First-Time Ownership and Draft Horses
 
 

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First-Time Ownership and Draft Horses

This is a discussion on First-Time Ownership and Draft Horses within the Draft Horses forums, part of the Horse Breeds category
  • Are draft horses generally heavy on the forehand
  • How to get an.older lazy draft horse back.into riding

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    02-01-2014, 10:06 PM
  #1
Foal
Post First-Time Ownership and Draft Horses

Hi Everyone!

I am seeing first-time horse ownership in my near future and I've recently become very interested in draft horses. So, I have a few questions.

1) I've read that draft horses cannot carry a lot of weight and that quarter horses are better suited to carrying more weight. I'm 6 feet tall; is 150-160 lbs too heavy for riding draft horses?

2) I would like to ride at least 4 days a week doing light work on the flat including jumping a two or three 2'3 hunter lines once a week. Is my horse guaranteed to develop foot and joint problems?

3) Do all draft horses require a lot of leg? Is it unusual to find a draft horse that moves off of the leg well and is energetic enough to canter and jump a small fence with impulsion? I've ridden only one draft horse, and this one hates doing anything other than standing still.

4) I would like to buy a 5 or 6 year old. Would it be a bad idea to buy a draft that has not been broke to ride yet? I'm an intermediate rider and I currently exercise ride two 5 year olds- one ottb, one warmblood/trakhener,- but I have never broken a horse to ride before.

5) Does anyone know where I can find detailed information about the correct conformation of Percherons? My logic is that good conformation will aid in using a draft as a riding horse and prevent foot and joint problems.

6) Where is the best place to buy a draft horse/percheron? From a breeder? Auction? Personal sale? Mennonites?

7) I've read that drafts horses are prone to over-heating due to their size. If I buy a black Percheron, or any draft for that matter, how can I keep my horse cool in very hot weather (we usually have at least one week of a heat wave every summer with temperatures reaching 30 celsius)? My horse would be on outdoor board year round.

There will definitely be more questions to come!


     
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    02-01-2014, 10:26 PM
  #2
Yearling
Google could be of a lot of good use here. But, I've never heard of drafts not being fine with weight bearing. I helped a woman who was from Germany and ran a dude ranch in the USA and she exclusively used the heavies for carrying those riders of more generous proportions.

So long as you follow through with regular proper hoof care and watch your horse for any kind of hoof/joint issues you should be fine. They're not more or less prone to these types of incidents than other horses/breed.

Drafts like any other horse can be sensitive to cues and ignore cues. Every horse I've ever met could feel a tiny fly on its bum. Some horses will react to a light touch others may be more likely to be able to tune it out but, in the end it comes down to how they were trained. Drafts can take a little more work to get the same natural sensitivity that comes from lighter breeds but, again it all comes down to the individual. I've known flighty drafts and I've known drafts that you could be on fire with a blow horn standing right in front of them and they wouldn't so much as flinch.

Just because you've ridden 5yo green horses does not mean you're ready to train a horse. Even the best get stumped and need help and working with a draft can be frustrating because often times they know how big they are and that they can get away with stuff because of that due to past experience. Letting a horse like this get away with that is like pushing a boulder up a hill. Though, if you were for some reason to choose this being monitored by a trustworthy/knowledgeable trainer or horse savvy friend would be wise.

Drafts can overheat, they seem to also grow thicker coats IME. They require monitoring and shade. There has been times in the summer that my grandfather (when he owned percherons) would set up large fans outside on extension cords and they would set up right in front of those.

I would ask around and search craigslist dreamhorse equine and thebestdrafthorse FB is also a good place if you know where to look.

Good luck! Drafts are awesome !
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    02-01-2014, 10:30 PM
  #3
Foal
Draft horses are certainly capable of jumping and being energetic off your leg! I followed a blog about a Percheron mare that really excelled at eventing ... she was super energetic and a really cool jumper. The blog doesn't exist anymore, unfortunately, but I might be able to dig up a few videos for you ...

I was always under the impression that drafts were good at carrying weight. Their legs tend to be thicker and stronger than lighter horses, which is why cobs and half drafts are used to carry heavier riders. In my limited experience with drafts, you'd be fine to ride one!

If you've never broken a horse before, a draft might be a better option, if only because they tend to be calmer and less reactive. Just always be aware of their strength, and the fact that if you let them know that they're stronger than you, they will use it against you every time. I would still go out looking for a broke horse, but if you do buy one and break one in yourself, go carefully and make sure you have someone with you that knows what they're doing. I'm an intermediate rider too and I wouldn't dare break in a horse just yet! ;)
     
    02-02-2014, 12:50 PM
  #4
Foal
Remember that a lot of drafts were developed from the war horses that the knights of old would ride. With all that armor, they weren't light by any means.

I volunteer at a Shire ranch, and have watched them become very "light" when they are all out playing.

Most of those Shires are dark bay or black. It gets very warm here, VERY warm. 115 F or about 46 C is not an unheard of temperature. Though that isn't a constant, but 100 F is. Most of them do fine in the heat. I wouldn't work them hard in it, but then, I don't want to be out in that either.

I think your best bet would be to go through a breeder, Mennonite or other. Look at several horses, try several horses. I wouldn't hesitate to buy an older unbroke draft. Most aren't done growing until they are 5 or 6.

You might want to consider a cross if you'd like to do jumping. (A personal fave at the moment, Thoroughbred/Percheron cross. My first draftie I have owned ) They tend to be a little lighter boned, making it easier for them to heave their bulk over the fences. Though I have seen plenty of full drafts jumping and doing it beautifully. And once again, at the Shire ranch, I have seen them "levitate" while playing.

Good luck in your search. I am sure you will find a perfect partner!

~Anita
     
    02-02-2014, 01:58 PM
  #5
Trained
Hi and welcome.

Your weight should not be a problem for a draft horse. Or most breeds actually.

There is never a guarantee that your horse won't develop foot and joint problems, but it is your responsibility as an owner to not work a horse beyond it's abilities. Proper care, training, riding, toning and attention are your preventative measures. Though if you like to jump, and might consider doing more, look carefully at the horses you consider for their general suitability for jumping.

Any 5 or 6 year old that has not yet been broken for riding might or might not be a handful. It depends what kind of other training and handling they have had. An unhandled 5 or 6 year old would probably be too much for you. But then again, it depends on your experience, demeanor and how much, if any support you will have from an experienced trainer. What are your expectations in the short and long term as well? It also greatly depends on each individual horse. There is no absolute answer to that one.

Good conformation of any breed helps to ensure good health. I don't know why you are focusing on the foot and joint problem area. Did someone tell you that drafts are more prone to this? If so, they are incorrect. Also, you need to look for correct conformation for what you expect to do with the horse. A pulling Perch will benefit from different characteristics than a riding/jumping Perch. If you google Percheron conformation and go to reputable sites, you'll get lots of information to get you started.

The best place to buy a horse is where you get the best horse for the price you can afford in a timeline you can work with. There is no "best" place. There are good and bad everywhere. It is up to you to research and document your purchase to protect yourself as best as possible. Pre-purchase vet exams, bring a knowledgeable person with you, ride the horse if possible, work with the horse a bit, ask around for other people that have purchased from that person/barn. Many people will tell you to stay away from Mennonites, but like everyone else - there are good and bad horse people in that community as well.

Drafts do not overheat because of their size. I don't know where you read that, but it is complete bologna. Does that mean that minis get cold because of their size? Nope.

Oh - forgot about the leg thing. The answer is no. It's all about the individual horse and training, not the breed.

Questions are great, but it seems to me you need more experience and thinking before you are ready. It's great that you are planning ahead to get all the info and guidance you can.

Edited to add: perhaps you would consider increasing your font size. As you can see it is quite a bit smaller than what other posters use. :)
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    02-02-2014, 02:08 PM
  #6
Foal
I didn't know percherons used to be warhorses! Wow that makes a lot of sense- I'm definitely not worried about weight now, so thank you. I used to ride a 17hh perch cross, and he was a handful- he knew how big and powerful he was, and was very pushy and headstrong both on the ground and under saddle. He was a competitive amateur jumper and I'm guessing as a result, developed ringbone, often going lame. So my experience- even with a cross- has lead me to be very worried about the potential damaging effects of jumping, even if I'm popping over a couple of tiny fences every once in awhile for fun. But then I see blogs like "The Jumping Percheron" and other videos of these big beauties performing well in a dressage ring or on a cross country course- are these just unusual cases of percherons that have good feet & legs? I don't know.

Thanks again for the reply!
     
    02-02-2014, 02:23 PM
  #7
Foal
Quote:
Originally Posted by NorthernMama    
Hi and welcome.

Your weight should not be a problem for a draft horse. Or most breeds actually.

There is never a guarantee that your horse won't develop foot and joint problems, but it is your responsibility as an owner to not work a horse beyond it's abilities. Proper care, training, riding, toning and attention are your preventative measures. Though if you like to jump, and might consider doing more, look carefully at the horses you consider for their general suitability for jumping.

Any 5 or 6 year old that has not yet been broken for riding might or might not be a handful. It depends what kind of other training and handling they have had. An unhandled 5 or 6 year old would probably be too much for you. But then again, it depends on your experience, demeanor and how much, if any support you will have from an experienced trainer. What are your expectations in the short and long term as well? It also greatly depends on each individual horse. There is no absolute answer to that one.

Good conformation of any breed helps to ensure good health. I don't know why you are focusing on the foot and joint problem area. Did someone tell you that drafts are more prone to this? If so, they are incorrect. Also, you need to look for correct conformation for what you expect to do with the horse. A pulling Perch will benefit from different characteristics than a riding/jumping Perch. If you google Percheron conformation and go to reputable sites, you'll get lots of information to get you started.

The best place to buy a horse is where you get the best horse for the price you can afford in a timeline you can work with. There is no "best" place. There are good and bad everywhere. It is up to you to research and document your purchase to protect yourself as best as possible. Pre-purchase vet exams, bring a knowledgeable person with you, ride the horse if possible, work with the horse a bit, ask around for other people that have purchased from that person/barn. Many people will tell you to stay away from Mennonites, but like everyone else - there are good and bad horse people in that community as well.

Drafts do not overheat because of their size. I don't know where you read that, but it is complete bologna. Does that mean that minis get cold because of their size? Nope.

Oh - forgot about the leg thing. The answer is no. It's all about the individual horse and training, not the breed.

Questions are great, but it seems to me you need more experience and thinking before you are ready. It's great that you are planning ahead to get all the info and guidance you can.

Edited to add: perhaps you would consider increasing your font size. As you can see it is quite a bit smaller than what other posters use. :)
I've ordered a few books about drafts online and have been scouring the internet for the past week in my free time. I'm finding a lot of useful information, a lot of redundant information, and a lot of erroneous information. I won't be buying anything for at least a year from now, but I want to educate myself early on.

I used to ride a perch X who had ringbone, but he was also a high level competitive jumper. I imagine hopping over a few fences now and then would be okay, but I've read A LOT of blog posts and there seems to be some consensus that drafts should not be jumped at all, and yet I see videos and evidence to the contrary. It's difficult, as a newbie to drafts, to distinguish between good information and bad information.

Are breeders more likely to sell horses with good conformation, given the bloodlines?

I agree, I would never get an unhandled horse. I've worked with a foal once, and I found out very quickly just how much I don't want to do that again. I would like to buy something that has been at least handled and I wouldn't mind it being taught to drive. I am confident that I can train a horse to canter, bend, round, etc. because I've done it all before on newbies, but I'm just not sure I can saddle break a horse. I've read that drafts are generally easier to break than your hotblooded ottbs for example, but I can't be sure. What I do know for sure is that I would never ever feel comfortable breaking an ottb to ride by myself. Of course, I'd have my coach help, and I would definitely do my homework. I feel safer around gentle giants than I do around hotblooded crazy ottbs.

Thank you for your response and yes, I'll change my font!!
     
    02-02-2014, 03:25 PM
  #8
Started
You live in the bosom of Canadian Percherons. 2 of the most influential Percheron stallions in North America in the past 30 years, Highview Dragano and Blackhome Duke, came from or stood on one Ontario farm, Blackhome Farm. Their influence created a region rich with great breeding programs with a depth of pedigree like no where else. Big name players in Ontario today include, RyanDay (children of the Blacks), Gencal, Kirby, First Start, Windy Hill and Walkerbrae to name a few that are currently influencing the US market. They are all hitch breeders because that's where the $$ is these days. There culls might be too small, too much white, wrong color, not hitchy enough... but you might find a great prospect. Some breeders might be doing some cross breeding on their maiden mares as well.

Every farm will do on site sales but the vast majority sell their horses at auction. If they are over 2 they will be broke to drive unless it's a broodmare. A horse that is broke to drive has a good foundation and typically is fairly easy to get going undersaddle.
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    02-02-2014, 04:06 PM
  #9
Weanling
Nope! You are not too heavy at all! 150-160lbs is not that heavy for an adult rider, especially one of your height. The average man weighs at least that much! It is true that some drafts are not quite as well suited for carrying weight on their backs as some riding horses, but it has more to do with their conformation than their size. There are plenty of Quarter Horses out there that are poor candidates for weight bearing.

If you are concerned about weight bearing and you plan to jump, you should look for horses that have good conformation through the legs. The horse should have short pasterns and canon bones that are large in circumference. The cannon bones should be shorter than the forearms. Basically, you want a horse with a good solid leg that is proportionate to the rest of their body. Short pasterns and canon bones mean that the connective tissue in the lower leg that is most prone to injury is shorter and therefore less likely to be injured. You want a horse with a pastern angle that matches the angle of their shoulder. Pasterns that are too upright do not absorb enough shock and pasterns that are too sloped will allow the fetlock to hit the ground when the horse is galloping or landing off a jump. Pasterns that are too sloped can also lead to greater risk of injury to the tendons and ligaments that support the pastern. You also want a horse with a good hoof. A broad hoof with a solid hoof wall will help absorb some shock. Broader hooves and joint surfaces have a larger area for weight distribution and are better at keeping a horse sound through pulling, jumping, running, etc. This is why many warmblood breeders and registries like a horse with good "bone". You also want to avoid horses with long backs if you are concerned about weight bearing. Short, strong backs can carry more weight.

Here is a good resource for conformation: Drafts with Dots: February 2012
If you scroll down you will see many good explanations on conformation and good pictures to help you understand.

There is no reason any well built horse that is properly conditioned and gradually worked up the levels in jumping should sustain injury. People with little draft experience will tell you that drafts are just too big and if ridden or worked hard they will injure and be lame. Drafts are hardy animals that are worked hard in a rural setting for their entire adult lives and if treated properly, they can be sound and usable well into their twenties or even thirties, just like any other type of horse. Draft horses should have thick legs and broad hooves designed to carry their own weight. If so, there is no reason their own weight should be the death of them.

With that said, you have to keep in mind that draft horses are BIG. This doesn't mean they can't jump. It just means they will not be as light on their feet or maneuverable around courses as a lighter horses. Draft horses tend to be heavier on the forehand and you must work hard to get them off the forehand and using their haunch to get over your fences, and many draft horses will not pick up their feet neatly over a fence which is not good for hunters. They are just not as graceful and refined as other horses. This will show in your riding and performance, and you will have to work hard to overcome it. Hunter judges are also quite snobby at times so you may find yourself not placing no matter how hard you work or how well you show.

It is not true at all that all draft horses are lazy and have no impulsion. Many of them are very sluggish and do fit the "ho hum" draft personalty stereotype but this is certainly not true of all of them. Draft horses can be quite flashy and forward depending on the individual, and even a lazy draft can be trained to be lighter off the leg and move out when asked.

As a first horse, I would not recommend an unbroke or super young horse, of any breed. You may have some experience working with younger horses but it's a big commitment and learning curve when you finally own your first horse, and you should look for a horse that is at the right level for you. You want a horse that is not too much of a challenge for you, and doesn't present any obviously new training tasks for you to work through, but also shows potential in your desired discipline and presents enough of a challenge to keep you interested and learning for years to come. There's a delicate balance there. If you end up with too much of a challenge you will only become overwhelmed and frustrated and either have to sink a lot of money into professional training or sell the horse for another. Definitely invest in a horse that is mostly broke that you can work with and finish, and go for a greener horse next time you're horse shopping.

The best place to buy draft horses is anywhere you would buy any other horse. Look for horses for sale in your area on sites like dreamhorse.com, petfinder.com and equine.com. Since you're looking for a draft draftsforsale.com would be a good place to look. Always be wary of sellers that seem uneducated or dishonest, and always have any potential new horse evaluated by an experience friend or instructor and a veterinarian before making a final decision.

Too keep drafts cool in hot weather, keep their manes either trimmed or braided and excess body hair clipped. Provide them with shade and plenty of fresh water. Make sure you don't overfeed your draft or let them get too overweight, as this extra fat can hinder their ability to cool down. Many people will tell you that drafts eat A LOT, but this is not always true. Many of them are easy keepers and their weight should be monitored closely, just like any other type of horse.

Overall, for your riding goals, I would recommend a draft cross. You can have most of the qualities you love about a full draft in a slightly more refined and athletic package. I own a Shire/TB cross and she is wonderful! She is 17 hands and chunkier than a TB but lighter than a pure Shire. She's well built and well tempered. She is lazy at times but can be convinced to move out and moves with a more graceful, flat-kneed action like a TB. She has lovely form over fences and is praised by both of my instructors.
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    02-02-2014, 06:56 PM
  #10
Foal
Quote:
Originally Posted by kiltsrhott    
Nope! You are not too heavy at all! 150-160lbs is not that heavy for an adult rider, especially one of your height. The average man weighs at least that much! It is true that some drafts are not quite as well suited for carrying weight on their backs as some riding horses, but it has more to do with their conformation than their size. There are plenty of Quarter Horses out there that are poor candidates for weight bearing.

If you are concerned about weight bearing and you plan to jump, you should look for horses that have good conformation through the legs. The horse should have short pasterns and canon bones that are large in circumference. The cannon bones should be shorter than the forearms. Basically, you want a horse with a good solid leg that is proportionate to the rest of their body. Short pasterns and canon bones mean that the connective tissue in the lower leg that is most prone to injury is shorter and therefore less likely to be injured. You want a horse with a pastern angle that matches the angle of their shoulder. Pasterns that are too upright do not absorb enough shock and pasterns that are too sloped will allow the fetlock to hit the ground when the horse is galloping or landing off a jump. Pasterns that are too sloped can also lead to greater risk of injury to the tendons and ligaments that support the pastern. You also want a horse with a good hoof. A broad hoof with a solid hoof wall will help absorb some shock. Broader hooves and joint surfaces have a larger area for weight distribution and are better at keeping a horse sound through pulling, jumping, running, etc. This is why many warmblood breeders and registries like a horse with good "bone". You also want to avoid horses with long backs if you are concerned about weight bearing. Short, strong backs can carry more weight.

Here is a good resource for conformation: Drafts with Dots: February 2012
If you scroll down you will see many good explanations on conformation and good pictures to help you understand.

There is no reason any well built horse that is properly conditioned and gradually worked up the levels in jumping should sustain injury. People with little draft experience will tell you that drafts are just too big and if ridden or worked hard they will injure and be lame. Drafts are hardy animals that are worked hard in a rural setting for their entire adult lives and if treated properly, they can be sound and usable well into their twenties or even thirties, just like any other type of horse. Draft horses should have thick legs and broad hooves designed to carry their own weight. If so, there is no reason their own weight should be the death of them.

With that said, you have to keep in mind that draft horses are BIG. This doesn't mean they can't jump. It just means they will not be as light on their feet or maneuverable around courses as a lighter horses. Draft horses tend to be heavier on the forehand and you must work hard to get them off the forehand and using their haunch to get over your fences, and many draft horses will not pick up their feet neatly over a fence which is not good for hunters. They are just not as graceful and refined as other horses. This will show in your riding and performance, and you will have to work hard to overcome it. Hunter judges are also quite snobby at times so you may find yourself not placing no matter how hard you work or how well you show.

It is not true at all that all draft horses are lazy and have no impulsion. Many of them are very sluggish and do fit the "ho hum" draft personalty stereotype but this is certainly not true of all of them. Draft horses can be quite flashy and forward depending on the individual, and even a lazy draft can be trained to be lighter off the leg and move out when asked.

As a first horse, I would not recommend an unbroke or super young horse, of any breed. You may have some experience working with younger horses but it's a big commitment and learning curve when you finally own your first horse, and you should look for a horse that is at the right level for you. You want a horse that is not too much of a challenge for you, and doesn't present any obviously new training tasks for you to work through, but also shows potential in your desired discipline and presents enough of a challenge to keep you interested and learning for years to come. There's a delicate balance there. If you end up with too much of a challenge you will only become overwhelmed and frustrated and either have to sink a lot of money into professional training or sell the horse for another. Definitely invest in a horse that is mostly broke that you can work with and finish, and go for a greener horse next time you're horse shopping.

The best place to buy draft horses is anywhere you would buy any other horse. Look for horses for sale in your area on sites like dreamhorse.com, petfinder.com and equine.com. Since you're looking for a draft draftsforsale.com would be a good place to look. Always be wary of sellers that seem uneducated or dishonest, and always have any potential new horse evaluated by an experience friend or instructor and a veterinarian before making a final decision.

Too keep drafts cool in hot weather, keep their manes either trimmed or braided and excess body hair clipped. Provide them with shade and plenty of fresh water. Make sure you don't overfeed your draft or let them get too overweight, as this extra fat can hinder their ability to cool down. Many people will tell you that drafts eat A LOT, but this is not always true. Many of them are easy keepers and their weight should be monitored closely, just like any other type of horse.

Overall, for your riding goals, I would recommend a draft cross. You can have most of the qualities you love about a full draft in a slightly more refined and athletic package. I own a Shire/TB cross and she is wonderful! She is 17 hands and chunkier than a TB but lighter than a pure Shire. She's well built and well tempered. She is lazy at times but can be convinced to move out and moves with a more graceful, flat-kneed action like a TB. She has lovely form over fences and is praised by both of my instructors.
Thank you thank you thank you! Very helpful
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