The Irish Draft horse is a wonderfully
versatile horse, but the term draft can be confusing. This is because
although they were used on land, they are, in fact, generally lighter
than true draft horses. As with many breeds, there was an old type
and now a new type has emerged. The original Irish Draft was a smaller
animal, standing at approximately 15 to 15.3 hh. It also had
a more draft-like conformation.
These horses were probably descended
from the Great Horses of Flanders, which were imported after the
Anglo-Norman invasion of AD 1172. They had infusions of Andalusian
blood over the years, as well as that of the Connemara pony. At
the tend of the 19th century, Clydesdale blood was introduced to
the breed to improve its draft qualities, but this crossbreeding
caused some consternation within the Irish Draft world. The Clydesdale
was blamed for poor conformation below the knee and lack of stamina.
These traits have been largely bred out and infusions of Thoroughbred
blood have added greater refinement, better conformation of the
shoulder and greater endurance.
The Irish Draft of today is larger than
it was and more of a riding horse, losing some of its draft characteristics.
They are versatile horses and often appear to have a high degree
of common sense. In appearance they should have an intelligent head,
which sometimes has a roman nose on a well-set neck. The shoulders
should be powerful and the barrel and quarters muscular. The legs
should be clean, with a short cannon bone, and muscular second thigh
The Irish Draft combines quality, weight
and natural athleticism. They are widely used for crossbreeding
with Thoroughbreds to produce top-class competition horses. this
cross-breeding has led to a decline in the breeding of pure Draft
foals, although steps are being taken by the breeders to counteract
The Irish Draft Society in Ireland was
formed in 1976 and the English Irish Draft Horse Society in 1979.
Both societies are very active in promoting the Irish Draft and
there are various programs to grade top quality mares, stallions,
and foals. The Irish Draft is usually bay, chestnut, or gray, and
tends to stand between 15.3 and 17 hh.
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