are clydesdale horses good for beginners

Are Clydesdale Horses Good for Beginners?

I hate to break it to you – there is no one horse that is perfect for a beginner rider or horse owner. That said, Clydesdale horses come pretty close.

Novice horse owners are probably mainly concerned about safety while horse riding, as well as the expenses of owning a horse. Draught horses like the Clydesdale horse seem to tick almost all the right boxes.

They are gentle giants, ready to learn, and have a steady demeanour that perfectly complements the anxiety some beginners experience.

If you are thinking of buying a Clydesdale horse, but you’re not sure if it is the right choice for you, then my guide is the perfect place to start. I will cover why Clydesdales are such great horses and what to expect of this lovely draught horse… granted, I am a bit biased since a Clydesdale is one of my favourite breeds, but I will try to be as fair as possible.

Are Clydesdale Horses Suitable for Beginners?

First things first: YES, the Clydesdale is one of the best horse breeds for beginners.

I know I said there is no such thing as the perfect beginner horse, but honestly, Clydesdale horses come pretty close.

Despite their huge size of up to 19 hands, these horses are easy to ride (if you don’t have a fear of heights…) and their intelligence makes them very easy to train.

Unlike several other popular breeds, Clydesdales have an independent streak. This might not sound like something you want in your very first horse, but in the end, it means you don’t have to have an entire stable full of horses to keep it company.

I really believe the Clydesdale horse breed is one of the best family horses. They are great with kids, have endless patience, and are rather forgiving. Clydesdale horses live for up to 25 years, so you’ll have a trusty companion to grow old with.

Mack the clydesdale in front of bennachie in winter at Strathorn farm

What Temperament Do Clydesdales Have?

The main reason Clydesdale horse breeds are so good with beginner riders is because of their temperament. But what exactly are these horses like?

They are incredibly easygoing and will tolerate beginners if they make any mistakes.

Draught horses have been bred for hundreds of years to work alongside humans, which means you will have a loyal horsey sidekick who seeks out your company.

All of these desirable traits combine in one huge, lovely horse, ideal for novices.

Do Clydesdales Make Good Beginner Riding Horses?

Okay, so now you know that this draught-breed horse is great for first-time owners – but you might be wondering what riding a Clydesdale is like.

The good news is, modern Clydesdale horses are no longer just used for pulling carriages and loads. Today these draught horses are popular for riding, even for beginners.


When you see a Clydesdale standing out in a field with its bulky body, the finesse of dressage riding probably does not spring to mind.

But, how wrong you are.

Clydesdales have natural smooth gaits and with some gentle teaching, you can train your horse to perform well at lower-level dressage classes.

That doesn’t mean you’ll be performing at the Olympics any time soon. Because of its build, this breed will not hold up against high-level dressage horses.

So, they are great for beginner riders just learning the discipline, but don’t expect to compete at the olympics.


Not every horse will be good at everything they set their mind to. No matter how much you want your Clydesdale to clear high jumps, it is probably not their strongest point.

Of course, they can jump (they are horses after all), but they have a bit of a different jumping style than horse breeds typically used in showjumping, like the Dutch Warmblood or the Irish Sport Horse.

Clydesdales can do pole work and lower jumps, but the bigger you go, the more risk to yourself and your horse’s joints. It’s best to leave the showjumping to the horses designed for it.

Trail Riding or Hacking

If there was one thing a Clydesdale is born to do, it’s hacking. They’re dependable trail-riding horses who do not spook easily and appear to have the stamina of a marathon athlete.

Their steady, comfortable gait means you can ride a Clydesdale out on a hack without getting uncomfortable, even at a trot or canter over uneven ground.

Pleasure Riding

Clydesdale are great pleasure horses! They do not need a stringent training program to remain fit, and even young kids will feel safe on their broad backs.

Because of the independent streak I mentioned earlier, your Clydesdale will also be more than happy to set off on its own and go for a solo ride without other horses to lead it.

Clydesdale mum and foal running in the field at Strathorn Farm

Are Clydesdale Horses Easy to Take Care Of?

You might think the bigger the horse, the bigger the responsibility.

Luckily, Clydesdales are not very high-maintenance. They do require some daily care, but you can probably do it before your first cup of tea in the morning.

These horses are really smart, so I would recommend you double-lock the gates and stable doors to keep your horse from joining you in the kitchen for breakfast.

Let’s look at what you need to know to care for a Clydesdale:

  • Diet: Because of its size, a Clydesdale (and other draught horse breeds) needs more water and food than other breeds. Beginners should work with their vet to determine a balanced diet. A horse needs to consume about 1.5 to 2% of its body weight in forage each day, but horses that work or train hard will require additional grains as well.

  • Grooming: You will have to brush your horse regularly to maintain its coat. You might want to use a step so you can reach all parts of this big horse breed!

  • Bathing: Do a monthly deep-cleaning with horse shampoo to remove any sweat or dirt. You might want to do this more often if you live in a humid climate.

  • Hoof care: Pick out your horse’s hooves regularly. Look for any signs of poor hoof health like a soft frog or thrush. Regular hoof picking and a dry bed will keep this in check.

All in all, they don’t really need any special care compared to other breeds.

Black Clydesdale horse

Are Clydesdales Expensive to Take Care Of?

Horse ownership is typically not cheap, no matter the breed.

The Clydesdale horse is no exception, and a good quality adult will set you back £2,500 to £8,000. If you want the top breeding stock that the Clydesdale Horse Society has on their books, this price can go up to £15,000 – but as a beginner, you probably don’t need the top-of-the-line.

The cost of caring for your horse will depend on its age, health and what you use it for. A horse left out at pasture will be less expensive to care for than a horse that needs stabling, a special diet, and custom-made tack. Luckily, Clydesdales can generally live out all year round, so you’re likely to save a lot on the stabling costs.

Here are some estimated costs of taking care of the Clydesdale breed:

  • Grass livery: £20 to £25 per week

  • Full livery: £100 to £150 per week

  • Hay: £10 a week for a horse also having access to grass

  • Grains: £5 to £10 a week

  • Vaccinations: About £70 a year

  • Farrier: Up to £30 for trimming and £85 for shoeing per visit

  • Dental care: £50 to £70 per visit

  • Deworming: £10 to £15

Most of these costs are similar to that of other breeds – with the exception that your Clydesdale horse might eat a bit more than other horses due to its larger size.

Are They Easy to Train?

Having a well-trained horse is the dream of any horse owner. But, novice riders and owners will have to put in the effort if they want an easy going riding horse.

Luckily Clydesdales are very intelligent and love working with their humans. Despite its large size, your Clydesdale is likely to be a gentle horse.

With just a bit of patience and determination – and positive reinforcement – you will be able to train your gentle giant to be well-mannered and responsive.

The most important thing is to handle them every day. Even if it’s just to put them out and take them in.

Clydesdale Foal


What are the disadvantages of owning a Clydesdale horse?

Clydesdales are low-maintenance but can be prone to some health issues. The most common is obesity, especially when left to frolic in lush spring grass. They may also develop skin infections if their thick coats and feathering are not properly maintained.

What type of horse is good for beginners?

A draught-horse, like a Clydesdale, Shire Horse or Suffolk Punch, is a good horse for beginners. Their large sizes might be intimidating, but they are known as “gentle giants”.

What is the maximum weight of a rider a Clydesdale can carry?

Each horse is different, but generally speaking, a Clydesdale can carry a max of 158 kg (350 pounds).

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