Girls Horse Club Blog

A Salute to the World’s Draft Horses

Published by • Aug 28th, 2007 • Category: Horse Work, Junior Blogger Archives

by Syd, age 12

Now I know what you’re thinking. Saluting the world’s draft horses, is she out of her mind? Well no, I’m not! The truth is a long time ago draft horses did a lot more for the world than riding horses! They were, are and always will be working horses! I know most of us prefer the lighter horses because we can ride them (some drafts are suitable for riding though) but just take a minute right now and thank the world’s draft horses for their service.

Why you ask? Well here’s why: Who do you think carried the knights of the middle ages into battle? The Belgian, Shire and Percheron! Who do you think plowed the fields of farmers before tractors? The Clydesdale, Shire, Belgian and Percheron! Who do you think pulls carriages to this day for people to ride in? The world’s draft horses!

Now I’m going to take a minute to tell you more about the draft breeds of the world!

This is breed is probably the spitting image of what people think of when they think of draft horses because they are the most famous of draft breeds. The Clydesdales were founded in Scotland in the 1700s. I think this is the only draft breed who wasn’t first developed for war horses. They were developed to be farm horses. The first Clydesdales were used to haul wagons and carts in the cities. These early Clydes were only about 16hh, around the height of an average riding horse today. Most Clydesdales today are from 16hh to 19hh. They come in dark bay, brown or black. The usually have white marking on their feathered legs and a large blaze.

percheron.gif These gorgeous draft horses started out in France during the medieval age. Like most other drafts they were originally bred as war horses. When those days ended, instead of going to work as farm horses like most other draft breeds, the Percheron was sent to pull stagecoaches and light coaches. But the Percheron had not escaped the farms. In the 1880’s thousands of Percherons were imported to America to work as farm horses. But that didn’t last too long. When tractors were invented their numbers started to dwindle, but started to grow again in the 1980’s. Percherons crossed with Thoroughbreds can be seen in riding shows and pure Percherons compete in hundreds of draft shows around the world. They are commonly seen in black and grey, but I’ve heard they come in other solid colors as well!

Yes, the Shire is the largest breed known to humans. Like the Percheron, the Shire was originally bred as a war horse. But unlike the Percheron, after the days of knights were over instead of pulling stagecoaches the Shire was sent to be a farm horse and even could be seen in the cities in England pulling beer wagons through the streets. Then in the 1880s the Shire was imported to America like other draft breeds to be used as a farm horse. Like the Percheron, with the invention of the engine its numbers began to dwindle, but was saved by people who loved the breed. They are now seen in draft shows and sometimes even on small farms. Today Shire’s can be 16.2hh to 19hh and come in black, brown, bay and grey. And although chestnut is rare, I’ve seen one before!

belgian.gif Aw the Belgian. Its story is so much like the Percheron’s and Shire’s — originally bred as war horses then used as farm horses. A long time later people carefully began to breed this horse, creating three breeds — the Ardennes, Brabant and Flemish. These breeds are no longer living today, but thanks to them the world now has Belgians! Belgians today are so magnificent; heavily muscled all over their body, huge neck going into an even huger head and a powerful body. Pulling is an old tradition with this breed that began as casual contests with neighboring farmers, but now its actually an official sport. The team that pulls the heaviest weight the farthest without stopping wins! Belgians can still be seen today working on farms!

So next time you take a carriage ride or see a draft horse, I want you to go up to them and either salute them or give them a HUGE hug and a treat! Tell them how important they were to the world all those centuries ago and still are today! Tell them about their magnificent ancestors who carried knights into battle or carried coaches for royalty. And so ends my salute to the worlds draft horses!

For more about the role of draft horses today, read Will Work for Food.

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  1. Wow this is cool! :D I never knew much about heavy horses, other than Shires, thank you Syd for telling us about them! I have about three A4 sheets of paper about Shires, one day I plan on turning it into a blog :)

  2. I LOVE draft horses!!!! Gypsy Vanners are gorgeous!!!! I want to hug them!!!!

  3. I [heart] draft horses! They’re so big and gentle, they remind me of big teddy bears, :)

  4. They are good horses.

  5. They are so cute!!! I love them!!!

  6. This is wonderful Syd, and welcome to the Jr. Blogger team! The information about the horses were very useful. I promise I would salute to them! And I’d love to read that blog of yours Animalsrkool!

  7. ya i’m really suprised now that i’m a junior blogger!!!!

  8. good job syd! congradulations!

  9. I would like to give a Salute to the 2 wonderful Belgians that pulled a wagon for our 4-H group in our county Fair.