The Irish Draught Horse

A Horse for All Seasons

What is an Irish Draught Horse? The Irish Draught is a light draught breed that developed as a working horse on Irish farms. The breed is renowned for its strength, intelligence, courage, durability and gentle temperament.

Breed History

From the earliest times horses have always been a part of Irish life. Over the years small native hoses were crossed with Norman horses and Spanish Andalusian stallions to increase the size of the native breed. In addition, the Thoroughbred has also played a significant role in the development of the Irish Draught breed throughout the centuries.

References to the Irish Draught horse date back to the 8th century. At the time a great increase in the area of land under tillage took place and this created a demand for bigger, stronger and more docile horses. Due to the small size of farm holdings in Ireland most farmers could not afford to keep more than one horse. A breed developed that could be used not only to ‘plough, sow, reap and mow’ but also to hunt, ride and drive the family to church on a Sunday. Consequently, today’s Irish Draught Horse is not simply a working horse, but a riding and leisure horse as well.

presentation to a young stallion

Irish Draught – Versatile Leisure Horse

One of the major strengths of the Irish Draught Horse is its versatility. Their wonderful temperament makes them easy to work with in any discipline. Their strength, intelligence and lightness of step means that they can perform in many varied disciplines including showjumping, eventing, dressage, hunting, showing, driving, Le Trec and endurance riding. Above all, their reliability makes them an extremely safe and sound horse for the amateur and leisure rider.


garda mounted unit

Irish Draught Horse - the preferred horse of the Garda Mounted Unit

The most important characteristics in a good police horse is a good temperament. Police horses must be able to work in a busy, noisy urban environment without difficulty. Horses need to be brae and obedient and able to cope with confrontational situations without becoming agitated or upset. To this end the Garda Mounted Unit relies exclusively on Irish Draught horses. From their experience the breed possesses all of the qualities most desirable in a police horse. The Mounted Unit in Ireland is not the only country that uses the Irish Draught as a police horse. Irish Draughts are used throughout the world in Mounted Units as the combination of their bravery, temperament and versatility is second to none.

The Irish Draught’s Contribution to Performance:
Ever since show jumping had its birth in Ireland and went on to become an international sport, the Irish draught Horse has always played a major role. The even temperament, athleticism and durability of the breed, crossed with Thoroughbred and sort horse breeds has created a potent mix which is well up to the demands of today’s equestrian sports ad is the foundation breed for the Irish Sport Horse. Numerous Iris Draught crosses have competed to the highest level in equestrian sport.

Irish Draught Horse Breed Characteristics

Height Ideally Irish Draughts should stand between 158cms (15.2hh) and a maximum of 170 (16.3hh) at maturity

Bone Approximately 23 centimetres (9 inches) of strong, clean, flat bone

Head Should be pleasant, not coarse or hatchet like with plenty of room between the jaw bones. Wide forehead and kind eyes, set well apart, and with large quality ears.

Neck Good length of rein with head well set on, neck should be correctly muscled and well shaped

Front legs Long muscular forearms, short cannon bones with plenty of strong clean, flat bone, not back at the knee or tied in below the knee. Pasterns should be in proportion with good hoof pastern axis. Hooves should be of equal size, hard and sound with plenty of room at the heel. They should not be boxy, over large or flat.

Shoulders A sloping shoulder neither loaded, nor too heavy, nor too short, with well defined withers well set back.

Body, back and hindquarters Deep girth with a good spring of rib, strong back, loins and quarters. The croup and buttocks should be long and gently sloping. Hips should not be too wide.

Hind legs Strong gaskins, well-shaped clean hocks set into short shins. Should not be cow hocked or wide apart at the hocks

Action Should be straight and free not heavy or ponderous. Movement should be active and strong, showing good flexion of joint and freedom of the shoulders

Colour Any strong whole colour including bay, grey, chestnut, black, brown and dun. Excessive white markings are not desirable