Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Irish Draught Horse

 During the early 1900s, Irish farmers needed a strong, versatile horse lighter than the common draft horse that could plow fields during the week, leap gracefully over obstacles in a fox hunt on Saturdays, and still take the family to church on Sunday morning. With the help of Ireland's Department of Agriculture, quality stallions were selected to be bred with each farmer's stock. Those stallions are considered the breeds foundation stock, and only foals with at least one foundation stallion in its pedigree would be registered. In 1978, the Irish Horse Board closed the registry book to any new stallion bloodlines, only registering pureblood offspring of existing registered horses. All of the registered horses became a breed known as the Irish Draught(pronounced "draft) Horse, "draught" being the Irish word for "draft."

 Later, crossing the Irish Draught Horse with Thoroughbreds to create a sporty horse with the Draught's soundness and unflappable nature came into fashion. This breed came to be known as the Irish Sport Horse, or the Irish Hunter. Soon, however, Draught mares were no longer producing purebred foals, and the breed's survival became at risk.

Irish Draught Horses are powerful horses with strong legs
and pleasant faces. credit
Since then, many people and groups  have done all they can to encourage people to breed pureblood Irish Draughts. In 1993, the Irish Draught Horse Society of North America(IDHSNA) was created to preserve the purebred Irish Draught Horse. Furthermore, Horse Sport Ireland operates a scheme called Irish Draught Rare Bloodline, encouraging people to maintain genetic diversity within the breed, as well as breeding their best stallions to purebred mares. In recent years, due to the strong efforts of these many groups, the number of purebred Irish Draught foals has increased.

 Like most any breed, Draughts have breed standards. They should have a pleasant face with bold, wide-set eyes, a broad forehead, and plenty of room at the throat. Their their neck should be held high, withers well-defined. The forearms should be long and muscular, the knees large, and the cannons short and straight; the bone should be clean and flat, not coarse and round. The pasterns must be be strong and the hooves solid. Their backs are required to be powerful and their girth deep. Mares should have plenty of room to carry a foal. Everything from the croup to the buttocks must be rounded, not flat-topped, and the hips shouldn't be very wide and plain. The thighs are strong and powerful. The hocks are near the ground and should be in line with the hindquarters, the heel, and the ground. All in all, the Irish Draught shouldn't be weak or bent over in any way, but strong and standing tall.

 The average height for a Irish Draught is 15.1 to 16.3 hands high. Often, they come in a solid color with white markings, although socks that are above the knees or hocks are not desirable.

 Because of their smooth, eye-catching, ground-covering stride and powerful haunches, they make excellent jumpers and hunters.

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