If you're in the market for a draft horse for carriage driving, plowing or riding, but you don't want a 2,000-pound animal towering over you at 17 hands, relax. There are smaller draft horses that can do their jobs quite well without running up the large feed and farrier bills that full-size drafts do. Some members of these draft breeds are technically ponies, under 14.2 hands in height.
Originally from Austria, these chestnut draft horses with the white or flaxen manes and tails are quite striking. According to the American Haflinger Registry, color ranges from pale to liver chestnut. Although some Haffies appear to be palomino, they are actually chestnut. The breeding standard calls for a minimum of 54 inches in height and a maximum of 60 inches, or 13.2 to 15 hands. They weigh between 700 and 1,000 pounds. Haffies are bred for a strong work ethic along with a good disposition.
One of the oldest equine breeds, domestication of the Norwegian Fjord horse dates back to Viking times. Almost all Fjords are dun, the color of ancient wild horses. A dorsal stripe running down the back and zebra-like stripes on the legs indicate their primitive lineage. Fjords' manes stand upright, with dark center and white outer hairs. Weighing between 900 and 1,200 pounds and standing between 13.2 and 14.2 hands tall, the Fjord presents a powerful appearance in a relatively small package. Strong but gentle, Fjords make good riding, driving or working animals.
Long the preferred mode of transportation for the British or Irish Romany, or gypsy, people, these unusually colored horses are increasingly found on this side of the Atlantic. Usually piebald, skewbald, black and white or brown and white, the Gypsy Vanner, or cob, stands between 14.2 and 15.2 hands, about the size of the average light horse but with a draft-type build. They weigh between 1,000 and 1,700 pounds. While colored horses are the most common, Gypsies do appear in solid colors. The breed is exceptionally good-natured, a trait that makes them suitable horses for novices.
Other small breeds of draft horse exist, but might be harder to find. These include the German Black Forest horse, a dark chestnut, and the Fell pony. The latter's blood influenced breeds such as the Gypsy Vanner. Only about 400 Fell ponies are currently found in the United States, according to the Fell Pony Society of North America.
- Virginia Draft Horse and Mule Association: Draft Breeds and Definitions
- American Haflinger Registry: Breed History
- Norwegian Fjord Horse Registry: About the Breed
- American Haflinger Registry: Inspection & Classification Breeding Objectives for the American Haflinger Registry
- Rural Heritage: Haflinger and Norwegian Fjord Horses
- Gypsy MVP: Gypsy Vanner Horse Breed
- Vanner Central: Gypsy Vanner FAQs
- The Fell Pony Society of North America: The Fell Pony -- Early History
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Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.