Last Updated on March 5, 2023
Do you want to know which are the tallest horse breeds for riding? Or what the tallest non-draft horse breeds are? Perhaps you’re a taller rider who struggles to find a horse big enough to ride. Well, your search is over, as we’ve got everything you need to know about tall horse breeds right here!
If you’re a taller rider, the search for a horse with enough hands to take up your long legs has been an ongoing one. You may have tried riding everything from Welsh ponies to Clydesdales. but the best rides are always on horses with enough body and height to put your leg at that perfect spot with the most contact.
So, whether you’re a fan of gentle giants such as draft horses, or are looking for the tallest non-draft horse breeds, you’ll need to know the very best types of horse to look out for. But what is the difference between a draft and a non-draft horse? Let’s find out!
Tallest Non-Draft Horse Breeds Vs Giant Draft Horse Breeds
When we think about giant horses, we tend to think of magnificent draft breeds such as Clydesdales and Shires! These heavyweights of the horse world were bred for their powerful bodies, capable of hauling heavy loads for many hours. With their muscular physique and tall stature, draft horses have long been thought of as the giants of the equine world.
But what if you’re looking for a taller horse that is not a draft horse – what are the tallest non-draft horse breeds? And how are they different from draft horses?
No draft horse breeds include the hot-blooded Thoroughbred and warm-blooded horses such as the Hanoverian. The majestic Friesian horse is also very tall, but opinion is divided as to whether it is a draft horse or warm-blood.
These breeds tend to be finer in stature than draft horses – this means they don’t have the same physical strength, but they are more athletic and tend to be faster and able to jump higher. Draft horses tend to have a calm and placid temperament, while warmbloods are often livelier and more unpredictable. These differences mean that warmbloods often excel at top-level equestrian sports such as eventing and showjumping.
12 Tall Horse Breeds Revealed!
Are you are looking for a horse to take up some leg and take you everywhere? From the dressage ring to showjumping and eventing? Take a look below at all the top seven tallest horse breeds to have to offer!
1: Thoroughbred – The Tallest Race Horse Breed!
The average height for Thoroughbreds is in the range of between 15.2 hands and 17 hands.
When it comes to horses, big doesn’t necessarily mean fast, but the majestic Thoroughbred certainly shatters this misconception!
The tallest Thoroughbreds would stand shoulder to shoulder with many draft horse breeds. This makes them one of the tallest non-draft horse breeds in the world, and also one of the fastest.
Some of the most successful racehorses have been at the top of the Thoroughbred’s height range.
Notably, Man O’ War and Secretariat were both nearly 17 hands high and had stride lengths of over 20 feet. The Australian racehorse Holy Roller stood over 18 hands tall and won 12 of 25 of his career starts. Thoroughbreds are an extremely popular breed today and can be seen everywhere from dressage to eventing to the hunter/jumper ring.
2: Belgian Draught – Big and Bold!
One of the tallest non-draft horse breeds is the Belgian Warmblood, generally sized between 16 and 17.2 hands.
What’s the tallest warm-blood horse? The various warmblood horse breeds, such as the Dutch Warmblood, Trakehner, and Hanoverian, are among the most popular modern sport horse breeds today. The warmblood horse height range normally falls between 16 and 17 hands, making them extraordinarily popular in the showjumping and eventing competition circuits.
The famous showjumping Belgian Warmblood, Big Ben, was notorious for his height, which was exceeded only by his talent. Big Ben was an enormous 17.3 hand show jumping superstar that competed in multiple Olympics with Canadian rider Ian Millar. Over the length of their partnership, Ian and Big Ben won over 1.5 million in prize money in the jumping ring.
Today, Belgian Warmbloods can be seen in dressage, showjumping, and eventing competitions. Their stature and athleticism that has made the Belgian Warmblood one of the most popular sport horses of this era.
3: Oldenburg – A Noble Warmblood
Characterized by their athleticism and stature, the Oldenburg stands between 16 and 17.2 hands high.
Another contender for the tallest non-draft horse breed is the noble Oldenburg horse. Oldenburg horses can be most commonly found in the showjumping and dressage arenas, possessing a floating gait and powerful hindquarters that allow them to excel in both disciplines.
Making them unique from most other warmbloods, the Oldenburg has a tobiano paint coloring that is allowed in their breed registry. These horses feature black and white spotting, as opposed to the mostly solid-colored counterparts in other warm-blood breeds.
4: Percheron – The Most Elegant Draft Horse Breed
The average height for Percherons is in the range of between 16 to 17 hands.
One common misconception is that the largest draft horse breeds are not very versatile outside plowing or driving. However, when it comes to the Percheron horse, this is not the case!
Historically used for farm work, driving carriages, and in mounted military units, the Percheron is a common draft breed throughout the world today and makes up a large percentage of the draft horse population in the US.
The reason for the popularity of this breed is that they are more elegant and refined than many draft horse breeds, making them more versatile in a range of different equestrian sports. Not to mention that this breed also truly embodies the spirit of a gentle giant, with a calm, kind, and dependable nature.
Most well known for their driving abilities, these horses are usually seen in teams of 2, 4, and 6 pulling a carriage in perfect sync with their teammates. However, they are easily trained under saddle and are eager to learn new skills. Their elegant movement means they can compete against the best tallest non-draft horse breeds in competitions such as dressage and combined training.
5: The Belgian Draft Horse – A True Gentle Giant
Belgians typically reach an average height of 16 to 17 hands.
Like other draft breeds on this list, the Belgian can pull extraordinary amounts of weight, and in the past were primarily used for driving and farm work. Their gentle demeanor has caused them to become popular pleasure horses and even show horses, and they show versatility in other disciplines.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the tallest living horse today is a Belgian Draft horse called ‘Tall Jake’. This magnificent horse stands at 20.2 (nearly 20.3!) hands high and lives with his family on a ranch in Wisconsin.
6: Clydesdale Horse – Very Big and Very Versatile!
A Clydesdale horse typically stands between 17 and 18 hands high.
You are probably very familiar with this breed already for their work with the Budweiser brand! Clydesdales are one of the most recognizable horse breeds worldwide and also one of the tallest. Big and beautiful, these awe-inspiring horses can grow to over 18 hands.
You may think that their great height means that Clydesdale horses will not be versatile. In the past, these powerhouses were used for heavy physical work such as plowing fields, hauling logs and rocks, and pulling heavy wagons. However, nowadays there are working Clydesdale horses in every equestrian discipline – from Driving to Eventing to Western Pleasure riding!
The Clydesdale horse breed is characterized by silky feathering above the hooves, and they are normally bay or black. Renowned for its plucky and bold temperament, this magnificent horse is one of the tallest and most versatile breeds today.
7: The Shire Horse – Tall Horse, Brave, and Beautiful!
The average height of a Shire Horse is between 16 and 17 hands high.
You may recognize this breed of horse as Angus from the Pixar movie Brave! Commonly thought of as the tallest horse breed in the world, the Shire is a draft breed originating from the United Kingdom.
The breed boasts the tallest horse ever recorded, “Mammoth”, a 21.2-hand Shire gelding that was born in 1846 in England. Amazingly, this record has never been topped! However, the second tallest living horse “Sovereign,” also belongs to the Shire breed.
Shire horses are most well-known for their driving and pulling abilities. Most modern Shires are used today in Carriage Driving and Forestry work, however, they can also be trained under saddle.
Historically, the Shire horse was used for farm work and also in the military. Today, you can see this statuesque breed reenacting its past at the Kentucky Horse Park, where they participate in the daily Parade of Breeds, introducing park-goers to the impressive size and history of this breed.
Shire horses are also largely responsible for the foundation of many modern warm-blood horse breeds. Breeders found that the strength and temperament of the iconic Shire horse when combined with the spirit and athleticism of the Thoroughbred, produced offspring that went on to excel in a range of different equestrian sports. If you trace back the bloodlines of many warm-blood breeds, Shire horses tend to make an appearance somewhere!
The Hanoverian is a tall horse, standing between 15 and 17 hands in height.
The Hanoverian horse is a breed of horse that originated in Germany and is widely known for its strength and agility. This breed is used in a variety of disciplines, including dressage, eventing, and show jumping. It has a strong, muscular build and a short, thick neck, which gives it an impressive stature. The breed is also popular among pleasure riders and trail riders, as it is known for its easy-going nature and willingness to please its handler.
The common coat colors for this breed are chestnut, gray, black, and bay.
9. American Cream Draft – Power and Grace together
This tall horse breed stands on average 15.2 hands high and weighs around 1,500 pounds.
American Cream Draft horses are a breed of draft horses that originated in the United States in the early 1900s. They are a large, powerful breed and are often used for pulling heavy loads. These Draft horses typically have a light cream–colored coat and a white mane and tail.
The American Cream Draft horse is known for its gentle and friendly temperament. They are also highly intelligent and quick to learn, making them ideal for both pleasure and competitive riding.
They are also incredibly strong, making them well–suited for farm work and heavy pulling. American Cream Draft horses are also known for having good endurance, making them great for long–distance work. In addition to being strong, powerful, and intelligent, American Cream Draft horses are known for their elegance. They have a graceful, balanced way of moving and a regal bearing that sets them apart from other draft horses. They have a natural beauty that is sure to turn heads wherever they go.
10. Suffolk Punch
The Suffolk Punch horse breed stands at 16 to 17 hands high.
The Suffolk Punch is a breed of heavy horse originating from the county of Suffolk in England. These horses are known for their strength, good temperaments, and willingness to work. They are a draft breed, meaning they are well suited for farm work and pulling heavy loads. This breed has a deep chestnut coat, a few white markings on the face, and a long flowing mane and tail.
The breed is known for its calm and gentle nature, good temperaments, and willingness to work, making them a great choice for a variety of activities. They are also widely used in riding schools and therapeutic riding programs.
11. Westphalian horse – Intelligent and Loyal
The Westphalian horse is a medium- to large-sized horse, typically standing between 15.2 and 17 hands high.
The Westphalian horse is a breed of warmblood horse from the Westphalia region of Germany. Westphalian horses are known for their strong conformation, powerful movements, and excellent temperament. They are well–suited to dressage, show jumping, eventing, and light driving.
They have long, muscular necks and short, broad heads. They have well–defined withers and a sloped croup. Their legs are straight, strong, and well–muscled. Westphalian horses are known for their strong, yet calm temperaments. They are intelligent, loyal, and willing to please. They are also courageous and willing to work hard.
Westphalian horses are generally healthy and hardy. They have few breed–specific health issues and tend to live long and productive lives. They can be found in a variety of colors, including bay, black, chestnut, grey, and dun.
12. Swedish Warmblood
Swedish Warmblood is a tall horse breed, that typically stands between 15.2 and 16.2 hands high.
The Swedish Warmblood is a horse breed that is known for its elegance and athleticism. Its athletic ability makes it a popular choice for show jumping, dressage, and other competitive sports. It is also a wonderful family horse due to its calm, gentle temperament.
The Swedish Warmblood is a relatively new breed, bred from a variety of other European horse breeds, such as the Hanoverian, Trakehner, and Thoroughbred. It has a strong conformation with a long, arched neck and well–defined muscles.
The Swedish Warmblood is an intelligent horse with a strong work ethic and an eagerness to please. Its good nature makes it an ideal family horse, as it is willing to try new things and has a patient, tolerant nature.
As you can see, the tallest horse breeds offer much more than just an impressive height! The tallest non-draft horse breeds such as the Thoroughbred, Belgian Warmblood, and Oldenburg excels in many athletic equestrian sports such as horse racing, showjumping, and eventing. Tall horse breeds such as the Shire, Westphalian, and Clydesdale can be relied upon for their gentle, calm temperament and immense physical strength.
We can guarantee that horse lovers of any age, height, or riding in any discipline will find something to enjoy in the seven tallest horse breeds!
Equine enthusiasts, did you enjoy this list? Please let us know or feel free to add your favorite tallest horse breed below in the comments!
What is the tallest riding horse breed?
One of the tallest riding horse breeds is the Belgian Draft horse, with an average height of 17 hands. This gentle giant can sometimes exceed 18 hands (184 cm) and they tend to weigh at least 650 kg. It outperforms other horse breeds in terms of size even when compared to the Irish Draught horse (17/2 hands). The Belgian is taller than the Clydesdale, Shire and Percheron.
The Belgian draft breed back to the 1840s when it was developed from Flemish horses. They were primarily used as war horses and for heavy draft work. Since then, the Belgian Draft have evolved into a riding horse that is known for its good character and willingness to work.
What is the tallest height for a horse ever recorded?
The tallest horse ever recorded was a Shire horse named Sampson (aka Mammoth). In 1850 Sampson already stood 21.2 hands tall (7 feet 3 inches or 2.21 m) and weighed stunning 3,359 pounds.
He was born on November 28, 1846, in the U.K., which is where he also died on February 25, 1910. He was owned by William Coke of Norfolk who treated him well even though his size was a burden at times.
Coke owned Sampson for 34 years and said that he was a gentle giant who loved to be groomed and would warn them of intruders by neighing loudly.
When taking him out in public, Coke took special measures so that people didn't think the horse was an elephant from afar. He would shave part of his legs to make them appear shorter.
Sampson was buried on the grounds of Melbourne Hall, Derbyshire, where he had lived out his final days. A life-sized bronze statue by British sculptor David Wynne was erected over his grave to commemorate him.
In the year 2005, another tallest horse of the Clydesdale breed named Carolus Rex which stands at 8ft 10in was also included in the Guinness Book of World Records. Carolus Rex was born in 1971 and passed away in 2002 at the age of 33. He was also known as The King due to his powerful and majestic look.
There are many other horse breeds that are very tall, but the Guinness Book of World Records only recognized Carolus Rex and Sampson as the tallest horses ever recorded for their breed.
Who is the tallest horse in the world today?
The horse with the tallest height currently is Big Jake. Big Jake is of Clydesdale breed and stands at 19 hands and 8 inches (2.03 m), beating the previous record set by Carolus Rex.
Big Jake was born on May 5, 1989 in Groveland, Florida to an average sized horse named Little Jake. Little Jake was actually too small to be used for horse breeding, but he was still bred anyway. Little Jake died when Big Jake was just a baby and his breeder decided to keep him as a pet instead of selling him as horse meat.
When Big Jake grew up, he was able to do anything other Clydesdales could do. He was even enlisted in horse shows. Eventually, his owner started getting calls about Big Jake's size and it had to be acknowledged that he was indeed taller than any horse ever recorded before by Guinness Book of World Records.
Big Jake is currently retired and lives on the ranch of Jerry Gilbert in Coulterville, Illinois.
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.