Draft horses are part of the largest horse in the world. These horses have incredible strength and size, which can be quite intimidating, especially for beginner riders. But luckily, these horses have a reputation for being gentle giants.
Draft horses are great for beginner riders because of their docile nature. They are good weight carriers, and they also have slow rhythmical movements, which makes it easier for beginner riders to learn on. Although these horses are not very athletic, they are still versatile and a good investment in any riding school.
Draft horses contain several cold-blooded breeds of horses. They are known for their size, strength, unique looks, and their overall gentle temperaments. I will go into more details about draft horses below. These horses have an interesting history, and the different breeds have their own unique characteristics.
These gentle giants are known all around the world, and they definitely deserve their fame.
A history draft horses
The term “draft” means to “pull” or “carry.” Draft horses are a group of different horse breeds that share the same characteristics; large, docile, patient, and strong. Draft horses were mainly bred and used as working farm horses to pull plows, carts, other farm work, and as war horses.
Draft horses were used because of their calm and patient temperament and their extraordinary strength. These horses were extremely valuable to farmers and soldiers in preindustrial times.
Although there are many variations and different breeds, Draft horses are made up of the following popular breeds:
- Belgium draft
- American cream
- Suffolk Punch
- Spotted draft
In the 1800s, large, well-muscled horses that could move at a decent pace was in demand. Draft horses were in demand to haul freight, cart passengers, work on the farms, and work on the railroad tracks. The growing economy still needed ways to transport goods from the train stations to the customers, thus increasing the demand for draft horses. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, thousands of draft horses were imported from Europe to America due to the growing demand.
This also gave rise to breed registries for draft horses. In the late 1900s the American draft horse registries evolved. Around this time, there were 40 000 Percherons registered.
American Cream Horse
American cream horses are the only draft horses that were indigenous to America. These horses were bred at the start of the 20th Century, and they were based on the Belgian stock horse. These horses are also a color breed – they are all light, creamy color with blond manes and tails. These horses stand around 16hh and weigh around 1500lbs (680kg). This is a rare, heritage breed with only around 300 of these horses in the US.
Percherons were imported from France. Percherons are the smaller draft type horses. Their main coloring is grey, and they reach a height of around 15.3hh. Other characteristics include their coloring; they are either black or grey and have dapples.
Up until the 1930s, Percherons were the most popular horses in the USA. This breed was largely influenced by the Arabian horse and the Andalusian horse. These horses were established as a breed in the time of the Medieval Crusade. They were bred for war due to their spirit, strength, adaptability, and soundness. They are still used for carriage driving, work, shows, and riding.
Shires were imported from England to the US. Their ancestry can be traced back to the Roman Conquest of England. Their coloring varies through all the solid colors. They have white socks on their legs, but it is usually frowned upon if the white extends to above the hock and knee. The horses are large, stocky, and have long legs as well as flashy movement.
These are some of the largest horses in the world. They reach heights of 19hh and weigh over 2200 lbs (997kg). The world’s largest horse was a Shire called Samson, standing at 21.2hh and weighed an extraordinary 3360lbs (1525kg).
Clydesdales were imported from Scotland. Clydesdales are easily recognized by their white blazes, four white socks, black manes and tails, and sheer size. The Budweiser Clydesdales are well known and a large tourist sighting. These horses are used in commercials and promotions. Their first appearance was made in 1933; they were given to the brewery’s CEO as a gift from his son.
The horses were hitched to the brewery’s carts to deliver a case of Budweiser to the former Governor, Alfred Smith. These horses then went on. A tour and delivered another case to President Roosevelt. In 1986, these horses were used as Advertisement at the Super Bowl, and it quickly became a tradition.
The Budweiser Clydesdales are now situated on Warm Springs Ranch in Missouri. This ranch was established in 2008 with their own breeding premises, veterinary lab, and 10 pastures with their own shelter for the horses. Another interesting fact, these horses’ shoes weigh around 5 pounds (2.2kg) and measure 20 inches (50.8cm) from end to end.
Belgian draft horses are the most popular and most used horse in the US. They were imported from Belgium …. These horses stand around 17-18hh and are broad and muscular. They weigh around 1800-2200lbs (816 – 997kg). They are mostly used as show hitches, used for pleasure riding, commercial riding, pulling carriages, and working farm horses. The most popular colors are chestnuts and sorrels with white manes and white socks.
Another breed from England, the Suffolk punch, was the only draft horse breed specifically bred for farm work. These horses are generally shorter and stockier compared to the other draft breeds. With only around 1300 Suffolk’s worldwide, this breed is also considered very rare. Their characteristics include their chestnut coloring with little to no white markings, standing between 16-17hh.
What disciplines do they do?
Although not very athletic, draft horses are still versatile. These horses have special shows dedicated to them; they also participate in logging, farming, or recreational riding. Their docile temperament makes them ideal gentle giants for anyone in the family. The heavy draft horses are mainly used for hauling, or carting, such as the Budweiser Clydesdales, a very popular tourist sighting. The lighter draft horses are ridden and used for leisure, shows, or lessons.
Draft horse shows are very popular around the world. Usually, these horses are shown in hand, carting, and pulling. Percheron shows are mostly in hand, and their mane is plaited with red ribbons. Driving shows feature carriage horses and resemble the harness shows to the lighter breeds. The pulling shows differ from driving because these shows are about the horse that can pull the most weight. The cart horses can work individually or in teams from 2 up to 8 horses on the hitch.
In hand classes or breed, classes are summarized as in-hand showing classes where the horses are judged based on their conformation. The breeds who mostly participate in these shows are Belgian, Percherons, Clydesdales, Shires, Suffolk Punch, American cream, and Spotted draft. The first three mentioned above are the more popular breeds for in-hand shows. There is a specific way of rolling and plaiting the mane and tails for the draft horses as well.
Draft horses are also used for crossbreeding to hot blooded horses such as thoroughbreds to create warmblood sports horses. They have also been used to cross with donkeys, resulting in Mammoth Jacks (Giant Mules) used in farm work and logging.
Why are draft horses used in riding schools?
Due to their superb temperament, these horses make great school horses for beginners. They are gentle in hand and under saddle. Although their size may be scary, they move slowly and feel secure under you; this gives beginners a confidence boost. These horses rarely spook and enjoy walking. They can carry many riders, ranging from beginner to intermediate, small children to bigger adults. These horses are great weight carriers and gentle enough for small kids.
These traits make them valuable school horses as well as trail horses. Their versatility also increases their value as they can do basic dressage, small jumps, and outrides. Although they can be schooled to do more as well, it just depends on what the riding school needs. There are so many different types of draft horses to choose from, from the gigantic shires to the smaller and more athletic crosses.
Draft horses are fascinating breeds with their rich history, various origins, and unique characteristics. These horses are always easy horses to own as they are easy doers, have good feet, and are adaptable. These horses were all bred to work, and along with their amazing temperaments, they are perfect for beginners to own, ride, and love.