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Top Five Work Horses


belgian work horsesDraft horses have long been viewed as the powerhouse quarter of the working horses. They sport huge and strong bodies and many possess gentle spirits. Here are the top five work horses.

1. Belgian
The Belgian has a compact body that is short with a wide back and powerful legs. It is a massive horse with strong, but short legs. The hooves are medium in size. It comes in a variety of reds and browns with chestnut, red roan, dun, brown and grey being the most common. The Belgian stands at 16-18 hands and weighs up to 2200 pounds. They live for about 14 years and are known for their gentle temperaments and ease of handling. They descended from war horses of the Middle Ages. They were originally, however, bred to work on the farmlands and have the honor of being believed to be the genetic foundation of nearly all modern draft breeds. They are popular today as show horses, gaming horses, and trail riding horses as well as draft work including plowing, logging and the pulling of various carriages.

2. Shire
The Shire is a draft horse that hails from central England. They are equal in weight to the Belgian but slightly taller. Because of their history as a war horse in the Middle Ages, they are well adapted to carrying heavy loads such as armor. They come in black, bay or grey and stand between 16 and 19 hands with a weight of about 1800 pounds. They are patient and calm with a solid reputation as a docile horse that draws women and children. They live for approximately 30 years. Despite their popularity in their homeland, the Industrial Revolution led to a loss of use as tractors and other machinery gained ground. Indeed by the 1900's they were struggling for survival in England. They were introduced to North America in the 1800's, but never gained the popularity or following of the Clydesdale or Percheron.

3. Percheron
The Percheron is one of the most popular draft horses in North America, as well as being one of the largest. It is known for having an even temperament and good manners, as well as their willingness to work. They are useful on small farms, in forest work, can be seen pulling carriages, and have a noble bearing that finds them in many parades throughout that country. They are generally grey or black as well as chestnut or bay. They range in heigh from 15-19 hands and weigh up to 2600 pounds. They are an alert and intelligent breed and very long-lived. They hail originally from the La Peche Valley in the south of France and are believed to descend from Arabians brought to Europe by the Moors. As with many of the old breeds, they were used as war horses, then in lighter labor as carriage horses before being turned out to farm duty and heavier labor. Due to their steady temperament, the Percheron is one breed of horse most commonly used by Disney in their parks as they can be trusted around children.

4. Clydesdale
The Clydesdale is a beloved breed of horse with an exacting standard that matches the love felt by its enthusiasts. They are most commonly seen in bay, black and brown, but the occasional roan and chestnut may be seen. They stand between 16 and 18 hands and grow to be over 2000 pounds. They are a lively and intelligent horse with a good temperament. Hailing from Scotland, this is a fairly long lived breed that lasts into its early 20's. They have seen action from war horses in their earliest years to becoming the well-beloved advertising horses seen in the Anheuser-Busch commercials- especially during the Christmas and Superbowl seasons. They are a strong and amiable breed that is used in rural, urban and industrial settings. Despite their status, the breed was once listed as vulnerable; however their popularity has grown and they have gone from 80 horses in 1975 to over 5000.

5. Haflinger
A breed of horse developed in Austria and Italy, the Haflinger as we know it is a younger breed believed to be a combination of the Arabian and other European horses into the native Tyrolean ponies. They are relatively small and always chestnut in color with an energetic but smooth gait. They stand between 13 and 15 hands and weigh between 800 and 1300 pounds. A sound horse of strong character, the Haflinger possesses a good disposition, is sturdy for a variety of work types, and is more than willing to do the work you give it. They were originally developed to work in the mountain regions and were used as pack horses, logging horses and plow horses. They are still used today for some light draft work, but more for dressage and show jumping.



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