Heavy Horse Breeds
The Belgian Draught
The Belgian Heavy Draught horse is native to Belgium. Heavy draught breeds are those whose main purpose is in pulling heavy loads such as all kinds of agricultural machinery, sleds, wagons, pantechnicons, timber jinkers, etc. Humankind owes a great debt of gratitude to the patient but strong heavy horse.
The Belgian stands between 16 and 18 hands and weighs from 1,800 to 2,200 pounds. One of the largest of the breed, Radar, is 19.3hh and weighs 3,200 pounds.
The Belgian is also known as the Brabant (Brabant is a province in central Belgium) and, like the Arabian in the light horse world, the Belgian has influenced many other breeds. It is one of the ancestors of the Dutch Draft, along with the Belgian Ardennais. In very early times it was crossed with the Ardennais to provide increased height and strength.
It has an excellent physique and temperament and is extremely prepotent, passing on its outstanding qualities to its progeny. It breeds very true to type and its good nature is highly valued.
As early as the 10th century, the Brabant's ancestors were being carefully bred in the Brabant and Flanders areas. The soil here was fertile and heavy. Horses needed to be compact with sufficient knee and hock action to pull their massive legs out of the clay-like earth when it was wet.
The Brabant is almost impossible to beat for pulling power, its nearest rival being the Shire. It matures early and lives a long, useful life. It has a strong constitution and is economical to keep.
Brabants are blocky with short, muscular legs, broad backs and a kind, placid eye. The well arched neck is short, very muscular and set on sloping shoulders. The chest is wide and deep. The head is rather plain with a straight profile and small eyes and ears. The most common colour is a light chestnut with a flaxen mane and tail. The belly is often lighter in colour. Red roans are also seen as are bays, duns and darker chestnuts. The feet are large and rounded with good tough horn. There is no excessive feathering or long hair around the heels and fetlocks in this breed. Long muscular thighs provide good leverage and the joints are big and flat. The quarters are strongly rounded and the tail well-set.
In America, the Amish use the Brabant (more often called Belgians) to produce draught mules. A lighter type is bred in America and is popular in all disciplines. They may great parade horses as a six-, eight- or more hitch in a show wagon. They are easy breeders and have found new careers being bred to lighter horses to produce stronger bucking stock for rodeos. They are also bred for meat and, unfortunately, many pregnant mares spend their lives in barns with their urine being collected for the manufacture of Premarin.
The breed is unflappable, strong and reliable. It is suited to heavy agricultural work and short haulage tasks. It is also used as a foundation breed for producing warmbloods and sporthorses.