The Budweiser horse, remember? If you didn’t recognize the Scottish Clydesdale from the Super Bowl commercials, allow us to introduce them. This breed is large, powerful, and highly versatile! Initially bred for agriculture, Clydesdale horses now perform various jobs and participate in show events.
This heavy draft horse faced endangerment time and time again. The Budweiser Clydesdales played a large part in preserving the breed. From Scotland to Great Britain, Australia, and eventually the United States, the Clydesdale has a rich history. Let’s get to know them!
Clydesdale Horse Characteristics
The Clydesdale is a wide, heavy draft horse. Draft horses, like the Suffolk Punch, are large steeds whose original purpose was to haul large amounts of weight. This resulted in the breed’s massive size, though all the time on the farm made them gentle and trainable.
Clydesdales generally have a convex facial profile. This means the ridge of their noses bows outward rather than slopes inward. They have a broad forehead, wide muzzle, and feathered legs (longer hair on their lower limbs). Their life span is usually 20-25 years long, which is average for equines.
Clydesdale horses have an impressive high-stepping action. This means that the horse picks up its feet high as it walks. “Action” refers to a particular movement that a horse performs, such as the Tennessee Walking Horse’s running walk.
Breeders often favor a high-stepping gait because it leads to great show performance. Imagine that a judge was standing behind a Clydesdale. If the horse demonstrates a proper high step, the judge would be able to clearly see the horse’s shoes with each step it took.
Clydesdale Horse Size
The Clydesdale Horse Society describes the average Clydesdale as being 17-18 hands (68-72 inches) tall and 1,600-2,400 pounds. Stallions and geldings tend to stand taller and weigh more than mares.
Clydesdale Horse Personality
Owners often refer to heavy breeds as gentle giants, and Clydesdales are no exception. Many may be intimidated by the size and strength of a horse that stands 18 hands tall, but this breed is as calm as it is intelligent. Their even temperament makes them easy to train.
But, just because these joyful and prancing horses aren’t prone to a hot temper doesn’t mean they’re suitable for new equestrians. With an average weight of 2,000 pounds, Clydesdale horses have the potential to accidentally injure inexperienced riders.
The Clydesdale has its roots in Scotland, in what is today Lanarkshire. Originally, the town was named Clydesdale after the River Clyde that flowed nearby.
When Flemish stallions arrived in Scotland in the mid-18th century, they bred with local mares and produced foals that would go on to create the Clydesdale breed. Nearly all Clydesdale’s today can trace their ancestry back to a filly born in 1806 by the name of “Lampits mare.”
The Flemish stallions went extinct by the time the mid-19th century rolled around. But, Clydesdales carried on their features. The Clydesdale Horse Society of Scotland formed in 1877.
A breeding system in Scotland was partially responsible for introducing Clydesdales to the rest of the world. The best stallion was chosen by a competition show, and the winner went to various farms to breed with local mares.
Thanks to this system, the Clydesdales made their way to Great Britain. The draft horse was exported from Scotland in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to Britain, South America, Australia, and New Zealand.
Finally, Clydesdale horses arrived in America in the 1840s. The American Clydesdale Association published the first studbook in 1882. This association later changed their name to the Clydesdale Breeders of the USA, and they still operate today.
A period of industrialization occurred after the First World War, and farm work became mostly mechanized. This shift caused Clydesdales to become less popular. The Second World War also did not help their decline, and the British Clydesdale population dropped sharply from 200 to 80 between 1946 and 1949.
By the 60s, the Rare Breed Survival Trust (RBST) classified these horses as “vulnerable” (500-900 horses). Since then, the Clydesdale has seen an increase in numbers. The popularity of the Budweiser Clydesdales brought the breed to the public’s attention.
In recent years, the Clydesdale has been categorized by the RBST as “at risk.” This means there are between 900 and 1500 horses worldwide.
Similarly, the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy listed the breed as “watch” since 2010, meaning that fewer than 2,500 horses are registered each year in America and less than 10,000 worldwide.
How to Care for a Clydesdale
The Clydesdale is known for being well-suited for various purposes, so the care you provide for your horse depends on their activity and lifestyle. No matter how you use your horse, every owner will still need to ensure they’re giving them adequate exercise, food, and grooming.
Clydesdale Horse Training
Early Clydesdales performed agricultural work. But now that we have tractors and pickup trucks, many present-day owners don’t have a need for such labor.
Being one of the heaviest breeds, these horses’ sure-footed and sturdy legs make them do well on trails. If you’d like to use your Clydesdale for trails, try training them with a longe line.
Longeing and Hauling
Longeing is the practice of walking your horse around in circles while attached to a lengthy rope. Here’s how to get your horse to longe:
1) First, fix a longe line of 30-40 feet to the bottom ring of your horse’s halter.
2) Then, raise your right hand and pull left on the line.
3) Once the horse starts moving left, give the line some slack.
4) Try moving the horse right while raising your left hand, then repeat.
Ideally, doing this once a day and several days a week will teach your equine to obey your commands without even needing to tug on the reins.
This breed has a history of hauling, and even if your Clydesdale doesn’t go on to join the Budweiser hitches, hauling is an excellent way to exercise the horse and teach them basic obedience.
To teach your horse to haul, start with longe exercises, walking your horse along a fixed path. After they can follow your directions without hesitation, attach a harness to their back and continue longeing. This will teach your Clydesdale to haul while wearing equipment.
Over time, add weight to the harness as your horse gets used to the gear. Once they can longe while wearing a harness and pulling weight, try hooking them up to a cart!
Nutrition and Feeding for Clydesdale Horse
Adult Clydesdale horses require around 25-50 pounds of hay every day. If your horse isn’t getting all of the nutrients or energy it needs, a grain might be necessary. Grains can target a particular need an animal has, such as a deficiency in fiber or carbohydrates.
Popular grains include oats, barley, corn, wheat, and milo. Once you’ve discussed your horse’s nutritional needs with an expert, they can advise on whether grain is recommended, how much to feed your horse, and what type. Typically, Clydesdales that need grain eat 2-10 pounds per day.
Clydesdales are taller and heavier than the average horse breed, which is why they need so much food. Their large size also means they need more water, so be sure to provide your horse with at least 30 gallons of water daily.
Clydesdales will also need the same trace minerals as other horses (zinc, copper, manganese, and cobalt). These minerals help the animal’s growth, coat, and immune system. An excellent way to get your horse these minerals is by using a salt block.
Coat Color And Grooming
Clydesdales have a thick, beautiful coat that is often bay with white markings. These markings are similar to those seen on the Brabant Horse. Bay coats range from a light copper color to a dark reddish-brown called a mahogany bay.
Clydesdales can also come in roan, black, and chestnut color patterns. If it has white markings, they will usually be on the face, legs, and feet.
How to Groom
Grooming horses is a meditative and relaxing time for both the horse and the groomer, so let’s look at what Clydesdales need to stay looking healthy and happy.
First, be sure to hose your horse off after training. This reduces the number of flies attracted to the animal’s sweat. Then, you can wash a Clydesdale’s feathers similarly to the way one would clean their own hair.
After rinsing and applying shampoo and conditioner, massage the hair and legs for 3-5 minutes. Use a blow dryer to remove all moisture, as any trapped water might cause skin irritation.
Every time you groom your horse, check their hooves for rocks, dirt, and other debris that may have gotten stuck in their feet. To keep their white marks nice and clean, some groomers use liquid bluing when cleaning their horse. Bluing is a technique most commonly associated with washing clothes, and it involves adding blue to something white.
As white material becomes dirty, it typically becomes yellow, and since blue is the opposite of yellow, the result is a balanced white. Consider putting some equine-safe liquid bluing into your horse’s conditioner for brilliant white markings. If your horse has a black coat, try a dark coat enhancer to bring out its shine!
Clydesdale Horse Health Problems
Clydesdale breeders screen their stock for several outstanding health conditions, but no horse is entirely immune. Let’s look at some issues that Clydesdales experience so you can prevent, treat, or care for your horse the best way possible.
Chronic Progressive Lymphedema
Typically affecting draft breeds, chronic progressive lymphedema causes the horse’s lower legs to swell. The more the legs swell, the more the skin hardens and folds in on itself. Signs of this disease include bumpy, gnarled lower legs.
Unfortunately, this remains a mysterious condition that has no known cause, treatment, or prevention. Genetics are likely involved in some way, so your Clydesdale will probably inherit this disease.
As the name implies, this is a skin condition that could cause your Clydesdale to scratch. Some believe the itch is some type of mange, which is a skin disease caused by parasitic mites.
Mites are attracted to thick, long, wet hairs on many animals, and Clydesdale’s just happen to have a mite’s paradise on their lower legs. The featherings on breeds like Clydesdales and Friesian horses are potential breeding grounds for mange-causing parasites when wet.
If left damp and uncleaned, these mites can cause your horse severe discomfort. Be sure to clean and dry their feathers regularly, and see a veterinarian if any sores, lesions, or rashes develop.
Sunburns can affect all breeds, but the horses most at risk are those with less hair on the pink skin around their noses and mouths. Clydesdales have thin hair on their faces, so be sure to invest in some equine sunscreen.
Generally, sunburns are only an issue for horses left out to pasture for entire summers. But, you should apply some sunscreen to your Clydesdale if you think UV rays could be a problem.
How to get a Clydesdale Horse
You don’t have to wait until Budweiser’s next Super Bowl commercial to see this incredible breed. EquineNow is a phenomenal platform for people looking to buy and sell horses. They allow you to filter your search by breed name, color, skills, and many more specifications.
Prices vary based on discipline, lineage, and age, so as you search, you may find some Clydesdales that cost just a few hundred dollars and others that go all the way up to $25,000! The average Clydesdale, however, will likely fall between $4,00 and $10,000.
Once you’ve picked up your very own Clydesdale, you’ll want to register it with the Clydesdale Horse Society. Registries are a great way to get in touch with other equestrians. They also help you share resources about how to care for Clydesdales and promote the well-being of the breed.
The Clydesdale Horse Society is the original registry for this breed, formed nearly 150 years ago!
More About This Horse Breed
The Clydesdale has had a long history, and it has established itself as one of the most iconic draft horses in the world. Standing 18 hands tall and capable of pulling up to eight tons, its immense size and formidable strength made it perfect for agriculture work back when “horsepower” described equines and not engines. Whether you weigh them down with hitches or take them out on the trail, this gentle giant won’t easily tire or falter!