Pro's and con's of drafts
So all of these draft pics and posts about your beautifull drafts, especially the clydes, have me drooling. I've wanted one forever, but some things mentioned in some posts, especially "convincing my parents to get me a clydesdale" have me a little unsure. So please tell me about the pro's and con's of drafts. I'm looking for a good trail horse for myself, a tall big girl. I live in the northern cape province of south africa, a semi-desert and in summer 40C isnothing strange. Drafts and specially clydes are very expensive and tack for them is scarce. For the price of a good draft trail saddle I can buy a horse. Then I'm not sure my bridle will fit, I'm assuming special bits? Are their mouths not autimatically wider than say a 15hh farm horses' ? Somebody mentioned something about thick coats, manes and very long tails? I live on a farm, my horses live out in the veld. I have stables, but my horses prefer the open plains. I"m seeing lots of time spent trying to untangle devil's claw from his tail. Am I being overly negative? As much as I would love a draft, I just want to be realistic in my expectations. I can't afford to make a R20 000 mistake. And That's just the horse!
Well, drafts are certainly an experience to own, but they are not good for your average owner. They cost more to care for, like is said in the other thread. They often eat more than a regular horse, you have to be more careful about their diet as they are prone to EPSM, it's very expensive to have them trimmed or shod if you can find a farrier willing to deal with them, the tack is harder to find and more expensive.
Drafts in general do have more hair than your average horse between the very thick manes and tails and the feathering. They aren't designed for any kind of fast work at all so expecting them to maintain a trot or lope on the trail for extended periods of time would be hard on them.
They can be much harder to handle, not in terms of temperament, just in terms of size. Where an average horse can accidentally step on your foot and cause bruising and swelling, a draft might step on your foot and crush every bone in there. They have to really be taught well to drop their head for haltering/bridling because if they keep their head up, you need a ladder to reach them.
Now don't get me wrong, I love my drafts, but we use them as a driven team of work horses and I did ride one of them for a while just for the fun of it. Riding him was such a challenge because I had a hard time saddling him and bridling him and getting on by myself just because he is so big. I have a half draft that is going to be my next main saddle horse and I plan to use him for ranch type work but I doubt he'll ever be very good at it.
The worst part for me is never being able to find anything that fits. Even halters. I have to special order everything. Plus it's a nightmare finding a farrier that will trim them.
Smrobs is right, their size can make them more difficult to handle. They aren't as sensitive and light horses, and they don't always know their own strength. They MUST have good manners, or you'll end up with a huge problem. They have really nice temperaments, though. They're really quiet and tolerant (generally). They make great trail horses for the right person.
I would say look for a half draft instead of a full draft. My Percheron/paint gelding is going to be tall (we're looking at probably around 17hh), but not unmanageable. He is coming three and fits full quarterhorse bars in a western saddle and a medium-wide to wide tree in an english saddle. One "complaint" is that I did have to get a draft halter and draft bridle, but not all drafts have his massive head (one guy at our barn had a 16hh belgian/QH cross that wore full quarterhorse bars and a regular-sized bridle). His feet are nice and hard like a draft, but not ridiculously HUGE like a full draft. Our farrier jokes that he has salad plate feet, as opposed to dinner plate feet. :-P He has the temperament of the draft horse, but can have the get-up-and-go of his stock horse side, as well. He's also got the lovely trot of a draft and, when he walks out, has the nice ground-covering walk of a draft. His canter is ridiculously rocking chair (or so says our trainer...she cantered him down one rail of the arena during one ride, just to see how he would do).
All in all, I'd say I got the best of both worlds. Are all half drafts as amazing as my boy? Of course not. But then, not all drafts are created the same, just like not all TBs are created equal...or warmbloods...or stock horses...or...you get my point.
ETA: Forgot to add that my boy has the build of the Percheron with the paint coloring, so he is VERY striking. We get compliments and comments every time we're out or someone new comes to the stable.
I have a Percheron trail horse that I work with since I do trail guides. She's very lazy and relaxed, but it always worries us guides if she were to get spooked because she is so big and could be hard to get stopped. She has stepped on my foot before and it took me forever to push her off, it was almost like she didn't even feel me pushing her away from me. I love working with her because she has a good personality and was trained well, so she's a good horse, but I would def not want one of my own.. I also ride a cleveland bay that is hard to get to listen s sometimes simply because of his size. I also have a hard time bridling both many days because they don't lower their heads enough (and I'm not exactly short- I'm 5'6"). All in all, I personally would not want to own one. Nice to work with and be around sometimes, but not a horse I'd want to ride everyday.
ETA: I agree with DraftyAiresMum, look for a half draft if anything. I work with 2 perch crosses that are about 16.2, which I think is a great size, and they're very comfortable to ride, gait and size wise. Laid back and well behaved, even as 4 and 6 year olds.
I think there's a common sense approach to the 'what breed is right' question, and it applies very nicely to Drafts:
What was the Breed originally bred for?
The Shire: Ploughing, pulling, ploughing, pulling, ploughing and a bit of pulling. Oh, yes and to drive the family to church on a sunday. Bred to live on english green and pleasant pastures. So they are lovely to look at, are strong and steady both physically and mentally. They have enormous feet that won't sink into ploughed fields and huge chests and shoulders to drag the plough through heavy soil. With that knowledge you know not only what a shire can do, but also what it's going to find difficult. If you take him hunting he's more likely to smash a hole in the hedge than fly over it. He won't be nifty round a cross country course, and whilst he can trudge round a field all day he can not complete an endurance race in the time requirements. He'll eat more hay than you ever thought possible, and his shoes will probably cost more than a pair of Jimmy Choo's.
The Clydesdale: As above, but bred to survive in Scotland where it's colder and the grass is poorer.
So however much you like the look of the breed, you need to consider whether it will be suitable for where you live, what your lifestyle is, and what you want to do with it.
Any breed that's bred for Farm work in Europe is going to find living in Africa hard work - and so you'll be making hard work for yourself to make it easier for him.
Good luck with whatever you choose to buy.
I'm not going to rehash the same points I made in the other thread, but here's one extra - I certainly found that, the Clydesdales I've worked with (who, admittedly, were youngsters) weren't ideal trail horses as they were very on the forehand and tended to trip quite a lot. With fitness and work on engaging the hindquarters and developing an outline, this improved - but I've been close to being unseated a few times by tripping, and the occasional full fall down onto both front knees when we've been going a bit quicker. Don't know if this is just because they were young, or if anyone else has experienced this too, but it's quite scary as it is some angle when they're on their knees... and once this happened whilst on the side of a very steep hill next to a gorge, and I really thought I might die. And it's not something I've experienced with any other breed. Drafts are certainly an experience, but they really aren't for everyone... there are a lot of considerations, especially when they (being realistic) are never going to do high level dressage, SJ, eventing or endurance.
As driving horses, they CANNOT BE BEATEN. If you like driving, and want something you can hack about a bit on and do ridden show classes and the like, then these animals will be right up your street. Their temperaments make them ideal driving horses, and one of my friends used her Clydesdale to help break in youngsters, as it was ideal to lead from and bombproof, so when they first started to ride the newly-backed horses out she would lead them from him, and even if they misbehaved they literally couldn't budge this horse when he stood stock still.
I will sing the praises of part-drafts as riding horses though, especially when crossed with something hot like a TB or Arab. I've never met a bad one, quite honestly, and you tend to get a nice charactered animal with (usually) a bit more go and a little more athleticism. Breeding for a warmblood type, I suppose... particularly light draft crosses, like Friesian, Irish Draught, Cleveland Bay...
I also recommend going for the half draft. Mine (the horse in my avatar) is 16.1hh and fits into standard horse-sized everything. She can be pretty sparky sometimes but is usually a sensible, kind creature, and handy at both jumping and dressage.
As you can see, she's not a huge horse.
I was raised with Belgians, itms all my family and I have owned. I never even had a pony when I was younger because if I wanted to ride, I through a bridle on one of our Belgians and went out bareback barefoot and helmetless... It's just how it was. As an adult I tried to own/ride lighter breeds like Arabians and QH, with even on a stocky QH mare, I felt awkward. So for me there is no other breed, unless it's another draft breed.
I love their temparments! They are all so sweet and willing to please, but my Belgians also have some pep and spice to their step. Sam, my 2y/o gelding, is very prancy, extremely respectful, but he isn't the type to mosey along. I don't mind the hay bill because we make our own hay with the horses. The grain bill doesn't boxer me either because my horses are on the EPSM diet and get oil added to their grain. Tack maybe harder to find and more expensive, but I have a number of websites that provide me with everything I need that the local tack shop doesn't provide and if you buy quality tack and spend the money the first time and properly maintain your equipment, it lasts forever. My horses are also barefoot so I rasp them myself throughout the month and have my barefoot trimmer come out every 6 weeks to trim them for $45 a horse. Sure it can cost a little more and if you aren't prepared to handle such a big horse it can seem overwhelming, but there's no other way for me. I don't even notice their size anymore.
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