Clydesdales are a breed of heavy draft horse that originated in Scotland. They were originally used for heaving hauling in logging and mining camps and as a working farm animal. In the mid-20th century, the Clydesdales went into decline and there were only 80 recorded Clydesdales in England in 1949. In 1975, the breed was listed as “vulnerable to extinctinon” by the Rare Breed Survival Trust.
A good friend of mine is an equine veterinarian. She has the rare opportunity of taking care of a herd of Clydesdale horses and I’m lucky enough to get to ride along with her when she makes a farm call. We were at the farm to check on a newborn foal who was only a few hours old when we arrived. He was having a tough time figuring out how to nurse, so we spent about an hour showing him the ropes until he finally got the hang of it. He then laid quietly in the hay while his mother contently ate her feed. It was amazing to see such a giant animal gingerly step over her baby without waking him up… or squishing him.
This little girl was only a couple of days old when we visited and she was still having a hard time getting her legs to work in unison. One minute, she would be walking along just fine and the next, she’d be in a heap on the ground. She weighed about 175 lbs and stood almost 10 hands high when she was born!
This stallion was enjoying the sunshine and munching on some hay while we were on baby duty. He was one of the bigger Clydesdales, measuring over 18 hands high (that’s about six feet high just at the shoulder blades) and weighed well over 2,000 lbs. The hair (or feathering) on a Clydesdale’s legs originally helped protect their legs and dinner plate-sized hooves from the harsh Scottish climate.
Fortunately, today the future of the Clydesdale is much brighter due to careful breeding programs dedicated to the their survival.