What do you get when you combine four of the best British draught horses into one shining package—the Australian draught horse. Although once bred to pull carts, the Australian draught horse has gone on to become a showstopping competition horse prized for its friendly and even-tempered disposition, sturdy build, and beautifully feathered hooves.
Despite not being purebred, the Australian draught horse shows few flaws yet packs all the best features of its lineage. Whether you are new to equestrianism or have years of experience, they are a wonderful breed that you will love to ride.
As with most things in Australia, we can trace them back to the first European colonists who landed on the island continent. Those settlers brought with them some of the finest recognized pure draught horse breeds, including Clydesdale horses, Percheron, Shire, and Suffolk Punch, and it’s from these four breeds that we get the Australian draught horse.
Settling the Australian continent was no easy task, especially when it came to hauling agricultural goods and gold mined out of the earth. To help ease their burden, the Australian settlers began breading more and more heavy horses to pull their carts and help with farm work.
Over time, the various breeds across the country began to blend together into a new, uniquely Australian type heavy horse.
From then on, they were used in just about every heavy industry:
Even after Australia began to industrialize, the population continued to find good use for the Australian draught horse. During the Great Depression, it continued to be bred as a working horse, and thanks in large part to those breeding efforts, the Australian draught horse has continued to improve over the years.
After more than 100 years of breeding, the Australian Draft Horse Stud Book Society was officially chartered in 1978 to recognize and protect the breed through advocacy and standardized practices. Thanks to their rules, the breed now has set criteria to help ensure its longevity.
Australian draught horses are not light horses. They’re known for their heavy bone structures, large muscular builds, and wide chest and hindquarters. Although there are a few varieties of Australian draught horses, they are almost all within 16 to 17.3 hands and come in almost all colors.
Per the Australian Draught Horse Stud Book, breeders are not allowed to breed excessive white markings into their foals to protect the horses. Pink skin under white fur is ill-fitting with the strong Australian heat and sun. Instead, these horses should present solid colors with long feathered fur extending over their legs.
As for their personalities, Australian draught horses are known for their placid and friendly temperaments. As workhorses, they were bred to behave well for humans and, even to this day, are renowned for being calm without much training.
An Australian draught horse’s dietary requirement will depend a lot on its work, size, and age. Like most draught horses, the Australian draught horse does well with a diet of hay and grain, with additional supplements to fill in any missing nutritional needs.
Draught horses who work at a natural trot will require less food than hitch horses, who need more energy to complete their work. If you intend to show your horse at a competition, be aware that draught horses can quickly lose weight and condition if they do not get the right amount of nutrition.
If you are unsure how much you should be feeding your Australian draught horse, speak with your equestrian vet. They can help establish how much protein, calories, and vitamins your horse needs to stay healthy.
Although the Australian draught horse was originally bred to do draught work, they have since become hitch horses, riding horses, and even show horses. Their sturdy builds make them capable beasts of burden and you can still sometimes find them pulling trolleys full of tourists in historical downtown areas.
Nowadays, though, most live out their lives in competition. Thanks to their large size and musculature, they are a frequent sight at draught horse competitions and frequently win crowds over with their warm personalities.
Nonetheless, the Australian draught horse sticks to its roots as a workhorse and can still be found in the forestry world, where its agility allows riders to pass through areas too overgrown for machines.
What Breeds Make Up The Australian Draught Horse?
As stated before, they are a combination of four recognized purebred draught horses—the Clydesdale, Percheron, Shire, and Suffolk Punch. It’s from these four draught horses that the Australian draught horse gets its large size and powerful musculature.
Today, they are an officially recognized stud-horse, licensed by the Australian Draught Horse Stud Book Society.
Are They Good For Beginners?
Despite their large, domineering size, Australian draught horses’ calm and docile natures make them ideal horses for beginner riders. In fact, their size makes them more suited to beginner riders than a light horse.
Because Australian draught horses can comfortably carry heavier loads, the weight of an average human is not enough to cause them discomfort. Their size also gives them a methodical and slow gait that allows riders to learn how to control their reigns without the horse taking off at a full gallop.
To sum them up in a single phrase, they are gentle giants that will gladly accept a rider without much resistance. If you wish to learn to ride, an Australian draught horse could be the horse for you.
Whether they’re working hard on a farm or showing off at a competition, Australian draught horses are a wonderful breed perfect for any equestrian. Their storied history and friendly natures have won the hearts of an entire continent of Australians and through concerted efforts, the Australian Draught Horse Stud Book Society is continually working hard to preserve the breed.