Dating back to the 18th-century, the Irish Draught initially developed as a working horse, due to its physical strength; intelligence; excellent temperament and willing nature.
Traditionally, their role on a small family farm included entertainment; transportation - bringing the family trap to church on a Sunday; hunting with hounds and ploughing fields.
The breed which is regarded as a major contributor to social history originated with the smaller Irish Hobby and blood from Iberian horses of the Spanish Armada; Clydesdales and a Connemara pony were also added into the mix.
Irish Draughts experienced a significant decline down through the centuries, mainly due to losses in the Great-War; cross-breeding and advances in mechanisation.
As concerns were raised over the future of the breed, efforts have been made to preserve the Irish Draught, including the establishment of the Irish Draught Breed Society in the 1970s.
Listed as Ireland’s only native horse breed, the Irish Draught has proved its ability to conduct farm work and its suitability for hunting; jumping; driving and riding. Today, Irish Draughts are commonly used in cross-breeding programmes with Thoroughbreds or Continental Warmblood stallions to produce sport horses at the upper end of the market that gain international success.
The all-round working breed is also popular mounts for An Gardaí Síochána as a result of its docility and strength. They are also very easily fed and survive on a diet comprising of grass; turnips and gorse, for example.
The Irish Draught Horse Breeders Association describes the breed as a “versatile, powerful and athletic animal with substance and quality.”
The horses can be any whole colour including dun; brown; black; chestnut; grey and bay usually stand between 158-170 cms in height at maturity.
A native of Irish soil, today, the breed has characteristics prized worldwide.