All horses can jump, whether they’re large or small. A horse’s jumping prowess does depend on its breed, and Clydesdales aren’t exactly known for their jumping ability.
These gentle giants stand 18 hands tall with a body weight of 900 kilograms on average. Combined with this height and weight, the massive hooves and heavy joints of the breed don’t make for great professional jumping…but Clydesdales can jump.
Can You Use A Clydesdale For Show-Jumping?
The Clydesdale horse breed is not known to produce excellent show-jumping horses. As a large draught breed, it is more suited to an activity requiring more unhurried and constant movement.
A big horse that weighs a great deal is not naturally suited to moving at high speed or scaling high obstacles. In the past, many riders have experienced falls while jumping on Clydesdales. The Clydesdale also has a jumping style that differs from other horse breeds known for their jumping prowess.
If you want to use your Clydesdale horse to jump, it’s better to confine it to low jumping. Clydesdale riders are often successful over two bars. They do tend to struggle with anything higher as a Clydesdale horse will often hesitate to jump. This either results in a refusal (and you spilling out of the saddle) or in knocking over the higher bars.
Higher jumping by big horses also impacts their joints harshly on landing.
And finally, Clydesdales have lesser lung capacities than those of expert show-jumpers. This means the horses need more breaks to maintain their energy levels and build endurance for the course.
How High Can A Clydesdale Jump?
A Clydesdale can jump as high as 0.85 metres on average. It’s possible the horse will jump higher, but attempting jumps over a metre will likely mean hesitation by the horse. This could mean a good chance of knocking off the bars.
What Are Clydesdale Horses Best At?
Clydesdales likely won’t be the best jumpers. This gentle giant of horse breeds is still well-suited to several other equine activities, however:
As a working horse
The Clydesdale is named after a district in Scotland that is now known as Lanarkshire. The breeding stock came from Flemish stallions that were imported to Scotland for breeding with the local mares.
In the early 1800s, the “Lampits Mare” filly was born. Her lineage is one of the imported Flemish stallions; a black one owned by Lochlyloch’s John Paterson, used for breeding. It was larger than the other foals bred at the time and is listed in the ancestry of all modern Clydesdale horses.
Due to the size of these great horses, and the agricultural surroundings, land-owners bred Clydesdales for farm work. They pulled wagons carrying heavy loads between farms and dragged ploughs through the fields.
Besides agricultural farm work tasks, the highly trainable Clydesdale was also adept at pulling logs out of the forest. Thanks to its durability and immense stamina, pulling a felled tree was no problem. Clydesdale horse owners still enter their gentle giants into plough- and log-pulling competitions.
As a hacking and trail-riding horse
Clydesdales make dependable trail-riding horses and excel at hacking. Of all the different horse breeds, a Clydesdale doesn’t spook easily. It’s also able to negotiate uneven ground at a canter or trot without causing discomfort to the horse owner.
They’re strong and have more stamina than most other breeds. Clydesdale horses live for long rides. Their broad backs and ability to carry heavy loads mean every rider will have a smooth ride.
As a dressage horse
Strong performances in high-level dressage competitions may be unusual for most Clydesdales. They do, however, often perform well in beginner and intermediate dressage events. For large horses, they’re surprisingly graceful movers that naturally lift their feet high and flick them upwards.
When competing in dressage, this movement is even more impressive.
Besides the Clydesdale’s natural showy movement, they’re also a good-looking, muscular breed. They have thick coats and impressive physical appearances. Their perfect equine proportions make them incredible dressage horses, especially when carrying experienced riders.
As formation and drill horses
Not every horse has the ability to carry out formation or drill performances at shows and events. Because of their high level of trainability, Clydesdales are perfect for this role. With talented experts in charge of the ride, these weighty horses put on a well-choreographed show of elegant grace and power.
Clydesdales certainly may not jump as well as many other breeds. However, I guarantee their drill precision and strength while performing in formation will amaze you.
Aa a horse for beginners
A first-time horse owner or rider can do much worse than climb onto a Clydesdale horse’s back. It’s known as a gentle giant for good reason! Other breeds may spook easily and be temperamental when you’re riding, but the Clydesdale is placid and docile. It’s also naturally fit, making it a perfect horse for beginners.
Clydesdales make excellent pleasure horses as they’re independent and don’t need to be led by other horses. Children and inexperienced riders will feel secure atop their wide backs while riding, even if the horse breaks into a trot. Riding a Clydesdale means you’re guaranteed a smooth ride!
The Clydesdales At Strathorn
As far back as the 1940s, George used them to work the Strathorn land, maintaining an avid interest in the breed throughout his life. In the 1980s, he began showing the horses. Along with his wife, Ruth, he has helped to preserve and promote the once-endangered Clydesdale breed to its present status.
Together, their drive has diversified the Clydesdale into ridden horses. This has led to some highly popular ridden classes at the Royal Highland Show and the Blair horse trials. In 2022, Strathorn claimed Champion-ridden Clydesdale with King Edward at Blair. It was the pinnacle moment in a life dedicated to this incredible breed.
George also competed at the World Clydesdale Show on his 84th Birthday. He showed his pair of Clydesdales and his drey, which he hand-built with the aid of local craftsmen.
Can you train a Clydesdale horse to jump?
Clydesdales are highly trainable so you can certainly train them to jump. Because of their weight, massive feet, and type of joints, they will never be natural jumpers. Don’t expect a Clydesdale to jump too high or be able to jump as regularly as many horses can. You’ll be better off entering dressage competitions.
Can Clydesdales participate in lower-level jumping or cross-country events?
While possible, Clydesdales aren’t the most suited horses to jump in any competition, even at a lower level. They can jump over logs or other smaller obstacles with ease, so they may be successful over beginner cross-country courses, depending on the course.
Their lack of suitability for these types of activities means competing may not be ideal for the long-term well-being of the horse, though.