The Ardennes horse better known as the Ardennais horse is one of the oldest of the draft horse breeds. They originated in the Ardennes region within France, Luxembourg and Belgium.
They have been in existence since the Palaeolithic period. The very first of these horses were imported from the U.S as of the early 20th century. The registry of the first breed had been established within Europe as of 1929.
The Ardennes horse breed is bred and refined for being used as war horses historically. They became popular since the Roman army made a trek crossing all over Europe. They were a thing of interest for the Roman scribes who interestingly described them to be about 14 hands tall.
These horses are very tough and hence were historically used by Napoleon when other horses were dying due to heavy loads and harsh weather. They had also been used by knights of the Middle Ages in war proving that they are a strong battalion. The knights used them since they were strong enough to bear bad weather conditions as well as travel many miles.
They have a calm demeanour which is ideal for wartime and have helped in transporting heavy equipment and armoured soldiers. They played a significant role in the French Revolution of 1789.
These horse breeds are usually of a very gentle nature. They are extremely people-friendly and are known to be the gentle giants of their world. They are blessed with patience, intelligence and common sense making them different from other breeds. Like other draft breeds, these horses too are well-mannered, docile and also willing to learn. They have also been known to be a true cold-blooded strain.
They are an extremely powerful breed of the compact draft horses and are generally muscular. This kind of a spatial attribute also confirms them to being of good quality.
This horse breed is very easy to keep and more affordable than any other breed. Their type requires no expensive upkeep and can be fed forage of lower qualities as well.
A quick word of caution would be to keep them away from any lush pasture. Exposing to lush pastures can make them gain weight unduly and cause them to founder. It is safe to assume that being adrift horse the Ardennes kind can feed on Triple Crown Safe Starch Forage. In order to elaborate on what these are one can say that these are grass hay types enriched with vitamins. They also contain minerals, low level of NSC while being free from grains and molasses.
The energy requirement of the Ardennes horse is lower on the pound for pound basis. Other experts have however opined that these horses eat more than lighter ones since they grow larger in size.
They need to be fed about 1.5-2 pounds of hay for every 100-pounds of body weight approximately. They can also be bred on alfalfa however they may require protein supplements if they are used for regular work. If the horses are working on 2-acre pastures it is a requirement for them to be fed on enough forage.
Breeding And Uses
The Ardennes breed matures faster than others but will not empty one’s pockets in terms of their budget for diet.
These horses have often been preferred for competitive driving since they have an even temperament. They also provide their services by being riding mounts which is therapeutic.
Other areas of usage are drawing of artillery, cavalry mounts, heavy drafting and farming work for meat production and others. They are also interestingly cross-bred for creation of other horse breeds in Asia and European countries.
Some of the breeds that cross-breeding has given birth to are the Russian Heavy Draft and Baltic Ardennes. These are also easy keepers despite the draft horse’s reputation for being hard to be kept or reared. If they are crossbred they can retain their muscles, thick bones and height. They can be reared even in the coldest of climates since they have thick hair to help them stay insulated. They are often domesticated just for their presence and personality.
As seen in France they stand tall at about 16 hands or 1.62 metres of height. The mares are about 15.3 hands that are 1.60 metres tall. In Belgium, this is the maximum height which is allowable.
They used to be about 13 hands tall during the ice age but were also being crossbred with Arabians and Barbs. This magically made them gain added refinement and height.
What Breeds Make Up The Ardennes Horse?
The Ardennes horse is famous for being praised by the famous Julius Caesar when he was in De Bello Gallico. They have been bred on the plateau of Ardennes for the past 2,000 years. These are the oldest of the European-bred heavy draft horses. The Arabian blood had been introduced along with the Belgian Draft blood so as to increase their strength and size.
The Arabian blood was introduced in breeding by Napoleon. These horses have also been used for the rearing of the Swedish Ardennes. Selective breeding is why these horses have become taller from 14 to 16 hands. The increment in height has also given them unprecedented strength.
The horses come in colours like palomino, grey, chestnut, roan and bay. The black ones are however rarely seen amongst their type. They are the ones that look huge even when compared to other standard draft horses. The colour piebald (or skewbald) along with black is not accepted for being registered. The mares are allowed to have white markings below their fetlock and heads only.
What Do They Look Like?
They have a heavier head traditionally with a convex face with large nostrils. They have pointed smallish ears. The body can be roughly said to be compact, muscular and broad with sturdy, short legs having strong joints. Their feet are usually strong and well-made but storing in comparison to animal size standards. They also have feathered fetlocks with their height on an average being 15-16 hands.
Their build overall is thicker in comparison to most of the draft animals existing. Their heads do not bear white markings since it is not allowed for them. Their heads are intelligent and expressive with large eyes that speak for themselves.
These stallions mostly have a chest that is fully arched and hence majestic. They have a neck length that is symmetrical to the rest of the body and are usually well set. They also have very deep and broad chests indicating how powerful they can be.
What Are They Used For?
These horses have a lot to offer since they are typically strong and big. These draft breeds can definitely be sued for horse shows and farm work which make the conventional options.
They were a part of the British heavy horse revival that gained popularity during the 1970s. They are being used for working on the hill slopes where taller breeds struggled.
Where Do They Live?
They are usually originating in France and Belgium. However, mostly the European and many Asian countries have taken the responsibility of breeding these horses. Their origin is what makes them stand out as beautiful and one of the most captivating breeds. Their French origin is the secret behind how well they can handle the harshest of winters.
They can be seen to be working on the streets of Europe. They are also a staple in viniculture, agriculture and forestry. They have traditionally been reared anywhere that there is a smallholding or a family farm.
How Long Do They Live?
The Ardennes horses can outlive even the oldest of cats and dogs if handled with care. To measure their age in years they can last for over 30 years of age.
Generally, if any horse is reared domestically they last from about 25-33 years of age. The draft breeds that are large do not tend to live that long though. Some draft breeds can have a long life if taken good care of with respect to food, hooves and teeth.
How Fast Are They?
They must have been really fast since they have been trained since time immemorial for war.
How Much Do They Cost?
They are usually known to be sold for about 970 U.S dollars or 800 Euros.
It is best to discuss prices with other owners on Horse Forums. The prices can also go up to about 4,000-7,000 dollars as per some sources.
Are They Good For Beginners?
The Ardennes breed is a great choice for beginners and children since they are the true gentle-giants. The retired draft breeds are used to let children go out for rides and beginners.
Overall this is a breed that could be relied on by great men such as the likes of Tacitus. They come with their own cons though which includes not living for as long as other horse breeds.
They demand grooming that can be expensive since they will consist of supplements, dewormers, fly sprays and tack. These things are often known to cost more than the animal itself.