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irish draught

The breed ancestors were the war horses of the 12th century, taken to Ireland by the Normans during the Anglo-Norman invasion of 1172, and bred with the local stock. Spanish blood was added to the mix in the 16th century, Connemara blood was also added. The true Irish Draught type really started, however, in the 18th century, when Thoroughbreds were bred with local mares to produce a light work horse that could not only be used to plough, but also for riding. The original type was around 15 to 15.3 hh and had a more draft-like conformation than the present-day type. The traditional breed was bred to be docile, yet strong. They were required not only to perform the farm work of pulling carts and ploughing, but they were also used as riding horses, for fox hunting. They were also bred to be economical to keep, in the winter surviving on gorse, boiled turnips, and bran that was left over from the cow feed. The breed flourished for a while, but numbers subsequently dropped as a result of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-1849, and later agricultural recession in the 1870s. During this time, thousands of horses went to the slaughterhouse each week. After the economy improved, Clydesdales and Shire horses had to be imported from Britain to meet the demand for work horses. They were cross-bred with the remaining Irish Draught horses, producing an animal that was bigger and coarser. However, the Clydesdale was blamed for adding a lack of stamina and poor lower leg conformation to the Irish Draught. Infusions of Thoroughbred blood helped to breed out these traits, and also added more refinement, greater endurance, and better shoulder conformation. The Irish government became involved with the breed at the beginning of the 20th century, trying to promote better horses by introducing registration and offering subsidies for stallions (in 1907) and mares (1911). Inspections for registration also began. The stud book was opened by the Ministry of Agriculture in 1917, selecting 375 mares and 44 stallions to enter as the foundation stock. As motorized vehicles became popular, and tractors took the place of the horse on farms, Irish Draughts became increasingly popular for crossbreeding. They were well-known for producing upper-level eventers and showjumpers, and were exported across the globe. However, the purebred Irish Draught was in danger of dying out. In 1976, a small group of Irish breeders banded together to form the Irish Draught Horse Societyto preserve the breed. By 1979, a branch of the Society was formed in Great Britain. The Bord na gCapall (in Gaelic, "Irish Horse Board") was formed in 1976 specifically to promote the non-Thoroughbred horse industry, but later became defunct, and was replaced in 1993 by the "Irish Horse Board" (now titled in English). The IHB administers both the "Irish Sport Horse Studbook" and foal registry and maintains the Irish Draught Studbookand the Irish Draught Marebook on behalf of the Irish Draught Horse Society.

The Irish Draught horse, sometimes spelled Irish Draft, is the national breed of Ireland which developed primarily for farm use. Today, they are especially popular for crossing with Thoroughbreds, producing the popular Irish Sport Horses (or Irish Horses) that excel at the highest levels of eventing and show jumping.

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Irish Draught".