Rhenish German Draft Horse - Breed & Info
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The Rhenish German Draft horse was created in Germany during the late 1800's, based on Belgian imports, as heavier machinery called for a heavier draft horse. Prior to this, draft horse breeding in Germany was largely native and that of a lighter work horse in the northern half of the country.
First at private stud farms and against the will of the Prussian authorities, the Belgian draft, from Brabant, became a dominant influence. In 1892, the Rhinelander Studbook was founded, and with its consent the Belgian influence became officially accepted. It wasn't until 1917 that the breeding goal was reconsidered and the focus became the Rhenish German Draft Horse. Up until the beginning of World War I though, it was still mostly Belgian stallions that stood at the stallion station in Wickrath/Rhineland.
The Rhenish-German breed enjoyed a boom that lasted until after World War II. In those days, these horses made up about 50 per cent of Germany's total horse population. Mechanization and motorization of the country's agriculture then had the same effect as everywhere else in the western world: The demand for work horses dwindled rapidly. In the 1950s and 1960s the population decreased to almost zero. In 1956, the Provincial Stud Farm in Wickrath was dissolved, remaining Rhenish German Draft horse stallions were moved to the Westphalian Stud Farm in Warendorf, with which there had always been close ties.
Today, there are only a few of these massive horses left, and breeders are entitled to subsidies for every head they keep. The breeding goal has changed to a certain degree, from an extremely huge and massive animal to the somewhat lighter and more agile Rhenish-German horse of today, which is considered more suitable for what few uses there are left for it nowadays - mostly logging, or maybe as power for a few remaining small farms in remote areas.
The modern Rhenish German Draft horse has a rather heavy head, with a wide forehead, a straight profile, small, but good-natured eyes, and short, broad ears. The neck is fairly short, broad, strong, and sits well on the shoulders. The withers are mostly embedded in strong muscles, the chest is wide and deep, the shoulders heavily muscled, the barrel is exactly that: barrel-like, with well-sprung ribs. The back is short, broad, strong, with a well-rounded kidney area that is closely coupled to the broad, steep, and heavy rear end. The croup is always cloven, the "ham" of the upper rear legs well-developed. The legs of the Rhenish German Draft horse are very stout, with broad, well-defined joints, short cannon bones, and large, wide, sound hooves. Feathers on the legs are typical, but not near as pronounced as in other draft breeds like, for instances, the Clydesdales and Shires. The heavy mane is usually parted and falls to both sides, the copious tail is set low. The tail was traditionally bobbed in the old days, a practice that is forbidden by law nowadays.
Colors are mostly brown/bay and sorrel, often with flaxen mane and tail, but also often red and blue roans. Size varies between 15.3 hh and 16.3 hh.
The Rhenish German Draft horse has a free, ground-covering walk and trot, with considerable push from behind. Some leisure-time riders today even chose them for their mounts. The horse was bred in the German provinces of Westphalia, Hessia, Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony-Thuringia, Mecklenburg, Brunswick, East-Holstein, and even some former East German territories, where it was later absorbed by the Polish draft. Other parts of Germany, such as Schleswig, or southern German provinces, pretty much stayed with their native draft breeds and were not, or very little, influenced by the Rhenish-German Draft.
Article ©HorseShowCentral.com Submitted by Hardy Oelke and Photos ©Oelke or Oelke Archive.
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