Originally bred in Scotland as a work and draft horse, the tall and good-natured Clydesdale is now popular and famous as a show horse, especially in the USA.
There they pull the beautifully decorated wagons of a brewery that is known and loved in the USA.
The Clydesdale is handsome cold blood. The sturdy Clydesdale horse with the characteristic white hangings on its legs was bred in the past as a reliable and robust workhorse.
Nowadays the handsome Clydesdale is rarely used as a workhorse but is often used as a draft and carriage horse for show purposes.
Size: 163-195 cm
Weight: 800-1000 kg
Lifespan: 25-30 years
Color: Brown, more rarely red roan and black
Leisure time, therapy, the draft horse
Origin and breed history
They are real Scots, the Clydesdale cold-blooded horses. They owe their name to the Scottish River Clyde, the third-longest river in Scotland, on the banks of which the beautiful city of Glasgow lies.
In the past, the imposing Clydesdale were bred as a warhorse and later as a pure workhorse. The breeding of the Clydesdale can be traced back to the 18th century, this is where the real breeding of these wonderful horses began for the first time.
In order to obtain a large, strong, and enduring horse for heavy agricultural and forestry work, the largest of the horses living in the region were mated with even larger breeds.
It is believed that local, large and heavy mares were mated with stallions from England and even Belgium. The Shire Horse was crossed later. The Shire Horse is the largest horse breed in the world and its crossbreeding has contributed significantly to the current size of Clydesdale.
The start of breeding is dated roughly between 1715 and 1720. During this time John Peterson of Lochlyoch brought a Flemish stallion to Scotland. According to tradition, this stallion is said to have improved the quality of the breed enormously.
Clydesdale and Shire Horse are visually very similar. The Clydesdale is usually a bit smaller and much lighter and more agile than the imposing Shire Horse. The breeding efforts showed success very quickly, the Clydesdale as a horse breed was born.
Little by little the wonderful cold-blooded horses were sold first in the north of England, then throughout England. Exports to other countries around the world followed, including the USA, Germany, Russia, South Africa, and Japan.
According to the breeding association of the “Clydesdale Horse Society”, which was founded in 1877, around 20,000 horses were sold abroad between 1884 and 1945 and made the Clydesdale one of the most important cold-blooded breeds alongside the French Percheron.
The earlier breeding
Here the horse dealer and Clydesdale breeder Davie Riddell played a major role.
He quickly discovered that there was a great demand for enduring, strong workhorses around the world and began bringing the best Clydesdale to continental Europe, America, Australia, and New Zealand.
Davie Riddell was also the owner of the Clydales stallion “Darnley”, from whose bloodline the famous Clydesdale stallions “Sir Everard”, “Baron’s Pride”, “Baron of Buchlyvie” and “Dunure Footprint” descended.
As agricultural machinery increasingly took over the work of the horses, the breeding of the magnificent Clydesdale stalled. Unfortunately, Clydesdale is no longer widespread today.
In the USA, however, Clydesdale continues to enjoy great popularity. They are valued as show horses there. In the USA, Clydesdale presents the Budweiser beer brand from the Anheuser-Busch brewery.
They represent the beer brand in wonderful commercials in which the elegant cold-blooded horses play the leading role and, beautifully decorated, pull the brewery’s wagons to shows and festivities.
When the former President Roosevelt ended Prohibition in 1933, the brewery owner’s sons gave him a team of six award-winning Clydesdale who pulled three beer wagons.
Enthusiastic about this unique gift, Roosevelt named the Clydesdale horse breed as the official mascot of the Budweiser brand. The beautiful and elegant Clydesdale quickly became a crowd favorite and is still famous and highly regarded today.
The Anheuser-Busch brewery even maintains its own breeding stables that can be viewed by visitors. In Germany, the former workhorse is very popular among recreational riders who love the gentle, friendly, and people-oriented nature and the originality of Clydesdale.
The appearance of the Clydesdale
Clydesdale is the so-called Sabino checks. That is, the horse has clear, large leg and head markings. The leg badges are white, the head badges are clearly delineated and distinct.
The white of the legs slowly “creeps” upwards and ends in a more or less pronounced white belly spot. In some Sabino checks, however, the belly spot is barely noticeable, while in others the entire belly shines in white.
The blaze is often found in the so-called lantern shape on the Clydesdale. It starts above the nostrils and covers the entire bridge of the nose and forehead. Usually, the wide mouth and the wide nostrils are brightly colored.
The long, white droppings on the legs are also characteristic of Clydesdale.
The silky, white goose curtain not only looks elegant and is eye-catching, but also protects the legs of the Clydesdale from moisture and wetness. The forehead of a Clydesdale is broad, in profile the bridge of the nose looks straight.
The imposing, large and powerful head has very long and well-shaped ears. The Clydesdale’s legs are long, longer than those of other cold-blooded animals. The long legs with the drop trimmings ensure the elegant appearance of the Clydesdale, which sets it apart from other cold-blooded races.
Clydesdale’s hooves are large, hard, and resilient. They give the horse a good footing on the ground. Did you know that the farrier needs pieces of metal half a meter long for a Clydesdale horseshoe?
The finished horseshoes of the impressive horses weigh over 2.5 kilos each, which is five times as much as the horseshoes of normal warmblood horses. The tail starts high. In earlier times the tail beet of the draft horse was often docked.
One reason was “aesthetic” in nature. The massive croup of the Clydesdale was supposed to come into its own. Another argument was that by docking the tail beet, the risk of the lines becoming jammed in the draft and driving horses was reduced.
The docking not only caused unnecessary great pain to the animals, but it also deprived them of their natural insect repellants. Docking is now prohibited in Germany.
The neck of the Clydesdale is long curved and strongly muscled and goes over a little pronounced, high withers into a strong, strong, and short back part. The Clydesdale’s croup, sloping shoulder, and extremely muscled hindquarters are also strong.
The colors are dominated by a rich, attractive brown. However, there are also red molds and, more rarely, black horses.
With a height of up to 1.95 meters and a weight of up to 1000 kilograms, the strong curved neck, the well-muscled, strong body, and the silky white goat hangings of one of the most beautiful and elegant cold-blooded horses in the world.
Temperament and essence
The Clydesdale draft horses are very people-oriented. They have a friendly and gentle nature and impress with their willingness to work and their willingness to learn.
They need and seek contact with “their” people, which makes them almost ideal as a leisure horse for beginners and older people, apart from the fact that it can be quite difficult to find a suitable saddle every now and then.
Anyone who thinks a draft horse has no temperament does not know the Clydesdale. Despite their large, strong body, long sturdy legs, and large hooves, they can frolic in the pastures.
You just don’t trust them to have so much joie de vivre. For recreational riders, they are persistent and reliable partners.
Husbandry and nutrition
Keeping a Clydesdale requires more effort than keeping a small horse. Due to its size, the Clydesdale needs a correspondingly large box in the stable and a pasture that offers it enough space to run.
A normal box for a warmblood horse is not appropriate here. Although there is the classic rule of thumb 2 x-height at the withers squared, even this does not give the optimal value.
The Clydesdale must be able to move around in its box to be comfortable. Therefore, experts recommend a box size of at least 14 to 16 square meters. A paddock the same size would be ideal.
The feed should be of good quality. With the feed costs for a Clydesdale, you should expect around 1,200 euros per year.
The feed costs can vary, it depends on the size of the animal, the quality and type of feed, the offer, and of course the appetite of your horse.
Education and care
The upbringing of a Clydesdale is quite easy because these powerhouses in horse form are extremely willing to learn and very related to their people.
The Clydesdale is cared for just like any other horse breed, only on a larger scale.
Regular brushing, brushing, and combing the mane and tail, as well as ears and eye care are the be-all and end-all of thorough horse care.
Hoof care problems could arise as most farriers are no longer equipped to handle large workhorses.
You should therefore look around for a suitable farrier in your area before buying a Clydesdale.
Health and Typical Diseases
Clydesdale is a generally sturdy, resilient horse. However, Clydesdale is also workhorse. Just standing around in the pasture is not for this very spirited horse, on the contrary: It can even harm him.
A Clydesdale has to be worked regularly, the amount of feed and the type of feed must be adapted to the “lack” of exercise.
Due to the size, weight, too much, or incorrect feeding and posture, problems can arise especially with the musculoskeletal system.
You should always check the hooves well, as problems can arise here too. It is therefore extremely important that your farrier is familiar with and experienced with the Clydesdale horse breed.
Raspe, Mauke, eczema, and chronic obstructive bronchitis (COB) are some of the typical nutrient deficiency-related illnesses that can affect Clydesdale. Cross crate and other muscle diseases are also part of it.
If Clydesdale is not working properly and if the feeding is completely wrong, these and other diseases can quickly set in.
The feeding should be based on structure-rich hay, straw, and non-fatty pasture. Concentrated feed either only as a reward or in small amounts. The feed, rough as well as concentrated feed, must not have a high protein content.
Oats should be consumed with caution: they are good horse feed but contain a lot of protein. The feeding must be completed with mineral and vitamin supplements in the form of licks or pellets. The rule of thumb is 1 kilogram of roughage per 100 grams of weight.
The life expectancy of the Clydesdale
The Clydesdale draft horse usually reaches an age of 25 to 30 years.
Buy Clydesdale horse breed
In Europe, there are quite a few very good breeders of these wonderful draft horses. You can easily get addresses via the Internet or from registered clubs for draft horses, such as the Clydesdale Club.
But you can also find it in private classifieds. Depending on what age your Clydesdale should be and whether your Clydesdale should already be fully trained, the prices for a one-year-old start here at around $4,000.
If you buy through a private classified ad, take a close look at the animal itself, the horse’s papers, and also ask about any existing or past diseases of Clydesdale.
In this way, you can largely avoid “nasty” surprises later on.
A gentle and good-natured spirit dwells in the imposing bodies of the Clydesdale. Clydesdale is very people-oriented, they seek and need regular and close contact with their owners.
This makes it an excellent leisure horse for older riders, beginners, children, and even as a therapy horse. Due to their size, however, they should not be purchased specifically as “children’s ponies”.
Since Clydesdale are very willing to learn and has a quick grasp of things, they can also be taught a lot of tricks.
If you are looking for a reliable and friendly carriage horse, workhorse, or leisure horse and can provide a suitably sized box, you are well-advised with a Clydesdale.