There are around more than 200 breeds of horses worldwide. If you are looking for a driving horse with an obliging temperament that is easy-going for the entire family, the Belgian draft horse may be the one for large horse lovers.
Belgian Draft Horse
The Belgian draft horse is a hefty draft horse descended from the Flemish “great horse,” a Low Country middle-age combat horse. Belgian is an ancient breed that progressed substantially after 1880. The first Belgian came to the US in 1866, and while the breed was well-liked, it was never as famed as the Percheron, a draft horse breed.
Belgian draft horses are docile and patient with strong muscles, heavy bodies, and short legs. They stand between 16 and 17 hands tall (64 to 68 inches or 163 to 173 cm) and weigh between 1,800 and 2,200 pounds (820 to 1,000 kg). Belgian horses are generally bay, chestnut, sorrel, or roan in color, despite the fact that the Flemish horse was black. An organization preceding the Belgian Draft Horse Corporation of America was founded in 1887.
The contemporary Belgian Draft Horse seen in the United States is more polished than the original Brabant from which it descended, yet it shares many of the same traits and characteristics.
History and Origin of the Belgian Draft Horse
The Belgian draft horse was first bred in the 17th century in Belgium. This horse is considered to be a descendent of the famous Middle Ages war horses that carried knights into battles.
The studbook was established in 1886, and breeding has been closely monitored ever since. The breed was transported all across Europe and to the United States, where it evolved into the American Brabant, a slightly smaller variant of its European predecessor.
Despite the fact that World War II and the invention of the combustion engine diminished the need for draught horses in Europe and North America, this breed was so popular that it was saved from extinction when its numbers began to drop alarmingly. The American Brabant is now the most dominant draft horse in the US.
The Brabant, also called the Belgian Heavy Draft, is the origin of the “blond” Belgian Draft horse that we frequently see in the United States. For ease of use, the name has been restricted only to Belgian.
It was known as the Flanders Horse during the Middle Ages (after the region of Europe where it originated) and had a big effect on the development of other draft horse breeds, including the Suffolk Punch, Clydesdale, and Shire.
Belgian breeders resisted pressure to produce lighter cavalry horses for decades, instead focusing on the Brabant or Belgian Heavy Draft, which was well-suited to the region’s climate and rich, heavy soil. Belgian breeders were able to develop a versatile heavy draft horse with outstanding strength by not admitting foreign blood into the breed and employing selective breeding to enhance its desired traits.
The Brabant is a large, muscular horse with a height between 16.2 and 17 hands tall. With a composed demeanor, the head is comparably small and elegant. The Belgian Draft, which is more commonly seen in the United States, is not as “huge” as the Brabant, but it still has the same dimensions.
With a short, broad back and strong loins, the physique of Belgian draft horse is compact, having massive quarters with a distinctive “double muscling” across the croup. The legs of the gaskins are short and powerful, and they are strongly muscled. For a draft horse, the hooves are average in size, with just minor “feathering.”
The majority of early Belgians were bay, with chestnut/sorrel and roan not far behind. However, since the 1920s, American breeders have bred for the sorrel and roan colors, which are now by far the most popular hues of Belgian horses in the United States. The chestnut or sorrel with white mane and tail, white cheek stripe, and four white socks is the most coveted color.
Belgian draft horses come in a variety of colors, the most common of them being bay, but you can also find them in black and chestnut. Similarly, they are also available in roan variants in bay, blue, and strawberry. Grey is spotted in this breed as well, although it is quite rare.
Similar to Friesian horses, the coat is generally kept feathered around the feet, and the tail is frequently trimmed on horses used for carriage service.
The Belgian draft horse is powerfully muscled, like many draft horses, with muscular hindquarters, a large chest, a short, wide back, and a high neck that is thicker in stallions. With a straight profile and a friendly eye, the head is relatively small for the body.
Belgian draft horses are among the world’s biggest, measuring over 17 hands tall and weighing around 900 kg (2,000 pounds). Big Jake, a Belgian who lives at Smokey Hollow Farm in Wisconsin and stands at an incredible 20 hands 2.75cm, is the current world record holder as the world’s tallest horse!
Jake is now 20 years old, but when it was born, it weighed 240 pounds. He now consumes a bale and a half of hay every day, as well as a lot of oats. Jake is definitely enormous, but in person, it is a nice, easygoing fellow who enjoys being around the throng that gather to see it!
Big Jake is the ideal representative for a breed recognized for its eagerness to work.
With a sense of humor and a personality as large as its bulk, the Belgian draft horse is courageous and a superb decision-maker. The breed is, however, kind and self-aware.
Belgians are primarily used for driving sport, forestry, agriculture, or sled pulling. But when they are not doing that, you may find them on family farms, where they are frequently employed for pleasure riding.
For those who understand how to care for a Belgian draught horse, owning one is a delight. They thrive in cold climes, where they can generally stay outside for most of the winter.
The undercoat stays dry, keeping the horse comfortable even in cold weather, thanks to a protective outer coat that absorbs rain and snow.
This breed requires regular grooming as it is prone to mud fever, also known as pastern dermatitis, which is more frequent in feathered breeds that retain germs and fungus on their lower limbs. Additionally, azoturia (tying up) can be a problem for these hard workers, therefore lots of water and electrolytes, if the vet prescribes it, should be encouraged.
Belgians, like other draft breeds, can suffer from chronic progressive lymphedema. Since it is possible that this is hereditary, it’s best to search for a Belgian with no history of the condition in their bloodlines.
Similarly, this breed is susceptible to junctional epidermolysis bullosa (JEB), a hereditary condition that predominantly affects the skin. By ensuring that only one horse in a breeding couple is a carrier, good breeding management can help to avoid JEB.
This cold-blooded breed with a sluggish metabolism has a propensity to acquire weight if not exercised regularly. Therefore, it’s advised to create a calorie diet plan with the help of a veterinarian. The majority of owners avoid sugar in their horses’ diets and limit the quantity of hay they give them.
Supplemental vitamins and minerals are beneficial to working horses. With this breed, you should expect to go through a lot of hay, but if you stock up at the feed shop, your Belgian draft horse will be a breeze to keep!
The Belgian Draft horse is an easy-to-handle horse that has a gentle nature, due to which it can be used for logging, plowing, harnesses, sleighs, and hauling carriages, etc.
Draft horse riding is also getting very popular these days in a number of disciplines, ranging from jumpin to western.
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