Can You Ride a Belgian Draft Horse: Essential Guide

Are you curious about whether you can ride a Belgian draft horse? Look no further! In this blog post, we’ll provide you with an essential guide and explore everything you need to know about riding these gentle giants. So, let’s get started and answer the question – Can You Ride a Belgian Draft Horse?

Belgian Draft Horse Overview

The Belgian or Belgian Draft

The Belgian Draft Horse is a well-known and robust breed with a rich history, impressive physical characteristics, and commendable temperament. In this section, we will explore the breed’s origins, physical features, and personality traits.

History and Breed Origin

Originating in Belgium, the Belgian Draft Horse descended from the Flemish “great horse,” which was a medieval battlehorse native to the Low Countries. During the late 1800s, efforts were made to improve the breed, and it eventually arrived in America. The first Belgian horse association, known as the Belgian Draft Horse Corporation of America, was founded on February 25, 1887.

Physical Characteristics

Notable for its large size, the Belgian Draft Horse typically stands between 16-18 hands (64-72 inches) tall and weighs 1,800-2,400 pounds (Horses Only). While bay is the most common coat color, other variations include chestnut, sorrel, or roan with blonde mane and tail (Horse Racing Sense). Physical features that distinguish the breed include its well-muscled build, short legs with feathering, and powerful hindquarters.

Belgian Draft Horses display various coat colors, such as bay, chestnut, and black, with roan variations like bay, blue, and strawberry. However, gray Belgian Draft Horses are exceptionally rare (Horse Breeds List).

Temperament and Behavior

Belgian Draft Horses are known for their gentle and docile character. These horses possess great strength and are very hardworking, making them excellent choices for various tasks (Horses Only). Despite their heavy build, they can be ridden because they have a calm temperament and are willing workers, making them suitable for trail riding (Horse Racing Sense).

However, it is important to note that the Belgian Draft Horse is not a gaited breed, so riders should not expect a smooth ride with this particular horse. Nonetheless, the breed’s admirable temperament and work ethic make it a popular choice in various equestrian disciplines.

Riding a Belgian Draft Horse

Belgian draft horse carriage riding

Belgian Draft horses are a magnificent and strong breed known for their draft work. However, one might wonder if they are also suitable for riding. This section aims to provide you with the necessary information regarding riding a Belgian Draft horse, focusing on feasibility and safety, riding discipline suitability, and equipment and tack.

Feasibility and Safety

Riding a Belgian Draft horse is not only possible but can also be a rewarding experience. These horses are gentle, calm, and offer a comfortable ride due to their size and nature. With their long stride, they can cover a lot of ground efficiently, making them great trail riding horses (source). The height these horses provide makes for a great vantage point, with riders effortlessly enjoying the scenery around them.

Although their height can be an advantage, it can also pose some challenges. It is crucial to develop spatial awareness of low-lying branches when riding Belgian Draft horses as their height can make it necessary to duck under obstacles that may not be an issue for other horse breeds.

Riding Discipline Suitability

Belgian Draft horses are versatile and adaptable to different riding disciplines. They are most commonly associated with trail riding due to their calm demeanor and ability to cover ground efficiently. Their strength and size also make them a suitable choice for dressage, jumping, and even carriage driving competitions.

However, it is essential to remember that these horses are primarily draft animals, so they may not excel in highly competitive or specialized riding disciplines as some other breeds might. Nonetheless, their gentle nature and versatility make them a popular choice for leisure riding and beginner equestrians.

Equipment and Tack

When riding a Belgian Draft horse, selecting the appropriate equipment and tack is crucial to ensure the safety and comfort of both horse and rider. Due to their size, finding suitable equipment may require extra effort or customization.

  • Saddle: Look for a saddle designed specifically for draft horses or wide-backed horses. These saddles take into consideration the shape and size differences, providing a comfortable fit for the horse and a stable ride for the rider.
  • Bridle: Belgian Draft horses generally have broader heads than other breeds; hence, a standard bridle may not fit correctly. In this case, look for draft horse-specific bridles or consult a professional for custom bridles.
  • Other equipment: Be prepared to invest in horse-specific items such as girths, stirrup leathers, and bit sizes that are suitable for a Belgian Draft horse.

Choosing the right equipment ensures that your riding experience with a Belgian Draft horse remains enjoyable and safe for both you and the horse.

Factors to Consider

Incredible Belgian Draft horse

Rider’s Experience and Skill Level

When considering riding a Belgian Draft horse, it is essential to evaluate the rider’s experience and skill level. Belgian Draft horses are known for their calm temperament and willingness to work (source), which can make them suitable for various riders. However, their size and strength may pose challenges for inexperienced riders.

Being familiar with handling and riding draft horses can enhance your ability to manage a Belgian Draft. Since they are not a gaited breed, riders should not expect an exceptionally smooth ride (source). It is essential for riders to adapt to the horse’s natural movements and ensure proper communication through aids and body language.

Horse’s Health and Fitness

Belgian Draft horses are known for their incredible power and strength, but their health and fitness levels should be considered before riding them. Regular veterinary checkups and proper care are vital to maintaining the horse’s wellbeing.

Before riding a Belgian Draft horse, it is crucial to evaluate its fitness level. Their size can place extra strain on their legs and joints, making them more susceptible to injury (source). It is essential to ensure they can comfortably carry the rider’s weight without causing harm. Regular exercise and a balanced diet are essential for maintaining a Belgian Draft horse’s overall health.

In addition to the horse’s health and fitness, it is essential to use the appropriate tack and equipment. Since Belgian Draft horses are larger than most breeds, they may require custom saddles, bridles, and other riding gear. Properly fitting equipment ensures the horse’s comfort during riding and minimizes any potential risks of injury.

Considering the rider’s experience and skill level, along with the Belgian Draft horse’s health and fitness, can help ensure a successful and enjoyable riding experience.

Training a Belgian Draft Horse for Riding

A Belgian Draft Horse grazing

Belgian Draft horses have long been recognized for their strength and ability to pull heavy loads, but many people wonder if they can be ridden as well. With proper training, these gentle giants can become suitable mounts for those willing to put in the time and effort to ensure their safety and comfort.

Basic Training Principles

Like any horse breed, Belgian Draft horses require a solid foundation of basic training before they can be ridden. This includes groundwork such as leading, picking up legs, and lowering their heads on command. An essential aspect of training a draft horse is establishing trust between horse and rider, ensuring both feel confident and secure when working together (Clydesdale Training).

Techniques and Tips

When starting to train a Belgian Draft horse, it’s crucial to take it slow and ease the horse into the process. In the initial stages of training, it’s recommended to have someone knowledgeable present to assist and guide the horse from the ground while the rider mounts (Horse Racing Sense). Begin with short sessions of no more than thirty minutes for the first few weeks, allowing both horse and rider to adjust to the experience.

Tack adjustments are necessary when training a Belgian for riding, as their size and build may require custom or draft-specific equipment. Saddle fit is particularly vital in ensuring the horse’s comfort and preventing any pressure sores or pinching during training and riding sessions.

Due to their immense strength, Belgian Draft horses have the potential to be less responsive to some traditional training methods. As such, it’s essential to be patient, consistent, and use clear communication to develop a strong bond with your horse. Establishing this connection will help foster a positive working relationship and enable a smoother transition into riding.

Finally, keep in mind that Belgian Draft horses can handle considerable weight but may be less maneuverable than lighter horse breeds. Riders need to adapt their riding style accordingly, ensuring they provide adequate support and guidance for their powerful mount without expecting the same agility as a smaller, lighter horse.

Caring for a Belgian Draft Horse

Elegant belgian draft horse

Belgian Draft Horses are a popular and impressive breed. To ensure their well-being and optimal performance, proper care is crucial. This includes attending to their diet and nutrition, hoof care, grooming, and preventative health measures.

Diet and Nutrition

Due to their large size, Belgian Draft Horses have higher caloric requirements compared to smaller breeds. For every 1,000 pounds of bodyweight, a draft horse needs a minimum of 10,000 to 12,000 calories daily (source). It’s essential to provide them with high-quality hay and feed to meet their nutritional needs. To further supplement their diet, adding two cups (or one pound) of fat in the form of high-quality vegetable oil can be beneficial (source). Monitoring their weight and adjusting their food intake accordingly helps maintain their health.

Hoof Care and Grooming

Belgian Draft Horses, like all other equines, have continuously growing hooves. Annual hoof care costs can range from $120 to $1,000, depending on whether the horse requires shoes (source). Shoes can protect their hooves and provide additional support for their weight. Regular trimming by a professional farrier, preferably one experienced with draft horses, is essential to prevent overgrowth and maintain their overall hoof health.

Grooming is a crucial aspect of caring for Belgian Draft Horses. Consistent brushing and cleaning help maintain their skin and coat health while also serving as an essential bonding experience between the horse and its owner. Pay extra attention to areas prone to sweat and ensure the horse is thoroughly dry after exercising to prevent skin irritation or infections.

Health Issues and Preventative Care

Belgian Draft Horses may face certain health issues due to their size and breed characteristics. Regular check-ups and vaccinations are vital for early detection and prevention of diseases. Creating a proper vaccination schedule in consultation with a veterinarian is an ideal precautionary measure.

Colic, a common digestive issue, can be a potential concern. To minimize the risk of colic, ensure the horse has access to clean water, forage, and appropriate grain rations, and maintain a consistent feeding schedule. Good dental care and parasite control are also essential aspects of maintaining a healthy, happy Belgian Draft Horse.


Belgian draft horses are not only capable of performing heavy work tasks but can also be ridden for various activities, including trail riding. Their calm temperament and willingness to work make them suitable mounts for different kinds of riders. However, it’s worth noting that they are not a gaited breed and might not provide the smoothest ride compared to gaited horse breeds (source).

The size and weight of Belgian horses contribute to their impressive strength and work capabilities. They typically weigh between 1,800 to 2,400 pounds and stand over 16 hands tall, with some stallions weighing up to 2,400 pounds and reaching a height of more than 18 hands (source). Their physical attributes, combined with their docile and patient nature, make them a versatile breed for various purposes such as pulling carriages or plowing fields (source).

In conclusion, riding a Belgian draft horse is indeed possible and can be an enjoyable experience for many riders due to their calm disposition and strong work ethic. Riders should be prepared for a less smooth ride compared to gaited breeds, but can still appreciate the powerful, loyal, and gentle nature of these magnificent horses.