About The Breeds

The origin of the Shire breed is lost in the mists of antiquity, as is the case with many breeds, but we do have a pretty fair notion from whence he cometh.

Sir Walter Gilbey, an early authority on the breed, had this to say on the introduction to Volume 1 of the stud book.

“The Shire horse is the purest survival of an early type which was spoken of by medieval writers as the ‘Great Horse. If this horse did not originate in England, this country at a very early date acquired a widespread reputation for producing it. Indeed, the English “Great Horse” seems to have been a native development of that British “War Horse” whose strength, courage and aptitude for discipline are spoken of in high terms by the chroniclers of the Roman legions at their first landing upon these shores.

“There are good reasons for believing that in the English Great Horse, modern Shire horses were originated. It really seems to be true that the most powerful animals now existing in England, for the advance of agriculture and commerce, (i.e., the arts of peace) are the direct descendants of the horse which, when Julius Caesar arrived here, attracted his attention for its efficiency in the assistance which it rendered to our forefathers in the pursuits of war.”

The destiny of the Shire and of England is inexorably entwined. In the period between the reign of Henry II, 1154, and that of Elizabeth (commencing in 1558) it seems to have been a constant aim of the government to increase the size and number of horses called “The Great Horse.” Little wonder, the weight of many horse soldiers in armor was upwards to 400 lbs. for rider and armor.

During the reign of King John, from 1199 to 1216, we have particulars of the importation into England from the lowlands of Flanders, Holland, and the banks of the Elbe, of a hundred stallions of large stature; and it is from that blending some 800 years ago, of these animals with the English breed that some strains, at least, of England’s heavy horses must date their origin.

Another writer describes these Flemish horses as being for the most part black, with white markings on face and feet, and frequently with all his legs white up to the knees and hocks. He was tall, rangy, muscular, well developed at the vital points, and stood on broad, flat, cordy limbs which were strongly jointed both above and below, and the backs of which were heavily fringed with long hair from the fetlocks to the upper end of the cannon.

During the reign of Henry VIII, from 1509 to 1547, special attention was directed to the raising and breeding of strong horses, and several laws were passed with that in mind. Acts were passed in 1535 and 1541 forbidding the use for breeding of horses under 15 hands in height, also prohibiting all exportation, even into Scotland.

War then is the ancient heritage and role of the Shires.

But if he was useful in war, he proved to be even more so in peace. Turning his attention from battle to commerce and agriculture in a nation that takes both very seriously indeed, the Shire became nothing less than a national treasure in the 1800s. Big Shire geldings moved the commerce of this most commercial of all nations off the docks and through the streets of her cities. Over badly paved streets and on rough roads, weight was opposed by weight. There was a dependable and extensive demand, decade after decade, for massive horses with great muscular strength. Both qualities were necessary to enable them to move the commerce of this nation. It was the sort of situation that called for the breeder’s skills, and the English have never been lacking in that respect. Whatever type of domestic animal they have need they have developed.

And so it was with this breed of horse. The needs of empire and the temper of the times called for a horse of enormous bulk, prodigious muscular strength, and docility … and the stockmen and farmers of England responded with one of their finest living creations-the Shire horse.

The marshy fen counties of Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire lay claim to having exerted the earliest beneficial influence upon the breed and it was from these counties that sales were first made for the improvement of draft horses all over England. Leicestershire, Staffordshire, and Derbyshire were the first to benefit from these counties, and thus the Shire slowly spread over virtually the whole of England.

There were differences. The Shires coming out of their historic home, the fenlands of Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire, tended to have more bone and hair than those of their neighbors. Yorkshire and Lancashire, for instance, were noted for horses of a finer texture and more endurance. The rugged demands of the Liverpool market, where thousands of stout geldings were used, certainly contributed to correct type, and soundness, and great strength in the case of northern breeders-as London did to the south.

So when the demand for draft horses developed in our country, the Shires of England became one of our primary sources for the improvement of our equine stock,

An American horseman from that period, a dealer in several breeds and an acknowledged expert, had this to say about the Shire. “I have had opportunity for extended personal observations and inquiry as to the result of crossing them on native American mares, as well as on the grades and crosses of other breeds, and the evidence is of unqualified satisfaction. They have been found competent to transmit and impress their own characteristics with remarkable certainty, and the name “Shire Horse” had become a synonym for strength, constitution, energy, and endurance. ”

About Drum Horses

DF Chalk Talk, one of the first U.S. born and bred Drum Horses. Chalk is sired by Clononeen Guinness and out of a registered Clydesdale mare owned by Drum and Feather Farm . He is three years old stands 16.3hh. Chalk is proudly owned by Tanya Bryson of Mariah Farms.
courtesy of the American Drum Horse Association

The Drum Horse is a combination of any of the following breeds: Shire, Clydesdale, and Gypsy Horse, where no single breed listed above exceeds 87% (7/8) of the total make-up and the percentage of Gypsy Horse blood does not fall below 12.5% (1/8).

The purpose of the Drum Horse as a breed in America is to develop a new Heavy Horse breed that utilizes the best examples of the Shire, Clydesdale, and Gypsy Cob breeds, while focusing on breeding for athleticism, agility, and performance ability for all ridden disciplines.
The inspiration for the American Drum Horse is the working horses still found carrying riders and heavy kettledrums in the Queen of England’s cavalry.

General Appearance:
The overall impression of the Drum Horse should be one of an elegant heavy horse of great strength and agility. The Drum Horse is a heavy riding horse, and should therefore display the athleticism to allow for competitiveness in all ridden and driven disciplines. The Drum should be a large, well-muscled horse of medium to heavy weight, with good quality bone, an athletic body, a kind expression, and abundant hair (including heavy “feather” on the legs).

The Drum Horse should be a large, athletic animal capable of excelling in a variety of equine disciplines. To achieve this goal members are encouraged to select breeding stock of a size that will help ensure their Drum Horses will reach the desired mature height of 16 hands or taller.

The Drum Horse should display good character and be a willing and sensible partner.

Drum Horses may have any base color, and may be solid or colored. There is no preference given to colored horses over solid colored horses.

Mane and tail should be natural and abundant. Feather is a required characteristic of a Drum Horse. Feathering should preferably begin above the fetlock joints, and start at the back of the knee and hocks, as well as run down the leg to cover the entire hoof. Feather should be silky and soft, and may be either straight or curly. Trimming of the mane, tail, and feather is not desired, unless required for a discipline in which the horse in question competes. Clipping or trimming of bridle paths, belly hair, jaw and ear hair is permissible and up to each individual owner/breeder. Docking of tails is not permitted*.

(*Docking rule applies ONLY to foals born in the United States and horses already registered with the ADHA.)

The ideal Drum Horse should move naturally, with forward impulsion and presence, during all three gaits:

Walk: Horse should walk flat with a straight four-beat, ground-covering gait. Stride should be consistent and balanced.

Trot: The trot should be coordinated, straight, and balanced. There should be two distinct beats in which front and hind legs are moving diagonally. Action at the knees may be snappy and naturally animated, or regular and extended. The Drum Horse should use his hind end well, and hocks should be powerful and work close together.

Canter: The canter should be a fluid three-beat gait, exhibiting balance, cadence and strong use of the horse’s hindquarters.

The head should be attractive and in proportion to the body. The forehead and poll should be wide, but not so wide as to lose the appearance of overall proportion to the length of the head. The muzzle and jaw should be square, and tie in cleanly to the rest of the head. The upper and lower lip should meet, and the horse’s bite should be even. The ears should be attractive and in proportion with the head, and carried alertly. The eyes should appear expressive and kind, and should be an appropriate size in relation to the horse’s head. Eyes may be any color. Both convex and straight profiles are acceptable, given they are appropriate for the horse’s body type.

The neck should be long, well muscled, and in proportion to the horse’s frame. Throat latch should be clean, allowing for good flexion at the poll. The length of the neck should be well proportioned in comparison to the length of the back, and should tie in smoothly at the shoulder and withers.

Stallions may exhibit a masculine crest in proper relationship to the size and thickness of neck. Mares should have a more refined, feminine head and neck.

The chest should be deep and as broad as the shoulders, balanced in appearance compared to the rest of the body.

The shoulders should be set far enough apart to allow for each front leg to be centered under each point of the shoulder. Shoulders should be level and in balance with each other. The slope of the shoulder and the slope of the pastern should ideally be the same angle (as close to a 45-50 degree angle as possible).

Withers should be average in height (not too high or low) and well-defined, with a generous layer of muscle. They should be sloping, and preferably lie further back than the elbow, to allow for greater scope of motion in the forelimbs.

Back , Loins and Croup:
The back should be strong and in proportion with the horse’s overall frame and build. The back should tie in well with the loins, which should be wide and strong on the mature horse. The loins should lead fluently into the croup, which should have a slight downward slope. The croup should not be short or steep/pointed, nor overly round.

The barrel should be well-rounded with long, well set ribs. When viewed from the side, the bottom length of the horse’s barrel should be approximately the same length of the back, or slightly shorter.


Front Legs:
When viewed from the front, front legs should be set parallel to each other and far enough apart to allow one hoof width in between. When viewed from the side, legs should be straight to the fetlock joint. The knee should be slightly wider than the leg itself, and “flat,” as opposed to “round,” in appearance. The cannon bone should be half of the length of the forearm. Pasterns should ideally be the same angle as the shoulders.

Back Legs:
When viewed from behind, the back legs may be straight or display a “draft horse hock set,” but should not be cow hocked. When the horse is standing square and viewed from the side, the hind legs should be set directly under the hindquarters, with the point of the hock directly beneath the point of the buttock. The hock should be flat in appearance, and ideally a little higher than the front knee. The cannon bone in the rear leg should be slightly longer than in the front legs.

Hooves should be large enough for soundness, stability and weight-bearing, but not exaggerated in proportion to the horse’s build. Heels should be open, and hooves should be well shaped to provide long years of sound use.


The Drum Horse is a combination of any of the following breeds: Shire, Clydesdale, and Gypsy Horse, where no single breed listed above exceeds 87% (7/8) of the total make-up and the percentage of Gypsy Horse blood does not fall below 12.5% (1/8). Therefore the breeder must consider the bloodlines of any mare used to create Drum Horses and breed her to a stallion that will maintain the proper combination of breeds in the correct percentages.

For imported Drum Horses to be considered for registration, applicant must provide import documents. The horse in question must meet the ADHA’s Breed Standards as described above.

Effective for foals born in 1999 and later, all mares must have blood type/DNA information on file with the registry prior to registration of their foals.

At this time there are very few mature, breeding age Drum Horses in America. Therefore, Drum Horses may be created by the careful breeding of fullblood Clydesdale, Shire and Gypsy Horses. The horses approved for breeding Drum Horses are certified as Foundation Horses and will be recorded in their own studbook. In order to be certified as Foundation Breeding stock a horse must be approved and meet the standard of their breed.