Clydesdale Horses are easily recognizable and a hugely popular heavy horse breed. If you have ever been to a horse-driven Budweiser parade, you must have marveled at these majestic steeds.
They are very easy to spot because of its trademark large stature, high-stepping gait, and feathering around the legs. However, even though they have an imposing size and height, they are easygoing and gentle horses that can be trained easily.
This breed is becoming increasingly popular as a pleasure horse. Their role in the field of recreation is ever-expanding.
Light horse enthusiasts from all walks of life are becoming more and more aware of the advantages of a taller and sturdier horse. Earlier the demand started for a more compact horse but of late, the demand has started swinging in favor of Clydesdales again.
Famous for its high leg action during trotting or walking, the unique defining characteristic of this breed is the presence of feathers on its legs, well-formed feet, and an attractive head.
The origin of Clydesdale as a heavy draft horse breed can be traced back to a district by the same name in Scotland. The place is today known as Lanarkshire through which River Clyde flows. This breed was evolved by the Scottish farmers by mating Flemish stallions with their local mares. Shire blood was also introduced later.
Clydesdale horses were bred not just to meet the local agricultural needs but also to meet the commercial demand. Lanarkshire had many coalfields and there was a constant demand for heavy haulage in Glasgow too. Soon after this breed was developed, it acquired more than local popularity. People from all over northern England and Scotland started using it for their needs and their numbers grew.
The name ‘Clydesdale’ was first used in 1826 when the breed became popular in Europe. There was a district breed registry system for hiring stallions that standardized the horse breeds in early Scottish agricultural society. Through these programs, local agricultural improvement societies held breed shows to choose the best stallion. The owner was then awarded a handsome prize. After the show, the owner was then paid additionally to get his stallion breed with the local mares. It was through this system that Clydesdales spread throughout Europe.
These horses were also taken to North America in 1842, but they never became popular as a draft horse there.
The Clydesdale Horse Society was formed in 1877. This association has been actively working since then to promote this breed not just in Europe but all around the world.
This breed of horses has enjoyed a steady export around the world. They are a popular breed of horses especially in the United States of America and the Commonwealth countries.
One of the most outstanding features of this popular breed is the optimum combination of size, weight and activity. However, what is looked at first in every Clydesdale breed horse is the exceptional wearing quality of its limbs and feet.
The feet should be open and round with wide and springy hoof heads. The horse should have action though not exaggerated. With a well arched and long neck arching out from an oblique shoulder, the right breed will have a clear, bright, and intelligent face with a wide muzzle.
Some of the most common colors found in this breed are brown, bay, and black. Roan color has also been observed in some stallions. Whether it’s a black or a Roan horse, the show ring does not discriminate according to color.
It is claimed that a true Clydesdale possesses ample weight and quality without showing bulk or grossness. In line with their size and weight, they are active movers. As a consequence, they are very popular as farm horses and in many cities.
The average weight of a Clydesdale horse is around 1700 to 2000 pounds and stands at about 16 to 18 hands. Many of the mature stallions are even taller weighing up to 2200 pounds.
Compared to an average-sized horse, these horses need more hay or feed every day. On average, an average grown Clydesdale horse eats about 2 to 10 pounds of feed or grain and 25 to 30 pounds of hay.
In order to maintain a healthy weight, the feeding habits of the horse can undergo a change. This change may be caused by their activity level or age or any other external factor.
Breeding And Uses
The first Clydesdale Horses were developed for long work hours. Throughout history, they have been used as war horses to carry heavily armed soldiers (including World War I). Later, they were also used to pull agricultural implements, freight and milk wagons, logs in forestry, and other general hauling tasks.
The gentle yet strong demeanor of these horses makes them perfect as farm horses as well as a pleasure horse. They are generally healthy horses with a gentle and calm temperament. It is this calmness and strength that makes them excellent trail horses.
Clydesdale breeders often cross-breed these horses with thoroughbreds to develop level-headed, strong sport horses. You can often find them in exhibitions and fairs.
One of the most obvious characteristics that differentiate this breed from all others is its large hooves. They are almost the size of frying pans with each weighing 5 pounds. In contrast, if you compare an average thoroughbred racing horse with one of this breed, its hoof is just a quarter of that size.
In addition to the hooves, a Clydesdale is also famous for the feathering that covers its four white legs. They have a high step walk and trot which gives them a proud impressive presentation.
Colors And Markings
Though commonly Clydesdales is bay in color, you can often find them in gray, black, or chestnut in color. The color of the coats can be either solid or with some roan spots or markings.
Their legs commonly look like it wears white stockings. However, solid colors occur in many cases too. Their faces have bald facial markings or wide white blazes that result in a flashy eye-catching combination.
When in the market to buy a horse of this breed, you will find that bay and black Clydesdale horses command a premium price. This especially happens when they sport the familiar white stockings and wide white blazes making for a striking combination.
Roans are one of the least preferred ones but breeding organizations have no such preference. According to them, there are no undesirable horses and color makes a minimum difference in their breeding ability.
Health And Behavior Problems
Clydesdales are considered to be a healthy horse breed with a calm and gentle temperament. They are easy to train and generally intelligent. However, they are prone to certain health problems. They have been identified at risk for a disease called chronic progressive lymphedema. The clinical signs of this disease include hyperkeratosis, progressive swelling, and fibrosis of distal limbs similar to chronic lymphedema that happens in humans too.
Another health concern that they often suffer from takes place on the lower leg where there is heavy feathering. Colloquially known as the “Clyde’s Itch”, it is caused by a type of mange.
Another problem that they are known to suffer from is sunburns. Clydesdales are known to develop sunburns on any unpigmented pink skin around their faces.
These horses require some extra grooming and care for their maintenance. Their grooming is also more time-consuming because of their size. It is often more expensive to keep a Clydesdale rather than an average-sized horse.
The feathering on their legs needs to shampooed and washed regularly to remove all dirt and debris. After this, they also need to be dried completely to prevent skin irritation. Their large hooves need to be inspected and cleaned daily. Due to their larger-than-average hoof size, they need horseshoes that are larger than normal.
Are They Right For You?
The stature of a Clydesdale makes them a proud addition to the stable of any horse lover. Their easygoing disposition acts as the cherry on the cake. They are like gentle giants that make for a great family horse, even for the families that have limited horse experience.
They are easy to train and are often described as happy horses. They love to prance and play with children, making them an apt family horse. People living in places with cold weather can also consider this breed due to their hardiness.
However, they are generally more expensive to keep than other breeds due to mainly their size. They require more food. Even the shoeing costs more due to their larger-than-average hoof size. They also require ample space to live in.
A 24 by 24-foot stall is the minimum size of the stall for a Clydesdale horse that is turned out daily. For one that takes less frequent trips to paddock, a larger stall is required.
How Much Do They Cost?
In order to buy a Clydesdale horse, you need to shell out a minimum of around 1000 dollars to adopt or buy. The average horse price falls between $2500 and $5000. However, this is just an average indication.
Prices can sky rocket depending upon the color, white markings on the face, and white stocking legs of the horse. Black Clydesdales or bay ones are often available at a much higher cost too. Unique markings and level of training are important factors.
When you are looking for a reputable horse breeder, you need to look for an organization that is completely transparent about the medical history, temperament, and birth history of their horse. Spend some time with the horse before bringing it home so that you get an inkling as to how the organization treats its inhabiting animals.
In addition, keep an eye out for any labored breathing or lameness evident in the gait of the horse.
Did You Know They Are Celebrities?
Budweiser Clydesdales became highly popular in commercials. These horses have been an initial part of Anheuser Busch since the early 1930s. Clydesdales were the breed choice used by the company to draw their beer wagon after prohibition to market their products. Cases of Budweiser were delivered throughout several states of North America when the wagon toured. There are several teams that still tour and make appearances at public events throughout North America.
A number of them are also used as drum horses by the British Household Cavalry for leading parades on state and other ceremonial occasions in Great Britain. Their eye-catching colors of roan, skewbald, and piebald make for a great spectacle.
In order to be selected as a drum horse, the Clydesdale needs to be at least 18 hands high. This is because each horse in the parade carries two drums weighing 120 pounds apiece.
Not enough can be written about the gentleness and calmness of these horses. The calm and composed demeanor of this horse makes it an ideal horse for anyone. However, all these qualities come at an expense. This breed often commands a high price in their respective circles for the strength and agility that they bring along with their calm disposition.
Owning a Clydesdale horse also means that you will be spending a considerable amount of time and resources in its grooming and diet. After all, everything comes at a price. If you are willing to invest a good amount in getting that perfect horse for yourself, you can always consider a Clydesdale horse.
This horse breed makes for a great family horse. They are an excellent choice for both inexperienced as well as experienced riders alike. This breed of a horse makes for a great fit whether you want to use it for an exhibition or just for pleasure. It is a horse that can be ridden as well as used to pull a cart or any other heavy object.