The early fame of the Oldenburg was that of a carriage horse, today its fame is that of a powerful and willing sport horse!

Originally bred from the Friesian horse over 300 years ago, the Oldenburg has evolved over the years to meet the historical needs of the times. Today, the breed is versatile, powerful and reliable. He displays an air of nobility with gives testament to its ancestors successful adaptation into a modern competitive sport horse.

Starting in the late 1500’s, with the Friesian as its foundation, the Oldenburg was used as a harness horse but was now also suitable for riding. The stock was further improved by private breeders to meet the demands of the coach lines and the cavalry in the second half of the 1800’s. However, with the introduction of the railway, the need for harness horses declined. The emphasis of the breed development turned to the concept of the “German Riding Horse”. The focus became to enhance their ground covering movement, with elegance and a kind spirited disposition.

The Oldenburg is a large well muscled warmblooded breed. This Breed was bred to be versatile and adaptable, and these characteristics remain. The retain some of the knee action of their harness horse ancestors, which makes them an outstanding sport horse.

The International Sporthorse Registry/ Oldenburg Registry of North America (ISR/OLD NA), founded in 1983, maintains and approves Oldenburg registration. They own the rights to the brand, an O with a crown above it, and the letters N and A (for North America) to the left and right. The ISR/OLD NA approve the same Stallion and Main Mare books. The ISR also accept mares without proof of pedigree if they score well during a vigorous evaluation for their Pre Mare book, and they also maintain their own Mare Book of a variety of mares which are approved for breeding. The ISR – Oldenburg Registry N.A. is North America’s largest independent Sport Horse Breeding Organization.

Scientific Classification


    Horse Breeds

    The Oldenburg are a light horse breed, and a large warmblood. Light horse breeds generally weigh under 1,500 pounds. They are typically used as riding horses for leisure and trail riding. Being agile and swift, many are also used on the racetrack, in the show ring, and for work on the ranch.
    Light horses are grouped in a couple of different ways, one being the continent or country where they originated from. They are also grouped according to training, classified as either a stock type, hunter type, saddle type, or ‘other’. A body type is generally attributed to each class, with the ‘other’ classification being a bit of an odd ball. It includes those that are color breeds or those that may fit a body type of one of the training classes, but not be used for that type of training. In some cases the ‘other’ types can also include those that may fit into more than one of the type groups.
    The horse class the Oldenburg Horse primarily fits into is the hunter-type class as it is well adapted to jumping, dressage and three-day event. It is also suitable for occasional driving.

    black Oldenburg horse
    Image Credit: Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH, Shutterstock

    Horse Backgrounds

    The Oldenburg breed’s conception began with Count Johann XVI von Oldenburg in the late 1500’s. He based the breed on the Friesian (primarily a harness horse) as a foundation for a lighter horse also suitable for riding. His successor, Count Anton Gunter von Oldenburg, refined the breed by infusing blood from lighter horses coming from such places as Spain, Turkey, Italy and England.
    The Oldenburg became very popular throughout Europe in the 1600 and 1700’s. This popularity led to indiscriminate breeding. In 1784 there were more than 16,000 horses in the area.The private breeders established a studbook in 1861 to register the breeding stock and improve the quality of the breed to meet the demands of the coach lines and the cavalry
    With the introduction of the railway, the need for harness horses declined. The breed was further developed to enhance the concept of the “German Riding Horse”. This concept called for elegance, ground covering movement, and a kind yet spirited disposition.


    The Oldenburg is a large warm-blooded breed averaging 16 to 18 hands high. They can be bay, brown, black, chestnut or grey, and white markings on the lower legs and face are common. They have a largish head, either straight or Roman nosed (convex) connected to a long and extremely strong neck.
    They should be well muscled through the shoulders, back and hindquarters, with a flat croup and a high set on tail. Legs are powerful with short, thick bone. They retain some of the knee action of their harness horse ancestors, making them an outstanding sport horse.

    Horse Care and Feeding

    They are fairly “easy keepers” for such a large breed, and tend to be relatively easy to handle. Even so, this is an energetic and athletic horse which needs plenty of exercise and attention. The Oldenburg’s natural curiosity can easily get him into trouble, so care must be taken to keep his living quarters safe and his environment interesting. They should be fed a minimum of 10 to 15 pounds of roughage per twice daily feeding, with grain and vitamin supplements.

    chestnut oldenburger mare horse
    Image Credit: Alexia Khruscheva, Shutterstock

    Horse Training and Activities

    The versatile and adaptable Oldenburg excels in many disciplines, but is chiefly prized as a jumper, dressage, or event horse. In recent years, it has made a return to being a harness horse, and has been seen in international combined driving events.

    Common Health Problems

    The Oldenburg is a hardy breed, and has a relatively low incidence of health issues. They do require attention to grooming to prevent equine fugal and bacterial infections such as rain rot, scratches, ringworm or thrush. They are also a very curious breed, and care must be taken to keep their environment free of any objects that they could injure themselves with.


    The Oldenburg is fairly available, prices typically range from $5,000 and up.



    Featured Image Credit: Alexia Khruscheva, Shutterstock