Like other horse breeds, both small and giant draft horses are purely for riding. For centuries, people used draft horses to pull carts and wagons for trading and agricultural purposes.
Thus, today, they are not only used to haul machines but also ride. They are strong mounts hence perfect for heavy riders.
We may consider many horse breeds to be draft horses since they have similar purposes. However, a horse that performs farm labor doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a draft.
So, what is the best draft horse for riding? This list will help you define good drafts for riding, from the smallest to the heaviest.
1. Small Draft Horses
Most people mistake ponies for drafts due to size. However, draft horses are usually more robust and more rigid than ponies, no matter how small it is.
In addition, some ponies have greater strength and size, like the Shetland Pony, but that doesn’t make these horses draft horses. Here are some popular draft breeds good for rides:
Fell Ponies are common in the Cumbrian fells in Northern England. They are tough and hardy and thus can adapt to most natures. Romans came and bred their horses with the ponies to increase their height.
In the 12th century, Fell Ponies were famous for carrying heavy loads to Belgium. Commons loads included metal ores, food, wools, and fleeces.
- For centuries, inhabitants in the British Isles have been rearing sheep. Therefore, they used Fell Ponies to shepherd the sheep and protect them from wolves.
- Fell Ponies participated in trotting races and were used as galloways in Cumberland.
- There are wild Fell Ponies in Cumbrian fells to keep them hardy.
- Cheeky but kind
- Strong and hardy
Gray, bay, brown, and black with few or no white patches
Fell Pony stands from 12.2 hands to 14 hands
Origin: Ireland and the United Kingdom
Gypsy Vanner horses are hardy, strong, and tough breeds common in the British Isles. Their first breeding was by travelers who wanted a solid breed to pull caravans.
It was an era where travelers preferred horses with solid colors to colored horses, which is the central aspect that has led to the color in the modern Gypsy Vanner horses.
Gypsy Vanner was famous in the 19th century and collapsed in the 20th century until the Traditional Gypsy Cob Association.
- The Gypsy Vanner horses have an ancient rule of traveling uphill and slopes without stopping. Since they used to carry heavy caravans, they couldn’t go on with the journey once they stopped.
- Gypsy Vanner horses were anciently called caravan horses. After advancing to pulling mobile houses, the name transformed to vanner horses which still stands today. They have other titles like Tinker horses, Gypsy horses, and Gypsy cobs.
- Training Gypsy Vanner is easier since they are intelligent. Therefore, they can learn anything. They are perfect for riding both adults and children and pulling carriages.
- Naturally loyal
- Gentle – any child can handle them
- Pinto coloring: British natives, call them Blagdon (for horses with solid colors and white bellies), skewbald (for horses with base colors other than black and white patches), and piebald (for horses with black coats and white patches).
Gypsy Vanner horses stand from 12.2 hands to 16 hands.
Haflinger horses are Austria natives that used to carry heavy loads in ancient Austria. Their surefootedness and strength came from breeding the Alpine Heavy Horse and the Arabian horses. They were produced in Hafling, Italy hence the name Haflinger.
Haflinger horses are most people’s favorites for being versatile and having perfect strides. They are also good in most disciplines.
- Haflinger and Avelignese have similar characteristics and origins but are different breeds.
- All Haflinger horses came from an Arabian stallion in South Tyrolean Alps.
- Gentle and easy going
- Willing to learn
- Responsive and patient hence perfect for both experienced and new riders.
- Chestnut coat
- Blond tail and mane
Haflinger horses stand between 13.2 hands to 15 hands.
2. Light Draft Breeds
Most people generalize light draft horses as riding horses only, which is not all. They are versatile, and some are behind the modification of other breeds. Let’s dig into some of them and see how good riders they are!
Doles originate from Oppland, west of Norway. They existed in the trade era between England and Norway, making similar appearances with Fell Ponies and Friesians.
Dole breeding’s purpose was to serve as packhorses, but they took part in farm labor since they became agile and massive.
- The Dole has various names like Dolahest, Norwegian Trotter, and Dole Gudbrandsdal.
- They were bred mainly for farm labor and packhorses hence becoming the minor cold blood in the world.
- National Dolehorse Association rose to promote the Dole breed when they almost vanished in World War II.
- Friendly and docile
- Intelligent and fast learners
Doles come in solid colors, but it’s not common to see gray, palomino, and chestnut.
The height of Doles ranges from 14.1 hands to 15.3 hands high.
Irish Draught horses existed in an era where one horse would do all the farm chores. Therefore, the horses had to be both fierce on the farm and calm around children.
Though popular, Irish Draught horses are rare because their owners sold them in horse slaughter during a famine in 1847. It was hard for the owners to secure both their food and the horses’.
- Irish Draughts can go on hard surfaces without complicating their health, thanks to their tough hooves.
- England uses them as police horses for their easy-going and hardworking characters.
- They are the descendants of Irish Hobby and Anglo-Norman horses.
- Their willingness to learn and easy-going characters make them favorite working and riding companions.
Irish Draught horses have all solid colors. However, the most common ones are gray, brown, bay, chestnut, and dun.
Irish Draught horse stand between 15.2 hands to 16.3 hands.
3. Heavy Draft Breeds
The purpose of heavy draft breeds portrays their name; pulling heavy machines! They are also commonly used for riding though some horses are kept only for pure riding.
However, they can’t participate in some horse disciplines like jumping since they are heavy and oversized. Here are some of the best giant draft horses for your riding companion:
Origin: United Kingdom
Shire horses came from the England Shires, though their origins are vanishing. There are various sources of origins passed on. They either trace to middle age horses or William The Conqueror’s horse.
Shire horses are good in both agriculture and riding actives. These horses can participate in both Western and English disciplines. They have also featured in agricultural shows where they have excelled in their competitions.
- Sampson, also called Mammoth, is the heaviest and tallest horse recorded, weighing more than 1.5 tonnes and 21 hands tall.
- In 1878, the Shire Horse Society established the first studbook.
- Rare Breeds Survival Trust included the Shire as one of the most endangered breeds. There are approximately 1500 or fewer of them in the world.
Shires are mellow and easy to go horses. They are also calm and hardworking.
Stallions can be gray, brown, bay, and black. There are also chestnut stallions common in the United States.
Shires stand from 15 to 19 hands.
Origin: United Kingdom
Clydesdale horses were mainly bred for draft purposes. Like the Shire horses, Clydesdales were produced with the natives for gentle but firm horses. They were made in the ancient Clydesdale in Scotland, hence the name Clydesdale.
- Though heavy and oversized, Clydesdale horses have high speeds. In addition, they have excelled in the World Clydesdale Championship to date.
- The horses are responsible for pulling the Budweiser wagon.
- They are among the world’s heaviest horses weighing approximately one tone and 18 hands high.
Clydesdales are gentle giants and children-friendly. They are also intelligent and are happy to be pleased.
Clydesdale horses come in all solid colors. The most common one is bay with some white patches.
They range from 16.2 hands to 18 hands tall.
Why Most Prefer Draft Horses
Most people prefer draft horses to other light horses for their exceptional characteristics, which include:
1. Kind Temperaments
Despite their vast build, draft horses are gentle, affectionate, willing, generous, and like to be pleased. Everyone, from adults to children, can easily handle them.
2. Comfortable Rides
Draft horses provide comfortable rides for their smooth jogs, trots, and walks. They also make long strides hence covering the ground evenly. In addition, their backs are well-shaped therefore forming relaxing and comfy seats when riding.
3. Beginners can Easily Ride Them.
Draft horse’s gentleness and docility allow new owners and first-time riders to handle them easily. Even if a beginner runs the horse inappropriately, they tolerate and forgive quickly. However, it can be better if it’s an old and trained horse.
Despite the body size, draft horses are perfect for fast rides. They have proved their proficiency in popular competitions. In addition, these horses are too versatile to stop at anything.
5. They are Not Spooky
Draft horses are too calm to get scared of anything. Thus, they don’t quickly get nervous. Most trainers use this aspect to train jumpy young horses. Since horses are good at interpreting emotions, they will learn to be calm if kept with a draft horse.
6. Good for Driving
Draft horses were mainly bred to give a hand in farm labor. That makes them also suitable for pulling the heavy wagons, in which modern draft horse pull almost twice their body weight. Today, they are not typical for farm labor, but you can turn them into one.
7. Cheaper than Light Horses
Draft and lighter horses have almost the same average price. Some breeders market drafts horses to try making them visible.
Draft horses are surefooted on compact grounds, meaning they have strong legs. Therefore, they make perfect mounts on trails. Additionally, they have hard hooves that make give comfortable rides even on rough surfaces.
Draft horses are large breeds best for pulling heavy machines. They also make fast and comfortable rides despite their stocky build. If you are a beginner or your first time owning a draft horse, you will have an easy time handling the gentlest kind.