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Irish Draught Horse Breeding

Location Throughout the island of Ireland
Categories Traditional craftsmanship
Knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe
Social practices, rituals and festive events
Keywords Animals, horses, breeding
Contact organisation Irish Draught Horse Breeders Association

The Irish Draught is a light draught breed that developed as a working horse on Irish farms. They are a clean limbed horse, unlike the heavier draught breeds. They developed to be used not only to plough, sow, reap and mow but also to hunt, ride and drive the family to church on Sundays. The horse is the foundation animal for the modern sports horse.

Background information

They can be any whole colour, but today greys predominate as many of the darker coloured horse were sold to the British army in the past, and grey is a dominant colour gene.

The twentieth century saw the decline of the breed as farmers replaced their horses with tractors.

In 1911 the Department of Agriculture gave formal recognition to the breed and a register was established.

In 1976 the Irish Draught Horse Society was formed in an effort to stem the loss of this native breed.

Today the breed is the foundation of the sport horse industry, but it is vital to keep a large pool of purebred animals from which to cross, it remains an endangered breed whilst purebred foal registrations remain below 1,000 per annum.

Economic, political and social conditions have always played their part in the Irish Draught story and no doubt will continue to do so, but as part of our living heritage today they are recognised more for their recreational purpose and it is hoped that this area will see numbers rise once more.

Practice and practitioners

Purebred breeders of the Irish Draught tend to have small numbers of animals, and many show their animals at local agricultural shows which gives them the opportunity to meet other enthusiasts. The pinnacle of the showing year for many is the RDS and the national breed show where animals can be seen both in hand and more recently competing under saddle.

The Irish Draught is a perfect animal for people who ride for leisure as it has a generally calm temperament.

The Garda Mounted unit uses exclusively Irish Draught geldings which is a great advert for our native breed.

The recent growth in ridden classes for purebred draughts has been supported by the Irish Shows Association, the Royal Dublin society, Horse Sport Ireland and of course the Irish Draught Horse Breeders Association.

It has been argued that the Irish Draught is more a type than a breed and indeed in certain parts of the country the horse was traditionally much smaller than in other areas. Today there is concern over the loss of bone and the increase in height.

Development, transmission and safeguarding

The IDHBA has branches throughout the country and welcomes new enthusiasts at all times. The Association endeavours to preserve, promote and improve the Irish Draught Horse. Local branches hold educational seminars and in some cases local shows. The national show allows people to see some of the best examples of all ages of our native breed in one location each year.

The Association produces a yearbook for its members which is intended to be educational, in that it has reports from the branches along with show results, and articles about genetic diversity etc.

A stand is taken at the RDS each year where old friends and new can meet up and discuss the breed around the showing classes.

Contact organisation

Irish Draught Horse Breeders Association