When I talk about a DRAFT horse I am referring to the genuine 'Heavy Horses' such as the Shire, Clydesdale etc. In the UK, it is a very, very sad state of affairs that our 'native' Heavy Horses are becoming a rare breed. The Clydesdale is a much rarer breed than the Shire and was at the point of becoming endangered. The Suffolk Punch is the rarest breed of Heavy Horse in the world and is at risk of becoming extinct. It would be a very sad day indeed if any of our beautiful heavy horses ceased to exist. These heavy horses were bred to work the land- to plough, to pull. In WWI they were taken in their tens of thousands to pull gun carriages and ambulance wagons. The majority never made it back and those which survived were either shot or left in France because it was too much of a problem to bring them back to the UK from Europe. In the 2nd World Ward they were taken in their thousands to carry equipment etc. Many never returned. Back in the UK, the heavy horse was replaced with tractors and in the 1970s the Heavy Horse almost disappeared from the UK because no-one wanted them. It tended to be the Brewery Companies that used them to pull their beer wagons and probably the beer companies which saved them from dying out altogether no matter what you read on Wikipaedia! Move on a few decades and some enthusiasts wanted to save the Heavy horse from extinction. A new use had to be found so they were brought on to be ridden and used as riding horses. They have been found to make excellent riding horses and they do now compete at lower levels in dressage. (My fingers are crossed to see a heavy do top level - we're just waiting fro the right horse and the right rider to show that they CAN do it no matter what anyone else says.) They are never going to make jumping horses or race horses (LOL) although in a flat out race of 1 mile long, my two Clydesdales can outrun (out stride more likely) a couple of thoroughbreds they board with! These true heavy Horses can also take heavier riders so are now being used in riding schools. Their placid natures also have seen them brought into being used as riding horses for disabled children and adults which is fantastic. It is an amazing experience to ride a true Heavy Horse and when you are out and about, it is wonderful to get perfect strangers coming up to speak to you and pet your horse. They are great ambassadors for their genre and it is true that when you sit on the back of a true heavy, you CAN see into heaven...
I am so happy that you like your "heavy" horses. :) I have been blessed to ride several myself. I rode a Belgian a few years ago that was just lovely and honestly, I wish someone would have done dressage with her. She was slightly lighter framed then some I have seen and had a longer neck set nice on her shoulder. When I rode her, she had never had a rider or anything on her back. She wasn't sure what to do but handled it with all the class one would expect from a draft. She trotted a few steps quite quickly and then just turned to snif me. That was that, she didn't care anymore who or what was on her back. Ha ha All of the draft that I have ever ridden were easy going and very personable horses. It is nice to see people riding them. We see more of them on trails these days with bigger riders. Not just heavy but tall men and women seem to enjoy the height of the draft horses as well.
I also ride a belgian horse and yes I love it he is amazing when people come up to him he love to be petted some people remember his name and say hello He stop if people are going to take his picture with out me asking him to: LOL
I own a percheron! I have a good friend who owns 3 shires, had one belgian til he passed this last summer. I have a second friend who owns a shire and a clyde. I have a shire breeder friend who is well-known for his horses in the area and Disney uses him regularly.
I agree, they still can be rare by the shock and awe I get when I go places with my percheron. However, they are not rare in my circles, they are very loved!
I worked for a horse drawn carriage business and I LOVED working with his Clydesdales! I was in constant awe their strength and gentle ways of being. It saddens me to think that they may not be around forever.
Not to fear there are lots of us that show these beautiful horses and bring them into the public eye.
Today I took Serenity my Clydesdale to The New Zealand, North Island, All Breeds In Hand Show.
Shewon 4 1sts, 2 2nds and a Reserve Champion - the picture below is of her with my friend leading her for me just after winning the 'Best Presented'