IRISH DRAUGHT HORSE
Breed Organization Information
Irish Draught Horse Society of North America, Inc.
4037 Iron Works Parkway
Lexington, Kentucky 40511
About the Breed
The Irish Draught’s history lies as much in battle as it does in agriculture. Written in 1 BC, the “Cuchulain Saga” describes mighty chariot horses of Irish Draught type. In the twelfth century came the arrival, in Ireland, of the Anglo-Normans with their strong war horses. Later, in the sixteenth century, trade between southern Ireland and Spain brought a strong mix of Spanish blood to the native horses. The Irish Draught has been exported in huge numbers into the armies of Europe since the Middle Ages. As recently as the first World War the Irish Draught served on the front lines in the thousands.
The hundred years from 1850 to 1950 probably did the most to shape the Irish Draught as we know it today. Agriculture in Ireland was mixed, with less demand for the heavy draft breeds popular in the rest of Europe. Instead, the Irish farmer needed a horse that could work the land but would also pull the dog cart to church at a smart trot and take the farmer fox hunting. The hunting farmer wanted a horse that would go all day and jump anything he faced.
Over a century of selection produced a very sound, sensible animal with good bone and substance, great stamina and an uncanny jumping ability. It is these qualities that, when crossed with the Thoroughbred, produced the world renowned Irish Hunter. This cross is now known as the Irish Sport Horse, and representatives are winning gold medals and grand prix all over the world.
Unfortunately, this success as a foundation breed nearly led to the Irish Draught’s downfall. The decrease in farm mechanization and the worldwide demand for hunters and sport horses brought the breed to the brink of extinction. It was more profitable for the Irish farmer to supplement his living by breeding his good draught mare to a thoroughbred than to breed her to a purebred stallion. Even with the concerted efforts of the Irish Draught Horse Society, founded in 1976, the breed is considered endangered with barely 2,000 purebreds worldwide.
The Irish Draught Horse is an active short-legged powerful horse with substance and quality. It is neither as massive nor as heavily feathered as its name implies. It is proud of bearing, deep of girth and strong of back and quarters. Standing over a lot of ground it has exceptionally strong and sound constitution. It has an intelligent and gentle nature and is noted for its docility and sense.
The Irish Draught’s movement is smooth and free but without exaggeration and not heavy or ponderous. They may be of any strong whole color, including grey. White legs, above the knees or hocks are not desirable. Their bones should be good and strong. Stallions average size is approximately 15.3 hands to 16.3 hands. Mares average size is 15.1 approximately hands to 16.1 hands.
Significant Irish Draught Horses
King of Diamonds
While every family of Irish Draughts has produced noteworthy show jumpers and eventers, maybe none has done this more consistently than King of Diamonds. This chestnut stallion was by Errigal out of Ruby. He ranked seventh as a sire of show jumpers in world rankings from 1990 to 1995. The international show jumpers Special Envoy, Mill Pearl and Millstreet Ruby are by King of Diamonds. Even though King of Diamonds has sadly passed away, he has left behind a number of sons who are consistently producing world class jumpers. His influence will be felt for many years to come.
This bay stallion by Golden Beaker was ranked sixteenth as a sire of show jumpers in world rankings from 1990 to 1995. Some of his world class progeny include Cagney, Skyview, and Flo Jo. He continues to produce jumpers today and will no doubt have an influence on sport horse breeding for many more years.
The Irish Draught Horse Society of North America is the sole organization in North America approved by the parent Society to register Irish Draughts and Irish Draught Sport Horses.