This sleek, black horse measures around 15 hands, and is admired by both riders and the harness world for powerful bone structure and a fast, high-stepping trot. But Wise had reason to believe that he'd ridden at soaring heights: He was aboard a mighty draft horse.
Here, we'll cover what some have already discovered about the draft horse: behind its size, power, and muscle, lies a gentle giant” that can be a perfect trail mount and rock-solid equine friend. While lighter horse breeds were being developed throughout other parts of the world, a large, strong-boned animal endured the harsh conditions of north-central Europe.
War-waging societies of the early Medieval Period used these heavy horses as battle mounts. It's unclear as to when and where draft horses became the animal of choice for farmers and wagoners, but their role as powerful harness horses has inspired selective breeding for centuries.
Horses as tall as 18 hands high and weighing 2,000 pounds are common in such breeds as the Percheron and Shire. Breeders selected not only for size and strength, but perhaps more important, a quiet calm temperament, distinguishing draft -horse breeds as cold-blooded animals.
Since then, the breeds have recovered, yet the majority of the draft -horse industry is still dominated by their demand as harness horses. On the Trail Since the days on his grandfather's farm, Wise, now age 52, has spent a lifetime with a number of horse breeds, but he always comes back to his gentle giants.
Far from the image of giant hooves and trampling steps, Athanasios paints a picture of grace and elegance as she and her Percheron, Smoke, roam the farms and wooded trails of the Shenandoah Valley in West Virginia. When Linda Tweedier rode her first draft horse, a Gypsy Manner, she claimed she'd found the “My Little Pony” of her dreams.
The Gypsy Manner Horse Society is one of the smaller draft -horse registries, with approximately 1,500 registered members since it was established in 1996. Since then, several additional organizations have been founded in hopes of developing this unique horse that originated from the animal that carried gypsies across Europe.
“We're a parade unto ourselves,” says Tweedier, who now breeds her beloved horses at Gypsy Manner Ranch in both Redmond, Washington, and Ocala, Florida. “The demographics are people who've paid their dues with hot horses,” says Tweedier.
Commonly associated with the Anheuser-Busch team of noble bay giants, Clydesdale's are rarely appreciated for their abilities as riding horses. Over the years, Johansson has developed an affectionate bond with the 10 gentle giants at her farm.
Myth-Busting You may've ruled out a draft horse as trail mount because of common misconceptions associated with these breeds. “A healthy draft horse has just as much energy and is just as capable of cantering and galloping as any other breed,” says Beth Valentine, DVD, PhD, professor of anatomic pathology at Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine, a draft -horse owner, and co-author of Racehorses, an Owner's Manual (www.ruralheritage.com/bookstore).
Reality: It's true that the colossal size of some draft horses makes them majestic creatures. Myth #3: It's impossible to mount a draft horse unaided on the trail.
Athanasios compares products online; Johansson recommends finding a draft -horse store or sale. According to Dr. Valentine, draft horses need about three-quarters of the amount of feed per body weight than light breeds.
They have short backs and well-muscled hindquarters that make them ideally suited for pulling heavy loads. They were an integral part of early farming and industrial life, as well as instrumental during times of war.
They continue to be an important part of farming life today, as well as enjoyed for their skill in carriage driving and in sport such as pulling competition. There are many breeds of draft horse, but all share common characteristics of strength and calm temperament.
Probably the most widely known condition that affects Draft breeds is Equine Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (EPSM). In EPSM there is a buildup of glycogen and abnormal polysaccharide in the skeletal muscles.
Affected horses are not able to properly metabolize starches and sugars due to an abnormality of glycogen synthesis regulation that results in deposition and storage of metabolized carbohydrate in the muscles. The goal is to significantly reduce sugar and carbohydrate from the diet and replace them with fat.
To see a complete EPSM diet, please see Dr. Beth Valentine’s recommendations at http://www.ruralheritage.com/vet_clinic/epsmdiet.htm. In some cases, the disease progresses to the point that the hind feet can no longer be trimmed or shod.
Although some horses suffer from both EPSM and Shivers, there is no definitive connection between the two diseases. This disease has also recently been found in a few Gypsy Manners.
There are ongoing studies to determine what, if any, genetic components are involved in the development of the disease. Currently, researchers are investigating the genes that control elastin and vascular endothelial growth factor (Vega).
It is usually first noticed as a mild case of pastern dermatitis (“scratches”) that does not respond to traditional therapy. It is imperative to clip away the heavy feathers on the horse’s lower leg to be able to adequately examine the limb, as well as to eventually treat the area.
The thick feathers are suspected to play a role in the development of the disease. Over time, the lymphatic drainage system in the skin becomes inflamed and fibrosis and no longer functions properly.
This, in turn, leads to lymph edema, fibrosis, decreased perfusion, a compromised immune system, and secondary skin infections. The lower limbs become grossly enlarged with thickened skin folds and nodules that affect mobility.
Symptomatic therapy includes clipping the feathers, keeping the limbs clean and dry, treating any mild symptoms aggressively, controlling infections and using compression bandages. Functional Epidermal Bulls is a hereditary disease of Belgian Draft horses.
Lack of this protein causes the skin to be very fragile and to rub off and blister at pressure points. In addition, there is formation of ulcers in the mouth and on the tongue, and sloughing of the hooves.
Euthanasia if recommended as soon as a diagnosis is made due to the painful nature of this condition. There is a genetic test now to determine if a horse is a carrier of the mutated gene.
The gene is a recessive trait, so it takes one copy from the dam and one from the sire to produce an affected foal. It is a common misconception that draft breeds need more grain due to their large size.
Many owners feed based on the amount listed on the feedbag and are grossly overfeeding their horses. Since these horses are getting fed less than what the manufacturers recommend based on body weight, they are sometimes not getting the full amount of nutrients that they need.
It is important to know what medical concerns are specific to these breeds in order to care for them properly and to enjoy what they are willing to do for us. Information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for evaluation by an equine professional.
Most draft breeds are from cold weather regions in Europe and have furry feet, called feathers. Feathers keep the lower legs of draft horses warm but also lead to skin irritation if not properly maintained.
A draft horse is an animal bred for work, such as plowing, logging, or pulling heavy loads on sleds or carriages. While most draft horses are used for pulling equipment or wagons, some make good riding horses.
Draft horses were essential to humans until the advent of the industrial revolution and development of the internal combustible engine. Some smaller farms in the United States and Europe still use draft horses such as Amish and Mennonite farmers.
Draft breeds aren’t just desired for their enormous strength, but also their excellent temperament. Research has shown evidence of genetic influence on behavior that supports the hypothesis that breeds differ in character.
This is common knowledge for horse people, but scientists now understand why this phenomenon occurs. Although draft is not a breed, the kinds that make up the classification of draft horses have common personalities and temperaments.
Draft horses have a gentle and forgiving nature; they are also proud, alert, and have common sense. Keep in mind all horses are individuals, but generally, I’ve found most draft breeds to be happy, easy-going, eager when asked to work, and typically have a desire to please.
Though these large horses are all generally calm and cheerful, there are small differences in their temperaments. For example, Percheron's have more energy, and Clydesdale's are considered hotter than Belgians, but still calm in comparison to other smaller breeds.
Shires are descended from England’s “great horse,” which was ridden into battle and graced the tournament fields carrying knights in shining armor. The steed of the English knight was bred to mares from Holland in the late 1800s and produced the Shire breed.
They have thick coats, which are typically bay, brown, black, gray, or chestnut. A mature Clydesdale typically weighs between 1,800 to 2,200 pounds, and they stand up to 18 hands tall at their withers.
Clydesdale's have thick coats that are commonly bay, black, gray, and chestnut with or without roaming. The most common color scheme of a Clydesdale horse is bay with white markings on their face, feet, and legs.
Percheron's are best known for their willingness to work, hardiness, and ability to adapt to harsh climates. The Suffolk Punch is considered the oldest native horse breed of Great Britain.
The Suffolk is unique among draft breeds in that it was selectively bred solely for agricultural work. The number of Suffolk Punch horses greatly diminished in the late 1940s and came close extinction in the 1950s.
Today there are so few Suffolk horses that they are listed as “Critical” on the American Livestock Breeds Conservatory. Suffolk's horses have distinct coat color characteristics; all are shades of chestnut with no white markings.
Interesting fact: The horse breed got its name, “Suffolk Punch” because of their rounded appearance. Related articlesRelated Information Large draft horses display a higher than average rate of progressive swelling, hyperkeratosis, and fibrosis in their limbs.