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Oldenburg Horse Breed

The Oldenburg may perhaps be described as the most powerful of the German ridden breeds, particularly in comparison to, say, the Hanoverian. The breed was established in the 1600s almost solely by one man, Count Anton Gunther von Oldenburg, who was a notable dressage rider and from whom the breed derives its name, in the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg. Originally there were Friesian influences with Iberian and Barb bloodlines added. In subsequent centuries, other breeds were used to develop the Oldenburg, namely Thoroughbreds, Hanoverians, Cleveland Bay and the now disappeared Norfolk Roadster.  The use of these breeds during the nineteenth century was really intended to produce a large and strong coach horse hence why the Cleveland Bay and Norfolk Roadster were chosen. As carriages gave way to early motor cars, the breed adapted to life as a farm horse and then after the Second World War, breeders continued to lighten the stamp with more Thoroughbred blood to produce the modern riding horse we see today. The Oldenburg is still taller and more powerfully built than its other European counterparts such as the Dutch warmblood or the German Hanoverian but it has considerably changed from a century ago.


Because of its size and stamp, the Oldenburg is still popular as a driving horse but has also transferred well into the other equestrian disciplines of dressage and show jumping. The Oldenburg has a powerful, deep body and chest with strong limbs and feet which should be proportional to the size and weight of animal above it. The Oldenburg can be taller than other German warmbloods and may be described as an upstanding horse. The breed is usually a dark colour – bay, brown or black with little white if any, however it is possible to find it now in almost any colour. The Oldenburg’s gaits are expressive and elastic with elevation, perhaps an echo to its former days as a carriage horse.


Main image source : Curtesy of Perry Escorial via Flickr Creative Commons.


The Oldenburg breed is controlled by the Oldenburg Association and has one of the largest stud books in Germany. Like other modern warmblood breeds, there are licensing and inspection days and auctions held at Vechta which are used to also showcase youngstock and existing mature horses. The breed is recognisable by the distinctive brand of a circle or “O” with a crown about it plus the last two digits from the registration number of that particular animal. The Oldenburg is also set apart to some extent from other German breeds because of the use of privately owned stallions rather than mostly stallions from state controlled studs. There is therefore a greater diversity of bloodlines and pedigrees than in some other more closely regulated breeds.


There have been numerous and very famous Oldenburg sports horses; Donnerhall, hugely successful as a stallion and a dressage horse, Rubenstein, Sandro Hit, all legendary names and who could forget Anky van Grunsven’s Bonfire, Olympic gold medallist at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Bonfire perhaps epitomises more than any other horse, the huge power and presence of the Oldenburg. However, this is not to overlook Franke Sloothak with the striking mare San Patrignano Weihaiwej, the chestnut mare with the white face and two blue eyes, supremely successful as a show jumper and twice World Champion. So the Oldenburg has had and continues to have an enormous influence on the modern equestrian sports scene with some truly prolific stallions.


There are Oldenburg breeders in the UK and if you breed an Oldenburg then it is possible to have the horse registered in the German Stud book .A team of assessors from the Oldenburg Society in Germany will come to the UK two or three times a year and you can take your horse to them for assessment and inspection and possible inclusion into the German stud book. The Oldenburg Association has a specific contact for UK breeders who can provide information about registration and also dates when they will tour the UK.


The Oldenburg with its height and power is not for everyone, but as a riding horse and a sports horse, there is no doubt that it is bred to do the job. Height and movement suggest that it is not perhaps the ideal mount for a novice or amateur rider but the Oldenburg does have a calm and genuine temperament which actually makes the horse quite manageable for its size. As a sports horse and a performer, you should look no further.


Main image source : Curtesy of Perry Escorial via Flickr Creative Commons.

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