Draft horses have a long and illustrious history working alongside humankind. Earlier versions of the draft breeds were thought to carry knights and crusaders into battle. These large, muscular and powerful horses would also be found in agriculture plowing fields and pulling wagons, as well as in transportation of the era. Buggies, streetcars and other forms of equine mass transit relied on these gentle giants during the industrial age.

Even today (and controversially), we can find draft horses pulling tourist carriages in urban centers like New York City or Vancouver’s Stanley Park. Perhaps the most famous modern drafts horses are the Budweiser Clydesdales, its team of eight horses pulling the iconic red brewery wagon in parades. And let’s not forget the adorable Super Bowl commercials featuring the horses and puppies. Fans can even book a tour at Warm Springs Ranch in Missouri, where the Clydesdales are bred, raised and trained.

Shire, Belgian, Clydesdale, Percheron are four of the most common draft breeds we see today. But a lesser-known draft horse breed is quickly gaining popularity. And now (we can’t resist), drum roll please… we give you the Drum horse.

A Drum Horse Trooping the Colour during a parade. (Jon/creativecommons.org)

This unique draft horse breed is mostly associated with appearing in parades as part of the Queen’s Household Cavalry, specifically the Queen of England’s Band of the Life Guards. During these official parades, such as the Trooping of the Colour, the Drum horses stand out from the crowd due to the large drums they carry as their riders perform the instrument. The rider controls the reins by his or her feet.

These eye-catching horses are selectively bred from Shire, Clydesdale and Gypsy Cob. A certain percentage of each is recognized by the International Drum Horse Association for registration. The organization’s site has a detailed list of breed standards, events, and North American breeders. There are even some Drum breeders and fan groups in Canada including Canadian Drum Horses, Western Canadian Gypsy and Drum Horse Fanciers, and Black Orchid Horses, to name a few.

Fans of the Drum horse are using the breed as riding and driving horses. They are considered lighter than a purebred Clyde or Shire thanks to the Gypsy horse blood. They can be solid or coloured, notably piebald or skewbald pinto. Considered to have great brains, they make for a dependable and docile mount. Think about it; how many other breeds would walk down a noisy and crowded parade route while having its rider bang a set of drums from atop its back?


And last but not least, we also admire the Drum horse’s gorgeous feathers that ramp up the breed’s the glam factor. Let’s just say, this is a draft horse breed that moves to the beat of its own drum.