The Ardennes is a massive but at the same time gentle horse breed whose origins lie in France. From the army horse to the workhorse to today’s leisure partner, this breed has gone through many stations.
Find out everything you need to know about the gentle giant of France.
Hardly any other horse breed deserves the term “gentle giant” as much as the Ardennes. As one of the heaviest horse breeds of all, the Ardennes had to take on a number of hard work tasks over the course of history.
Most of these are now carried out by machines, which is why this old French cold-blooded cup was almost forgotten.
But it looks like the Ardennes is slowly making a comeback – as a leisure and riding horse.
Even for cold blood, the Ardennes is a real stunner. With a live weight of up to a ton, it puts practically all other horse breeds in the shade.
Nevertheless, it is more agile than you would like to believe. Together with his high endurance, he is, therefore, an ideal draft and riding a horse. The breed got its name from the Ardennes, a mountain range that stretches across France, Luxembourg, and especially Belgium.
This is also the traditional area of origin of this horse. Today the Ardennes are mainly bred and kept in their areas of origin France, Belgium, and Luxembourg as well as in Sweden.
Size: 155-164 cm
Weight: 800-1000 kg
Origin: France, Belgium
Lifespan: 16-22 years
Color: Brown, fox, roan, roan
Leisure time, therapy, the draft horse
Origin and breed history
The roots of the Ardennes can be traced back to early history. The breed is descended from the Solutré horse that lived in what is now France 20,000 years ago.
This makes the Ardennes one of the oldest cold-blooded breeds in the world and one of the oldest horse breeds in France. The Ardennes first received historical attention in the Roman legions, where they served as powerful warhorses.
Even Julius Caesar is said to have been an admirer of the massive horses. Since the Roman invasion of Gaul, the Ardennes have been present at many historical events. In the Middle Ages, they were a popular horse for battles and tournaments, as only a few breeds could wear knights with their armor.
Napoleon later used Ardennes for his campaigns. The powerful animals pulled carts, artillery and agricultural implements.
At the time of the Crusades, people began to cross oriental horses such as Arabs into the Ardennes in order to make the army horses lighter and more agile.
In the 19th century, the Ardennes area finally changed to agriculture. The animals no longer had to go to war, but they helped with heavy work. They pulled plows, heavy loads, and wagons.
From this point on, cold-blooded breeds were crossed again in order to make the animals stronger and more massive again. The modern age of Ardennes breeding finally began in 1908 when the first studbook was introduced in France.
Today, Ardennes are mainly kept as a meat supplier, but recently there has been a trend towards riding horses again. Especially for this purpose, Arabs are often crossed in order to breed out more agile and slightly smaller types.
The original, massive type continues to be purebred, especially in the area of origin and in Sweden.
The appearance of the Ardennes
The average Ardennes remains somewhat smaller than other cold-blooded breeds with a height of approx. 160 cm. On the other hand, he makes up for this lack of size with muscle mass.
The animals weigh 800 to 1000 kg, and fattening animals can even exceed these values. Despite the mass, the Ardennes is nimble and eager to move.
The body is broad and stocky, the legs short and stocky. On a short neck sits a relatively small head, which is either straight or has a slight Ramsnose.
The Ardennes often wear dense fetlocks, which are a little darker in color than the mostly brown or red fur of the body. The robustness of this physique is also reflected in the posture. The Ardennes defies wind and weather and is frugal and tough, which makes it very easy to keep.
Although the crowd does not suggest it, this makes him a suitable beginner horse. In contrast to other breeds, he is easy to forgive small mistakes. He likes to do pulling work, and horse riding also gives him pleasure.
Temperament and essence
Above all, the Ardennes are considered calm, level-headed, and patient. Although he has a high urge to move, he is also obedient. Despite its size, this makes it a suitable horse for beginners and fearful riders.
In addition, the Ardennes always have their temperament well under control, which does not disturb them even in tricky situations. You can always rely on Ardennes.
Due to its robust body, the Ardennes is also very persistent, which is not only important for work but also enables long, strenuous rides.
If you let the Ardennes run free, it is also lively and playful. For its mass, it is amazingly agile.
Husbandry and nutrition
Keeping an Ardennes proves to be very simple. The animals are frugal and also tolerate adverse conditions. Therefore, the breed is ideally suited for year-round free running.
But as with other breeds, the following applies: The horse should be able to decide for itself whether it spends its time outdoors or rather looks for a sheltered shelter. You should take into account the urge to move with wide paddocks.
Otherwise, the same applies as for other horses: The Ardennes need social contacts and a healthy diet in the form of hay, straw, grass, or silage. Especially Ardennes, who have to do a lot of hard work, can be given more concentrated feed.
In general, there are only a few things to consider when feeding horses appropriately. The Ardennes have no special requirements here.
Today the Ardennes are mainly used in forestry, where they help to bring the heavy tree trunks to their destination. Thanks to the shackles, the animals are also suitable as attractive carriage horses.
Often a single Ardennes is enough to pull a carriage due to the high strength. As a riding horse, it can already be used for children and young people.
But it can also easily carry heavy and tall riders. Even easy jumping units can be ridden with the Ardennes.
Education and care
Upbringing turns out to be just as simple as the general attitude of the Ardennes. The horse is patient and willing to learn and you will have no problems teaching your animal new tasks.
Regular grooming is as important for the Ardennes as it is for any other horse. In addition to removing impurities and matting, brushing also strengthens the bond with your horse.
Just as horses nibble at each other in the pasture, your horse sees grooming as a gentle token of love. You should scrape out the hooves regularly and have them examined by the farrier every few weeks.
He cuts the hooves and shoed them if necessary. Make sure that, depending on the surface and area of use, not every horse needs shoeing.
Cold-blooded breeds in particular tend to have strong chestnut growth. These have to be shortened if they get too long.
You can either do this yourself with hoof pliers or you can also ask the farrier to do this at his regular check-ups.
Health and Typical Diseases
Regular vaccinations, especially against tetanus, should be a matter of course for every horse. The same applies to routine veterinary examinations.
This examines the overall condition of the animal as well as the wear and tear and health of the teeth. Depending on the abrasion, a file may have to be used here.
The said robustness of the Ardennes is also reflected in the health. The breed is known for shedding any disease. He is also much less prone to lameness than other horse breeds.
The only disease to which the Ardennes is susceptible is scum. This inflammation of the fetlock mainly affects horses with dense fetlocks. Symptoms are redness of the skin and eczema. If you notice this in your horse, it is best to consult the veterinarian.
They will recommend medication or compresses for the affected areas. You should also ensure that the stable is meticulously clean during the healing phase to support the process.
Unfortunately, this low susceptibility to disease does not have any effect on a longer lifespan. The life expectancy of horses is heavily dependent on their size.
Similar to dogs, smaller breeds are more durable than large ones. Although both are considered robust breeds, an Icelandic horse, for example, can easily live to be twice as old as an Ardennes horse.
On average, you can expect a life expectancy of 20 years for cold blood. Methusalems at the age of 30, on the other hand, are rather rare here. But you must not be disappointed if your Ardennes has already reached the end of his life at the age of 15.
On the other hand, the Ardennes have grown a little earlier than other horse breeds and can accordingly be trained and ridden earlier.
Buy Ardennes horse breed
Since the Ardennes has gone a little out of fashion, it should not be that easy to find a breeder today. Most of today’s Ardennes are in fact in the meat industry and these animals are not suitable as leisure horses.
You are most likely to find what you are looking for in the area of origin of the breed, i.e. in France, Belgium, and Luxembourg. A separate line is also bred in Saarland and the Palatinate, the so-called Palatinate-Ardennes.
Depending on the age and condition of the animal, you should expect an average purchase price of $6000. When making a purchase, make sure that the animal has been kept well, has received all vaccinations, and can present papers.
Make sure to also ask how the Ardennes has already been used so that you know which commands the animal has already mastered.
Other things that you should consider before buying an Ardennes are insurance that you already have the right accessories, as well as accommodation if you do not have your own yard.
The Ardennes is particularly suitable for beginners. So if you are considering getting your first horse, then you should definitely consider an Ardennes horse as well.
He is a frugal and reliable riding horse, on which you can feel safe even as a beginner. Because the Ardennes will never throw you away.
But maybe you are also looking for a leisure partner who can help you with heavy work every now and then. Or you are looking for a good and persistent carriage horse.
The Ardennes is ideally suited for all of this. Just make sure that the animals consume more food than smaller, leaner breeds. You should also be able to offer enough space to move around in the Ardennes.
If you meet these requirements, then you can find a longtime and loyal companion in an Ardennes who will not let you down in any situation and who will effortlessly defy most diseases as well as harsh weather conditions.
FAQ about Ardennes
How heavy do the Ardennes get?
Ardennes weigh between 800 and 1000 kg. So they are significantly heavier than most horses.
How long do Ardennes live?
Ardennes are not susceptible to disease, but due to their size, they do not live long. They have a life expectancy of 15 to 20 years. Smaller horses tend to get older.
How big are the Ardennes?
Ardennes grow to be 155 to 164 cm tall. With this size, they are among the largest horses.