About the Trakehner: the Breed well-represented at this years’ Olympics!
“This is the first Trakehner I’ve taken to the top of the sport,” Boyd Martin said. “Ten years ago when I came to America for the first time, I saw Darren Chiaccia ride Windfall II (in Kentucky) in the dressage and it was spectacular.”
“I’ll never forget that,” he added about the famous eventing Trakehner stallion. “And now 10 years later, I’m riding one of Windfall II’s babies.”
Did you know that since 1920, Trakehner horses representing various countries have participated in EVERY Olympic Games except for 1932 in Los Angeles?
Team USA Eventing at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 has the Trakehner breed well-represented: two of the four horses competing for the United States are Trakehners: Tsetserleg TSF and Vandiver!
Let’s take a look at this incredible breed of horse and analyze its genetics!
The Trakehner horse is suited for all Olympic disciplines. It is distinguished by its high intelli- gence, willingness to work, and exemplary floating trot. It has been bred for these purposes since 1732, when King Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia established a stud farm in Trakehner, East Prussia. Ever since, all breeding stock has been culled severely by selective breeding, and only the top of each year’s crop are permitted to continue the breed. This practice is continued by the American Trakehner Association (ATA) through annual mare and stallion inspections at various locations throughout the US and Canada.
Trakehners excel not only in dressage but also as eventers and jumpers. The breed has a long list of champions, and selectivity helps to maintain its standard of excellence. Taking a look at the average breed composition of the Trakehner provided by Etalon Diagnostics, there are a few notable features of the breed’s Ancestry.
Firstly, the breed has a very high percentage of Thoroughbred ancestry. This may help the Trakehner with athleticism and stamina, which makes for a good cross country mount. Coming in second, the average Trakehner’s DNA has 14.4% Carriage Horse ancestry, which is in common with breeds such as the French Trotter, Morgan, Saddlebred, Standardbred, and Tennessee Walking Horse. This Carriage Horse blood may help the Trakehner with the exemplary floating trot that the breed is known for.
Let’s also take a look at the breed’s average Heterozygosity. The Trakehner’s Heterozygosity score is at 29.22%. Heterozygosity is a measure of genetic diversity correlated to overall health or resilience due to the diverse nature of the genetic “tool kit”. An organism that has more diverse “tools” in their genetic tool kit is more likely to survive and prosper.
These horses were bred to be attractive enough to serve as an officer’s mount and concurrently tough enough to remain sound through the harsh conditions of war. This was unfortunately put to the test during World War II, when the breed was almost completely destroyed.
The Trakehner 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 Trakehners 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. Around one hundred horses made it to safety.
The incredible resilience of this breed, demonstrated over the years, has proven their level of genetic variability!
Learn more about Equine Ancestry & Composition Analysis testing at www.etalondx.com.