Horse Breeds Series: Belgian Draft

Belgian Draft Horses are huge animals that were bred for hard and heavy tasks such as ploughing fields and pulling heavy loads. However, they are gentle giants and they are known for their calm and quiet temperament.

The heavy horse breed can weigh 725kg or more but they are very sweet tempered and they have a natural curiosity and willingness to learn. Because of their large size, they will need a very large stall if you keep your Belgian Draft Horse inside. They will need more room than other horses and they will need to be turned out into a paddock daily.

Also, they will need to be fed a lot as they are big eaters. They will consume approximately twice as much as other horses – even more if they are being exercised. They are a sweet and good tempered horse that can handle a lot of heavy physical labour.

History

The Belgian Draft Horse and the Brabant were the same breed before 1940, they were changed for different purposes. In Europe and North America the Belgian was engineered to be a working horse that was primarily used for draft work. The Brabant was bred in Europe to be a stronger and heavier horse, but in the USA it was taller with a lighter frame.

In 1887 the official Belgian Draft Horse Registry began and it is currently the most popular draft horse in the USA. The American breeders in the early 20ths century bred for the roan and sorrel colours, which are now the most common colours of Belgian horses in the USA.

The use of these types of heavy horses throughout history has been critical in the development of civilization. The Draft Horse is known as a workhorse and it enabled farmers and workers to transport heavy equipment and material to get the job done. Draft horses were used as early as the Roman times, for pulling any type of heavy load in cities as well as for farm work – as they are strong, reliable and sturdy.

 Attributes

This horse is distinguished by its small head, thick and muscular neck and powerful shoulders. It also has short legs and a mane that is usually lighter than the colour of the horse. It also has a lot of hair around its feet, giving it that characteristic draft horse profile. The Belgian Draft Horse is one of the strongest and heaviest breeds of draft horse and it is a docile, hardworking animal.

The Belgian Draft horse has two common coat colours, which is not as much of a diverse colour selection as other breeds. It usually only appears in either roan or chestnut. This horse is very heavy – the average Belgian Draft weighs 907kg which is 442kg heavier than the average horse breed. It has a lot of muscle mass and it is very strong – capable of pulling enormous loads.

Applications

The Belgian Draft is a horse that is suited for many applications, as it is capable of performing various tasks very well. The most common tasks it performs are general riding, endurance riding, work, jumping and hunting. Belgian draft horses are able to pull tremendous amounts of weight, so hauling and pulling is one of their common tasks. For example, this horse might be used to pull sleighs, carriages and hitches, plow fields or pull logs. Also, the riding of draft horses is becoming increasingly popular, in a variety of disciplines.

Because this breed has a diverse set of abilities, it is able to accommodate the various needs of many different horse owners. They are also used for driving, trail riding, showing and parades. They make wonderful companion horses because of their calm and docile demeanour.

Health Concerns

This breed is more subject to health issues than other breeds. Some of the health issues that you need to look out for are junctional epidermolysis bullosa, shivers and mud fever. Junctional Epidermolysis Bollosa is an incurable disease that is caused by a mutated gene that is found in 30-35% of Belgian Draft Horses.

When this condition is present, the horse lacks the correct skin protein Laminin 5. This is fatal and it will cause foals to die within a week of their birth. The layers of skin will be unable to stick to each other and patches of hair and skin will start to rub away at pressure points, which will spread to bigger and bigger patches. If a foal is known to have JEB it should be euthanized, as this is an agonizing disease with no cure and it is better not to prolong it. Fortunately, in 2002 researchers determined where the gene site of the mutation was located so that they could do a test. If a mare and stallion are both tested carriers, they should not be mated.

Belgian Draft Horses are also susceptible to Azoturia, which is also called “Monday Morning Disease.” This is a metabolic disorder that is common in many different types of draft horses. It will often occur when the horse has had time off and then has started to work again. The horse experiences nervous behaviour, heavy sweating, muscle stiffness, rapid pulse and dark urine caused by muscle fibres breaking down into the bloodstream. If continued to work, the horse can die from kidney failure because the kidneys cannot filter the enzyme that is released into the blood stream from the muscles.

Also, it is important to keep Belgian Draft Horses well-groomed because their coats can get heavy in cold climates. The hair around the ankles can attract bacteria from the soil, which will make them susceptible to pododermititis or scratches. This is a problem when the horse is subjected to wet muddy conditions for a long period of time.

You can avoid these draft horse health issues as much as possible by collecting as much knowledge as you can so that you can give your draft horse the best care. Also, make sure that you purchase from a responsible breeder and that you choose only healthy stallions and mares.

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