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Use and characteristics of the Silesian
Silesians of the original, or old type, have height standards of between 15.2 (62 inches/158 cm) and 16.2 hands (66 inches/168 cm) for mares. Stallions are an inch (2.54 cm) taller. This type has a powerful chest and sturdy cannon bones. They are still excellent carriage horses, and riders also often buy a Silesian of the old type as a strong weight-carrying saddle horse. The new type is finer, with mares and stallions standing two inches (5 cm) taller than the old type. A recent Wroclaw University project investigating the breed helped to raise interest for breeders intending to sell a Silesian.
Origin and history of breeding Silesians
The Silesian horse is now known as the “old type” emerged late in the late 19th century. Oldenburg and East Friesian stallions were bred to local Silesian mares with the intention of producing a fast, strong horse that would be a good all-rounder. The breed programme was highly successful, and the bay, dark bay and black Silesian horses were soon very much in demand. The Silesian quickly established its reputation as one of the best medium weight harness horses in Europe. The horses combined elegance with strength and health, working hard and thriving without the need for high protein feed. The Silesian horse is designated a “warmblood”, which reflects the fact that it has “hot blood” (from Arabian, Barb and Turkoman type horses) as well as ancestry from the “cold blooded” draught horses of Europe. The breed was as popular with farmers and landowners as it was with the military, who used Silesian horses for their artillery. Their home region of Silesia has been one of the most contested areas of land in Europe and has suffered greatly in various European conflicts. The breed nearly disappeared after WWII but was saved by the importation of Oldenburg stallions and, later, Thoroughbreds. During the Communist era, breeding was under the control of state-run farms and studs, and Silesians were the mainstays of agricultural life. However, problems arose with maintaining the height of the horses when pony-sized animals like huculs and koniks were added to the mix. As mechanisation increased, Silesians were under threat again, but the emergence of the new riding type resulted in increased interest from countries beyond central and eastern Europe. This was greatly assisted by the fact that whatever the political circumstances, the breeders of Silesian horses are true enthusiasts with great knowledge and skill. They have stuck by their horses throughout immense social and cultural changes.
Silesian horses in equestrianism
From the 1970s onward, increasing interest in carriage driving as part of the cultural heritage of Poland helped to save the old type of Silesian. They are now very popular further north in Poland and do extremely well in international driving classes. The new type, which has emerged since the 1970s, is also proving very a good option for producing hunter-type horses.