Draft horses are enjoying a comeback. Not since the days when they were required to move the nation have the “gentle giants” been so sought after as riding and driving competitors. Draft crosses are found worldwide, competing at many levels and just providing locomotion to those who want a horse with a calmer disposition and greater weight-carrying ability.
When it comes to certain veterinary conditions in horses, size matters. Those gentle giants are predisposed to specific problems (although fortunately, not many). They also require adjusted dosage amounts for certain types of drugs and have somewhat heightened nutritional concerns.
From the Get-Go
The most dramatic differences in veterinary care between draft and light horses concern reproduction. Twinning is very common, and there are multiple challenges in getting draft mares pregnant. Draft stallions tend to have fertility problems, even though their total sperm numbers can be close to those of the light horse stallion, says Scott A. Nebergall, DVM, of The Arthur Veterinary Clinic in Arthur, Ill., a Belgian and Clydesdale breeder and a member of Clydesdale Breeders of the USA and the Belgian Draft Horse Corporation of America.
“The majority of draft stallions produce a large volume of gel in the ejaculate and a larger volume of ejaculate in general,” Nebergall explains. “A light horse stallion may have a concentration of 150-400 million sperm cells per milliliter; a draft stallion may produce 70-85 million sperm cells per milliliter. It’s like pouring a cup of sugar in a half gallon of water or pouring a cup of sugar into two gallons of water–the concentration is that much more dilute. So, getting an ideal breeding dose can be very difficult.”
Draft mares also have their own difficulties. Says Nebergall, “Draft mares can be more complicated to get in foal because of the sheer size of the uterus, reta