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15 Fun Facts About the Ardennes Horse

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You may have never heard of the Ardennes horse breed, but once you know about them, you will be enthralled with not only their appearance, but their peaceful personality and lengthy history as well.

Beautiful Ardennes horses

This majestically beautiful breed of horses is one of the oldest draft horse breeds in the world. Originating from Belgium and France, these horses are as unique as they are captivatingly gorgeous. They have changed over the years, but one thing remains the same. Ardennes horses are here for the long haul.

Here are just a few intriguing facts about this fascinating breed of horses.

1. Ardennes horses are considered medium-sized draft horses.

The average Ardennes horse stands between 15 and 16 hands tall and weighs somewhere between 1,500 to 2,200 pounds. They are relatively short in comparison to their massive girth.

They have shorter necks than typical horses, along with broad and extremely muscular bodies.  Thanks to their size and genetics, the Ardennes breed falls well within the draft horse category. (source)

2. They are very hardy and can easily handle harsh winters.

The Ardennes horse can thank its original climate in the French Ardennes for its unwavering ability to withstand harsh climates. They were bred to survive harsh winters and extremely cold climates with ease.

They tend to be hardy animals and rarely suffer from injury or illnesses. Their remarkable size and abundance of hair allow them to stay warm even in extreme cold. (source)

A closeup shot of Ardenne horses in cold winter at sunrise

3. Despite their large size, Ardennes horses are very docile and tend to have calm demeanors.

Ardennes horses may be massive creatures, but that does not mean that they are difficult to handle. On the contrary, this breed is known for its calm and docile personality.

They are easy to train and exhibit very gentle manners, making them very easy to move and handle, by both adults and children. You would think that such a large horse with its amazing strength would be hard to manage, but that is just not the case with the Ardennes breed. (source)

4. They were world-renowned as artillery horses in Europe following the French Revolution of 1789.

Their muscular builds and short stature, along with their hardiness, made them ideal horses to carry artillery during various wars throughout European history.

They were able to carry weapons and ammunition with ease. Their appealing demeanors and strength made them perfect candidates for the job, and they succeeded tremendously, gaining a reputation few horses of the time could achieve. (source)

5. Ardennes horses can develop sidebone, a common hereditary condition that often affects draft horses.

Sidebone is a common condition that manifests when the cartilages on a horse’s coffin bone, located in each of their hooves, hardens and turns into bone.

For years, Ardennes horse breeders have tried repeatedly to ‘breed out’ this condition. A study conducted by two veterinarians, Ove Wattle and Ulf Hedenstrom, revealed that 95% of Ardennes horses still develop the sidebone condition, despite efforts to hinder it.

They also found that horses of this breed without sidebone can produce offspring that develop sidebone later on in their lives. Thankfully, this condition does not seem to have a detrimental effect on horses. (source)

Ardennes horse standing in the garden

6. They have gorgeous feathering covering their fetlocks, a common characteristic of draft horses.

There are many characteristics of Ardennes horses that make them the beautiful creatures that they are today. Most horses do have small amounts of hair on the back of their legs, known as fetlocks, but draft horses, including the Ardennes, tend to have a larger amount. This is often referred to as feathering. This visually appealing feathering tends to cover their entire hooves, especially in the winter months.  (source)

7. They make excellent work horses for farms and can work on tough, mountainous terrain.

The stature and muscular build of Ardennes horses make them perfect for handling farm work and plowing through tough, mountainous terrain. Their calm demeanors allow them to be trained easily to handle farm work and their undeniable strength allows them to work almost effortlessly.

This remarkable ability helped to create an alternative to the popular trend of utilizing the Ardennes horse for meat. While this is still a common aspect of French and Belgium’s culture, the Ardennes horse’s work capabilities help cement its place on many farms throughout Europe. (source)

8. The Ardennes horse breed has often been used as the foundation for new breeds or a means to improve an established breed.

The many characteristics of the Ardennes horses that make them an ideal horse also make them an ideal breed foundation. Over the years, many other breeds of draft horses have been created using the Ardennes breed as their foundation.

The Baltic Ardennes as well as the Swedish Ardennes were both started using the Ardennes bloodline. This breed was also used to advance the Comtois breed of horses. (source)

9. They are very successful in competitive driving equine events.

Ardennes horse on green grass

The Ardennes horse has found marked success in driving events. (source) These events include pulling carts and carriages, pulling equipment with work harness, and combined driving competitions.

Draft horses usually have their own class series, as they can pull heavier loads with ease. The Ardennes breed has been exceptionally successful in draft horse driving events over the years thanks to their impeccable breeding, short stature and muscular build.

10. The Riding for the Disabled Association in the United Kingdom uses Ardennes horses as a part of their program.

The calm demeanor of the Ardennes horse make them excellent candidates for children and adults of all skill levels.

The Riding for the Disabled Association has a number of Ardennes horses at their facility and they use them for therapeutic riding clinics for the disabled.

These horses are extremely trustworthy and are easy to handle. (source)

11. They used to be smaller.

Beautiful Ardennes horses roaming field in summer

Today, the average Ardennes horse stands between 15 and 16 hands tall. At one time, the tallest Ardennes horse only stood at 14 hands high.

Their height grew when Belgian draft horses were added to the mix. This gave the Ardennes breed a wider girth along with added height.

They originally weighed around 1,200 pounds before the Belgian draft horse blood was added. Afterwards, their weight grew to at least 1,500 pounds and up to a remarkable 2,200 pounds. (source)

12. The Ardennes breed are descendants of pre-historic horses.

It is believed that the Ardennes breed are direct descendants of Solutrean horses. These horses were short, stocky horses of prehistoric times. (source)

They were hunted by the prehistoric men who lived at the time and were considered a main food source. These horses existed at the same time as the Gravettian horse, a much smaller and less stocky breed of horses.  (source)

13. The Ardennes breed comes from years of breed crossing and expansion.

The original Ardennes breed lacked the size and energy that today’s Ardennes possess. In the 1800s, the Ardennes bloodline was crossed with the Arabian breed by Napoleon in an effort to add endurance.

Later on, more bloodlines were added to the mix. Thoroughbred blood as well as Percheron and Boulonnais were all added to the Ardennes bloodline to add size and conformation, essentially turning it into a true draft horse in every sense of the name.

Eventually, Belgian bloodlines were added to increase the size of the Ardennes even more, creating the beautiful Ardennes bloodline that is recognized today. (source)

14. Clover Oaks Farm in Florida imports, raises, and breed champion Ardennes draft horses.

Located north of Tampa, the Clover Oaks Farm is one of the few in America that imports, breeds and shows Ardennes horses. They were one of the first farms to import the Ardennes breed into America back in 2003.

They imported only champion bloodlines and promote this rare and unique breed of horses in America.  They have been successful breeding the Ardennes horses they have imported as well. (source)

15. Newly Popular Due To Appearance in Red Dead Redemption 2 the Video Game

Portrait of an Ardenner horse

In 2018 Rock star games released the sequel to their classic, Red Dead Redemption. In this version of the video game, players start out as the character Arthur Morgan.

The Ardennes War Horse is one of the popular breeds and can be purchased in Bay Roan or Strawberry Roan Coat Colors.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is an awesome game that allows adult players to spend time in the saddle from the comfort of their own homes. The Ardennes is just one of many horses you can choose from!

Final Thoughts

These are just a few of the many astounding facts about the history and personality of the Ardennes horse breed. This draft horse is capable of many things beyond simply being a beautiful horse. They make excellent riding horses, are proven champions in the driving competition world and they are vital assets on many farms across the world.