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Irish Draught Horse: Origins, Care & Key Facts

The Irish Draught is a strong and powerful horse that once found employment on farms all across Ireland. Today, the breed is popular as a hunter and leisure horse due to their brave, yet kindly personalities and impressive strength.

Vital Stats

Weight: 580 – 680kg

Height: 15.2hh – 16.3hh

Life Expectancy: 30 years

Best For: Hunting, Showing, Show jumping, Leisure riding

Origin: Ireland

Irish Draught Horse History

Originating in 18th century Ireland, the Irish Draught Horse was found on farms all across the country. This was because poorer farmers required a steed that was strong enough to carry out a vast number of farming tasks, yet looked smart enough when pulling a carriage or when ridden on a day out hunting.

Their size, strength and power saw the Irish Draught sent to the front lines during World War I and this very nearly led to their extinction. After the war ended, efforts began to preserve the breed which eventually led to the formation of The Irish Draught Horse Society in 1976.

Size

The Irish Draught is a large breed that ranges between 15.2 – 16.3hh. On average they weigh between 580 – 680kgs.

Appearance

Irish Draughts should possess a pleasant head with kind eyes and large ears. Around 9 inches of good, strong, clean and flat bone should be seen, with strong loins and hindquarters. The power should be demonstrated in the horse’s movements, yet should be straight and free with good flexion of joints and freedom to the shoulders.

Grey and chestnut are the most common coat colours, but black, bay, dun, cremello, palomino and roan can also be seen. Both with or without white markings are possible, however, the breed standard states that too many aren’t preferred.

Diet & Nutrition

Like all horses, the Irish Draught horse needs a healthy balance of carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, vitamins and fresh water. They should be provided with a good mix of forage such as fresh grass, quality hay and grains if required. It’s recommended to speak to your vet or a qualified equine nutritionist with breed experience to provide diet recommendations.

Unique Characteristics

What truly sets the Irish Draught horse apart from other breeds is their bravery, power and high intelligence. With all these characteristics together, it should come as no surprise that they’re one of the most popular breeds used for police horses in the UK. In fact, they’re even the mount of choice for the Irish Garda Mounted Unit.

Aside from their ridden success, Irish Draughts are popularly used in breeding to strengthen lines. Most notably, the breed was used alongside the Thoroughbred to produce the agile and versatile Irish Sports Horse.

Temperament & Behaviour

Generally known for their kind temperament and willingness to please, the Irish Draught is quite easy-going and adaptable. These behavioural traits make them incredibly popular as leisure horses as they’re easy to do and can be used for a variety of purposes.

Health Issues

The Irish Draught is typically a healthy breed with little known issues, however, they are prone to a few health problems which include:

  • Developmental orthopaedic diseases
  • Degenerative joint diseases
  • Growth plate inflammation

Owners are recommended to maintain a healthy lifestyle and schedule regular vet check-ups and farrier visits to ensure their horse stays in optimum health.

Grooming

Irish Draught horses benefit from regular grooming to keep their skin and coat healthy. Before riding, dirt and debris should be removed from areas where tack will sit at the very least and all over grooming should be carried out regularly to distribute oils across the body. Hooves should be picked out daily and a once-over should be carried out once per day to check for injuries.

Lifespan

Irish Draught Horses have a long lifespan and can often live into their 30s when correctly cared for. It’s important to note that lifespan is often impacted by overall health, management and environment.

Why Choose an Irish Draught Horse?

The Irish Draught is a wonderful horse that can turn its hoof to just about any discipline. Generally easy to do with a gentle temperament, this breed can suit more novice riders or happy hackers, yet they also boast impressive agility that makes them excellent for jumping and are bold and brave enough to tackle large hunt fences.

Irish Draughts are also notable showjumpers and there’s none more famed than King of Diamonds. Standing at 17hh, the stallion was a Grade A showjumper and considered one of the most influential stallions of the 20th century. He eventually retired to become a stud horse and a vast number of the Irish Draught horses in existence today claim to be descended from him.

 

That’s our guide to the Irish Draught Horse! Want to find out more about different horse breeds? Learn all about the Andalusian next.

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