The versatility of a particular horse, especially the draft horses team, has always been a valuable asset. At no time in history was this as important as it was in the early years of American history.
Between the years of 1820 and 1870, "new and improved" farm equipment created larger and more productive farms. With this came the demand for larger and stronger horses. In 1839 the increasing need for horses resulted in the first importation of European stock to America. After the Civil war ended in 1865 there were massive efforts towards domestic breeding and increased importation.
By the turn of the century, Americans had over 27,000 purebred draft-horses, whose average size had increased to between 1,200 and 1,500 pounds. In 1910, it is estimated that over 3 million, of the nations 13,500,000 horses in the United States were used in nonfarm capacities. One of the most important uses of at this time were the fire horses. These were bred for superb for strength, bravery, and speed. New York City purchased its first draft-horse in 1832 and by 1906 the City employed nearly 1500 in its fire battalions. Perhaps one of the most romantic and prominent uses in early America was that of the circus horse. This monumental role of the draft-horse was essential as it announced and advertised the coming show. From town to town, this horse was used almost exclusively to haul the stock wagons, performers, baggage, animals, and equipment. The dappled grey Percherons, made famous by the Ringling Brothers Circus, is still the trademark of circus horses.
In the early 1900's over 1400 Huge Draft Horses were used daily by the Circuses of Barnum and Bailey and the Ringling Brothers. These "baggage stock teams" disappeared by 1938 as the circus became mechanized and were replaced with more modern equipment.
In 1914 only 20,000 horses were left in Britain, and the United State was asked to supply the Allied forces with fresh mounts. Over the next two years, over one million huge Draft-Horses were exported from America to Europe to assist in the conflicts of WW1. They hauled artillery to the front and packed supplies and ammunition.. Sadly, a vast majority of these horses were killed in battle as tanks and motorized artillery began to signal the end for the Calvary and foot soldiers.
By 1920, the number of registered Draft Horses in America had dropped to 95,000 and by 1945 to a mere 2000. In pockets of America, primarily in the most rural of economies, in Amish areas, and remote logging camps, drafts still played an important role; but for all essential purposes they had disappeared from the American scene. Some breeds, especially the Shire and Clydesdale were placed on endangered and watch lists due to extremely low worldwide numbers.
Though rarely credited as an event of the 1960's, this is the decade that marked the beginning of the renaissance for the draft-horse business in America. Percherons and Belgians, whose numbers have always dominated, today make up 95% in the United States. New registrations of from all breeds are almost 5000 a year, while imports, primarily from England and Canada, number in the hundreds. Drafts are returning to our forests and fields everyday as working stock. Competitions at fairs are becoming more popular and also for carriage work in urban areas. Recreational uses of Popular Draft Horse Breeds for wagon rides and sleigh rides are providing added economic opportunities as our smaller farms become more diversified.
Today draft horses are most often seen at shows, pulling competition and entered in competitions called "heavy horse" trials, or as exhibition animals pulling large wagons. However, they are still seen on some smaller farms in the USA and Europe. They are particularly popular with groups such as Amish and Mennonite farmers, as well as those individuals who wish to farm with a renewable source of power. Crossbred draft horses also played a significant role in the development of a number of warmblood breeds, popular today in international FEI competition up to the Olympic Equestrian level.
In America's Upper Midwest, Mackinac Island banned the personal motorized vehicle in order to protect the draft-horses in the late 19th century and again in the 1920s. Today, the ban is still in effect and Belgians, Percherons, Hackneys and other large breeds continue to serve the community and the tourists who visit each season. Everything is moved by drays and people get around on horse drawn taxis, elaborate private carriages and also by bicycle.
Care of draft horses
Feeding, caring for and shoeing a one-ton purebred draft is costly. The draft-horse’s metabolism is often similar to that of ponies in that draft horses have lower needs per bodyweight than light horse breeds, but because of their size, most are fed a significant amount of feed and hay per day. A grain feeding of only 0.3% of body weight is all drafts need. Drafts not subjected to extreme energy demands can do well on good quality grass.
The Shire horse holds the record for the world's biggest horse; Sampson, foaled in 1846 in Bedfordshire, England, stood 21.2½ hands high (i.e. 7 ft. 2½in or approx. 2.2m at his withers, and weighed approx. 3,300 lb. (1,500 kg) or over 1.5 tons.
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Clydesdales - 2013 Wall Calendar
Often referred to as the "Gentle Giant", the Clydesdale is a Scottish breed that was bred as a farmer's working horse. Over the years these intelligent, sturdy animals have become popular with recreational riders. Perhaps even more so than its incredible physique, the Clydesdale's most distinctive feature is the long silky bouquet of hair growing below its knees, swaying gracefully with every step of its feet. Those who appreciate these magnificent horses are sure to enjoy these Clydesdales wall Horse-Calendars.
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