The Oldenburger was bred in the 17th century as a coach horse that could also work in agriculture. Breeders adapted the horse to the needs of the market, out crossing to chosen breeds while operating selection policies to ensure uniformity of type. The 17th-century Oldenburger had a typical harness horse action, with high knee flexion, and shoulders that were upright enough to take a collar comfortably, but over the next 100 years it developed into a more elegant riding and carriage horse.
The Oldenburger originated in the provinces of Oldenburg and East Friesland, and was based on the old Friesian horses found in the region between the River Weser and the Netherlands Its development as a coach horse, however, was due largely to the sustained enthusiasm of the Count of Oldenburg, Anton Gunter von Oldenburg (1603-67). The Count imported Spanish and Neapolitan horses, which both had a background of Barb blood and were then acknowledged as the most significant and valuable to be found in Europe. He made great use of the grey stallion Kranich, a descendant of notable Spanish lines and probably similar to the Czechoslovakian Kladruber which was established at Kladrub in 1572.
COACH TO CARRIAGE HORSE
Over the next century, the Roman-nosed Oldenburger coach horse gave way to a more refined carriage horse, which at a pinch could go quite well under saddle. Although it was a better quality horse than its predecessors, it retained the size, depth, and early-maturing character of the breed (a very unusual feature in such a massively framed animal).
In the last part of the 18th century, together with the Spanish, Neapolitan, and Barb blood, half-bred English stallions were also introduced. These half-breds, which were influenced by the the early Thoroughbred blood strains and the influential trotting Norfolk Roadsters were introduced to create an important refining element. After this, there followed a sensible period of consolidation, and there was no further major influx of outside blood until the late 19th century.
Around 1897 English Thoroughbreds were used, at least one line tracing back to the unbeaten racehorse Eclipse, descendant of the Darley Arabian and founder of one of the four acknowledged Thoroughbred tail-male lines.
ENTER THE CLEVELAND BAY
As well as Thoroughbreds, considerable use ‘as also made of the genetically dominant Cleveland ,Bay Once influenced by spanish blood and unsurpassed as a coach horse of stamina and strength, the Cleveland Bay is a natural cross to the Thoroughbred and is also a powerful jumper under saddle. Some Hanoverian crosses were also used, but the most important influence was the Norman Horse.
After the First World War, the emphasis shifted back to the production of a strong, agricultural, utility horse. The need for this type of horse declined after the Second World War, and breeders followed the market demand for a useful, all-round riding horse, which was up to weight but had good paces and a greater freedom of action. This was the prototype for the modern Oldenburger, still a big, impressive horse, but more refined than its forebears.
THE OLDENBURGER TODAY
In the 1950s, when the emphasis was firmly on producing riding horses, a Norman stallion called Condor, who carried 70 per cent Thoroughbred blood, was used. At about the same time, the Thoroughbred Lupus was imported. Since then outcrosses have been predominantly Thoroughbred with some Hanoverian Used judiciously, this has helped to maintain the equable temperament for which the breed is noted. They have also combined to improve the shoulders and the riding action.
The modern Oldenburger stands between 1.68 m and 1.78 m (16.2-17.2 hh), and is usually brown, black, or bay. The powerful build is not conducive to speed, but careful selection, incorporating obligatory performance testing, has resulted in very correct paces. The action is straight, elastic, and rhythmical, although still a little high. However, this is no disadvantage in a dressage or jumping horse. The feet are uniformly good, whereas they are sometimes a failing in other European warmbloods.
In Australia they are rare but not unknown and are being used in breeding programmes by several warmblood breeders, notably Harris Park Warmbloods http://www.harrisparkwarmbloods.com.au/index.php