Can You Ride a Clydesdale?

Jessica McDaniel
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Riding a Clydesdale

Who knew there was such a thing as horseback riding with draft horses bigger than a semi-tractor trailer truck? Riding a Clydesdale is best experienced for the first time once you’re already young enough to hold on to the saddle without assistance. The saddle is made for larger body types, and unlike most horseback rides, there’s no way of holding the saddle if you’re not tall enough.

Clydesdale rides are open to all ages, but most family members … especially the younger ones … are better off sitting sidesaddle on the adult’s lap. However, the most common age for beginner and younger riders is usually eight to 12.

Once you’ve made the decision to ride one of these big guys, you will most likely be faced with a challenge. Through the challenge comes the opportunity to prove what you’re made of … a big smile and a fun story for years to come! Many farms that offer Clydesdale rides are designed to accommodate riders under 5'7" feet in height. This is due to the fact that most smaller kids can't reach the stirrups.

Size Differences

Though the average height is 15 hands, clydesdale horses are often very tall, even exceeding 16 hands. They are also known for their large size, with some individuals weighing over 2,000 pounds. The possibilities for height and weight as a result of breed mixing and genetic variation create a large variety of clydesdale horses in terms of size and shape.

In terms of average height, for horses the clydesdale is towards the middle of the pack. Though they have been known to reach 16 hands, their average height ranges from 15.1 to 16.2 hands. While height doesn't determine a horse's weight, it's important to note that the clydesdale generally weighs more than the average horse. In fact, they can weigh as much as 2,000 pounds! It's not uncommon for clydesdales to be tall and very large.

If you think the clydesdale is the right horse for you, you can use size and weight to your advantage. The extra weight of a clydesdale can be useful while working with cattle and pulling items. The horse's size can also provide a barrier between the rider and any potential dangers.

Riding a Clydesdale: Riding Differences

Larger horses have different anatomical features for balance, strength, and gait. A larger horse would be more likely to travel at the same speed as a smaller horse if their gait was similar, but they would have a different way of going through it.

Horses are built for comfort and large horse breeds do not try to hide the fact that they are huge at all. Whether it’s the deep step of a draft horse or the passive suspension of a clydesdale, riding these breeds does not feel entirely similar to riding a smaller horse.

The posture of these huge horses is unique. Their head is generally low to the ground versus standing on top of it as with lighter weight horses. The true test of comfort is if you can keep a more erect posture without digging your heels in, because a larger horse will always be slower than a smaller horse of the same bloodline.

Riding a Clydesdale: Disciplines

Advantages, and Disadvantages.

Clydesdale horses are popular choices for trail rides, show rings, and historical reenactments. They are named for Clyde, in Scotland , where they were first bred.

Riding one is at least not as difficult as riding a horse with a reputation for a hot head and unpredictable kicking, like a warmblood (such as Irish Draught), or a Gaited horse.

Clydesdale Horses are usually calm, and their enthusiasm made them well suited for the long journey of being a pack horse.

They come in all color patterns. Since they are large horses, you could easily be mistaken for thinking they are draft horse/draft cross, but they are not, as they are also quick on their feet and agile (they won the World Championship as Light Riding Horse in 2015), and instead of a draft horse's thick, heavy hair, they have more refined hair, concentrating on coat quality rather than length.

Clydesdale Horses are large, but they are not fast, and not very agile at all.

Trail

Clydesdale horses were among the first breeds that were transported on wagons across North America. As a result, they are built to endure long distances as well as rough terrain. It’s no wonder then why this breed is the most proficient when it comes to trail riding.

The Clydesdale is a powerful, beautiful, large horse. Clydesdale horses are primarily characterized by their size and strength. A Clydesdale horse can be anywhere from 16-18 hands (1.2-1.3 meters) tall and weight between 1,600-2,800 lbs (712-1,200 kg).

They have small heads and erect ears. Clydesdales have a massive frame with a shorter back than most other draft breeds. With only a short back, they are considered to be one of the best long-distance riding horses. They stand out among other horses with their huge feathered feet.

Dressage

Dressage riding is the most popular form of riding that may not be the tallest or most popular spectator, but the one that is the most complicated to perform. It's popular because it doesn't require hours of exercise but brings out a horse's personality and athletic ability.

A Dressage Riding Event is made up of a Maximum of 20 judges, who are split in groups of four around the arena judge the horse separately based on this set of movements: the Walk, the Trot and the Canter. The fourth movement is the Gallop, where all the judges are in one place, each giving marks on the horse's action and suspention.

The judges are at show grounds for a event, and each judge is assigned a horse to judge. Usually, they are assigned the same horse for the whole competition that day after the 2nd show. They wait until the horse crosses the start line, and the time the horse spends on each of the movements is restricted to a maximum of 90 seconds per movement, with a total of 1:30 per phase.

Each of the movements must be performed on a 20 meter circle that is marked on the floor of the arena. The judges must determine whether the horse is at the correct distance, whether they are moving forward or backward as well as the beautiful and athletic balance while performing the movement.

Pleasure

Or Work?

Clydesdales were developed in the 1840s as a riding horse for royalty and the wealthy. They were bred to be used as carriage animals. They were a comfortable ride and didn't tire easily. They were very obedient and, for the most part, didn't really care for the job at hand. They were so big that they could haul a family of 6, plus their luggage, without getting tired. They were and are a sturdy breed and are excellent farm horses.

Some people like Clydesdales as riding horses and some don't. It depend simply on the breed of the horse and the attitude of the horse. I have loaned and ridden both line breed Clydesdales and draft cross Clydesdales. From my experience, I noticed some of the jumping and recreational riding horses were very soft in the mouth. This is my opinion and experience from riding each breed. I could get them all to go where I wanted to go by leg pressure and stay there with a light hand on the reins. This was especially true of the crossbred horses.

Conclusion

This unusual question refers to horse riding. Although Clydesdale horses may appear to be huge and not suitable for riding, in fact, they have a very calm nature and are not too difficult to mount, provided that you are one of their own!

Clydesdale horses are usually large horses with a modest height ranging between 14 and 16 hands. However, the characteristics of this horse breed are extremely different from its physical appearance. For example, Clydesdale horses are remarkably affectionate, kind, and intelligent. Also, they are known for their docile temperament, making them ideal for children, as well as even novice horseback riders.

Clydesdales are not difficult to handle and they only need an experienced person who knows how to handle horses to ride them. They do not act impatient and are easy to obey. As mentioned earlier, the Clydesdale horse has a docile temperament and this makes it great for families with children, since they know how to be kind with such an animal.