THE Oldenburg Horse

Te 400-Year Journey from Farm Horse to Sport Horse Extraordinaire

Compiled by Chris Hutchings

MOST sport horse enthusiasts are aware that the Oldenburg horse is a Warmblood that originated in Germany. What many may not know, though, is the long journey this celebrated horse took on its way from farm horse to war horse and carriage horse to today’s modern sport horse.

Early History

Te name, of course, is derived from the section of Germany where the horse originated: the city and region of “Oldenburg” in the state of Lower Saxony. Tis area is a heavy agricultural region in the far northwestern corner of Germany, not far from the North Sea. Known during the Middle Ages as Aldenburg, the city of Oldenburg began its rise to prominence during the 16th and 17th centuries, when the region was under the sway of Danish kings and other noblemen who had named themselves as “Counts of Oldenburg.” One such Count was Graf Johann XVI von Oldenburg (1540–1603), who was among the first to take a vested interest in organized horse breeding. At the time, the horses in this region of Germany were small and plain, but they were also strong and hardy, and were used primarily for working the heavy soil of the Friesian coast. Graf Johann’s focus was primarily on producing war horses, and to this end, he brought in high-class Frederiksborgers from Denmark, refined Turkish horses, and powerful Neapolitan and Andalusian stallions to use on his existing mare base. Te resulting offspring not only went on to further contribute to area breeding efforts, but they were also frequently given as gifts or rewards to important rulers, military leaders and other prominent individuals. Graf Johann’s successor, Graf Anton-Günther von Oldenburg (1583-1667), expanded the breeding focus to

include the production of elegant riding horses and carriage horses. A renowned horseman, Graf Anton-Günther founded a Royal Stud in 1612 on the grounds of an old monastery in the village of Rastede, just north of the city of Oldenburg. Stallions from Naples, Spain, Poland, England, Tartary, and Barbary in North Africa were imported to stand at the Royal Stud in Rastede, and were also made available to the Count’s tenants and other commoners in the area. Tis resulted in widespread improvement in the region’s breeding base, and within a short period of time, the 17th century Oldenburg horse was in great demand throughout Europe, a demand that extended even to the heights of European nobility. Te Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I, for instance, rode through Vienna on his wedding day astride a black Oldenburg stallion, while his wife followed in a splendid carriage pulled by eight dark bay Oldenburgs. It is widely believed that Graf Anton even saved the Oldenburg region from invasion during the 30 Years War by giving horses to threatening enemies to encourage them to “go elsewhere.” Te Oldenburg stallion Kranich was bred by Graf Anton-

Günther around 1640. Kranich’s Spanish-influenced type was clearly evident, and was the style of the time. Rigorous stallion inspections had begun in 1715 in Ostfrisia, and these spread to Oldenburg in 1755. Such inspections became mandatory under state regulation in 1820.

Te Oldenburg stallion Kranich was bred by Anton Günther in around 1640. Te influence of the Spanish bloodlines was the style of the time. Painting by Wilhelm de Saint-Simon, 1639.

Warmbloods Today 39

Oldenburg Horse Breeders’ Society Courtesy Wilhelm von Schreeb

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