Unknown to many horse lovers around the world, the Ardennes (also referred to as Ardennais) is one of the most ancient European draft horse breeds. The Ardennes horse has a noticeable difference from other kinds of horses. It’s been in existence for about 2,000 years, with its history marked by reverence, political influence, general admiration, and war.
The harsh climates and rough terrain built this foal into a sturdy, low-maintenance breed. Since the Ice Age, this breed hasn’t changed, and you can find references about this stallion in the accounts of emperors, kings, and knights. Also, the Ardennes breed is known to be the Belgian breed, which Julius Caesar referred to in the Gallic Wars as “hard, rustic and tireless.”
With their impressive strength, intensely muscled bodies, gentle demeanor, and extreme hardiness, the Ardennes breed is instantly lovable by anyone who gets the opportunity to see it up close.
Here are some facts about Ardennes horses that’ll help you understand why they’re so special.
Ardennes Are Among the Most Ancient Draft Breeds on Earth
According to history, the first Ardennes breed was discovered as far back 2,000 years in the Ardennes area close to the outskirts of France and Belgium.
Also, historians believe the Ardennes breed is a direct descendant of the Solutré horse, which is now extinct. About 17,000 years ago (the Paleolithic Age), the Solutré horses existed in France and were well known for their strength and hardiness.
The ancient breed witnessed most of history’s noteworthy events. Due to the “bred” status of these primeval breeds, there are very few, insignificant contrasts when compared to the advanced Ardennes breed of today.
Napoleon Had an Impact on the Look of Ardennes Horses Today
The progenitors of the Ardennes horses we know today had a similar appearance to the current ones, but there’s a noticeable contrast. In the Roman era, the draft horses were 14 hands high. Also, they didn’t have the endurance/stamina of other heavy breeds that were mostly used for both military marches and on farms.
That started changing as Napoleon chose to include Arabian blood in the mix. The Ardennes horses gradually became taller via selective breeding, and their endurance levels increased.
Although they currently still stand only between 15 to 16 hands high, the additional height appears to have improved the impressive strength of the horse. During his campaign in Russia, Napoleon used his newly bred Ardennes horses, while other breeds died from heavy burdens and extremely harsh conditions.
The Favorite Mount for Soldiers and Knights
Most horse breeds could not bear the heaviness of a knight in complete armor. According to history, during the Middle Age, the knights frequently used the Ardennes horse while heading out to battle. The knights remarked on the strength of the breed combined with its great agility and capacity to travel very long distances in extreme conditions.
As their prominence spread, the horses were used more frequently on battlefields. They were easy to train during war conditions due to their calm nature, and large armed forces found them essential for moving heavy equipment and armored warriors.
The Ardennes Horse Is One of the Most Easy-Going Breeds
The weight of an Ardennes horse at full maturity ranges from 1,500 to 2,200 pounds. At this stage, it’s enormous, even for a draft horse standard. It can feel scary watching a horse of such magnitude charge at you (one of the reasons they rocked on war grounds).
However, most Ardennes breeds are harmless. They’re “gentle giants.” Many people describe them as calm, tolerant, and kind. The breed’s known to be a great mount for beginner riders and children.
Ardennes Horses Are Inexpensive to Keep
Due to their work ethic and incredible size, most draft horses are well-known for being expensive to keep. To keep them healthy, they need large quantities of food and lots of minerals, vitamins, and protein included in their diet. Ardennes horses, however, are equally known to be easy to keep and maintain.
They grow faster than other breeds, and regardless of their size, they don’t require huge budgets to feed well. Sourcing for Ardennes horse feed isn’t as challenging as that of other draft horses. They typically feed on harvested forage such as alfalfa, and it’s sometimes advisable to give them protein supplements if they work regularly.
Ardennes Horses Are Very Successful at Competitive Driving Events
The Ardennes horse is known to be successful in driving events. The events include pulling carriages and carts, pulling tools with a work harness, and combined driving competitions.
Typically, draft horses have their class series, as it’s easier for them to haul heavier loads. The Ardennes horses have been astoundingly excellent in draft horse driving events for many years as a result of their muscular build, short stature, and impeccable breeding.
Ardennes Horses Have Gorgeous Features That Distinguish Them From Other Horse Breeds
Ardennes horses have several features that make them so adorable. The Ardennes breed is heavy-boned, with a compact and muscular stature. Most horses have sparse amounts of hair on their legs, known as fetlocks. However, the Ardennes and other draft horses have more hairs on their short and sturdy legs; and they’re known as feathering.
The attractive feathering completely covers their hooves, especially during winter. They have small and pricked ears, set on a broadhead. Their well-set shoulders and short back give them a free, straight, animated action. They have less white markings, which mostly come as a blaze or star. The colors of the breed are usually palomino, iron grey, chestnut, bay, and roan.