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Draft horses anyone?

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  • Draft horses anyone?

    I'm in love. sigh.

    I've been shopping for a trail horse to replace my aged gelding. I've been looking for the last month, and found a couple that were ok, but nothing that blew my skirt up. Last night I'd gone out to a local farm to look at another horse, and while he wasn't what I wanted the owner and I got to talking and she took me around the back of the barn to see a big draft gelding. He's gorgeous (IMO) and while very tall he's soft and gentle and didn't bat an eye at anything.

    His owner's willing to let me take him on a lease to make sure he'll work out for me, which is super nice of her.

    I'm waffling because I've never owned such a big horse in my life, and I'd not considered a draft horse. I was looking for a horse that I could trail ride with a goal of doing some novice competitive trail rides next year.

    I'm posting here to see if anyone else has a draft horse that they trail ride. Pros/Cons, general advice anyone?
    Only dead fish go with the flow.


  • #2
    I have an Irish Draught who I love. He is totally steady on the trails. He also does low level dressage and eventing. He is truly a good citizen.


    • #3
      Got two and will never go back to light horses again.

      My main riding/trail horse is a Clydesdale/Standardbred cross. At 15.2, she's just the right height but she's totally built and feathered like a Clyde. Her gaits, tho, are all Standardbred. She is my dream horse!

      My other is a full Percheron... all 17.2 hands, 1900 pounds of her. Tank is like riding a sofa! Very gentle, exceptionally smart and a real crowd pleaser.

      <>< Sorrow Looks Back. Worry Looks Around. Faith Looks Up! -- Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don't have to sit on it.


      • #4
        We met a lady earlier this year that rides a draft horse. she rides him 30 miles several times per week with no problems. He was big beautiful and kind natured. Our horses were not fit enough to keep up with them


        • #5
          I own one, thought he's mostly retired now.

          Stan has the most wonderful personality ever. So willing and good natured, tolerates rider mistakes cheerfully, is calm and sensible either out on the trail or at shows. Really, I can't say enough good things about his personality and disposition. He spent some time in a therapeutic program, was used for numerous 4-H demonstrations, and was loaned out for the horseless horse 4-H-ers to show with.

          However, he is HUGE, and that comes with a few problems of his own.

          His bulky body makes it very hard for him to dissipate heat. He gets hot very easily, sometimes to the point of breathing heavily when he's just standing around the pasture. When I was showing him regularly, I'd often get out at 6am to work him, because otherwise he was completely miserable in the heat.

          Finding tack could be a big pain in the rear, though fortunately he wasn't all that wide in the saddle area, so that was one headache averted.

          We own a large slant load stock trailer, 7'6" inside, and Stan takes up two spots in it all by himself.

          Thankfully mounting wasn't really that big of a deal, since he's so steady. Generally I rode English with extra long stirrup leathers, so I could drop them down to get a foot in, mount, ad then reel my stirrup back in He was also quiet enough that you could mount from darn near anything.

          It was way more difficult getting and keeping him fit than any of the light horses I've owned. It took a very determined effort to increase his fitness every little bit, and he'd lose it quickly when given time off.

          Stan is also the clumsiest horse I've ever owned, though that might just be him. He was great on smooth flat trails, but anything hilly or rocky was a nightmare. He'd trip over everything.

          Anyhow, if you're considering competitive trail in any way, I'd be very hesitant to go with a full draft based on their tendancy to retain heat and the difficulty in getting them fit. For leisurely pleaure trail riding, absolutely, but anything more difficult is really going to be a challenge, imo.
          "In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming part dog."
          -Edward Hoagland


          • #6
            I own drafts.I do trails mostly, but we show too- at regular open shows. Many drafts jump, many drafts do lower level eventing. There is no reason you can't do lower level stuff wit ha draft horse. Like someone else said though- they can be hard to keep fit, and can be clumsy, but keep it in mind. Tack can be hard to find- but on one hand if you are a tack junky, you will collect less stuff that way,lol!


            • #7
              I do pleasure trailriding with my big girl, and have an absolute blast on her! She's steady, and very forward - not wild, but if I ask her, she's more than willing to go!

              I also take her to open shows where she's so easy - just hop on 5 minutes before the class and march right in and she's awesome.

              I agree with the others about fitness though. I think you'd really have to spend some serious time working them up to a level where they'd be comfortable going for hours at a time.

              But even if that didn't work out, you'd be so happy that you got him and having so much fun with him doing other stuff that you wouldn't care!
              I would like to think I will die an heroic death...

              But it's more likely I'll trip over my dog and choke on a spoonful of frosting.


              • #8
                Obviously from my screen name, I used to have a Big Belgian. All 18.1 hds. and 2600 lbs. of him. I broke him to ride and drive. He was by far the happiest horse with the best work ethic of any equine I have ever owned. No cheat and always gave me his best.

                That being said, his tack cost a small fortune and the shoeing was the biggest headache of all. NO farrier in our horse polluted area wanted to touch a draft horse with size 10 feet. I had to import a farrier from either PA or down in Southern VA to come and shoe to the tune of $250-300.00 a pop. I drove extensively on gravel or asphalt so keeping him barefoot was not an option.

                He was like riding an ATV out trail riding. There was never anything I worried about him not being able to bully his way through. Low branches and tight places OTOH, were a different story!

                Fitness took longer to achieve and harder to keep than light horse. We did low level CDEs and cooling out after cross country was hard. His respiration and pulse would come down quickly, but his temp remained much higher for longer.

                Eventually, I had to truly assess what my riding goals were and admit that I wanted to go back to foxhunting and harder trail riding. Both of them would have been unfair to ask of my big guy though I know with his work ethic, he would have tried his heart out for me.
                Lost in the Land of the Know It Alls


                • #9
                  After my very timid 16 yr old daughter lost her quarter pony we needed a quiet bomb proof horse and found a perch/quarter horse which is perfect for her she can trail ride it and even does gymkanias with her. surprisingly she (the horse)even pull a 22 sec on barrels with someone else riding her .so she is big but somewhat agile ,she loves poles. The great thing about her she may never beat a speed record but will be sane for the next class and settles right down.My daughter would never ride again if she got hurt on a horse as I said she is very timid. So I have found the perfect horse for her. Even after the horse sits for weeks sometime (she the horse )is very consistant with temperment stays the same as if she had been worked . The only problem with her is personal space but we work on that when ever we handle her. She has very large feet.Some day I may have her broke to drive would be another fun adventure. Good luck hope you enjoy you new find.


                  • #10
                    My PerchX is not too tall-prob. 16.2 but definitely a big girl.
                    However, apparently she is small enough to open the man door of the barn by pulling/turning the doorknob so she can amble in and feast on hay. Fortunately, she is mild mannered enough to be turned around and escorted out.
                    I don't know about trails, but she sure has a big dressage-y trot!


                    • #11
                      My neighbor has a Perch/Morgan x that I like very much and is not only a solid, calm trail horse, but trained to 1st Level dressage as well.

                      But as for a pure draft -- well, you have gotten alot of good advice from those who have been there....so of which I never thought of (like the cost of tack).

                      Also the shoes -- for instance, my farrier, who I adore, will not do drafts.

                      I think alot depends on what sort of trail riding you plan on doing and where you live. If you want to do alot of extreme trails, a draft probably wouldn't be a good bet, because they aren't that nimble.

                      I would say take the horse on trial and see how it works...that gives you time to truly evaluate the horse. And maybe, if this one doesn't fit, start looking for draft crosses -- lighten things up abit, but still retain the qualities of the big boys that you like.


                      • #12
                        I have a 13yr old Percheron gelding that I bought when he was 4...my first and only draft in a 40yr span of horse ownership. He is by far the most kind hearted soul ever. He is forward moving enough to keep you on your toes and I have trail ridden him quite a bit. He's wonderful but not the bravest soul on earth....that being said, his occasional spooks are like a regular sized horse but in slow motion so easy to sit. Im a mostly walk, occasional trot and rare canter type of trail rider nowadays. I just cant imagine competitive trail riding a full draft, even at the novice level. A draft CROSS, yes...but not a purebred.

                        I needed all new tack of course, but I didnt have any trouble finding bits/bridles/reins. As far as a saddle goes, I use a Wintec Isabelle with the largest gullet and it fits him. But, he's pretty fit and not at all fat so that helps.

                        Ditto with the farrier issues. Its not easy to find someone who will shoe a draft and if you do find someone chances are they will only do it if they stand REALLY well and dont pull their feet away etc...... And you can expect to pay more than you would for a light horse.

                        Drafts are notorious for having hoof problems so be careful there. ALso, there are no hoof boots out there that will work very well......some of them do come in draft sizes but dont waste your money.

                        Soooo, if you want a great friend/companion/crowd pleaser and you have room for him i.e. a 12 x 12 minimum stall if you use stalls.....if you board, some facilitys do not take drafts, go for it. But maybe look for a draft cross if you want to compete.


                        • #13
                          I've had Shires, 18.2 mare, almost 18 hand gelding, 17.2 hand Perchie and a Perchie/Saddlebred cross now.

                          First problem: Heat...draft horses are like a big truck with too small a radiator. They overheat nicely and really suffer in the summer heat. My mare would be dripping in the field just standing there.

                          Tack...really not a problem, lots of internet shops to buy tack...you'll have a problem finding nice stuff, seems like lots of crappy stuff out there, no Passier level leather besides custom.

                          Shoeing...the Achilles Heel of draft horses is shoeing. If you can find a farrier, he'll be expensive. Really really expensive. Lots of drafts have bad feet. They tend to be fairly flat and seem to lose shoes pretty easily. Expensive.

                          They are fun to ride and really take a lot of stuff in stride. My big Shire mare walked up to a man using a chainsaw, she wanted to see what he was doing. You will get a face full of spider webs since you'll be higher than the other riders. They are fun though.

                          Before you think of getting a draft, find a farrier first. See if you can find one who will come out if your horse loses a shoe. Remember, you won't find any boots to fit them if the lose a shoe. Nobody makes full draft boots that seem to work well.

                          Good luck, they're a lot fo fun, but you'll really have a few more challenges than a light horse.
                          "Sic Gorgiamus Allos Subjectatos Nunc"


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by LuvMyperch View Post
                            I As far as a saddle goes, I use a Wintec Isabelle with the largest gullet and it fits him.
                            ..........if you board, some facilitys do not take drafts, go for it. But maybe look for a draft cross if you want to compete.
                            I find this hysterical, as I used to ride in a Wintec Isabelle, also on the wide gullet, for my 14.1+ Arab! Of course, when she spooked, she could teleport herself to another county before I knew it.

                            Also, I've known 2 drafts that were kicked out of their respective boarding facilities because they were constantly pushing down fences & gates. Someone told me that unless a draft is started early on fencing w/hot wire, so they learn respect, this destructiveness becomes a very bad (and life long) habit. Is that true?

                            I like a more refined line myself for horses, but I live near one of the biggest draft horse shows in the nation, and I always try to go at least one day (3-4 day show)....I love seeing those guys!

                            My favorite is the 8 horse hitch -- man, can that guy drive!!


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Kyzteke View Post
                              Also, I've known 2 drafts that were kicked out of their respective boarding facilities because they were constantly pushing down fences & gates. Someone told me that unless a draft is started early on fencing w/hot wire, so they learn respect, this destructiveness becomes a very bad (and life long) habit. Is that true?
                              Stan (and most of the other drafts I've known) has been really hard on fences. Didn't think about it offhand since we've finally managed to work all the kinks out of our electric fence. A good strong hot wire keeps him in just fine, but anything else he'll lean on, and itch on, and eat over, and visit over, and things just break really easily when you have that much horse pushing on them.

                              Plus he's so tall that it was easy for him to reach over the fence to eat out of the neighbor's hayfield. We had to replace a charger with one that pulsed faster, since he actually would listen to the clicks, and lean over and grab a bite between them. After doing that for a while, he'd have put enough pressure on that something would short out or break, and then all the t-posts in that section were bent outward at a 45 degree angle

                              Personally, I never had a problem finding a farrier, but there's a pretty active draft horse community around here, and I can think of three farriers offhand that show drafts of their own that will service my area. There are a few more that mostly do light horses, but are willing to do drafts as well, and though it is more expensive to have Stan done, it's not cost-prohibitive.
                              "In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming part dog."
                              -Edward Hoagland


                              • #16
                                and than there are the draft ponies to love, don't forget them!
                                i have a full haflinger--the blonde bombshell--she is the most athletic, forward, fun trail mount ever. my older mare is an arab/canadien cross, another super horse in a smaller package. she 's big boned, 15'1 and goes anywhere i point her. love the drafties, especially draft crosses. i especially love the arab influence in my crosses.


                                • #17
                                  one thing that I did not see the other posters mention is height...sure they mention their 17+ hand horse is great on the trail and I am sure they are, but I am 5'8 and when I ride a 15.3-16 hand horse my head is really high off the ground. I am not afraid of heights, but I HATE getting wacked in the head with branches all the time.

                                  SO bear in mind ducking, and trying to avoid low and not even that low branches on trails that are not well groomed.

                                  just food for thought


                                  • #18
                                    for trail riding casually they work great imo. For CTR I'd be wary. They don't cool down as easily as the light breeds, aren't as "handy", and pretty much all the aforementioned reasons already posted.


                                    • #19
                                      I used to board and ride a boarder's Percheron. I enjoyed how big she was, but ultimately she became too expensive to keep here and I had to have the owner move on. She broke everything - our fencing was all replaced during her 3 years here. She also had ringbone and she was quite young (4-5 I think) and she was in VERY light, seasonal work. Her previous barn had also kicked them out, and I just heard that the barn she left after me just kicked her out. My SIL who raises drafts warned me when I took her on but I didn't heed the warning...I do regret it.

                                      I'm not trying to discourage you - just saying most barns aren't built for the big beasts. They rub their butt or lean on stuff and it just breaks.


                                      • #20
                                        I have a wonderful percheron who is a reject from the amish. He never grew "big enough" to keep up with the others on his team. He is 15.2 and uses my regular western saddle but I did have to get a draft bridle. This horse is a dream. He knows what "whoa" means and will stand forever if I ask! He is calm, afraid of nothing on the trails, and has a work ethic I've rarely seen. He doesn't have extremely large feet and eats just a little more grain than the rest. His former owner comes by often to check on him and misses him in the traces. All we needed to do to make the transition from driving to riding was work on leg aids and he had to learn it was ok to canter. It took prolly 2 to 3 months to get things together. I am really happy with how much he wants to please and do something. While he is in shape enough to do some distance riding - we ride him regularly for 3 to 4 hrs every couple of days - he just couldn't compete with those araby-type horses. I took my inshape gaited horse and lost to a 20 yr old arab mare! Most horses just don't have the recovery rate naturally that an arab type horse has. If you want a draft for pleasure trail riding there are alot out there. Go out if you have amish nearby to thier feed stores and ask if someone has a horse that no longer has the stamina to plow for 12 hrs or too small to keep up with the others. You'll find a horse that is well behaved, and may only need alittle work with a trainer to do what you need them to do. My horse is only a 11 yr old and I look forward to many years with him.