Story: Horses

Page 2. Types

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Draught horses

Draught horses (or heavy horses) were used for heavy tasks such as hauling and ploughing. They were the main type in New Zealand until about 1950.

Scottish Clydesdales were imported from the 1860s. They became the main draught breed because of their strength and easy temperament. Other draught breeds included the Shire and Suffolk Punch, but their numbers remained low.

After motorised vehicles and machinery began to replace working horses in the early 20th century, horse numbers declined.

A Kiwi horse?

Unlike countries such as Australia and Canada, which have their own national horses (the Australian Stock Horse and the Canadian), New Zealand has not developed an official national breed.

Light breeds

Light horse breeds are more active, and were used mainly for riding or pulling lighter loads.

Hackneys were imported in the 1880s to pull carriages. Cleveland Bays were another carriage type, but were also used for riding and carting. Arabians and Thoroughbreds are specialist riding horses, and Thoroughbreds are the most popular racing breed. The Standardbred is used in harness racing.

Horse language

A bridle is the bit, chin-strap, headpiece and reins used to control a horse. Bucking is when a horse jumps up, arching its back. A canter is a three-beat step – faster than a trot and slower than a gallop. A gelding is a castrated male horse. Hands are 4 inches, and are used to measure a horse’s height. A mare is a female horse. A stallion is an uncastrated male horse.

Cobs, which were popular riding horses, are a type rather than a breed. They are between 14 hands (1.4 metres) and 15 hands (1.5 metres) in height, stocky and strong, with a steady disposition. Crossing different breeds was very common when horses were the main means of transportation. Often a Thoroughbred would be bred with a draught horse to produce a strong and less highly strung horse, which would be useful for a variety of tasks.

In recent years some American breeds, such as the Palomino, Appaloosa and Quarter horse, have become popular sport horses.

Ponies

A pony is less than 14.2 hands (1.44 metres) at the withers (between the shoulder blades), while horses are taller. Ponies often have thicker manes, tails and coats than horses. They also tend to be heavily built, with thicker necks, proportionately shorter legs and stouter bodies.

Ponies are able to thrive on poorer quality pasture and were bred for driving and hauling. They are now popular for children to ride, and for cart competitions.

There are many different breeds of ponies. The two most well-known in New Zealand are Shetland and Welsh ponies.

How to cite this page:

Emma Meyer, 'Horses - Types', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/horses/page-2 (accessed 26 July 2017)

Story by Emma Meyer, published 24 Nov 2008