir Archy. John F. Wall, a racing historian, said that Sir Archy was the “first outstanding stallion we can claim as native American.” He was retired from the racetrack because of lack of opponents.

After the American Revolution, the center of Thoroughbred breeding and racing in the United States moved west. Kentucky and Tennessee became notable centers. Andrew Jackson, later President of the United States, was a breeder and racer of Thoroughbreds in Tennessee. Famous match races held in the early 19th century helped popularize horse racing in the United States. One took place in 1823, in Long Island, New York, between Sir Henry and American Eclipse. Another was a match race between Boston and Fashion in 1838 that featured bets of $20,000 from each side. The last major match races before the American Civil War were both between Lexington and Lecompte. The first was held in 1854 in New Orleans, Louisiana and was won by Lecompte. Lexington’s owner then challenged Lecompte’s owner to a rematch, held in 1855 in New Orleans and won by Lexington. Both of these horses were sons of Boston, a descendant of Sir Archy. Lexington went on to a career as a breeding stallion, and led the sires list of number of winners for sixteen years, fourteen of them in a row.

After the American Civil War, the emphasis in American racing changed from the older style of four-mile (6 km) races in which the horses ran in at least two heats. The new style of racing involved shorter races not run in heats, over distances from five furlongs up to 1.5 miles (2.4 km). This development meant a change in breeding practices, as well as the age that horses were raced, with younger horses and sprinters coming to the fore. It was also after the Civil War that the American Thoroughbred returned to England to race. Iroquois became the first American-bred winner of the Epsom Derby in 1881. The success of American-bred Thoroughbreds in England led to the Jersey Act in 1913, which limited the importation of American Thoroughbreds into England. After World War I, the breeders in America continued to emphasize speed and early racing age but also imported horses from England, and this trend continued past World War II. After World War II, Thoroughbred breeding remained centered in Kentucky, but California, New York, and Florida also emerged as important racing and breeding centers.

Thoroughbreds in the United States have historically been used not only for racing but also to improve other breeds. The early import, Messenger, was the foundation of the Standardbred, and Thoroughbred blood was also instrumental in the development of the American Quarter Horse. The foundation stallion of the Morgan breed is held by some to have been sired by a Thoroughbred.  Between World War I and World War II, the U.S. Army used Thoroughbred stallions as part of their Remount Service, which was designed to improve the stock of cavalry mounts.

In Europe
Thoroughbreds began to be imported to France in 1817 and 1818 with the importation of a number of stallions from England, but initially the sport of horse racing did not prosper in France. The first Jockey Club in France was not formed until 1833, and in 1834 the racing and regulation functions were split off to a new society, the Societe d’Encouragement pour l’Amelioration des Races de Chevaux en France, better known as the Jockey-Club de Paris.  The French Stud Book was founded at the same time by the government.  By 1876, French-bred Thoroughbreds were regularly winning races in England, and in that year a French breeder-owner earned the most money in England on the track.  World War I almost destroyed French breeding because of war damage and lack of races.  After the war, the premier French race, the Grand Prix, resumed and continues to this day. During World War II, French Thoroughbred breeding did not suffer as it had during the first World War, and thus was able to compete on an equal footing with other countries after the war.

Organized racing in Italy started in 1837, when race meets were established in Florence and Naples and a meet in Milan was founded in 1842. Modern flat racing came to Rome in 1868. Later importations, including the Derby Stakes winners Ellington (1856) and Melton (1885), came to Italy before the end of the 19th century. Modern Thoroughbred breeding in Italy is mostly associated with the breeding program of Federico Tesio, who started his breeding program in 1898. Tesio was the breeder of Nearco, one of the dominant sires of Thoroughbreds in the later part of the 20th century.

Other countries in Europe have Thoroughbred breeding programs, including Germany, Russia, Poland, and Hungary. However, none of these countries have made a large mark on the breeding of Thoroughbreds. 

In Australia and New Zealand
Horses arrived in Australia with the First Fleet in 1788 along with the earliest colonists. Although many horses of part-Thoroughbred blood were imported into Australia during the late 1700s, it is thought that the first pureblood Thoroughbred was a stallion named Northumberland who was imported from England in 1802 as a coach horse sire.  By 1810, the first formal race meets were organized in Sydney, and by 1825 the first mare
of proven Thoroughbred bloodlines arrived to join the Thoroughbred stallions already there. In 1825, the Sydney Turf Club, the first true racing club in Australia, was formed. Throughout the 1830s, the Australian colonies began to import Thoroughbreds, almost exclusively for racing purposes, and to improve the local stock. Each colony formed its own racing clubs and held its own races. Gradually, the individual clubs were integrated into one overarching organization, now known as the Australian Racing Board. Thoroughbreds from Australia were imported into New Zealand in the 1840s and 1850s, with the first direct importation from England occurring in 1862. 

In other areas
Thoroughbreds have been exported to many other areas of the world since the breed was created. Oriental horses were imported into South Africa from the late 1600s in order to improve the local stock through crossbreeding. Horse racing was established there in the late 1700s and early 1800s, and Thoroughbreds were imported in increasing numbers.  The first Thoroughbred stallions arrived in Argentina in 1853, but the first mares did not arrive until 1865. The Argentine Stud Book was first published in 1893. Thoroughbreds were imported into Japan from 1895, although it was not until after the World War II that Japan began a serious breeding and racing business involving Thoroughbreds.

About 37,000 Thoroughbred foals are registered each year in North America, with the largest numbers being registered in the states of Kentucky, Florida and California. Britain produces about 5,000 foals a year, and worldwide, there are more than 195,000 active broodmares, or females being used for breeding, and 118,000 newly registered foals in 2006 alone. The Thoroughbred industry is a large agribusiness, generating around $34 billion in revenue annually in the United States and providing about 470,000 jobs through a network of farms, training centers and race tracks.

Unlike a significant number of registered breeds today, a horse cannot be registered as a Thoroughbred (with The Jockey Club registry) unless conceived by “live cover”; that is, by the witnessed natural mating of a mare and a stallion. Artificial insemination (AI) and embryo transfer (ET), though commonly used and allowable in many other horse breed registries, cannot be used with Thoroughbreds. One reason is that a greater possibility of error exists in assigning parentage with AI, and although DNA and blood testing eliminate many of those concerns, AI still requires more detailed record keeping. The main reason, however, may be economic: a stallion has a limited number of mares who can be serviced by live cover. Thus, the practice prevents an oversupply of Thoroughbreds, though modern management still allows a stallion to live cover more mares in a season than once was thought possible. By allowing a stallion to cover only a couple hundred mares a year rather than the couple thousand possible with AI, it also preserves the high prices paid for horses of the finest or most popular lineages.

Concern exists that the closed stud book and tightly regulated population of the Thoroughbred is at risk of loss of genetic diversity because of the level of inadvertent inbreeding inevitable in such a small population. According to one study, 78% of alleles in the current population can be traced to 30 foundation animals, 27 of which are male. Ten foundation mares account for 72% of maternal (tail-female) lineages, and, as noted above, one stallion appears in 95% of tail male lineages. Thoroughbred pedigrees are generally traced through the maternal line, called the “distaff” line. The line that a horse comes from will often determine the price paid regardless of the actual talent or potential of the horse.


Prices on Thoroughbreds vary greatly, depending on age, pedigree, conformation, and other market factors. In 2007, Keeneland Sales, a United States based sales company, sold 9,124 horses at auction, with a total value of $814,401,000, which gives an average price of $89,259.

As a whole for the United States in 2007, The Jockey Club auction statistics indicate that the average weanling sold for $44,407, the average yearling sold for $55,300, average sale price for two-year-olds was $61,843, broodmares averaged $70,150, and horses over two and broodmare prospects sold for an average of $53,243.

For Europe, the July 2007 Tattersall’s Sale sold 593 horses at auction, with a total for the sale of 10,951,300 guineas, for an average of 18,468 guineas. Doncaster Bloodstock Sales, another British sales firm, in 2007 sold 2,248 horses for a total value of 43,033,881 guineas, making an average of 15,110 guineas per horse.
Averages, however, can be deceiving. For example, at the 2007 Fall Yearling sale at Keeneland, 3,799 young horses sold for a total of $385,018,600, for an average of $101,347 per horse. However, that average sales price reflected a variation that included at least 19 horses that sold for only $1,000 each and 34 that sold for over $1,000,000 apiece.

The value of a Thoroughbred may be influenced by the purse money it wins. In 2007, Thoroughbred racehorses earned a total of $1,217,854,602 in all placings, an average earnings per starter of $16,924. In addition, the track record of a race horse may influence its future value as a breeding animal. Stud fees for stallions that enter breeding can range from $2,500 to $300,000 per mare in the United States, and from ₤2000 pounds to £75,000 pounds or more in Britain.


Although the Thoroughbred is primarily bred for racing, the breed is also used for show jumping and combined training because of its athleticism, and many retired and retrained race horses become fine family riding horses, dressage horses, and youth show horses.

The larger horses are sought after for hunter/jumper and dressage competitions, whereas the smaller horses are in demand as polo ponies.

Horse racing
Race horses competing on turf (grass racetrack) in Germany. Most races in Europe are run on turf, while most races in the United States are run on dirt.

Thoroughbred horse race
Thoroughbred horses are primarily bred for racing under saddle at the gallop. Thoroughbreds are often known for being either distance runners or sprinters, and their conformation usually reflects what they have been bred to do. Sprinters are usually well muscled, while stayers, or distance runners, tend to be smaller and slimmer. The size of the horse is one consideration for buyers and trainers when choosing a potential racehorse. Although there have been famous racehorses of every height, from Man o’ War and Secretariat who both stood at 16.2 hands to Hyperion (15.1), the best racehorses are generally of average size. Larger horses mature more slowly and have more stress on their legs and feet, making them more predisposed to lameness. Smaller horses are considered by some to be at a disadvantage due to their shorter stride and a tendency of other horses to bump them, especially in the starting gate. Historically, Thoroughbreds have steadily increased in size: the average height of a Thoroughbred in 1700 was about 13.3 hands high. By 1876 this had increased to 15.3. The United States champion racer Forego stood 17 hands. Statistically, fewer than 50% of all race horses ever win a race, and less than 1% ever win a stakes race such as the Kentucky Derby or the Epsom Derby.

In 2007, there were 71,959 horses who started races in the United States, and the average Thoroughbred racehorse in the United States and Canada ran 6.33 times in that year. In Britain, the British Racing Authority states there were 8,556 horses in training for flat racing for 2007, and those horses started 60,081 times in 5,659 races.

Horses finished with a racing career that are not suitable for breeding purposes often become riding horses or other equine companions. A number of agencies exist to help make the transition from the racetrack to another career, or to help find retirement homes for ex-racehorses. 

Other disciplines

A Thoroughbred competing in eventing
In addition to racing, Thoroughbreds compete in eventing, show jumping and dressage at the highest levels of international competition, including the Olympics. They are also used as show hunters, steeplechasers, and in western riding speed events such as barrel racing. Mounted police divisions employ them in non-competitive work, and recreational riders also use them. Thoroughbreds are one of the most common breeds for use in polo in the United States. They are often seen in the fox hunting field as well.

Thoroughbreds are often crossed with horses of other breeds to create new breeds or improve existing ones. They have been influential on many modern breeds, including the American Quarter Horse, the Standardbred, and possibly the Morgan, a breed that went on to influence many of the gaited breeds in North America. Other common crosses with the Thoroughbred include crossbreeding with Arabian bloodlines to produce the Anglo-Arabian as well as with the Irish Draught to produce the Irish Sport Horse. Thoroughbreds are often crossed with various Warmblood breeds due to their refinement and performance capabilities.

Healthy Issues

Although Thoroughbreds are seen in the hunter-jumper world and in other disciplines, modern Thoroughbreds are primarily bred for speed, and racehorses have a very high rate of accidents as well as other health problems.

One tenth of all Thoroughbreds suffer orthopedic problems, including fractures. Current estimates indicate that there are 1.5 career-ending breakdowns for every 1,000 horses starting a race in the United States, an average of two horses per day. The State of California reported a particularly high rate of injury, 3.5 per 1000 starts, although it is interesting to note that several other countries do not suffer the same rate, with the United Kingdom having 0.9 injuries/1000 starts (1990-1999) and the courses in Victoria, Australia producing a rate of 0.44 injuries/1000 starts (1989-2004). Thoroughbreds also have other health concerns, including a majority of animals who are prone to bleeding from the lungs (Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage), 10% with low fertility, and 5% with abnormally small hearts. Thoroughbreds also tend to have smaller hooves relative to their body mass than other breeds, with thin soles and walls and a lack of cartilage mass, which contributes to foot soreness, the most common source of lameness in racehorses.

Selective breeding
One argument for the health issues involving Thoroughbreds suggests that inbreeding is the culprit. It has also been suggested that capability for speed is enhanced in an already swift animal by raising muscle mass, a form of selective breeding that has created animals designed to win horse races. Thus, according to one theory, the modern Thoroughbred travels faster than its skeletal structure can support. Veterinarian Robert Miller states that “We have selectively bred for speeds that the anatomy of the horse cannot always cope with.”

Poor breeding may be encouraged by the fact that many horses are sent to the breeding shed following an injury. If the injury is linked to a conformational fault, the fault is likely to be passed to the next generation. Additionally, some breeders will have a veterinarian perform straightening procedures on a horse with crooked legs. This can help increase the horse’s price at a sale and perhaps help the horse have a sounder racing career, but the genes for poor legs will still be passed on.

Excess stress
A high accident rate may also occur because Thoroughbreds, particularly in the United States, are first raced as 2-year-olds, well before they are completely mature. Though they may appear full-grown and are in superb muscular condition, their bones are not fully formed. However, catastrophic injury rates are higher in 4- and 5-year-olds than in 2- and 3-year-olds. Some believe that correct, slow training of a young horse (including foals) may actually be beneficial to the overall soundness of the animal. This is because, during the training process, microfractures occur in the leg followed by bone remodeling. If the remodeling is given sufficient time to heal, the bone becomes stronger. If proper remodeling occurs before hard training and racing begins, the horse will have a stronger musculoskeletal system and will have a decreased chance of injury.

Studies have shown that track surfaces, horseshoes with toe grabs, use of certain legal medications, and high-intensity racing schedules may also contribute to a high injury rate. One promising trend is the development of synthetic surfaces for racetracks, and one of the first tracks to install such a surface, Turfway Park in Florence, Kentucky, saw its rate of fatal breakdowns drop from 24 in 2004–05 to three in the year following Polytrack installation. The material is not perfected, and some areas report problems related to winter weather, but studies are continuing. 

Medical challenges
The level of treatment given to injured Thoroughbreds is often more intensive than for horses of lesser financial value but also controversial, due in part to the significant challenges in treating broken bones and other major leg injuries. Leg injuries that are not immediately fatal still may be life-threatening because a horse’s weight must be distributed evenly on all four legs to prevent circulatory problems, laminitis and other infections. If a horse loses the use of one leg temporarily, there is the risk that other legs will break down during the recovery period because they are carrying an abnormal weight load. While horses periodically lie down for brief periods of time, a horse cannot remain lying in the equivalent of a human’s “bed rest” because of the risk of developing sores and internal damage and congestion.

Whenever a racing accident severely injures a well-known horse, such as the major leg fractures that led to the euthanization of 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, or 2008 Kentucky Derby runner-up Eight Belles, animal rights groups have denounced the Thoroughbred racing industry.  On the other hand, advocates of racing argue that without horse racing, far less funding and incentives would be available for medical and biomechanical research on horses. Although horse racing is hazardous, veterinary science has advanced. Previously hopeless cases can now be treated, and earlier detection through advanced imaging techniques like scintigraphy can keep at-risk horses off the track.

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Thoughts about the influence of Thoroughbred

by Dr. Eberhard von Velsen
Translated by Helen K. Gibble
from the September/October 1981 issue of Trakehner Hefte.

The author, breed director of the Trakehner Verband, saw a need for this article when he was confronted with the question whether in the present situation of the Trakehner breed it would be desirable, from a breeder’s point of view, to use increased amounts of English Thoroughbred blood. The comments made in this article are concentrated on some aspects of the subject which seemed particularly important to the author. It was in no way possible to exhaustively discuss this theme here in its full breadth and with all its difficult problematic. In view of the fact that there are 40 xx stallions approved for use in the Trakehner breed (in addition to the Thoroughbred stallions owned by the state studs which are also recognized by the Trakehner Verband) and 142 xx mares registered in the Appendix to the Trakehner Stud Book, and their progeny, the horses discussed and depicted here are only of an exemplary nature, they do not constitute a comparative evaluation.

Dutch Warmblood image


The Stud Book of the Trakehner Verband is closed. The Trakehner breed is thus the only warmblood breed in the Federal Republic of Germany which has a closed population and breeds “pure”. This breeding method has the advantage that the traits and performance characteristics typical for the Trakehner can be fixed in a consolidated way. However, with the relatively small population of presently 4,500 registered broodmares and roughly 280 stallions, there does exist the danger that the “blood pool” in the breed becomes too small. Also, after 30 years of reconstruction from the smallest beginnings in the Federal Republic of Germany, it turns out that three stallions in particular have established large stallion lines which dominate the breed picture. These are the stallions Impuls, Pregel and Maharadscha, the latter mainly through his son Flaneur. The names of these stallions and their progeny are represented in the pedigrees of a large number of present-day Trakehner horses. Interbreeding of these horses gives rise to the thought that the breeding base should probably be broadened in the future. If such an opportunity does not exist, there arises the danger that certain inbreeding depressions which can also occur in horse breeding - e.g. loss of vitality and growth, susceptibility to disease, poor temperament and the like - will have to be accepted.

For reasons of keeping the breed pure, a goal that is specified in the breed standard and must be adhered to, stallions from other warmblood breeds cannot be used for outbreeding. “Only” English Thoroughbreds and Arabians continue to be available. (The breeding to such stallions is not considered a ‘’cross’’ in horse breeding, but is part of the “pure” breeding method.)

The English Thoroughbred stallion in particular, in addition to improving certain exterior traits, provides various interior values which will be discussed in detail later and which are desirable in breeding the high performance sport horses demanded by today’s market. Under these conditions, there arises the urgent question: Can the influence of the English Thoroughbred be increased in the Trakehner breed of today?

As in other breeding questions, a simple “yes” or “no” answer is impossible here. Important realizations and experiences which further illuminate the significance and effect of the use of Thoroughbreds may serve as “background material” here.

Extent and Effect of the Use of Thoroughbreds in the Warmblood Breeds
In 1937, Count von Lehndorff examined the “Blood Composition of Prussian Warmblood Breeding Stallions” and noted that all warmblood stallions in use as breeding stallions in the breeding areas of East Prussia, Hannover, Holstein, Oldenburg and Ostfriesland since 1819 trace back to a total of 74 foundation sires, 62 of which were English Thoroughbreds, 7 Arabians (or Anglo-Arabs) and only 2 were “halfbred stallions.” (Author’s note: Until the beginning of the 1920’s, the warmblood breeds were called “halfbreds.” In England, they are still called “halfbreds” today and in France they are identified as “demi sang.”)

This shows that Thoroughbreds have had a basic lasting significance in the development of the German warmblood breeds. The reason for crossing in Thoroughbred blood was that the Arabian as well as the English Thoroughbred have, in addition to certain exterior features, special performance characteristics, which distinguish them over all other horse breeds.

In the course of its more than one thousand years of breeding history and as a result of careful selection in breeding and a severe, natural culling by the desert climate of its homeland, the purebred Arabian has developed particular hardness, frugality, endurance, good health and hardiness and has the proverbial good-natured temperament. With respect to its conformation, the purebred Arabian is distinguished primarily by the well-balanced proportions of its body and impresses by the elegance of its appearance and the beauty of its typical, expressive head. Longevity, high fertility and rapid regeneration after stress are other valuable characteristics of this breed which, however, will not be discussed in detail here.

The English Thoroughbred breed, in which Arabian stallions are known to be the primary foundation sires, also has valuable constitutional characteristics. But since this heavily inbred breed is founded solely on the performance principle and has been selected for more than 250 years exclusively according to the results of strenuous racing tests, it surpasses its origins and all other horse breeds, especially in galloping aptitude and speed. Due to the continued, systematically applied performance selection, there exists a high probability in both these breeds that they possess the corresponding performance genes.

The warmblood breeds, however, due to the fact that in the course of their breed histories they have always been adapted to changing economic demands and have therefore been selected according to varying criteria, are not so well balanced in their performance traits. To obtain and further enhance performance capability and aptitude in a warmblood horse, which is also to have good riding horse characteristics, the selection process customary in warmblood breeds according to conformation, way of going, pedigree and constitution alone is not sufficient. Moreover, the accepted performance tests, although continuously developed and improved, meet the requirement of successful selection only conditionally. Therefore, in order to impart these performance characteristics to the warmblood horse, Thoroughbred blood has always been crossed into the warmblood breeds to a greater or lesser extent.

In addition, one hopes that the use of Thoroughbred blood will produce an improvement in certain exterior features of the warmblood horse. The author sees the advantages of using English Thoroughbred blood mainly in “better definition of frame” (specifically shoulder, withers, croup and angulation) and in an improvement of the walk and the canter as well as the entire muscular system. Suitable body size and a “rectangular format” in its body outline are other characteristic criteria of the English Thoroughbred breed which the warmblood breeder must evaluate in a positive sense.

Up to now, the effects of the Thoroughbred on the gene pool have been examined in only a few scientific papers. One of the first to attempt this was Brandes (1926) who tried to determine the influence of Thoroughbreds on body size, bone and performance in warmblood horses. With measurements and weighings of numerous stallions and mares at the studs of Trakehnen, Graditz and Altefeld as well as at the provincial studs of Gudwallen, Georgenburg and Rastenburg, he showed that in the East Prussian Warmblood breed the influx of Thoroughbred blood resulted in:
    1. reduction of bone
    2. reduction of depth of girth
    3. reduction of girth circumference
    4. an influence on size which
        a) in stallions was always reduced
        b) in mares was almost always reduced
    5. reduction of body weight

Very much later (1958), Breithaupt examined in a similar way the influence on the Hannoverian breed with respect to development of body and type effected by English Thoroughbred, Arabian and Trakehner stallions used in the state studs of Lower Saxony. For this purpose, he measured, in the district of State located in the most concentrated Hannoverian breeding area, the direct female progeny of these stallions (F1) and those which results from matings of direct Thoroughbred progeny with purebred Hannoverian partners (R1).

Similarly to Brandes, Breithaupt noted from his measuring results that the development of the body (size, width, bone) of the direct progeny of English Thoroughbreds was less on the average than that of purebred Hannoverian mares. The backcross generations (R1), however, in comparison to (F1), showed great similarity in body dimensions to the purebred mares.

The author’s own examination of the influence of Thoroughbreds were made in 1968 with Westphalian horses. Comparison measurements here revealed that direct female Thoroughbred progeny were, on the average, smaller, narrower, shorter and less rumpy than warmblood mares. Particularly the curvature of the ribs was shallower in the Thoroughbred daughters and the cannon bone was weaker. It was also found that, compared to the warmblood mares, the Thoroughbred progeny included a larger proportion of horses who were somewhat higher in the croup. And in all of the characteristics that were examined, except for body length, there was a greater range of variation in the Thoroughbred progeny than in the comparison mares. The result was taken as confirmation of the view that Thoroughbred stallions used in warmblood breeds pass themselves on very differently and must therefore be selected according to very strict criteria and must be used with prudence if the desired, general use riding horse is to result.

We thus find here a substantial coincidence in the effects of Thoroughbred influence on the various warmblood breeds although the respective examinations were made years apart.

The Use of Thoroughbreds in the Trakehner Breed
The history of the oldest and noblest German warmblood breed shows that the extent of the influx of Thoroughbred blood depended, and still depends, on the breeding goal, on the intended use of the horse at the particular time and also on the changing requirements of the market. Without a doubt, the Thoroughbred has played a greater role in the development of the breed of the East Prussian Warmblood Horse of Trakehner Origin than in any other warmblood breed.

Originally, the Arabian was a decisive part of the development of the breed. At the beginning of the 19th century, the English Thoroughbred gained greater influence. Determinative for the increased use of stallions of this breed in East Prussia was the fact that the English Thoroughbred - in contrast to the Arabian - was systematically performance tested in races, had better paces and already had the conformation which seemed more suitable to produce a noble performance horse with a larger frame.

Looking at the stallion inventory of the Main Stud Trakehnen, it is noteworthy how large a number of Thoroughbreds were used as breeding stallions in the East Prussian breed. The reason for this is that the necessary Thoroughbred blood was infused through the Main Stud. This was a breeding recipe that turned out to be a blessing for the entire East Prussian breeding industry. The Main Stud “filtered” the genetic material carrying the desired, but also undesirable, traits. By culling out inferior material and making valuable ‘’pre-selected’’ Thoroughbred sons available to the provincial breeders, the Main Stud exerted great, invaluable influence on the entire East Prussian horse breeding industry.

From 1800 to 1860, 68 English Thoroughbred stallions (18% of the total inventory) and 27 Arabian stallions (7%) stood at Trakehnen. In the time thereafter, from 1861-1925, there were 116 English Thoroughbreds (51%) and only 10 purebred Arabians (4.5%). In 1913, for example, the year of the greatest use of Thoroughbreds, 84% of all mares were covered by these stallions a measure which must be understood mainly as a result of the great need for lighter army remounts at that time. This heavy crossing in of English Thoroughbred stallions in particular, produced not only a large number of utility horses but also changed the Trakehner broodmare herd in a corresponding way. In 1800, for example, 15.5% of all broodmares were offspring of Arabian stallions. In 1920, there were only 0.3%. The corresponding number I of daughters of English Thoroughbred stallions was 0.8% in 1800, but in 1920 61% of the entire broodmare herd were Thoroughbred offspring!

The result of this excessive use of Thoroughbreds, which amounts to a displacement outcross, was a refined, noble, blood horse which in type and frame was hardly distinguishable from a Thoroughbred.

In spite of the use of English Thoroughbred stallions in such large numbers, according to Dr. Schilke, only seven of these have had greater significance in the Trakehner breed. The seven were: Snyders, Sahama, The Duke of Edinbourgh, Marsworth, Friponnier, Hector and Perfectionist.

To this list could be added, for the period after World War I, the stallions Paradox, chestnut, foaled 1919 in Trakehnen, and Lehnsherr, foaled 1927 in Weedern, who were used directly by East Prussian private breeders.

When, after World War I, there was no longer any demand for the lighter army remounts, the East Prussian horse, with its lack of substance and bone and its often high strung temperament, was only conditionally usable for intensified agricultural operations. What was needed was a warmblood horse of more caliber which, in addition to its suitability as a riding horse, was able to develop a correspondingly greater pulling power and covered more ground. The State Stud Director of that time, Siegfried Graf Lehndorff (1922-1931) tried to solve this difficult breeding task with the so-called “strengthening from within the breed” method. He preferred to use as strengthening stallions the progeny of one Thoroughbred stallion who had been found to be particularly suitable for warmblood horses; a breeding method which is quite interesting! As examples, we can mention here the stallions Tempelhüter, Jagdheld and Irrlehrer as sons and Pirat as grandson of Perfectionist xx (foaled 1899 by Persimmon xx out of Perfect Dream xx by Morion xx).

In 1930, due to the change in the breeding goal, only 12% of the mares were covered by English Thoroughbred and Arabian stallions. However, in 1938, when remounts were needed again, the number
rose to 30%.

In the reconstruction period after World War II, the breed recorded good successes with several Thoroughbred stallions who were used mainly on larger, particularly suitable breeding farms. This applies to the stallions Stern xx, Maigraf xx and more recently Swazi xx at the Gestüt Hunnesrück (Lower Saxony), Pindar xx at Panker (Holstein) and Nannhofen (Bavaria), Traumgeist xx and Kreuzritter xx at Rantzau (Holstein), Prince Rouge xx at Birkhausen (Rhineland-Palatinate) and Pasteur xx at Gestüt Vogelsanghof (Rhineland). The significance of Traumgeist xx, Prince Rouge xx and Stern xx, and of Pasteur xx and Swazi xx - the latter two still in use in the breed - will be illustrated by a brief characterization:

The brown Traumgeist xx, foaled 1953 at Gestüt Waldfried by Goody xx out of Traumkind xx by Aventin xx, was a stallion of great beauty and had the best riding horse points; he had a very well balanced, cadenced way of going in all phases and the best temperament. He must be called a first-class progenitor of the Trakehner breed. His 50 Stud Book registered daughters and seven valuable sons give testimony of the great genetic power of this Thoroughbred stallion who was equipped with the best riding horse traits. Among his daughters, the black mare Schwarze Schwalbe, dam, among others, of the stallions Schwalbenlied, stands out in particular. Traumgeist’s sons are Unikum (Sweden), Schwarm (Denmark), Schöngeist, Kampfgeist, Traumkönig, Hirtentraum, Lockruf I (Denmark) and Lockruf II. Hirtentraum was gelded because of infertility and is presently, under Uwe Sauer, one of the best dressage horses in the world. The most recent successes of this top dressage team are a first in Intermediaire II and two seconds in a Grand Prix and a Kur at the Hamburg Derby on June 13 and 14, 1981.

Prince Rouge xx by Rouge et Noir xx out of Carioca xx by Astrophel xx, foaled 1951 in France, stood mainly at the Trakehner Verband Stud Birkhausen from 1965 to 1976. He was an exceedingly noble, lean Thoroughbred stallion with much presence and a beautiful silhouette. His ground covering and agile way of going was especially noteworthy. He produced 46 Stud Book registered daughters and the sons Facetto, Hanseat, Prince Condé, Tschad and Trabant (Switzerland). His heritability with respect to riding horse traits, particularly jumping prowess, must be considered above average. Today, horses having Prince Rouge xx in their pedigrees are particularly in demand as jumpers.

The bay Stern xx by Berggeist xx out of Signoretta xx by Ebro xx, foaled 1949 and bred by Manon Donner, Berlin, was used in the breed from 1953 to 1961. The somewhat controversial stallion must be considered a strengthening stallion in the Trakehner breed. He left 30 mares registered in the Stud Book of the Trakehner Verband and eight certified sons: Gobelin, Sterndeuter, Coriolan (Argentina), Anteil, Ritus (Finland), Isländer (Denmark), Rivale (Belgian) and Trautmann (the latter standing as state breeding stallion in Celle, Hannover).

The brown Pasteur xx, foaled 1963 by Bürgermeister xx out of Praline xx by Ticino xx, bred by Prof. Watermann, Hamburg, and owned by Gustav Hoogen, Kervenheim, is a natural good mover and has the outline and suitability of a higher level dressage horse which he could be if he were trained further–being trained now to the M level. The stallion is used heavily every year by Trakehner and Rhineland breeders because he gives his progeny special rideability, good size, agile paces and the best temperament. At present, he has 11 daughters registered in the Trakehner Verband Stud Book; his sons Marlon, Kant, Mahagoni and Falkner are approved stallions. Because of their outstanding quality, MarIon, Mahagoni, the Patron son Mackensen and their first-class dam Maharani by Flaneur recently were declared champion of the family class at the Rhineland Show at Sonsbeck.

The brown Swazi xx, foaled 1974 (mare family of Schwarzgold), bred by Gestüt Schlenderhan and owned by the Trakehner Gesellschaft, Hamburg, this year has his second crop of foals on the ground at the Gestüt Hunnesruck (Lower Saxony). The stallion who, interestingly enough, has only Derby winners in the first four generations of his pedigree, has the largest possible frame, a strong foundation and great solidity. The latter refers also to temperament and character of this Thoroughbred stallion who is equipped with a very good walk, trot and canter. In view of the crop produced in 1980, this stallion must be considered a top progenitor among those recognized for the Trakehner breed in Lower Saxony.

Altogether, the 1980 Stallion Directory of the Trakehner Verband lists 40 English Thoroughbreds and 12 Arabians. Measured at the total number of approved breeding stallions (330), this amounts to 15.75%.

The percentage of English and Arabian blood today is low compared to earlier breeding periods. Moreover, only about 5% of all mares covered in 1980 were brought to these stallions.

Tables 1 and 2 serve to supplement these results. They are a compilation of the number of xx and ox stallions represented in the first five generations of the sires listed in the stallion books of the Trakehner Verband.

Table 1 shows, among others, that a total of 539 Trakehner stallions, 78 (14%) have no English Thoroughbred blood at all, 54 (10%) are direct descendants of a Thoroughbred, while the remaining stallions carry 15% to 20% Thoroughbred blood in their second through fifth generations. A comparison between the older and younger stallions indicates that the amount of English Thoroughbred blood has decreased in recent years.

Table 2 shows the corresponding values for the percentages of Arabian blood. It is not unexpected to note here that the Arabian blood is represented more in the earlier generations of the stallions (0.7% in the first generation, 18.7 % in the fifth generation). As a whole, the regressive tendency is also clearly discernible here.

The following conclusions can be drawn from an evaluation of the illustrated results:
The percentage of English and Arabian blood in the Trakehner breed is presently not very high. The small number of mares covered by Thoroughbred stallions emphasizes the possibility of increasing the Thoroughbred influence without problems. For reasons of body size and conformation, various exterior and interior features, the English Thoroughbred is preferred over the Arabian. Such a measure seems even more urgent, now that the Stud Book is closed, because only through the Thoroughbreds can the necessary broadening of the Trakehner pedigrees be accomplished and the desired improvement in performance be accelerated.

What is important for the use of a Thoroughbred stallion as progenitor in the warmblood breeds - particularly the Trakehner breed - is that he have size, frame and correct conformation, and most of all a calm, quiet temperament and the best of character. In today’s situation, a primary prerequisite must be that the Thoroughbred stallion himself move like a riding horse, that he have a smooth, cadenced way of going, also at the trot! Moreover, the stallion should demonstrate that he can be ridden as expected from a good, uncomplicated riding horse. It has been the author’s experience that certain characteristics of the horse, e.g. behavior toward humans or under the rider, seem to be more heritable than he had previously assumed.

Therefore, the interior qualities of the Thoroughbred stallion must be evaluated with greater care before he is used in the breed on the basis of his conformation and his own performance. Good performance on the racetrack, the amount of weight assigned to him, should not be the deciding factor in his selection.
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