Last Updated on March 16, 2023
Clydesdales are one of the most recognizable breeds of draft horses. They are best known for their driving abilities, but can you ride a Clydesdale?
Draft horses- the gentle giants of the equestrian world! We all picture draft horses pulling wagons and carriages. In fact, one of the most iconic images that come to mind when thinking of draft horses is the Budweiser Clydesdales, which pull the famous Budweiser hitch. Riding a Clydesdale will be a remarkable experience.
Clydesdales are known for being strong hauling horses, but can they also be riding horses? The answer is yes! Clydesdales, like all other draft breeds, are capable of being ridden. But, it’s important to understand the differences between having a draft horse for riding and having a regular-sized horse for riding.
In this article, I will be discussing those differences and illustrating what it may look like to own a Clydesdale horse for riding purposes.
Can You Ride a Clydesdale? Everything to Know
So what is different when you’re riding a Clydesdale horse? The first thing that comes to mind is height. Clydesdales on average stand between 17-18 hands tall height, which is tall for a regular riding horse. If you’re not used to riding a horse of this height, it may take some adjusting for you to get used to it!
The second size difference is the width. Draft horses are built to be wider than riding horses; this characteristic has helped them pull plows and wagons in the past. Riding such a large horse can feel significantly different from sitting on a normal riding horse. Especially if you have short legs!
Due to both of these sizing differences, it can be difficult to find properly fitting tack for Clydesdales. Especially if you are moving from a normal-sized riding horse to a Clydesdale, you will almost certainly need to purchase a new saddle, bridle, girth, and maybe even saddle pads.
It’s important to consider these possible expenses when buying any horse, but especially when buying a horse that is a significantly different size than your last one! Ill-fitting tack can cause lots of problems in the long-term well-being of your horse.
Riding a Clydesdale: Riding differences
When you are actually riding a Clydesdale, it will feel much different from riding a standard-sized horse. Clydesdales are known for having smooth gaits, so sitting should be very comfortable. However, due to their size, the feel can still be different from what you are used to.
It is also common for draft horses, including Clydesdales, to have a harder time bending than standard-sized riding horses do. But, consider the way these horses are built- their necks are short, thick, and stout. Of course, it will be harder for them to bend their neck.
Due to their large size, Clydesdales are not as agile as smaller horse breeds. While they can make great riding mounts, they can still compete in disciplines such as barrel racing and jumping, they won’t excel in open competitions as they do not have an athletic build like the horses bred for these disciplines.
Additionally, it can take the rider a while to readjust his or her balance in the saddle. Draft horses, including Clydesdales, are frequently built “uphill” while many standard riding horses are built “downhill.”
So, this difference in angles can require an adjustment in the rider’s balance. This shouldn’t take too long to get used to, but it could be a necessary change.
But, it is important to take note of these differences so that you understand what your Clydesdale is capable of doing under saddle.
A Clydesdale Compared to a Horse of Average Size
The average horse stands between 14-17 hands tall and weighs around 900-1,300 pounds. The average Clydesdale stands between 17-18 hands tall and weighs around 1,600-2,200 pounds. Some Clydesdales can even be 19 hands or taller and even weigh upwards of 2,400 pounds.
Clydesdales are taller and much heavier than the average horse. They have large builds with round feet, short backs, strong legs, and well-arched necks. Clydesdales are also known for their distinctive feathering on their legs.
While their size may be intimidating to some, they are often docile horses with laid-back personalities. They are typically easy to handle and can make great horses for all members of the family.
Clydesdales are known for their power and strength rather than their speed and agility. It is what has allowed them to excel at agricultural work and driving. While they may not have the same build as the average riding horse they can still make great mounts for horseback riding.
Though it can take some used to riding a Clydesdale as their builds are different, many people find them comfortable to ride. Their easy-going temperaments can make them trusty mounts both in and out of the show ring.
Can You Ride a Clydesdale? 6 Disciplines the Breed Shines At
There are arguably six disciplines that Clydesdale horses really excel at. They are trail, dressage, hunter pleasure, saddle seat, and western pleasure. Lastly, though not an official discipline per se, Clydesdales are great pleasure and family horses.
Clydesdales are known for being gentle and easy-going. They do not spook or startle easily, and they are very level-headed. As mentioned earlier, they also have comfortable gaits. For these reasons, Clydesdales can be great trail horses.
Whether you’re doing any kind of competitive events out on the trails, or simply trail riding for pleasure, the Clydesdale could be a great mount for you. Though they are large, they can easily walk, trot, and canter, and will keep their riders safe in the saddle.
Clydesdales, like many other draft breeds, also excel at lower-level dressage. They are beautiful horses that can have very flashy, correct gaits. They are great horses to learn dressage on and will be gentle and forgiving to a rider that may not be perfect.
But, Clydesdales do have their limitations in dressage skills. They are not physically equipped to perform the movements required of an upper-level dressage horse. So, while they may be a great mount for a beginning dressage rider or a dressage rider not looking to climb too high up the ropes, they are not a suitable mount for a rider looking to be extremely competitive.
Clydesdales may not be ideal jumping horses but they can make lovely hunter-pleasure mounts. Their beautiful movement makes them a site to behold in hunter-pleasure classes. It is one of the most common disciplines that Clydesdales compete in at horse shows and they can do quite well.
Saddle seat riding is a discipline primarily done among Saddlebreds, Morgans, Arabians, Frisians, Dutch Harness Horses, and National Show Horses. The discipline showcases a horse’s natural beauty and high-stepping trot.
The discipline is becoming increasingly popular among Clydesdale riders. While Clydesdales may not have the same build as a typical saddle seat horse, their flashy gaits allow them to stand out in the discipline.
While you may not see Clydesdales competing in reining or roping, they can make lovely western pleasure mounts. They look beautiful in a western saddle adorned with silver trim.
Lastly, Clydesdales make great family horses or “husband” horses. They are generally low-maintenance and extremely level-headed. They don’t require a regular training program and can be ridden by children and those who may not be as experienced in the saddle.
They can essentially be happy and successful as a pet that periodically goes out on rides. Clydesdales are also pretty independent and don’t depend on the presence of other horses. They can typically ride out alone or be turned out alone. These are desirable characteristics for those that keep their horses on their own property!
Where Can I Ride a Clydesdale Horse?
While they are well-known, Clydesdale horses are a rare breed. Though some barns do have Clydesdales in their riding programs, it is often hard to find one that does. However, some trail riding facilities do offer rides on Clydesdale horses.
For those in America, you have the opportunity to ride Clydesdales at places such as The Good Shephard Ranch, Willow Grove Farm, Clydesdale Outpost, and Covell Ranch. If you are in the United Kingdom, you can ride a Clydesdale at places such as Blackstone Clydesdales and Adventure Clydesdale.
If you are looking for a horse of your own, a Clydesdale may be the right choice for you depending on what you want to do. While they may be tricky to find depending on where you live, there are often Clydesdale horses available for sale that have been trained to ride.
Conclusion: Can You Ride a Clydesdale?
To answer the question ‘can you ride a Clydesdale?’ yes, you can ride a Clydesdale. Clydesdales can be ridden, and in fact, make great riding horses. But, before putting a deposit down on your gentle giant, make sure your goals are aligned with the physical abilities of a Clydesdale.
They are ideal trail horses, pleasure/family horses, hunter pleasure, saddle seat, western, and low-level dressage horses. But, if you want to be a competitive hunter-jumper rider, you do not want a Clydesdale. Clydesdales are fantastic, easy-going horses. But we need to make sure they are going to a home that will best suit their capabilities.
I hope you enjoyed this article and that it helped you better understand the riding capabilities of the Clydesdale breed! If so, please share this article, and share with us about your experiences riding Clydesdales!
How fast can a Clydesdale run?
The Clydesdale is a heavy horse that can grow to be 17 hands high and can weigh up to 1,700 pounds. Clydesdales are well-known for their size and strength, while still being quite agile and fast despite their size and weight. These horses are often trained to pull large wagons at a slow pace, but they are also capable of galloping quickly for short distances if needed.
A Clydesdale's average speed is 30 miles per hour, but they can go up to 40 miles per hour on occasion. The maximum speed recorded for a Clydesdale horse is 45 mph.
Where do Clydesdale horses originate from?
Clydesdale horses originate from Scotland and were first bred in the nineteenth century. At that time, horse drawn carriages were very popular and needed a large, strong breed of horse to pull them. The Clydesdale was a perfect fit because of its size and strength, so it quickly became a popular breed in many parts of Europe.
The first Clydesdale to be bred was born in 1824 and was bred by a farmer called David Kinton. Clydesdale horses are always pedigree animals, which means that their lineage is recorded and they can trace their ancestry as far as they want to go. They are well-known for their remarkable strength and stamina and were historically bred for farm work, transporting people's goods and carrying grain.
Can you jump a Clydesdale?
Clydesdale horses are the largest breed of draft horses in the world. However, this does not mean they are impossible to jump. Clydesdales are popular for their calm nature and willingness to work hard, but if you want to jump them, you need to consider their weight and size.
Clydesdale horses are pretty heavy, they can weigh as much as 1800 pounds. The ideal weight for jumping is between 1300-1600 pounds.
When it comes to height, Clydesdale horses can range from 14-17 hands high (a hand is 4 inches). Heights between 15 and 16 hands tend to be best suited for jumping.
The height of a Clydesdale’s jump is influenced by two factors - their anatomy and the height of the fence they are jumping. Their wide shoulders make it difficult for them to get their leg high enough to clear high fences and obstacles, but this same shoulder width makes them excellent at clearing shorter fences and bars.
In general, it is not very safe to jump a Clydesdale, but if they are in good physical shape and have the right training, they can be successful in some competitions.
How much weight can a Clydesdale carry?
It is believed Clydesdales can carry loads up to 350 pounds of weight. This equates to around 191 kilos or 425 stone. The actual limit varies from horse to horse and depends on factors such as age, size, weight, condition and diet.
Don't overburden a horse with more weight than they can carry as the risk of injuries and death increases significantly. In general, a horse can carry around 20% of their weight with no issue. Any more than that and the risk of injury is increased dramatically for both the horse and rider.
Michael Dehaan is a passionate horse owner, horse rider, and lover of all things equine. He has been around horses since he was a child, and has grown to become an expert in the field. He has owned and ridden a variety of horses of different breeds, and has trained many to compete in shows and competitions. He is an experienced horseman, having worked with and competed many horses, including his own. He is an active member of the equestrian community, participating in events and teaching riding lessons.