Friesian Horse Origin and Characteristics

There may not be a horse that is more visually striking than the Friesian. With the black coat color, along with the long mane and tail, this breed is one of the few that comes close to the natural high-knee action and free-flowing movement of the Hackney.

Friesians are nimble, graceful, and majestic for their size.

Origins of the Friesian Horse

The Friesian is named after the region of The Netherlands where the breed originated. There are cattle that share the name as well, though originally a “z” was used for the horse breed spelling and the “s” was used for the Holstein cattle. Most of the horse breeders were also breeding the dairy cattle, so the same spelling was used for both animals and it eventually became the common practice.

Their story is one that is thousands of years old, though the Friesian became established as a modern breed in the 12th century. Noblemen and knights in the region needed a horse that was fast, but calm under pressure, and strong enough to carry someone who was in full armor. That led to the development of the modern Friesian.

These initial horses were large, strong-boned, and very courageous. When the 16th century came around and there was less demand for a heavy war horse, breeders in The Netherlands took advantage of their connection with Spain to bring in Andalusian bloodlines into the Friesian breed. This helped to lighten the overall size of the breed, especially in terms of food requirements, but didn’t lessen the strength of the horse.

This led the Friesian to become an essential multi-purpose horse for many families. It could work in the fields all week and then bring the family into town for errands, religious services, and other needs.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the demand for trotting horses that could race began to increase as well. Friesians would become the foundation stock of several trotting breeds, including the Norfolk Trotter, which is an ancestry of the Hackney. It could be argued that the high-knee action in the natural walk of the Hackney comes from the genetic profile of the Friesian.

The first stud book would be formed in 1879, organized by local farmers and property owners who would register Friesians and other local warm-blooded breeds. This created an initial breed that was referred to as the “Bovenlander.”

Purebred Friesians were still in-demand, but the Bovenlander was more popular because of their overall versatility. It could be a trotting racer, a farm worker, and a harness horse all in one. By the time the stud book was formed, there were areas of Europe where purebred Friesians were virtually extinct. 

By 1913, the desire to create Bovenlanders was recognized as being dangerous to the Friesian, so there was a desire to save the breed. Over the next two years, an effort to split Friesians from Bovenlanders helped to split registrations into two groups. Then, during World War II, non-Friesian horse breeders left the stud book completely to form their own association.

Like many breeds after the war, the 1940s and 1950s were a difficult time for the breed. Population numbers dwindled dramatically, though its localization to the region did have a persevering effect on the breed. The Strassburger family, who fled the Nazi regime, had discovered the qualities of the breed and incorporated them into their shows. The family has continued to be instrumental in the survival of the Friesian.

Jewish Circus Traditions and the Survival of the Friesian Horse

The Circus Strassburger began in the days of World War I, but the family sold it off in 1916 because of the financial struggles of the conflict. After the war, the family would start a new circus. Two brothers, Leopold and Adolf, would travel throughout Europe performing. With more than 100 horses, including a dozen Friesian stallions, the circus grew to fame because they had trained a tiger to ride on the back of one of the horses.

When the Nazis came into power in 1933, the Circus Strassburger faced an immediate boycott because of their heritage. Even when the brothers retreated from the board to allow their non-Jewish sons to run the circus, the government continued to put pressure on the family.

The circus would perform from until 1963, though there were several gaps in the performing schedule. When the Nazi regime began their purge of Judaism, the Strassburger family fled to the Low Country with their circus and continued their shows.

While on the run, the circus saw many of their animals killed by governmental authorities. There was a conscientious effort to save the Friesian stallions, to the extent that the circus broke down in 1944 and the family continued to protect the herd, despite the Hunger Winter that year.

In the western provinces of The Netherlands, German blockades made it impossible to move food or fuel into the region. At the same time, an unusually cold and harsh early winter set onto the continent, so canals became frozen. Animals, including horses, were poached regularly. Food stocks ran out everywhere. The Strassburger family maintained their position, sheltered in place, and helped to bring the Friesian back to prominence over the next two decades.

Characteristics of the Friesian Horse

The black coat color is the trademark characteristic of the Friesian horse. There are alternative coat colors allowed for the breed, however, as both bays and chestnuts have been seen in the past. No matter what the solid coat color may be, however, there are rarely any white markings that can be found on the horse. For a purebred registration, only a small forehead star is allowed for registration purposes.

Chestnut stallions are not usually accepted for registration, but some geldings and mares may be allowed if other conformation factors are met. Friesians that compete with a chestnut coat are penalized, however, so the coat color is not usually desired.

Stallions must undergo a thorough and rigorous approval process to be accepted as breeding stock. This includes verification of all physical characteristics.

Friesians can be up to 17 hands high, though there is a minimum requirement of 14.2 hands high. The average Friesian is a little over 15 hands. Mares and geldings must be at least 15.2 hands high to be given a star designation on their pedigree.

During an inspection, a team of judges, referred to as a “keuring,” will determine if the star designation should be allowed.

A Friesian should have a powerful appearance that is distinctive through strong bone structure. The shoulders are sloping, but with strength, while the body of the horse is compact and muscular. There is feathering below the knee, along with wavy, thick hair in the mane and the tail. These are left uncut to contribute to the flowing appearance that the horse provides.

Friesians are known for their energy and spirt, but there is a certain gentleness to their activity. They are willing, relatively docile, and carry themselves with elegance in everything they do.

Two different types of Friesians are recognized today.

  • The “classic” Friesian, which offers a dynamic visual appearance with strength and stoutness is referred to as the Baroque-type Friesian.
  • The Sporting Friesian has a finer bone structure than the classical type, but with a similar build.

Both types are balanced well within the population of the breed. The Sporting Friesian tends to be more popular in the show ring, however, but the emphasis on showing is on correct movements instead of meeting a specific conformation demand.

Health Issues with the Friesian Horse

There are four genetic disorders that are associated with the Friesian breed.

Less than 1% of Friesians are affected by dwarfism. When this occurs, the horse has a broader chest, a long back, very short limbs, but with a head that is of normal size. Hydrocephalus is about equally common within the breed. Genetic testing is available for these two conditions.

Friesians are also prone to aortic rupture and a larger-than-normal esophagus. The latter condition makes it difficult for the horse to swallow its food because the muscles of the esophagus do not engage as they should. Because horses do not usually vomit, a Friesian with this condition will suffer from colic on a frequent basis.

Friesians have higher rates of sensitivity to insect bites than other breads, have more frequent digestive system disorders, and more than half of the mares have a retained placenta after foaling. Some Friesians show the ligament and tendon laxity that is seen in dwarfism, despite their regular size.

The limited gene pool that helped to establish this breed after its initial decline is thought to be a contributing factor to this issue.

Although there are still some struggles ahead for the Friesian as a breed, its striking looks, gentle demeanor, and overall athleticism make it one of the most popular horse breeds today. As efforts continue to preserve and refine the breed, the Friesian looks to have a bright future ahead of it. 

Florida Cracker Horse Origin and Characteristics

The Florida Cracker horse goes by several different names. It is referred to as the Seminole Pony, the Florida Cow Pony, the Prairie Pony, and the Chickasaw Pony, depending on the local traditions of naming and ownership. Although the names may be different, the breed has the same origin and characteristics.

There are some specific people that are responsible for the continued survival of this breed, keeping distinct bloodlines alive while the popularity of the breed declined in Florida and the southern United States. People like John Law Ayers, who would donate his entire herd of purebred Florida Crackers to the state, helped to create three herds that are kept on the Paynes Prairie State Preserve. 

Although the herds were permitted to remain in a semi-feral state, their numbers continued to dwindle until only about 100 remained. Since then, a registry has formed and preservation activities have been ongoing for more than a generation through private efforts. The State of Florida still maintains two groups of horses for breeding purposes on the preserve.

The state sells horses that fall outside of its budgetary numbers to private investors, breeders, and homes to maintain the donated herds.

What is the Origin of the Florida Cracker Horse?

In the 16th century, the Spanish sailed to Florida and brought many of their horses with them. Although exploration was the goal of these expeditions, the Spanish often used their horses in Florida for herding livestock. This was especially true for the horses that were designated to be colonial horses.

Because of the untamed terrain, the horses in that era needed to be fast, sure-footed, and have a gait that would work with the unique landscapes. As the settlement processed progressed, the characteristics of the Florida Cracker horse, often referred to as just “Crackers,” began to develop.

As with most breeds that have Spanish ancestry in their foundation stock, Florida Crackers tend to be a mix of Peruvian Paso, Criollo, and Paso Fino. This breed is closely related to other Spanish ancestry breeds in the US, such as the Banker and the Carolina Marsh Tacky.

Up until the 1930s, this horse breed was still extensively used by farmers and ranchers that were based in Florida.

When the Dust Bowl hit the US Midwest, the larger livestock began to be migrated into Florida. This event required horses that were larger than the Florida Cracker horse to maintain order, so ranchers and farmers began to phase out the breed in favor of the American Quarter Horse. This caused population numbers to begin rapidly dwindling until the breed became threatened with extinction.

The state government, along with several private families, have banded together to protect and preserve the breed, but its population levels are still at a critical point. The Florida Cracker Horse Association was founded in 1989 to protect the remnants of this breed and 31 horses were initially registered and typed for foundation stock.

One issue that exists for the continued survival of the Florida Cracker is that one of its foundation horses, the Chickasaw, is considered extinct. Although some call the Florida Cracker by the Chickasaw name, it is a separate breed that was raised apart of other herds by the local tribe.

About 900 horses are now registered and the breed is slowly, but surely recovering.

What Are the Expected Characteristics of the Florida Cracker Horse?

Although some may refer to this breed as a pony, the Florida Cracker horse has maintained many of the characteristics of its Spanish ancestry. Stallions can reach 15 hands high, while most horses will be at least 13.2 hands high. They can weigh up to 1,000 pounds and are thought to be a small saddle horse. 

Florida Crackers tend to be black, gray, or bay, but other coat colors are possible. Chestnut, dun, and grullo have been seen within the breed. Roan and pinto horses are rare, but possible as well.

Eye colors tend to be dark with a sclera that is blue, gray, or white. They have a neck that is defined well, somewhat narrow, and without an excessive crest. The distance from the withers to the croup is about the same length as the neck.

The Florida Cracker has a chest that is somewhat narrow, average in size, and should form an inverted V-shape between the front legs. The point of the croup and the point of the withers should be equal in height, with the under line being longer than the top line.

The tail on this breed is set somewhat low.

This breed should have a slightly concave profile, but straight is preferred. Their primary characteristic is their strong back and sloping croup so the horse can work with its handler all day long. Their speed and agility is excellent and they do well in rugged environments thanks to their sure-footedness. This makes them quite popular for recreational riding, especially on difficult trails.

The Florida Cracker is also a gaited horse, with an amble and a running walk officially recognized by the breed association. That is in addition to the trot, canter, and gallop. The ambling gait is often referred to as the “coon rack.”

Because these horses can look like other breeds, many who are familiar with Florida Crackers say that the best way to determine the breed is to ride the horse. Because their gaits are so unique to the area, it is possible to distinguish this breed from others right away.

The Florida Cracker, as a breed, tends to be a willing worker. They are spirited, but loyal and trainable. Outside of their working responsibilities, this breed has found success in pulling wagons, team roping events, and penning.

Stories of the Florida Cracker horse have filtered down through the centuries to tell the tale of a hard-working horse that helped to establish thriving colonies, working farms, and began the process of taming the wild of the local landscape. Thanks to the preservation efforts of a few and the state government, the next chapter in their story is just waiting to be told. 

Fell Pony Origin and Characteristics

The Fell Pony comes from Cumberland, Cumbria, and Northumberland. Herds of this pony roamed around the moors in a feral state. The fell farms in the area would round up these ponies, domesticate them, and then use them for riding, driving, and other farm needs.

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Closely related to the Dales Pony, the Fell Pony is smaller and offers more pony-like features. It is a sure-footed breed, notably hardy, and is one of the pound-for-pound strongest pony breeds found in the world today.

The Fell Pony is one of the few that breeds true to type. For this reason, it is not unusual to find matched driving pairs within this breed. This has made the breed popular for nobles and royals in England over the centuries. It is a popularity that continues to exist still to this day.
Teams of Fell Ponies are regularly competing in driving competition on behalf of the Queen. The Royal Family uses this breed for trekking and hunting on their estates.

Although they are popular, the Fell Pony as a breed is relatively rare globally. Although there is a total population of Fell Ponies of about 8,000, the total number in North America is estimated to be about 450. 

History of the Fell Pony

The beginning of the story for the Fell Pony begins with the Galloway Pony, which is now extinct. The Galloway Pony helped to bring about several different moorland pony breeds, along with some international pony breeds as well. Due to crossbreeding, however, the Galloway Pony would become extinct by the 19th century.

Out of its wake came the Fell Pony. Its home in Northern England, along the border of Scotland, is believed to have been the home of this breed and its ancestors since the time of Roman occupation in the area. 

Some believe that the Fell Pony came from crossbreeding of local ponies with Roman war stallions, though no evidence for this legend currently exists.

The Viking settlements in the region were known to use horses like the Fell Pony for their pulling, riding, and plowing needs. As farms evolved and more strength was required, this breed fell out of favor for the larger heavy draft breeds that come from this region. 

The Fell Pony was then used as a pack horse. Mining in the area was commonplace and these ponies were small enough to work in the pits and caves where slate, copper, lead, and iron were being mined. Farmers in the area would use these ponies for some agricultural work and their transportation needs.

It is this ability that helped the Fell Pony survive the Industrial Revolution in England relatively unscathed. Their ability to work as a pack animal allowed them to work effectively with miners to create high production levels that would eventually transform English society.

Yet their ability to work on fell farms and serve multiple needs was never forgotten. Some ponies could travel almost 400 kilometers in a single week and not show any signs of wear. Several stories told in their home region talk about how the fast trot of these ponies allowed them to carry riders over great distances in a relatively short period of time. 

The ability of these ponies to serve as pack animals and their impressive speed had postal services using them as a pony train well into the 20th century. 

The Fell Pony Society was formed in 1916 with the goal of keeping the bred pure and able to roam the moors of its home for generations to come. Over the next 2 years, the resolutions provided by the Society would become formalized. By 1922, the Fell Pony Society had organized itself to allow breeders to work with the ponies.

As with most horse breeds, the Fell Pony population suffered great losses through the 1940s. During the food shortages in Europe, these ponies were often valued more for their meat than their ability to work. If a pony could not be sold, many of the fell farms just let their horses run free, forming herds like their ancestors did so long ago. 

In 1945, a stallion enclosure program had to be initiated by the Fell Pony Society to preserve the breed. A grading-up system was also initiated and would continue until 1970, when the breed genetics would finally stabilize. 

Thanks to an increase in recreational riding and competitive events during the grading-up period for the breed, the population numbers of the Fell Pony have begun to recover. Registrations have increased steadily since the 1950s and an annual stud books is published.

Characteristics to Expect with the Fell Pony

The characteristics of a Fell Pony can be quite variable. Height can be up to 14 hands high, with the average height of the breed coming in at 13.2 hands high. Differences in weight make it possible to find a pony that can carry virtually any rider.

Breeding programs and better access to quality feed have helped to promote a taller height for these ponies. A Fell Pony in the wild, more than two centuries ago, would have likely topped out at 12 hands high. 

Thanks to the conditions of Northern England, the Fell Pony can adapt to virtually any climate or environment.

Coat colors for the Fell Pony are typically brown, gray, bay, or black. The Fell Pony Society disallows ponies that have chestnut, skewbald, or piebald characteristics, though they can be found on ponies in semi-feral herds. A small star on the forehead and markings below the hind fetlock which are white are also considered acceptable, but excessive markings are still eligible for registry.

The head of the Fell Pony is comparatively small to the rest of its body. The outline should be chiseled, with the forehead broad and tapering to the nose. The nostrils of the pony should be large and expansive, complementing eyes that are mild, bright, prominent, and intelligent. There should be no signs of coarseness or throatiness. 

A Fell Pony should have ears that are well-formed, somewhat small, and neatly set.

Outside of the physical expectations, the primary characteristic of the Fell Pony is its stamina. All ponies should be strong and hardy, with typical pony features present. This includes a strong, flat bone. 

The intelligence of this breed is high and self-preservation is one of its most unique characteristics, developed due to the climate of its ancestral home. Like many pony breeds that come from the moorlands, the Fell Pony is alert, lively, and has a spirited, but steady temperament. 

A Fell Pony is a reliable jumper because of its innate agility. Popular uses for this breed include hunting, cross-country riding, and recreational trail use. Show jumping is the one competitive event where this pony breed tends to thrive.

Why Choose a Fell Pony?

A Fell Pony is a good all-around breed. They work well with adults and support children with consistency. It has an easy pace and a fast walk, which provides a comfortable ride. Because the breed is extremely sure-footed, even rough terrain can be handled with consistent safety. A Fell Pony can often go where other ponies and larger horse breeds would not journey.

Some breeds have a “cow” sense or have a hunting or herding mentality. The Fell Pony has a sense for potential danger instead. This allows the pony to pick the safest route between two points so they can handle a rocky hillside, wetlands, or other difficult terrain with relative ease.

The Fell Pony Society tests the qualities of registered ponies on a regular basis to ensure they can meet the standards and expectations of the breed. Annual performance trials include handling difficult terrain elements, water crossing events, and navigating numerous natural hazards. 

The temperament is also an attractive component of owning a Fell Pony. There are remarkably docile for such a spirited horse, which makes them an integral part of beginner and experiential programs.

The Future of the Fell Pony

Population numbers have continued to increase since the 1950s, with a rapid increase occurring at the turn of the 21st century. The annual publication of the Society’s stud book helps to maintain the popularity of the breed, while the growing recreational riding industries creates a demand for pony breeds to serve children and smaller adults.

The Fell Pony meets the current riding needs quite well. It’s ability to serve as a pack animal allows this pony breed to thrive in cultures where mechanization has fallen out of favor for traditional farming methods. It is a breed that is fast, versatile, and willing to learn.

It is a good all-around pony capable of doing a wide variety of jobs and that is why it will always be attractive to own one.

Exmoor Horse Origin and Characteristics

Native to the British Isles, the Exmoor Horse is a pony breed that can still be found in a semi-feral state. The moorlands of Somerset and Devon are this breed’s traditional home and herds have stayed here throughout all documented history.

A few Exmoor Horses are still living in the wild today. A herd of 14 horses were moved from the national park that had been their home to a former military base in the Czech Republic in 2015. The goal of this transfer was to improve the breed’s biodiversity through a process of conservation grazing. 

Horses that do remain in the wild moors are rounded up annually and inspected to determine their health and progress.

Some breeders prefer to keep their Exmoor Horses in a semi-feral state, turning them out into protected areas and left alone for long periods. The idea behind this care technique is that there is a belief with some breeders that if the Exmoor is pampered, it will begin to lose its ancient characteristics. 

When not kept in this state, these ponies do excel in a wide variety of activities. Long-distance racing, driving, agility drills, and showing are all points of emphasis for the breed.

The History of the Exmoor Horse

Fossilized remains of horses have been found in the moorlands of Somerset and Devon, dated to be at least 50,000 years old. It is suspected that horses have always occupied the British Isles in some way since the very beginnings of history.

There are claims that the Exmoor has been exclusively purebred since the Ice Age. This would make the breed be over 10,000 years old and potentially the oldest current breed on the planet. No DNA research has been conducted to confirm these claims, though an analysis of the fossilized equine remains found in England have not been connected to any current horse species. 

Archeological evidence shows that horses were used for transportation by at least the 4th century BC. There are Roman carvings that show horses of the same physical conformation to the Exmoor Horse as well.

The oldest documentation of the Exmoor Horse can be found in the Domesday Book. This manuscript was a large survey of the England and Wales that was completed in the late 11th century. Ordered by William the Conqueror, the goal of this book was to determine taxation responsibilities.

This makes the Exmoor Horse the oldest of the 9 known native British horse breeds. It is also the one breed that is believed to not be influenced by outside breeding techniques. 

In 1818, many ponies were removed from the moorlands to begin developing domesticated stock that could be used for agricultural work. Most of the breed was removed from the wild at this point. Over the next century, farmers in the area would continue developing the breed until a breed society formed in 1921.

In the 1930s and 1940s, there was a severe decline in population numbers for the Exmoor Horse. Not only would soldiers use them for target practice, but with the food shortages experienced during the war, they were also killed for their meat. 

After the warfare years, a group of breeders came together to save the Exmoor Horse. Purebred ponies were sent to North America to provide some diversity to the breed. A stud book was published in 1963, then again in 1981, and the publicity from doing so helped to bring more interest to the breed.

It is still an extremely rare breed, despite several decades of conservation efforts. In the early 21st century, there were an estimated 800 purebred Exmoor Horses around the world. 

Characteristics Found in the Exmoor Horse

There is a specific primitive look that is associated with the Exmoor. These ponies tend to have hooded eyes and have a double coat, developed to deal with the changing weather conditions found on the moors. The tail has hairs that are thicker and wider than other horse breeds as well, referred to as an “ice tail” by those who work with the breed.

Exmoor horses also have a seventh molar, which is a trait that is believed to be associated with breeds that have an ancient lineage. Their unique jaw formation is additional evidence that suggests there is a certain “ancient” quality to this breed.

This pony breed typically stands between 11.3-12.3 hands high. Taller horses are possible, but are typically excluded from the registry. The minimum height is necessary to prevent the breed from being classified as a miniature horse.

The coat colors for the Exmoor are typically brown, dun, or bay. Mealy markings tend to be found along the stomach, chest, and muzzle of the horse. Many will have darker patches of coat color along the neck and dark stockings.

Exmoor Horses are surprisingly strong for their size. Although they are usually marketed as a family horse and good with children, they are strong enough to carry smaller adults. Many ponies can be used in the harness. They have instinctual hunting abilities that can be brought out through a strict training regimen.

What is unique about the Exmoor is that domesticated breeding programs struggle to find success with this breed. When these ponies are taken out of their natural state, there has been little success in producing foals. That is why there is such an emphasis on turning the ponies out and letting them run as freely as possible. 

Two types of Exmoor Horses have developed over the generations. The first, the Acland type, are believed to be descendants of the ponies that were left in the wild after several were removed from the moorlands in the 19th century. Acland-type ponies closely resemble the other Exmoors that have been found in a semi-feral state.

The second type, called the Withypool type, are ponies that are slightly taller and heavier, with a coat that tends to be a little darker. Withypool-type Exmoors tend to have a straighter profile and slightly more athleticism as well. 

The Future of the Exmoor Horse

There are currently three herds of Exmoor Horses that are still roaming their ancestral homelands. This history has developed unique traits within the breed that help Exmoors withstand a climate that can be quite harsh. It has also created challenges in the preservation efforts that have taken place over the past two generations to maintain population levels.

Only time will tell if the current conservation efforts will be successful. The character and look of the Exmoor Horse is beautifully unique. With numbers at highly endangered levels around the world, a continued emphasis on preserving this potentially ancient horse gives it the best possible chance for survival. 

Dutch Warmblood Horse Origin and Characteristics

The last century has been good for horse breeds that have come from The Netherlands. In terms of success, the Dutch Warmblood makes an argument that it is the best breed in the world when it comes to international competition.

This breed comes from Dutch stock horses that were mixed to create a horse that had light draft qualities, but a fire to it that would serve well for racing and riding. The horse needed to be comfortable in the fields, in the harness, and under the saddle. That is the origin of the Dutch Warmblood.

In the Netherlands, foreign bloodlines have been introduced over the centuries to create stock horses that were strong and durable. There are bloodlines from Arabians, Thoroughbreds, Hannovers, and Holsteiners found in the Dutch stock horses.

It is that foundation, along with the developed characteristics of regional stock horses, that have created a strong, competitive, and influential breed in the Dutch Warmblood. 

What Is the Origin of the Dutch Warmblood?

Up until the 1930s, there were two types of horses that were used in The Netherlands for utility work. In the south, the Gelderlanders were bred, while in the north, the Groningens were bred. Both were governed by their own stud books and breeding societies at the time. The former breed was thought of as a breed that was strong and elegant. The latter served more in a draft horse capacity.

Combining the two breeds seemed a logical choice. That is what created the Dutch Warmblood. The Dutch Warmblood has maintained the best characteristics of both foundation breeds.

The initial goal of having the Dutch Warmblood was to create a better riding horse that could double as a solid work horse if needed. In the mechanization era for agricultural work, the emphasis shifted away from needing a work horse, so more riding traits were emphasized in breeding programs.

In the 1950s, there was an emphasis to encourage changes to Dutch horses so that a faster move away from agricultural features could be obtained. Breeders brought in Holsteiner and Hanoverian stallions to encourage more of a sporting personality and physical capability within the Dutch Warmblood breed.

Strict selection procedures are now in place with the breeding programs for the Dutch Warmblood. With an emphasis placed on dressage and show jumping since the beginning of the 21st century, there has been a subtle shift in the characteristics of the Dutch Warmblood. This has created two sub-types of horse: jumper types and dressage types.

Although the breed types are specific, both types of horses are allowed for breeding to each other to maintain the genetic variations that are necessary to keep the breed healthy.

These efforts have had great success for international competitions. The Dutch Warmblood registry has been the most successful in show jumping and the breed is consistently ranked #1 in jumping and in the top 10 for dressage. Several Dutch Warmbloods have been Olympic medalists since 2004. Moorlands Totilas held the world record for dressage score and won 3 gold medals at the 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games.

What is unique about the KWPN, which oversees the breeding programs for the Dutch Warmblood, is that is separated into 4 sections. Dutch Harness Horses, the Tuigpaard, the Gelderlander, and riding horses bred for show jumping or dressage each have their own section.

What Are the Characteristics of the Dutch Warmblood?

The Dutch Warmblood is comparable to other sporting-type horses in height, coat, and other forms of physical conformation. Most of the horses in this breed stand around 16 hands high, with many reaching or exceeding 17 hands high. To qualify for breeding, a mare must be at least 15.2 hands high and stallions must be 15.3 hands high.

The predominant coat colors within this breed are chestnut and bay, but gray and black coats are also seen. White markings are permitted on the face and along the legs, but shouldn’t be overly excessive. Tobiano is allowed because a stallion named Samber was approved for breeding within the Royal Warmblood Stud book of the Netherlands, but is discouraged today. No other tobiano stallion has been approved for breeding. 

Older horses may still have the brand of the Dutch Warmblood, a lion-rampant, on their left hip. Branding is illegal in the Netherlands today, however, so all foals are microchipped instead of branded to confirm identity and registry. 

A Dutch Warmblood has a neck that is arched and long, withers that are prominent, and a profile that is visually straight. Shoulders should have a good slope to them, supported by a deep girth, and strength prominent in the hindquarters and forearms. The hock joints are noticeably low to the ground.

This gives the horse the power and speed that has made it such a popular sporting-type horse since it was first developed.

The temperament of the Dutch Warmblood is unpredictable. The breed is quite sensitive, so some horses may have a mild temperament that is consistently calm. Others can be highly spirited, stubborn, and difficult to instruct. With the strict breeding standards that are in place, horses which are overly sensitive or do not follow instruction well are excluded from breeding programs. 

Performance testing within this breed is common, making it possible to weed out ill-tempered horses from the breeding pool rather effectively. The goal is to find horses that have an excellent ability to ride, jump, or compete in an uncomplicated way.

Why Choose a Dutch Warmblood?

No major health issues are associated with the Dutch Warmblood. There can be mild physical changes and arthritis that develop over time, but no major genetic issues.

This is due to rigorous health standards that are employed by the KWPN. Horses that have an overbite or under-bite, congenital eye defects, or a lack of symmetry in their physical characteristics or movement are excluded from the registry – even if they are a purebred Dutch Warmblood.

Bone spavin and sesamoids, along with some mild navicular changes, are sometimes allowed when discovered on radiographs. Osteochondrosis in the stifle or the hock, however, is not allowed at all.

It has created a breed that is sound, ages well, and is able to maintain its elite status for a prolonged period when compared to other breeds.

The Dutch Warmblood is a competitive breed that can be unpredictable to some extent, but the best in the breed are calm, collected, and spirited in a good way. That is why this breed is a favorite choice for many around the world.

Drum Horse Origin and Characteristics

The Drum Horse is a heavy draft horse. The modern breed is still based on the Life Guards used in the British Royal Household Cavalry. Throughout history, only geldings that met the breed genetic standards could perform in the Queen’s Calvary and the required processions.

Drum Horses are not officially recognized as a formal breed as of 2017, but progress is being made toward that goal. The purpose of the breed is to develop a new heavy horse that examples the best traits and features of its foundation breeds: Clydesdales, Shires, and Gypsies (or Gypsy Cobs, if one prefers).

Drum Horses must display good character. They must serve as an active, but sensible partner.

To accomplish the goals of the breed, three specific classifications have been formalized by the breed association.

F1 Drum Horses are 50% Gypsy and either Clydesdale or Shire in the mix.

F2 Drum Horses are between 25-49% Gypsy with Clydesdale or Shire lineage.

F3 Drum Horses are between 6.25-24% Gypsy with Clydesdale or Shire bloodlines.

There is a fourth category, referred to as a “Premium Drum Horse.” A Premium horse can be classified as an F1, F2, or F3 Drum Horse. These horses must be a minimum of 16 hands high, have the height be certified by a veterinarian or a representative of the association, and be at least 7 years old.

Since the creation of the Foundation Studbook, purebred Shires, Clydesdales, and Gypsy Horses or an approved combination can be crossed with other horses to produce foals that would qualify as a Drum Horse. All foundation horses must be registered with their own registry in addition to the Foundation Studbook to qualify with the International Drum Horse Association. 

What Is the History of the Drum Horse?

Drum Horses are one of the few breeds that were named after the job they were required to perform. Their responsibility was to carry two large, solid sliver kettle drums. The riders were fully outfitted as well and the two would be required to travel through large crowds. Reins for the Drum Horse were attached to the feet of the rider, which meant this breed needed exceptional calm and tremendous skill to get their job done.

In any British regiment, the Drum Horse is usually the most recognizable member of the group. It’s skewbald or piebald color tends to make it one of the most popular members of the regiment as well.

Now that there are no longer Queen’s processions, however, the Drum Horse is being redeveloped to handle several different tasks. There is beginning to be some breed differentials developed around the world as well. 

Drum Horses in Europe are generally maintaining the historical breed standards that have been in place. The International Drum Horse Association has made certain changes in the 21st century to help develop the breed with formalized standards, but there is still some variability.

American Drum Horses do not have the same coat color preferences as their counterparts. There is preference for pinto horses in the United States and registry is not required for the horse to have the status as a Drum Horse. 

The modern Drum Horse may still be used for parades and shows, but their strength today is in a riding discipline. They are successful on trails when taller or heavier riders want to have a recreational experience. Drum Horses can excel in pleasure driving because of their calm nature.

Drum Horses must have a proven combination of genetics from specific breeds to register with the International Drum Horse Association. Gypsy Horses, Clydesdales, and Shires are all approved, but specific combinations are required. A horse qualifies as a Drum Horse if it has at least 1/8 Gypsy Horse blood, but no single breed can provide more than 7/8 of the genetic profile.

Since 2015, new Drum Horse registrations limit the amount of Gypsy Horse genetics to 50%. A horse foaled after 2015 that is more than 50% Gypsy Horse is placed in the foundation book for the breed instead.

Important Characteristics of the Drum Horse

A Drum Horse should be elegant, strong, and agile. There must be a willingness for athleticism, but there must also be a talent for repetitive skill-building.

Ideal Drum Horses should move naturally. There should be a forward presence and impulsion with the three gaits of this breed. The canter should be a 3-beat gait with balance, while the trot must be straight, balanced, and coordinated. The walk of the Drum Horse should be a 4-beat gait that is consistent. 

This makes the Drum Horse a well-muscled horse, comparable in weight to other heavy draft horses, and have a strong, good-quality skeletal structure. Although there are no breed standards for height currently published, there is an official recommendation that breeders work toward a height minimum of 16 hands high.

The tail and mane should be abundant, but still appear to be natural when viewed from a distance. Feathering is required and is preferred with a starting point above the fetlock. It should run down the leg so the entire hoof is covered. Curly hair is allowed in the feathering, but it must be silky and soft. 

Tail docking is not permitted. Clipping the belly hair, ear hair, along the jaw, and trimming the bridle path is permitted to some extent.

The head of a Drum Horse should be in good proportion to its body. A wide forehead and poll are desired, but not to the extent that it affects the visual proportionality of the horse. A square jaw and muzzle are required, tying cleanly into the rest of the head. Eyes are kind, expressive, and intelligent. Any color of eyes is allowed and straight or convex profiles are permitted, though they must work with the body type of the horse.

The chest of a Drum Horse should be broad and deep. Shoulders should be set apart in a way that makes sense to the proportions of the horse. Muscular definition should be seen throughout. 

In addition to the skewbald and piebald coat coloration, solid-color coats are frequent for Drum Horses. With Shire and Clydesdale genetics included, many Drum Horses have heavy feathering around their hooves. White stockings on the horse are common, as are white markings on the muzzle and face.

Drum Horses must be able to carry more weight than the average horse. With the rider, their apparel, and the drums combined, it is not unusual for the horse to be responsible for more than 300 pounds.

Their temperament is generally coldblooded because of the Shire and Clydesdale bloodlines, but Drum Horses can be quite spirited when they approach the maximum level of Gypsy Cob blood.

Health Concerns with the Drum Horse

Keeping a large horse healthy can be a challenge. Daily grooming, regular veterinarian checkups, and regular hygiene must be performed.

Foot issues must be quickly addressed because of the size and weight of the Drum Horse. If there isn’t enough of a heel to the hoof, then the frog and its underlying structures can become inflamed or damaged, which leads to eventual lameness. Laminitis is a large risk for any heavy draft horse, especially when their weight exceeds 2,000 pounds. 

Because of the extensive feathering and the structure of the hoof, regular cleaning is required to protect the health of a Drum Horse. Thrush and canker are common. Since many Drum Horses don’t like to raise a hoof for cleaning, proactive measures are often required to prevent infections. Even the feathering can lead to rain rot or secondary infections if the silky hairs keep enough moisture trapped within.

Drum Horses are also susceptible to bone spavin in the lower hock joints and the ringbone in the pasterns. Horses that work often have a higher risk of developing these issues. Osteochondrosis is also relatively common within this breed. 
Stringhalt is also a possibility with Drum Horses that are on the heavy side, but still prefer to be athletic. This issue causes them to snatch up their hind leg suddenly. It is a neuromuscular disorder which often requires surgery to correct.

To avoid increased risks in many of these areas, Drum Horses are recommended to be evaluated using a body condition score so that they can maintain an appropriate weight for their size and structure.

The Future of the Drum Horse

With recent changes to the genetic profile and expectations for registry with the Drum Horse, the future for this breed looks bright indeed. Although it may not be officially recognized as a breed right now, the day is coming soon when that will occur. If breeders continue to follow the recommendations of the International Drum Horse Association, that day will be sooner rather than later.

Heavy draft horses continue to grow in popularity and the Drum Horse, though not needed for its traditional role in history, fits into that mold.
 

Dartmoor Pony Origin and Characteristics

Dartmoor can be found in the southwest corner of England. This is the home of the Dartmoor Pony. It has lived in a semi-feral state amongst the moors for several centuries. 

There are 9 breeds of horse that are native to England. This breed is arguably the most influenced by other horse breeds over the past generations. Local owners would free their stallions or unwanted horses and they would mix with the Dartmoor Pony herds. Over time, this would create a breed that is at home in the wild.

That makes the Dartmoor Pony an excellent show mount. This breed excels at flat work and is virtually unmatched in jumping.

It is also a relatively rare breed, with a purebred population that is likely below 7,000 horses. In the United States, there is an estimated 150 purebred Dartmoor Ponies. 

The Origin of the Dartmoor Pony

The first mention of a horse in the Dartmoor region is documented from the 11th century. A Saxon bishop mentions the horse in his will. Although this area is protected as a National Park in Devon, the rugged moors and uplands have a rustic beauty to them that has drawn people to the area since the time of the Roman occupation.

More rain falls in the lowlands of Dartmoor than any other region in England. This has created a series of bogs that prevents the area from seldom being dry. This is the home environment of the Dartmoor Pony and why it is such a sturdy, sure-footed horse. During the average year, Dartmoor receives 20 days of snow, but 40 days of hail. 

As mining became the industry of choice in that area of England, a need to have pit horses became very great. The local ponies were bred with other horses indiscriminately so that as many horses and ponies as possible could be produced for work in the mines. The hope was to have horses that were sure-footed in the mines so that production levels could stay relatively consistent. 

In 1898, an effort began to restore the Dartmoor Pony as an independent breed. The Polo Pony Society, which would eventually become the National Pony Society, created committees at the local level to produce descriptions of the native English horse breeds. For the Dartmoor Pony, except for a height limit of 14 hands high for stallions and 13.2 hands high for mares, this original description has remained the same from the time it was set.

To begin the work of restoring the breed, 5 stallions and 72 mares were selected, based on their conformity to the descriptions offered by the Polo Pony Society. It was a good start, but then the wars would strike the European continent.

A breed society was created for the Dartmoor Pony in 1924, though it struggled to continue its practices just 5 years after formation. Without the work of Miss Calmady-Hamlyn, the Dartmoor Pony may not have survived the mechanization transition that occurred after World War II.

The breed would continue to thrive through the 1950s and 1960s. The conformation standards of the Dartmoor Pony took shape at this time and limited exports were allowed. Then, in 1987, the Duchy of Cornwall, working with the National Park Authority of England, joined with the Dartmoor Pony Society to attempt a breed improvement program.

A supplementary registry was created and mares were selected, based on their physical and temperament characteristics, to become foundation stock. These mares all belonged to farmers in Dartmoor and would be turned out with an approved stallion to run in the moors over an entire summer.

A group of 15 mares were approved for this project the first year it was run. In 1989, the second year of this improvement process, there were 17 mares approved to be turned out with a registered Dartmoor Pony stallion.

Each autumn, the mares would be gathered and returned to their owners. Foals would be weaned, herds winterized, and then the process would repeat itself once again. 

It is an effort that has paid dividends for the breed. Foals are noticeably improved since the beginning of this project, referred to as the “Scheme,” and the hope is that as these foals mature and continue with this alternative breeding program, any genetic bottleneck for the Dartmoor Pony will disappear.

Expected Characteristics of the Dartmoor Pony

The Dartmoor Pony is typically 11 hands high, though some stallions can be as tall as 12.2 hands high. Most of the ponies fit within this standard. On the occasion that a horse grows larger than these standards, they are excluded from the registry. Heights exceeding 12.2 hands high are not allowed.

A Dartmoor Pony is allowed any solid coat color. The most common colors tend to be brown, chestnut, bay, or gray. Roan coloring is also allowed, though excessive white markings on the coat are discouraged. Dartmoors that are skewbalds, piebalds, or pintos are not allowed in the registry.

The head of a Dartmoor Pony is well-set and proportionally small to their body, but their eyes are bright, prominent, and intelligent. The ears are alert on this breed, complemented by a well-defined throat and jaw. The neck is strong, not heavy, and about an average length proportionally to other horse breeds.

It is the shoulders of the Dartmoor Pony that are the most important physical trait. The shoulders must be quite laid-back with a defined slope, but should not be too fine at the withers. When combined with the girth depth, the pony should have a good chest cavity and this allows for the sporting attributes of the horse to begin developing.

Dartmoors should not be tied at the elbows, have a flat front along the legs, and a shorter cannon with strong skeletal support. This creates a movement that is visually low to the ground, but still flows freely, and there should be little exaggeration.

Why Choose a Dartmoor Pony?

Dartmoor Ponies are a friendly breed. They are loyal, calm, and consistent, which makes them an excellent family horse. This breed has a relatively quiet disposition, which makes them an excellent ride for beginners or children who may have had limited time around a horse.

Although Dartmoors are relatively quiet, they are highly spirited and energetic when it comes to structured activities. This combination is perfect for children who are wanting to learn how to jump while riding a horse. 

This breed does well as a driving pony because of its strong work ethic. There is a certain hardiness to the breed, developed over centuries of living in the moors of southwest England, that allows this pony to succeed in situations that are often difficult for other breed. 

Danish Warmblood Horse Origin and Characteristics

The Danish Warmblood is the youngest of the warmblood breeds that have come out of Europe. For the first decade of this breed, there were two associations that helped to create its foundation. The Danish Sport Horse Society and the Danish Light Horse Association would eventually merge in 1978 to form the Danish Warmblood Society. 

Before 1980, this breed was often referred to as the Danish Sports Horse. For a horse to qualify for breeding, it must pass what is called a 100-Day Test. Horses are inspected to determine if they have the easy riding skills, a competitive aptitude, and physical conformation to breed standards that would help to make the Danish Warmblood stronger as the horse ages.

About 3,500 new registries occur annually for this breed

What Is the History of the Danish Warmblood?

The Danish Warmblood is a recent edition to the equine world. It was developed by breeding elite stallions from European bloodlines to Danish mares to create what can only be described as a modern sport horse. The first Danish Warmbloods began to appear around 1962.

Most horses within this breed are produced through Thoroughbred and local Frederiksborg stock. The mares from this breeding effort were then bred to Trakehners, Thoroughbreds, and Anglo-Normans to produce the sporting traits that are so highly desired and with consistent conformation.

Although this is a relatively young breed, it is represented in international competition on a regular basis. They have excelled in dressage and show jumping. Outside of Europe, this breed is relatively rare, but a North American Danish Warmblood association was established in 2001 to promote the breed in the Americas.

The initial goal of creating the Danish Warmblood was to create a horse that could be an all-around superior sporting horse. After seeing this breed excel in show jumping and dressage, breeding efforts have now started to focus on these events specifically to continue building on the strengths of the breed.

What Are the Characteristics of the Danish Warmblood?

Like most European warmblood breeds, the Danish Warmblood is a tough, robust, and resilient horse. In the mid-20th century, what was missing from European warmblood breeds was versatility and flexibility. That was the primary reason why work was done to establish this breed after World War II.

Because of its recent establishment, the Danish Warmblood has more of a Thoroughbred outline than its own. These horses stand between 15.3-17 hands high, with some a little taller, and they can have any solid coat color. Chestnut, bay, black, and dark brown tend to be the most common colors for the breed.

They have excellent strength, good legs, and movement that has a superior level of substance to it. Registered horses may be branded with a wave that is topped with a crown. Their frame is larger than average, but the breed has a head that is well-defined and large eyes that have a certain wisdom behind them. 

The shoulders are longer than normal with a good slope that has definition. Pronounced withers give riders a favorable position on the back which has little natural bounce to it. 

The ride of the Danish Warmblood is like that of a Thoroughbred as well. There is more substance to the ride, however, but there is also a certain elegance to their movement. The length of rein is excellent, even with the muscular neck on this horse, while the back is strong and more compact than average.

Danish Warmbloods are very curious horses, but there is a certain courage behind their actions as well. This courage helps them to excel in competition, while their curiosity helps them to learn new skills with rapid accuracy. This combination can get a Danish Warmblood that is lonely, bored, or inactive into all sorts of trouble, so daily activities and social interactions are highly recommended for this breed.

How the Danish Warmblood Continues to Grow

The Danish Warmblood Society is the largest horse breeding federation currently in Denmark. More than 5,000 members currently make up its roles. To help promote the breed, the Society helps to organize member activities, finish horse tests and inspections, and select only the best foals each year for the stud book.

Because only the best horses are approved for breeding, ongoing testing is often required for the breed. This helps to guarantee that the Danish Warmblood will continue to be a high-quality breed in the future. 

The breed continues to thrive thanks to the husbandry procedures and initiatives that have been established over the centuries in Denmark. Throughout history, Denmark has had some of the most stringent selection procedures in Europe. That specificity was taken to another level when creating the foundation for this breed and that has allowed this young breed to establish itself rather quickly.

The Danish Warmblood may be a young breed, but it has quickly established itself as a dominant force in the competitive arena. These horses are easy to handle, extremely loyal, and ready to learn something new every day. That is why the future for this breed holds a lot of promise.
 

Dales Pony Origin and Characteristics

The Dales Pony comes from the eastern Pennines. This range of mountains is found in Northern England and is one of the most scenic areas of England. Parts of the mountain range have been designated as National Park lands. One of England’s oldest long-distance walking paths, the Pennine Way, runs through the area and is over 250 miles in length.

It is from this area that the Dales Pony was developed. The mountainous region has unique challenges to it, which helped breeders create a pony breed that was strong, tough, but still gentle and calm. This allowed farmers in the area to work their lands while still having a pony that could take them into town when needed.

The Dales Pony has evolved over the years, with many changes occurring in the mid-20th century due to low population numbers. Numerous breeds have come together to help save the Dales Pony and provide some interesting physical characteristics for a pony breed.

Population numbers are also low for this breed because there are strict conformation standards in place. If a pony does not meet all the standards, they may be classified as an appendix pony instead. It is possible for a purebred pony to be excluded from the registry altogether if enough of the standards are not met.

The first breed registry for the Dales Pony was created in 1916. Used in both world wars, this breed fell out of favor and almost became extinct. Conservation efforts are ongoing and are seeing some success, but there is still much work to do to ensure the survival of the Dales Pony for future generations. 

What Is the History of the Dales Pony?

Horses have always been part of the history of England and the surrounding region. The remains of horses that have been dated to the Roman occupation period have been found in the Dales area, as recently as 2009.

Even when the Romans made it up to England, they named the people living there the “horse-riding warriors.” One of those horses was likely an ancestor to the modern Dales Pony.

Horses were required in this region because of the mining activities that have taken place historically in the Dales region. Lead was found in abundance there and has been mined for nearly 2,000 years. Before mechanization, miners used pony trains to carry lead out of the mines. When fully grown, a Dales pony could support more than 200 pounds at a time.

When looking at the modern Dales pony as a breed, however, there isn’t one specific ancestor that can be traced to its lineage. Several working pony breeds from the region were crossed with Pennine and Galloway ponies in Dales around the 17th century, which would create the foundation for this breed. 

In the 18th century, Norfolk Cob genetics were added to the breed as well, which added some Arabian ancestry into the modern Dales Pony as well. To improve the trotting of the breed, bloodlines from Clydesdales, Trotters, and the Yorkshire Roadster were also added. A Welsh Cob was brought into the breed in the 19th century to add a bit of size to the Dales Pony as well.

This has led to the modern breed having a unique look. There is feathering and a disposition like a coldblooded horse, a desire to work and learn like a warmblood breed, and a competitive spirit that would rival any hotblooded horse.

After World War II, the Dales Pony would be exported to the Americas. The existence of the breed was threatened because many were abandoned after the war. Due to the food shortages in Europe in the years following the second world war, many were slaughtered for provisions.  By 1955, only 4 new fillies were being registered.

To preserve the breed, a handful of Fell ponies were interbred with Dales Pony mares, continuing the tradition of a Fell Pony stallion named Dalesman, who was registered as a Fell Pony and then later a Dales Pony. By 1971, the grading program was considered a success and discontinued. A total population of about 1,000 horses is currently registered, though there are fewer than 300 registered breeding mares in the United Kingdom.

Conformation Characteristics of the Dales Pony

Most Dales ponies are between 13-14 hands high. They typically have a muzzle that is fine, a broadness between the eyes, and a profile that is neat and straight. The ears are incurving and curious. Pasterns should be flexible and feathering is typically present around the hooves

The Dales Pony has a deep rib case that creates a broad appearance when seen from a distance. The body of this breed is muscular and with tremendous definition. The tendons are clearly defined, the skeletal structure is dense, and there is good length to create a good strength-to-size ratio.

They are a breed that is good-natured, incredibly intelligent, but still easy to work. They can handle a rugged environment with relative ease.

Most Dales ponies have a coat that is black. Solid color coats of gray, bay, or brown are also accepted. Roan coats are also possible and acceptable for registration. White markings are not permitted in the general registration, but purebred ponies with excessive white markings are allowed in the appendix of the stud book.

Horses that do not move with the energy and power expected of the breed may also qualify for an appendix registry only. Temperaments that are outside of being calm and collected, issues with the gait of the pony, and other physical standard issues may disqualify a purebred pony from the primary stud book.

Cross-bred ponies, even though they may come from a Dales Pony mare, are not allowed to be registered. The goal of the breeding association is to maintain current population levels while keeping the conformation standards as consistent as possible.

Health Concerns with the Dales Pony

The Dales Pony is only one of three equine breeds that is known to carry a fatal genetic disease. It is called Foal Immunodeficiency Syndrome, or FIS for short. It is a recessive disease and a foal is born with it when they inherit the gene from both parents.

A foal born with FIS will appear normal at birth, but will develop infections that are untreatable within the first 90 days. Their compromised immune system, combined with anemia, then leads to death.

Genetic testing in 2010 found that about 1 in 10 Dales ponies are carriers for FIS.

Because FIS can be avoided by not mating two carriers together, genetic testing before breeding can help to avoid having foals born with this condition.

Interesting Facts About the Dales Pony

  • The Dales Pony is a popular riding horse because if its ability to trot. This ability comes from a single stallion, named Comet, that was brought into the breed nearly a century ago.
  • Although the first breed registry was created during the first world war, it wouldn’t be until 1963 when the Dales Pony Society would be formed to help preserve this breed because of its threatened status.
  • Appendix ponies for the Dales Pony are referred to as “Section B ponies.” Ponies that meet conformation standards are referred to as “Section A ponies.” Although the terminology is different than other breeds, the purpose is the same. Section A ponies receive first breeding rights.
  • Two additional sections, C and D, are also possible within the breed registry, but are rarely used. There are now Section C or Section D mares currently in North America.
  • Blooming Dales Pony Farm is thought to be the first home for this breed in the United States. They are in Sheridan, Oregon and still in operation since they received their first foals from England in November 1994.
  • The first Dales Pony that qualified for Section A status was called Red Prairie Knight and was born in 1998 and lives in Louisiana.
  • A part-breed registration is available for Dales ponies that is separate from the main registry. To qualify as a part-breed, there must be at least 25% Dales Pony breeding for the individual horse. 
  • Out of all the pony-type breeds that have come out of England, the Dales Pony is classified as the largest of them.
  • There are still Dales Pony mares that are living in the semi-feral herds that are allowed to roam the Pennines that have been their home for centuries. On the last census count, about 30 mares of breeding age were believed to be part of the herd structures.

The Dales Pony can adapt to many challenging situations and that has served them well over the years. Those challenges are not going to go away any time soon. Although the breed has been brought back from the brink of extinction, continuing conservation efforts are required to continue the upward population push for this breed.

Because they work well with children and are a very loyal and friendly pony, it is easy to fall in love with this breed. Get to know it a little better and you’ll get to enjoy their uniqueness as well.

Curly Horse Origin and Characteristics

If someone loves horses, but finds that they are allergic to them, the Curly Horse is the breed for them. The genetics of this breed reduce the allergens that are produced through a specific protein found in other breeds. Most people who have an allergy to horses find that they can work with Curlies when they can’t work with any other breed.

Although the Curly Horse is a relatively rare breed, it is not considered to be endangered. Multiple organizations are in place to help preserve the breed and help it to grow in popularity.

Curlies go by several different breed names. They are often referred to as Bashkir horses. Some have begun to differentiate the Bashkir Curlies from the North American Curlies as well. Each horse carries the unique gene which promotes a curly coat of hair on the horse. 

Some Curlies have also been crossbred to gaited horses in the past. About 1 in 10 Curlies will have some form of an ambling gait. It is affectionately referred to as the “Curly Shuffle,” though the actual gait can range from a trotter to a running walk.

In 1971, when the American Bashkir Curly Registry was started, just 21 horses were part of the original group. Today, there are more than 4,000 Curlies in this registry and more than 1,000 in other registries and groups that have started since then. 

What Is the Origin of the Curly Horse?

The origin of the Curly Horse is highly debated. Research is ongoing to determine how this breed began. At this time, there isn’t a solid answer. Some have suggested that Curlies traveled the land bridge from Russia to Alaska that may have existed historically. Others believe that Curlies came to the Americas when the Spanish reintroduced horses to the region during the colonial era.

Charles Darwin, during his travels to South America in the 19th century, documented the presence of horses with curly coats. The Sioux tribes were known to reserve Curlies so that they were only ridden by their medicine men or their chiefs. Warriors going into battle at the Battle of Little Bighorn are shown riding Curlies in tribal artwork.

There are several theories about the origin of this breed, including that Curlies come from the Iberian Peninsula. Crossbreeds from that region are known to produce curly hair, which suggests it could be a dominant gene.

The origins of the American Curly Horse are known. A rancher named John Damele captured a Curly Horse that was running in the local semi-feral herds of the US West. His property in Nevada would endure some difficult weather swings over the years. In the toughest years when other horses couldn’t survive, the Curlies that they’d bred or sold to other ranchers in the area would thrive. 

The Damele family would go on to establish foundation horses for the American Curly, though a Morgan and an Arabian without the curly gene were included in their pedigree. Many Curly Horse pedigrees today include horses that came from the Damele ranch. 

What is unique about the Curly Horse is that there are no findings that make it a breed that is genetically distinct. There are no single common blood markers found in Curlies to this point. That means the curly hair that is distinctive for this horse is more like a color breed, such as a palomino or buckskin horses. 

The Characteristics of the Curly Horse

It is the structure of the coat that is first noticed with the Curlies. They have a unique gene which curls the hair of the coat in multiple classifications of severity. Some Curlies may have a minimal curl that is only seen in the mane and tail. Others have a maximum amount of curl that includes a dreadlocked mane, curls over the entire body, and even curly eyelashes or guard hairs.

There are even Curlies that don’t have any curly hair at all. These are called “smooth-coated” Curlies.

The Curly Horse will typically have a split mane that is not braided when shown. Any breed of horse can produce a Curly, though the gene must be present in one of the parents for this to occur. 

Besides the fact that they are mostly “hypo-allergenic,” the popularity of the Curly Horse is also due to its temperament. Most Curlies are very calm, extremely friendly, and highly intelligent. They are tough horses, with a strong stamina, and they are highly sociable. Most Curlies prefer to be around people than other horses – unless there is a herd of Curlies for them to socialize with on a regular basis.

The reason for this preference to people over other horses is due to their reasoning skills. Curlies tend to analyze situations before responding to them, as if they are logically simulating scenarios based on what their reactions tend to be. This causes the Curly Horse to rarely be spooked or flighty in nature.

Most Curlies tend to have a chestnut coat, but every solid color is a possibility within this breed. Even Appaloosa markings have been found on some individuals. Pinto, roan, grulla, and cremello are also possible.

Caring for a Curly Horse can be somewhat challenging. When the coat is combed or brushed, the hair tends to lose most of its curl. To prevent matting, the mane and tail tends to be trimmed instead of brushed so the unique look of the Curlies can be maintained.

This breed will usually stand between 14-16 hands high, though the mixture of genetics within Curlies means all body types and heights are possible. Their total range can be as small as a miniature horse to as tall as a large draft horse.

How the Curly Horse is Used Today

It may be unusual to see a Curly Horse in a competitive event, but they have the temperament to excel when entered. Their movement and endurance is comparable to any breed. In the past, Curlies have excelled in show jumping and dressage.

The willing and gentle temperament of this breed also makes it an excellent therapy horse. People who benefit from experiential treatment with horses find that the horses tend to be patient, reliable, and supportive. Their level-headed nature and focus on reasoning makes them an excellent teacher for beginners, but they can also be responsive and willing for an expert handler.

Because of their hypo-allergenic nature, anyone who has an interest in the equine world can begin learning how to ride when paired with a Curly. This has led to many trail organizations to have at least one Curly around for trail riding, ranch work, combined driving, or other recreational needs so that anyone who wants to get to know horses better can do so.
 

Connemara Pony Origin and Characteristics

The Connemara Pony is a sports pony. It is an excellent breed for riding and is suitable for adults and children. The breed is quite versatile in its ability to pick up new skills rapidly. You’ll find this breed in show jumping events, competing in dressage, and some excel in endurance racing.

Connemara Ponies have also been known to be shown in harness. It is a global breed, but the highest level of popularity for it is still in its home country of Ireland. 

Historically, the Connemara Pony was a literal workhorse. It was a farm horse, a pack horse, and used for transportation. It was not unusual to use these ponies for carrying seaweed, a crop of potatoes, or for taking items to the market. 

The Origin of the Connemara Pony

Galway is the location of the Connemara region in Ireland. This is where the pony is first believed to have been developed. Thought to either be the descendants of the Irish Hobby Horse or Scandinavian horses that may have been brought over by the Vikings in the 10th century. 

Another legend says that the Connemara Pony came from Spanish shipwrecks near Ireland that occurred in the late 16th century. Andalusians were allegedly on those ships and they were set loose to escape the sinking vessels.

Some also believe that the Connemara Pony is the only native breed of horse to Ireland. This would date the origin of the breed to nearly 2,500 years, making it one of the world’s oldest established horse or pony breeds.

What is known about the origin of the Connemara Pony is that it has lived in an environment with harsh landscapes and difficult weather patterns. This has created a breed of pony that is hardy, strong, and sure-footed. To enhance these specific traits, breeders in the 18th century added Arabian bloodlines to the breed, along with Hackneys and Thoroughbreds.

Like many areas of Europe at the time, farmers in Ireland were in dire straits. They needed a horse to work the land, but most households could only afford one animal. That meant a horse or pony needed to be able to work the fields, be in the harness, and take care of all the work tasks that were needed on the farm. The Connemara Pony could do it all and that made it a very popular horse for several generations. 

These actions helped to create a pony breed that looks remarkably like a smaller Thoroughbred, but it also diluted the genetics of the breed to the point that its distinctiveness was fading away. Beginning in 1923, the Connemara Pony Breeder’s Society was formed and a stud book was established in 1926. The society and stud book still governs the breeding programs for this horse, although it is now globally bred on all six permanently inhabited continents.

An annual show for Connemara ponies takes place in the home region of Ireland every August. It has been held every year since 1924 and showcases 400+ ponies from within the country’s borders and around the world. There are more than 20 different classes of competition available at this event. 

Characteristics to Expect with the Connemara Pony

The Connemara Pony is usually between 12.2-14.2 hands high as an adult. It has a strong back, muscular frame, and has a broad, stout appearance. The shoulders are laid-back a little compared to other breeds, but the neck, jaw, and cheekbones are clearly defined. It is a sure-footed pony with average hooves, but a keen awareness of its environment.

In North America, Connemara ponies have been bred to be a little taller. Some individuals in the US population for this breed are as tall as 15 hands high.

Coat colors for the Connemara Pony include brown, black, bay, roan, and chestnut. The Connemara Pony Breeder’s Society permits palomino, buckskin, and cream colors as well within their registry. The buckskin ponies are often referred to as “dun,” although the dun gene is not present within this breed. Pinto coats do appear occasionally within the breed, but they are not permitted for registry.

Connemara ponies are highly intelligent, but they are also kind and loyal. They work especially well in family situations and are careful around children. This breed has a strong endurance and a solid jumping ability. They can be a little uncertain around strangers when meeting them for the first time. 

Their temperament is sensible, though a little sensitive. They prefer to work with their favorite people above anything else and enjoy a good social encounter. Although unwanted behaviors do not generally develop with this breed, there can be a level of aggressiveness added to the temperament when a Connemara isn’t given any social outlets.

If you have numerous Connemara ponies in a herd, the biggest problem that many have is that each pony wants to receive a social interaction before the others. They don’t forget, rarely forgive, and don’t share well with others, but it is difficult to find a horse or pony that will be more loyal. 

There is a common health condition associated with this breed as well. Some Connemara ponies carry an autosomal recessive disorder that is called Hoof Wall Separation Disease. This condition develops as early as 1 month of age and causes the front edge of the hoof to split and crack. Then pieces of the hoof wall begin to chip off in small pieces and can involve the entire dorsal wall. One hoof or all 4 may be affected by the condition. Foals are tested for being carriers at birth for this incredibly painful condition.

The Future of the Connemara Pony

The Connemara Pony is a breed that is on the rise. Their loving personalities and sporting ability makes them a popular pick, especially for those that prefer a smaller animal. In competition, this breed can easily beat horses that are 2-3 hands higher than them on a consistent basis.

Their expressive personalities also make this breed a member of the family. If a Connemara is unhappy, you’ll find the horse sulking around. If they are happy, you’ll hear them calling out for you when they see you.

Just watch out if they happen to be hungry. The Connemara Pony’s intelligence will get the animal in trouble in the search for food. Owners have found their animals trapped in chicken cages, roaming orchards, and stealing food from open windows when they have the opportunity.

For owners of this breed, it is difficult to stop with just one Connemara Pony. They are an expressive, fun, and loyal breed that seems to bring out the best of everyone around them. No matter how long they have been worked, their nature is always willing and that makes this breed an easy keeper.
 

Clydesdale Horse Origin and Characteristics

The Clydesdale horse might be a heavy draft horse and not bred for action, but it is a breed that prefers to be active. They prefer to be busy and in either a social or open environment. If a Clydesdale is not allowed to explore, then they like to interact with other people or horses. Should neither option be available, boredom tends to set in and the size of this breed means that unintended trouble can be caused.

Clydesdales are highly intelligent horses that offer a stylish appearance and a certain elegance that is superior to other breeds. They have a high-stepping action that is attractive to the high, especially with the feathering that is around the hoof. 
Despite their size, Clydesdales tend to be easy keepers. They do have high feed demands, however, that can be difficult to maintain for some. The average Clydesdale will eat about 60 pounds of hay every day and up to 10 pounds of grain. Performance horses tend to eat a little more than this. For that reason, when mechanization came to most industries in the 1940s and 1950s, the cost of keeping a Clydesdale didn’t make much sense.

Clydesdale horses have one of the largest hooves of any equine breed. A single horseshoe that would work for this breed would be about the size of a dinner plate and typically weighs 5 pounds. To compare with other breeds, a Thoroughbred horseshoe is about 25% the size of a Clydesdale horseshoe.

About 600 new registrations are filed every year for this breed in the United States and a similar number of international registriations occur as well. 

Origins of the Clydesdale

The Clydesdale horse is a relatively new edition to the equine world. Developed from Flemish stallions that were brought to Scotland, farmers immediately recognized that the foals they were getting from their mares were larger than normal. This may have happened as early as the 15th century, though documentation of this horse didn’t begin until the 19th century.

Local records indicate that there was a system of stallion hiring that was used as early as 1837 to help establish the Clydesdale breed. Shows would be held regionally to determine which stallions were the best. The owner of that stallion would then be awarded a monetary prize, but then be required to take their stallion to designated regions for breeding. 

This process allowed the Clydesdale horse to move from Scotland into Northern England. Because of its size and strength, it became a popular horse for agricultural work. It also performed well in the harness. This led to the Clydesdale Horse Society forming in 1877.

Word of these horses traveled quickly into the Americas, where US farmers immediately saw the advantage of owning a heavy draft horse. Many were imported in the late 19th century and a complementary American Clydesdale Society was formed in 1879.

As the world entered the 20th century, tens of thousands of Clydesdales were exported or transcripted into military service. By 1949, the number of stallions in the UK were barely above 200. By 1975, the Rare Breeds Survival Trust had classified the breed as being vulnerable to extinction.

Clydesdales may have been threatened in the UK, but the exported stallions of the past established a strong population in Australia and New Zealand. In the 20th century, more than 25,000 Clydesdales would be registered with the region’s society and efforts in the Americas, most famously with the Budweiser brand, help to re-establish the breed’s popularity.

Characteristics to Expect with the Clydesdale

The characteristics of the average Clydesdale have changed dramatically over the centuries. In the early 20th century, the Clydesdale was more compact and shorter than the other heavy draft breeds. Efforts since 1940 in breeding programs have been to have the Clydesdale become taller and heavier, giving it a more impressive appearance. Most Clydesdales will stand between 16-18 hands high, but some stallions can be up to 20 hands high.

The average Clydesdale will weigh about 1 ton. Some stallions have been known to reach 3,000 pounds. 

Clydesdale horses have a sloped shoulder, high withers, and an arched neck. They are still compact and strong, but with a length that indicates power and movement quality. The hooves and legs often receive the most attention by the breeding society’s today because the carriage of the horse is just as important as its physical conformation.

The forehead should be nice and open, with a broadness between the eyes that is noticeable. The muzzle is also wide, while the pasterns are long and set at a 45-degree nagle. 

Clydesdales have feathering from the knee down and this trait is due to the mingling of Shire bloodlines in the early 20th century. Shires were bred to Clydesdales to help create more consistency within the breed, while Clydesdales were bred to Shires to help that breed have stronger legs and a better muscular profile.

Sometimes the feathering can be very thick and this can lead to a skin condition that is like mange. Clydesdales tend to have pink skin that is sensitive to sunlight, so sunburns around the face during the summer months is somewhat common as well.

Most Clydesdales have a bay coat, but chestnut, black, and grey are somewhat common as well. Most horses will have white markings on their face, feet, and legs. Some spotting on the lower belly is permitted as well. Color and markings tend to be the emphasis of breeding programs, so Clydesdales are one of the few breeds where the soundness of the horse can be secondary to the actual coat color and texture that is present.

Clydesdale horses in the United States have been heavily influenced by the Budweiser breeding program. Many American Clydesdales tend to be bay with white markings because that is the brand emphasis for Budweiser. It is also why American Clydesdales tend to be taller than international Clydesdales.


Interesting Facts About the Clydesdale Horse

  • One of the largest horses in history was a Clydesdale. Named Poe, he was measured at 20.2 hands high and weighed over 3,000 pounds.
  • It is easy to own a Clydesdale, despite their general rarity. Most Clydesdales sell for less than $10,000, though champion horses can sell for six figures. Purchasing the rights to a foal can be just $1,000.
  • There is a strange breed conformation standard for Clydesdales. The tarsal joint of the hind leg is set inward for this breed, which can create a knock-kneed appearance. In most breeds, this would be considered a fault.
  • Their feathering and thick coat can be an advantage to the breed, but there are times when it is a disadvantage as well. Clydesdales that are exposed to wet environments on a regular basis have a higher than average risk of experiencing rain rot and other skin conditions.
  • Clydesdales can pull up to 4 times their weight over short distances.
  • Owning a Clydesdale horse means using a stall size that is twice the size of a standard horse stall. Clydesdale stalls need to be at least 24x24 feet instead of the standard 12x12 feet at minimum – and this applies only if the horse is turned out every day. 
  • The average Clydesdale foal will weigh almost 200 pounds when it is born. A mare needs to produce up to 100 pounds of milk each day during this weanling period.
  • After birth, a Clydesdale foal can gain an average of 4 pounds per day.

How the Clydesdale Horse Has Been Used

Because of their size, the Clydesdale horse has been used for agricultural and industrial work. In the 19th century, these horses were often used for hauling heavy coal loads to Glasgow. Farmers preferred the horse because it could plow through the tough lands of Scotland and Northern England. They were also quite popular for carriage services and parade needs because of their formal look and overall size.

Clydesdales are classified as a coldblooded horse, so their temperament is calm, willing, and gentle. This made them a useful war horse, especially in the trench warfare of World War I. The wars in Europe over the 18th and 19th centuries also saw Clydesdales being used in cavalry regiments on a frequent basis because of their consistency and lack of flight.

In Europe, Clydesdale horses are often used as drum horses to lead parades or other ceremonial occasions. They are also used as a brand image for Budweiser, who has maintained their own herd of Clydesdales since the end of the Prohibition era. 

Clydesdales are often added to breeding programs for other horse breeds. A common modern use is to cross a Clydesdale with a Thoroughbred to create a sporting horse that has a temperament that is calmer, but still has the spirit to compete.

The Clydesdale horse may be one of the more famous heavy draft breeds and that could help this breed survive in the coming years. With a total global population of about 5,000, Clydesdales are not threatened with extinction, but more work does need to be done to guarantee their survival. 

Cleveland Bay Horse Origin and Characteristics

The Cleveland Bay horse is thought to be one of the oldest breeds of its type. Developed in the same region as the Thoroughbred, it is a horse that was built for speed and strength. It can handle the harsh climates of the UK, work hard in the agricultural sector, or thrive in a life where it serves as a hunt horse, pack horse, or in a recreational capacity.

It is also a breed that was very nearly extinct. After the mechanization emphasis that occurred after World War II, only a handful of purebred mature stallions within the breed were known. Because the danger of extinction was recognized and acted upon immediately, the Cleveland Bay horse has done more than survive. It has begun to thrive.

The Queen of England has been part of those survival efforts. This breed continues to serve in royal ceremonial duties and some have begun to enter competitive arenas. By no means is the breed out of danger as its global population is estimated to be under 500 horses, but with programs from Japan to New Zealand to the United States all working together to conserve the Cleveland Bay horse, it has a bright future on the horizon.

What Is the Origin of the Cleveland Bay Horse?

Although the Cleveland Bay horse is sometimes associated with the State of Ohio in the US, it has a strong English heritage. The breed originated in the Cleveland area of North Yorkshire. This breed wouldn’t make it to US shores until the early 19th century. 

The strength and versatility of this breed made it a popular horse, which early entrepreneurs capitalized upon. Many of the early US Wild West shows were built around the characteristics of the Cleveland Bay Horse. Even Buffalo Bill was known for riding a Cleveland Bay horse in his world-famous shows.

It is that versatility that would come to undermine the breed, especially outside the UK. In North Yorkshire, Cleveland Bay horses were crossed with Thoroughbreds to create a new breed – the Yorkshire Coach Horse. These crossbred horses had speed, style, and power.

In the US, Cleveland Bay horses were bred indiscriminately with stock horses so that homesteaders could improve their personal herds. As the populations pushed west in North America, settlers needed strong horses to work the ground. They needed carriage horses to fetch supplies. Some even needed a calm horse to fight off attacks. Because the Cleveland Bay horse had all these characteristics, these horses would be bred with others to pass those traits along without any thought to lineage.

Even by the time the threat to the breed in the US was recognized, population numbers of purebred Cleveland Bay horses were dwindling. The Cleveland Bay Horse Society of North America was founded in 1885 with 2,000 stallions and mares, just a year after a stud book was formalized in the UK.

Since then, the numbers of North American Cleveland Bay horses have continued to dwindle. Just 50 horses are currently part of the association today.

What Are the Characteristics of the Cleveland Bay Horse?

Cleveland Bay horses have a specific color profile which must be med. They should be bay, but have black points. Some may have gray hair in their tail or mane, but this will not disqualify the horse from being registered. A small white star on the forehead is permissible, but no other white markings are allowed.

Some Cleveland Bays may have red or bay coloring below their hocks or needs and this is treated as a fault, but not a disqualification.

This breed has a body that is both deep and wide. The back is average in length, but supported by visibly muscular loins. The shoulders slope and are equally muscular. This creates a visible appearance for the breed that it is strong and energetic, but with a temperament which is typically kind and docile.

Most horses in this breed stand about 16 hands high, though height on its own is not a disqualification. Horses that are smaller or taller, but meet the other conformation standards, will be considered for inclusion. This includes having feet that are blue in color and an action that is free, straight, and true.

The movement of a Cleveland Bay horse should be one that appears effortless. Hooves that are narrow or shallow restrict this type of movement, so it is thought to be undesirable, even if the horse is determined to be a purebred. 

The eyes are large and set well on a head that is bold, but a little smaller than other breeds. The neck is strong and lean, creating an elegant look with the larger ears. There is little feathering on the legs, though it may be present on some horses.

Movement has become another factor in breed conformation over the last generation. Since the early 20th century, show judging for movement has led to a new section that inspects the trot and movement of each horse. Horses that do not meet the desired action may not be disqualified if they meet other conformation qualifications, but it could be considered a fault. 

Cleveland Bays are horses that are strong and hardy, with many tending to live long and healthy lives. It is not uncommon for this breed to live beyond 30 years when living in optimal conditions. 

What Is a Cleveland Bay Sporthorse?

A Cleveland Bay Sporthorse is a part-bred horse that has Cleveland Bay parentage. The definition of a sporthorse depends on the registry that is accepting the part-bred. In the United States and the UK, the term “sporthorse” is not used at all. These part-breds are eligible for registry if they have not been registered anywhere else and have at least one grandparent that has been registered in the primary stud book for the breed.

For the Australasian registry for Cleveland Bay horses, the term “sporthorse” is used for a part-bred, but the requirement for having 25% bloodlines that are registered in the main stud book are still in place.

For the modern Cleveland Bay horse, there are purebred and part-bred registries that are currently maintained. All breeding programs are supervised by the Great Britain society for this breed, including those which may be part of a similar association in another part of the world. An inspection and approval of every stallion and mare that has been registered occurs once every three years or as warranted or requested.

This has led to demanding breed standards for the Cleveland Bay, but will also help to preserve the breed. Population numbers may be limited today, but with these structures in place, there will be nothing to hold back this breed of horse ever again. 
 

Chincoteague Assateague Horse Origin and Characteristics

The Cleveland Bay horse is thought to be one of the oldest breeds of its type. Developed in the same region as the Thoroughbred, it is a horse that was built for speed and strength. It can handle the harsh climates of the UK, work hard in the agricultural sector, or thrive in a life where it serves as a hunt horse, pack horse, or in a recreational capacity.

It is also a breed that was very nearly extinct. After the mechanization emphasis that occurred after World War II, only a handful of purebred mature stallions within the breed were known. Because the danger of extinction was recognized and acted upon immediately, the Cleveland Bay horse has done more than survive. It has begun to thrive.

The Queen of England has been part of those survival efforts. This breed continues to serve in royal ceremonial duties and some have begun to enter competitive arenas. By no means is the breed out of danger as its global population is estimated to be under 500 horses, but with programs from Japan to New Zealand to the United States all working together to conserve the Cleveland Bay horse, it has a bright future on the horizon.

What Is the Origin of the Cleveland Bay Horse?

Although the Cleveland Bay horse is sometimes associated with the State of Ohio in the US, it has a strong English heritage. The breed originated in the Cleveland area of North Yorkshire. This breed wouldn’t make it to US shores until the early 19th century. 

The strength and versatility of this breed made it a popular horse, which early entrepreneurs capitalized upon. Many of the early US Wild West shows were built around the characteristics of the Cleveland Bay Horse. Even Buffalo Bill was known for riding a Cleveland Bay horse in his world-famous shows.

It is that versatility that would come to undermine the breed, especially outside the UK. In North Yorkshire, Cleveland Bay horses were crossed with Thoroughbreds to create a new breed – the Yorkshire Coach Horse. These crossbred horses had speed, style, and power.

In the US, Cleveland Bay horses were bred indiscriminately with stock horses so that homesteaders could improve their personal herds. As the populations pushed west in North America, settlers needed strong horses to work the ground. They needed carriage horses to fetch supplies. Some even needed a calm horse to fight off attacks. Because the Cleveland Bay horse had all these characteristics, these horses would be bred with others to pass those traits along without any thought to lineage.

Even by the time the threat to the breed in the US was recognized, population numbers of purebred Cleveland Bay horses were dwindling. The Cleveland Bay Horse Society of North America was founded in 1885 with 2,000 stallions and mares, just a year after a stud book was formalized in the UK.

Since then, the numbers of North American Cleveland Bay horses have continued to dwindle. Just 50 horses are currently part of the association today.

What Are the Characteristics of the Cleveland Bay Horse?

Cleveland Bay horses have a specific color profile which must be med. They should be bay, but have black points. Some may have gray hair in their tail or mane, but this will not disqualify the horse from being registered. A small white star on the forehead is permissible, but no other white markings are allowed.

Some Cleveland Bays may have red or bay coloring below their hocks or needs and this is treated as a fault, but not a disqualification.

This breed has a body that is both deep and wide. The back is average in length, but supported by visibly muscular loins. The shoulders slope and are equally muscular. This creates a visible appearance for the breed that it is strong and energetic, but with a temperament which is typically kind and docile.

Most horses in this breed stand about 16 hands high, though height on its own is not a disqualification. Horses that are smaller or taller, but meet the other conformation standards, will be considered for inclusion. This includes having feet that are blue in color and an action that is free, straight, and true.

The movement of a Cleveland Bay horse should be one that appears effortless. Hooves that are narrow or shallow restrict this type of movement, so it is thought to be undesirable, even if the horse is determined to be a purebred. 

The eyes are large and set well on a head that is bold, but a little smaller than other breeds. The neck is strong and lean, creating an elegant look with the larger ears. There is little feathering on the legs, though it may be present on some horses.

Movement has become another factor in breed conformation over the last generation. Since the early 20th century, show judging for movement has led to a new section that inspects the trot and movement of each horse. Horses that do not meet the desired action may not be disqualified if they meet other conformation qualifications, but it could be considered a fault. 

Cleveland Bays are horses that are strong and hardy, with many tending to live long and healthy lives. It is not uncommon for this breed to live beyond 30 years when living in optimal conditions. 

What Is a Cleveland Bay Sporthorse?

A Cleveland Bay Sporthorse is a part-bred horse that has Cleveland Bay parentage. The definition of a sporthorse depends on the registry that is accepting the part-bred. In the United States and the UK, the term “sporthorse” is not used at all. These part-breds are eligible for registry if they have not been registered anywhere else and have at least one grandparent that has been registered in the primary stud book for the breed.

For the Australasian registry for Cleveland Bay horses, the term “sporthorse” is used for a part-bred, but the requirement for having 25% bloodlines that are registered in the main stud book are still in place.

For the modern Cleveland Bay horse, there are purebred and part-bred registries that are currently maintained. All breeding programs are supervised by the Great Britain society for this breed, including those which may be part of a similar association in another part of the world. An inspection and approval of every stallion and mare that has been registered occurs once every three years or as warranted or requested.

This has led to demanding breed standards for the Cleveland Bay, but will also help to preserve the breed. Population numbers may be limited today, but with these structures in place, there will be nothing to hold back this breed of horse ever again. 
 

Caspian Horse Origin and Characteristics

The Caspian horse is one of the world’s oldest breeds. Its uniqueness comes partially from the fact that it was believed to have been extinct for more than 1,000 years. Rediscovered in 1965, it has been brought back from the edge of true extinction to be a thriving member of the equine family.

The Caspian is also called the Khazar Horse, which is one of the native names for the Caspian Sea in Iran.

Caspian horses have a distinctive growth pattern. Once the breed was rediscovered and a breeding program was initiated, foals were discovered to grow quickly and achieve most of their adult height in their first 6 months of life. Most adult growth involves width and strength.

Mares also tend to wait for a year or more to ovulate after foaling, which makes it difficult for formal breeding programs to establish themselves.

The History of the Caspian Horse

The Caspian horse originates from Northern Iran. Although its size would typically classify the breed as a “pony,” it is still called a horse because it has more in common with the gait, character, and conformation of a standard horse instead of a standard pony. It is believed to be one of the oldest breeds in the world today.

Louise Firouz is credited with the rediscovery of this horse breed in 1965. Iranian breeders were focusing on preserving this breed and she was part of those efforts. No records for the Caspian exist before 1965 because of this, but remains of a horse that were found at Gohar Tappeh in Iran are quite like the modern Caspian.

The remains were dated to 3400 BC, which is why the Caspian is often described as one of the world’s oldest breeds. 

Although the Romans were famous for the roads and infrastructure they built throughout their Empire, it was the Persians who were the first real road builders. They created dirt roads that were long and straight, making it possible for couriers on horseback to quickly move from community to community. They had a man and a horse in place for each day, much like the Pony Express that was famously used for a brief period in the United States.

Persians bred horses specifically for transportation purposes. They needed a breed that would be strong and fast, but with a good stamina at the same time. This is where the Caspian horse is believed to have originated.

After the 8th century, the Persian Empire was virtually eliminated from history, with warfare tearing the continents apart. With no records and no evidence outside of Northern Iran that these horses existed, global equine scholars believed that the breed had gone extinct. 

Today, these horses now thrive between the Elburz Mountains and the Caspian Sea.

Although Firouz passed away in 2008, she was able to see her work take over the equine world. In 1972, a Caspian stallion and mare were given to Prince Philip by the Shah of Iran, who would then assist in importing more Caspians to establish a breeding program in the UK. The Caspian Horse Society of the UK would be formed in 1975, with an international stud book being established in 1978.

The Caspian Horse Society of the Americas would form in 1994 to handle breed registries on the other side of the world. This is Firouz’s legacy.

Characteristics Found in the Caspian Horse

Caspian horses are relatively small compared to other breeds. They have characteristics that are like miniature breeds, but have the length and proportions that are comparable to taller horses. Most horses are shorter than 11 hands, with some being smaller than 10 hands. A few stallions within the breed can sometimes exceed 12 hands high.

Based on the growth patterns of foals within this breed, some believe that the true height of the Caspian was historically around 9 hands high. It is believed that as the modern Caspian is bred to emphasize its natural conformation, it may begin returning to this smaller size.

Most Caspian horses are either black, bay, or grey. Dun and chestnut coats are also possible. White markings are somewhat common, especially along the legs and the head.

Horses that are bred outside of Iran tend to be a little taller than those inside its native nation. This is believed to be due to better feeding conditions that exist outside the borders of Iran. Although global Caspians may be a little taller, all horses from this breed have a fine head that is shorter, but with a pronounced forehead, and short ears. Their eyes seem larger in proportion to their head than other horse breeds.

The nostrils of the Caspian are large, but the muzzle is somewhat small. They have shoulders that slope, strong withers, and a tail that is set relatively high. They are horses that are intelligent, willing, and extremely kind. They are also very loyal and perform well when working with children.

Even stallions can be ridden by children. It is a spirited breed, but that spirit is controlled and displayed appropriately.

What stands out the most about the Caspian horse is the strength of its legs and hooves. The hooves of this breed are so strong that most never need to be shoed. They prefer ground that isn’t stony and prefer a consistent working schedule. This combination creates a breed that has an incredible ability to jump. 

There are some additional anomalies that seem to be unique to this specific breed. An extra tooth on each side of the upper molar tends to be present and the first 6 thoracic vertebrae tend to be comparatively longer for their size compared to other breeds. Their frog is less pronounced and the hoof has more of a narrow, oval shape to it.

At this current time, the Caspian horse is not believed to be in danger of extinction. The status of the breed is still quite rare outside of Iran, however, with only a few exports making their way to the UK, US, Australia, and New Zealand. Political turmoil within the region may still threaten a majority of this breed’s population, but with its establishment as a global breed in the last 20 years, there seems to be nothing that can hold this horse back any more.
 

Canadian Horse Origin and Characteristics

If one were to ask the average person what breed of horse they thought was one of the most influential in the history of North America, the chances would be slim-to-none that the Canadian horse would be brought up in that conversation. Few people outside of the equine world know of this breed’s existence, much less its origin or characteristics.

The Canadian horse is listed as a critical breed by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. There are about 2,500 horses of this breed currently living, with most of them calling Canada their home.

It is a breed that has seen a recent surge in its popularity, however, and preservation programs have been implemented to ensure the continued survival of the Canadian horse. This breed has special qualities, a unique history, and it doesn’t take a horse enthusiast to recognize them.

What is the Origin of the Canadian Horse?

Like almost every breed in North America, the Canadian horse can trace its history and lineage to the colonial era. Settlers that came to settle New France and Acadia in the 17th century required work horses to create their homesteads. Those horses came from foundation stock that was imported from Europe, with the first of the population arriving as early as 1616.

French horses were introduced to the region by 1665 when 22 horses, including two stallions, were sent to the colony by Louis XIV from his royal stables. Eight mares were killed on this initial voyage, but the royal stables continued to ship horses overseas to the establishing colonies.

Over the next 5 years, a herd of nearly 50 horses was present in what would become Canada. This would form the foundation of the Canadian horse.

Several different breeds were part of this import process. In the Canadian horse, you will find Friesian, Norman, and Breton genetics. Many of the horses used as foundation horses in the colonial days were of various types, including trotters, draft horses, and pacers, which would be infused into the breed foundation as well.

A complete record of the various breeds that were used to establish the Canadian horse in the 17th century does not exist. Through DNA studies, Barbs, Arabians, and Andalusians bloodlines were known to be added at some point to this breed after the days of its earliest establishment. 

The horses would then be leased to religious groups or qualifying farmers. Payment could be made directly or through the exchange of a foal. The early horses would remain the property of the king of France for a minimum of 3 years. This helped the colony be able to sustain itself.

Once the breed was formalized by the end of the 18th century, no other bloodlines were infused into the Canadian horse. Breeders were working toward a horse that was more refined, a bit lighter, and had the characteristics of a pure breed. This would allow them to have the hard-working horse that had the stamina and strength that was desired from the first days of the colonies being formed in Canada. 

As the breed became more popular, owners began to experiment with their horses to see their full capabilities. For those in Quebec, that meant taking their horses out for races. The events became so popular that they had to be moved to prevent interference from those who were going to church. They would race along the frozen St. Lawrence River and some would go to influence other North American breeds, such as the Saddlebred.

When the population for this breed began to decline, it would be the owners and breeders in Quebec that would help to preserve the Canadian horse. Today, the Canadian horse is formally recognized as being the national breed and has been an official animal symbol for the country sine 2002.

What Are the Characteristics of the Canadian Horse?

The Canadian horse is one of the most versatile breeds in the equine world today. It offers a variety of traits and gaits that allow it to adapt to virtually any circumstance, environmental condition, or task.

Most of the horses in this breed have a darker coat color. Brown, bay, or black is very common. Chestnut coats are possible because of a cream gene that was present in one of the foundation stallions. Gray is also possible, but considered to be extremely rare. 

The height of a Canadian horse is typically between 14-16 hands. Stallions of the breed may weigh up to 1,400 pounds, while mares are typically under 1,250 pounds.

This breed has a head that is set high, with a broad forehead, but shorter length. The neck offers a classic, curved line with a arch that is gracefully beautiful. The muscular body stands out to the eye, with definition pronounced along the chest and loins. There is a bit of a slope to the shoulders, while the tail is set high.

When one looks at a Canadian horse, the impression is that there is agility and strength present within the animal.

Most Canadian horses have a trot that is energetic, animated, and somewhat flashy. They are incredibly hardy and have a stamina to match. In many ways, this breed is the epitome of what it means for a horse to be an easy keeper.

Although they were bred as a working horse, those traits have been funneled into a good recreational horse. Canadian horses tend to be friendly, willing, and extremely intelligent. They are particularly talented when jumping and driving, finding success in virtually every type of competitive discipline.

How Threatened is the Canadian Horse?

Although the population numbers of the horse have risen above 2,500 today, the Canadian horse was on the brink of extinction in the 1970s. Between 1970-1974, there were fewer than 30 total new registrations with the breed association. The total global population for the breed was estimated to be around 400.

That would begin to change in 1987, when a team of Canadian horses won the North American Driving Championships. The existing preservation programs saw more interest from breeders who were interested in keeping the breed and that helped the population begin to take off.

About 80% of the global population for this breed resides in Canada. A majority of the other 20% resides in the United States.

Because of the low population levels, the three main types of Canadian horses have all become extinct. In the past, there was a heavy draft-type horse, a pacer-type order, and one that was called the “Frencher,” which came about from an infusion of Thoroughbred bloodlines. 

Although there is still much work to do to preserve this unique breed, Canadian horses have the stamina and strength to make it through. Their unique look and versatility makes them one of the most coveted horse breeds from North America today. 

Camargue Horse Origin and Characteristics

You’ll see these semi-feral horses in Southern France, specifically within the Camargue region. The history of this breed is somewhat unknown, though it is believed to be one of the oldest horse breeds in the world today. For several hundred years, the harsh environments of the wetlands and marshes in Camargue have worked to create a breed of horse that is incredibly hardy, has a unique agility, and a stamina that is virtually beyond compare.

 

Although these horses are known for roaming through the wetlands in a semi-feral state, they have been captured and tamed over the years as well. It is the traditional mount for those who are bullfighters in the region and have been used for agricultural and recreational purposes as well.

If you’ve ever seen a picture of a herd of white horses, though technically they are gray, galloping through wetlands, then this romantic image was likely the Camargue horse herds from France. It is one of the most popular images that has come out of this part of France and has been displayed on film numerous times.

The Camargue horse was exported to Italy in the 1970s. There it is called the Cavallo del Delta and is treated as an indigenous breed. About 200 horses are currently registered under this format. The current global population for the Camargue horse is believed to be several thousand. 

What Is the Origin of the Camargue Horse?

The Camargue horse is native to the Iberian Peninsula. When the Celts and Romans would make their way into the region, one of their first points of emphasis was to find the horses in the region because of their hardiness, appearance, and general willingness. Archaeological evidence points to the Camargue being in the region for more than 2,000 years.

The genetics of the Camargue is like other Iberian horses, though the closest relations tend to be those from the north. Some older breeds, such as the Jaca, are believed to have come about through ancient breeding programs that involved the Camargue.

Then, as various ruling entities came into and eventually left the region, the bloodlines of the Camargue were passed along to other breeds. Even South American horse breeds show characteristics that are consistent with the Camargue horse.

The work ethic and strength of the Camargue horse led to it being exported for specific job opportunities that were being conducted in the late 19th century. This breed was instrumental, for example, in the building of the Suez Canal. The exporting process created problems globally with the breed as the lineage was being crossbred indiscriminately because of a need to have work horses more than purebred horses.

It was a practice that would continue for nearly 100 years. It wouldn’t be until 1976 when the government of France would set specific breed standards for the Camargue horse. At the same time, the government began to register the main breeders and horses in their region. In just 2 years, a formal breed stud book would be created.

Breeding farms outside of France are uncommon. In the UK, there is just one herd. In the United States, it is almost impossible to secure a domestically-raised Camargue horse. 

The Expected Characteristics of the Camargue Horse

A Camargue horse is always gray. Their skin is black, though the coat hairs tend to be a white color when the horse reaches adulthood. When this breed is a foal, it may have a coat that trends toward a dark brown or black color, but these dark hairs typically fade and become replaced with the lighter coat over time.

Most Camargue horses are smaller than the average horse, with many standing less than 14 hands high. Although stallions can weigh up to 1,100 pounds, most within this breed weigh between 700-900 pounds.

They may be smaller in size compared to other breeds, but they are quite strong. Adult horses have the strength to carry a grown adult.

This breed is quite like the Barb from a pure appearance standpoint. They have a square-shaped body type that looks a bit heavy, but they are also quite expressive with their stance and reactions. Their eyes should be set wide and be bright, complementing a flat profile and forehead. The cheekbones look to be almost chiseled, creating a contrast that brings the eyes to the expressive ears.

Camargue horses have withers that are defined, but not in a way that is exaggerated. Their shoulders are powerful and their hindquarters are quite muscled. This creates a horse that looks to be well-proportioned, with supportive knees and firm hooves that can withstand the marshy environments of its home. The soles of the hoof are wide and large to create more stability as well.

Camargue horses may be thought of as a rugged horse, but their intelligence is incredibly high. They rely on their strength and stamina, but can learn new skills quickly and are willing workers once they adapt to less of a wild lifestyle. Three registration categories currently exist for this breed.

Although this horse typically exists in a semi-feral state, they are remarkably calm in temperament. They are easy keepers, but retain their independent spirit even if they are no longer in the wild wetlands of France. Their background has given rise to a breed with unique abilities and stamina that makes them useful for long-distance riding events.

The Camargue registry is exclusive for foals that were born or identified in the home region. They are branded before being weaned and are part of the semi-feral herd structure. A second registry features horses that are foaled and identified in Camargue, but do not come from the semi-feral herds. The third registry is for Camargue horses that are foaled and identified outside of the home region.

Terminology for the Camargue Horse

The local dialect offers several specific terms for the Camargue horse that are often used when discussing individual horses, programs, or characteristics. Here is a complete list of the terms that may be found in the description of a specific horse.

  • Cavalot: This is a horse breeding program for Camargue horses in the identified region.
  • Court: This is a Camargue yearling.
  • Doublen: This is a Camargue horse or bull that is 2 years old.
  • Ferrade: This refers to livestock branding that occurs in the Camargue region.
  • Gardian: This is a Camargue herder.
  • Gardianou: This is a Camargue herder apprentice.
  • Grignon/Grignoun: This is a stallion from the Camargue Breed.
  • Manade: This is a Camargue herd of horses, though it may also be used interchangeably with a herd of cattle in the region.
  • Quatren: This is a 4-year-old Camargue horse or bull.
  • Rosso: This is a feral horse that has a proven Camargue lineage.
  • Ternen: This is a 3-year-old Camargue horse or bull.

How the Camargue Horse is Used Today

Camargue horses are the traditional mount of herders in the southern regions of France. Herders will typically ride the horses, even today, for their livestock management duties. They have a useful “horse sense” when it comes to working with cattle from the region.

Camargue horses perform well in equitation events as well. They do well in parading events, traditional activities, and local gaming events that involve horses. 

They are also a popular tourist attraction for those who visit the Camargue region. Guided tours that take people out to the wetlands and marshes to see the horses in the wild is a major economic force for the area.

This breed has also been used for movies and shows over the years and has been portrayed in several different books. Although the 1950s was the most popular time for this breed in Hollywood, photographic opportunities for these horses are a good draw for the region. 

The Future of the Camargue Horse

Although the Camargue horse is thought to be a rare breed, its population numbers continue to rise. With strict standards in place, overseen by the French government, and global breeding programs establishing themselves, these horses will continue to have an influence on the equine world, just as they have had for potentially thousands of years.

These horses enjoy being social, but thrive in structure that is hierarchal in design. They follow the leader. You can see this when the horses run. When the lead stallion gets tired of an activity, the rest of the herd follows suit.

Assuming that conditions remain relatively constant, the Camargue will be able to thrive. Although herds living in the wild are less common today than in generations past, ranchers that work with these animals still let them run free from time to time. Whether you see them on the Rhone River or you visit a breeding farm to get to know this horse, meeting one will change your life.

That is a guarantee.

Budenny Horse Origin and Characteristics

The Budenny is a horse breed that comes from Russia. Equine populations in the country were severely depleted after the first world war, then the Russian Revolution occurred and they were completely decimated. The goal of creating the Budenny was to have a breed of horse with the stamina to withstand the challenging Russian climate, the genetics of a stock horse, and the strength and temperament to carry a rider virtually anywhere.

Many of the horses that survived the various conflicts in the early 20th century rode the Don breed. The goal of breeding to the Budenny was to create a horse that was taller, had similar movement to a Thoroughbred, and was extremely versatile. This led to the formal development of the Budenny.

Budenny horses are not common from a global perspective. Although there are a few which reside in North America, much of the population still resides in Russia.

What Is the History of the Budenny Horse?

There are several different names for this breed of horse, depending on how the name is transliterated. It may be called the Budyonny, Budennnii, Budyenny, or Budyoni in addition to the Budenny horse.

The systematic breeding of Budenny Horses began in earners in the 1920s, but uncontrolled development of the first members of this breed began in the 19th century. Local breeders, farmers, and others in the agricultural sector were breeding Thoroughbreds to Dons in an effort to create good work horses. The Dons of the time were smaller and less refined, which meant the offspring could create a horse of larger size and speed to handle the often difficult conditions that were faced. 

The overall goal of developing this breed was to create a war horse. The Russian mounted cavalry needed replacements for their losses and the mixing of local Don and imported Thoroughbred bloodlines seemed to be the answer. Even the name of the horse is based off the Red Cavalry.

Born in 1883, Marshall Semyon Budyonny commanded a large cavalry force which allowed the Bolsheviks to sweep to victory during the Russian Civil War. He formed a friendship with Stalin, which eventually brought him to his final rank. He was brave and popular, despite being the scapegoat for the mistakes of the Soviet army during the second world war.

“A tank could never replace the horse as an instrument of war,” Budyonny once famously declared. His family came from peasant roots and he’d always had a passion for horses. His work was well-noted as a breeder, so when it came time to create a Russia-specific breed for the army, it made sense to name it after him.

There were three distinct phases to the breeding program for the Budenny. The first comes from the local traditions of not interfering with herd breeding patterns for the Dons that were pastured. This had to be replaced by assigning specific stallions to assigned mares.

Young stock would then be separated from the herd of mares so that further domestication could occur. Finally, the most valuable members of the young stock group would go through training and testing to determine how they might fit within the new breeding program.

The Budenny Horse earned its distinction as a separate breed in 1948, although the first official records for the breed were published in 1934. Although no breed associations represent the Budenny globally, there is a stud book which is maintained at the Scientific Research Institute for the Horse, which is based out of Moscow. The Institute is also in charge of overseeing the breeding program for the breed at the national level.

What Are the Characteristics of the Budenny Horse?

The Budenny Horse will typically stand 15-16 hands high. Most of this breed has a coat which is a shade of Chestnut, along with some white marking along the muzzle and feet. Breeding has been quite selective for the Budenny over the last 100 years, emphasizing strong bones, a large muscle mass, and movements that are flowing, agile, and predictable.

Since the 1950s, the average size of the Budenny has grown at the withers by nearly 3 inches.

Black and bay coat colors are also possible within the breed, though less common than the chestnut coloring. All Budenny Horses have a golden sheen to their coat as well, reminiscent of the Akhal-Teke breed, which can be traced to the genetics of the Don horses.

In many ways, the Budenny could be mistaken for a Thoroughbred at a distance. The profile of the breed is virtually the same to the Thoroughbred, though the Budenny does have a sturdier appearance to it. The two breeds share a long neck, slender legs, and a head with a chiseled appearance. 

Several restrictions apply to the stud book of the Budenny, even though it is classified as being open. Arab and Trakehner bloodlines are still allowed within the breed, but there is an upper limit of 75% placed on them. Since the 1990s, the number of Thoroughbred stallions has declined by one-third. The breed has moved away from having Thoroughbred stallions being bred to Don mares as well, with preference now being to have Budenny Horses bred to others.

World War II Changed the Budenny Breed for Good

At the beginning of the breeding program, there were 5 distinct lines that were developed to support the Budenny breed. Once Germany began moving into Russia and a threat of occupation grew, the horses were moved from their breeding farms. The movement, however, did not occur fast enough.

From the original five breeding lines, two entire herds and their distinctive genetics were wiped out because of the war. Because the herds of the Budenny Farms and the First Horse Army were moved immediately and able to stay virtually intact, the breed was able to survive and be officially recognized after the war.

Once the war ended and the breed was established, mechanization threatened its existence, just like every other breed. The Red Cavalry disbanded in the 1950s as well, an acknowledgement that tanks were superior to horses on the battlefield. Except for military parades, the role of the Budenny seemed to have been eliminated.

International equestrian competition helped to bring the breed back from the threat of extinction. The skills needed for the cavalry were the same skills needed for dressage, show jumping, and racing. By the 1960s, the Budenny began growing in popularity as a sporting horse so that by the 1980s, 1 in 4 horses that were used in competition by Russian riders came from the Budenny breed.

The future of the Budenny continues to be optimistic. Exporting is being allowed, though in limited numbers, while sport horses can be imported to improve the breed when necessary. Assuming that responsible breeding practices occur, the Budenny is ready to take the global stage in the very near future.
 

Belgian Horse Origin and Characteristics

The Belgian horse is a draft horse, originally developed to be at home in the lush pastures of its homeland. The region is known for its ability to develop heavy horses, of which the Belgian is apart, but compared to other heavy draft horses, this breed is a bit lighter.

One can instantly recognize this breed of horse. They share the same coat color and markings, with a sorrel body, white mane, and white tail. Most Belgians have white stockings along the feet and will have white face markings as well.

Originally bred because of the need to have a strong farm horse that could also serve in the halter, this is one of the strongest breeds of horse that exists in the world today. One of the world’s largest horses, named Brooklyn Supreme, was a Belgian, standing over 19 hands at weighing 3,200 pounds. They can pull several tons of weight when working together as a driving team.

The History of the Belgian Horse

In the Middle Ages, those who fought in battle required a horse of superior stature and calm to accomplish military goals. Belgians are a direct descendent of these horses. Developed in central Europe, these heavy draft horses were developed because the climate allowed for intense agricultural opportunities.

It is believed that the Belgian comes from foundation stock provided by the Brabant. Other breeds, such as the Belgian Trekpaard, Brabancon, and Cheval de trait Beige, are all essentially the same breed. Even until the 1940s, the Brabant and the Belgian were basically the same breed. That’s when some horses were selectively bred to be heavier and thicker. 

Croplands and pastures could produce high yields, but farmers were generally not the wealthiest class. They needed a single horse oftentimes to handle the workload in the field, take the family to church, and run errands when necessary. Those needs led to the growth of the Belgian Horse and its superior levels of strength.

Belgium wasn’t the only nation which required heavier horses for agricultural work during the Middle Ages. The difference is that the larger stallions were already present in Belgium, allowing for local development of the breed and greater genetic stability. For this reason, the Belgian Horse is thought to be one of the longest-running distinct breeds that still exists in the world today.

The local government recognized the benefits of having a heavy draft horse as a local resource, so they worked with breeders to create national showing opportunities for the Belgian horse. Generous prizes, inspection committees, and subsidies for efficient breeding programs were established to encourage the breed to thrive. This led to a rapid improvement in the fixed-breed type of draft horse, so that when the 19th century came about, other governments were contacting Belgium about sending Belgian draft horses to improve their heavy draft breeds.

The American Association for Belgian Draft Horses was founded in 1887. In 1903, a Belgian was sent to the World’s Fair in St. Louis, which helped to promote the breed even further.

Like many heavy draft breeds, however, the end of World War II brought mechanization to virtually every industry sector that once relied upon this great horse. Belgian Horses became critically endangered, with a population of under 200 by the 1950s. Since then, recovery efforts have been in place and the Belgian is beginning to thrive once again.

As of today, the Belgian Horse has the largest population of draft horses in the United States.

Characteristics of the Belgian Horse

Because it is a heavy draft horse, the average Belgian is larger than many other horse breeds. Most Belgian horses stand between 16-17 hands high and will weigh more than 1 ton. Horses in North America tend to be a little smaller than European horses, while having a lighter chestnut color to the sorrel coat as well.

The build of North American and European Belgians is similar.

Belgians have been known to stand taller than 20 hands high. One of the tallest horses in the world today is named Big Jake. He’s a Belgian and stands at 20.275 hands.
What stands out about the profile of the typical Belgian is the muscling over the croup. It has massive hindquarters, a wide back, and powerful legs. Visually, a Belgian looks massive and stocky compared to most breeds, including many heavy draft horses.

Belgians have limited feathering around the hooves because of the clarity of their genetic lineage. This is one of the few heavy draft breeds that have not been drastically improved by Clydesdale or Shire bloodlines, which typically have extensive feathering. The hooves are smaller on a Belgian compared to its size against the average ratio for a horse, but it is a sure-footed animal that has a confident and powerful stride.

Although sorrel coats are the standard for the breed, there are roan colors that can be found in North American horses.

It is a cold-blooded horse, so the temperament of a Belgian is even and calm. They’re easy keepers and most prefer to be kept busy. They excel at plowing, which they still do on farms that prefer to avoid mechanization. In difficult areas where logging is required, Belgians are preferred over equipment because of their sure-footedness in difficult terrain.

Belgians have the widest and deepest set of all the draft breeds. It’s also the most compact of the draft breeds and, on average, is the most massive. 

Health Issues with the Belgian Horse

Belgian horses have a higher-than-normal rate of junctional epidermolysis bullosa, or JEB, which causes foals to lose large patches of skin and have other birth defects. Nearly 1 in 5 Belgians in North America are carriers, but almost 30% of mares are a carrier. The condition can be avoided if two carriers are not bred to one another.

In the United States, genetic testing for JEB is required as part of the registration process.

Belgian Horses are also at a higher risk of developing a condition called PDL – Chronic Progressive Lymphedema. This is a disease which causes progressive swelling, fibrosis, and hyperkeratosis in the distal limbs.

Some of this is due to the limited genetics that were in the foundation stock of the modern breed. There were three main Belgian bloodlines in the 19th century and all modern horses come from these foundations.

Belgian Horses may be patient and docile, but there is a quiet intelligence behind their eyes that is almost beyond compare. They learn skills quickly, enjoy having social encounters, and tend to be quite loyal. There make for an excellent family horse, provide help in the agricultural sectors when needed, and is growing in popularity as a riding horse.

Like many heavy draft horses, the Belgian has recovered nicely from the dangers of mechanization and has a bright future waiting ahead.
 

Arabian Horse Origin and Characteristics

Arabian horses are one of the most popular horse breeds in the world today. They are consistently in the Top 10 because of their appearance and versatility. You’ll find Arabians compete well in endurance competitions, do well on racetracks, and perform in show events at exceptional levels.

The trademarks of the Arabian breed include a strong skeletal structure, high intelligence, and a willingness to please. They are spirited horses that are constantly on alert. There is also a sensitivity to this breed that can make them difficult to handle for those who are not familiar with the breed.

Arabians demand respect. If they don’t receive it, then they are unlikely to offer it in return. 

What Is the Origin of the Arabian Horse?

The Arabian is believed to be one of the world’s oldest breeds. Horses that resemble the physical traits of the modern Arabian have been found through archaeological findings that have been dated to be at least 4,500 years old. Through trade, because of war, and the need for a sturdy and strong horse for agricultural work and transportation, Arabian bloodlines spread rapidly from its early days in the Middle East.

One can find Arabian bloodlines in virtually every modern breed of horse today.

What makes the Arabian genetics so highly prized is how the horse adapted to the arid climate of the Middle East. Often part of the Bedouin tribes, the Arabian grew up in the hottest deserts of the world. It developed a dark skin to help protect itself against the heat and intensity of sunlight. Its hardiness developed because of the need to sometimes go long distances with few supplies.

Its social nature developed because of how these horses were treated in the ancient days. These horses were highly prized, which meant they were commonly stolen. To prevent this from happening, many families would bring their horses into their family homes for shelter, even if that home happened to be a basic tent.

This cooperative relationship has continued until today, even though the Arabian is one of the few horse breeds that is classified as being hot-blooded.

In the past, lineage strains and subgroups were specifically defined within the lineage of each horse. These classifications still exist, but are informal now. Popular classifications include Egyptian, Russian, and Domestic. Each informal classification has its own passionate following, with the virtues of each set of physical characteristics.

What each classification offers, however, is a piece of the puzzle that completes a picture of the beneficial characteristics that the Arabian horse offers to the equine world.

The Characteristics of the Arabian Horse

Arabian horses have a skeletal structure that is different from most horse breeds. Instead of having 6 lumbar vertebrae, then tend of have 5. They also tend to have 17 pairs of ribs instead of 18. This structure doesn’t apply to all Arabians, but it is a common enough trait within the breed.

Arabians tend to have a good croup length and excellent depth at the hip This allows the Arabian to have excellent agility.

Most Arabians stand between 14.1-15.1 hands, according to information that is published by the US Equestrian Federation. Some individuals may be a little larger or smaller than this average range. Because the breed standard falls below the “pony standard” or 14.2 hands, shorter Arabians are still classified as a horse.

Arabians tend to have a greater bone density than other breeds, allowing them to look refined, but remains incredibly strong. Compared to heavier and taller breeds, the Arabian can hold its own because of its sure-footedness, short cannons, and a shorter, but broader back. This also means that Arabians can carry heavier riders compared to breeds of similar size.

What tends to attract or dissuade people from what the Arabian can provide is the temperament of the horse. There is an unusual willingness with the breed, but there is also a spirited disposition that is virtually beyond compare in the equine world. This has created a loyalty between horse and human that is difficult to find in other breeds.

It is this loyalty and even-temperament, despite the hot-blooded nature of the horse, that allows the US Equestrian Federation to allow children under the age of 18 to exhibit stallions in virtually all show-ring classifications.

Arabians learn quickly and this can be an asset or a problem, depending on the circumstances of the horse. An Arabian which picks up a bad habit will not let go of that unwanted behavior without a fight. Trying to teach an Arabian to stop an unwanted behavior can sometimes interpreted by the horse as a lack of respect, which creates a cycle that encourages more unwanted behaviors.

Arabians will not tolerate inept training practices either. They are not typically dangerous to be around should this occur, but it can make for a horse that is stubborn and won’t want to listen to your commands.

What Coat Colors Come with the Arabian Horse?

The Arabian Horse Association will register a purebred horse that comes in five common coat colors: black, gray, bay, chestnut, or roan. Chestnut, bay, and gray horses tend to be the most common.

For those with a roan coat, it is more of an expression of a sabiano or rabicano pattern instead of a true roan. DNA testing shows that the standard roan gene does not seem to exist within the Arabian lineage.

All Arabians, no matter what their coat color happens to be, will have black skin. If the horse has white markings, then the skin is a lighter color as well.

Some Arabians appear to have a “white” coat. This is usually a reflection of the gray coloring that is found within the breed. There is a dominant white lineage of Arabians thanks to a stallion that was foaled in the late 1990s. In a random mutation, a purebred Arabian had pink skin, a white coat, and dark eyes from birth.

A purebred Arabian does not have any dilution genes, so palominos, buckskins, cremellos, or dun Arabians are not actually a purebred Arabian, by definition, today. There is historical evidence to suggest that some of these colors or patterns may have existed previously, but that trait has been removed for the modern breed – except for the sabiano gene.

What Is the Health of the Arabian Horse as a Breed?

There are 6 known genetic issues which affect the Arabian breed. Two of them are always fatal, two are usually disabling, while the other two are often treatable.

The two treatable conditions are a form of juvenile equine epilepsy and guttural pouch tympany. Surgical intervention may be required in some instances to correct malformations, while ongoing medications are usually required to manage physical symptoms, but many foals with these conditions can go on to have a life that is fully useful.

Malformations in the vertebrae in the neck and the base of the skull can cause fusions and this may lead to problems with coordination or, in severe instances, a paralysis of the front or rear legs. Some foals with this condition may be unable to stand to nurse.

Cerebellar abiotrophy is a recessive disorder that may not show any symptoms for up to 6 weeks. At that point, foals may become uncoordinated, develop head tremors, or maintain a stance that is wide-legged.

The two fatal health conditions are Lavender Foal Syndrome and Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Disorder. These are both recessive disorders that are fatal if they are homozygous. Foals with LFS are born with a color dilution that lightens the hair of the coat to give it a tone that almost seems purple in color. SCID can cause a foal to be born without an immune system, which causes the foal to die of an infection early in life.

Genetic testing can find some, but not all, of these conditions within Arabian horses.

How Arabian Horses Have Influenced the Equine World

The Arabian breed has an almost incomparable genetic strength. Virtually every light horse breed has Arabian bloodlines as part of its foundation. Even Thoroughbreds have Arabian lineage in their ancestry have the influences written directly into the stud books for individual horses. 
Arabians are also regularly used to strengthen current breeds when endurance, agility, or refinement needs to be added.

Horses that are one-half Arabian even qualify for their own registry, no matter what the other breed of horse may be. Some half-Arabian horses have even been approved for breeding with the registries of full-breed warm-blooded registries.

This means the Arabian is one of the most versatile breeds available to the equine world. Having it be one of the oldest is just another benefit. You’ll find these horses showcased in movies, theater, and other forms of entertainment. They excel in show jumping events, love to compete in racing events, and win at the Olympic level on a regular basis. 

When the classic lines of the Arabian are included into this versatility, along with their spirit and temperament, it is easy to see why they are consistently one of the most popular breeds of horse in the world today.