Nothing says sheer power like a draft horse. Nothing else exudes such strength with such a mild-mannered attitude. To watch these gentle giants in action is to get a sense of our own history and the invaluable role horses played, and continue to play. Today, far from fading away, the draft breeds–Clydesdales and Shires, Percherons and Belgians (not to mention all the other, more obscure varieties, like Brabants, Suffolk Punches, and American Creams)–are more popular than ever, and attracting more converts every year.

In most respects, very little about the management of draft horses has changed over the centuries. That’s true not only of the harness they wear, and the vehicles they pull–essentially identical to those used at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution–but also in the diets we tend to offer the draft breeds. Tradition plays a larger role in the care and feeding of heavy horses than in most other realms of the equine industry, mostly because keeping and enjoying these breeds often is passed down through generations of family. “If it was good enough for great-great-grandpappy’s horses, it’s good enough for mine!” isn’t an uncommon attitude among draft aficionados. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it does mean many draft horses could be benefiting from more advanced (or at least more balanced) nutrition than they currently enjoy. Sturdy and stoic by nature, they’d be the last to complain of being fed inappropriately; but nonetheless, many a heavy horse’s diet could be updated, particularly in light of some recent discoveries about carbohydrate utilization in these breeds.

Tradition, Tradition

Strength and power are the draft horse’s forte, and his heavy bone and extensive muscling reflect those requirements, resulting in an animal which often tops the 2,000-pound mark. These days, the demands of the show ring have resulted in two d