History of the Irish Draught Horse


The name Irish Draught may be misleading in that many people are surprised to find that the breed is a lighter free-moving animal than the traditional image of the heavy horse. Nevertheless, the ancestry of the breed goes back to the small Irish farm where the farm horse doubled up as a hunter as well as taking the trap or dogcart into the town. However, today the Irish Draught is more sought after for its breeding qualities. In England, the brood mare has long been acknowledged as an excellent dam of a hunter when mated with a thoroughbred stallion.

Nowadays, the Irish Draught stallion is being used more and more to get extra bone and substance in the progeny of the lighter type mare. The breed has been in existence for a century or more, though it has been nearly lost on several occasions. During periods of poverty and famine in Irish history, many breeders gave up registering their animals and it took many hours of work by breed enthusiasts and the Irish Horse Board to get a new studbook started. They found that hundreds were going to the slaughterhouses each week and that there were very few left.

Traditionally, the Draught was the farm horse in Ireland and it also had to be capable of being hunted and ridden. It pulled the cart, tilled the fields and had to be capable of keeping up a good jog in the trap. The horse had to be docile, strong and economical to keep. Its traditional winter feed was often young gorse put through a chaff-cutter, boiled turnips and bran or meal of some sort that could be spared from the cows.

Gradually the breed developed into an animal around 15.2 hh - 16.2 hh in mares and 16 hh - 17 hh in stallions and of any whole colour.The horse has a graceful carriage of head and neck with a big, kind eye, strong limbs with particularly short cannon bones. Despite the power, the horse should be free moving and not ponderous. The feet should be like those of a hunter and not like a carthorse. The feet are one of the most important points, and the reason why the Irish Draught is required for the breeding of show jumpers is that they have to withstand the concussion from jumping, often on hard surfaces.

Horses by our Registered Irish Draught Stallions are now well to the fore in every discipline, with qualifying horses at the Horse of the Year Show in the Working Hunter, Ridden Hunter, Show Jumping and Cob categories. Our Irish Draught stock is also consistently making the best prices at sales.

By Dan McCaffery -

Taken from the IDHSNA society's newsletter.

Breed Standard

Type and Character
The Irish Draught Horse is an active, short-shinned, powerful horse with substance and quality. It is proud of bearing, deep of girth and strong of back and quarters. Standing over a lot of ground, it has an exceptionally strong and sound constitution. It has an intelligent and gentle nature and is noted for its docility and common sense.

Stallions 16hh or over
Mares from 15.2hh

9 inches or more of good, strong, clean bone.

Good, bold eyes set well apart, wide forehead and long, well-set ears. Head should be generous and pleasant, not coarse or hatchet headed, though a slight roman nose is permissible. The jawbones should have enough room to take the gullet and allow for ease of breathing.

Shoulders, Neck and Front
Shoulders should be clean-cut and not loaded, withers well defined, not coarse; the neck set in high and carried proudly, showing a good length of rein. The chest should not be too broad and beefy. The forearms should be long and muscular, not caught in at the elbows; the knee large and generous, set near the ground, and the cannon bone straight and short, with plenty of flat clean bone, and never back at the knee (calf-kneed) i.e. not sloping forward from knee to fetlock. The bone must not be round or coarse. The legs should be clean and hard with a little hair permissible at the back of the fetlock, as a necessary protection; the pasterns strong and in proportion, not short and upright nor long and weak. The hoof should be generous and sound, not boxy or contracted and there should be plenty of room at the heel.

Back, Hindquarters, Body and Hind Legs
The back is to be powerful, the girth very deep. The loins must not be weak but the mares must have enough room to carry a foal. The croup to buttocks is to be long and sloping, not short and rounded or flat-topped; hips not wide and plain. Thighs are strong and powerful and at least as wide from the back view as the hips, with the second thighs long and well-developed. The hocks are near the ground and generous, points not too close together or wide apart but straight; they should not be out behind the horse but should be in line from the back of the quarters to the heel to the ground; they should not be over bent or in any way weak. The cannon bone, etc. as for the foreleg should be short and strong.

Smooth and free but without exaggeration and not heavy or ponderous. Walk and trot to be straight and true with good flexion of the hocks and freedom of the shoulders.

Any strong whole color, including grays. White legs, above the knees or hocks not desirable.