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Courtney 06-07-2011 02:54 PM

But... they're so BIG!
Hi all. I've been shopping around for a horse (some of you might recognize my name), and I kind of waffle between stock horses and drafts. The first horse I ever rode was a giant Percheron and I remember how kind he was... but the sheer size intimidates me beyond belief.

I'm a nervous person by nature, but I tend to relax into a situation quite quickly. I've done some reading on draft horses and I think their calm demeanor could strike a nice balance for my anxiety and help me build confidence again. However, I'm still a bit iffy about the size. I'm 5'4 and barely 100 pounds. Is there a draft breed that stays kind of smaller, but retains the beloved draft temperament?

I was looking at Gypsy cobs and Haflingers, but unfortunately... both are rather uncommon in Alberta. I found one breeder just outside of Edmonton who breeds Gypsy horses and I've sent an email off to them, but I figured I'd ask here as well.

What breed would you recommend? Is there a smaller draft breed for me? Maybe there are ways to work through my anxiety about the massive size so I can widen my horizons to Shires and Belgiums? I've read to stay away from Percherons because they can get a little hot and I don't want to scare myself even more.

My use for this horse: a barefoot pasture buddy that I could hop on bareback and take around the trails. I'd prefer a mare, but I'm not opposed to geldings. Color doesn't matter, but I'm a sucker for long, thick forelocks and big friendly faces. White on the face and legs is a HUGE bonus.

Ideally, I'd like to stay somewhere in the realm of 15hh, but I think that's rather impossible for most drafts. Help!

dezzistar 06-07-2011 03:11 PM

I've ridden a couple of draft/ TB crosses and they tend to be quite nice. I would definately look into a draft cross. I don't know about haflingers, I've ridden a couple and they were a bit hot. Not to say that all haflingers are hot, though.

Courtney 06-07-2011 03:20 PM

Thanks! I haven't really been around Haflingers, but it was the size that made me consider them. Fjords were also on my list of "maybes".

I was also considering Draft crosses, but a Thoroughbred never crossed my mind. I was thinking something more like a Draft X Appy or a Draft X Quarter Horse... something a little calmer. I guess it would come down to actually meeting the horse, playing with it and seeing if it felt right.

Overall, what draft breed would you say has the best temperament. I know it really depends on the horse and it's training, but on average... what breed is the quietest?

Ferhoodled 06-07-2011 09:46 PM


Originally Posted by dezzistar (Post 1058997)
I don't know about haflingers, I've ridden a couple and they were a bit hot. Not to say that all haflingers are hot, though.

Hm, that's really interesting. I've known a couple haflinger crosses who were quite calm and level-headed. Very, very lovable guys too, though perhaps a bit lazy, haha. They're all such individuals, aren't they? :-) I also know a gypsy vanner that is seriously the sweetest horse I've ever encountered. She heels like a dog and follows along with no lead, yet isn't in your space in a rude way. Total sweetheart!

I would personally go for the smaller draft/draft cross option based on my (admittedly limited) experience with them. There is the question of breed stereotype vs individual temperament, but I've had good experiences overall with haffies.

Good luck! I'd love to see some pictures when you find a good fit!

smrobs 06-07-2011 09:54 PM

Courtney, if you are wanting the mellow temperament without the intimidating size, you might consider looking for a draft cross. I have a Belgian x QH that has the most easygoing, mellow temperament and though he is likely going to end up with the drafty size, there are many of them that don't. On the other hand, don't rule out a good stock horse (QH, Paint, Appy, etc). Given the right breeding and training, some of them have temperaments that make a typical draft look insanely hot.

Courtney 06-07-2011 10:06 PM

Thanks, all! I'm definitely not limiting my options based on breed, and I'm open to anything if it has the temperament and approximate size I'm after. As much as I prefer mares, I'm not opposed to a gelding if he has a winning demeanor. I don't like light colored horses, but at this very moment, I'm waiting on a reply about a 7 year old light gray pony cross mare. She has a kind eye and a really nice shape to her, which attracted my attention.

Beauseant 06-08-2011 01:34 PM

I think it's great that you are putting so much time and thought into choosing a horse. Some people don't.

Here is a pic of my son with his petite Belgian, Epona. She stands 16 hands and weighs an estimate of 2,000lbs. And we have been told she is tiny compared to others of her breed??!! my son is 6 ft. 2 in. so you can get an idea of how big a "petite" Belgian is.


What may be a bigger factor than height in regards to drafts is width. Epona is quite wide, and is not a comfortable ride for most women. Your legs are spread apart so far it makes your thigh muscles ache and can affect your center of balance if you aren't used to it. Some leg/thigh stretching exercises would be a good idea in such a case.

Courtney 06-08-2011 02:01 PM

That’s a good point. I’m pretty small and most people I’ve talked to have advised me to stick with a smaller, narrower horse just so I can effectively use my legs for aids and balance in case the horse has an outbreak of the crazies and tries to take off with me. I can definitely see the merit behind that advice.

Thank you! I’m trying to go as slowly and carefully as I possibly can, because I know myself when it comes to animals. Even if it’s not the right fit, I can never bring myself to sell an animal. Once it’s mine, it’s mine for life. I want to make sure the horse I decide to buy is the perfect match for me now, and in a few years. If I advance and s/he doesn’t, I’ll lease the animal to someone else, but I’d have a hell of a time selling it.

Beauseant 06-08-2011 09:43 PM sound very level headed and logical about this horse choosing business. Wish I was more like that.

I am not trying to scare you off drafts as they are fantastic animals, and we love ours more than life itself. But if you do choose one, you might want to choose one that isn't wide bodied like Epona is. A narrow built draft...would be best for a lady. Or you could do lots of stretching exercises to loosen those thigh and leg muscles.

Even my son, who is a tall, solidly built man {20 yrs. old} complains of sore legs and thighs when he rides after a long layoff. It takes those muscles a while to adjust.

Cat 06-08-2011 09:59 PM

I love wide horses and find them way more comfortable to ride than narrow horses. I lose my balance easier on a narrower horse as well - so I guess that is an individual preference. I also don't know why a wide draft would be worse for a woman than a man? Men have narrower hips so it seems to reason (and I'll be the first to admit my reasoning isn't always sound so I may be way off base here) that men would have a harder time with wide horses then women.

I love haflingers - just look for the "older" style ones and not the moderns. In my experience its the modern, more refined haflingers that tend to bring in an element of hotness. Also look for one that has been well trained if you go this route. Some people skip quickly over training because they are so calm and willing which can show up later. Just put them through the paces when you try one to make sure they are trained like they say.

Also, have you considered a draft cross? My husband rides a draft cross who is 15.2 hands. Huge compared to my 14 hand haflinger, but small compared to a full draft.

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