Draft Horses Vs. Riding Horses

Jessica McDaniel
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Draft Horse VS Riding Horse: Horse Types

Nowadays, horse breeds come in all shapes and sizes. Modern horses have lengths of the neck and body, a style of build, and an arrangement of legs that allow for smooth movement over a range of activities. However, before the horse became the versatile, athletic and sturdy animal we know today, different forms of horses were selectively bred for specific activities and jobs, such as pulling, running or riding.

Draft horses and riding horses are two different types of horses. Though they may look similar at first glance, they are actually designed for different purposes. Although some horses can be used for both draft and riding purposes, many of them are specialized for just one of the two. Here’s a quick overview on the essential differences between draft horses and riding horses.

窶馬tring Horses

Draft horses are known as a strong horse type. For centuries, draft horses have been used to pull large loads while plowing the fields, pulling wagons, and carriages. In most cases, draft horse is the largest horse type, although they're a bit smaller than Clydesdales.

Draft Horses

The American Quarter Horse Association acknowledges draft horses as a breed but did not start registering them until 15 November, 1973. Their first national show, the 1973 National Draft Horse Show, was not until 1976.

As they are not as common as riding horses in competition, there is no national association specifically for these horses. Draft horse owners and breeders form horse shows and associations on a regional basis.

However, there are several associations recognized by the United States Department of Agriculture.

The official registry for draft horses, the American Draft Horse Association, was founded in 1984.

USDA regional offices offer a specific breed directory with a list of associations recognized throughout the country.

Riding Horses

Vs. Draft Horses: A Comparison

Draft horses have traditionally played a significant role in agriculture, pulling farm implements, plows, and wagons and being used to turn the grindstone for the miller. They go by a variety of names, including draft horse, dray horse, draft pony, and pit pony.

Riding Horses vs. Draft or Work Horses provide many benefits for people and perform a variety of roles. This detailed look at Riding Horses vs. Work Horses helps to draw out the similarities and differences between them so that you can find the best horse that meets your particular needs and preferences.

The terms Riding Horse and Draft or Work Horse are often used interchangeably.

Riding horses differ from riding horses in many ways, including their size, age, training, and temperament. The most important difference between riding horses and work horses is that riding horses do not pull loads. They are not built to be work horses.

Draft Horse VS Riding Horse

Draft horses, or working horses, if that's not already obvious, are of the stockier, more muscular build. They have broad, large heads with strong chins, wide nostrils, and wide eyes. The draft horse has a larger head to carry the weight of a rider, the draft horse has a large, round muscle behind the shoulder blade, and often has a thicker layer of fat, including an apron of fat down the length of his belly to protect his inner organs from bumps and bruises during his work.

These are endurance horses and are known for their strength and stamina, going the distance and covering great distances without tiring. They are used in many farm duties, such as pulling wagons and sleighs during the winter, pulling logs and stone, plowing the fields and driving machinery.

Draft horse breeds and some pony breeds also have heavy coats and extra muscle for warmth and to survive in cold climates.

Can You Drive a Riding Horse?

Yes, but only if it is comfortable and safe in doing so. It is safer to have them wear a halter with bit rather than driving harness which usually involves a rope that goes under their bellies.

You can use a leading rein to cue them rather than pumping your legs on their sides to guide them since the leading rein usually goes around the neck and not the poll.

A well-trained riding horse can be ridden and driven on occasion, so in some ways this is both!

Riding Draft Horses

Draft horses are not simply over-sized riding horses. The biggest difference between full-sized riding horses and draft horses is their height.

Typically, riding horses stand about 15 to 16 hands in height at the withers. Draft horses, on the other hand, are quite a bit taller. The average height for a draft horse is 17 to 19 hands, but some draft horses do stand as tall as 20, 21, and even 22 hands.

Draft horses fall into several different categories. For instance, American draft horses are tall, heavy-set horses originally descended from draft horses imported from Europe. American draft horses are strong and durable. They are well-suited for transporting logs, wood, and other heavy items.

Draft horses are used primarily for heavy work. Some of the jobs they are used for include logging, pulling wagons, pulling sleighs and transporting cargo. On occasion, they are used for riding and show, but, mainly, their use is limited to large, heavy jobs.

Modern draft horses include Belgian, Clydesdale, Percheron and Shire, each of which are prized for their smooth gaits and their sheer size and strength. They come in a variety of different colors and many have spots or a spotted pedigree.


It should also be noted that draft horses and riding horses are not the same. There are two separate breeds that make up the two different types. Draft horses are used in sport and recreation while riding horses are bred to be used as riding horses.