It is hard to believe that the outstanding competitive sports horse known as the Trakehner almost became extinct at different times in its history. The existence of the breed is largely due to very dedicated people that risked their lives to save what horses they could.
The Trakehner breed was developed on the Trakehner stud, developed and started by King Frederick Wilhelm 1 in 1732 in what is now known as Poland. During the studs history invading armies made evacuation of the farm with the horses critical at four different times in the farm's history. The worst and most devastation evacuation occurred in World War ll with the invasion of the Russian army in the winter of 1944. Although there were almost 60,000 horses in the stud area, many owned by private individuals, there were only several thousand that could be moved, all harnessed to wagons or ridden and trekked across almost 1500 km or 900 miles through harsh winter conditions. There was little food and even less shelter, so most of the mares aborted or died along the route. The owners also died from malnutrition, sickness and injury along the evacuation route. It is estimated that less than a thousand of the Trakehners made it to safety in west Germany, and many of these were in such poor condition that they were unfit for breeding for several years.
The Trakehner had also had a very difficult beginning at the stud in Trakehnen in East Prussia. When first started by King Fredrick Wilhelm 1 the stud was a swampy area that had to be drained before the horses could be brought to the area. The managers of the stud collected approximately 1000 head of local horses, typically of the riding variety but some were also heavy horses. There was little effort by the stud managers to produce a competition horse, rather the effort was to produce larger, well boned horses that could be used as carriage horses for the royal family and court as well as to provide an economic base for the royal family. This practice continued until the death of King Frederick the Great, when the stud was taken over by the Prussian state and out of royal control. The Prussian military at that time needed strong, athletic and well conformed horses that had a good temperament and were strong enough to carry soldiers on long campaigns. The development of the roots of the Trakehner breed began in earnest. With the military driving the type of horse is was not long before the now familiar, well conformed and highly athletic Trakehner emerged from the breeding program.
When the demand for military horses decreased with the use of vehicles, the stud, now under the control of the German Trakehner society, began to infuse Thoroughbred and Arabian blood into the East Prussian line of horses to create the final evolution of the Trakehner into a competitive sport horse. There is little doubt about the security of the breed now as the competitive horse world regards the Trakehner as one of the most important breeds in all types of competitions.