Irish Draught

Irish Draught gelding by Mountain Pearl out of Diamond Shuttle
© Barbara O'Brien Photography



In the early part of the 20th century, the Irish farmer needed a more versatile horse than the popular heavy draft. He needed an animal that could work the land throughout the week, go fox-hunting all day Saturday, jumping anything he faced, and then be ready to bring the family trap to church on Sunday morning. It was from this need that the Irish Draught (pronounced draft') was born.


© Irish Draught Horse Society of North America



Over a century of selection has produced a breed that is very sound, sensible and with good bone, substance and quality. The Irish Draught is neither as massive nor as heavily feathered as its name implies and has movement that is smooth and free, without exaggeration, and not heavy nor ponderous. Standing over a lot of ground, the Draught has an exceptionally strong and sound constitution, great stamina and an uncanny jumping ability. In addition, this breed possesses a fabulous temperament made up of willingness, intelligence, docility and common sense.

Not only is the Irish Draught a perfect companion mount for riders of all ages, but it possesses the ability and versatility to participate in various levels of jumping, eventing, dressage, hunting and driving events. It is all these exceptional qualities that make the Irish Draught an invaluable and irreplaceable element in the production of the highly successful Irish Draught Sport Horse.


Breed Standards


© Irish Draught Horse Society of North America

Type and Character: The Irish Draught Horse is an active, short-shinned, powerful horse with substance and quality. It is proud of bearing, deep of girth and strong of back and quarters. Standing over a lot of ground, it has an exceptionally strong and sound constitution. It has an intelligent and gentle nature and is noted for its docility and common sense.

Height: Stallions 15.3hh to 16.3hh approx.
Mares 15.1hh to 16.1hh approx.

Bone: Good, strong, clean bone.

Head: Good, bold eyes set well apart, wide forehead and long, well-set ears. Head should be generous and pleasant, not coarse or hatchet headed, though a slight roman nose is permissible. The jawbones should have enough room to take the gullet and allow for ease of breathing.

Shoulders, Neck and Front: Shoulders should be clean-cut and not loaded, withers well defined, not coarse; the neck set in high and carried proudly, showing a good length of rein. The chest should not be too broad and beefy. The forearms should be long and muscular, not caught in at the elbows; the knee large and generous, set near the ground, and the cannon bone straight and short, with plenty of flat clean bone, and never back at the knee (calf-kneed) i.e. not sloping forward from knee to fetlock. The bone must not be round or coarse. The legs should be clean and hard with a little hair permissible at the back of the fetlock, as a necessary protection; the pasterns strong and in proportion, not short and upright nor long and weak. The hoof should be generous and sound, not boxy or contracted and there should be plenty of room at the heel.

Back, Hindquarters, Body and Hind Legs: The back is to be powerful, the girth very deep. The loins must not be weak but the mares must have enough room to carry a foal. The croup to buttocks is to be long and sloping, not short and rounded or flat-topped; hips not wide and plain. Thighs are strong and powerful and at least as wide from the back view as the hips, with the second thighs long and well-developed. The hocks are near the ground and generous, points not too close together or wide apart but straight; they should not be out behind the horse but should be in line from the back of the quarters to the heel to the ground; they should not be over bent or in any way weak. The cannon bone, etc. as for the foreleg should be short and strong.

Action: Smooth and free but without exaggeration and not heavy or ponderous. Walk and trot to be straight and true with good flexion of the hocks and freedom of the shoulders.

Color: Any strong whole color, including grays. White legs, above the knees or hocks not desirable.



© Dragonfyne Design


The Breed Today

With a little over 300 Irish Draughts in North America and 3,000 worldwide, the Irish Draught requires concentrated efforts for preservation. The popularity of the ID cross with the Thoroughbred to produce the Irish Draught Sport Horse (IDSH) has been the focus of many breeding programs to the detriment of purebred breeding programs. Purebred numbers of the Irish Draughts (ID) worldwide have been in general decline since 1979. The ID is classified as an endangered breed by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations due to declining populations and genetic erosion (i.e., inbreeding).

Chatsworth The Lady Hawk, an Irish Draught Sport Horse
out of an Irish Draught and Jockey Club Thoroughbred
© John Lyons



Ollie (Manu Forti's Touch Down RID)
© Kate Triplett-Homesick Angels LLC


Here in North America, the Irish Draught Horse Society of North America (IDHSNA) began in 1993 to establish and maintain registers and studbooks of purebred and part bred Irish Draught horses. The IDHSNA is a non-profit corporation dedicated to preserving and celebrating the Irish Draught and Irish Draught Sport Horse through registration and education. The IDHSNA puts a great deal of time and effort into preservation and securing a viable genetic future for the ID. It only makes sense. The world needs a diverse herd of IDs to ensure a strong and steady supply of the highly-sought-after IDSH! All Irish Draught and Irish Draught Sport Horses must pass inspection by trained judges for breeding privileges.

In 2015, the IDHSNA joined the harmonized studbook for the Irish Draught. Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) holds the stud book of origin for the Irish Draught horse in Ireland. In addition the harmonized book includes Great Britain and Canada.



The purebred Irish Draught may be found competing in lower levels of 3-Day Eventing, Dressage, Jumpers and other equine competitions. The related Irish Draught Sport Horse (Irish Draught crossed with Thoroughbred) is commonly found competing at all levels of 3-day Eventing as well as Dressage, Jumpers, Hunters and other equine competitions. The IDHSNA holds an annual show in the fall as part of an inspection tour - locations vary throughout the United States. The Society also maintains a Year End Award program and participates in the USDF All-Breeds awards program. To be eligible for an award in either program, the owner must be a member of the IDHSNA and the horse must compete under its registered name.

"Steeped in Luck" Class 1 Gold Grand Prix horse,
during the Dressage at Devon 2014 Award Ceremony
© Meg McGuire Photography


Registered Irish Draught Stallion, "Bridon Beale Street" aka Liam, of Lone Tree Farm
© Connie Arthur



Irish Draught Sport Horse
© Gayle Sheahen


© Irish Draught Horse Society of North America


Additional Information

For additional information contact:
Irish Draught Horse Society of North America
Registrar & Member Services Coordinator
Lucy Stevenson
4617 Store Lane
Stevensville, MT 59870
PH: 406-540-2199