What to Know About the Oldenburg Horse

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on January 20, 2023
5 min read

The regal Oldenburg, or Oldenburger, is a warmblood horse breed from northern Germany. Originally developed as a carriage horse, the modern Oldenburg excels at dressage, show jumping, and other sports. This breed is also known for its enthusiastic and kind temperament. Read on to discover what you need to know about this elite athlete, including Oldenburg horse facts, origins, and purposes. 

The German Oldenburger Verband regulates the breeding of this sport horse. The Verband’s main breeding goal is to produce an elegant, healthy, and top-performing athlete that can succeed in any sport. 

Oldenburg horse conformation. The ideal Oldenburg has a large-framed, well-proportioned body. It has a refined and elegant head, expressive eyes, and a slim throatlatch. The neck is long and sloping. The horse has long and prominent withers that hold the saddle in place. 

The Oldenburg has muscular shoulders and forelimbs with large, sturdy joints. Its back and croup are long, and the hindquarters are robust and have broad hocks. The front and hind pasterns are flexible, and the hooves are tough and well-formed. 

Mares and stallions should have distinctly gendered features. Horses with a coarse, ungainly appearance and no gendered traits are undesirable. 

Oldenburg horse movements. The Oldenburg is an athletic horse with ground-sweeping, rhythmic gaits. The horse propels itself forward with its powerful hindquarters and moves with elevated, supple steps. The front limbs swing freely and energetically at all gaits. The trot and canter have clear moments of suspension. 

When jumping, the Oldenburg shows bravery, intelligence, and skill. The horse approaches the jump with collected balance and pushes off from the ground quickly. As it jumps over the obstacle, the Oldenburg tucks in its front legs as close to the body as possible and arches its back. After landing, the horse keeps galloping without breaking its rhythm. 

Oldenburg horse colors. The most common Oldenburg colors are black, brown, or gray, but the breed comes in all colors. 

Oldenburg horse size. An adult Oldenburg should stand 63 to 67 inches (160 to 170 centimeters) at the withers. This breed weighs an average of 1,200 to 1,500 pounds (540 to 680 kilograms).

The preferred Oldenburg horse personality is calm, enthusiastic, and strong-nerved. The horse is easy to handle, friendly, and ready to tackle any sport its rider chooses. An Oldenburg with an anxious, mean, or hard-to-handle personality is considered undesirable. 

An Oldenburg stallion must pass rigorous tests before the German Verband approves it for breeding uses. The horse spends 100 days at a government-operated testing facility, where a rider evaluates its courage, disposition, eagerness to work, ridability, and other personality traits.

Germans living in the city of Oldenburg developed the Oldenburg horse in the 17th century. This breed originally served as an elegant carriage horse, and it has also been used as an agricultural, military, and riding horse. 

Graf Anton Gunther von Oldenburg played a significant role in the Oldenburg’s creation. He brought many stallions to Oldenburg, including Friesians and Barb, Neapolitan, and Spanish horses. Local commoners bred their mares to the foreign stallions, producing handsome, tall horses for carriage driving and riding. The Oldenburg soon became popular with European rulers. Horses from this breed carried Leopold I, the King of the Holy Roman Empire, and his wife on their wedding day. 

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Oldenburg breeders refined the horse by crossing them with English Thoroughbreds. The foals produced from these breedings were versatile, all-purpose riding horses. 

The 19th century was a defining era for the breed. In 1820, the German government created a state stallion licensing program, allowing only government-approved Oldenburg stallions to breed. In 1861, a breed registry was created, and in 1867, breed enthusiasts formed two Oldenburg breeding associations. These organizations later merged into the Verband der Züchter des Oldenburger Pferdes e.V, or the German Oldenburger Verband. 

Demand for carriage horses declined in the 20th century after the invention of the car. In the 1930s, Oldenburg breeders changed their goals and began producing adaptable saddle horses. They bred their horses with more Thoroughbreds, along with the best European sport breeds, including Hanoverians and Trakehners. 

The modern Oldenburg is an elite sport horse that regularly competes at national and international championships and the Olympic Games. Today, private owners breed most Oldenburgs under the supervision of the German Oldenburger Verband. The association allows breeders to use top bloodlines from many breeds instead of limiting breedings to purebred Oldenburgs.

All foals who qualify for a pedigree certificate from the breed association can receive the distinct Oldenburg brand on their left hip. This mark includes a crown, an “O” for Oldenburg, and a two-digit number taken from the horse’s registration number. 

This practice began in 1861 to help identify registered Oldenburgs.

The versatile Oldenburg excels in many sports, including: 

  • Dressage
  • Eventing
  • Show jumping
  • Driving
  • Pleasure riding 

Male Oldenburgs must pass a sports test in dressage, eventing, or jumping as part of the stallion licensing process.

The cost of an Oldenburg horse can vary widely, ranging from $6,000 to $100,000. Many top show-jumping riders buy talented Oldenburg horses with excellent jumping ability, and these desirable animals often sell for high prices. 

In 2018, the Oldenburg population included an estimated 7,000 mares and 300 stallions. Approximately 4,500 people breed Oldenburgs. Most breeders are German farmers who have small plots of land and only own two to four breeding mares. 

Small breeding populations of Oldenburgs exist in many countries, including Canada, France, Ireland, North America, and South Africa. In the U.S., the International Sporthorse Registry and Oldenburg Registry North America (ISR-Oldenburg NA) oversees Oldenburg breeding.

The Oldenburg requires daily food and water. A horse should eat around 1% to 2% of its body weight in grass or hay daily. If your Oldenburg requires grain, feed this concentrate in small, frequent meals. Also, your Oldenburg should have access to a comfortable shelter that provides cool shade in the summer and warmth in the winter. Remove manure daily to keep their living space clean. 

The noble Oldenburg horse is a superb sport horse that can perform at the highest levels of dressage and show jumping. The breed’s kind and stable nature also makes it a suitable riding horse for novice riders. An Oldenburg from the top bloodlines can fetch a high price, and this breed may be difficult to find outside of Germany. But if you’re passionate about horse sports and have access to this talented breed, an Oldenburg can be an excellent choice.