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Powerful and Majestic: Everything You Need to Know About Clydesdale Horses

Clydesdales: A Look at the History, Characteristics, and Uses

The sight of majestic and powerful Clydesdale horses is always awe-inspiring. Known for their massive size, distinctive markings, and impressive abilities, these horses have captured the hearts of many.

In this article, we will look at their origin, characteristics, uses, and unique contributions. Whether you’re already a fan of the breed or just curious about these magnificent creatures, read on to learn more.

Origins and Characteristics

The breed’s name, “Clydesdale,” comes from the River Clyde in Scotland where they originated. Scottish farmers in the 18th century bred Flemish stallions with heavy Scottish mares, resulting in horses that were larger and stronger than either parent breed.

The horses were used primarily for farming and heavy hauling. Clydesdales are known for their bay coat color, white blaze, and four white stockings.

They also have “feathering,” which is the long hair on their lower legs and hooves, and is said to help protect their legs from harsh weather conditions, and muck they may come into contact with. Clydesdales are typically 16 to 18 hands tall and weigh around 1,800 pounds, but some can weigh as much as 2,000 pounds.

Uses and Contributed Breeds

Clydesdales have been used for various purposes over the years, from farming and logging to riding and driving. In recent times, their popularity has soared thanks to their use in marketing.

One example is the famous Budweiser Clydesdales, which have appeared in numerous commercials to advertise beer. The Clydesdale catches the attention of viewers due to their size and unique appearance.

Another breed that owes its existence to Clydesdales is the Gypsy Vanner. The Gypsy Vanner, originally bred by the Romanies people as a multi-purpose horse, is said to have some Clydesdale blood in its ancestry.

The Gypsy Vanner is known for its distinctive feathering, piebald patterns of black and white, and a noble head appearance. The breed is valued for its versatility in riding, driving, and therapy work.

Size and Rarity

Despite their popularity, Clydesdales are considered at risk, with the rarest and most significant bloodlines being deemed “vulnerable” by the Rare Breed Survival Trust. Nowadays, they are primarily bred for as show horses or for commercial uses.

Famous Clydesdales, such as Po and Sampson, have received international attention.

Clydesdales in the Household Cavalry

Clydesdale horses have also played an essential role in the British Household Cavalry. One of the most visible of these roles is the Drum Horse.

The Drum Horse is a larger cavalry horse that carries two silver drums. The horse is assigned to the Musical Ride Officer, a unique duty that is an honor for both rider and horse.

Requirements for the Drum Horse include being colored, roan, and at least 17 hands tall, with a docile temper in the midst of loud noises and crowds.

Training and Equipment

Drum Horses are trained from the ages of four to five, with training lasting two years. During the training, the horse is trained using foot reins instead of a bridle, which is more traditional with other breeds.

The Drum Horses, like most cavalry horses, are traditionally ridden while wearing a replica of the Cavalry’s full ceremonial uniform. The uniform is designed to evoke the image of the Knights of the Crusade and ensure that the guard looks like a powerful and awe-inspiring force.

Characteristics and Benefits

One of the most distinctive aspects of the Clydesdale is its large and powerful build. This large build makes the Clydesdale a perfect fit for ceremonial duties such as those of the Household Cavalry.

Additionally, Clydesdales have an excellent shock-absorbing ability, making them excellent for use in the logging industry. Finally, the high-stepping gait of the Clydesdale is a sight to behold.

When deployed in harness, they can cover enormous distances at a much higher speed than most other heavy breeds.


In conclusion, the Clydesdale breed is unique and fascinating. They contribute their exceptional prowess to the marketing industry as well as have an important role in the Household Cavalry.

These horses are massive, powerful, and awe-inspiring, commanding attention wherever they go. From their origin in Scotland to their contributions to various industries, the Clydesdale breed is one to be admired.

Clydesdale Hooves and Feathers: An In-depth Look

The idiosyncratic features of Clydesdales, their massive hooves, and long feathering, are some of the reasons why breed enthusiasts find them so fascinating. These features have developed over hundreds of years to help the Clydesdales in their natural habitats of harsh Scottish winters and challenging agricultural workloads.

In this article, we will explore the hooves and feathers of the Clydesdale as well as their diet and care requirements.

Hoof Size and Shoeing

Clydesdales have enormous hooves, that range from 8-12 inches in diameter, comparable in size to a dinner plate. Despite their thickness, these hooves require proper maintenance and care to avoid health issues such as navicular disease, which is a common ailment for heavy draft breeds.

Clydesdales require a unique shoeing technique whereby a standard horseshoe is bolted onto another steel plate, known as a Scotch Bottom shoe. This technique is used to provide additional stability and support for the horse, ensuring that the weight of the horse is distributed evenly on its feet.

Shoeing a Clydesdale is not a feat for the faint-heartened. Clydesdales average around 1800 lbs, which is a lot of weight on four legs, meaning horseshoes used are also larger and heavier compare to other breeds.

Specifically, the horseshoe can weigh up to 5 pounds which is more than double that of an average horse.

Feathering and Development

The feathery hair found on the lower legs of Clydesdales is a signature feature of the breed and has extended beyond it, becoming popular for their beauty. This feathery hair has developed over generations to protect Clydesdale from the harsh winter temperatures of Scotland, the homeland of the breed.

Feather development varies between individuals. Still, it is often noticed that horses with more draft or Shire horse blood exhibit thicker feathering, which is a distinguishing feature for Clydesdales.

Daily care and conditioning are necessary to keep their feathers clean and well-groomed. Caring for the feathers is not only aesthetically pleasing but has a health aspect, too.

Neglecting their feathering can lead to an accumulation of dirt, sweat, and mud, which could lead to irritation, parasites, and even skin infections.

Pulling Power and Strength

Clydesdales were bred to be workhorses, which is why they are one of the most robust breeds. Their massive size and strength enable them to pull up to 8,000 pounds or 3.5 tons.

In competition, Clydesdales usually compete against Belgian Drafts, which have competed fiercely with Clydesdales for centuries. In tests of strength, Clydesdales and Belgian Drafts have been able to pull concrete blocks weighing over 400 pounds (181 kg) for distances upwards of 20 feet.

Diet and Care

Feeding and Water Consumption

Like any living creature, Clydesdales require a high-quality diet that meets their dietary needs. Generally, horses require 1.5 – 2% of their body weight in forage (hay and grass) each day.

A Clydesdale may require more due to their larger size and can consume up to 50-60 pounds of hay per day. An individual horse’s performance and workload determine whether it requires more calories compared to others.

For performance Clydesdales, such as those used for the Budweiser team, they are given a high-fiber diet consisting of hay and concentrate feeds. These feeds provide them the necessary nutrition and energy to engage in high energy activities or work all day.

Space Requirements

Clydesdales require significant space and room to move about; they are not suitable for people who prefer to keep horses in limited paddocks or stables. To care for a Clydesdale, ample grazing land is essential.

In addition to grazing area, owners must be prepared financially for the care of the horse, including the costs of vet visits, shoeing, bedding, feeding, and on-farm necessities.


Caring for Clydesdales is rewarding, but it comes with its challenges as well. However, provided that you have the resources and space available, this majestic breed can be a fantastic addition to your barn.

Keeping a Clydesdale healthy requires proper nutrition, ample space, grooming, and shoeing. Nonetheless, by providing them the necessary care, these horses will reward you with their beauty, strength, and imposing presence.

Overall, the Clydesdale breed is unique and fascinating, and their massive hooves, long feathering, and additional care requirements require dedication and attention. The article has covered the different aspects of Clydesdale horse care, including their origin, characteristics, uses, diet, and care.

To keep Clydesdales healthy, owners must provide them with ample grazing land, good quality forage, regular grooming, and proper shoeing, and be prepared financially. Owning a Clydesdale can be a rewarding experience, but it requires commitment and dedication.

To some extent, every potential Clydesdale owner should carefully consider their resources and other factors before making a final decision. FAQs


Why do Clydesdales have large hooves, and how are they shoed? Clydesdales have large hooves that require proper hoof care and specialized shoeing techniques, such as the Scotch Bottom shoe.

2. What is the purpose of the feathering on Clydesdales?

The feathering is a signature feature of the breed that protects them from harsh weather conditions in their homeland, Scotland. 3.

What is the food requirement for a Clydesdale? Clydesdales require 1.5 – 2% of their body weight in forage (hay and grass) each day.

For performance Clydesdales, they require a high-fiber diet consisting of hay and concentrate feeds. 4.

What is the space requirement for a Clydesdale? A Clydesdale requires ample grazing land and space to move about, and they are not suitable for people who prefer to keep horses in limited paddocks or stables.

5. What do owners need to know about caring for Clydesdales?

Owners must provide Clydesdales with ample grazing land, good quality forage, regular grooming, proper shoeing, and be prepared financially. Owning a Clydesdale can be a rewarding experience but requires dedication and commitment.

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