The German coach horse is the name used to cover several breeds of coach horses bred in the northern German provinces. The most important breeds are Oldenburg, Hanoverian, and Trakehner. The Oldenburg is the heaviest of the German "warm bloods". The breed was named after the area in Germany from which it came and the man who bred it, Graf Anton Günther von Oldenburg (1603 - 1667). The breed was originally developed as a good strong carriage horse and over the years Spanish, Neapolitan, and Barb blood were added.
The first authentic accounts of the Oldenburg horse date from the 16th century in a catalogue of horses presented by Graf Johann XVI von Oldenburg (1573-1603), who was the first to introduce the breeding of pedigree horses in his estate. Up to that time the country people only bred the native races, which the successor of Graf Johann XVI, the celebrated Graf Anton Günther von Oldenburg exerted himself to improve. The native horse of that period, large, broad, with powerful bone and well set up, was greatly esteemed and frequently used for the improvement of other breeds. The horse-breeding industry attained, under the rule of Graf Anton Günther von Oldenburg, to universal expansion. He also tried to increase and enlarge the understanding of the breeders on the subjects of the breeding, care and treatment of the horses.2
This is a large, powerfully built horse that stands between 16.2 and 17.2hh. The legs are strong, but smooth and the carriage of the head, neck and tail is graceful. The Oldenburg has a good disposition and matures at an early age. It is usually bay, brown, or black. Oldenburgs are used today for show-jumping and dressage and three day event as well as occasional driving.
In the international dressage arena, Oldenburg horses have been a dominant breed. Bonfire, ridden by Anky van Grunsven, is one of the most famous dressage horses in history. In Europe, there have been dressage international superstars such as Bonfire, Donnerhall, Albano, and Don Schufro, but Oldenburg success can be found in the United States as well. The Olympic mount of Robert Dover, Rainier, was a key member of the bronze medal team at the 2000 Olympic Games, and more recently, Lisa Wilcox won a 2002 World Games team silver and a 2004 Olympic Games team bronze with the Oldenburg stallion Relevant.