I'm looking to buy a horse, mostly for trail riding, hoping eventually to get into longer-distance rides and competitions, like 20-30 miles, maybe even 50 milers if horse and I get into good enough shape. I'm a tall gal, and big besides, so I LOVE riding drafts. I'm pretty sure a draft isn't suited to lots of riding, stamina-wise. Am I correct in that assumption? Would a half draft be suited, or should I look for a non-draft horse that fits me? If a half-draft MIGHT work, what sort of things should I look for, or should the vet look for at the pre-purchase exam?
The thing about drafts, they have amazing stamina...for long, slow work. They can plod along at a walk dragging a house behind them for days but when you start asking them to go long distances at a trot or a lope is when you start running into problems. They just aren't designed for much of anything high speed and not only do they tire quickly when compared to a standard horse, but the added stress of the concussion from all that weight on their joints is hard on them. If you are just wanting to do the rides for fun and don't really care if you place, then I say go for it. However, if you are wanting to be competitive, you'd likely have better luck with a horse that's bred for distances at speed.
Any properly conditioned, sound horse should be able to complete a limited distance (25 mile) ride. That being said, the bigger the muscles... the harder it is for heat to escape. For the longer rides you would most assuredly be better off with a lighter horse. Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems you are a trail rider toying with the idea of endurance riding. If this is the case, I would get whatever horse I want and if it ever came down to me being very serious about distance riding then I would have to make a decision then if I needed a different horse. Maybe, if you can, try out a ride on someone else's horse and see if its something you really want to get into. If you decide trails at your own pace and some limited distance rides mixed in are more your cup of tea, why not get a draftie cross?
You make some very good points. While I am just now buying a horse, I've been "just" trail riding for two summers and the seasons in between (kind of a rental/dude string situation), and I have no interest in showing, so doing some sort of competitive trail and/or endurance will be my way of having a goal to work toward with myself and my horse.
I guess I'll stick with looking for lighter-weight horses, much as I love the drafties.
Now it depends on how tall and heavy you are, there are lots of (mainly ladies) who think that they NEED to ride a draft and that is what they become comfortable with.
In fact because drafts were designed to pull rather than carry they are not always the best bet for us fluffy people.
Again, depending on if you really are a heavier rider, I would be looking firstly for great conformation, you just can't hide any problems a horse has if you are going to be riding long distance, especially if weight carrying, goes without saying that great hooves are also required.
I'm thinking fairly short backed and well sprung barrel, it makes carrying easier. Oh and a back that you can fit a 'standard' saddle on, not that there is any such thing, but ask if they have had any problem with saddle fit.
Don't be hung up on breeds, you are looking for a type, but, again depending on your height and weight, an Arab would be an obvius choice for what you want to do, or a mutt like my Appy, here we go, 5' 9" and at that time 240 pounds, on a 15. 1 hh Appy cross, who can go all day at whatever speed you want.
Thanks for the advice, and the photo. I think I've seen your photo on other threads, but it helps. I'm a little taller, and probably proportionally heavier, and therefore look about the same. I'm 6'0", and 260 but of course hoping to lose weight. Aren't we all? I looked at a quarab, but her owner wants to show her to some other people first, so I'm pretty sure that one's falling through. I do think an Arab crossed with something stockier would be good, but as you said, am not limiting myself to any particular breed. Built and temperament are what I'm concerning myself with. Just not sure HOW stocky to aim for, but it sounds like some decent legs, short back, and not too much bulkier than that is what I'm going for.
A lot depends on the individual horse. I know a woman who just completed her first 50 on her draft cross (i want to say he is a perch/QH, but not totally sure other than draft is def in there). It was a tough mountain 50 mile ride, too.
But she'd done all her homework. Started him slow and easy and worked up the distance over a couple years. Will he ever be competitive? Nope--but she sure is having a blast and so is her horse!
I know of a lady who has competed successfully in endurance races riding a large Saddlebred/Friesian cross. He's 17+ hands, in great conditioned and a very majestic looking animal. You might want to look into some of the large cross breeds.
I have a morgan/percheron cross and he can trot for days without breaking a sweat. He can canter a fair distance before he starts to get short of breath, and he can do a nice hand gallop for a surprising distance before he gets winded.....all with my XXL bum sitting right on top of him, LOL.
Now, he's never going to be a prize winning endurance competitor, but he suits my needs well
Check out my album "big girls ride too" for pics of me and Cam-the-man!