Cold blooded horses are typically known as draft horses. They usually stand on the opposite horse breeding pole from the warm-blooded horses. Although some horse handlers argue that any horse can be made into a draft horse, strict breeders maintain that real draft horses have distinct traits and characteristics from other horses.
The Draft Horses Origins
It is possible that some draft horses descended from the large, muscular medieval horses used for carrying armored knights. Most draft horses however were really the result of selective breeding. Programs for breeding were primarily set up to produce these large, muscular and powerful horses.
The development of draft types was at its height in the 1800s and the first half of the 1900s. It was at this period that great importance was placed on agricultural production. Farmers and entire regions therefore found a need for powerful horses that would help make agricultural production faster and more convenient. Hence, the breeding of draft horses across several countries began. Most breeds were primarily found in Europe and North America.
Time eventually changed though. Consequently, the need for draft horses was reduced. The dawn of industrialization and the introduction of mechanized farming nearly made draft horses unnecessary. Two other events, the First and Second World Wars also proved fatal to the populations of both warm and cold blooded horses. By all appearances the golden age of draft horses had reached an end.
The Draft Horses Traits
There are a number of different breeds of draft horses. They do however share many common traits and characteristics that make them eligible for categorization under the draft type. Draft horses have large, compact, muscular bodies. They also usually have strong sturdy necks and legs, short backs and straight shoulders. All these typical draft type traits make them perfect for plowing and pulling loads. Many breeds like the Clydesdale, percheron and shire are notoriously large ranging from 16 to 19 hands. Other breeds however like the haflinger can be short at 14 hands but are still nonetheless powerful and stocky. Other draft breeds include Belgian draft, Ardennes, Breton and Suffolk punch.
More than their physical traits, draft horses are also prized for their temperaments. Draft horses should ideally be calm, gentle and very easy to manage. This is because draft horses should be able to respond easily to the will of their handlers. A stubborn and willful horse 19 hands tall will be of no use on a farm. Breeding programs are therefore geared towards developing draft breeds with these temperament qualities.
Draft Horses Today
The decades when draft horses where a necessity are long gone. Many individuals however have begun to appreciate the special traits of draft breeds. This has led to the resumption of breeding programs to help preserve some draft breeds.
Today, draft horses are used in some rural farms. They have however found a bigger niche in the show ring, display events and in fairs. Large draft horses may compete in pulling contests. Some lighter draft types are also be used in riding or equestrian competitions.