Gentle Giants

Hello Everyone! Sorry about the mini hiatus from posting. My life has been really crazy lately (probably like most people coming back from spring break) and I am finally getting some free time to check my blog and write some posts. This week my posts will be pretty short but I will try to keep them as informative as possible.

For my blog this week I am going to stick to the theme of animals but shift my main focus towards one of the many loves of my life, draft horses. Draft horses go by many different names around the world including: draught horse, cary horse, work horse or heavy horse. Draft horses are a large horse breed that is bred to be a work animal doing tasks like plowing, planting and other farm labor. They can also be used for draft horse showing, logging, recreation/trail riding and other uses. There are three main breeds of draft horses: Percherons (from France), Belgians (from Belgium) and Clydesdales (from Scotland). However, there are many variations of each breed of draft horse including crossbreeds with quarter horses, thoroughbred and other draft horse breeds.

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Percheron

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Belgian

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Clydesdale (Yes, Budweiser uses this breed of draft horse in their commercials)

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Here are some of the uses for draft horses. From the upper left: farming/plowing, logging and recreational riding. 

Overall, all draft horses show the same characteristics of strength, patience, and an easy temperament which makes them perfect for farm work. Draft horses usually can be recognized by their height and muscular build. They tend to have their tails docked (cut short) so it does not get in the way of the farm equipment (not always the case). They can also have a good deal of “feathering” on their lower legs (mainly clydesdales have this, but it can be seen on the other breeds) and their mane and foretop is kept short (easier maintenance on the farm and safer).

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Here is an example of what most draft horse’s tails, manes and foretops (bangs) look like. 

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Here is an example of the “feathering” around a draft horses hooves. Unless it is a Clydesdale most draft horse owners keep the feathering short on the horse.

Draft horses tend to have upright shoulders and a broad, short back with powerful hindquarters (making them the best breed for pulling). They also have a heavier bone structure and can have a straight profile shaped nose ridge or “Roman Nose” (Convex profile) shaped nose ridge. They can range from approximately 16 to 19 hands high and can weigh between 1,400 to 2,00 pounds. The current record for “World’s Tallest Horse” goes to a Belgian named “Big Jake” who is 20.3 hands (so 6 feet and 11 inches tall) and weighs about 2,600 pounds.

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Here is an example of a “straight profile” shaped nose ridge.

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Here is an example of a “roman nosed” shaped nose ridge. 

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This is “Big Jake” the World’s Tallest Horse.

I have to admit that as much as I love draft horses there is a lot to do when it comes to caring for them. Just to feed them, care for them and shoe them can be costly, even if it is just for one horse. Surprisingly their metabolism is similar to ponies, which means that they have a lower “need” for their bodyweight compared to light horse breeds. However, due to their size they usually are fed a significant amount of feed and hay per day (depending on the time of year). Drafts are not used for excessive energy demands (such as racing and jumping) so they can simply survive on good quality grass and grain just fine. They usually eat about one round bale of hay a day or 2 to 3 square bales of hay. Shoeing can get costly depending on how many horses and the kind of shoes are being put on/taken off. Draft horses have two main types of shoes: Work shoes and show shoes. Work shoes are put on when not working or sowing and show shoes are put on during show season (they are also known as “scotch bottom” shoes). Overall, they should never go without having some sort of shoe on for too long because it can cause damage to the horses hooves or lead to other issues.

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Here is what a work shoe looks like and an example of what it looks like on a draft horse. The right picture also shows what will happen if a horse goes to long without a shoe on. Another thing that can happen is the hoof starts to curved upwards making it hard for the horse to walk. 

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Here is what a scotch bottom shoe looks like and what it looks like on the horses feet. There is a little more padding and weight to make the horses pick up their feet more and show “action” in their step. 

Originally the main use for draft horses was to do farm work or forms of pulling but that has slowly started to die out due to the advancement of farming equipment. My family still uses the horses to do some farm work and you can usually see them being used in the Amish communities and on farms in rural towns in Minnesota. However, their main use now is to be shown in draft horse competitions at county fairs, state fairs and expos. There are two main ways to “show” a draft horse: hitching them up to a wagon or a cart and halter showing them. There can also be farming competitions and fun games like “egg and spoon” or “bribe a horse but hitching them up and showing halter are the main attractions at the events.

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Here are some examples of different activities that can happen at a horse show. Starting from the upper left: 6 horse hitch class, chart class, halter showing, farming/pulling competition, “egg and spoon” riding game and “bribe a horse” relay game. ***The two games are done with a mixture of all horse and donkey/mule breeds.

Overall, draft horses have many different uses and characteristics that set them apart from the rest of the horse breeds. They are some of the kindest and most loving creatures I know and I feel so lucky to be around them whenever I can (basically when I’m not at school). Being able to grow up around these beautiful animals my whole life has taught me many lessons and has helped me become the person I am to this day. That might sound weird but being apart of the draft horse community is a very special thing, BUT I will get into that more in my next post. I will also be going into more detail about the horse showing process itself and talking about some experiences that have changes my life.

6a00d834531b2969e200e54f5d2b0e8833-800wi78036711 In the end, the main purpose of this post today was to help better explain what a draft horse is and how it is different from other horses. Hopefully you all learned something new or interesting about this type of horse. If anyone has any sort of question at all about draft horses do not be afraid to ask. Trust me, I have pretty much heard every kind of question that could be asked about draft horses so I will definitely have an answer for you. If you want more information on draft horses check out the links below, there is also a link to an article about the “World’s Tallest Horse”.

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Links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Draft_horse (wiki page on draft horses)

http://horses.animal-world.com/Draft-Horse-Breeds/information/draft-horses.php (website on draft horses)

http://animals.pawnation.com/fun-draft-horses-2500.html (fun facts about draft horses)

http://host.madison.com/news/local/world-s-tallest-horse-towering-over-midwest-horse-fair/article_37f535e9-6b1e-5517-9ea4-66ed5f046629.html (article on the “World’s Tallest Horse”)

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3 comments

  1. Rusty · May 21

    So much info in so few words. Tolotsy could learn a lot.

    Like

  2. courtneyschneider · March 21, 2015

    This post is awesome! My grandpa used to board horses when I was little and I absolutely loved visiting the farm and helping him care for the horses. Unfortunately, I never owned my own horse, as much as I would have loved to, but I have so much respect for those who care for them and train them for shows! It can be a demanding job, but so rewarding. Beautiful animals!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. cajoos29 · March 20, 2015

    I loved this post! I grew up around horses and I love them too! We never had a full draft horse, but one of ours, Shadowfax (yes, named after the horse from Lord of the Rings), was half. I’m not sure which breed because he was actually an accident. My dad owned his mother, and his dad, the draft horse, was the next door neighbor’s horse who jumped over the fence for a little fun with Rosie. We had him in our family for 25 years and he was the best horse, loved by everyone we competed against in NACMO (National Association of Competitive Mounted Orienteering). Shadow was a joy to be around; like you mentioned, he was very mild-tempered and you could tell he was very intelligent. Unfortunately, he got skin cancer (he was white, which makes horses more susceptible to it) a few years ago and we had to put him down when it metastasized to his lungs. I miss him all the time.

    I was also able to spend some time around other draft horses growing up because my dad was a farrier, and they were always my favorite to go see. I was used to normal-sized horses (actually my Korizon was an Arabian, so she was on the short, tiny side of normal), but the drafts were always so much more majestic and powerful. It’s cool that you got to grow up around that. I miss my horses everyday. Unfortunately, we had to move to town, and don’t have them anymore, but I plan to get some of my own someday. Treasure them while you can.

    Sorry that comment was so depressing, but I couldn’t help responding. Horses are the best!

    Liked by 1 person

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