It's no secret that Americans are not getting smaller. In 1960, the average American man weighed 160 pounds and the average American woman weighed 140 pounds. Now, only 45 years later, the average American man weighs 191 pounds and the average American woman weighs 160 pounds.
I can tell you from experience, there are still plenty of 110-pound women out there who want to go horseback riding, and there are a few men in the 160-pound category. But just as a big down lineman in the NFL used to weigh 270 pounds and now weighs 340, there are plenty of people in the world who weigh far more than the 191-pound norm. So what's an outfitter to do?
Draft cross horses are the answer. Across the West, dude strings and horse outfitters see large horses as an essential part of their business. Many outfitters have entire strings of 40 or 50 draft cross horses, gentle giants that are strong enough to carry large people on an everyday basis. In addition to the dude industry, many other horses enthusiasts use draft cross horses for practically every conceivable purpose, from hunter/jumper horses to police horses, trail horses, pleasure horses, bucking stock, and even dressage horses.
A draft cross horse is a cross between a riding horse such as a quarter horse, Arabian, or Morgan, and a workhorse such as a Belgian, Clydesdale (like the Budweiser horses), a Percheron, or Shire. These horses have many of the best aspects of both breeds. Draft horses are typically quiet and hard-working and difficult to spook, but too big to ride. You feel like you’re being split in half when riding a 2,000-pound draft horse. Some saddle horses are too small for big people. They simply can’t handle the weight.
A draft cross horse is typically bigger-boned and stronger than a saddle horse. Most of them weigh at least 1,200 pounds and can be as large as 1,800 pounds, with a weight of 1,400 pounds being the norm. When you consider a horse carrying a 300-pound man, the extra strength and weight makes a lot of difference.
Most draft crosses can walk as fast as any other horse, but some are slower than normal horses. For trail riding, they are fairly sure-footed, but can be a bit clumsier than a nimble Arabian or Morgan, for example. However, draft cross horses are by and large very gentle and easy to train. They are easy to handle and learn their jobs as trail horses fairly quickly. By and large, they’re not as spooky or reactive as lighter horses.
What’s a good draft cross? A Belgian/quarter horse cross is very popular, and you usually end up with a stout, big-boned horse that isn’t too tall. I personally have had two Belgian/Arabian crosses and loved both of them. They had good size, yet small-boned enough to be light in their gaits. They both had super dispositions and were great fun to ride. We now have a beautiful Percheron/Thoroughbred cross that is a very fine horse with beautiful size, great looks, and a wonderful temperament.
If you end up with a draft cross horse, realize that you might have to buy a new saddle to fit your horse. Most saddles nowadays have “semi-quarter horse” bars, and you might need at least “full quarter horse” bars to fit your draft horse. Several companies make saddles especially for bigger horses, including draft horses and draft crosses. Also, bridles and headstalls for these big horses can be hard to find. If you’re a bigger person, however, a draft cross horse might be just the ticket for you. Call us to see if we have one for sale. We also have several friends who own draft cross horse, and chances are good that we can find one for you.
Gary and Doris Hubbell