Horse Breeds


Tiege1The most direct descendent of the “Great Horses” is the Belgian, for it was his native land that gave birth to the type.

He is also the most numerous of all draft breeds in our country today. The American Belgian is an offshoot of the Brabant horses, the big fellows bred in the lowlands of Belgium.

The government of Belgium played an energetic role in horse production. The official stud book was established in 1866 and the National Show in Brussels became the great annual showcase. The result was a rapid improvement as the draft horses of Belgium came to be regarded as both a national heritage and treasure.

The American Association was officially founded in February of 1887. But it was slow going for the Belgian until about the turn of the century. An Exhibit of horses from the Government of Belgium attracted quite a lot of attention at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1903. American farmers took to the Belgian horse. He was an easy keeper, a willing worker, had an amiable disposition and they liked his thickness.

Today’s Belgian is big, powerful fellow that retains the drafty middle, a deep strong foot, a lot of bone, heavy muscling and the amiable disposition that the best of the early Belgians had. His qualities as an easy keeper, good shipper and willing worker are intact. What then have American breeders done to change him?

They have developed a horse with far more style, particularly in the head and neck, with more slope to the shoulder and pastern, and the good clean, flat bone that goes with such qualities. The Modern Belgian is a great wagon horse, as well as a doughty work horse. The fact that Belgians are equally as effective in pulling competition as in hitch competition says it all.

The typical Belgian stands 16 to 17.2 hands tall, with some up to 18 or 19 hands. The average weight is from 1700 to 2100 pounds. Even today, Belgians are used on thousands of farms and ranches throughout the United States as economical power – just another contribution of the “Great Horse.”


Sandy1 Sandy2The Clydesdale horse breed is best known for its size, with many over 18 hands and the feather above the hooves. This long hair covering their ankles makes this breed easily recognizable and it is thought the feather was developed during the first breedings with the Fleming and English Breeds. This feather, a thick mane and heavy coat helped the breed survive in the Scottish Climate.

The Clydesdale is known for their intelligent eyes and large narrow head with small ears and a deep chest. Growing to over 2,000 pounds, this large beast is also known for its grace.

The Clydesdale horse varies from different shades of bay, brown, chestnut and black predominantly with one solid color, often with a white underbelly as well as white feather.

From their use as warhorses in the 17th century to their work in advertising today, the Clydesdale horse breed has undergone powerful changes. In Clydesdale, Scotland, now known as Lanarkshire, the animal was named for the town where it was used as a draft horse on area farms. Believed to have a history of over 300 years, the strong yet amiable animal was used in farming as well as pulling heavy loads in rural settings, as well as in urban and industrial areas.

The Clydesdale population dipped to a low of about 80 animals and in 1975 was on the vulnerable list for survival. With the Clydesdale horse breed’s growing popularity and work in the advertising, commercial and entertainment venues, their population is estimated at over 5,000 and growing.

Irish Rose Carriages is proud to present Sandy. Sandy is also the Mother of Sky of Irish Rose.



The ancestors of the Percheron draft horses were war horses used by the Frankish Knights. After the need for war horses was over the Percheron horse was used to pull heavy Stage coaches as Percherons have amazing endurance. The mail and passenger coaches that the Percherons pulled were known as diligences, therefore they were known as Diligence horses. Later Percherons were used more in the cities and more in the country of France. The Percheron draft horses were popularly used as a wagon-pulling horse, to carry people around the city.

As with many draft horses, the Percheron was almost driven to extinction by the Industrial Revolution. However, the Percheron draft horse had a loyal group of advocates and through these dedicated people the Percheron survived and the breed’s population has recently begun to expand due to their use for commercial work and shows.

Percheron’s are either black, white or gray in color and most are between 16-2 and 17-3 hands high with a few as tall as 18 hands. They can weigh up to 2600 pounds with the average around 1900 pounds.

The Percheron is very versatile. They are readily adapted to varying climates and condition. They have the strength to pull heavy loads and the graceful style to pull a fine carriage. Percherons can be ridden and some have been known to make fine jumpers.

Irish Rose Carriages is proud to have two Percherons, a white Percheron mare, MoonLight and a black Percheron gelding, Michael.


SuffolkBred and developed by farmers in eastern England, Suffolk horses
were well-suited to work in the heavy clay soil of the regions.

Suffolks are chestnut horses with few white markings and uniform in size. The 15.2 -to 17-hand horses are built with well-muscled legs durable hoofs, strong and short backs, level croups, deep heart-girths and sloping shoulders and hips. As with other draft breeds, Sullolks’ ideal confirmation allows the horses to work while remaining sound and healthy.

FROM THE BEGINNING: Farmers in eastern England developed horses well suited to work the region’s heavy clay soil during the 1700s. With little influence from outside breeds, Suffolk’s farmers selected breeding horses from a small area. The farmers weren’t horse-traders, but used their Suffolk horses to farm and seldom sold their horses’ young because they were needed to work the land.

Today’s Suffolks have changed little. The horses’ relative isolation in eastern England provided breed uniformity. All Suffolks trace their linage to Crisp’s Horse of Ufford, a foundation stallion foaled in 1768. The small-but-strong horse set the standard for Suffolks in England and the United States.

Once in America, Suffolks remained farm horses. The American Suffolk Horse Association was formed in 1907 to preserve the breed and publish the first American studbook. The first year, 285 horses were registered.

Breed preservation was essential throughout the 1950s and 1960s when Suffolk numbers dwindled. The association closed down for nearly 15 years – finally reorganizing in 1961. By 1970, breed enthusiasts imported fresh Suffolk blood from England.

USEFUL POWER: Suffolks provide power on farms and in logging operations. They plow, harrow, plant, cultivate, spread manre and rake, bale and pick up loose hay. Farmers use the horses to deliver round bales to fields of livestock. The horses also pull sleighs and wagons.

Suffolks can show in open draft competitions – entering hitch and pulling competitions.

NUMBERING THE HERD: The AHSA estimates 1,200 t 1,500 Suffolks are now in the United States. Nearly 250 members belong to the association.

MUST ATTEND: The ASha’s Annual Meeting provides an opportunity for owners and breeders to catch up and learn about the breed.

OWNER INSIGHTS: Julie Atkinson, Newburg, Missouri, raises and trains Suffolks to work in teams on her family’s Greenwood Farms.

“We liked that the Suffolks are a bit smaller than the other draft breeds, making it easier to harness and hitch them,” Atkinson says. “We also chose Suffolks because they’re an endangered breed. When we bought our first Suffolks in the 1980s, there were only 1,500 in the world.”

Atkinson says the Suffolk breed is the draft industry’s best-kept secret. She trains her own horses easily without artificial aids. “I halter-trained my mare, ‘Sophie’ when she was just a month old.”

Atkinson remembers “I taught her to move over, stand tied and lift her feet. Then at age 2, I started harness-training her. She’s a steady, confident horse who thinks for herself. Throughout her training, she never spooked or tried to run even when a dead tree fell in the woods just a few feet from us. That’s the beauty of the Suffolks they’re willing to please, but smart enough to think for themselves. It’s a wonderful fascinating relationship.”

Jay Bailey serves on the ASHA board of directors; his daughter, Bekah Murchison is the association’s Webmaster. The father-daughter team raises Suffolks on the family’s 42-acre, 24 year-old Brattleboro, Vermont, farm.

“We run a diversified, horse-powered family farm,” Murchison says. “When I say horse-powered, I mean we don’t have a tractor. We certainly use our horses for everyday applications. We wouldn’t have a farm without them.”

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