History of the Irish Draught
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 been acknowledged as an excellent dam of a hunter when mated with a
Now 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 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.
Irish Draught stock is also consistently making the best prices at sales.
By Dan McCaffery
Last Updated Thursday 28 July 2016