Irish Draught Horse - Horse Breed & Info
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The Irish Draught Horse is lighter in body than what people refer to as the draft breeds. The Irish farmer had needs formed by the land so he bred a lighter more adaptable horse, one that could work, be driven or ridden. Actually the term Irish Draft was originated by English dealers accustomed to the usual draft horses in Britain (the Suffolk, Shire and Clydesdale) and the term was applied or misapplied to the Irish farm horse.
This Irish farm horse is the root foundation of the Irish Hunter whose reputation for flying over fences is known all over the world. The Irish Draught Horse was bred to serve the needs of the country, after imported draft breeds proved unsuccessful in a landscape where feathering on legs collected stickers and burs and when heavier draft horses were not serviceable to a people who needed horses that could till but could also be used as a roadster or jumper while maintaining good temperament. Development of the Irish farm horse continued and a stud book was attempted at the beginning of the 20th century, which failed because only thirteen stallions were approved and the geographic distance between them was too great for registered mares and practicality.
The Irish Draught Horse was in high demand during World War I. Their service as artillery horses was huge, with their clean legged, steadiness and turn of speed, with endurance coupled with a temperament that could be relied on a versatile horse that can success in any sort of work required. However the impact of automation slowed the growth of the breed and it is endangered yet today.
After a lapse of 42 years the Royal Dublin Show reinstated classes in 1967 and in 1976 a society to preserve the breed was established. The Studbook today is a joint effort of the Irish Horse Board, the Northern Ireland Horse Board, and the Irish Draught Horse Society. To be registered, foals are blood-typed, inspected and undergo performance tests in sport horse competitions. Grays are common, but any solid color is acceptable. Height is from 15 to 16 hands. This is an active, powerful horse, short legged, with both great substance and great quality. Great strength in the hind quarters for jumping is present, with straight, level and balanced, yet exaggerated action, with good flat leg bone. This horse covers ground. The head is small and intelligent; the expression honest a totally workman like horse. The limestone pastures and a mild climate have produced bone, substance and size in the Irish Draught Horse.
The Irish people's inborn love of hunting spurred them to produce a horse with uncanny ability to get across country over the most difficult of obstacles. Over twenty five hundred years ago, the Celts brought their horses to Ireland and the land and the people and the horses did well together. In Medieval times Ireland produce the Irish Hobby, a cavalry horse that was in demand all over Europe. Exportation was even banned at times because the demand was too high for the breeders to support. It is no wonder these people could develop their own farm horse that also became world renown.
The success of the Irish Draught Horse is also coming close to causing its extinction. Back when the auto and tractors took over the work for which this horse had been created, it was also discovered that a farmer could make more money by breeding his farm horse to a Thoroughbred and selling a foal that astounded the world with its sport horse abilities. The modern Irish sport horse is 50% Irish Draught and 50% Thoroughbred, and it continues to take the world by storm.
The cross with the Thoroughbred adds more quality and scope and speed without reducing the breed's inherited hunting wisdom! Who could resist this cross? It is to be hoped however that the original breed will be preserved while the Irish sport horse continues to improve.
The Irish horses earned worldwide respect centuries ago, be it the ancient Irish Hobby, the great center of Irish racing, The Curragh of Kildare dating to pre-Christian times, the famous Irish Hunter, and now the modern Irish sport horses whose parent in the Irish Draught Horse. In 2006 the studbook of the Irish Sport Horse led the eventing ranks of the World breeding Federation for the twelfth time in a row, and it was that magical Irish Draught blood!
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