The name Irish Draught may be misleading in that many people are surprised to find that the breed is a lighter free-moving animal than the traditional image of the heavy horse. Nevertheless, the ancestry of the breed goes back to the small Irish farm where the farm horse doubled up as a hunter as well as taking the trap or dogcart into the town. However, today the Irish Draught is more sought after for its breeding qualities. In England, the brood mare has been acknowledged as an excellent dam of a hunter when mated with a thoroughbred stallion.
Now the Irish Draught stallion is being used more and more to get extra bone and substance in the progeny of the lighter type mare. The breed has been in existence for a century or more, though it has been nearly lost on several occasions. During periods of poverty and famine in Irish history, many breeders gave up registering their animals and it took many hours of work by breed enthusiasts and the Irish Horse Board to get a new studbook started. They found that hundreds were going to the slaughterhouses each week and that there were very few left.
Traditionally, the Draught was the farm horse in Ireland and it also had to be capable of being hunted and ridden. It pulled the cart, tilled the fields and had to be capable of keeping up a good jog in the trap. The horse had to be docile, strong and economical to keep. Its traditional winter feed was young gorse put through a chaff-cutter, boiled turnips and bran or meal of some sort that could be spared from the cows. Gradually the breed developed into an animal around 15.2 hh – 16.2 hh in mares and 16 hh – 17 hh in stallions and of any whole colour.
The horse has a graceful carriage of head and neck with a big, kind eye, strong limbs with particularly short cannon bones. Despite the power, the horse should be free moving and not ponderous. The feet should be like those of a hunter and not like a carthorse. The feet are one of the most important points and the reason why the Irish Draught is required for the breeding of show jumpers is that they have to withstand the concussion from jumping, often on hard surfaces.
Horses by our Registered Irish Draught Stallions are now well to the fore in every discipline, with qualifying horses at the Horse of the Year Show in the Working Hunter, Ridden Hunter, Show Jumping and Cob categories.
Our Irish Draught stock is also consistently making the best prices at sales.
By Dan McCaffery